Volume 18 (1998)

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RNCSE 18 (1)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Articles available online are listed below.

California Science Standards Raise Serious Questions

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
California Science Standards Raise Serious Questions
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
4
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In 1989 the state of California adopted the California Science Framework (CSF), which has been a model to other states developing science curriculum standards. Anticipating the well-known Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the more recent National Science Education Standards (NSES) published by the National Academy of Science in 1996, the CSF emphasized that the goal of science education should be deep understanding of major scientific concepts, rather than memorization of numerous facts. The inclusion of evolution as a major concept in the CSF — which represented a victory over strong political opposition — has also influenced education in other states. Because California is one of the largest markets for textbooks, the inclusion of evolution has made it possible for schools all over the country to use textbooks that cover the subject.

California is now in the process of writing Academic Standards to provide the basis of statewide assessments in all subject areas. For 1998 the Academic Standards Commission has assigned committees to concentrate specifically on developing standards in science and social studies. Each committee will develop a draft for review by the full commission, which will then submit a proposal to the State Board of Education. Each step of the process presents new opportunities for opposition to evolution.

Even before the science committee released a first draft for public comment, they had been visited by Commissioner LaTanya Wright who "encouraged the committee not to dismiss the issue of creation. She contended... both [evolution and creation] should be included (or excluded) from the standards... [and] that creation be included in the standards 'on a parallel track'." Committee members responded by discussing both legal issues and the nature of science, then passed a motion (with 8 "yes" votes and 2 abstentions) to exclude any aspect of creationism in the standards. The draft released for public comment in the last week of April included evolution at the middle and high school levels and in biology and geology. Many NCSE members wrote to the committee or attended public hearings to express their support for the inclusion of evolution in the standards.

NCSE anticipates struggles in the months ahead. The presence of a "creation science" supporter on the commission is just one cause for concern. Another is that, while the Science Committee has thus far included evolution, it has disregarded important features of the existing curriculum framework. In her April 27 letter to the Standards Commission, NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott commented, "It appears that little from either the CSF and other model state standards, or the national Benchmarks and the NSES has seeped into the Draft Content Standards." Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Science, told the commission that the current standards fail to discuss "the methods of scientific inquiry and reasoning," and do not "meet or exceed" national standards. If the Science Committee can abandon the conceptual approach of the California Science Framework, the full commission and Board of Education could go further and yield to political pressure against evolution.

NCSE will continue to work with other science educators and concerned organizations to advise the Academic Standards Commission on the importance of evolution education.

[See a full report of the March 17 meeting of the Science Committee at http://www.ca.gov/goldstandards/Meetings/Minutes/SciMinutes/Mar17.html.]

The Legacy of Frank T Awbrey

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The Legacy of Frank T Awbrey
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
5–6
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Frank T Awbrey, Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University (SDSU), avid supporter of NCSE, and champion of the accurate representation of science, died of cancer on May 31, 1998. Until shortly before his death, Frank was actively pursuing research in bioacoustics, studying the sounds made by animals and the effects of human-caused sound on animal adaptation and survival.

Besides maintaining an active research program even after his retirement from SDSU in 1997, Frank devoted part of nearly every lecture he gave to explaining how science works. For Frank, the presentation of scientific facts and conclusions was a means toward the end of showing the workings of scientific methods and logic. In the syllabus for his introductory course he wrote, "Science is not just a body of facts; it is a process for understanding and explaining facts of nature.This science course, therefore, emphasizes critical thinking and understanding of basic concepts rather than accumulation of facts."

He was convinced that the primary purpose of science education is to protect against the harm done by pseudoscientific claims. We were fortunate to have someone who thought and taught as Frank did, when "scientific creationism" arose in the 1970s. Frank took an early and active interest in this movement and became one of a small circle of scholars who devoted considerable time and energy to investigating the science of creation "science". He helped found the journal Creation/Evolution and contributed many articles on topics as diverse as thermodynamics and "dust on the moon" as well as such biological topics as "kinds" vs species, and creationist biochemistry. His article, "Yes, Virginia, there is a creation model" laid out the essence of young-earth creationism on page 1 of the very first issue of Creation/Evolution.

In 1995 he shared with William Thwaites the American Humanist Association's "Humanist Contributions to Science" Award for his efforts to combat creation "science".

Frank Awbrey was a formidable anticreationist debater—one of the few scientists successfully to confront the professional debaters from the Institute for Creation Research. Thwaites and Awbrey pioneered the only debate strategy that has any hope of success: attacking creation "science" head on by analyzing and refuting the specific statements of creationists. Awbrey and Thwaites wrote in their 1993 Creation/Evolution article, "Our last debate: Our very last" that they began studying creation science hoping "there might be some small chance that a creationist would dig up a real biological paradox, one that would prove to be an interesting brain-teaser for the scientific community." Although they studied creationist literature for years, they never found one. But their efforts resulted in Frank's amassing an impressive series of over 1000 slides on creationism.

The collection contains hundreds of creationist claims along with their logical extensions and comparisons with original sources and data. Shortly before his death Frank donated this collection along with its associated database to the NCSE. Earlier, at the time of his retirement, he had donated his papers and creation/evolution library to NCSE's archives.

His long-time friend Bill Thwaites writes, "I know that I am only one among many who will sorely miss Frank's advice, seemingly infinite knowledge, counsel, and boundless good humor. I suspect that the more perceptive of creationists will also miss him."

Donations may be sent to NCSE in Frank's memory.

[NCSE Executive Director Eugenie C Scott and long-time NCSE member William Thwaites contributed to this obituary.]

Changing the Public's Perception of Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Changing the Public's Perception of Evolution — Christian Origins of Evolutionary Thought
Author(s): 
Karen Bartelt
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
12–15, 18
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Defining the Problem

Evolution, declares a self-proclaimed "creation-science-evangelist" is "just a pagan religion that has been mixed in with science for nearly a century" (Hovind 1993). A college student responds to a biology lecture on evolution by editorializing in the college newspaper, that "to say that humans evolved from primates is not in accordance with Genesis and is unfriendly to Christian teachings" (Elmendorf 1995). At the same college, another student abruptly leaves a lecture when the human fossil record is discussed.

The evangelist, the students, and often the general public, harbor two misconceptions concerning evolution. First, they believe that the theory of evolution was a recent event precipitated by the 1859 publication of The Origin of Species. Second, they see the theory of evolution as solely the work of atheists, and consistent only with a naturalistic philosophy. Young earth creationists exacerbate the situation with their own misinformation; in Men of Science, Men of God, Henry Morris states that in the eighteenth century "geology was beginning to lead people back to the long-age concepts of ancient pagan philosophies" and evolution, "though long out of fashion among scientists, had been advocated by various liberal theologians... and it was beginning to creep back into the scientific literature" (Morris 1982: 51).

While I agree that such rhetoric flourishes in the atmosphere of scientific illiteracy, there is an ignorance of history here as well. The general public knows very little about the theory of evolution beyond the knee-jerk reaction that it makes them uncomfortable. Most are unaware that the theory of evolution has had a long history, and many Christian — often creationist — scientists contributed significantly to the development of the theory of evolution. They are unaware that the entire worldview of unchanging, specially-created species, a creation event lasting six 24-hour days, and a 6000-year old earth had already been abandoned by even religious scientists in the years prior to 1859 — the publication date of Darwin's Origin of Species.

A Possible Solution

I propose that we can improve the public's perception of evolution by presenting a more complete picture of its development, emphasizing the contributions of Christian — often creationist — scientists from the pre-Darwinian era. I recently presented this information to a general college audience. To assure that the young-earth creationists who attended would agree that I picked "Bible believing scientists", I concentrated on those scientists whom creationist Henry Morris describes as having been a "professing Christian (any denomination) who... believed that the universe, life, and man were directly and specially created by the transcendent God of the Bible" (Morris 1982: 14). To make events and names easier to follow, each person in attendance received a timeline complete with significant dates (Figure 1).



Introduction

Many of the scientists of the 15-1800s adhered to a belief in special creation because there was little evidence to support evolution (Diamond 1985:83). Additionally, because there was no method of determining the age of the earth except from literary sources, and because the Holy Scriptures were thought to be among the most ancient literary sources, biblical chronologies were used as a method of estimating the age of the earth (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 4). The Bishop Ussher date — creation in 4004 BC — was only one of many estimates of the earth's age using biblical chronologies (Dalrymple 1991:14).

Difficulties with the Genesis Account

Many hundreds of years before the publication of Darwin's Origin, data that challenged the scientific authority of Genesis began to accumulate in at least four areas that impacted upon the theory of evolution. First, the processes that shape the earth were studied, and scriptural accounts were called into question. Second, exploration of new continents led to the discovery of new animals and plants, many more than were described in ancient texts. Third, it became possible to estimate the age of the earth. Fourth, the geologic column was explored and the fossils were systematically analyzed. New questions arose: Was the earth shaped by catastrophes? Was the Flood of Noah the catastrophe? What were fossils? Was there a relationship between fossils and sedimentary strata? How did modern species originate?

Contributions from Scientists Prior to the 18th Century — A Worldwide Flood?

Even today many Christians believe that God once flooded the entire world and that fossils are evidence of life destroyed by this Noachian Flood. Prior to the year 1700, at least four devout Christian men were not convinced by this literal interpretation of Genesis and proposed alternate scientific explanations.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) observed that the fossil shells in the Alps were frequently found in pairs and rows and stated, "if the shells had been carried by the muddy deluge they would have been mixed up, and not in the regular steps and layers, as we see them now in our time" (quoted in Gohau 1990: 34). Leonardo noted that the Alpine strata showed no evidence of a single violent episode of deposition (Newell 1985: 3&7), and in 1508 rejected the idea of a universal flood (Dean 1985: 95). Though Morris features Leonardo as one of his "men of science, men of God" and discusses his contributions to art, engineering, architecture, anatomy, physics, optics, biology, and aeronautics, Morris makes no reference to Leonardo's theories concernmg fossils or his rejection of the Genesis flood!

Nicolaus Steno (1638-86) described many fundamental geological principles including the process of sedimentation and the law of superposition. Morris asserts that Steno "interpreted the strata — unlike modern evolutionary stratigraphers — in the manner of flood geologists, attributing formation in large measure to the Great Flood" (Morris 1982: 41). In fact, Steno stated that the strata of earth were laid down as sediment from seas or rivers (Geikie 1905: 55). He ruled out the "Great Flood" as a means of depositing fossils although he felt that the Flood was a factor in the folding and disruption of strata (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 22).

Robert Hooke (1635-1703), another of Morris's religious scientists, did not doubt that the Flood of Noah was a real event, but did not believe that it was responsible for the deposition of strata. He thought that the sea would have had to have been in place much longer than the one year implied in Genesis to deposit the thick sedimentary strata seen in England (Geikie 1905:69). Hooke did not consider the Noachian Flood responsible for the placement of fossils either and suggested earthquakes as a possible factor (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 25). A statement from his "Discourse on Earthquakes" portends the concepts of extinction and evolution: "there have been many other species of Creatures in former Ages, of which we can find none at present; and 'tis not unlikely also but that there may be divers new kinds now, which have not been from the beginning" (cited in Faul and Faul 1983:42).

One of the earliest theories of the formation of the earth came from Thomas Burnet (1636-1715) who Morris says, "took the scriptural account of creation and the Flood as providing the basic framework of interpretation for earth history, showing it to be confirmed by known facts of physics and geology" (Morris 1982: 47). In Sacred Theory of the Earth (1681), Burnet depicted the Noachian Flood as the defining event in planetary history (Geikie 1905: 66). However, he realized that the volume of water needed for a universal flood was much greater than that present in the oceans, and his solution was to place much of the water in the atmosphere or under the crust and to dispose of it in underwater caverns (Newell 1985: 37). In Burnet's account, a smooth, sealess, mountainless, paradise world was destroyed as it collapsed into the waters below. The deluge ruined the world, and the earth's axis tilted due to the uneven distribution of debris (Faul and Faul 1983:49). Burnet is important to this historical perspective because he was one of the first scientists whose explanation of the earth's origin and geophysical features abandoned a literal reading of Genesis — a sealess perfect sphere, for example, does not square well with the Genesis creation accounts. His theory was certainly not literal enough for one Bishop Croft, who called Burnet "besotted with his own vain and heathenish Opinions" (cited in Faul and Faul 1983: 50).

At the end of the 17th century the Flood of Noah was considered by many scientists to have been a real event, but was not universally accepted as the defining geological event, and certainly not responsible for depositing fossils. Even the religious scientists of the era proposed theories of the origin of the earth that did not adhere to a literal reading of Genesis.

The 18th Century — A Crowded Ark and an Ancient Earth

The explorations of the American, African, and Australian continents posed severe problems for those who believed that modern species were descendants of those animals rescued from the Flood by Noah. When the kinds of animals were restricted to those found in Europe and the Near East, it was not inconsistent to propose that all of them had fit into the Ark. When the Ark became crowded with koalas, llamas, and bison, scientists of this era were forced further to amend the Genesis account of the origin of species.

One of these scientists was Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the son of a Lutheran minister and one of the founders of modern taxonomy. He is described in creationist literature as "a man of great piety" who "attempted... to equate his 'species' category with the 'kind', believing that variation could occur within the kind, but not from one kind to another kind. Thus he believed in 'fixity of species' (Morris 1982: 49). Other biographers disagree. An investigation of Linnaeus' prolific writings shows that his creation account did not come directly out of Genesis, and his views on the fixity of species changed with time.

Linnaeus proposed that the Garden of Eden was an island near the Equator in the middle of an ocean and that the earth was covered by "the vast ocean with the exception of a single island... on which... all animals could have their being and all plants most excellently thrive" (cited in Hagberg 1953: 198). In time the seas receded and this small Eden became a large mountain with all types of climates . The plants and animals slowly made their way to an appropriate environment first at the time of creation, and again after the Noachian Flood.

Linnaeus believed that fossils were not products of a supernatural flood, but formed naturally in the open ocean. He proposed a unique process to form the sedimentary limestone and shale layers: large mats of sargasso in the ocean prevented wave formation and thus allowed limestone to precipitate. Later on, the sargasso decomposed and was converted to shale, in which fossils were trapped. This was but one of the gradual mechanical processes that Linnaeus thought were responsible for shaping the earth: a "temporis filia, child of time" (quoted in Frangsmyr 1983:143).

Early in his career Linnaeus insisted that each species was a separate creation, stating "We count as many species as there were different forms created" (quoted in Frangsmeyer 1983: 86). Doubts began to arise in 1744 as Linnaeus described a type of toadflax which he called Peloria (malformation). It had been produced from Linaria, but was so extremely different from the parent plant that he assigned it not to just a new species or genus, but to a new class (Frangsmeyer 1983, p 94-5). He was forced to consider the concept of evolution, and by 1751, produced a list of plants, Plantae Hybridae, which were assumed to have two different species as parents, stating, "It is impossible to doubt, that there are new species produced by hybrid generation" (cited in Glass 1959: 149). In Fundamenta Fructificationis (1762) Linnaeus proposed that at creation there were only a small number of species, but that they had the ability to fertilize each other — and did (Frangsmeyer 1983: 97). By 1766 the words "no new species" were removed from the 12th edition of Systemae Naturae. In a comment published posthumously Linnaeus asserted that "Species are the work of time" (cited in Glass 1959: 150). After his death, Linnacus was accused of atheism by the German theologian Zimmerman, to which his son replied "He believed, no doubt, that species animalium et plantarum and that genera were the works of time: but that the ordines naturales were the works of the Creator; if the latter had not existed the former could not have arisen" (citted in Hagberg 1953: 200).

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), made significant contributions to biology and geology, but perhaps his greatest contributions were a mechanism to determine the age of the earth, and an estimate for the age of the earth that differed significantly from the 6000 years or so calculated from biblical chronologies.

In Epoques de la Nature (1778) Buffon proposed that the earth had cooled from a molten state, and suggested that earth's age might be deduced by determining the time it took to cool to its present temperature. By constructing a series of iron spheres, heating them to a near molten state, then measuring the cooling times and extrapolating these data to a body the size of earth, he deduced that the earth was in excess of 75 000 years old, with an unpublished manuscript proposing a 3 000 000 year age for the earth (Gohau 1990: 94). Buffon's method of escaping the literalism of Genesis 1:11 was to interpret creation "days" as indefinite periods: "The sense of the narrative seems to require that the duration of each 'day' must have been long, so that we may enlarge it to as great an extent as the truths of physics demand" (cited in Geikie 1905: 91).

Lest one suppose that Buffon was increasing the age of the earth to promote evolutionary theories, one has only to look at his contributions in the area of biology to show that this is false. Though by 1753 he considered the possibility of evolution and even saw some supporting evidence, he concluded that "...production of a species by degeneration from another species is an impossibility for nature..." (Lovejoy 1959: 99). Buffon offered three lines of argument against evolution (some of which are still used by young-earth creationists): 1) no new species were known to have occurred within recorded history; 2) hybrid infertility was a barrier to speciation; 3) no "missing links" between groups had been discovered. However, by the 1778 publication of Epoques, Buffon no longer mentioned the simultaneous creation of all species, adopting the notion of gradual appearance instead. (Lovejoy 1959:98-103). Ernst Mayr wrote: "Even though Buffon himself rejected evolutionary explanations, he brought them to the attention of the scientific world" (Mayr 1982: 335).

Buffon's early belief in special creation did not prevent him from getting into trouble with the theology faculty at Sorbonne. In 1751, after studying Histoire Naturelle for two years, the faculty noted the discrepancies between his text and Genesis, and demanded that he retract. Though there is good reason to doubt his sincerity, Buffon replied that he "had no intention to contradict the text of the Scriptures" (cited in Gohau 1990: 93). Twenty-five years later, Buffon found himself in front of the same faculty for his treatment of the age of the earth in Epoques, but he was older, richer, more politically connected, and never did get around to recanting (Faul and Faul 1983: 77).

Before the birth of Charles Darwin, the concepts of a 6000-year-old earth and the special creation of species were being questioned and rejected by scientists who creationists themselves describe as devout Christians.

The 19th Century — Fossils and the Geologic Column

The industrial revolution and the steam engine contributed much to the elucidation of the earth's structure early in the 19th century simply by exposing more of it during mining and the building of canals and roads (Newell 1985: 92). Some contemporary creationists claim that the geologic column was constructed after the publication of Origin to bolster the theory of evolution. In fact, the geologic column was deciphered early in the 19th century, by contributors who were either ignorant of the concept of evolution or opposed to it.

William Smith (1769-1839) was a land surveyor and civil engineer who participated in building projects all over England. He constructed a geological map of England in 1799, observing that England was constructed of strata which were never inverted, and that even at great distances "each stratum contained organized fossils peculiar to itself, and might, in cases otherwise doubtful, be recognized and discriminated from others like it, but in a different part of the series, by examination of them" (cited in Geikie 1897: 233). His results, published in 1816 in Strata Identified by Organized Fossils, demonstrated that fossils were not randomly buried, as in a flood, but always occurred in a definite order in the geologic column. Marine species were often found between strata containing terrestrial species — a real blow to flood geology. Smith never formulated a theory of fossil deposition and was, in fact, a literal creationist. "Neither Smith nor [Rev Joseph] Townsend [a publisher of Smith's results] grasped the idea that time was involved in laying down the successive strata, and thought they had contributed support to Mosaic cosmogony" (Haber cited in Glass 1959: 248).

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), was a French Lutheran anti-evolutionist and founder of comparative anatomy. He is described by Morris as the "chief advocate of multiple catastrophism, believing the Flood to be the last in a series of global catastrophes in earth history" (Morris 1982: 57; italics added). Cuvier was aware of the sequential nature of the fossil record from his own research on the geologic column of the Paris Basin. His paper comparing present day elephants to fossil elephants from Siberia provided evidence that fossils were the remains of extinct animals. Nevertheless, Cuvier was convinced that "species were fixed, immutable and independent" on the basis of scientific observations, not scripture. He examined a number of mummified creatures filched from the graves of Egyptian pharaohs, and found these 3000 year-old specimens to be taxonomically identical to living species (Faul and Faul 1983: 139). To reconcile the obvious changes seen in the fossil record with his belief in fixity of species, Cuvier proposed that the sequential nature of the fossil record was the result of five localized catastrophes. These "revolutions", to use his (time appropriate) word, were caused by the influx of ocean water or transient floods. He further believed that animals were replaced in a flooded area by migration from other areas (Gohau 1990: 131-3). Cuvier never suggested that the floods were global, and it was Jameson's translation into English which suggested that the final catastrophe was the Flood of Noah (Strahler 1987: 190). Out of Cuvier's doctrine of abrupt extinctions and successive "revolutions" his students, especially D'Orbigny, inferred the necessity of up to 27 special creations (Lovejoy cited in Glass 1959: 386).

Cuvier objected to evolution for two reasons. He believed that species were designed for a particular environment, a specific place, until a "revolution" occurred. He also pointed out the lack of transitional forms: "If species have changed by degrees, we should find some traces of these gradual modifications; ...This has not yet happened" (cited in Mayr 1982: 368), and "Fossil man does not exist" (cited in Milner 1990: 105). Both of these statements were accurate during Cuvier's lifetime. The theories proposed by Cuvier and his students were hardly in line with a literal view of Genesis, but instead lent scientific support to both "gap-theory" and "day-age" creationism.

William Buckland (1784-1856) was an Anglican priest and author of the 6th Bridgewater Treatise. He is described by Henry Morris as a "strong creationist" who "did accept the geologic significance of the worldwide Flood" (Morris 1982: 64). Bueldand mounted attacks on earlier evolutionary theorists and was a diluvialist early in his career; his first lecture at Oxford was a defense of the Noachian Flood. His book Relics of the Flood described evidence supporting a universal deluge: fossil bones found in the Andes and Himalayas, river gorges, huge boulders obviously not transported by rivers, and large gravel deposits. Eventually, his own research on the alluvial deposits in caves forced him to reconsider his position on the timing of the Flood. He was disturbed not to have found human remains in caves and so moved the date of the Deluge to before the creation of humans (Hallam 1983: 41-3). By 1840, Buckiand accepted Louis Agassiz' theory of continental glaciation as an explanation of the gravel deposits and "erratic" boulders previously attributed to the Noachian Flood. His proposed 1840 revision of his earlier work was to have had the title Relics of Floods and Glaciers, and all references to the biblical Flood were to have been omitted (Dean 1985: 90). Buckland became one of the early "gap theory" creationists after he gave up flood geology.

Conclusion

Long before Darwin dreamed of publishing Origin, devout Christians made fundamental discoveries concerning the classification of species, the formation and age of the earth, and the geologic column. In 1840 the publication of the book that would rock the belief systems of the Western world was nineteen years away from publication. Nevertheless, Genesis was no longer accepted as a scientific treatise, even by devout Christian scientists. The concept of fixed, specially-created species was laid to rest with the work of Linnaeus. Buffon and others estimated the age of the earth to be greatly in excess of 6000 years. Scientists like Cuvier and Buckland, who opposed the theory of evolution, saw the Genesis Flood as, at most, a regional event. The geologic column was in wide use, not because it supported evolution, but because it was useful in industry. A literal reading of Genesis was, to paraphrase Daniel 5:27, "weighed and found wanting," and like any scientific theory, it was modified to accommodate new evidence.

The contributions of these real scientific creationists were pivotal to Darwin as he considered the evidence for evolution. Perhaps if the general public learns more of the history of evolution — that the theory of evolution has Christian underpinnings as well as secular and that it is not tied to a particular philosophy — they will be able to appreciate the science of evolution on a less emotional level.

References

Dalrymple GB. The age of the earth. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991.

Pean P. The rise and fall of the deluge. Journal of Geological Education 1985; 33:84-93.

Diamond J. Voyage of the overloaded ark. Discover 1985 June; 82-92.

Elmendorf J. The right side. The Pegasus 1995 April; 27: 3.

Faul H, Faul C. It began with a stone: A history of geology from the stone age to the age of plate tectonics. NY: John Wiley, 1983.

Frangsmeyer T. Linnaeus: The man and his work. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983.

Geikie A. The founders of geology. London: MacMillan, 1897.

Geikie A. The founders of geology. 2nd Edition. London: MacMillan, 1905.

Glass B. Heredity and variation in the eighteenth century concept of the species. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959. pp 144-72.

Gohau G. (Carozzi A, Carozzi M, translators). A history of geology. New Brunswick (NJ): Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Haber F. Fossils and early cosmology In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959. pp 3-29.

Haber F. Fossils and the idea of a process of time in natural history. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimorc: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959. pp 222-64.

Hagberg K. Carl Linnaeus. NY: EP Putton and Company, 1953.

Hallam A. Great geological controversies. NY: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Hovind K. Letter. Peoria Journal Star 1993 July 20:A4.

Lovejoy A. Buffon and the problem of species. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959, pp 84-103.

Lovejoy A. The argument for organic evolution before the origin of the species, 1830-1858. In: Glass B, editor. Forerunners of Darwin: 1745-1859. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1959, pp 356-414.

Mayr E. The growth of biological thought. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1982.

Milner R. The encyclopedia of evolution. NY: Henry Holy and Company, 1990.

Morris HM. Men of science, men of God. San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers: 1982.

Newell, N. Creation and evolution — Myth or reality? NY: Praeger Publishers, 1985.

Strahler A. Science and earth history. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1987.

When Creationists Visit Your School

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
When Creationists Visit Your School
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
20–21
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
RNCSE frequently reports on local controversies over whether to include evolution in science curricula, give "equal time" for "creation science", or discipline teachers who do — or don't! — teach evolution. Another recurring problem is school-sponsored assemblies featuring guest speakers who present "creation science" outside of the classroom, but on school premises.

According to federal law, student-sponsored religious activities occurring on public school premises during non-instructional time and without faculty participation are legal, while school-sponsored religious activities are not. Also, while schools may teach about religion, they may not advocate religious views, whether such views are presented by a guest or a school employee. Teachers or administrators sometimes believe they are complying with the law if they request parents written permission. In fact, just as a permission slip wouldn't make it legal to teach a child in an unsafe classroom, parents can't give permission for public schools to violate the First Amendment.

In some districts, the result of a school's sending home a permission slip has been that parents had time to react. In Albuquerque, New Mexico a parent whose child came home with such a permission slip consulted NCSE member Mark Boslough. Boslough obtained legal information from NCSE and explained the issues to the school's principal. As a result the assembly was canceled (NCSE Reports 1995 Winter; 15[4]: 16-7). There have also been cases in which a "creation assembly" couldn't be prevented and cases in which parents heard about it only afterward, as happened in the Moon Area School District near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the Moon-Area assemblies, a district employee made unarguably religious statements — for example, that rainbows represent God's promise not to cause another Great Flood. A lawsuit resulted and eventually the district agreed in an out-of-court settlement to stop holding such assembties (NCSE Reports 1994 Winter; 14[4]: 9).

A different course of events unfolded in Elma, Washington in May 1998, when the well-known "creation scientist" Walter Brown was scheduled to present "evidence against evolution" at a high school assembly. Though they received letters from both NCSE and the American Civil Liberties Union explaining why the assembly was neither educational nor constitutional, the superintendent and school board decided to go ahead with the assembly on May 8, on the grounds that only "scientific" arguments would be presented.

Since the assembly couldn't be prevented, and any lawsuit that might follow wouldn't correct the misinformation students received, biologist David Milne, who teaches at nearby Evergreen State College, offered to speak at a follow-up assembly Milne's presentation had two goals — to present authoritative information about evolution, and to help students evaluate Brown's "arguments against evolution". The information below is adapted from a letter Milne wrote to NCSE about his experience.

How to Set the Record Straight

Preparation is all important. Milne told NCSE that he spent at least 20 hours preparing for the assembly. He explained, "I reviewed a videotape of Brown's presentation. I also ordered his book by priority mail and studied as much of it as I could during the... [time] available.... I felt that... [I] had to address something he talked about, otherwise I would be perceived as dodging the issue." He also consulted scientists in other disciplines about some of Brown's arguments.

Suit the presentation to your audience. "I planned on talking for only an hour," Milne wrote. "Brown spoke for two; that's too much for high school students. I offered to return and spend another hour doing nothing but answering questions...." If you are making such a presentation, you should ask the advice of a teacher experienced with students in the grades you are addressing.

Stick to a few main points. "The keys were: Know what the creationist said and address that. Attack (with an example of evolution and an example of how bad creation science is). Don't let what the crcationist said determine your whole agenda. Address something big claimed by the creationist speaker head on, and also give some details about the creation model the crcationist will always avoid."

Choose "one really good example of how the fossil record shows evolution". Milne also told the students, "There are many more where that came from. I also told them how the creationists deal with that example." Using several slides, Milne explained fossil connections between the fish Ichthyostega and the amphibian Eusthenopteron. He pointed out that a transitional fossil exactly intermediate between two major groups — fishes and amphibians — is something that creationists say doesn't exist. This example also demonstrates macroevolution in the fossil record. He gave examples of creationist treatments of this information and "asked the students to compare mentally the detail I'd given them to the creationist treatment and suggested that the creationists really didn't want them to know the facts of this case.... The students were fascinated by the story, even to repeating the names of the fossil critters during the ensuing question period."

Give an example of bad creationist science. Milne offered Henry Morris's calculation of the age of the earth from carefully selected human population growth data. He told NCSE, "I hit on something that really made that point. I told them that the tide was rising that morning at about 2 feet per hour. If the average ocean depth is 12 000 feet, then 6000 hours ago, there was no water in the ocean at all; therefore the ocean was created at that time. I then went through Morris's population calculation which shows that there must have only been two people in the world about 4000 years before 1800. Interesting, but the same [calculation] gives no more than 600 people in the entire world when the Great Pyramid was built."

"I mentioned that in general, creationist math showing a young earth starts with unwarranted assumptions... and that it always leads to a conclusion ridiculous when you try to square it with other things we know, like the pyramid example.... This example wasn't as powerful as the first. The main value was that it showed that I was willing to tackle creationist 'science' head on."

Take an example from the creationist speaker's presentation, and take it apart. "Repeat what he said, what he didn't say (the part that he's embarrassed to reveal), then show why he's wrong." Milne gave a detailed, profusely illustrated rebuttal of Brown's treatment of the formation of the Grand Canyon, culminating with a comparison of aerial photographs of flood formations on Earth and Mars to photographs of the Grand Canyon. He told NCSE, "The climax was truly stupendous. Everyone sat staring at the slides thinking how obvious the marks were of the passage of the Spokane Flood and of the flood on Mars—and realizing, I think, that Brown had shown them no such things near the Grand Canyon."

After concluding by, "Telling 'em what I told 'em" — that creationists will always tell them that mainstream science is wrong about everything, don't believe them, check it out for yourself," Milne added a special twist. "I actually gave the students an assignment — comparing the evidence given by me and the other speaker and judging which seemed to be more credible." Milne gave the students copies of scientific articles from which Brown had taken quotes out of context. He circled the quotes, told the students to read the circled quotes and think about what they implied about the writer's views, then read the entire article and reconsider their earlier conclusions. Not only did this "evidence against misrepresentation" speak for itself, but it brought home the points of Milne's earlier presentation and gave students more time to absorb them.

"In the First Place, Do No Harm"

The students of Elma were lucky, not only because there was someone willing to "clean up" after a speaker who presented pseudoscience, but also because that someone was willing to spend hours of time preparing and to take advice from others in order to do a good job. If you hear about "creation science" being taught in your school district, NCSE may be able to help locate a good scientist who is comfortable with high school students and to help with preparation. But prevention is still the best cure, and if you hear ahead of time about a proposed "creation science" presentation, be sure to contact NCSE for information on how to keep it from happening — in the first place, or ever again.

[David Milne especially thanks NCSE member Pierre Stromberg for helping him obtain detailed information from many veteran "creationist watchers" and "especially, especially" thanks Richard and Dorothy Norton at Science Graphics for providing a complete set of teaching slides at short notice. NCSE thanks Eric Schuster Howard Pellett, and Patrick Pringle for sending background information used in this story.]

Outdated Advice Still Going the Rounds

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Outdated Advice Still Going the Rounds
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura, Netork Project Director
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
22
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In 1979 attorney Wendell Byrd, a long-time "creation science" advocate and associate of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), wrote a "Resolution for Balanced Presentation of Evolution and Scientific Creationism" that was published as Issue 71 of the ICR's Impact series. The full text of this resolution is still available, either by requesting this Impact issue from ICR, or by viewing this page of the ICR's website at http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-071.htm

The resolution reads in part:

Public school presentation of only the theory of evolution without any alternative theory of origins abridges the Constitution's protection of freedom of religious exercise for students and parents, because it undermines their religious convictions, violates their separatist practices, compels their unconscionable statements, and hinders religious training by parents....

Public school presentation of only the theory of evolution without any alternative theory also violates the Constitution's protection of freedom of belief for students and parents and in doing so hinders the purpose of education by impeding their search for truth, denying them academic freedom, and restricting scientific objectivity.
The resolution was offered "as a prepared resolution for local citizens' groups seeking to obtain a fair presentation of the creation/evolution question." The accompanying text also states, "Please note that this is a suggested resolution, to be adopted by boards of education, not legislation proposed for enactment as law. ICR has always taken the position that the route of education and persuasion on this issue is more fruitful in the long run than that of coercion" [emphasis in original].

These and other points of the resolution are contradicted by six federal and Supreme Court rulings made since 1979. Perhaps the best known is the Supreme Court's 1987 Edwards v Aguillard decision which struck down a "balanced treatment" law passed by the Louisiana legislature.

"Clarifications" of the resolution include the statement, "This Resolution does not require or permit instruction in any religious doctrine or materials" (such a requirement would violate many state constitutions as well as the federal constitution). However, such a "clarification" amounts to mere hand-waving, since courts have already determined that "creation science" is "religious doctrine" by definition. Moreover, districts that have attempted to provide "balanced treatment" have discovered that there simply are no instructional materials for teaching "creation science" that are free of religious overtones.

Even the footnotes present misinformation. For example, footnote 14 lists several "boards of education [that] officially require balanced treatment of evolution and scientific creationism." If they once did, they no longer do so. A school district in Texas is given as one example, but in 1984 the state of Texas and its districts abandoned "equal time" and disclaimer practices after the state's attorney general published an opinion that they were unconstitutional. Texas later went on to adopt its current curriculum standards which require teaching evolution.

This resolution may be of some historical interest, but it is truly unfortunate that it is still sometimes presented as a current alternative. Recently, parents from school districts in the northwest, worried about active discussion of the resolution in their districts, contacted NCSE. The greatest problem, though, is that the resolution, which was at best controversial when it was written in 1979, is now outdated.

While the ICR's stated preference for "persuasion" over "coercion" is laudable, the unfortunate reality is that when such proposals are presented in school districts, the resulting controversy can create a climate of intimidation for teachers. Parents and school board members who oppose evolution need not even be in the majority — just very vocal — to convince some teachers that the best way to avoid trouble is to avoid teaching evolution. If you hear that this policy is being offered to state or local school boards, don't hesitate to ask NCSE to help you look inside the "new bottle" to find out whether the contents are "old wine" that has turned to vinegar.

Scientific Expertise and the Media

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Scientific Expertise and the Media
Author(s): 
Kevin Padian, President, NCSE Board of Directors
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1998
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
27
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Each year NCSE officers and members are contacted by radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines to offer perspectives on science and to respond to statements made by "creation scientists". Perhaps no one is besieged by the press as much as our own Executive Director, Dr Eugenie Scott, and certainly no one that I know handles the requests so well. The challenge that she faces constantly is also one that we all must confront whenever we are called upon to "represent" evolutionary biology in a public forum.

How can one scientist deal with a well-credentialed adversary who maintains that evolution must be restricted only to small genetic changes in populations, that no major transitions between taxa are recorded in the fossil record, that a single flood can account for the world's geology, that the theory of plate tectonics is at odds with erosion rates, and that radiometric dating is flawed by the principles of physics? How do we approach these problems before the public?

The answer is that no one can deal with all of these charges, so no one of us should try to represent all scientific disciplines (see NCSE Reports 15[3]:23 and 14[2]:22). Your opponent is attacking science itself. The specific claims, which have no support in the scientific community, are only a vehicle to this end. Besides, it would take too long to defend all of science by trying to provide all the scientific background necessary for the average person to understand the misrepresentations in these arguments.

It is useful to clarify for an audience that, generally, claims of "creation science" are religiously based. Its proponents are grounded in religious, not scientific principles and thought — regardless of the specific "scientific" problem or issues they discuss or study. It is also useful to note for audiences that, although your opponent appears to be presenting a great deal of evidence against evolution, no valid scientific evidence has been presented in support of the alternative position, whatever it may be (and why isn't this position clear?) Is this position in fact religious, and not scientific?

With very few exceptions, "creation scientists" have thin scientific credentials, publish little in peer-reviewed journals, and/or are generally not trained in the fields they are disparaging. When they do publish acceptable scientific or technical work, it has nothing to do with evolution or any related science. This is not apparent to the audience which sees "credentialed" adversarial scientists as opponents who cancel each other's purported expertise. The real issue is what is the nature of the scientific credentials and what do these credentials mean? Is it the degree that makes the scientist or the dedication to "science as a way of knowing" about the world around us?

It can be tempting to dismiss the statements on evolution by an atmospheric chemist, but it is not logical (and will not win points with an audience) to do so merely because the person is trained as an atmospheric chemist. We must show that the views of evolution's opponents are not informed, miss crucial information, or have not been tempered through scholarly review by the scientific community — an essential task in doing science.

Recently, on a radio program, I tried the tactic of asking Dr X, a mechanical engineer, why he doesn't publish his theories about mechanisms of geologic change in peer-reviewed journals if they are scientific and don't require divine intervention. He could give only a weak response that creationists can't get things published in secular journals. I replied that there seemed nothing about his theory that is supernatural. He said that his theory is too long to publish in the short space that journals provide, but I replied that I had published papers of more than 50 pages in some journals. I further noted that a study had been done some years ago by Eugenie C Scott and Henry P Cole ("The elusive basis of creation 'science'. Quarterly Review of Biology 1985; 60:21-30) asking journal editors about creationist submissions. Those editors that could recognize them said that they got very few, but that reviewers rejected them not because of supernaturalism but because the papers were illogical, did not show awareness of the literature, did not perform scientific tests, and were poorly written.

The average person appears to distrust experts, but if their kids are sick they don't call a plumber, and if they have termites in the house they don't call a brain surgeon. The appropriateness of expertise and the limits of your own knowledge are important to express to an audience. (Personally, I would never feel comfortable expounding on mechanical engineering or atmospheric chemistry, but I have learned not to assume the same attitude in a "creation scientist" with whom I might be discussing paleontology.) An important question to ask is this: if your "creation-scientist" opponent has such a terrific scientific theory that will replace currently accepted ideas, why aren't Nature and Science clamoring to publish it? Why aren't the Nobel Prize people beating a path to his door? If the idea is valid and explains all the evidence better than any other, it will make his scientific career. People of all nations, creeds, races, and religions work comfortably within the scientific paradigm and include evolutionary theory as part of that. There is no division between "religious" and "scientific" scientists — only between those who proceed from religious assumptions and those who do not allow such assumptions to determine in advance the outcome of their investigations of nature.

I think that the issue of the credibility of "creation scientists" needs to be put more squarely before the public. When anyone reads an article in the newspaper about a scientific discovery, it almost always involves overturning or adding to something we thought before. You never see breaking news that says, "Theory of gravitation supported again!" Publication of results doesn't mean that they are necessarily right, or that this is the last word on the subject. It means that at least a couple of experts in the field have looked over the work and found it plausible at face value (and presumably, interesting enough to be published). Science is not afraid of challenges or of change; that's what it's all about. Dogmatism is the province of its critics. If we get this message out, we can expose pseudo-scientific charlatans for what they are.

RNCSE 18 (2)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1998
Date: 
March–April
Articles available online are listed below.

What do Christians REALLY Believe about Evolution?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
What do Christians Really Believe about Evolution?
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Network Project Director
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1998
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
8–9
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Recently a California teacher requesting help from NCSE wrote:

I am a high school biology teacher trying to find information on the official position of Christian denominations and other major world religions on evolution for use in my classes. I have many creationist students in my classes who assume anyone who believes in God agrees with the literal creationist beliefs on this. Can you help?

This teacher also felt he needed more information about the legal rights and responsibilities of teachers who are teaching evolution.

These are questions which arise for teachers all across the country. NCSE had already produced a flyer summarizing court decisions. The NCSE brochure "Seven Significant Court Decisions Regarding Creation/Evolution Issues" outlines the relevant legal issues. The position statements of science teachers' professional associations published in NCSE's Voices for Evolution also confirm that science teachers can honestly tell their students, "Legally, I cannot teach you 'creation science' or any other religious explanation of life on earth."

However, although they cannot teach religious doctrines, teachers are permitted to teach about religion. The topic is usually reserved for social studies classes, but many science teachers, like the one whose questions are quoted above, want to be better informed about evolution/creation beliefs and may find that sharing such information with students and their community clears the way for teaching about evolution.

What Do Christians Believe?

While a number of recent surveys give us some information on how many Americans express beliefs compatible with literal interpretations of the Bible, they don't tell us whether such beliefs are, in fact, required of Christians by their denominations. Even though the numbers of those polled in the US who say that they accept evolution is about equal with those who accept special creation of humans, the majority of Americans professing to be Christians belong to denominations that accept evolution.

Table 1 is adapted from a 1998 article released by the Religion News Service and lists the twelve largest denominations in the US in order of size. It also shows which denominations have in some manner officially supported the teaching of evolution in public schools. The percentages listed in the second column represent the percentage of that denomination's members in relation to the total membership of those listed in the table (not in relation to all Christian denominations). A mark in the column entitled "Voices" indicates that the leaders of this denomination have contributed an official statement which we have published in NCSE's Voices for Evolution (Matsumura 1995).

Some denominations have subsequently issued additional statements. The column headed "Joint Statement" shows which denominations endorsed "Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law" (American Jewish Congress and others 1995), an interfaith statement that declares:

5. Students may be taught about religion, but public schools may not teach religion….

6. These same rules apply to the recurring controversy surrounding theories of evolution. Schools may teach about explanations of life on earth, including religious ones (such as "creationism"), in comparative religion or social studies classes. In science class, however, they may present only genuinely scientific critiques of, or evidence for, any explanation of life on earth, but not religious critiques (beliefs unverifiable by scientific methodology). Schools may not refuse to teach evolutionary theory in order to avoid giving offense to religion nor may they circumvent these rules by labeling as science an article of religious faith. Public schools must not teach as scientific fact or theory any religious doctrine, including "creationism", although any genuinely scientific evidence for or against any explanation of life may be taught. Just as they may not either advance nor inhibit any religious doctrine, teachers should not ridicule, for example, a student's religious explanation for life on earth.

Finally, official representatives of some denominations were plaintiffs in the famous McLean v Arkansas case. Official denominational opposition to the law requiring the teaching of "creation science" is recorded in the column headed "McLean".

Table 1: Membership and Acceptance of Evolution in 12 Largest US Christian Denominations

DenominationMembership (millions)PercentVoicesJoint StatementMcLean
Roman Catholic Church61.249.0
Southern Baptist Convention15.712.6
United Methodist Church8.56.8
National Baptist Convention USA8.26.6
Church of God in Christ5.54.4
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America5.24.2
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)4.83.8
Presbyterian Church (USA)3.52.8
National Baptist Convention of America3.52.8
African Methodist Episcopal Church3.52.8
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod2.62.1
The Episcopal Church2.52.0
• Indicates statement issued by official body of this denomination.
† Indicates statement signed by the National Council of Churches of which this denomination is a member.
‡ Indicates that this denomination was listed as an "endorsing organization".

Table 1 demonstrates that of Americans in the 12 largest Christian denominations, 89.6% belong to churches that support evolution education! Indeed, many of the statements in Voices insist quite strongly that evolution must be included in science education and "creation science" must be excluded. Even if we subtract the Southern Baptist Convention, which has changed its view of evolution since McLean v Arkansas and might take a different position now, the percentage of those in denominations, including the United Church of Christ and the National Sikh Center, have shown some degree of support for evolution education (as defined by inclusion in Voices or the "Joint Statement").

However, many Americans, including your students, may not know the position of their denominations. Several science teachers have told NCSE staff, "When I tell my students to check with their ministers, they are surprised to find out that it's okay for them to learn about evolution!" Seeing the information in Table 1 might give some students just such a surprise.

While it isn't a science teacher's job to tell students or the community at large "what they should believe", clearing away their misconceptions may help a teacher get on with the job of teaching science. By all means tell them that what most Americans believe and most Christian denominations teach is this: "teaching evolution is okay!"

References

American Jewish Congress, American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Committee, American Muslim Council, Anti-Defamation League, Baptist Joint Committee, Christian Legal Society, General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, National Association of Evangelicals, National Council of Churches, People for the American Way, Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law, April 1995. [Note: The "authors" listed here are organizations represented on the drafting committee. An additional 22 organizations are listed as "Endorsing Organizations". The entire statement may be found on the worldwide web at http://www2.ed.gov/Speeches/04-1995/prayer.html (last accessed June 2, 2010) or by contacting any organization represented on the drafting committee.]

Matsumura M. Voices for Evolution. Berkeley (CA): National Center for Science Education, 1995. [Voices can be viewed on the worldwide web at http://ncse.com/voices].

Religion News Service. Believes: Dynamic Dozen. June 1998, http://www.religionnews.com/arc98/b_060198.html (last accessed June 4, 1998.) [Note: This source cites, in turn, the 1998 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.]

Denton Becomes a (Teleological) Evolutionist

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Year: 
1998
Issue: 
2
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
10–14
Reviewer: 
Philip T. Spieth
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe
Author(s): 
Michael J. Denton

This review currently available in pdf format. Download link below.

Science and Religion, Methodology, and Humanism

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Science and Religion, Methodology, and Humanism
Author(s): 
Eugenie C Scott
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1998
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
15–17
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
[In May 1998 Dr Eugenie C Scott, NCSE'S Executive Director, was awarded the American Humanist Association's 1998 "Isaac Asimov Science Award". What follows is excerpted from her acceptance speech. Ed.]

In late 1995, the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) issued a statement to its members and the public concerning the importance of evolution to biology teaching. Part of the statement defined evolution:
The diversity of life on earth is the result of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent with genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies and changing environments.
Shortly after this statement appeared, I began to see letters to the editor from around the country decrying the "atheism" of the NABT. Anti-evolutionists like Phillip Johnson included broadsides against NABT in their writings. As one Christian said to me, defining evolution as "unsupervised" and "impersonal" implied to many Americans that "God had nothing to do with it and life has no meaning." Reflecting these public concerns, two distinguished theologians, Cornell's Huston Smith and Notre Dame's Alvin Plantinga, wrote a polite letter to NABT's board of directors, asking it to delete the two words "unsupervised" and "impersonal". They specifically noted that the use of the two words
has two unfortunate and unintended consequences. It gives aid and comfort to extremists in the religious right for whom it provides a legitimate target. And because of its logical vulnerability, it lowers Americans' respect for scientists and their place in our culture.
When the NABT's board convened at its annual meeting in Minneapolis in October 1997, members' initial reaction was that creationists were trying to get them to change the statement, and they weren't about to knuckle under to that sort of pressure. They voted at the end of a 9-hour meeting, after only a brief discussion, not to change the statement.

Why is this story relevant to my receiving this award? You may be surprised to hear that after I arrived at the NABT meeting, I encouraged the board to do as the theologians asked and drop "unsupervised" and "impersonal". I'm pleased to say that the board did discuss the issue at greater length and ultimately altered the statement by dropping the two words.

People who know what I do for a living, and who know I am a nontheist, are sometimes surprised to hear this. In fact, a group of about 100 scientists signed a letter decrying the NABT's decision to drop the two words and accusing its board (and Eugenie Scott) of capitulating to political pressure from "fundamentalists." Well, lest you think I have gone "soft on creationism" and thrown the integrity of science to the wolves, let me explain a few things. I'd hate for you to think that you have given this wonderful Asimov award to a closet creationist! I lobbied the NABT board of directors to make the change because of both my respect for science and my respect for the philosophy of humanism that draws so strongly upon it. To explain requires me to reflect a bit upon both religion and science.

First, religion. Some define religion as "world view" or a person's (or a people's) "perspective", but this is too broad to be useful. Anthropologists define religion as a set of rules and attitudes regarding interaction with certain supernatural beings. Not all supernatural beings — elves, the tooth fairy, and Santa Claus are the subjects of folk beliefs, rather than religion. Religion concerns omnipotent entities — gods, A God, the Ancestors — powerful forces that can be (or have to be) supplicated, worshiped, or in some other way, interacted with. Religion does not always determine the rules for how people should behave towards one another (morals and ethics) but religion always has rules for what to do about superior beings. In Judaism and Christianity, there is one deity, which is certainly omnipotent.

Now, what about science? My job requires coping with science illiteracy in the American public. There is widespread ignorance both of the facts and concepts of science, as well as illiteracy in the very nature of science itself — of science as a way of knowing. Often, time is short: TV and radio especially require me to reduce science down to one or two "Big Ideas".

I think I'd be satisfied if Americans would get into two habits. First, ask, "Is there another explanation?" Uncle Fred found water in the back pasture using a forked stick, so there must be forces unknown to science at work. Is there another explanation? Copper bracelets cure arthritis because my neighbor's arthritis got better when she wore one. Is there another explanation? To be a truly critical thinker, one must be especially careful to ask this question when the explanation seems reasonable. Mr X got fired from his teaching job because he teaches evolution. Is there another explanation?

Maybe Uncle Fred found water (assuming he did it more frequently than chance) because after living for 60 years in that kind of country, he has amassed some subconscious knowledge of places where water is likely to be found. Maybe my neighbor's arthritis got better because of a placebo effect. Maybe Mr X got fired because he is a lousy teacher.

After we get people into the habit of asking, "Is there another explanation?" we next need to get them to ask, "How do I tell which explanation is better?" Deciding which explanation is better requires testing the explanations against the natural world — and therein lies the essence of science. I'd love for the average American to understand the rest of what we associate with the philosophy of science — falsification, parsimony, repeatability, open-ended-ness — but the public needs to grasp the basics first. What is most important is "testing" and "natural world."

The essence of scientific testing is the ability to hold some conditions constant.To test whether putting fertilizer on my petunias will make them grow bigger flowers, I have to hold constant such things as amount of water, sunlight, weeds, and so on — to control for these factors. Testing means holding some things constant and varying others.

Now we get down to the nitty-gritty of science and religion, and why I lobbied to take the words "impersonal" and "unsupervised" Out of the NABT statement. Consider: If to test something scientifically requires the ability to hold constant certain effects, this means that omnipotent powers cannot be used as part of scientific explanations. Logically, if there are omnipotent powers in the universe, it is impossible to hold their effects constant, to "control" them in the scientific sense. An omnipotent power could interfere, or not interfere or interfere but make it look like it's not interfering — that's omnipotence for you!

So science must be limited to using just natural forces in its explanations.This is sometimes referred to as the principle of methodological materialism in science: we explain the natural world using only matter, energy, and their interactions (materialism). Scientists use only methodological materialism because it is logical, but primarily because it works. We don't need to use supernatural forces to explain nature, and we get farther in our understanding of nature by relying on natural causes.

Because creationists explain natural phenomena by saying "God performed a miracle," we tell them that they are not doing science. This is easy to understand. The flip side, though, is that if science is limited by methodological materialism because of our inability to control an omnipotent power's interference in nature, both "God did it" and "God didn't do it" fail as scientific statements.

Properly understood, the principle of methodological materialism requires neutrality towards God; we cannot say, wearing our scientist hats, whether God does or does not act. I could say, speaking from the perspective of my personal philosophy, that matter and energy and their interactions (materialism) are not only sufficient to understand the natural world (methodological materialism) but in fact, I believe there is nothing beyond matter and energy. This is the philosophy of materialism, which I, and probably most humanists, hold to. I intentionally added "I believe" when I spoke of my personal philosophy, which is entirely proper. "I believe," however, is not a phrase that belongs in science.

We philosophical materialists may all be methodological materialists, but the converse isn't true. Gregor Mendel was a methodological materialist who didn't accept the philosophy of materialism. I think we make a grave error when we confuse philosophical views derived from science — even those we support — with science itself.

Let me give you an example. There exists a group of critics of science about whom Barbara Ehrenreich has written eloquently; they call themselves deconstructionists, or postmodernists, and they can be found in unfortunately large numbers in the humanities and social sciences departments of most universities and colleges. They claim that science is largely responsible for the current destruction of the environment, for social policies based on racism and sexism, for genocide, the Holocaust, for iatrogenic illness. They argue that the very Enlightenment principles that Humanists embrace should be knocked off their pedestals and replaced with more subjective, personal, and allegedly "more humane" ways of making decisions.

Most of us Humanists (being rational, Enlightenment types) would argue vigorously against this position. With Barbara Ehrenreich, we would point out that, yes, indeed, science has been used to promote ideas like genocide that we would consider evil, but that postmodernists are confusing ideologies and ideas drawn from science with science itself. Science has, for example, been used both to promote and to rebut sexism and racism, but the philosophical view one draws from science should not be used to raise up or cast down science itself.

The same principle applies to philosophical materialism, the view at the foundation of our Humanism; we may derive this view from science, but an ideology drawn from science is not the same as science itself. Science is an equal opportunity methodology.

Therefore, I agreed with the two theologians who asked NABT to take the words "impersonal" and "unsupervised" from its statement on evolution. NABT was making a philosophical statement outside of what science can tell us. Plantinga and Smith wrote:
[I]t is extremely hard to see how an empirical science, such as biology, could address such a theological question as whether a process like evolution is or isn't directed by God.... How could an empirical inquiry possibly show that God was not guiding and directing evolution?
And they were right. If we are to say to postmodernist attackers of science that they should not confuse science with positions or philosophies derived from science, then we must be consistent and not equate science with materialist philosophy.

I argue for the separation of methodological from philosophical materialism for logical reasons, and for reasons based on the philosophy of science. It is also possible to argue from a strategic standpoint. Living as we do in a society in which only a small percentage of our fellow citizens are nontheists, we who support the teaching of evolution in the public schools should avoid the creationist's position of forcing a choice between God and Darwin. Creationists are perfectly happy if only 10% of the population (the percentage of nontheists) accepts evolution. I am not. I want people to understand and accept the science of evolution; whether or not someone builds from this science a philosophical system that parallels mine is logically and strategically independent. An ideology drawn from science is not the same as science itself.

Ironically, I find myself being praised and encouraged in my position by conservative Christians and taking flak from some fellow nontheists, including some scientists. I must say, though, that over the last several months I have presented lectures at several universities and two meetings of professional scientists in which I have argued that a clear distinction must be drawn between science as a way of knowing about the natural world and science as a foundation for philosophical views. One should be taught to our children in school, and the other can optionally be taught to our children at home. Once this view is explained, I have found far more support than disagreement among my university colleagues. Even someone who may disagree with my logic or understanding of philosophy of science often understands the strategic reasons for separating methodological from philosophical materialism — if we want more Americans to understand evolution.

Science and Humanism are too important for us not to think very clearly about what they have in common and where they are distinct. The most difficult questions for us to think about critically are the ones where one answer better suits our ends, even if another one is truer. As Humanists, we might want to claim the power of science as our own, but we cannot honestly do so. Humanists should be modeling clear thinking, not muddling it — and I think we are up to the task.

Again, I am highly honored to receive this Isaac Asimov Award in Science, and I sincerely thank you for making me its first recipient.

Creationism, A Trip to the Dark Side

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Creationism, A Trip to the Dark Side
Author(s): 
Skip Evans, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1998
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
22–23
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Answers in Genesis, publisher of Creation magazine, held a creationism seminar/sermon in Marietta on September 15-16, 1997 at the Roswell Baptist Church. Several AU/Atlanta members attended, and I put together this report from our impressions of that event.

The main chapel of the Roswell Baptist Church was near capacity for Ken Ham, Director of Answers in Genesis. I was surprised that the lecture was extremely short on science and very long on scripture. Maybe it's because I haven't been to one of these shindigs before, but I just assumed that a movement that calls itself "creation science" would have some science to it. Or perhaps because Ham was preaching to the faithful, he knew he wouldn't need much evidence for his claims. Whenever he did present some bit of scientific material to make his point he was always sure to precede it with statements like, "Bear with me, this won't take long." This seemed to indicate that to this audience even pseudoscience was a bit too much like a trip to the dentist. Ham's presentation was much more concerned with imploring his listeners not to give in to the temptation to surrender Genesis to science. He proclaimed, "We must desecularize, de-evolutionize our thinking. ...If you can't defend Genesis you can't defend Christianity." This statement was followed by a healthy dose of criticism for churches not adhering to his own literalist doctrine.

Ham first began by demonstrating how scientists who asserted that Tyrannosaurus rex was a carnivore had to be wrong. His evidence? A slide showing the fearsome chompers of T rex was whisked off the display and replaced with a verse from Genesis 1:30, "And to every beast of the of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat." Therefore, Ham concluded, all animals at the time of creation were vegetarians according to Ham, including T rex. Meat-eating did not occur until after the Flood and was a result of sin. His presentation was decorated with colorful cartoon slides to emphasis key points. As Adam and Eve held up the forbidden fruit they were watched not only by the serpent but by a friendly brontosaurus as well.

Ham placed creation in opposition to "random, undirected processes" and argued his case using Mount Rushmore as an analogy (this, incidentally, is straight out of a recent issue of Creation magazine). First he proposed that Mount Rushmore was not actually created, but occurred by accident. Wind and storm erosion over many years caused, by pure chance, the likeness of the presidents to appear on the rocks. After sufficient chuckles from the audience he then went on to conclude that since it was impossible for Mount Rushmore to have happened by chance, therefore it was also impossible for something as complex as life to have happened by "random, undirected processes". Of course, this has nothing to do with evolution, since evolutionary theory does not say that life occurred by "random, undirected processes", but these small points seem lost on Ham and on his audiences as well.

Perhaps the most disturbing element of Ham's presentation was the absolute disdain he held for the people who had made careers and lives out of the pursuit of scientific truth. His simplistic and insulting remarks smacked with such blatant religious intolerance that when they prompted "amens" from the audience I felt truly afraid. Even NASA was not above his contempt. The recent discovery of the rock from Mars, perhaps containing evidence of bacterial life on the red planet in the past, was nothing more than a publicity stunt to get NASA in the news and get more money for their programs. Ham shook his head with disgust as the audience voiced their disapproval. I thought of the astronauts and even friends I have known who have worked for our space program and thought, "Is this what they deserve?"

Some of his remarks echoed slogans from the "Religious Right", such as "America is no longer a Christian nation; it is a pagan nation." However, I did laugh right along with the audience at one of his remarks. Ham also asserted, "The atheists understand Christianity better than the Christians." However, I have to admit some of his statements were simply lost on me. What possible sense can one make out of a statement like, "Natural selection is the opposite of evolution."

The recent rejection of Creation magazine by the Athens (GA) Regional Library System was played for all it was worth to promote the magazine and to show that libraries are hostile to Christianity. At the end of the lecture when he solicited the audience for subscriptions to the publication he exclaimed, "It's better than National Geographic!"

The final part of the lecture was a call to action, a call to arms, against the godless, atheistic, anti-Christian evolutionists who had vowed to destroy Christianity and everything it stood for. To make his point he had another cartoon slide, one of two castle towers with cannons on top of each. The bottom of one tower was labeled EVOLUTION, the other CREATION. Rising up from the word EVOLUTION, pasted on the tower's side were the words ABORTION, PORNOGRAPHY, HOMOSEXUALITY and LAWLESSNESS. Rising up from CREATION were FAMILY, MARRIAGE, GOD and TRUTH.

The next slide showed the two towers again. The "creation" tower was pristine and undamaged, but the "evolution" tower was blasted at the base. According to Ham, this is the way things should be. At the conclusion Ham explained that the cartoons used in the presentation were from the Answers in Genesis publication "A is for Adam", a children's book.

Ham referred constantly to the public school system and went on to catalog all the social ills that derive from including evolution in curriculum. His constant criticism of public schools appeared to be little more than a thinly-veiled call for creationist intrusions into science classrooms.

This lecture was the first of three to be presented over the course of two nights. There was to be another one following this one in thirty minutes, and then a third the following night. I had intended to go to all three to learn all I could. But I had seen enough. Quite frankly, I just couldn't take anymore.

Do Scientists Really Reject God?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Do Scientists Really Reject God?: New Poll Contradicts Earlier Ones
Author(s): 
Eugenie C Scott
NCSE Executive Director
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1997
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
24–25
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In a recent issue of RNCSE, Larry Witham reported on research he and historian Edward Larson carried out to investigate the religious beliefs of scientists.They had surveyed a sample of 1000 individuals listed in American Men and Women of Science, (AM&WS), using questions originally asked by the Gallup organization in a series of polls of American religious views.The report, entitled "Many scientists see God's hand in evolution", concluded that although scientists were quite different from other Americans in their views of "extreme" positions— such as young earth creationism and atheism—they were very similar to other Americans in the "middle" or "theistic evolution" position.

In the table below, the full wording of Gallup's question 1 is, "Humans were created pretty much in their present form about 10 000 years ago." The difference between scientists and other Americans is striking. Scientists also respond quite differently to the third question, "Man evolved over millions of years from less developed forms. God had no part in this process." But scientists' responses to Gallup's "theistic evolution" question—"Man evolved over millions of years from less developed forms of life, but God guided the process, including the creation of Man"—directly mirrors that of the general public. The "middle ground" is apparently equally attractive to scientists as it is to the general public.

GALLUP EVOLUTION QUESTIONS

Question Scientists Public
1. Special Creation, 10 000 years 5% 46%
2. Evolution, God Guided 40% 40%
3. Evolution, God had no part 55% 9%

Larson and Witham also asked the AM&WS sample a second set of questions, repeating a survey performed in 1914 by sociologist James H Leuba. Leuba had found that, in contrast to the high levels of religious belief in the general American public, scientists exhibited low levels of belief in God. He predicted that over time, more and more scientists would give up their belief in God, as scientific knowledge replaced what he considered to be superstition. Larson and Witham found to the contrary that disbelief among scientists remained stable: 58% in 1914 and 60% in 1976 (Larson and Witham 1997).

Leuba had taken a subsample of more prominent or "greater" scientists in the AM&WS sample and reported that they exhibited a higher rate of disbelief (70%) compared to less prominent AM&WS scientists. Recently, Larson and Witham asked Leuba's questions of members of the National Academy of Sciences, since AM&WS no longer lists "greater" scientists. They claimed to find that NAS scientists had higher levels of disbelief and agnosticism, reporting "near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists" (Larson and Witham 1998).

Are you confused? How can scientists be so like other Americans in one survey and so different in another? We can find part of the explanation in the considerable differences between the questions asked by Gallup and those asked by Leuba.

The wording of questions in any survey can influence the results. Gallup's questions are quite straightforward, well designed to reveal people's attitudes towards evolution. For reasons that will become important later in this article, a question that requests an opinion on only one issue is superior to one which queries attitudes about two or more.

First, let's look at Leuba's questions, which are, to be charitable, ambiguous. The "personal belief" question attempts to ascertain belief not just in some sort of God, but a very specific kind of personal God.
1. I believe in a God in intellectual and effective communication with humankind, i.e., a God to whom one might pray in expectation of receiving an answer. By "answer", I mean more than the subjective psychological effects of prayer.
1. I believe in a [personal] God...
AM&WS NAS
1914 1998
27.7 7.0

Indeed, the percentage of "yes" answers in 1998 is strikingly lower than that in 1914. Does this mean that fewer scientists believe in God? Not necessarily. Consider how specific this question is. To answer "yes" to this question, one would have to believe that God is not only in communication with humankind, which many religious people do believe, but that God is in both intellectual and effective communication. What is the meaning of "intellectual" communication? "Effective" communication? Someone who believed that God communicated with humankind but not "intellectually" (whatever that means) would have to answer "no." Is "effective" used in the modern sense of the word meaning "something that works well", or in the more archaic (1914) use of the term meaning "to bring about"? Do scientists reading this question today interpret it in the same way as those in 1914?

The clause about answering prayers is also problematic.There are schools of theology that hold that God is personal in the sense of watching over and caring for humankind, but nonetheless, does not answer prayers. We do not know whether members of the general public would respond similarly or differently than scientists do to this definition of God: we do know that there is a wide variety of definitions of God.

Not only have there been changes in theology since 1914, which may be reflected in different Americans' definitions of God, but there have been improvements in survey research techniques. Experienced pollsters simply do not ask paragraph- long questions anymore because they know that they elicit contingent (and therefore difficult to interpret) answers!

Most educated, late 20th century Americans are "test wise" and know that the more components to a question, the more likely it is that the question is "wrong". I doubt that this was the case in 1914, when citizens 'were exposed to far fewer surveys than they are today. I surmise that modern survey-wise scientists would be more likely to answer "no" to a multi-component question like Leuba's number 1 than "yes".

What about Leuba's second question?

2. I do not believe in a God
as defined above.
AM&WS NAS
1914 1998
52.7 72.2

How might this question be interpreted? There is more than one way—which means it's not a good question.You might answer "true" if you did not believe in God at all, which is how Leuba, and apparently Witham and Larson, interpret the question; they describe these answers as demonstrating "personal disbelief." But you might answer "true" if you believed in a different kind of God than Leuba defined! A "yes" on question 2 would include both non-believers and those who believe in a less personal God than that of question 1.

Leuba's third question also allows for multiple interpretations.

3. I have no definite belief
regarding this question.
AM&WS NAS
1914 1998
20.9 20.8

Well, there has been no change in the number of "yes" answers over time, but what does the question mean? To me, a "yes" means "I don't think much about religion in general" rather than meaning, as Leuba, Larson and Witham conclude, "I have 'doubt or agnosticism'." Nonbelievers might very likely answer this question "false", because they do have definite views on this question! Most of the atheists and agnostics that I know have quite definite views about belief in God! Just as with the other Leuba questions, a "yes" answer reflects more than one possible opinion. Positive answers to this question include those who do not believe, as well as those who are not especially interested in the topic.

What one might conclude from the 1998 Larson and Witham study of NAS scientists is that belief in Leuba's definition of a personal God has decreased over time among scientists. The main problem, however, is that Leuba's questions are not well designed for investigating the religious views of scientists (or anyone else).

The Gallup questions, which deal with views of God's role in evolution, rather than general belief or disbelief in God, are far less ambiguous. When these questions were used (Larson and Witham 1997), the answers showed that a large proportion (40%) of prominent scientists believe in a God that is sufficiently personal or interactive with humankind that human evolution is guided or planned.

The title of the recent Larson and Witham article in Nature, "Leading scientists still reject God" is premature without reliable data upon which to base it.

References

Larson EJ, Witham L. Scientists are still keeping the faith [Commentary]. Nature 1997 Apr 3; 386:435-6.

Larson EJ, Witham L. Leading scientists still reject God. Nature 1998 Jul; 394:313.

Witham L. Many scientists see God's hand in evolution. RNCSE 17(6):33.

Introduction to "Science and the Spiritual Quest" Conference

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Introduction to Science and the Spiritual Quest" Conference
Author(s): 
Robert Russell
Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences
Berkeley CA
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1998
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
26–27
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Robert Russell delivered these remarks at the opening of the Science and the Spiritual Quest conference on Sunday, June 7, 1998. We reprint them with permission.

Good morning, and welcome to the "Science and the Spiritual Quest" (SSQ) Conference, drawing together 27 internationally distinguished scientists who are invited to share with us their spiritual journey. I am Bob Russell, Professor of Theology and Science in Residence at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, and Founder and Director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences. I want to start this conference, though, by inviting you to use your imagination:

Imagine the Milky Way as a galaxy so vast that all the stars you can see on a clear night are only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars making it up;

Imagine a photograph of deep space dense not with stars but with entire galaxies each as vast as our own Milky Way [and] floating endlessly in the depths of space;

Imagine the evolution of life on earth stretching back billions of years, yet with all species from blue-green algae to hummingbirds linked by a common genetic code;

Imagine the brain of a child with more neural connections than the number of stars in the Milky Way;

Imagine an atom so tiny that a hundred trillion can fit on the dot of an "i";

Imagine elementary particles endlessly arising into a half-existence and the colliding and decaying back into the underlying quantum field in a foaming process happening billions of times each second at every point of space throughout the entire universe;

Imagine the entire universe in its distant past smaller than an atom, a nucleus, even an elementary particle

What we are seeking to imagine lies beyond our direct perceptions and our ordinary, everyday world, but it is nevertheless real. These discoveries are the result of centuries of pioneering scientific research. They are the gifts of the natural sciences, gifts which are our common human heritage. Without science we could never have known any of this. Knowing it all has forever changed our understanding of the universe and of ourselves. This knowledge affects us at our deepest level, leading us to rejoice in the splendor of the universe and the joy of living.

Yet it also stirs within us those ancient and always present, ever pressing questions: who are we, where did we come from, why are we here, how are we to live our lives, what will be our future? These questions are basic to what many call the spiritual quest - our thirst for the infinite, for the transcendent, for meaning and purpose. I believe the questions science raises deserve an answer at least as profound as the discoveries themselves. The answers we give, whether sublime or superficial, will mark our lives and those of future generations. We are truly at a cusp in history of extraordinary ramifications.

For some scientists, the universe as such is the answer. It alone is our source, and science offers us sufficient meaning and purpose. For other scientists, many of whom are gathered here today, science is part of the answer, but a truly adequate account requires language about the God whom Jews, Christians and Moslems praise as the Creator of the universe and the ultimate source of meaning and purpose in our lives and world. The primary purpose of SSQ is to explore this second option.

First I want to give you a brief overview of the broader context in which it is located. SSQ is part of a rapidly growing intellectual movement commonly referred to as "science and religion". We are nearly 40 years into this exciting new period of open dialogue and creative, mutual interaction. I want to note some key factors which have made this possible:

In philosophy of science, we have moved from the modern period starting with the 17th century Enlightenment and culminating in the first half of this century. Here science was portrayed as an entirely objective, rational and impersonal process - one which eventually could explain all of human knowledge and experience in terms of physics. Nature was given a mechanistic interpretation characterized by determinism and reductionism. Since the 1960's we have been moving into what many call a post-modern understanding of science, which emphasizes the historical, inter-subjective and holistic character of scientific knowledge and which sees nature in terms of unpredictability and emergence. Scientists form a community of consensus, persons with shared assumptions whose knowledge is couched in revisable models of nature which point to reality but are never able to grasp it unequivocally and in its entirety.

Likewise in the philosophy of religion we once viewed religious language as merely expressive and religious experience as strictly subjective, totally divorced from scientific knowledge. Instead, scholars now acknowledge the cognitive content of religion and its broader explanatory power. In theology, too, we are moving away from a period of isolation between religions and between secular learning and sacred teaching. Instead we are living with the possibility of a fresh, invigorating intellectual climate infused with the spirit of ecumenical and inter-religious dialog, a climate which encourages a new and vigorous interaction both with the humanities and the natural sciences. Many scholars now see theological doctrines, like scientific theories, not as rigid, closed dogmas but as hypotheses about the world which, while firmly believed to be true, are radically subject testing by the appropriate data. For at least some of these theologians, the "data" should now include the theories and discoveries of the natural sciences. They also see science as infused with concepts and assumptions whose roots, though often unacknowledged, lie in philosophy and, more indirectly, in Western monotheism, and which invite a critical discussion between theologians, philosophers and scientists.

But what is most relevant to our conference is the effect that the stunning discoveries of the 20th century sciences are having on this dialogue. Think of the discoveries I listed already. Add to them the extraordinary explanatory theories of the natural sciences: physics, with the challenge of relativity to our fundamental notions of space, time, matter and energy; quantum mechanics, with its challenge to our notions of causality and separability and locality; cosmology, with the discovery of what might be the birth of our universe 15 billion years ago and the possible "freeze or fry" scenarios for its far future; evolutionary and molecular biology, with the ethical, legal, social, and medical issues surrounding genetics and the challenge to purpose, design, directionality or trends in nature; and think how the computer, the internet, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, and all the rest are raising the key questions about self, reason, embodiment and community. In fact, more often than not, it is the scientists who are moving out from their labs and knocking on our doors, saying "Can we talk?"

In light of these factors and others, a wealth of responses have been developed over the past 40 years, so that today the "generic" term, "science and religion", points to an immensely rich interdisciplinary field. It began in the 1960s through the genius of a handful of pioneering scholars with joint training in the sciences, theology and philosophy and by a few philosophers and theologians who have taken the discoveries and methodology of science seriously. There now exist centers and societies in the United States, England, Europe and Australia which support research, conferences, courses, public fora, and scholarly and publicly-oriented journals.

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences here in Berkeley is one such center, committed to sponsoring research, teaching and public service both at the Graduate Theological Union and through a series of national and international programs, including SSQ. This past decade in particular has also brought a rapidly growing series of outstanding lectures, books, and journal essays which are "essential requirements" for anyone seriously interested in this interdisciplinary field. One may debate the issues, but one can no longer debate the fact that "science and religion" is a field whose research and courses deserve to be part of ongoing academic life.

Today we are fortunate to see the first fruits of what promises to be an invaluable new approach to the field. Unlike most of the interdisciplinary research characteristic of "science and religion", SSQ focuses specifically on scientists at the cutting edge of their research fields who are willing to share their experience of science as a spiritual journey. Most of them come from and participate in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Most of them have had little time in an extraordinary research career to devote to extensive studies in religion and philosophy. For the past 2 1/2 years, though, they have been willing to work closely together towards a common goal, asking how the discoveries, the theories, and the practices of science both inform and are informed by their spiritual journey as scientists. Today I invite them to share the insights that journey has yielded about the presence of transcendence in their lives, about the common ground they find in the experience and practice of science and religion, about the moral and spiritual dimension of science, and, for those who find this language appropriate, about God whose creative presence is known through the Book of Nature as well as Scripture and who calls us to participate in the healing, repairing and redemptive transformation of the world.

Science Education, Scientists, and Faith

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Science Education, Scientists, and Faith
Author(s): 
Mike Salovesh
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1998
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
28–29
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Anthropologist Mike Salovesh received a letter about the potential exposure of a high-school student only to evolution in classes in public schools and university. He has allowed us to reprint his reflections on the place of evolution in the social and life sciences and on the relationship between science and religion.

The concerned parent wrote:

I have some concerns about... evolution.... Is it taught as theory or fact? Can students discuss differing viewpoints? [Our child] is a very grounded young man but I worry that this may not be the right choice for his first class.

Of course, there's no way I can guess what a particular instructor will or won't do in a classroom. I can make some general points, though.

Anthropology sits at some important intellectual crossroads. Some parts of anthropology can only be done within the confines of a scientific approach. One of those parts deals with the history of our human biological nature.

When we're doing science, there are generally accepted rules of evidence that we have to follow. The central rule is that knowledge can't properly be regarded as scientific unless it can be tested against the real world. Scientific theories are attempts to explain what happens in the real world. A "theory", in this sense, says that under specific circumstances, if you do X and look at the world to see what happens next you can expect to see Y. To test the theory, we go out and do X. If we don't then see Y, we know there's something wrong with the theory. We also know that we're either going to have to modify the theory or throw it out entirely.

You ask whether an anthropology course would teach evolution as theory or as fact. Well, let me say what an anthropologist means by "evolution" in the first place. One of the simplest definitions I know says that "evolution is a change in the distribution of hereditary biological traits in a population through generations of time." Science starts by accepting the observable fact that the distribution of hereditary traits in any biological population changes through time.

If evolution is defined that way, then evolution is a fact. I've seen it myself, back when I was an Army medic. Some of the diseases we were treating were changing right in front of us as different strains of the organisms that caused those diseases developed immunity to drugs we used to cure them. There's a whole spectrum of illnesses that we used to be able to cure with penicillin, for example, that can't be today. That's known as "penicillin resistance". In fact, there have been recent mutations that have led some disease-causing bacteria to produce substances that actually destroy penicillin.

"Theories of evolution" are definitely not facts. They are attempts to explain the observable facts. Charles Darwin, who is usually credited with inventing "the" theory of evolution, didn't really do that. What he did was put forth one theory of evolution, in several parts. Some parts of Darwin's theory are as solidly based as anything we know in science; some of them were discarded nearly a century ago because they just didn't stand up to the facts of the observable universe.

Darwin's principle of natural selection was one, but only one, part of the general theory he proposed in an attempt to explain the fact of evolution. It has been subject to scientific testing repeatedly for nearly 140 years. It has never been shown to be wrong by observation of the real world. The basic idea of the principle of natural selection is that organisms that have the largest number of offspring have greater influence over the biological nature of generations that come after them than related organisms that have fewer offspring. By extension, if those organisms leaving the greater number of offspring possess any biological trait which contribute to increased survival and reproduction of those offspring, then successive generations of this organism should show greater proportions of individuals with this trait than among their ancestors.

That's exactly what we see in real populations. It's what we see in one-celled organisms; it's what we see in whales, the biggest animals on earth; it's what we see in every form of animal in between. It's what we see in every form of plant life on this planet. And, incidentally, it's what we see in human beings.

Darwin's theory of evolution didn't stop with the principle of natural selection, however. He offered an explanation of how reproduction passes traits from one generation to another - and his explanation was dead wrong. Considering that Darwin had never heard of genetics, it should be no surprise. The book where he published his theory of evolution, On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, was published more than half a century before the facts of genetics were generally known to science.

Not knowing anything about genetics, Darwin couldn't include genetic mutations in his explanations of the fact of evolution. Statistics, as a branch of mathematics, hadn't been invented when Darwin wrote, either. That's why his theory of evolution didn't make any allowances for the influence of statistical distributions in changing the frequency of biological traits in a population from one generation to the next.

I say all of this to make the point that no theory of evolution is, or can be, a fact. Darwin's theory of evolution, to be specific, is certainly not a fact. A reasonable theory of evolution is one that explains growing numbers of apparently unrelated facts, tells us something useful about those facts, and hasn't yet failed the test of observation.

Right now, we are having a very lively time in anthropology because two views of human evolution are in direct conflict. Specialists are lining up on opposing sides and hotly searching for key evidence to knock down each other's views. Since I'm in the business of teaching students to weigh the evidence and decide for themselves, I present both viewpoints in the classroom. I point to the ideas that lead people on each side to their very different views; I cite the evidence that supports them, and I cite what their opponents find wanting in the way that evidence was collected or what it means. And, on days when I do my job very well, discussion gets just as hot in my classroom as it does in scientific journals.

In this particular debate, I do favor one explanation over the other on the basis of what I know now. On questions like this, though, I try to be a scientist. That means that tomorrow I may learn of evidence that proves that the explanation I favor is wrong. In that sense, I would expect any competent person teaching introductory anthropology to encourage the discussion of differing explanations. I suspect that's not what you were asking about, however.

There are other ideas about the origins of Homo sapiens and all other living species. One set of such ideas sometimes calls itself "Creation Science". In its full-blown form, it is based on unyielding acceptance of what the Bible says about creation. It holds that it is impossible for any facts of the real world to contradict the teachings of the Bible.

You already know that I learned something in my Bible studies classes. I didn't leave religion behind me when I left high school. Many anthropologists are deeply religious. I personally look forward to a special time at the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association, when we Quaker anthropologists hold a meeting for worship in a meeting room the Association has always provided at our request.

My religious beliefs can't be proven true by any scientific test. They are absolute, universal, and not subject to change by any external circumstance. For example, I take the commandment "thou shalt not kill" as part of the bedrock of my faith. There is no way I can prove that my belief about killing is true to the satisfaction of anyone who does not share that article of faith with me. Suppose I were to say that the rule comes from the Bible, and that the Bible is the revealed word of God. There is no way that argument would convince somebody who does not believe in God.

Indeed, I cannot imagine any facts in the real world that would convince me to give up my believe that killing another human being is wrong. That is precisely why I say that my belief about killing is not, and cannot be, a scientific conclusion. It can't be tested against observable fact. I would, therefore, be wrong if I tried to teach my college classes that science proves that my belief is the only possible one that can be held by a reasonable person.

I cannot in conscience introduce so-called "creation science" into a classroom as a viewpoint relevant to the teaching of science. It is NOT science. I believe that nearly all anthropologists whose courses are supposed to consider how humanity developed its biological nature would agree. (I have never met any who would disagree.)

My religion teaches that there is that of God in every human being. It asks that I make moral decisions about my own behavior by considering that Inner Light which comes from the presence of that of God within me. My religion also teaches me to respect the fact that another person may be perfectly sincere in denying a belief that I hold sacred, or in affirming a belief that my Inner Light would lead me to deny. It teaches me to believe that other people's beliefs about what their moral course should be are based on their faith in the guidance of their own Inner Light.

As a Quaker, I could never demand that a student abandon religious convictions. I could never demand that a student deny a religious conviction that, say, Genesis describes the actual facts about how God created the heavens and the earth. Those beliefs are a matter for the student's moral decisions, and I cannot make moral decisions for another person.

As a professor teaching science in a university classroom, I can try to make sure that what is taught and discussed there is relevant to a scientific approach to the universe. The standards of judgment I try to uphold are those that are fundamental to science. Other standards don't belong in a science classroom. The moral judgments that I base on my own religious convictions are among the other standards that have no place being taught in a science classroom. Taking time to support or to deny views that are not relevant to scientific judgment while trying to teach science is an inappropriate use of energy and resources; and it risks focusing students' attention away from the proper study of scientific subjects.

"Science and Religion", "Christian Scholarship", and "Theistic Science"

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
"Science and Religion", "Christian Scholarship", and "Theistic Science": Some Comparisons
Author(s): 
Eugenie C. Scott
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1998
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
30–32
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
With support from the Templeton Foundation, the Berkeley-based Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences hosted a four day conference on "Science and the Spiritual Quest" June 7-10, 1998. Scientists and philosophers who identify as Christians, Muslims and Jews discussed challenges and opportunities science presents to monotheistic traditions as well as how "the fundamental principles of religious faith affected the development of theory in the sciences." Future conferences will "include nontheistic faith, such as Buddhism, Confucianism and some parts of Hinduism".

The CTNS conference is one of a growing number of "science and religion" conferences. RNCSE reported on an earlier conference on "The Epic of Evolution", sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Program of Dialogue Between Science and Religion, held in November of 1997 (RNCSE 1997; 17[3]:7-8), and there also have been two "science and religion" conferences sponsored by "intelligent design" proponents [see article by Larry Witham, Washington Times 6/10/98).

The "science and religion" movement is a broad one, participated in by adherents to mainline Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faith as well as conservative Christians. Attitudes towards evolution vary accordingly, from acceptance (as illustrated by the AAAS conference) to rejection (the "design" conferences.) The CTNS conference, judging from abstracts, dealt somewhat with cosmological evolution (the anthropic principle), and scarcely at all with biological evolution. Wider religious and philosophical issues seemed to be the order of the day: transcendence, science and morality, aesthetics, creativity rather than creationism. Participants seemed largely content to let science rather than revelation tell us about the nature of the physical universe. Physicist and ordained minister Robert Russell, Director of CTNS, presented opening remarks that seem to reinforce this distinction [see related article ]

Several institutions besides CTNS examine the relationship between science and religion, including the Chicago Center for Religion and Science, the Institute for Religion in an Age of Science (Concord, NH), and the American Scientific Affiliation (Ipswich, MA). The International Society of Ordained Scientists, founded by British biologist and theologian Arthur Peacocke, claims 3000 members. Dialogue between science and religion is clearly a hot topic. Science published a long essay presenting the views of both proponents and opponents of an enlarged discussion between science and religion (Easterbrook, Science and God: A warming trend?" Science 1997 Aug 15; 277:890). Newsweek for July 20 published a cover story titled, "Science Finds god", and the same week US News and World Report featured an exploration of science and religion titled, "Cosmic Designs."

Christian Scholarship

The "science and religion" movement should be distinguished from a more amorphous trend called "Christian Scholarship", with which it seems to overlap only slightly. Christian Scholarship sentiments are found predominantly at secular, rather than denominational universities, and are a reaction of (primarily conservative Christian) religious faculty concerned with the secularization of university life. It promotes the position that just as other ideologies (Marxism, feminism, environmentalism, and so on) can "inform" scholarship at the university level, Christian ideology should also be recognized as a legitimate perspective. A recent book, George M Marsden's The Outrageous idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford, 1997) argues this view, and protests that the secularization of American universities has "marginalized" religion as a source of scholarship.

We will try to publish a more complete review of Marsden's book in a future issue, but let me note here that "Christian Scholarship" as a perspective on knowledge is more likely to be successful in the humanities and perhaps history, than in the natural sciences. If one may propose a feminist or Marxist interpretation of the causes of World War II, one may perhaps have a Christian interpretation as well. It is far less likely that a contribution to scholarship will be made by feminist thermodynamics or Christian meiosis. (For a more complete discussion see: Scott EC. Creationism, ideology and science, in The flight from science and reason. Gross PR, Levitt N, Lewis, MW, editors. Annals NY Academy of. Sciences 1996; 775:505-22).

Scientists do not seem to be heavily represented among proponents of Christian Scholarship, judging by the presentations at a conference titled, "Christian Scholarship: Knowledge, Reality and Method" held in Boulder, CO, in October 1997. Most abstracts dealt with philosophy, humanities, or social sciences. Only a few had to do with natural sciences, although there are indications that the role of natural scientists in Christian Scholarship is increasing. Still, it appear as if the major concern of Christian Scholarship is less upon Christianity as a source of specialized insight into the workings of the natural world (i.e., there is no "Christian meiosis" yet) and more the consideration of philosophical, theological and ethical issues in science. More information on the Boulder Christian Scholarship conference can be found at .

Theistic Science

Finally, the Christian Scholarship movement can be distinguished from the much smaller "theistic science" movement, though there is slight overlap. "Theistic science" is promoted by some "intelligent design theory" proponents and focuses much more closely on the evolution issue than do the other two movements discussed in this article. As proposed by Whitworth College philosopher Steven C Meyer, Biola University philosopher JP Moreland, and Notre Dame theologian Alvin Plantinga, "theistic science" goes beyond proposing a dialogue between science and religion to recommending a fundamental alteration of the very way that science is practiced.

Most scientists today require that science be carried out according to the rule of methodological materialism: to explain the natural world scientifically, scientists must restrict themselves only to material causes (to matter, energy, and their interaction). There is a practical reason for this restriction: it works. By continuing to seek natural explanations for how the world works, we have been able to find them. If supernatural explanations are allowed, they will discourage - or at least delay - the discovery of natural explanations, and we will understand less about the universe.

There is also a logical reason for methodological materialism: the essence of science is the testing of alternate explanations against the natural world. To "test" means to hold constant or control some factors. If omnipotent powers exist, by definition their effects cannot be held constant, or controlled. As a result, without making a judgment on the existence or nonexistence of God, modern scientists carry out their tests of hypotheses as if only natural causes were operating. It's a scientific analogue of Pascal's wager: if an omnipotent power such as God exists, then we can't control for its actions, so we're stuck with methodological materialism. If God doesn't exist, then of course methodological materialism is the best way to understand the natural world.

Advocates of theistic science would like to change all this by allowing "God did it" as a scientific, not merely theological, statement. They do stipulate, however, that God's hand not be invoked capriciously. Plantinga and others suggest that most of the time God operates using secondary causes, but room must be left for the occasional miracle. It is not coincidence that these allowances for miraculous interventions seem to focus around the topic of evolution: Moreland points out, for example, that "theologians have little interest in whether a methane molecule has three or four hydrogen atoms" but because God "designed the world for a purpose", he "has directly intervened in the course of its development at various points ([for example], in directly creating the universe, first life, the basic kinds of life, and humans)" (for details, readers should consult Moreland, Creation Research Journal, 1993 Fall; available on line at )

Echoing this approach, Meyer separates science into two kinds: "historical" and "operational" ("empirical"). Operational science is the familiar everyday science exploring the processes and mechanisms of how the universe works, and miracles are not expected to be discovered. Both theists and nonbelievers would conduct operational science in the same fashion. Historical science, on the other hand, deals with nonrepeating events such as speciation events in the fossil record, the explosion of the Pinatubo volcano, the appearance of a supernova and so forth. Of course historical sciences can be studied scientifically: there may have been only one observed eruption of Pinatubo, but there certainly can be a science of volcanic eruption that can be used to explain Pinatubo. Similarly, only once in history did a population give rise to genus Equus, but we can still derive theories from this and similar events to explain macroevolution.

More for theological than scientific reasons, God's direct hand is allowed in historical science, though strongly discouraged in operational science. This is so, it seems to me, because it is primarily historical sciences (like evolution) that have serious consequences for certain conservative Christian theologies.

When do theistic science proponents invoke a miracle? When they can't figure out a materialistic explanation. As Plantinga states,
"Why couldn't a scientist think as follows? God has created the world, and of course He created everything in it directly or indirectly. After a great deal of study, we can't see how he created some phenomenon P (life, for example) indirectly; thus probably he has created it directly." (Plantinga, 1997)
Plantinga's position is given in more detail in. "Methodological Naturalism? Part 2", Origins and Design, 1997; 18(2):34 (footnote 63).

It is telling that three of the topics most frequently cited as requiring direct divine intervention (and cited by Moreland, above) are ones for which there is not yet consensus on a fully naturalistic explanation: the Big Bang, the origin of life, and the Cambrian explosion. The fourth topic is the origin of humans, upon which there actually is quite a good consensus, though the degree of agreement is not well-known to the general public.

It is fair to state that "theistic science" is a form of special creationism, or even creation science that cleverly ignores issues divisive to anti-evolutionists - such as the age of the earth - and focuses on unifying issues - such as the importance of God's hand in the universe. Theistic science has not been uniformly embraced even within the ranks of conservative Christians. (For critical reviews, see Howard Van Till, "Special creationism in design clothing: A Response to The Creation Hypothesis", Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 42:p.123-131, June, 1995; and DF Siemens, Jr., "On Moreland: Spurious freedom, mangled science, muddled philosophy", Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 49:pp 196-199.)

Science, Religion, and Evolution

NCSE is concerned with evolution education and the public understanding of the nature of science. How will these three intersections of science and religion affect our issues? My evaluation is that the "science and religion" movement, consisting primarily of theists who already accept evolution and who have a healthy respect for science, is not a challenge and may be beneficial to the public understanding of science and evolution. Many members of the general public have not heard a counterargument to the anti-evolutionist position that one "must choose between evolution and religion." Greater public prominence of religious scientists who accept evolution should help put that falsehood to rest and may promote a climate in which more teachers can teach evolution without fear of reprisal.

The "Christian Scholarship" movement in its current form is also not a major threat to evolution. Currently, this movement is as much about "free speech" for religious academics as anything else, and, as mentioned previously, it does not seem to be targeting science. Little has been said by proponents of the Christian Scholarship movement for or against evolution. If the Christian Scholarship movement expands, we can anticipate an increase in religious expression on campuses, paralleling the expansion of secular ideologies (Marxism, feminism, etc) currently occupying the interest of the postmodern academy.

However, the third, "theistic science" movement is a challenge both to science and to the acceptance of evolution in our society. Theistic science seems to focus especially on evolution; few other topics seem relevant (see Moreland JP, editor. The Creation Hypothesis, Intervarsity Press, 1997). By proposing that we consider not just natural but supernatural causes, theistic science advocates employ a "let's use all of the evidence we have" argument, which ultimately is a more sophisticated version of the very popular antievolutionist "equal time" or "fairness" argument. Perhaps the most dangerous effect of the theistic science movement, if it gets off the ground, will be its effect on the public understanding of the nature of science. Theistic science proposes that we abandon methodological materialism in science, in favor of the "occasional" supernatural intervention. This is, in Plantinga's own words, a "science stopper", because once one stops looking for a natural explanation of a phenomenon, one is assured of never finding it. The fact that 30 or more years of research has not produced a complete understanding of how the first replicating molecule may naturally have originated does not mean that we will never devise a plausible explanation. But we never will if we stop trying.

Review: The Science of God

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Year: 
1998
Issue: 
2
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
33
Reviewer: 
Frank Sonleitner
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom
Author(s): 
Gerald L. Schroeder
New York: Broadway Books, 1998. 240 pages.
This book is essentially an elaboration and update of Schroeder's earlier book Genesis and the Big Bang published in 1990. Schroeder is an Israeli physicist who has also extensively studied biblical interpretation. He uses the arguments of the Anthropic principle (the Big Bang and the fine-tuning of the universal constants) as evidence for God; but he also insists that the Bible and science agree. Genesis is not to be taken literally nor dismissed as poetry but must be interpreted correctly following the lead of talmudic scholars such as Nahmanides and Maimonides. Although his interpretation twists, stretches, and sometimes directly contradicts the literal meaning of Genesis, it confirms all the findings of modern cosmology and geology.

Using a universal time clock based on the stretching of the wavelengths of light as the universe expands, he concludes that the universe is 15.75 billion years old. The six days of Genesis consist of a nonlinear day-age description of the history; day 1 covers the first 8 billion years, and day 6 only the last 1/4 billion.

Schroeder accepts the standard geologic and paleontologic history of the earth but he balks at evolution (although he admits some sort of genetic continuity as suggested by the evidence of comparative anatomy, biochemistry and embryonic recapitulation). He rejects all transitional forms among higher categories such as classes and phyla, but later admits that there might be transitional forms within classes. (He does discuss the recently discovered intermediate forms of whales.)

Schroeder rejects evolution because he considers its mechanism to rest solely on pure chance. There is no discussion of natural selection; it doesn't appear in the index although the term is used in passing while discussing Dawkins. His "proof" that it is impossible for convergent evolution to produce similar eyes in taxa which did not inherit these structures from a common ancestor uses a mathematical calculation based on two assumptions - (1) evolution is pure chance; and (2) the taxa have no genes in common except those "inherited" from the protozoa. Yet in other places he seems to be aware of the recent evidence that the phyla have many genes in common; he discusses the Hox genes that determine body plans and the Pax genes that are involved in eye formation!

Schroeder admits that there were "pre-Adamites" (Cro-Magnon and Neanderthals) living for 40 000 years prior to Adam, but questions the existence of earlier hominid species because of the fragmentary nature of their fossils. Again he uses a mathematical model to show that the evolution of humans from an ape ancestor is impossible. This model also assumes that (1) evolution would occur by pure chance and (2) one million mutations would be necessary to produce the ape-human transition!

It takes more than the Big Bang and the fine tuning of universal constants to demonstrate that the creator is the kind, loving, personal God worshipped by Christians. And there Schroeder's arguments fall apart. For example, he argues that quantum mechanics provides the basis of free will and that the determinacy of our genes does not prevent our exercising free will, yet later he says that randomness in nature (including random mutations) is necessary for free will! And natural disasters are necessary. We must suffer earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that result from plate tectonics made possible by the earth's molten core because the latter is necessary to generate a magnetic field to protect us from the high energy radiation produced by the life-giving sun. But then he says that the biblical Creator could have made stars that didn't produce those lethal rays but "they would not be natural" and would offer absolute testimony of the Creator's existence! And still later he contradicts this principle (that the universe is organized "naturally" to hide the existence of the Creator) by saying that the earth is at an "unnatural" distance from the sun and hints that this may be miraculous! (According to Schroeder some exponential law determines the distance of the planets, and the earth's distance does not fit the pattern.)

Evolutionists will justifiably criticize Schroeder for his simplistic and inconsistent treatment of evolution while the real creationists will reject him for his theology which includes rejection of the literal reading of Genesis, acceptance of the Big Bang, an old age for the earth, existence of pre-Adamites, a local flood, and ignoring Christ, Christianity and the New Testament.

RNCSE 18 (3)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1998
Date: 
May–June
Articles available online are listed below.

Evolution in the 1998 Elections

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Evolution in the 1998 Elections
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura, NCSE Network Project Director
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1998
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
4–5
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The day after the 1998 elections, news began arriving from allied organizations and members around the country, reporting how state and local elections had affected the future of evolution education in their communities. At first glance, the news appeared to be good: many defeated candidates had been endorsed by the "Religious Right" for their support of policies designed to weaken church-state separation. However, a community may elect a creationist for one office and not another; or regional differences in a state may lead to different districts' electing representatives on both sides of the issue. Moreover, support for "creation science" crosses party lines, and some individuals' support for "creation science" proposals results from their acceptance of arguments for local control of curricula or the fairness of "teaching both sides," rather than religious beliefs. Thus it is the details of local results that give the clearest picture. Here's what we've learned so far:

Alabama's incumbent Governor Fob James, still remembered for offering an ape-imitation as an argument against evolution at the 1995 meeting of his state's Board of Education, was defeated in his bid for re-election.

While California re-elected State Superintendent of Education Delaine Eastin, who supports evolution education, results of local elections are expected to vary. Already, Bill McComas has reported that James Rogan, a Ventura County Republican who expressly supports "creation science", has been elected to the US Congress.

Just days before the election, we received email from Florida asking whether we could verify an allegation that gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush supports teaching "creation science." We are still exploring this question, and would welcome further information, since Governor-elect Bush was endorsed by the American Family Association, which has opposed evolution education in other states.

Idaho was another state with mixed results. Idaho voters re-elected US Rep. Helen Chenoweth, who has supported a school-prayer amendment and explicitly supports "creation science"; but they rejected Anne Fox's bid for re-election as Superintendent of Public Instruction. Fox, who supported teaching "creation science", lost by a healthy 8% margin.

Writing from Kentucky, Thomas Wheeler recalled that earlier in the year, he had read a report in RNCSE that, according to the newsletter of "Operation T.E.A.C.H.", State Senator Gex Williams was willing to introduce an anti-evolution bill in the state legislature. Williams was just defeated in his bid for a seat in the US Congress.

NCSE members Kim Johnson, Dave Thomas, and Richard Talley report mixed results in New Mexico . Roger X Lenard, who has been a strong opponent of evolution while serving on the State Board of Education, lost in his race for a seat in the State House of Representatives. However, P Davis Vickers of Las Lunas, who has been pressing for "creation science" in his school district, was elected to the state House, and Rep Tim Macko, who introduced an anti-evolution bill in 1997, was re-elected.With the election of NCSE member Marshall Berman to the Board of Education, the defeat of antievolution candidates Mary Agnes Gilbert and Darl Miller, and Lenard's vacant seat soon to be filled by a new appointee, New Mexicans are hopeful that the Board will take significant steps to improve science education.

Tennessee shocked the nation with the news of the pre-election murder of Democrat Tommy Burks, a state legislator who was a key supporter of the notorious "Scopes II" anti-evolution bill in 1995. Burks' widow was elected to his seat in the state House of Representatives.

Writing from Texas, Rob Pennock also reports mixed results. Donna Ballard, known in her state as a "firebrand conservative", had worked hard to limit evolution in the curriculum during her term on the State Board of Education. Having resigned when her family moved, she ran for office in her new district, but was defeated by incumbent Rene Nunez. According to Pennock, "Religious conservatives had targeted five seats on the Board. Had they won all five they would have had a majority." They picked up one new seat, and retained one.

From Washington, Pierre Stromberg reported that in pre-election television statements Governor-elect Gary Locke made the evolution-creation controversy a campaign issue, criticizing several Republican opponents for their support of creationism and specifically mentioning the evolution disclaimer bill introduced in the state senate in January 1998.

What Genesis is Really About

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
What Genesis is Really About
Author(s): 
Conrad Hyers
Saint Olaf's College
Northfield, MN
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1998
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
15, 33
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
...When one looks at the myths of surrounding cultures, in fact, one senses that the current debate over creationism would have seemed very strange, if not unintelligible, to the writers and readers of Genesis. Scientific and historical issues in their modern form were not issues at all. Science and natural history as we know them simply did not exist, even though they owe a debt to the positive value given to space, time, matter, and history by the biblical affirmation of history.

What did exist — what very much existed — and what pressed on Jewish faith from all sides, and even from within, were the religious problems of idolatry and syncretism. The critical question in the creation account of Genesis 1 was polytheism versus monotheism. That was the burning issue of the day, not some issue which certain Americans 2,500 years later in the midst of the scientific age might imagine that it was. And one of the reasons for its being such a burning issue was that the Jewish monotheism was such a unique and hard-won faith. The temptations of idolatry and syncretism were everywhere. Every nation surrounding Israel, both great and small, was polytheistic; and many Jews themselves held — as they always had — similar inclinations. Hence the frequent prophetic diatribes against altars in high places, the Canaanite cult of Baal, and "whoring after other gods."

Read through the eyes of the people who wrote it, Genesis 1 would seem very different from the way most people today would tend to read it — including evolutionists who may dismiss it as a pre-scientific account of origins, and creationists who may try to defend it as the true science and literal history of origins. For most peoples in the ancient world the various regions of nature were divine. Sun, moon, and stars were gods. There were sky gods and earth gods and water gods. There were gods of light and darkness, rivers and vegetation, animals and fertility. Though for us, nature has been "demythologized" and "naturalized" — in large part because of this very passage of scripture — for ancient Jewish faith a divinized nature posed a fundamental religious problem.

In addition, pharaohs, kings, and heroes were often seen as sons of gods, or at least as special mediators between the divine and human spheres. The greatness and vaunted power and glory of the successive waves of empires that impinged on or conquered Israel (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia) posed an analogous problem of idolatry in the human sphere.

In the light of this historical context it becomes clearer what Genesis 1 is undertaking and accomplishing: a radical and sweeping affirmation of monotheism vis-à-vis polytheism, syncretism and idolatry. Each day of creation takes on two principal categories of divinity in the pantheons of the day, and declares that these are not gods at all, but creatures — creations of the one true God who is the only one, without a second or third. Each day dismisses an additional cluster of deities, arranged in a cosmological and symmetrical order.

On the first day the gods of light and darkness are dismissed. On the second day, the gods of sky and sea. On the third day, earth gods and gods of vegetation. On the fourth day sun, moon, and star gods. The fifth and sixth days take away any associations with divinity from the animal kingdom. And finally human existence, too, is emptied of any intrinsic divinity — while at the same time all human beings, from the greatest to the least, and not just pharaohs, kings and heroes, are granted a divine likeness and mediation.

On each day of creation another set of idols is smashed. These, O Israel, are no gods at all — even the great gods and rulers of conquering superpowers. They are the creations of that transcendent One who is not to be confused with any piece of the furniture of the universe of creaturely habitation. The creation is good, it is very good, but it is not divine.

We are then given a further clue concerning the polemical design of the passage when the final verse (2:4a) concludes: "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created." Why the word "generations," especially if what is being offered is a chronology of days of creation? Now to polytheist and monotheist alike the word "generation" at this point would immediately call one thing to mind. If we should ask how these various divinities were related to one another in the pantheons of the day, the most common answer would be that they were related as members of a family tree. We would be given a genealogy, as in Hesiod's Theogony, where the great tangle of Greek gods and goddesses were sorted out by generations. Ouranos begat Kronos; Kronos begat Zeus; Zeus begat Prometheus.

The Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians all had their "generations of the gods." Thus the priestly account, which had begun with the majestic words, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," now concludes — over against all the impressive and colorful pantheons with their divine pedigrees — " These are the generations of the heavens and the Earth when they were created." It was a final pun on the concept of the divine family tree.

The fundamental question at stake, then, could not have been the scientific question of how things achieved their present form and by what processes, nor even the historical question about time periods and chronological order. The issue was idolatry, not science; syncretism, not natural history; theology, not chronology; affirmations of faith in one transcendent God, not creationist or evolutionist theories of origin. Attempting to be loyal to the Bible by turning the creation accounts into a kind of science or history is like trying to be loyal to the teachings of Jesus by arguing that the parables are actual historical events, and only reliable and trustworthy when taken literally as such.

If one really wishes to appreciate more fully the religious meaning of creation in Genesis 1, one should read not the creationist or anticreationist diatribes but Isaiah 40. For the theology of Genesis 1 is essentially the same as the theology of Deutero-Isaiah. They are also both from the same time period, and therefore part of the same interpretative context. It was a time that had been marked, first, by the conquest of most of Palestine — save Jerusalem — by the Assyrians under Sennacherib (ca. 701 BC). And a century later the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar had in turn conquered the Middle East, Palestine, and even Jerusalem.

The last vestige of Jewish autonomy and Promised Land had been overrun...

Given the awesome might and splendor and triumphs of Assyria and then Babylon, was it not obvious that the shepherd-god of Israel was just a local spirit, a petty tribal god who was hardly a match for the likes of Marduk, god of Babylon? Where was this god... ? Yet despite the littleness and powerlessness of a conquered people a prophet dared to stand forth and declare what Genesis 1 in its own way also declares:
... It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, ...and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.(Isaiah 40:21-23)
Had there been a controversy in the Babylonian public schools of the day — and had there been Babylonian public schools — these would have been the issues in debate.

Excerpted and reprinted with permission of the author from "Biblical literalism:constricting the cosmic dance", in Roland Mushat Frye (ed) Is God a creationist? The religious case against creation-science. NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1983: 100-104. Prof. Hyers explores this matter in detail in his book, The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science, John Knox Press, 1984.

Acknowledgement

NCSE thanks James Moore for bringing this essay to the editor's attention.

The 1998 International Conference on Creationism

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The 1998 International Conference on Creationism
Author(s): 
Robert Schadewald
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1998
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
22–25, 33
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The 1998 International Conference on Creationism (ICC98) was held at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, August 3 through 8, 1998. Organized every four years by the Pittsburgh Creation Science Fellowship, the ICCs are the most ambitious of creation conferences. ICC98 was organized in two tracks, the Technical Symposium and the Educators' Symposium. The former ran the full six days and included 47 papers; the latter ran Thursday through Saturday with an even dozen presentations. Also, a plenary session was held every evening. Total attendance was probably around 400.

Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, a town of about 10,000, is roughly 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Geneva College is a small school run by the tiny Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, whose publishing arm originally brought forth Henry Morris's Genesis Flood. The campus is very beautiful, with lots of trees, flower beds, and old-fashioned stone buildings. The dorms are not air-conditioned, unfortunately, and everyone sweltered at night. The cafeteria food was a pleasant surprise, especially in comparison with Duquesne in Pittsburgh, site of the three previous ICCs (1986, 1990, and 1994).

I have attended all four ICCs and six other major creation conferences, beginning in 1983. (It is sobering to think that I have spent more than two months of my life at creation conferences.) During that period, attendance by skeptics has varied from about a dozen at ICC86 to yours truly at ICC94. This year, Frank Lovell, a long-time creationist-watcher from Louisville, Kentucky, also attended the entire conference. Astronomer Francis Graham, who defended Copernicanism in a formal debate against geocentrists at the 1985 National Creation Conference, attended ICC98 on Tuesday. Tom McIver drove up from Cleveland on Saturday. The notes that follow are my own impressions of the conference, tempered throughout by conversations with Frank Lovell.

The conference is not easily summarized, other than to say that it was a far cry from the National Creation Conferences that the old Bible-Science Association used to sponsor. For example, I heard only two speakers mention that old creationist chestnut, the thickness of dust on the moon. One said that it is no problem for the conventional view, but it is a bit of a problem for young-Earth creationists, because at the current influx rate there is far too much moon dust for a 10,000-year scenario. The other noted that Snelling and Rush thoroughly debunked the moon dust argument in Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal some years ago.

In other words, this was not your father's creation science.

The opening presentation on Monday morning was entitled "Blotting Out and Breaking Up: Miscellaneous Hebrew Studies in Geocatastrophism" by David Fouts and Kurt Wise, both of Bryan College. Fouts, who teaches Hebrew and Old Testament, did the actual presentation. The authors argued that the Hebrew of the Flood story requires the "blotting out" of life on Earth by waters of the "great deep" exiting through both oceanic and terrestrial fountains or springs. The language does not, however, require obliteration of signs of life on Earth, and the existence of fossils is consistent with (if not required by) the text. The paper tended to provide scriptural validation for global Flood models that depend on terrestrial water sources.

Also on Monday was "Numerical Simulation of Precipitation Induced by Hot Mid-Oceanic Ridges" by meteorologist Larry Vardiman of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). Vardiman obtained the source code for a weather modeling tool developed by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and modified it to run on a microcomputer. Using this model, he investigated what would have happened to global precipitation just after the Flood if the mid-oceanic ridges, being newly-formed and very hot, heated the waters above them to 30º C, 50º C, or even 70º C. Needless to say, the hotter the ocean surface, the greater the evaporation, and what goes up must come down, lots of it in the polar regions. Could this explain the — as in one — Ice Age?

On Tuesday morning, T. Fritsche presented a paper entitled "The Impact at the Cretaceous/Tertiary Boundary." Fritsche gave quite a nice summary of the history of the impact hypothesis, the broad range of evidence supporting it, the challenge of the competing volcanic eruption hypothesis, and the apparent triumph of the impact scenario. Frank and I didn't notice any significant omissions or distortions here. I was anxiously awaiting Fritsche's explanation of how the dust cloud blasted into the atmosphere by the impact managed to penetrate the Flood Mud and form a worldwide layer of clay just below the Tertiary deposits. (Most creationists believe the Flood waters then were carrying essentially all of the Tertiary sediments in suspension.) Alas, Fritsche never mentioned this. Strangely enough, I've never heard any other creationist try to account for it, either.

I also attended a Tuesday presentation by Robert H. Brown of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Geoscience Research Center. Brown's paper, "Meteorites and a Young Earth," was somewhat similar to one he gave at the first ICC in 1986. This time, he focused on the Asuka meteorite, which has been dated by six different radiometric techniques. All give the same date within a few percent. A nuclear physicist by training, Brown carefully explained the logic underlying radiometric dating and argued that the concordant dates have to mean something. At the end of his presentation, he suggested that the Genesis creation story seems to deal primarily with events involving Earth, and creationists should at least consider the possibility that some of the creation already existed. During the question period, John Baumgardner, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratories, sharply attacked Brown for this bit of alleged heresy. Baumgardner accused Brown of not being a real young-Earth creationist and of deceiving the conference organizers to get on the program. The elderly Brown handled the ugly situation with poise and dignity. I half expected someone to stand up and tell Baumgardner to sit down, but no one did. The charge of deceit was especially unfair; Brown has spoken at every ICC, and the organizers knew his views from the beginning.

On Tuesday evening, philosopher of science Paul Nelson gave a presentation on "Understanding the Logic of Design." Nelson is one of the few who are firmly established in both the young-Earth creationist and Intelligent Design camps. According to Nelson, the logic of Design comes down to this: Science as conventionally practiced deals with natural causes and excludes intelligent causes. In the real world, however, we appeal to intelligent causation all the time. Detectives, for example, do not demand natural causes in murder cases. They look for intelligent causes. It is absurd for science to demand natural causation and exclude intelligent causation. And so on, through many examples.

When Nelson finished, the first question came from Paul Ackerman, a psychologist at Wichita State University. Ackerman argued that the problem with Nelson's approach "is the distinction between natural causes and intelligent causes. Any psychologist would say that intelligent human behavior is a natural cause." He went on to suggest that the proper distinction would be supernatural creation or supernatural design versus evolution. I was intrigued to hear a creationist make exactly the same objections I would have made.

Nelson's response was revealing. "I'm going to have to resist that move," he said, "because I do not think that the best way to make the analytical cut is between natural and supernatural. If you let them make the distinction between natural and supernatural, you will never be able to crack methodological naturalism."

Indeed! The claim that "natural" and "intelligent" somehow are opposites is fundamental to Intelligent Design. By promoting a false dichotomy, by equivocating with the words "natural" and "intelligent," Intelligent Design advocates hope to smuggle miracles into scientific explanations without facing up to the questions David Hume raised more than two centuries ago.

Phillip W Dennis is an industrial research physicist with publications in quantum field theory and invariant methods in special and general relativity. On Wednesday morning, Dennis gave the first half of his presentation on "Probability and Quantum Mechanics: A Christian Theistic Interpretation." A hard-shell Calvinist, Dennis believes that absolutely nothing is truly random. As he put it, "There is not one contingent electron floating around in the universe." Everything is foreordained. (Later, I gratefully learned that it was foreordained that Dennis would loan me change for the Coke machine when I was dying of thirst.)

In his two-part presentation, Dennis argued two points. First, he argued that probability can and should be put in a Christian framework. Every event in the universe has meaning and purpose. "Probability is attributable to a correlation between the limited knowledge of man and the external objective state of affairs again arranged according to the eternal decree of God." Secondly, Dennis argued against the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and reviewed numerous alternatives proposed by others. Without claiming to have solved the problem, he suggested an approach for a Christian realist interpretation of quantum mechanics.

On Wednesday afternoon, Dean H Kenyon, a biophysicist at San Francisco State University, presented a paper entitled "Hierarchical Information Content, Linguistic Properties and Protein-binding Oligomers in Coding and Noncoding DNA Sequences." Kenyon noted that up to 97% of the DNA in mammalian genomes doesn't code for anything. Some of it has a regulatory function, but most of it is introns with no known function. He argued that the "texture" of noncoding DNA differs significantly from that of coding DNA. The introns have many more repeats and quasi-periodic sequences, as he demonstrated with striking slides. What could this mean? Kenyon characterized his work as an exploration, a search for ways to test hypotheses about whether genetic systems show Intelligent Design.

Kenyon was followed by Andrew Snelling, a geologist with the Australian branch of Answers in Genesis, and John Woodmorappe, speaking on "The Cooling of Thick Igneous Bodies on a Young Earth." Earth's crust contains many large blobs of granitic rock that rose from the interior in a molten state and then cooled and solidified. Some of these plutons are several kilometers in diameter. According to the conventional view, some of them took hundreds of thousands or even millions of years to cool, mostly by conduction. This view is incompatible with a young Earth as defined by the authors (6000 to 7000 years old rather than 4.55 billion). The authors argued that a high water content can reduce the melting point of a magma, and magma can absorb up to 24% water by weight at a depth of 100 km. Escaping water can carry away a lot of heat. Moreover, water percolating through cracks and pores in the surrounding country rock and the plutons themselves could carry away more heat by convective cooling. By maximizing favorable variables and invoking every known and conceivable mechanism, the authors claimed to answer "yet another objection to the young-Earth creationist position." Don't hold your breath waiting for this one to survive conventional peer review!

Danny Faulkner, an astronomer at the University of South Carolina (Lancaster), is perhaps the world's only young-Earth creationist astronomer with a secular academic appointment in astronomy. On Wednesday morning, Faulkner reviewed the states of conventional and creationist astronomy. I don't recall any strong assertion about the former that a conventional astronomer would dispute. He also said that, although creationists have partial and/or hypothetical alternatives to some of the conventional ideas, the fact is that no creationist astronomy model exists. (For more on Faulkner's astronomy, see "Yet Another Young Sun Apologetic", this issue)

On Friday morning, Kurt Wise gave a presentation on creationist systematics entitled, "Is Life Singularly Nested or Not?" Wise is noted for telling his students and others trying to construct creation models to "think weird." By this, he means to think outside the box preferably, way outside the box. And he takes his own advice. In this presentation, Wise noted that both evolutionists and creationists take some sort of hierarchy of life, some sort of nesting scheme, for granted. But what if it ain't so? Many familiar concepts and objects can be grouped into multiple, equally valid categories. Consider table utensils. Obviously, one can group forks into one category, spoons into another, and knives into another. But it is equally valid to categorize table utensils as silver, stainless steel, plastic, and so on. Can life forms also be rigorously classified in multiple ways? Wise argued that examples of problematica, chimeromorphs, horizontal gene transfer, cladistic observations of unresolved multichotomies, and numerous other lines of evidence suggest multiple nesting. He argued that creationists ought to consider a multiply nested scheme for classifying living things above the level of the "baramin" (created kind).

On Friday afternoon, Steven A Austin of ICR and Andrew A Snelling of Answers in Genesis gave a presentation entitled "Discordant Potassium-Argon Model and Isochron 'Ages' for Cardenas Basalt (Middle Proterozoic) and Associated Diabase of Eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona." It is well-known that rubidium-strontium and potassium-argon (K-Ar) radiometric dates for the Cardenas basalt disagree. The usual explanation for the discordance is argon loss. Based on published dates and analyses of their own samples, the authors concluded that conventional explanations for the discordance fail. They reviewed three alternatives, each having major problems of its own. Nevertheless, the authors concluded, "All three explanations offered as alternatives to the argon loss models invalidate using the K-Ar system as conventional geochronology would assume."

Saturday afternoon, speaking on "A College Creation Curriculum" at an Educators' Symposium (nontechnical) session, Wise presented an impressive review of global plate tectonics, hitting most of the highlights and pointing out the consilience between several independent lines of evidence. He told the audience that evolution is a powerful theory, and that anyone who claims otherwise simply doesn't understand evolution. He said point blank that if it weren't for his religious beliefs — if he had only the scientific evidence — he would accept evolution himself.

Saturday evening, Wise gave the closing presentation for the conference, and among other things, he reviewed the state of the creation model in various fields. Astronomy? No creation model exists. Biology? Same. Paleontology (his own field)? Same. He thinks a couple of other fields, such as the development of a Flood model, are making slow progress.

Despite this seemingly gloomy summary, Wise sent people away fired up. His message was that creationists have an enormous amount of work to do, and it is time for them to get cracking. He appealed to everyone present to pitch in and do whatever they could. One prominent creationist told me later that he thought the Wise windup was the best presentation of the conference.

It is hard to overstate the influence of Kurt Wise in shaping modern creationism as it is practiced at its higher levels. I first met Kurt at NCC85 in Cleveland (the conference that ended with a formal debate over the relative merits of heliocentricity and geocentricity). Kurt then was still a graduate student at Harvard studying paleontology under Stephen J Gould. He immediately impressed me with his candor in dealing with the evidence, but it didn't really sink home until the following year, when I heard him give a presentation at ICC86 entitled "How Geologists Date Things." The talk was absolutely straight Geology 101, except for a few debunking asides. ("You know how creationists often claim that geologists use circular reasoning, that the rocks date the fossils, and fossils date the rocks? Well, that's wrong." And he explained why.) That was 12 years ago. Since then, Kurt has labored tirelessly, in public and private, by example and persuasion, to convince his creationist colleagues to face the facts and find new ways to interpret them.

Credit also is due to the Pittsburgh Creation Science Fellowship (CSF), organizer and sponsor of the ICCs. Bob Walsh and Henry Jackson III of CSF were at NCC85 in Cleveland to promote the conference they were planning for the next year. They told me then that they intended to set a higher standard. ICC86 was indeed a significant improvement, but it still was largely evolution-bashing. Besides the technical and educational tracks, ICC86 featured a "basic creationism" track whose menu included dishes such as Walter Brown's Hydroplate Model (some creationists privately referred to it as the "wacky track"). The second ICC, held in 1990, was marginally better, but evolution-bashing and "wacky track" nonsense still were abundant. Following ICC90, CSF established a refereeing system that essentially eliminated outright shoddiness. Meanwhile, Wise and other Young Turks, especially philosophers Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds, had convinced the powers that be at CSF that evolution-bashing never has advanced and never will advance a real "creation model." As a result, ICC94 was dramatically better.

At ICC98, the transformation sought by the Young Turks was virtually complete. A speaker or two may have aimed the occasional cheap shot at conventional science, but nothing remotely resembling a Gishian performance was on the program. Period. For better or worse, most presentations tried either to advance a model in some way or at least to honestly review the evidence that needs explaining. This requirement was stated in the call for papers and enforced in the refereeing process, and I didn't see a significant breakdown. Anyone whose only exposure to creationism is a Gish Gallop would not have recognized a single presentation at ICC98.

One result of the higher level of ICC presentations seems to be a higher-level audience. The deep-denial school of creation science the "absolutely no evidence for evolution," dust-on-the-moon, salt-in-the-sea, evolution-is-Nazism, geomagnetico-thermoapologetic ICR parrots were mostly silent, though not entirely absent. Consequently, the level of hostility toward Frank and me was minimal, and our interactions with the creationists invariably were cordial or better. Frank and I always ate together in the cafeteria, and we had company more often than not. Some of our mealtime companions were friends from previous creation conferences, and others were new acquaintances. Questions were many, and we tried to give straight answers to all. In return, we got straight answers to questions of our own. We both felt that these exchanges were the best part of the conference.

On one point we found complete agreement: precious little of the ICC-style creationism has filtered down to the grassroots level. Duane Gish, Gary Parker, Kent Hovind, Walter Brown, Donald Chittick, and others still spout the same old stuff in seminars and debates, and it is endlessly regurgitated at Sunday schools, Bible clubs, and on the Internet. The new-generation creationists are painfully aware that most of the popular creationist literature is dreck. Although they cannot (and should not) prevent anyone from publishing anything, a move is afoot to establish some sort of clearinghouse that will award a seal of Clean Creation Science (or whatever) to books that meet the new standards. Moreover, they intend to commission someone to write an up-to-date replacement for Henry Morris's The Genesis Flood , which they hope then will go mercifully out of print, along with the equally valuable works it spawned. Even with a serious effort by dedicated people, it will take decades to purge the nonsense, and it may not be purgable at all.

Helping Schools to Teach Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Helping Schools to Teach Evolution: What Scientists Need to Know
Author(s): 
Donald Kennedy
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1998
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
26
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
In the August 7, 1998 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus of Stanford University, explained why the National Academy of Science had produced a handbook for K-12 teachers on "Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science" (see article this issue). After discussing the importance of evolution education and the pressures that prevent the teaching of evolution, Kennedy went on to describe the lessons he learned from media and public reaction.

... The publication was front-page news and the subject of editorials in several daily newspapers.I was asked to discuss the booklet on radio talk shows, in television interviews, and even in a debate on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

I am now more worried about the chilling effect of creationism on teachers than I am about explicit bans by states or local school boards on teaching evolution. When I participated in a talk show on Wisconsin Public Radio, a high-school teacher called in to say that, although he wasn't proud of his actions, he had decided to duck the whole issue by leaving evolution out of his course. He had a family, he told me, and they had to get along in a small community. Other callers spoke of trying to combine good teaching with a respect for the situations that many of their students were facing outside the classroom. I am full of admiration for most teachers and impressed, at the same time, with the seriousness of the problems they have to overcome.

The News Hour with Jim Lehrer presented the issue as a debate: two biologists versus two creationists.One creationist was a very thoughtful young teacher from a Christian high school, who professed admiration for the booklet and said that he had no problem with crediting small biological changes to evolution, but that he thought that evolutionists hadn't given satisfactory accounts of big biological changes.The other creationist, a dean at a fundamentalist Christian university, insisted on a literal biblical interpretation of creation and said that evolutionists were "brainwashing" their students while supported by tax dollars.I found particularly telling his charge that many evolutionary biologists are atheists; the claim that scientists (and thus science) are inherently antireligious is a perennial feature of the creationist case.

Perhaps the most useful lesson of these and other discussions is how important it is for scientists to treat religious conviction with respect — in particular, not to suggest, even indirectly, that science and religion are unalterably opposed. Most major religions have found ways to reconcile evolution and theology; a papal decree accepting evolution has made this absolutely clear for Catholics, for example. Indeed, the conflict between science and religion has surfaced only in one or two countries besides the United States. More important, most scientists have been able to combine their personal religious convictions and their work in science without difficulty. Obviously, some scientists have no formal religious commitments and do not worship. But others do, including colleagues of mine who engage the subject of evolution in their work — and they find no difficulty whatever in reconciling their beliefs with their science.

Scientists at colleges and universities have an important stake in the resolution of the conflict between creationism and evolution. Alabama — the state that gave us EO Wilson, perhaps the most important evolutionary biologist of his generation — recently refused to distribute the NAS's booklet to teachers in its schools. In many other states, students also are entering college with little knowledge of evolution, and thus an incomplete understanding of the natural world. Unless those of us in higher education begin to take an active role in shaping what elementary and secondary students learn about science — and in assisting local teachers who must walk a tightrope in even introducing the topic — a determined minority will continue to deprive our future students of one of the foundations of scientific literacy.

Quantifying the Importance of Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Quantifying the Importance of Evolution
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura, NCSE Network Project Director
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1998
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
27
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Recently a concerned parent asked NCSE for advice because her child's science teacher planned to skip the textbook chapter on evolution in order to avoid conflict with a creationist student who was very vocal about his views. Besides offering the teacher support for teaching evolution, this parent wanted to provide the teacher with solid information about how to teach evolution well, and the reasons it is important to teach evolution.

As many readers of RNCSE know, leading scientific and educational organizations have all developed science curriculum guidelines that strongly emphasize the importance of evolution as a unifying principle. For example, the National Science Education Standards released by the National Academy of Science in 1996 list five "Unifying Concepts and Processes" underlying all scientific disciplines:

Systems, order, and organization
Evidence, models, and explanation
Change, constancy, and measurement
Evolution and equilibrium (italics added)
Form and Function
(National Academy of Science, 1996)

Standards developed by the National Science Teachers Association and the American Academy for the Advancement of Science emphasize evolution just as strongly, and all these documents have helped tremendously with efforts to assure that evolution is included in state science guidelines.

Still, for a classroom teacher who is being pressed not to teach evolution, it may be necessary to give a very concrete, practical answer to the question, "What harm is done if my child doesn't study evolution?" And the answer is, "S/he can't possibly score well on the College Board biology exams," (also known as "subject SAT tests".)

In describing each of the tests in biology, College Board literature not only states the importance of evolution, but quantifies it. It says of the Biology Subject Test, "Skills Needed ... Ability to recall and understand the major concepts of biology and to apply the principles learned to solve specific problems in biology," and reports that 10% of the questions cover "Classical Genetics" and 11% cover "Evolution and Diversity." For the Biology E/M (Evolutionary/Molecular) Subject Test, which was first offered in 1997, each student takes a number of core questions, then elects to take either the "evolutionary" or molecular" portion of the test. The College Board states that, "[The] Purpose [is] To assess the student's understanding of core topics in general biology. Special emphasis is placed on either ecology or molecular biology, with recognition that evolution is inherent in both" (emphasis added). The specialized questions comprise 25% of the test, and core questions devoted to biology comprise another 11%.

The Advanced Placement test, which is based on "college curriculum surveys of introductory biology courses for biology majors," devotes 25% of questions to "Heredity and Evolution." The Board says of one other biology test, "The Subject Examination in General Biology covers material usually taught in a one-year biology course at the college level." The proportion of the test devoted to "Population Biology" makes up 33% of a student's score, and includes questions on "Principles of evolution: History of evolutionary concepts, Lamarckian and Darwinian theories; Adaptive radiation; Major features of plant and animal evolution; Concepts of homology and analogy; Convergence, extinction, balanced polymorphism, genetic drift ; Classification of living organisms; Evolutionary history of humans." Related concepts - about Mendelian and modern genetics, for example - are included in other portions of the test. (All the foregoing quotations are excerpted from test descriptions at the College Board Online web site at www.collegeboard.org).

Even students who don't intend to major in science in college must respect the needs of classmates who will take qualifying exams in which roughly 20%-36% of the questions require an understanding of evolution. But that is not the only concern the emphasis on evolution in these examinations also reflects the fact that an understanding of evolution is a crucial element of scientific literacy. The "harm" in excluding evolution is the denial of an education that includes a fundamental scientific concept - and that can't be quantified. What price ignorance?

References

National Academy of Sciences. National Science Education Standards 1996. Washington, DC, National Academy Press. (Also available on the World Wide Web at http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/intronses

College Board Online, www.collegeboard.org (Note: Information about various examinations was found by using the search engine on the top page. Because one of the resulting URLs is 267 characters long, we suggest you find these tests by using the search engine on the top page. Simply click on the "store" check box so that this portion of the site will not be searched, type the word "biology" in the search box, and click the search button. Then use the appropriate links from the results generated by the search engine. Site last accessed November 5, 1998.

RNCSE 18 (4)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1998
Date: 
July–August
Articles available online are listed below.

NCSE Board Members: The Active Type

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
NCSE Board Members: The Active Type
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1998
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
4–5
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
NCSE has received many offers for books and seminars that promise to help nonprofit organizations get members of their boards of directors to do something besides lending their names. We skip all that advice because we don't need it! NCSE is blessed with committed and caring board members who don't wait to be asked before they swing into action. Here's just a bit of what some of them have been up to.

John R Cole

Since retiring as NCSE editor, John has continued to serve as a contributing editor and book reviewer; he even returned as guest editor for our last issue. He has been first to find many of the news items and reprints you see in these pages. He has also
  • served as an advisor to many participants of the Internet "anticreationist" listserve who are coping with evolution/creation conflicts or seeking information on "creation science" arguments;
  • conducted research on possible investment opportunities as NCSE seeks to build an endowment fund;
  • written press releases on the activities of NCSE Board members and others working on NCSE issues;
  • continued building a library of evolution-related art from the 19th and early 20th centuries for use in NCSE publications.

Jack Friedman

Jack Friedman has a long career as a science educator and for the past 22 years has been involved with an annual conference for high school students. With a committee of 15 college and high school teachers he arranges a one-day meeting at which approximately 70 "experts" (college professors, physicians, and others) speak on a scientific topic that is of special interest to them. A brochure is prepared and mailed to schools located within an hour of the college campus where the conference will be held. Students pick the sessions they wish to attend and are grouped into classes of 25 which meet during four "periods" on the conference day. This is an enrichment opportunity for above-average high school students. And, he adds, "If any college or high school teacher wishes to put on such a conference, I would be pleased to offer advice and answer any questions that they may have. Our conference was awarded a state 'Program of Excellence'."

Michael McIlwrath

McIlwrath, the newest member of NCSE's board (see RNCSE 1997; 1 7(5):4-5), generously makes himself available to answer inquiries about case law affecting evolution and creation controversies. Besides having advised teachers who appealed to NCSE for help with problems arising from their commitment to evolution, he submitted a brief on NCSE's behalf in connection with the Tangipahoa, LA oral disclaimer case. He is still working on this case and will present oral arguments if the appeals court decides to hear further arguments (see Updates p 7). Meanwhile, Mcllwrath is helping NCSE staff explore the possibility of a special fund-raising event.

Kevin Padian

Kevin Padian, the current NCSE President, is a professor at the University of California's Berkeley campus, not far from NCSE's office. This proximity is a big help when NCSE staff want input from a board member. He has been taking advantage of a sabbatical this term to try to catch up on a lot of projects. Of these he comments, "Few of them are directly related to the creation-evolution issues at the moment. However, one hopes that by getting some science out to the public, issues can be clarified that are often misinterpreted or miscommunicated by anti-evolutionists. Primary among these, perhaps, is the origin of birds from small carnivorous dinosaurs. I have just finished two papers examining why this is a false controversy."

He has also worked with a colleague to write several papers summarizing and clarifying the evidence about bird origins for the public, including the February 1998 cover story of Scientific American and an article in Biological Reviews. (This topic is also covered in an entry in The Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs [Academic Press, 1997], a comprehensive and well-received book which Padian co-edited with Phil Currie.) He is also making progress on a variety of more technical projects, such as research on theropod dinosaur taxonomy and a paper on Darwin's view of classification which has just been accepted for publication in Systematic Biology.

Padian has always taken a strong interest in science education as well, actively contributing to development of science education standards in California. He has recently written chapters on natural selection for a book on evolution for teachers and on the origin of birds for an ornithology textbook. He has also given many public lectures at universities and for other organization, and been named a Distinguished Lecturer for 1999 by Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society of North America. Details of Sigma Xi's program selecting scientists, engineers, technologists, and pubhc policy analysts for a special lecture series are available in the November-December issue of American Scientist.

Then there are the things that get done for fun. Padian reports: "I also translated a very nice book by Philippe Taquet, who has been Director of the Institute of Paleontology and of the National Museums of Natural History in Paris, recounting over thirty years of his travels around the world in search of dinosaurs and their world. Dinosaur Impressions has just been published by Cambridge University Press, and it is a wonderful combination of paleontology, travelogue, history of science, and amusing stories. It provides a nicely Gallic perspective on our field and on science in general, and this is why I thought it would be fun to bring to an anglophonic audience."

Andrew J Petto

Does the name sound familiar? It should! Anj is the editor of Reports of NcSE. But that's not all. Anj constantly works for the improvement of evolution education, both in the academic arena and as a citizen. So far in 1998, Anj
  • worked with NCSE members and friends in Wisconsin to respond to a visit by Duane Gish and a "seminar" series entitled "Understanding the Times: A Worldview Weekend" and sponsored by Summit Ministries and the American Family Policy Institute;
  • worked with NCSE members for final acceptance of the Wisconsin Model Standards in Science (and social science) which contained a firm commitment to evolution in all areas of the sciences. (It was in the course of these efforts that Anj heard a supporter of "creation science" decry the influence of evolution on the children's book Horton Hatches The Egg (see RNCSE 1998; 18[1]: 24);
  • ran teacher workshops on "science as a way of knowing" (and evolution), including a half-day session on the Afar hominid fossil site with a featured speaker from the University of Wisconsin at Madison;
  • worked with a committee from the Society for the Study of Evolution to plan and carry out a workshop on teaching evolution for the SSE meetings in June 1999;
  • co-directed an invited workshop at a series of "Communicating Science" workshops at Hamilton College in upstate New York;
  • established a new course on "Science and Pseudoscience at the End of the 20th Century" at Philadelphia's University of the Arts;
  • completed an application for a Templeton grant for a new course called "Place in the Universe" which explores indigenous narratives and scientific explanations, discussing both cultural and cosmological implications;
  • and last but not least, since his move to Pennsylvania, Anj has begun building a whole new network of evolution supporters.

Elizabeth Stage

Elizabeth Stage is director of science for New Standards, a partnership of districts and states interested in standards-based reform. Last academic year she worked with a group of science educators from the Chicago Public Schools, led by NCSE member Melanie Wojtulewicz, Manager of Science Support. This group drafted programs of study for high school science courses based on the Chicago Academic Standards and Framework for Science, to be used as the basis for city-wide examinations. The Biology Program of Study has four areas of concentration, one of which is biological evolution.

This year Elizabeth is working with educators from New York City to assemble a collection of student work that shows teachers, students, and parents the quality of work that is expected at elementary, middle, and high school levels. Five themes have been selected for the life sciences: interdependence, structure and function, change over time, responding to changes, and reproduction and heredity.

Robert M West

"Mac" West contributes a vital link between NCSE and the world of "informal science" — museums, nature centers, and other science education facilities that are not school based. He reports that one of his most significant recent activities has been work on the "signature" film for the 3-D IMAX theater at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. The film, to be completed in 1999, features the Galapagos. West's consulting firm is working on educational materials to accompany the film.

He is also involved in the carly stages of planning the Space Science Initiative at the Denver Museum of Natural History, helping both to develop the storyline and to make sure that a full spectrum of educational opportunities are available. He comments, "An item of discussion always is ultimate origins, extraterrestrial life, and the statistical certainty that we are not alone."

Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon
Author(s): 
Wilfred A Elders
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1998
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
8–15
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
After his heroic pioneering voyage in 1869 down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, John Wesley Powell wrote
[T]he thought grew in to my mind that the canyons of this region would be a Book of Revelations in the rock-leaved bible of geology. The thought fructified and I determined to read the book.
Powell recognized that there are few places on the planet with such awe-inspiring beauty and with such dramatic and continuous vertical exposures, as can be seen in the colorful walls of the Grand Canyon through which the Colorado River flows for 450 km from Lee's Ferry to Lake Mead. The Canyon is more than 1600 m deep, and ranges from 6 to 30 km wide. Each year more than four million visitors visit Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. There is perhaps no better place in all the world to appreciate the grandeur of geologic time (Calvin 1986; Redfern 1980).

However, bibliolatry has come to the Grand Canyon. The creationist textbook, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe (MTC), has challenged the accepted interpretations of geologic time and the geology of the Grand Canyon (Austin 1994). Heaton (1995) warns, "Many readers may find this book especially threatening because of its mix of scholarship and creationist dogma, targeted to a natural monument of great popularity." My aims in writing this article are to review creationist ideas on the geology of the Grand Canyon and to encourage members of the National Center for Science Education to review the field evidence for themselves by participating in the first NCSE "Creation/Evolution Grand Canyon Raft Trip", a float trip through the spectacular scenery and whitewater rapids of the Grand Canyon of Arizona, to be held in August 1999.

Stratigraphy of the Grand Canyon

Today the Grand Canyon is one of the best-known and most spectacular paradigms of stratigraphy. The canyon walls reveal exposures representing a slice of earth-history, spanning 1700 million years (Ma). Figure 1 shows the "classic" geologic section within the Grand Canyon as a block diagram, viewed toward the north-west. The sequence of strata exposed consists broadly of three major packets of rocks, respectively of Early Proterozoic, Late Proterozoic and Paleozoic age (Elston, Billingsley and Young 1989; Beus and Morales 1990). The oldest rocks are an Early Proterozoic (1700 Ma) crystalline basement (Vishnu Schists, intruded by Zoroaster Granites). Above these are Middle- to Late Proterozoic sedimentary and volcanic rocks, known as the Grand Canyon Supergroup, which were tilted and eroded before the deposition of the overlying Tapeats Sandstone of Cambrian age (
The Tapeats Sandstone of the Tonto Group is the oldest of the many sub-horizontal Paleozoic sedimentary formations which occur above the Precambrian rocks. Not so easily seen in Figure 1 is another major unconformity occurring between the Upper Cambrian Muav Limestone and the overlying Temple Butte Formation of Devonian age, so that Ordovician and Silurian strata, between 515 Ma and 385 Ma in age, are missing. The youngest rocks shown in Figure 1 are basalts which erupted from volcanoes on the Uinkaret region of the Colorado Plateau and poured down the steep cliffs of the north rim after the Grand Canyon was eroded. During the last 0.7 Ma more than 150 lava flows have cascaded down to form a series of lava dams in the inner gorge of the Grand Canyon which temporarily blocked the flow of the river (Dalrymple and Hamblin 1998).

The broad stratigraphic sequence of Grand Canyon rocks is well-established by numerous field observations in Powell's "bible of geology" (Spamer 1989). Powell was, of course, writing figuratively. His "bible" was the rock outcrops themselves. However, Figure 1 is taken from MTC (Austin 1994). Its contributors regard the King James version of the Bible as the true "bible of geology". At first sight, MTC resembles a well-illustrated, geological textbook, replete with maps, technical diagrams, and references to scientific literature. However its aim is to demonstrate unequivocally that the geology of the Grand Canyon is the product of creation week and Noah's flood, as determined by specific "literal" interpretations of the Book of Genesis.

Monument to Noah's Flood

The numerous modern scientific arguments against Noah's flood have recently been discussed by Isaak (1998) and Wise (1998) among many others. Austin (1994) has taken on the daunting task of using the spectacular geology of the Grand Canyon as an exemplar of a creationist world-view, despite numerous compelling arguments to the contrary. The result is a detailed and comprehensive text, covering a wide range of phenomena, which demonstrates familiarity with (if not acceptance of) much of the geological literature. The authors of MTC were asked to write a creationist field guidebook to the geology, biology, and human history of "the world's greatest natural wonder" at the undergraduate college level. However, the sections on geology and radiometric dating, written by Austin himself, are at a much more advanced, technical level. On the other hand, the chapter dealing with the atmosphere is very elementary. For example, the explanation of the physics of Noah's flood is so brief and qualitative as to be almost unintelligible to me. Some clue to the anticipated readership of MIC comes from the fact that Austin (1994) provides a lengthy glossary of technical (mostly geological) terms ranging from "abrasion" to "zonation". However explanations of other kinds of specialist "terms of art", with which MTC is replete, such as "sin" and "the fall of Adam", are singularly lacking. Evidently the authors of MTC anticipated that readers would be better trained in the ICR brand of religion than in their brand of geology.

The Genesis Story

To understand the creationist arguments propounded in MTC, it was necessary for me to refer frequently to the first eight chapters of Genesis. I found that the so-called "literal" interpretations at the ICR involve enormous embellishments of the basic story told in that book, involving mountain building, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and so on. According to Genesis 1:1-27, a creator-God is said to have formed by fiat the cosmos, the earth, and its biota, in 6 working days. Marine animals and birds appeared on Day 5 (Gen 1:20-1) and land animals, including one male and one female human, on Day 6 (Gen 1:24-7). This initial breeding pair of Homo sapiens and its progeny had life spans of several hundreds of years.

After a lapse of 1656 years (Austin, 1994:65) the creator-God re-appeared as a destroyer-God and caused a world-wide flood that extirpated all living things, except for a remnant which took refuge on a boat called "the Ark", built expressly for that purpose (Gen 6:11-6). The remnant consisted of a 600-year-old human (named Noah) and 7 family members, plus "two of every (other) sort of living thing.., male and female", and 7 breeding pairs of "clean beasts" and "fowls of the air" (Gen 6:18-20; 7:1-3). The flood lasted less than a year before the survivors left the ship for dry ground and migrated throughout the world (Gen 8:14-9).

Creationist Stratigraphy

The essence of MTC is contained in Chapter 4 which divides the strata of the Colorado Plateau into five major groups, according to the ICR reading of the Genesis story (Austin 1994:57-82). These are

Fifth division:
The youngest group of strata includes river gravels, lake sediments, and lava flows, formed after the erosion of the Grand Canyon, which in turn formed as Noah's flood ended.
Fourth division:
The Mesozoic strata represent erosion and deposition as floodwaters retreated.
Third division:
The Paleozoic strata comprising the Canyon's characteristic, horizontal strata formed in the early part of the flood.
Second division:
The Late Proterozoic Grand Canyon Supergroup, the older tilted stratified rocks below the 'Great Unconformity'. They formed during and after Day Three of creation week. The Great Unconformity formed by erosion during the onset of Noah's flood.
First division:
The Zoroaster Granite and the Vishnu Group, which formed during the first part of creation week.

Bringing Yellowstone to Grand Canyon

To evaluate and rebut the numerous specific creationist claims Austin presents, would require a book many times longer than MTC. Because Austin (1994:136) repeats the tired, erroneous argument that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, my book would begin with thermodynamics — a word frequently used by creationists to impress untrained people. MTC fails to mention that the creationist time scale violates the first and second laws of thermodynamics (Wise 1998). Austin (1994:69) indicates that on Day 3 of creation week, molten Zoroaster Granite was intruded into Vishnu Schist.

Ilg and others (1996:1160) estimate that the peak temperatures, associated with the emplacement of granites into the Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite reached 650-725° C. Applying the laws of heat transfer to the cooling of igneous intrusions indicates that these features cool at rates varying between 30° and 250° C per million years, depending on the size and depth of the intrusion. This means it would take at least 2 million years for these igneous rocks to cool to the boiling point of water.

Even if these intrusions were too deep to present thermal problems during creation week, they are widely exposed in the inner gorge of Grand Canyon, only a "few thousand" ICR years later. Austin (1994) provides no clue to what thermal insulation, if any, organisms were using on Day 6 of creation which allowed them to survive the heat. Will our NCSE Creation/Evolution Grand Canyon Raft Trip encounter geysers or similar intense, explosive hydrothermal activity where the river enters the Upper Granite Gorge? Has bibliolatry brought Yellowstone National Park to Grand Canyon?

Attacking Uniformitarianism

A recurrent tactic in MTC is to state opposing arguments in such a way that they are more easily defeated. According to MTC, evolution depends on "the extreme generalization that only known, modern processes, operating at modern rates, formed strata (uniformitarianism) (Austin 1994:24, emphasis in the original). However, few geologists today would accept that only those geological processes observed happening today have operated in the past, and that they only did so at the rates currently observed. I believe that uniformitarianism, certainly in the extreme version formulated in MTC, is just like creationism; they are both concepts of respectable ancestry which have been superseded.

Perhaps the most blatant example of a straw man in MTC occurs in a discussion of the fate of the sediment removed from the Colorado Plateau when the Grand Canyon was eroded. Austin (1994:84) makes the valid points that the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon flows through the uplifted Colorado Plateau, rather than around it. Initiation of this uplift began in the eastern (Kaibab) part of the plateau due to flexing during the Laramide Orogeny (mountain-building episode) which geologists infer to have happened between 80 and 64 Ma ago. Austin (1994:87) cites data that the Colorado River carried approximately 153 million tons of sediment per year between 1926 and 1950. He then calculates that, at this rate, since the initiation of uplift in the last 70 Ma, the river should have transported a volume 1500 times greater than the volume of the Grand Canyon. Why, he asks, have geologists failed to locate anywhere near this amount of sediment downstream on the delta of the Colorado River?

To the uninitiated this argument might seem plausible, but a closer look reveals its flaws. First, even the most ardent uniformitarian should have qualms about extrapolating data from 25 years to 70 Ma. During this 70 Ma, there have been major realignments of the interactions between the North American and the Pacific tectonic plates, and dramatic changes in topography, climate and sea level. Second, this calculation is an inappropriate act because neither the Colorado River Delta nor the Grand Canyon, has been in existence for 70 Ma; both are no older than 4.5 Ma.

The Colorado River Delta partially fills the depression known as the Salton Trough, an extension of the tectonic regime of the Gulf of California (Elders and others 1972). It was formerly filled by the waters of the gulf, as shown by the widespread occurrence of the marine sediments of the Imperial Formation (Lonsdale 1989). Drilling for geothermal resources confirms that, along the axis of the trough, these marine rocks are covered by younger deltaic sediments more than 4 km thick. This scenario is consistent with the dating of the onset of erosion by the Colorado River in the western part of the Grand Canyon. Luchitta (1990) shows that this occurred in Pliocene times, 5 to 3.8 Ma ago. Prior to that time the lower Colorado River system, as we know it today, did not exist. Both the ages and the volumes of the canyon and the delta are quite consistent. The Delta contains roughly 270 000 cubic kilometers of Pliocene to Recent sediments, equivalent to a canyon measuring 450 X 37.S X 1.6 km deep — a volume somewhat larger than the Grand Canyon proper.

Ignoring the Geologic Time Scale

A major omission in MTC is any discussion of the great synthesis of worldwide geologic observations known as the Geologic Time Scale. Wise (1998) pointed out that the creationist time scale ignores the countless worldwide geological studies which show that, on all continents, the same general sequence of sedimentary rocks occurs, and that the major and minor divisions in this sequence are characterized by the specific assemblages of fossils they contain. This overall scheme was essentially completed before 18S9 when Darwin published his On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. No assumptions of organic evolution were made in deriving the geologic column or in using fossils for correlation of strata from continent to continent. However, the eras and periods of the geologic time scale, with which we divide geologic time, reflect the dramatic changes which have occurred in the history of life on earth recorded in the rocks (Gould 1994). Because of these changes, the fossil assemblages found in each geologic system are distinct, permitting us to make worldwide stratigraphic correlations. Today such correlations are also made using non-paleontological criteria, such as radiometric dating, and sequences of magnetic reversals and of light stable isotope ratios, particularly carbon isotopes (Bowring and Erwin 1998).

Sequences of strata occur everywhere in the same order, with minor exceptions due to tectonic disturbances. However, in many places (the Grand Canyon is an example), parts of the sequence are missing, due either to non-deposition, or to erosion subsequent to deposition. However, in more than a dozen deep sedimentary basins throughout the world, the whole sequence of sedimentary rocks bearing fossils is essentially complete. During the last twenty years, stratigraphic correlation of these sedimentary rocks has been buttressed by the use of "sequence-stratigraphy", developed largely by major oil companies. The presence of major "unconformities" or ancient erosional surfaces can be used to correlate rock units over wide areas. Many of these erosional surfaces are of global extent because they were formed during periods of worldwide lowering of sea level due to extensive glaciations. The remarkable concordance obtained between these independent methods gives powerful support to the thesis that the Geologic Time Scale records 3.8 billion years of earth history (the age of the oldest dated crustal rocks) and that the sequence of fossils these rocks contain is the record of organic evolution.

Discussion of these issues is omitted in MTC. For example Chapter 7, entitled "Fossils of Grand Canyon", presents some of the weakest arguments for the creationist position. The authors make the astounding claim that "[i]t is not clear whether the order of appearance of organisms in Grand Canyon, or anywhere on Earth, for that matter, is necessarily any different than a random order which a flood might produce" (Austin 1994:147). Before creationists recommend that oil companies shut down their Departments of Stratigraphic Paleontology, they should decide whether they prefer to walk or to drive.

The Problem of Space for Fossils

Another problem in MTC is where to put all the organisms living in the world before the flood. Geologists infer that the organisms in the fossil record accumulated during a period longer than 500 Ma, but according to MTC, all these organisms were alive during the 1656 years between the creation and the Noachian flood. If we take the total biomass represented by fossils when alive, and divide by the number of years during which that biomass is believed to have accumulated, the amount of living matter would have to be over 30,000 times greater in the creationist's pre-flood world than in the geologist's evolutionary world. Not only would the flora and fauna have to be incredibly more abundant in the pre-flood world but it also would have to be incredibly more diverse than at present; all extinct organisms would have to have been present at roughly the same time. Were there no limits to the carrying capacity of the ecological niches available to these organisms in the pre-flood world?

To have accumulated in that time from the original breeding pairs would require an enormous reproductive success and survival rate by the founding stock. If the human population before the flood world grew at the same rate, there would have to have been 1.8 X 1015 people in Noah's time — about 300,000 times the world population of 5.9 billion humans alive today. After 1656 years of the inevitable environmental degradation which would accompany such a prodigious human population explosion, I wonder that there was enough wood left for Noah to build an ark!

Another point not explained in MTC is the paucity of fossils in the Proterozoic sedimentary rocks. Austin (1994:57) claims that the uppermost strata of the Proterozoic Grand Canyon Supergroup "represent normal sedimentation in the post-Creation, but pre-flood ocean". Considering the hyper-productivity of the pre-flood biosphere required by the creationists' model, one would expect that these rocks would be the most highly fossiliferous on the planet and that the Proterozoic flora and fauna would be rich and diverse, including representatives of both extinct and extant taxa. Instead we see a very low abundance of fossils consisting only of unicellular organisms, cyanobacteria and stromatolites (algal mats). There are no remains of coral reefs, trilobites, ichthyosaurs, whales, nor shipwrecks in Proterozoic marine sedimentary rocks.

Original Creationist Research

The scientific data and observations presented in MTC are almost entirely re-interpretation and attempted rebuttal of published main-stream science. But what of original creationist research? The appendix of MTC lists 18 "Questions for Discussion and Study". The last of these reads, "What are four research projects creationists have conducted on Grand Canyon?" A careful reading of MTC reveals that the author of this question expects students to be diligent. In fact, I was able to find only four examples of creationist research which could be cited, plus one which the authors of MTC admit is dubious.

Precambrian Pollen

This latter example is instructive because it shows that even when "creation science" is refuted there is an urge to cling to "evidence" favorable to the cause (Austin 1994:137). Burdick (1966) claimed to have isolated pollens of pine, juniper and Mormon tea in samples of the Proterozoic Hakatai Shales in the Grand Canyon, rocks much older than the first appearance of vascular plants in the geologic record. When later, more comprehensive and careful studies failed to reproduce these results, it was concluded that Burdick's work was simply a case of contamination by modern pollens (Chadwick 1981). MTC still leaves the door open by concluding, "The possibility of pollen in Precambrian rocks, no doubt, will remain controversial among creationists."

Nautiloids

Original research by a creationist in Grand Canyon first appears in MTC on page 26 where Austin (1994) reports actual new data. In some places in the Mississippian Redwall Limestone, fossils of orthocone, chambered nautiloids (marine mollusks differing from modern nautilus by having straight, rather than coiled, shells) are abundant. Austin measured the orientation of 12 examples of these nautiloids in a single outcrop and showed that 10 of them are aligned with their long axes within an arc spanning 90°. He concludes that this preferred orientation indicates that the nautiloids received their alignments when dead, as lime mud was moved by water currents. He concludes that this is consistent with the flood hypothesis rather than "the uniformitarian notion that fine-grained limestone beds of Grand Canyon usually accumulated... in a calm and placid sea" (Austin 1994:28).

Modern Squirrels

A second example in MTC of original data by a creationist concerns modern populations of tassel-eared squirrels (Sciurus aberti; Austin 1994:174). Earlier work had suggested that two distinct races of these squirrels have evolved on the plateaus north and south of the Grand Canyon due to geographic isolation. However, after examining 94 museum specimens, Meyer (1988) concluded that the two groups contain individuals showing close enough resemblance so that, for all practical purposes they form one continuous population. Thus, in Meyer's opinion, although the two groups are geographically isolated, divergent evolution is not demonstrated by Sciurus aberti.

Desert Dunes and Fossil Footprints

The argument for a flood origin for Grand Canyon rocks is particularly weak in the case of the Permian Coconino Sandstone Formation which consists of very pure sandstones with prominent sets of cross-stratification dipping at high angles. This formation is regarded as being the product of extensive, Sahara-like sand dunes (McKee 1979). The sandstone consists of fine-grained, well-sorted, well-rounded, frosted and pitted grains, composed almost entirely of quartz — features that are characteristic of the effects of grain-to-grain impacts and of winnowing during wind-borne sediment transport. Other evidence which indicates that the Coconino Sandstone was not formed in a catastrophic flood is the presence of raindrop impressions and of abundant, well-preserved animal tracks (McKee 1979). Of course, MTC does not accept the view that the Coconino is an extensive desert dune deposit and claims that the dunes are actually submarine sand waves (Austin 1994:33).

The animal tracks in the Coconino Sandstone are consistently preserved on steep, upwind, slopes of the fossil dunes rather than on the lee sides, where they would be destroyed by avalanching of dry sand. They are interpreted as being produced by invertebrates (similar to modern isopods, scorpions, millipedes, or spiders) and by diverse four- or five-toed vertebrates (Middleton and others 1990). The nature of the animals responsible can only be inferred from the trackways, as body fossils have not been recognized in the Coconino Sandstone. This leads us to the third example of original creationist research, a study which re-interprets these track-ways from the creationist viewpoint.

This study by Brand and Tang (1991) included experiments on the track-making abilities of western newts walking on sand under 4 cm of flowing water in an aquarium tank. They report that some unusual tracks in the Coconino start and end abruptly and have individual prints oriented obliquely to the general trend of the trackway. By analogy with their tank experiments, they infer that such tracks were formed by amphibians buoyantly supported in flowing water. They conclude that these features, "point to the subaqueous deposition for at least part of the Coconino Sandstone" (Brand and Tang 1991: 1204).

On the other hand, as part of an extensive review of animal trackways, Lockley and Hunt (1995) decided that the vertebrate trackways in the Coconino Sandstone were made by mammal-like reptiles (called caseids) rather than by amphibians. Furthermore they record trackways made by animals moving with loping, trotting, or galloping gaits, most often up slope, but occasionally horizontally or obliquely to the slope. They also point to the prob1cm of the many invertebrate traces. It is difficult to imagine millipedes, scorpions and spiders making prolific underwater tracks. Besides, the geological evidence for the eolian origin of the Coconino Sandstone is compelling.

Radioisotope Dating

Radiometric dating of rocks and minerals works by modeling the time elapsed since the formation of a sample by measuring the ratio of the abundance of a parent isotope to the abundance of its daughter isotope produced by radioactive decay. The rate at which a radioactive parent isotope decays to its daughter isotope is well known. To correct for the ratio of this isotope pair present at the time of formation of the sample, we use the so-called "isochron" method (Dalrymple 1991). This requires that we analyze a number of samples that geologic criteria indicate were cogenic (that is, they formed at the same time) and from a medium which had a common, uniform ratio of the two isotopes. A typical example would be a sample of rocks and minerals extracted from a single volcanic extrusion with a common initial isotope ratio acquired from that lava. For samples which are cogenetic, the isotope ratios of parent to daughter, normalized to a non-radiogenic isotope of the daughter element, plot on a straight line, termed an isochron. This is because, in each sample, the parent isotope decreases and the daughter isotope increases due to radioactive decay. Having obtained an isochron we can determine the initial parent to daughter isotope ratio and correct for it in calculating the time elapsed since the formation of the rock.
The fourth example of original creationist research is important enough to have been awarded a chapter to itself in MTC (Austin 1994, Chapter 6). It takes head-on one of the most difficult issues for young-earth creationists — the problem of radiometric age measurements. The chapter begins with an explanation of how radioactive isotope ratios are used in dating and of the assumptions inherent in the technique. This makes it all the more puzzling when Austin perversely proceeds to misapply the method by violating these assumptions. To help understand the nature of this perversity, a short review of radioactive isotope dating methods might be helpful for some readers (see sidebar right).

In Chapter 6 of MTC, Austin describes what he claims was a systematic research project to test isochron radiometric dating using rubidium and strontium isotopes. The rubidium isotope 87Rb decays to its daughter strontium 87Sr, whereas 86Sr is the common non-radiogenic isotope of strontium. Austin reports Rb/Sr data from whole-rock samples of the Pleistocene volcanoes on the Uinkaret Plateau, collected from five different basalt flows.

The 5 data points fall on a reasonably straight line which he claims defines an isochron giving a common age of 1300 Ma years (Austin 1994:124). For Proterozoic rocks, he plotted an isochron giving a common age of 1070 Ma (Austin 1994:122). He triumphantly points out that it is impossible for these rocks, which are clearly older than the formation of the Grand Canyon, to be 270 Ma years younger than the Pleistocene basalts, which certainly formed after the canyon was eroded. This leads him to challenge the basic assumptions of the radioactive dating by asking, "Has any Grand Canyon rock been successfully dated?" (Austin 1994:129).

In other locations there are tens of thousands of radiometric dates which are consistent with the relative stratigraphic positions of the rocks dated (Dalrymple 1991). Why should Grand Canyon be different? In answer to Austin's rhetorical question we can point to two recent studies. In their work on the oldest rocks of the Grand Canyon, Ilg and others (1996) used 238U/206Pb ratios in individual crystals of zircon and monazite to derive a detailed chronology for the Early Proterozoic metamorphic and igneous crystalline rocks. Two different units of the Granite Gorge Metamorphic Suite gave ages of 1750 and 1742 Ma. Two different members of the Zoroaster Plutonic Complex, which intrude the Metamorphic Suite, gave ages of 1740-1710 Ma and 1700-1660 Ma. These ages are completely consistent with the stratigraphic positions and crosscutting relations of these rocks. The Late Proterozoic Rb/Sr isochron age of 1070 Ma for the Cardenas Basalt reported in Austin is also consistent with its stratigraphic position.

The 1300 Ma age for the Pleistocene basalts determined by Austin from his data is clearly inconsistent with more recent work of Dalrymple and Hamblin (1998). These workers measured 40K/40Ar isotopic ratios in 65 whole rock samples from the lavas which flowed into the canyon and temporarily dammed the Colorado River at least 13 different times. The ages obtained lie in the range 0.684 Ma to 0.443 Ma. With few exceptions, the relative ages of the 65 samples analyzed are in the same order as that in which the lavas erupted, determined by superposition. These exceptions appear to have been caused either by the presence of carbonate, which interferes with the clean-up process during Ar extraction, or by the presence of "dunite xenoliths" which contribute unknown and varying amounts of inherited 40Ar (Dalrymple and Hamblin 1998). Dunite xenoliths are remnants of unmelted older parent material from which the basalt magma (melt) was originally formed and so are much older than the lava flows.

Austin's "test" of Rb/Sr isochron dating of these same Pleistocene basalts has been examined and thoroughly refuted by Stassen (1997). In an earlier publication Austin (1988) used data selectively from Leeman (1975) to plot a seemingly reliable Rb/Sr isochron which gave an apparent age of 1500 Ma for these Pleistocene lavas. In a section of his paper headed "Fictitious Isochron Ages", Austin (1988) noted that such "false Rb/Sr isochrons" have been well documented in the scientific literature. Citing this literature, Austin (1988) explained that false isochrons are caused by isotopes such as 87Sr being "inherited from the molten material's source at great depth in the earth". Stassen (1997b) points Out that this statement indicates that Austin knew he would get a false isochron long before collecting his own samples from the Western Grand Canyon for Rb/Sr analysis. The study of Pleistocene basalts described by Austin in MTC, rather than being a true test of Rb/Sr isochron dating, was an exercise in reproducing a previously-determined false isochron.

Conclusions

My copy of Webster's dictionary defines bibliolatry as, "absolute dependence on a group of sacred writings as infallible". Where others have read the "rock-leaved bible of geology", the authors of GTC bring a different bibliolatry to the Grand Canyon. The book presents a more detailed argument than any previous creationist publication on geology. The crux of the book is a lengthy and detailed, but ultimately failed, attempt to rebut published accounts of the geology, paleontology, and dating of the strata of Grand Canyon and to present re-interpretations consistent with the Genesis story. Such reinterpretations are buttressed by some original creationist research. However, a case of contamination of pollen samples, 12 oriented nautiloids, the tale of 94 squirrel skins, some experiments with tracks made by newts in an aquarium, and wilful misinterpretation of radiometric dates based on five Rb/Sr isotopic ratios scarcely constitute a deluge of new compelling evidence for the flood of Noah.

In yet another sense I found it difficult to understand for whom the book is intended. Creationists relying on unquestioning faith do not need physical evidence; the rest of us, particularly those more technically trained, are likely to find that the close examination of the evidence presented in MTC leads us even further away from bibliolatry. In presenting their strict, religiously-based, interpretation of such a well-studied and spectacular region as the Grand Canyon — an interpretation which is in stark contrast to that of main-stream geologists — the authors apparently willingly accept the risk of bringing their fundamentalist religion into disrepute. Presumably their expectations were otherwise. Decide for yourself by joining us in the Grand Canyon on the first NCSE Creation/Evolution Grand Canyon Raft Trip! (See p.25 for details!)

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Powell JW. Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and its Tributaries. Explored in 1869, 1870, 1871, and 1872, under the Direction of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Washington (DC): US Government Printing Office, 1875.

Redfern R. Corridors of Time. New York: NY Times Books, Inc, 1980.

Spamer EE. The development of geological studies in the Grand Canyon. Tyronia, Miscellaneous Publications of the Department of Malacology. Academy of Sciences of Philadelphia, 1989:17.

Stassen C. A criticism of the ICR's Grand Canyon Dating Project. The Talk.Origins Archive 1997(b) available at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/icr-science.html accessed 9/29/1998.

Appendix 1

The Laws of Thermodynamics


The laws of thermodynamics describe the internal energy in a system and how that energy may be exchanged between the system and its surroundings. The variables that describe the internal state of a system concern the total energy of molecules making up that system in terms of temperature, gas pressure, and volume. The first law of thermodynamics describes how work and heat change the internal state of the system. The internal energy of a system can be lowered by converting heat to work, just as the internal energy can be raised by converting work to heat. The "conservation" of energy refers to the fact that internal energy can and does change, and we can use the relationship between heat and work to estimate the speed and intensity of the change.

The second law of thermodynamics describes a preferred direction in the transfer of energy — from a state of higher to lower internal energy. This means that, if the energy of the surroundings is lower than that within a system, then that system will gradually exchange energy with its surroundings until the energy states match. The second law also tells us that the conversion of heat to work is not absolute; there is always some heat that dissipates in the process, and this causes the total energy available to the system to decrease. The second law also tells us that the conversion of heat to work is not absolute; there is always some heat that dissipates in the process, and this causes the total energy available to the system to decrease. The second law also tells us that the "tendency to entropy" (or disorder) that seems to be inevitable can be reversed simply by adding energy to the system from another source; volcanic eruptions of solar radiation are two of the more common sources of this added energy on earth.

[From BW Tillery. Physical Science, 4th edition. New York: WCB/McGraw-Hill. 1999; compiled by AJ Petto]

Glossary

Getting to Know Rocks and Minerals


Mineral. A mineral is generally a solid, inorganic compound. The atomic structures, chemical compositions, and physical properties vary somewhat, but, for example, all quartz crystals have the same properties whether in sandstone or in granite or in lava.

Rock. A rock is a collection or aggregation of a number of different minerals fused together in certain combinations. Rock is classified into 1 of 3 groups depending on how it is formed.

igneous. Igneous rock is formed as magma cools. This type of rock may be produced as lava flows cool on the surface (or the ocean floor) or as the molten rock forces itself between other rock in the earth's crust.

sedimentary. Sedimentary rock is formed as mineral particles are deposited in layers in lakes, river deltas, dunes, or seabeds. The particles can be transported by glaciers, wind, or water.

metamorphic. Metamorphic rock is formed as igneous or sedimentary rocks are subjected to intense pressure and/or heat. This causes the structure and the properties of the rock to be changed. If enough heat and pressure are applied, the rock melts to become magma again.

The Rock cycle. The rock cycle describes the various stages in the building and remodeling of the rocks which make up the earth. For convenience the cycle starts with molten magma below the earth's crust. The magma slowly rises to the surface on currents like those we can see in boiling water. When it invades the solid crust or reaches the surface, the magma cools and forms solid rock. Movements in the earth's crust and erosion by ice, wind, and water cause minerals to be worn out of the rock and cause deeper rock to be exposed to the surface. These minerals are transported and deposited in layered sediments which solidify into rock. The intense pressure and/or temperature applied to sedimentary and igneous rock by geological processes transforms it into metamorphic rock. Higher pressure and temperature can transform any solid rock back into molten magma to complete the cycle.

Basalt. A fine-grained igneous rock — the most abundant type of lava.

Dikes. Small intrusions by molten rock.

Gabbro. A course-grained rock common in plutonic intrusions poor in quartz and silica.

Gneiss. A banded metamorphic rock rich in quartz and feldspar and formed under high temperature and pressure.

Intrusions. Cooled molten rock which has forced itself between other cooled rocks in the earth's crust.

Plutons. Intrusions by molten rock which form large masses.

Schists. A metamorphic rock rich in feldspar, quartz, and mica formed under moderate pressure and low to moderate temperature.

Shale. A fine-grained sedimentary rock rich in clay minerals and often containing fossils.

[From C Pellant. Rocks and Minerals. New York: Dorling Kindersley, Inc. 1992; compiled by AJ Petto.]

Evolution as a Heuristic

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Evolution as a Heuristic
Author(s): 
Robert Siegfried
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1998
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
20–21
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
"If you will not let me treat the Art of Discovery as a kind of Logic, I must make a new name for it. Heuristic, for example" (William Whewell, quoted in Todhunter, 1970).
Creationists continue to claim scientific validity for their version of "scientific creationism" and to demand its admission to the science classrooms of the nation's public schools. If both "models" are fairly presented, they say, students would overwhelmingly prefer the creation model over the evolutionary view.

This may be good propaganda, but the claim ignores the historical fact that we had just such a choice once before, and we chose evolution. What the creationists overlook is that before the publication of Origin of Species nearly everyone was a creationist — scientist and layman alike — and that a few years later, nearly everyone, scientist and layman alike, had become an evolutionist.

One of the major factors in this rapid transformation was the recognition that evolution provided a more rational way of organizing natural history than the traditional view of providential design. In particular, as a whole new way of looking at nature, it generated vast new areas for investigation not previously perceived. This heuristic, or exploratory, advantage of evolution has been little used in current debates, yet evolution continues to be an excellent heuristic, while creationism has no exploratory consequences at all. It is my purpose in outlining the heuristic argument at Darwin's time to provide additional perspective on today's debates.

The doctrine of special creation that dominated biological thinking in the century before Darwin was not basically different from so-called "scientific creationism" today. Both were derivatives of the faith in the absolute validity of the Genesis account of creation. But if one has belief in a final truth, then there is no need for further investigation, and this is the end of science. Darwin and his colleagues recognized this barrier to the search for the enlargement of human understanding of nature.

The capacity of evolutionary thinking to elucidate the facts is nowhere more effectively demonstrated than in the Origin itself where page after page is filled with observations demonstrating patterns and interrelationships of facts that could hardly have been noted without the guiding hypothesis of evolution. In the final chapter Darwin makes clear the heuristic function of his theory which will give a new sense of order to what it already known, and open vast prospects for new understanding.

[W]hen we regard every production of nature as one which has had a history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, and each useful to the possessor... when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting... will the study of natural history become!

A grand and almost untrodden field of inquiry will be opened, on the causes and laws of variation, on correlation of growth, on the effects of use and disuse, on the direct action of external condition, and so forth. The study of domestic productions will rise immensely in value. A new variety raised by man will be a far more important and interesting subject for study than one more species added to the infinitude of already recorded species. Our classifications will come to be, as far as they can be so made, genealogies; and will then truly give what may be called the plan of creation (C Darwin, p 486).
Rules of classification, he added, will become simpler, embryology will reveal structure, geographical distribution will be illuminated by increased geological knowledge, changes of climate, and so on. All these and many more areas of human curiosity will be freshly perceived through the perspective of descent with modification.

In addition to listing the benefits of his evolutionary perspective, Darwin also noted the negative effects of the prevailing doctrine of special creation. For too many years, naturalists had viewed species as specially created to occupy the niches into which they are clearly adapted. But this traditional view could now be seen for what it was, a way "to hide our ignorance under such expressions as the 'plan of creation', 'unity of design', &c., and to think that we give an explanation when we only restate a fact." And the sterility of such views is further disguised by assuming a "reverent silence" instead of seeking causal explanations (C Darwin, p 482-3). It is, after all, the office of science to investigate nature, not merely to admire it.

Darwin's earliest confidant, botanist Joseph Hooker, resisted for 14 years Darwin's arguments for descent with modification. It was only while Darwin was rapidly writing Origin that Hooker indicated that he was going to organize his "Essay on Australian Flora" according to the new views. Darwin was delighted and wrote to Hooker, July 13, 1838 emphasizing the opportunities the theory created.
You cannot imagine how pleased I am that the notion of Natural Selection has acted as a purgative on your bowels of immutability. Whenever naturalists can look on species changing as certain, what a magnificent field will be open — on all the lines of variation — on the genealogy of all living being — in their lines of migration, &c., &c. (F Darwin 1837:485).
And Hooker in turn expresses the heuristic advantages of evolu-tion when explaining his intentions to his botanical colleague William H Harvey.
What I shall try to do is, to harmonize the facts with the newest doctrines, not because they are the truest, but because they do give you room to reason and reflect at present, and hopes for the future, whereas the old stick-in-the-mud doctrines of absolute creations, multiple creations... are all used up, they are so many stops to further enquiry; if they are admitted as truths, why there is an end of the whole matter, and It is no use hoping ever to get to any rational explanation of origin or dispersion of species — so I hate them (Huxley 1918:481-2).
The deadening effects of a strong commitment to special creation is nowhere more clearly illustrated than by Adam Sedgwick in his 1860 review of Origin.
Change the conditions of life, he admits, and old species would die out, and new species might have room to come in and flourish. But how, and by what causation? I say by creation. But, what do I mean by creation? I reply, the operation of a power quite beyond the powers of a pigeon fancier, a cross-breeder, or hybridizer; a power I cannot imitate or comprehend; but in which I can believe. (Quoted by Hull 1973:161).
By declaring his faith in a "power I cannot imitate or comprehend", Sedgwick has set the problem of species outside the scope of human inquiry, and in Hooker's words, "there is an end of the whole matter."

In contrast to the stultifying effects of creationism, Thomas Huxley saw in Darwin's work the fulfillment of the highest aims of science and humanity itself.
The known is finite, the unknown infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land, to add something to the extent and the solidity of our possessions. And even a cursory glance at the history of the biological sciences during the last quarter of a century is sufficient to justify the assertion, that the most potent instrument for the extension of the realm of natural knowledge which had come into men's hands, since the publication of Newton's "Principia," is Darwin's "Origin of Species" (F Darwin 1887: 557).
An additional century has not altered the validity of Huxley's assessment, and the creationism so vigorously rejected then still has no place in the intellectual toolbox of science today.

Summary

A good scientific theory provides not only a rational organization of factual information, essential for effective pedagogy, but also stimulates questions that lead to further investigations, new factual knowledge of nature, and modification and expansion of the theory. Evolution continues to do this even as it has been modified. Creationism has NO exploratory consequence and thus has no justifiable place in science classrooms.

Challenge

If this heuristic function of evolution and all scientific theories can be conveyed to the general public, surely evolution will be generally supported as good science, and creationism recognized as not science at all. To meet this challenge we need to develop and present a series of specific examples of how evolutionary thought has led directly to the discovery of valuable knowledge in the biological sciences. Examples from agriculture and medicine would perhaps be most persuasive to those who determine classroom curricula: school boards, school administrators, teachers, and parents. All of us who support evolution in science education should take up this challenge.

References

Darwin C. On the Origin of Species: A fac-simile of the first edition. NY: Atheneum, 1967.

Darwin E (editor). The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. Vol 1. NY: D Appleton and Company, 1887.

Hull DL. Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1973.

Huxley L. Life and Letters of sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. New York: Appleton, 1918.

Todhunter I. William Whewell, D.D., master of Trinity College, Cambridge; An account of his writings with selections from his literary and scientific correspondence. New York: Johnson Reprint Corp, 1970.

About the Author(s): 
Dr Robert Siegfried
2206 West Lawn Ave
Madison WI 53711-1952

RNCSE 18 (5)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1998
Date: 
September–October
Articles available online are listed below.

Long-Term Solar Oscillations and the Age of the Sun

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Long-Term Solar Oscillations and the Age of the Sun
Author(s): 
Kevin L O'Brien
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1998
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
6–10
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Introduction

In the June 1996 edition of the Acts & Facts series published by the Institute for Creation Research, Keith Davies-former Administrator of Scarborough Christian Academy in Ontario, Canada, now retired-presents an essay which argues that the sun is homogeneous in structure and derives its energy from gravitational contraction, making it "an exceedingly young" star (Davies 1996). He describes three pieces of evidence to support his argument. The first is a long-term solar oscillation of two hours and forty minutes (160 minutes), the second is the solar neutrino problem and the third is the observed abundances of lithium and beryllium. If it were true that the sun is a young star, this would have profound implications for the age of the solar system, stellar evolution, and possibly even cosmology as a whole. Therefore, it is worth examining Davies' argument to see if his claims are supported by the facts.

Of the evidence Davies describes, the strongest is the long-term solar oscillation. The other two are minor, and they lose their strength if the oscillation evidence is false. Therefore, this essay will consist primarily of an examination of the 160 minute oscillation, and I will be critiquing his evidence rather than examining the validity of his argument. When he published his essay in 1996 this evidence was already twenty years old, so even if he had presented it properly, more up-to-date data could have superceded it by then. I will describe some of this new data at the end of my discussion, but I will also show that Davies in fact misused his sources by presenting distorted information to support his thesis.

Solar Oscillations

Prior to the 1970s, if anyone had suggested that the sun could vibrate like a sphere of gelatin, the vast majority of astrophysicists would have strenuously disagreed. The main reason was that no one could conceive of a force that could start such oscillations, much less keep them going. A few researchers had suggested they might exist and that they might be observable, but R. H. Dicke did not verify their existence until 1973 (Moore and Hunt 1983, p72). Since then it has been deduced that solar oscillations are caused by interactions between the plasma that makes up the sun on the one hand, and gravity and pressure changes on the other.

There are three types of oscillations. Pressure modes are sound waves trapped in the temperature gradient. A crude analogy would be an echo bouncing around inside a cavern. Fundamental modes are caused by gravitational interactions with the sun's surface and resemble ocean waves. One type of fundamental mode is called a mode, because it changes the observed radius of the sun. Gravity modes are not completely understood, but they are believed to be the result of buoyancy effects. All the known pressure and fundamental modes (some 10 million) have oscillation periods of less than 18 minutes, and most are around 5 minutes. The gravity modes are not known conclusively to exist, but they are predicted to have periods of 40 minutes or longer. [Readers who wish to learn more are encouraged to read a series of articles in Science 1996 May 31; 272.]

Davies claims that if the sun had a large and massive core as predicted by the standard models of solar structure and evolution, then this core "would have a substantial effect on any global oscillations." He explains that "such a large core would mean that the Sun's [sic] global oscillations would range up to a maximum fundamental radial mode of oscillation of around one hour." He then adds that fundamental "[o]scillations greater than one hour would involve such enormous amounts of energy that they would result in the complete disruption of any large core that might be present in the Sun." In contrast, however, he states that for "a very young homogeneous star that has not yet developed a large central core... its spectrum of global oscillations have been calculated" to be as high as 167 minutes. In fact, he claims that this is "a key distinguishing feature of a young homogeneous star."

He then cites two 20-year-old papers (Brookes and others 1976; Severny and others 1976) whose authors independently report detecting a 160-minute oscillation that both research groups believed was a fundamental radial mode oscillation. Both groups also concluded that, if this oscillation was real, it would be nearly consistent with a homogeneous model of the sun. In conclusion, Davies cited three other astronomers to deliver the coup de grace. He quotes Iain Nicholson (Moore and Hunt 1983, p72) as saying that if this oscillation "was a true fundamental period, then the 'standard model could not be correct.'" And he cites a paper by J. Christensen-Dalsgaard and D.O. Gough (Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough 1976) that appears in the same journal which carries the reports of the 160-minute oscillation. He quotes them as saying that "in order to account for the 2 hour 40 minute observation it is 'evident that a very drastic change in the solar model would be necessary' and 'it is unlikely that any such model can be found.'"

To summarize Davies' argument, if the sun is homogeneous, it cannot have a dense core; if it cannot have a dense core, it cannot obtain its energy from nuclear reactions; if it cannot obtain its energy from nuclear reactions, it must obtain it from gravitational contraction. And astronomers generally believe that young stars that have not yet reached the main sequence are homogeneous and obtain their energy from gravitational contraction. For Davies, the conclusion was obvious: "The fundamental oscillation of the Sun matches the model for a young star."

The Evidence

The major problem with the evidence he describes is that it is over two decades old. In and of itself, this is not a fatal problem, because if nothing new has been learned since then, the data is still valid, even if it is old. However, as I hope to show later, it is in fact obsolete because much new information has been learned, especially in the last ten years. And obsolete data is always invalid, no matter how much it supports a favorite hypothesis.

Furthermore, Davies did not treat his sources fairly. He commits three indiscretions that no careful or experienced scholar should commit. The first is misinterpretation. Part of Davies' argument is that a star with a massive central core cannot support fundamental oscillations with periods greater than one hour, because such vibrational modes would disrupt the core. (Keep in mind that whenever Davies refers to global oscillations in general or the 160-minute oscillation in particular he is referring to fundamental mode oscillations.) The source for this information is Nicholson (Moore and Hunt 1983, p72), but Davies' claim is based on an incorrect interpretation of what Nicholson actually said. Nicholson's statement is as follows:
[I]t has been pointed out that if the [fundamental mode] oscillations arise in the deep interior, then-because of damping mechanisms-the oscillations seen at the surface should be weaker than those in the interior. Attempts to calculate the oscillation magnitudes required to match the [surface] observations appear to indicate that they would become of such great amplitude that they would disrupt the solar interior.
Nicholson is referring to observed oscillations, not theoretical ones, and if you will recall from an earlier discussion, all known oscillations have periods less than one hour. As such, Nicholson is saying that any of the observed fundamental oscillations would be powerful enough to disrupt the core. Why this does not happen he did not explain, but it should be obvious that, despite Davies' claim, oscillations longer than one hour could be tolerated by the standard model just as the short-term oscillations are.

The second indiscretion is selective quotation and, in at least one case, outright misquotation. For example in the same source that Davies quotes as evidence of Nicholson's admission that 160-minute oscillations cannot be explained by the standard model, Nicholson writes, "the observed results seem roughly consistent with the way the Sun's interior is believed to be constructed." (Moore and Hunt 1983, p72) In reference to the 160-minute oscillation, Nicholson adds: "It seems certain there is some periodic effect to explain, but whether the oscillation is a true global oscillation or a surface effect, or a 'gravity wave' like waves in the ocean, remains a matter of debate." He then concludes: "No-one [sic] seriously doubts that the Sun shines by means of thermonuclear reactions converting hydrogen to helium, but the precise mechanism is open to doubt" (Moore and Hunt 1983:73). In other words, while Nicholson agrees that a 160-minute fundamental oscillation would contradict the standard model, he states that the long-term oscillation may not be fundamental at all, especially if all the other known oscillations confirm the standard model. Since none of these statements can even remotely be considered an endorsement of Davies' thesis, there is perhaps no mystery as to why he fails to mention them. Even so, it is dishonest for a scholar to quote a source in support of his thesis while at the same time ignoring statements showing that the source in fact comes to the opposite conclusion.

The one case of misquotation involves the quote from Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough. Davies' statement implies that the authors believed it was impossible for the standard model to explain the long-term oscillation under any circumstances. What they actually say, however, is this:
It is also evident that a very drastic change in the solar model would be necessary to enable the 2 h 40 min oscillation to be interpreted as the fundamental radial mode, as Severny et al.and Brookes et al. suggest. Indeed it is unlikely that any such model can be found that can generate the observed photon luminosity by thermonuclear reactions [emphasis added] (Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough 1976, p90).
In other words, the authors are saying that drastic changes would be necessary only if the long-term oscillation is a fundamental mode oscillation, and that only under such circumstances would it be impossible to construct a model that relies on stellar fusion. As I hope to demonstrate later, Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough did not believe it was a fundamental mode oscillation.

Davies' refusal to discuss alternative explanations is in fact his third indiscretion. Such explanations do exist if for no other reason than the fact that the very sources he cites mentions them. Though both of the twenty-year old papers clearly interpret their results based on a homogeneous model, both discuss other interpretations as well. In the conclusion of Severny and others, the authors "...investigated two possible solutions...." The first is that "nuclear... reactions are not responsible for energy generation in the Sun," which Davies seizes upon to support his claim that the sun is young. The second possible solution, however, allows them "...to adopt the current model of solar structure with [nuclear] reactions and assume that [they] really observe not pure radial pulsations but some gravity g mode of quadrapole oscillation." They go on to say that "g modes... can yield long period oscillations," and admit that one mode in particular, the g11 mode, is "in perfect agreement" with their observed period, though they do question the dominance of such a high harmonic. However, they also admit that their method of observation does not allow them to "distinguish pure radial pulsations from quadropole oscillations." As such, while they maintain that a homogeneous model is the "best" interpretation, they do allow for the possibility that other explanations are possible. Davies conveniently omits this caveat.

In Brookes and others(1976), the authors do not mention nuclear reactions, though Davies claims that they, too, reject the idea that the sun is powered by fusion reactions. However, they also admit that their observations could be explained by high-order gravity modes. They also cite another paper that describes observations they found "difficult to reconcile" with their own work, "unless the oscillations are of high order." (See Brookes and others 1976, p95, for citation.) This suggests that they are willing to accept the possibility of high-order oscillations, even though they found it difficult to do so. Once again, however, Davies ignores this alternative explanation.

Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough also suggest an alternative to abandoning nuclear fusion. In fact, the entire section leading up to the statement Davies misquotes is an attempt to determine whether other modes could assume the standard model and still explain the observed long-term oscillation. They calculate periods for 38 pressure modes and 12 gravity modes using the standard model for values of spherical harmonic degree (l) equal to 0, 2 and 4, and values of initial heavy element abundance (Z) equal to 0.02 (the accepted value) and 0.04. Two gravity modes yielded oscillations nearly equal to those determined by the Soviet and British astronomers: g10 (l = 2, Z ( 0.02) with a period of 2 hours 34 minutes, and g11 (l = 2, Z = 0.04) with a period of 2 hours 39 minutes (Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough 1976, p91). The authors caution that their calculations are not "sufficiently reliable"; nonetheless, they are reasonably confident that their results suggest that the 160-minute oscillation reported in the twenty-year old papers was due to a gravity wave (Christensen-Dalsgaard and Gough 1976, p90; Weiss 1976, p78).

Even Nicholson suggests an alternative explanation (Moore and Hunt 1983, p73). He begins by stating that "[m]ore recent analyses [no reference given] of the 2 hr 40 min oscillation suggest that it could be accounted for by reducing the core temperature by about 10 percent." He notes that this cannot account for the current solar luminosity, but he gets around this problem by suggesting that "the output of energy from the core fluctuates over long periods of time." In this way, since photons take ten million years to reach the surface of the sun, he suggests that the current luminosity could be the result of a more energetic past. Though few astrophysicists are willing to entertain the idea of core variability, it remains a viable, if unlikely, explanation. [Just recently, however, new data acquired from the SOHO satellite suggests that the core may indeed be cooler than originally thought, so core variability may not be so fantastic after all (Cowen 1998, p279).] Besides, it is dishonest for a scholar to ignore alternative explanations discussed by his sources, even if he believes they are not valid.

Helioseismology

Today, astronomers acknowledge that there are mysteries surrounding the sun that could have profound implications for our models of solar structure and activity (Lang 1996a, 1996b), and that among these are solar oscillations. However, these very same oscillations are being used to fine-tune the standard model by measuring how their speeds change as they pass through the sun's various layers (Lang 1996b). This powerful tool is known as helioseismology, and it is capable of directly probing nearly the entire volume of the solar interior in a way that no other observational method can. Davies himself admits that helioseismology can "provide important information on the structure of the Sun." It is in fact one of the great success stories of modern astronomy, because each of the thousands of known oscillations has been matched to the standard model with an accuracy of between four and five decimal places. This is an impressive feat for any complex model of stellar evolution (Scherrer 1996, 1997).

The point is that, despite Davies' claims to the contrary, helioseismology and associatied oscillations have all but confirmed the standard model for the structure of the sun (see especially Lang 1997). There is now no doubt that the sun possesses a large, dense central core capable of supporting fusion reactions. This in turn has also confirmed the standard model for solar evolution, because there are very few ways that a star with the sun's mass and elemental composition can evolve to its present state, even if it had been supernaturally created only a few thousand years ago (Graps 1997). It is rather ironic that the very phenomenon that Davies hopes will refute the ancient age of the sun has instead confirmed it.

However, the long-term solar oscillation problem is far from solved. Observations made in the 1980s had partially confirmed the observations made in the 1970s (Scherrer and others 1992; Kotov and others 1992), though it is interesting that Davies makes no mention of any of these other observations. These observations set an upper limit to the frequency of any long-term oscillations, which, perhaps not coincidentally, was 160 minutes. Even so, the astronomers making the observations were convinced that such long-term oscillations must be the result of gravity mode pulsations.

However, because these observations did not conclusively establish the existence of gravity mode oscillations, some researchers dismissed them as either atmospheric effects or an artifact of the earth's movement in solar orbit. If long-period oscillations do exist, then the ground-based GONG system (Global Oscillation Network Group) and the SOHO satellite (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) should be able to detect them. So far they have failed to do so, though this may be due to technical problems (Lang 1996c)]. Though some astronomers still believe they may exist, the GONG and SOHO observations (or lack thereof) have convinced others that gravity mode oscillations are impossible (Scherrer 1997). Yet believer and skeptic alike agree that long period oscillations pose no threat to the validity of the standard model.

Solar Neutrinos

Another issue Davies uses to show that the sun is young is the solar neutrino problem. Neutrinos are subatomic particles released during stellar fusion. A certain flux (number per unit of time per area) is expected to flow from the sun continuously, but current measurements indicate that only one-third of the expected flux is observed. Severny and others (1976, p89) claim that this flux agrees with one of their possible solutions-that nuclear reactions are not responsible for the sun's energy-a position Davies endorses.

Nicholson, however, notes that the same 10% decrease in core temperature which could account for the long-term oscillation would also account for the low neutrino flux (Moore and Hunt 1983, p71). And while the current luminosity indicates that the core was more energetic in the past, the measured neutrino flux could represent the currently lower level of core activity. It has just recently been verified that neutrinos do have mass (Anonymous 1998). In theory, if neutrinos have mass then they can interact with matter which could cause them to change from one type of neutrino to another. This is known as neutrino oscillation, and it can reduce the flux produced by the core.

The point that Davies missed, however, is that a neutrino flux of any amount is strong evidence that the sun is in fact being powered by nuclear fusion. Gravitational contraction would not be expected to produce any neutrinos at all, because energy is produced by the conversion of gravitational potential energy first into kinetic energy and then into heat energy. No nuclear reactions are involved, so no neutrinos would be produced. The flux currently measured is too high to be derived from radioactive decay (and in any event the sun is of the wrong spectral type and is not massive enough to contain that much radioactive material), so the only possible source must be fusion reactions. Moreover, considering that only a small decrease in core temperature is needed to explain the current flux measurement (contrary to Davies' claims), solar neutrinos should be seen as a verification of the standard model rather than a refutation.

Conclusion

Based on this discussion, I believe that Davies is both naive and premature to propose that long-term oscillations indicated that the sun must be homogeneous, that it must be getting its energy from gravitational contraction, and especially that it must therefore be young. For one thing, we have seen how other types of oscillations have confirmed the standard models of solar structure and evolution, thus completely refuting Davies' claims. For another, there is still no evidence that long-term oscillations are real.

Davies must know his sources are outdated, but uses them anyway because they support the conclusion he wants to make. Just as important, however, these claims are based on distorted and misinterpreted information. Especially egregious is his omission of alternative explanations, because even those scientists who suggest that the sun is homogeneous admit that there are viable alternative explanations that could explain these oscillations without abandoning the standard model. And none of the sources he cites suggest that their evidence shows the sun is young; this is obviously Davies' own conclusion, based more on his reliance on biblical literalism than on hard science.

An obvious question to ask at this point is why Davies uses arguments that are so obviously in error? That is a difficult question, and only Davies can answer it with any certainty. He seems intelligent and learned enough to recognize that both his sources and the vast majority of more recent data really do not support his conclusions. However, it is also clear that standard scholarship practices would require that Davies abandon his view that the sun is a young, homogeneous star and in violation of the standard model. Even some of those solar researchers whose work from the 1970s Davies cited have reached this conclusion in the face of new data.

Therefore, I believe it is safe to conclude that, despite his pretense to the contrary, Davies is not interested in thoughtfully exploring an interesting solar phenomenon, but simply in justifying a narrowly constructed and somewhat naive literalistic belief. And while the subject he chose to discuss is quite fascinating, it is really just a minor mystery that tells us more about the state of creation science than it does about the age of the universe.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Alan M. MacRobert of Sky & Telescope, Prof. Kenneth R. Lang of Tufts University, and Prof. Philip Scherrer, Deborah Scherrer and Amara Graps of Stanford University for their helpful insights into this issue.

References

Anonymous. Discovery of Neutrino Mass and Oscillations. 1998; Available from . Accessed 1998 July 17.

Brookes JR, Isaak GR and van der Raay HB. Observation of Free Oscillations of the Sun. Nature 1976; 259(1):92-95.

Christensen-Dalsgaard J and Gough DO. Towards a Heliological Inverse Problem. Nature 1976; 259(1):89-92.

Cowen R. Craft eyes solar storms, hints at cooler core. Science News 1998; 153(18):279.
,br> Davies, K. Evidences For a Young Sun (Impact No. 276). Acts & Facts 1996; 25(6):i-iv. Reprints can be obtained from the Institute for Creation Research, P.O. Box 2667, El Cajon, CA, 92021. Available online at and .

Graps, A. Personal communication, May 30 1997.

Kotov, VA, Scherrer PH and Hoeksema JT. The Search for 160-Minute Oscillations in the Stanford and Crimean Solar Velocity Observations, 1974-1991. In: Brown TM, ed. Gong 1992: Seismic Investigation of the Sun and Stars, ASP Conference Series 1993; 42:293-296.

Lang, KR. Unsolved Mysteries of the Sun-Part 1. Sky & Telescope 1996a; 92(2):38-42.

Lang, KR. Unsolved Mysteries of the Sun-Part 2. Sky & Telescope 1996b; 92(3):24-28.

Lang, KR. Personal communication, August 26, 1996c.

Lang, KR. SOHO Reveals the Secrets of the Sun. Scientific American 1997; 276(3):40-47.

Leutwyler, K. In Brief-Neutrinos Weigh In.1/4 Scientific American 1996; 275(1):26.

Moore, P and Hunt G. Atlas of the Solar System. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally & Company, 1983. This book reprinted three sections of a previous book authored by Iain Nicholson (The Sun. London, England: Mitchell Beazley International Ltd, 1982.). The Nicholson book is the source used by Davies, but since the sections are reproduced intact, it is from Moore and Hunt that I took my quotations.

Scherrer, PH, Hoeksema JT and Kotov VA. On the Upper Limit for Detecting G-Mode Oscillations of the Sun. In: Brown TM, ed. Gong 1992: Seismic Investigation of the Sun and Stars, ASP Conference Series 1993; 42:281-284.

Scherrer, PH. Personal communication, September 27, 1996.

Scherrer, PH. Personal communication, May 9, 1997.

Severny, AB, Kotov VA and Tsap TT. Observations of Solar Pulsations. Nature 1976; 259(1):87-89.

Weiss, N. Solar Seismology. Nature 1976; 259(1):78.

About the Author(s): 
Kevin L. O'Brien has a Master of Science in Biochemistry, specializes in protein chemistry, enzymology and mitochondria, and works as a research scientist in academia. He is an evolutionist, but he is also a Christian and a creationist, in that he sincerely believes that "In the Beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." The rest is open for debate. He lives in Fort Collins with his two cats. He may be contacted by e-mail at klob@lamar.colostate.edu.

"Equal Time" In School Libaries?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
"Equal Time" In School Libaries?
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1998
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
11–13
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Most evolution/creation controversies in public schools involve questions of whether "creation science" will be presented to students in the classroom or at assemblies. However, libraries are also a target of creationist efforts. For example the Idaho School Boards Association recently voted down a resolution that called for including "creation science" materials in school libraries (RNCSE 18(4):7), and some state party platforms have included planks like this one:

3.38 We support the stocking of CREATIONIST produced resources in ALL TAX funded public and school libraries. We OPPOSE the current censorship of CREATIONIST resources. (Iowa Republican Party, 1998)

NCSE has assisted school districts that were being pressed to add "creation science" books to their libraries. In 1998, we evaluated books that had been suggested for use as library "resources offering [theories] considered contrary to evolution" in a Michigan school district (RNCSE 18(3):5), and advised a New Mexico parent whose local schools were being pressed to purchase creationist books because supposedly "libraries must have materials on all controversies."

What are the facts? Is your school or public library required to purchase or accept donations of books presenting "creation science" or "arguments against evolution"? How can the appropriateness of such books be evaluated?

The Role of Libraries

Public libraries: No public library is currently required to accept donated materials, though they should use consistent policies to assess donations. A good illustration is the case of the Athens Regional Library in Oconee County, Georgia. When the library refused the donation of a subscription to the Answers in Genesis publication Creation Ex Nihilo in 1996, there was considerable public controversy, and the would-be donor announced that he was considering a lawsuit. However, the library's decision prevailed because it had been made fairly: the library staff was not attempting censorship, but had applied the same standards to the donation as they did to possible purchases. They judged that the magazine's content was too specialized for their limited shelf space. They had consulted the American Library Association (ALA), and had been advised that such decisions are generally legal when they follow policies applied to all library materials (NCSE Reports, 16(3):18-19).

School libraries: Like public libraries, school libraries have space and budget constraints, and must carefully evaluate materials whether they are purchased or donated. A school library also differs from public libraries in two important respects: it serves a less diverse community — a specific age group — and it must further the school's educational mission. According to the American Library Association:
School library media professionals cooperate with other individuals in building collections of resources appropriate to the developmental and maturity levels of students. These collections provide resources which support curriculum and are consistent with the philosophy, goals, and objectives of the school district. (ALA, 1990)
While the library should have some materials that satisfy the general reading and learning interests of students, a large proportion of material must support classroom curricula — for example, if students in the school study early American history, the library should have biographies of leading figures of the time, historical novels set in that time, and material covering various topics in greater depth than do textbooks — both to provide supplementary readings and to support research assignments. The number of such books related to any given topic is limited by the need to provide similar selections supporting other courses and teaching units.

Both civil liberties organizations and many individual school districts emphasize the importance of providing students with diverse collections that prepare them to debate social issues responsibly. However, these concerns must be understood in the context of a district's legal responsibilities and educational goals, and the school librarian's responsibility to provide materials of high quality. The ALA puts it this way:
Members of the school community involved in the collection development process employ educational criteria to select resources unfettered by their personal, political, social, or religious views. Students and educators served by the school library media program have access to resources and services free of constraints resulting from personal, partisan, or doctrinal disapproval. (ALA, 1990)
Proposed "creation science" or "evolution/creation" materials must be evaluated within this context. Even citizens who support putting such materials in the school library will not want to change district policies in a manner that would lead to filling school libraries' shelves with third-rate novels and tabloids that report UFO sightings. They can also see why it is untrue that "All controversies must be heard." "All controversies" could include everything from disagreements in neurology journals over whether pallidotomy or hypothalamic stimulation is the better treatment for Parkinson's disease, to disagreements within militias over the best way to "resist" the federal government.

Again, considerations of age appropriateness and educational value apply. To take American history as our example again: There was a controversy about adopting this country's constitution, but a book containing the Federalist Papers is at the wrong reading level for an elementary school library. It might be appropriate for the high school library — but teachers and the librarian might have good reasons to choose other controversies.

The fact is, scientific controversy over evolution died in the closing decades of the nineteenth century; it is now a political and religious controversy. Even people who believe that there is still a scientific controversy about evolution cannot deny that many "creation science" books discuss long-dead "controversies" — like the Piltdown hoax that scientists uncovered decades ago — which are too dated for library use. Books presenting religious arguments against evolution should not be brought in as part of the science curriculum; they might be considered to support critical thinking curricula in other classes, depending on the advice of teachers who may have found that other topics or materials fit better into the curriculum.

Evaluating proposed books — lessons from experience

School administrators and elected officials face many decisions and balance many legal, financial and curricular concerns while trying to satisfy a varied constituency. Some districts try to compromise by suggesting that the library obtain "nonreligious", purely "scientific" critiques of evolution. What then?

Then comes the hard work! Neither librarians nor advisory committees can evaluate proposals unless they have copies of the books in question, or substantial book excerpts and reviews from reliable sources such as scientific publications or library journals. Such information can be very difficult to obtain, and the information that is most easily available may be confusing (see sidebar, "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Number").

NCSE has published a book containing scientists' reviews of forty-two "creation science" books that are frequently suggested for school use. (See sidebar for a list of books reviewed.) In addition, we can provide reviews of other books, from our own periodicals and from other journals. Also, in some cases we can provide information about "creation science" children's books that are in the NCSE library.

Even when such information is unavailable, evaluators can use criteria and procedures based on NCSE's experience advising school districts: * Is the book genuinely scientific, or primarily religious? How can this be determined?
In some instances, the religious emphasis of a book is obvious: It is explicitly stated on the cover, in the fly leaf or introduction, in a publisher's catalog or on the website of the publisher or another organization promoting the book. Often, however, it is necessary to review the text itself. For example, the cover of one book in NCSE's collection makes no mention of religious views; it says: "...a new approach to biology in plain language.... spectacular breakthroughs in molecular biology can be combined with the widely used laws of probability reasoning.... Topics include... How DNA Duplicates Itself." The text, though, contains numerous examples of religious advocacy, such as: "The materialist must never have stood at dawn and watched the pink light begin to tinge the sky.... 'If you can see a sight like that and not worship God, you don't deserve to be called a person!" (Coppedge, 1973: 279)

When evaluators lack time to read an entire book, using the index can be a big help. Reading pages cited with these key words can help determine whether the book advocates religious views: abrupt appearance, creator, design, God, intelligence, intelligent design, purpose, teleology, teleonomy. Do not assume that finding such words in the index means the book is primarily religious! A page indexed by the word "intelligence" might discuss the evolution of intelligence, or it might argue that DNA is proof of an "intelligence" that "designed" living cells.

* Is scientific content of the book accurate and current?
Any library book about science needs to be up-to-date, unless it was specifically chosen for its value in the history of scientific thought — for example a book of readings from pioneers in their fields such as Mendel (genetics), Copernicus (astronomy), and so on. NCSE has found that many books critical of evolution do not discuss current scientific views; one book we evaluated this year had not been revised since 1982, and contained no citations more recent than the early 1960s! Checking a book's bibliography and footnotes is very helpful in assessing whether it is up-to-date. You may also find that, while a book lacks religious rhetoric, ostensibly "scientific" arguments in the book — such as claims that human tracks have been found alongside dinosaur tracks — are standard, inaccurate creationist claims for which NCSE can provide scientific refutations.

* Is the book age-appropriate and suited to students' educational level?
Ask science teachers whether students have the knowledge they need to understand and evaluate statements in a book. For example, a book requiring high school reading skills might be donated to a middle school, or a book criticizing methods for determining the age of the earth might be suggested for use by students who have not yet studied earth science.

* Does the book meet general selection criteria such as sturdy construction and reasonable availability?
NCSE has found that some books suggested for adoption are no longer in print. Evaluators can check on the book's availability by consulting Books In Print or on-line book services such as "amazon.com". Some "creation science" books in NCSE's collection — especially those that are self-published — are so poorly bound that they literally fall apart in a reader's hands.

Conclusion

It's no news that evolution/creation controversies can become heated and emotional. In the heat of controversy, "creation science" proponents may complain in all sincerity that their views are being "censored". They may also ask rhetorically, "What are you afraid of?" The answer rests on common grounds that all parents can share, "I'm afraid the library will spend its limited budget on low quality books. If we aren't careful about library policies, the good books our kids need will be crowded out by junk!" Your school library can select books in a way that avoids censorship without sacrificing quality, and common-sense application of the criteria suggested here helps assure that your school's students will have access to the best science books available.

References

American Library Association Council (ALA), Access to resources and services in the school library media program: An interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (as amended January 10, 1990). , accessed December 3, 1998. (Note: This document appears under the auspices of the American Association of School Librarians. It can also be obtained by calling 1-800-545-2433, ext. 4, and requesting ISBN 8389-7053-2)

Benton, Michael J, On the trail of the dinosaurs. (NewYork: Crescent Books, 1989)

Coppedge, James F, Evolution: Possible or Impossible? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)

Gish, Duane T, Dinosaurs Those Terrible Lizards. (El Cajon: Master Books, 1977)

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publications Division, Information sheet on "Preassigned Library of Congress card number or cataloging in publication data?" (Washington, DC: Library of Congress from 607-2a [rev 10/94])

Library of Congress Catalogs (Note: from this page a user can choose various options for searching the Library's catalog. Information in this article was obtained using the "derived key" search in December, 1998.)

Parker, Gary E, DRY BONES... and other fossils. (El Cajon: Master Books, 1987)

Republican Party of Iowa, State Platform (Adopted June 15, 1996) (click on "Our Platform"). Accessed December, 1998

Review: National Forum's Digging Dinosaurs

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Year: 
1998
Issue: 
5
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
31
Reviewer: 
David R. Stronck, Ph.D., Professor of Science Education, California State University, Hayward
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Digging Dinosaurs, the Summer 1998 issue of the National Forum (the Phi Kappa Phi Journal, published by the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi)
Author(s): 
edited by James P Kaetz
The National Forum, the journal of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, publishes four times each year issues that cover a wide range of topics. Some recent issues concentrate on each of the following topics: Poverty in America, Excellence in Education, Gender and Equity, Writing History, and Aging America. The Summer of 1998 issue has the title of "Digging Dinosaurs." The Editor, James P. Kaetz, explains that the title is a pun: "This issue is literally about digging dinosaurs - finding fossils, preparing them, wresting from the bones their secrets. But on another level, it is about digging dinosaurs in time-honored Beat meaning of the word: enjoying all there is to know abut one of the most successful species in earth's long history."

Seven working paleontologists wrote the articles of this issue. Kevin Padian, Professor of Integrative Biology and a curator in the Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley, explains "How to Collect and Identify a Dinosaur. Jane Mason, a senior preparator at the same Museum in Berkeley, wrote "From Picks and Shovels to Pins and Needles." Karen Chin of the U. S. Geological Survey provides insights "On the Elusive Trail of Fossil Dung." She recognizes that fossilized feces provide a unique record of animal activity, not available from skeletal fossils.

The first article in this issue reveals a new way to interpret dinosaurs in the controversy between those who believe dinosaurs are overgrown "reptiles" and those who find them as the predecessors of birds. John R. Horner, Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, wrote about "Dinosaur Behavior." He is able to conclude that some dinosaurs behaved like modern birds in caring for their young. The evidence comes from nest-like structures discovered near the tiny town of Bynum, Montana. The remains of post-hatchlings nestlings were found in two of the nests. The partial skeleton of a Troodon sitting of a clutch of eggs has been discovered. An artist's reconstruction of this scene is on the cover of this issue of the National Forum.

Most of the articles deal with interesting interpretations that are often controversial. David J. Varricchio , Curator of Paleontology at the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, Montana, contributed an article with the title "Warm or Cold and Green All Over." He observes that over the last twenty years, biologists and paleontologists have largely switched from traditional classification to one based on evolutionary relationships, i.e., to phylogenetic systematics. Recent classification shows dinosaurs are between their cold-blooded crocodilian cousins and their warm-blooded bird descendants. Dinosaurs could have been warm-blooded or cold-blooded or something in between. The recent discoveries of brooding by the dinosaurs Oviraptor and Troodon imply body heat to raise the temperature of the eggs above that of the environment. Several groups of dinosaurs occupied latitudes to possibly as far as 80( away from the equator. The drastic seasonal changes in day length of these high latitudes would present a sever environmental challenge to cold-blooded species. These latitudes exceed the latitudes of cold-blooded contemporaries.

Dale A. Russell is a curator at the North Carolina State Museum of Natural Sciences. He wrote "Dinosaurs and the Concept of Fitness." Fitness describes how well suited is a species to thrive in an environment. Evidence shows that dinosaurs that came later through the 165 million years of their existence, had larger brains, longer legs, larger eggs, more rapid growth shortly after birth, and better teeth. Body size diminished from the near the middle of the dinosaurian era to the end. This pattern would be consistent with higher metabolic rates. The data suggests that dinosaurs were not nearly as fit as modern mammals and birds. Modern organisms would destroy a Jurassic Park. Russell believes that at the middle period in their evolution, dinosaurs were more reptilian than mammalian or avian.

J. David Archibald, Professor of Biology at San Diego State University, summarizes the three best theories of extinction of the dinosaurs in his article "Death, Taxes, and Extinction." Among the eighty dinosaur-extinction theories, only three ultimate causes seem well enough formulated and testable: marine regression, volcanism, and asteroid impact. Marine regression refers to the draining of epicontinental seas with a major loss of low-coastal-plain habitats, establishment of land bridges, and cooling of emerged land masses. Over four million years there were massive eruptions of flood basalts on the Indian subcontinent; the changes caused by this volcanism at the end of the Cretaceous Period (65 million years ago) have not been well studied but may have had an effect similar to marine regression or asteroid impact. The crater Chicxulub near the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula is about 60 miles across and occurred at the time of massive extinctions. But the Popigai Crater in Siberia is the same size and was formed almost 36 million years ago without identified extinctions. Only the marine regression theory supports the present fossil records that show a highly selective extinction of animals at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

All of the articles without question support the theory evolution, i.e., the change of species over time. Many of the articles discuss controversies of interpreting the fossil evidence. For example, what were the cause of the massive extinction of dinosaurs, and whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded or cold-blooded. Creationists assert that such controversies show that scientists do not accept evolution and have serious doubts about the "theory." Teachers and parents need to emphasize that there is total agreement in the scientific community that species have changes over time, i.e., that evolution happened. The excitement of science comes from dealing with puzzling questions that do not attack the basic fact of evolution. Many of these questions about dinosaurs may soon be answered as more fossil discoveries are made.

Non-members may purchase single copies of this issue by sending $6.25 to

Subscriptions
The National Forum
Box 16000
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70893

RNCSE 18 (6)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1998
Date: 
November–December
Articles available online are listed below.

Vine Deloria Jr, Creationism, and Ethnic Pseudoscience

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Vine Deloria Jr, Creationism, and Ethnic Pseudoscience
Author(s): 
H David Brumble
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1998
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
10–14
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Vine Deloria, a Standing Rock Sioux, has been an important advocate for American Indians for more than 25 years. He has defended Indian claims in the courts; he has acted as an Indian spokesman in Washington. Deloria is also a professor of history, law, and religious studies at the University of Colorado.

His books have brought Indian concerns to a broad audience. He burst upon the scene in 1969 with Custer Died for Your Sins, and he has continued to write about injustices done the Indians by the government, the schools, the church, anthropologists, and the courts. Most recently he has taken on the scientists in Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact. Imagine how Deloria's own people must have felt when this distinguished man returned to the Standing Rock Reservation to talk — no, to consult — with them about science. Deloria describes just such a scene in this book. He returns to the reservation and delivers a speech. In this speech he discusses a problem in paleontology that he is currently working on. Deloria believes that a certain sawtooth-backed "monster" in one of the Sioux tales is really a stegosaurus:
After my speech a couple of the traditional people approached me and said that the next time I came, if I had time, they would take me to see the spot where the people last saw this creature, implying that it was still possible to see the animal during the last century before the reservations were established. I gave their knowledge credence (p 243).
Deloria is telling us that he believes that these "traditional people" have helped him to prove that the scientists are wrong — that dinosaurs did not go extinct millions of years ago; a hundred years ago the Sioux saw the stegosaurus walking in the Badlands. He "gave their knowledge credence." Imagine how these "traditional people," these Standing Rock Sioux, must have felt to have Vine Deloria, a university professor and one of their own, talking with them seriously about paleontology — and giving credence to what they were able to tell him about the stegosaurus, what they were able to tell him out of the storehouse of their traditional knowledge. Anyone who knows anything at all about American Indian history must understand what a moment this must have been.

Red Earth, White Lies was written in the spirit of that evening — the book promotes not just the value of American Indian oral traditions, but the scientific value of American Indian oral traditions. And the book is also a heady indictment of the white man's science. The only problem, of course, is that Deloria is wrong. He was wrong on that memorable evening — whatever the beast in the tale might be, the Sioux could not have seen a stegosaurus a hundred years ago. And he is just as obviously wrong on almost every page of Red Earth, White Lies. Some examples follow.

On the Earth as a Youthful Planet

Deloria doubts that the earth is billions of years old; indeed, he writes, "Most American Indians, I believe, were here 'at the beginning' and have preserved the memory of traumatic continental and planetary catastrophes" (p 251). The geologists are simply wrong in their reading of the geological record. For example, "vulcanism was a onetime event" (p 235).

Dinosaurs and Human Beings

Indians tell stories about a time when there were monsters on the earth. Some of these monsters Deloria recognizes as dinosaurs: "That is to say, humans and some creatures we have classified as dinosaurs were contemporaries" (p 241). Deloria is inclined to credit one western tribe's belief that they have in their possession "an unfossilized dinosaur bone" (p 241). And as we have seen, he believes that the Sioux saw the stegosaurus walking in the Badlands a hundred years ago.

On Noah's Flood

Deloria believes in the historical reality of the biblical flood, because "Indian traditions also spoke of a great flood... and they had their own culture heroes who followed the same procedure as Noah" (p 61-2). In fact, the Old Testament account of Noah's flood "may very well provide evidence of the basic accuracy of the Indian story" (p 207). Just as his forefathers built their encampments in a circle, so Deloria builds his arguments.

On Pilgrims and Mammoths

Deloria argues that "there were mammoths or mastodons still living in the eastern United States at the time the Pilgrims landed" (p 143).

On the Mormon View of the Origin of the American Indians

Deloria gives credence to the Mormon contention that the American Indians came from the Middle East (p 62).

On the Effects of Increased Levels of Carbon Dioxide

Deloria is convinced that increased levels of carbon dioxide lead to gigantism; this explains the size of the mammoths and the giant sloths — just as it explains the increasing size of human beings since the beginnings of the industrial revolution. Indeed, Deloria sees the increase of carbon dioxide (which most of us worry about in connection with global warming) as one reason for the increased size of football and basketball players since he was in high school (p 172-7).

On the Change in the Coefficient of Gravity

Deloria is inclined to think that the coefficient of gravity has fluctuated so widely as to account (with the increased levels of carbon dioxide) for the gigantism we find in the age of the dinosaurs and again in the age of the mammoths and giant sloths (p 174).

On Ecology

By way of dismissing the idea that such animals as the mammoth might have gone extinct because of climate change, Deloria writes that "It hardly seems possible that any animal, living in a more benign region for a change, would promptly expire" (p 164) — as though penguins, for example, would really be better off in San Diego.

On Evolution

Evolution is a failed theory: "[E]ven the most sophisticated of modern scientists, in explaining the fossil remains, finds that species in the rocks are distant relatives to each other, not direct lineages" (p 40). At one point Deloria refers dismissively to "the outmoded sequence of alleged human evolution" (p 217). Once Deloria has considered the evidence he asks, "Where is evolution?" (p 238).

On the Character of Science

Scientists are virtually incapable of independent thinking; they are hobbled by their reverence for orthodoxy (p 42-4, 50-1, 154-5, 180, 202, 231-2). Scientists characteristically persecute those who dare to advance unorthodox views. Science is thus essentially a religion (p 17-8, 41, 87, 178, 251) — and scientists are in the thrall of their scientific myths. In many areas science is nothing more than "a hilarious farce" (p 202).

Most readers will recognize in much of this the lineaments of "creation science". But for those who have (quite reasonably) paid little attention to "creation science", here is a good, brief characterization of the movement:
The creationists have learned a lot in their long struggle to unseat evolution. Trial and error has shown them what doesn't work: Anti-science doesn't, efforts to ban [the teaching of] evolution don't, and purely religious invective is also a losing proposition. The idea of being open-minded, religiously neutral, and scientific has gained such wide credence (or at least lip service) that creationists can't successfully oppose it, no matter how much they might like to. So, their new tactic is to declare creationism scientific, then join in with the majority and espouse the virtues of the times in their own name. In this way they can pose as latter-day Galileos being persecuted by "orthodox" science (Edwords 1980: 4-5).
Add to this a large measure of standard-issue American Ethnic Invective, and you have Deloria's method exactly.

Ethnic Pseudoscience

Of course Deloria is not the first American ethnic to question mainstream science and scholarship. Deloria's closest pseudoscientific cousins may be in the Afrocentric movement. African-American "melanin scholars", for example Martin Bernal, have as their basic tenet that melanin (the pigment found in all humans) has remarkable properties (Ortiz de Montellano 1991, 1991/1992; Griffin 1996; Lefkowitz and Rogers 1996). So those who have lots of melanin have large powers.

Thus it is melanin that is responsible for the athletic prowess of African-Americans and for the superior intelligence and extra-sensory potential of blacks in general. Melanin also accounts for the achievements of the ancient Egyptians, who were black, according to the melanin scholars. This allows the melanin scholars to provide pseudoscientific underpinnings for an Afrocentric creation myth. According to the melanin scholars, then, it was melanin that allowed Africans to "invent" fire, language, and time.

None of this would matter much if scholars who know better would respond to such arguments on their merits. But educated people of good will recognize in such scholarship the aspirations of disadvantaged peoples for a place at the table of learning. Sympathizing as they do with the yearnings of the dispossessed, educated people of good will often pretend to see real contributions to learning in ethnic pseudoscience and pseudoscholarship.

I was struck, for example, by the dust jacket blurbs for Red Earth, White Lies. Leslie Marmon Silko writes that the book "shoots down a whole herd of sacred cows — from Charles Darwin's cow to Samuel Eliot Morison's bull." Goodness; does Silko — who is a university professor, after all — really believe that Deloria has disposed of the theory of evolution? In genuine puzzlement, I wrote to ask her this question, but I received no response. (I am not certain that she received the letter.)

Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, one of the best known books on American Indian history, wrote that Deloria is "lambasting scholars and scientists for filling our heads with nonsense while they ignore the traditional knowledge of native tribes." I wrote Brown, again in genuine puzzlement, to ask him if he really meant this: "Deloria even argues," I wrote, "that human beings and dinosaurs were on the earth at the same time."

Brown reminded me that "some of the creation myths tell of green scum heated by the sun being washed ashore to begin terrestrial life." Yes, one might respond, and a Navajo myth tells of four consecutive worlds with the creatures passing from one to the next by ladders. Probably paleontologists and geologists would be as little aided by the one myth as by the other. And of course it is only the work of the scientists which makes the "green scum" myth seem more like science than the "ladders" myth. Surely Brown cannot really think that geologists and paleontologists would be further along if they spent less time looking at rocks and more time interpreting Kwakiutl myths.

But Brown makes another suggestion:
Deloria has a Siouan sense of black humor, and likes to tease his readers. Unless he has changed in the last few years, he would laugh at the idea of men and dinosaurs living together. But then he might tell you that.
So, Brown is not convinced, really, that dinosaurs and human beings were on the earth at the same time. No, Brown thinks it likely that ol' trickster Deloria is just counting coup in his on-going culture war with the Anglo establishment, just having fun with me — and all the others who might be willing to fork over $23 for a book advertised to dispel "the myth of scientific fact". But if Deloria's book is just a politico-ethnic practical joke, it seems to have taken in another of the blurb writers.

Father Peter J Powell wrote that this book "is the most important scholarly work" Deloria has written. Powell expresses the hope that the book will "persuade Anglo scholars to accord American Indian elders that respect owed them as repositories of the greatest wisdom concerning the nature of this continent that exists." Powell has written widely on American Indian history, and he has worked for many years among Indians of several tribes. He is a learned man — and so I wrote to him in puzzlement. He wrote back to assure me that, yes, he really does believe that "geologists should take American Indian traditions seriously." He really is "convinced that ultimately geologists will discover the succession of geological events recalled in the tribal traditions to be empirically sound" — but then Father Powell reminds me that he is a priest, that he writes as one for whom "theology is the queen of the sciences." And so we return to creationism.

Political and Legal Consequences

All of this is diverting, but we should remember that when theology or affirmative action drives science, there can be real-world consequences. Most immediately, we should worry that Deloria's affirmative-action science might work its way into public school science curricula. Deloria puts it this way: "All we ask is respect for the other traditions and some of their versions of origins" (p 187). This is, of course, exactly the disingenuous argument of the creationists, as they strive to get "creation science" into the schools and textbooks: "We are only asking that both theories be taught." But well-meaning academics who scorn this argument when it comes from Christian creationists, often encourage ethnic pseudoscience curricula out of a sense of cultural noblesse oblige. And so we end up with real science for the nice, white suburbs, and self-affirming pseudoscience for the reservations and inner cities.

Deloria has another motive of ethnic self-interest as well. Deloria must be hoping that Red Earth, White Lies will have real legal consequences. For Deloria the lawyer, "proof" of the veracity of Indian oral traditions can be crucial in treaty claims — where Indian tribal memory is sometimes importantly in conflict with written treaties (p 230). Numerous court cases pit Indian understanding of a treaty against the literal wording of the treaty. In many of these cases, this means that Indian tribal memory — oral tradition — is being pitted against what is written.

The Idaho Court of Appeals (Swim v Bergland 1983), for example, ruled that agreements between the United States and Indian tribes are to be construed according to the probable understanding of original tribal signatories. The Washington Court of Appeals (Fry v US 1981) decided that evidence of tribal custom is a proper basis for judicial conclusions about the present effect of Indian treaty provisions. Such arguments will be easier for Deloria the lawyer to make if he can point to Red Earth, White Lies as "proving" that Indian oral traditions have real scientific standing. If academics agree that his book "proves" that oral traditions can help the paleontologists, then oral traditions obviously ought to be accepted as proof in questions of legal ownership dating back a mere century, say.

I would not be misunderstood: I do not mean to deny that oral traditions might be important evidence in a court of law; I certainly do not mean to deny the worth of oral traditions. Indeed, I have devoted a good deal of attention to certain aspects of American Indian oral traditions (see Brumble 1988). And of course a good deal of scientific attention is being paid to oral traditions having to do with plants, to ethnobotany. But Deloria devotes only two pages of Red Earth, White Lies to ethnobotany (p 58-59). The book has mainly to do with "geomythology" (60).

Foundations of Competent Scholarship

I do want to point out that Deloria, the creationists, and the melanin scholars differ importantly from scientists. Deloria and company are fundamentally anti-rational — even as they try to wrap the mantle of science about their beliefs. Thus they are content with seeming scientific arguments to buttress beliefs which they hold independent of evidence. Deloria, for example, takes up a familiar creationist strain in mocking the evolutionists for lacking any "transitional forms" in the fossil record:
[E]ven the most sophisticated of modern scientists, in explaining the fossil remains, finds that species in the rocks are distant relatives to each other, not direct lineages.... Apparently somewhere, and at a time unknown, when species were ready to evolve they went offstage, made their changes, and then rushed back into the geologic strata to leave evidence of their existence (p 40).
In fact, by the time Deloria was penning these lines, the paleontological world was already abuzz with the news that transitional forms had been found. In the January 14, 1994 issue of Science Thewissen and Aria described the fossil skeleton of a whale with large, complete, and functional hind legs — legs which would have allowed this early whale to get about on the land! Gould calls this a "bag packer for creationists", the paleontological "smoking gun" (1995: 366-7). This was big news, and Science is not exactly an obscure journal. The publication of the article was early enough for Deloria to have read the piece (or even Gould's April, 1994, account of the discovery in Natural History reprinted in Gould 1995: 359-76), had he been doing the kind of reading one would have to do in order to write a book responsibly attacking the basic tenets of geology and paleontology.

But even had he read the article, Deloria's thinking would probably have been undisturbed — for the same reason that the melanin scholars are undisturbed by easily available scientific accounts of melanin. They are not doing science really — they are promoting a cause. But one of the many sad things about affirmative-action ethnic pseudoscience is that their cause doesn't really need pseudoscience or pseudoscholarship. It has been the anthropologists, after all, who have been largely responsible for providing the scholarly foundation for cultural relativism. And the weight of scientific research, for another example, now opposes the idea that intelligence is tied to race. Deloria seems to forget this when, in the course of recounting the sins of the scientists, he mentions the notorious case of Cyril Burt:
Perhaps the epitome of scientific fraud was the work of Sir Cyril Burt on twins. Fearful of criticism of his work, Burt simply performed the peer-review process by himself, writing glowing reviews of his work using pseudonyms. This deceit, and the manipulation of statistical data in his studies was eventually exposed (p 41-2).
Deloria misses much here. Burt's work claimed to find a very high correlation between IQ scores of twins raised apart. This was regarded as important evidence for hereditarian views — evidence which was useful to those who claimed that race could determine intelligence. But ethnic pseudoscience was not necessary to reveal Burt's fraud. Here is the story as Gould tells it:
I think that the splendid "official" biography of Burt recently published by LS Hearnshaw (1979) has resolved the issue so far as the data permit (Hearnshaw was commissioned to write his book by Burt's sister before any charges had been leveled). Hearnshaw, who began as an unqualified admirer of Burt and who tends to share his intellectual attitudes, eventually concluded that all allegations are true, and worse (1981: 236).
Hearnshaw, then, actually began as an apologist for Burt, but when he found real evidence of fraud, he was forced to change his mind. This is real scholarship. My guess is that Deloria will not change his mind about "transitional forms" (and so about evolution and creationism) just because of the walking whales.

Concluding Parable

In the hope of influencing those who read ethnic pseudoscience with affirmative action in their hearts, I offer in closing this parable:
A man in tweed stands before an academic audience. He is, let us say, a professor of English (as I am); he has (like me) no scientific training, aside from some amateur reading. He delivers a series of lectures on "creation science". He acknowledges that his religious affiliation is, let us say, Pentecostal, to suggest that he is guided by the spirit.

In his lectures he argues that the scientists have it all wrong, that the earth was created, and not created some unimaginable billions of years ago. He asserts that, while he is not certain of the age of the earth, he is fairly sure that human beings were on earth with the dinosaurs, that human beings were on earth to see the formation of the mountains. And all of the earth's igneous rock poured forth in one great volcanic cataclysm triggered by the impact of a great meteor. He argues that the universal flood of the book of Genesis is probably historical fact.

His scientific breakthrough, he explains, is that he is bringing to bear the testimonies of the people who actually witnessed these events. He presents the testimonies of pre-literate peoples as preserved in their oral traditions of which he is a skilled interpreter; he shows how these oral traditions are very often exactly in keeping with Old Testament accounts. He argues that many scientists actually know the truth of the biblical account of creation (as corroborated by pre-literate peoples) — but they are cowed into dishonest silence by the fear of ostracism from the cozy scientific community. His lectures are applauded by this academic audience and endorsements are written by some rather eminent figures in attendance.
This would, of course, be highly unlikely. Most of the well educated people who praise Red Earth, White Lies would be embarrassed even to be found in the audience on such an occasion. Most academics would work hard to prevent such "fundamentalist" notions from intrusion into the science curriculum of their children's school. But change lecture to book published by Scribner's, change Pentacostal Christian to charismatic Sioux religion — and this unlikely fantasy is exactly what Vine Deloria has accomplished.

Bibliography

Adams HH. African and African-American contributions to science and technology. African-American Baseline Essays. Portland: Muhnomah School District, 1990.

Bernal M. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, vol 1. New Brunswick: Rutgers U Press, 1987.

Bernal M. Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, vol 2. New Brunswick: Rutgers U Press, 1992.

Brumble HD. American Indian Autobiography. Los Angeles: U California Press, 1988.

Cole JR. It ain't necessarily so: Giants and biblical literalism. Creation/Evolution 1985; 5: 48-56.

Deloria V Jr. Custer Died for Your Sins. New York: Macmillan, 1969.

Deloria V Jr. Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact. New York: Scribner, 1995.

Deloria V Sr. The Standing Rock Reservation: A personal reminiscence. South Dakota Review 1971; 9:167-95.

Edwords F Why creationism should not be taught as science. Creation/Evolution 1980; 1:2-23.

Gould SJ. The Mismeasure of Man. New York: Norton, 1981.

Gould SJ. Dinosaur in a Haystack. New York: Harmony Books, 1995.

Griffin J. Anxieties of influence. New York Review of Books 1996; 43(8): 67-73.

Hearnshaw LS. Cyril Burt Psychologist. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1979.

Lefkowitz MR, Rogers GM. Black Athena Revisited. Chapel Hill: U North Carolina Press, 1996.

Nelkin D. The Creation Controversy: Science or Scripture in the Schools. Boston: Beacon Press, 1984.

Numbers RI. The Creationists. New York: Knopf, 1992.

Ortiz de Montellano BR. Multicultural pseudoscience. Spreading scientific illiteracy among minorities — Part I. Skeptical Inquirer 1991; 2.

Ortiz de Montellano BR. Afrocentric creationism. Creation/Evolution 1991/92; 19: 2-8.

Patten D. The Biblical Flood and the Ice Epoch. Seattle: Pacific Meridian, 1966.

Thewissen JGM, Aria M. Fossil evidence for the origin of aquatic locomotion in archaeocete whales. Science 1994; 263: 210-2.

About the Author(s): 
H David Brumble
College of Arts and Sciences
Univ. of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh PA 15260
email: brumble+@pitt.edu

Over the Hump — Taking the AIG Camel Challenge!

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Over the Hump — Taking the AIG Camel Challenge!
Author(s): 
Andrew J Petto
Volume: 
18
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1998
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
15–17
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

A Camel Skull!!!

How Can a Camel Skull Be Used in the Ministry?

Take a look at the following three overheads. I think you will see how we can use even a camel skull to show that our pre-conceived ideas will influence how we see the world around us. Remember when you use these the audience will not know (usually) that it is a camel skull.

1. First show this graphic and have the audience give you feedback. ... Was this animal a flesh-eater, omnivore etc. Point out the "sharp teeth", what would this animal have used these teeth for?

2.Then show this next graphic. This is a drawing made showing what one person (the artist) thought the animal may have looked like.

3. Lastly, show this graphic of what the animal really was. Even though something has sharp teeth it doesn't necessarily "prove" that it ate meat.

In the same way we have to have all of the information before we can know what happened in the past. Only God was there in the beginning and has told us what has happened. We have to trust Him when it comes to issues such as the origin of man, earth, the universe etc. These issues are outside of the realm of science and cannot be "proven". I hope these help!

http://www.answersingenesis.org/Webman/Article.asp?Old=camskull.html

Answers in Genesis maintains a web site with resources for teachers, including images that can be downloaded to make into overhead transparencies and suggestions for how to use them. The designers of these materials expect the users to have an uncritical acceptance of a literal interpretation of the Bible, but they are presented using "buzz words" that supposedly promote "critical thinking" among students. In order to show how data can be misinterpreted without the proper "guidance", AIG provided line drawings of a camel's skull and some artists' renditions of the "fleshed-out" head (see sidebar for the text of the AIG "lesson plan"). I decided to take the challenge and use the AIG materials in my introductory course in zoology during the 1998 spring semester.

The School and Students

This course fulfilled a basic science requirement for students at Madison (WI) Area Technical College (MATC). There were no prerequisites, and most of the students would not go on to specialize in any area of the sciences. In short, this could be the last or the only science education many of these students would receive. Most of the students were adults returning to school after a number of years or recent high-school graduates whose grades, prior scholastic preparation, or financial situation precluded matriculation at a baccalaureate institution. Most of these students were in the "college-transfer" program, which meant that they hoped to transfer these credits to a school that granted a 4-year degree.

During the one-semester Animal Biology course, we explored the typical zoology topics — basic chemistry, cell biology, genetics, evolution, ecology, and comparative biology (anatomy, physiology, and behavior). Because MATC has a strong program for animal technicians, our teaching lab contained skeletons and mounted specimens of a number of species. We were also fortunate to have access to the University of Wisconsin Geology Museum to supplement our teaching. Athough the department had a staff to prepare specimens and schedule laboratory use, the small class size meant that all instruction — classroom, laboratory, field trips, and discussion sections — were led by the course instructor. There were 2 "sections" of the course — 16-17 students in each.

By the time I discovered the AIG materials in March, these students had already studied specimens at the UW Geology Museum and had begun comparative studies of skeletal materials in their laboratory sections. One of the assignments in that exercise was to examine skeletal material, including teeth, to understand the relationship between dental anatomy and behavior (including food sources). The AIG challenge to bring these images directly to these students seemed to me to be the ultimate "authentic assessment" of their learning and my teaching. If they could apply their "book learning" to this "real-life" situation, then they really did grasp the process that we call "science as a way of knowing" (SAAWOK). It was not without a little trepidation that I presented the AIG materials during the 2-hour discussion sections.

THE AIG MATERIALS

Figure 1: Camel Skull IllustrationFigure 1: Camel Skull Illustration
The first AIG overhead is a line drawing of the skull of a camel (see Figure 1). True to the AIG expectations only one of my students — a young woman from North Africa — knew what sort of animal this was (see sidebar). She agreed to sit on the sidelines and fill us in later on camel behavior and ecology and how they relate to the structures we observed. Also true to AIG expectations was the students' initial reaction — they focused immediately on the tall, pointed teeth in the front of the skull as I asked the what sort of food these animals ate. But then things changed.

These students with a minimum of prior instruction in comparative anatomy also noticed the molars — high, flat teeth which are typical of animals eating grasses and tough vegetation. One student remarked that, although the "anterior dentition" is impressive, it is really the back teeth which dominate the mouth. They seem more "important" to the animal than the few larger pointed teeth in the front.

Because they had already examined the dentition of flesh-eating, plant-eating, and omnivorous reptiles and mammals in the museum and lab, the students were able to see that the "sharp" teeth in the front of the jaw were not really sharp! The teeth were tall and narrow, but even the line drawing showed that they were blunt, not sharp.These students had seen large canines and incisors in plant-eating animals and knew that these were used in a variety of social and antipredator behaviors — not for eating meat. Furthermore, many were familiar with horses and deer and recognized that the combination of lower incisors with a bony "cutting board" in the upper jaw is useful for animals that bite off tough stems or grasses.

Figure 2: Artist's Rendition of the Head of a Flesh-EaterFigure 2: Artist's Rendition of the Head of a Flesh-Eater
The discussion of the qualities of the skull lasted about 20 minutes, and then I introduced the second AIG image (see Figure 2). This artist's rendition of the living animal clearly presents the animal as a flesh-eater. After discussing the rendition in small groups for about 10 minutes, the students came up with 2 reasons to reject this image as inappropriate. The first was the shape of the mouth. One group noticed that the "lips" opened far back into the jaw. This is good for flesh-eaters which need to open wide to kill and tear chunks of flesh from their prey or which use teeth near the back of the jaw as a sort of "bone-cracker". However, for grazing animals, like camels, horses, and deer, that need to chew their food a lot, the "cheeks" help keep the food between the teeth while chewing. The mouth is smaller and the molars almost never show In this rendition, the students suspected that the half-chewed food would keep falling out of the animal's mouth.

Second, the students noticed that the front teeth were not "sharp" and that the lack of teeth at the front of the upper jaw would cause serious problems for any animal that needed to tear flesh or deliver a deep puncture wound to its prey. This animal had none of the sharp, piercing, slicing teeth needed to be a competent predator.

Figure 3: Artist's Rendition of the Head of a CamelFigure 3: Artist's Rendition of the Head of a Camel
Then, following the AIG "lesson plan", I showed the students the artist's rendition of the camel's head (see Figure 3). All the students agreed within minutes that this head was the more likely fit. They were willing to hedge their bets as to whether the skull had to be a camel, but they clearly saw that the animal had to be a plant-eater and not a flesh-eater. Of course, they had already rejected the flesh-eater as a good fit solely on the basis of anatomical evidence. They had seen skulls of many animals and recognized that the dental anatomy in this animal was that of a plant-eater with special adaptations for "mowing" stems and grinding foods, not piercing and tearing.

At last, our North African student gave us a brief account of camels in her homeland. Once she explained how and what camels eat, their social organization, and their behavior, there was a "chorus" of nods and murmurs.

Reflection

An important part of the "discussion" sections in this class was a period for reflection on ideas and issues raised in the course or on the various learning activities, such as this one, that they engaged in. It is a classic SAAWOK component — what do we know and what makes us sure we know it? The students needed to identify the question(s) they were asking, the data available to them, what else they might need to know to answer the questions(s), and how to present their conclusions persuasively (for example, Stewart and Jungek 1995). An important part of this process is to identify the evidence and the materials used in the process and to explore how they influenced our conclusions (Petto and Petto 1997).

In this activity, the students recognized that the prominent front teeth had tended to attract their attention away from the other evidence and away from a more thorough examination of the anatomical features in the camel skull. This attraction, they agreed, prompted them to jump to conclusions about the nature of the organism before they had a chance to consider all the information available. Perhaps most important, the students recognized that a focus on the large front teeth caused them to put aside — at least temporarily — their previous knowledge and experience which were vital for solving the problem.

The AIG website invites us to "show that our pre-conceived ideas will influence how we see the world around us" without, of course, telling us that the AIG conclusions are derived from Genesis 1:30: "And to every beast of the of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat." This is the passage that AIG Director Ken Ham uses in his lecture to "prove" that Tyrranosaurus rex was a plant-eater (See Skip Evans's "Creationism: A trip to the dark side" RNCSE 1998 Mar/Apr;18[2]:22-2). If abandoning the scientific evidence in favor of a 6000-year-old scriptural account doesn't constitute being influenced by "pre-conceived ideas", I don't know what does.

In the end, however, these students really came through and performed as AIG said they ought to — forming their conclusions on the basis of the evidence and not on "pre-conceived ideas". I couldn't have written a more appropriate and challenging final exam.

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to the students in my spring 1998 Animal Biology class at Madison Area Technical College. Without them, this outcome would not have been possible, but most of all, thanks for proving that you were learning something about the process of science as well as the data.

References

AIG Tools for Teachers Website, http://www.answersingenesis.org/Webman/Article.asp?Old=camskull.html last accessed Dec 29, 1998.

Petto AJ, Petto SG. Portfolio assessment from the fine arts to the sciences:The ‘Feldman’ 4-part analysis. Uncensored Community College List (UCC-L) Resources Page, http://www.taft.cc.ca.us/tclistsresources/portfolios.html last accessed Oct 1998.

Stewart J, Jungek J. Problem-posing, problem-solving, and persuasion in biological investigations. Bio QUEST Library. Beloit (WI): BioQuest Curriculum Consortium, 1995.