Volume 19 (1999)

RNCSE 19 (1)RNCSE 19 (1) RNCSE 19 (2)RNCSE 19 (2)

RNCSE 19 (3)RNCSE 19 (3) RNCSE 19 (4)RNCSE 19 (4)

RNCSE 19 (5)RNCSE 19 (5) RNCSE 19 (6)RNCSE 19 (6)

RNCSE 19 (1)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1999
Date: 
January–February
Articles available online are listed below.

This issue also included the Statement on Evolution in Textbooks by authors of biology textbooks.

Stephen Meyer and Creation Week

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Stephen Meyer and Creation Week
Author(s): 
Dean Jacobson, Assistant Professor of Biology, Whitworth College
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1999
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
4–6
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Setting the Stage

Soon after coming to religiously-affiliated Whitworth College to teach microbiology and join an evolution-friendly biology department, I learned that we had a highly vocal creationist among us - a philosophy professor named Stephen Meyer. I had not previously encountered a creationist colleague, and since I do not delight nor excel in verbal skirmishes, I did not relish the prospect of dealing with this Meyer.

During my first 5 years at Whitworth I had only one meeting with Meyer - a chance encounter in the Science building stairwell that stretched to 45 frustrating minutes. I remember his describing Archaeopteryx as a "mere mosaic", definitely not a transitional form, and making the "no new phyla after the Cambrian explosion" argument. I was surprised that he was unfamiliar with the term neoteny and most of the molecular points I made. I was later re-united with his arguments by reading the creationist high school text Of Pandas and People. Meyer and I have since remained cordial, if distant, until "our" (or more accurately "his") recent Creation Week.

Creation Week: The Proposal

Creation Week grew out of a proposal by Meyer to schedule one or two fora (all-campus student assemblies) involving two off-campus speakers, one on Monday and the other on Friday; Meyer would select one speaker and the Biology Department the other. Meyer chose University of California law professor Phillip Johnson, author of several anti-evolution books. The Biology Department chose Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, who had successfully debated Johnson on William F Buckley's Firing Line program. Months later, the week before Creation Week, we had the unpleasant surprise of learning that, in addition to Johnson, Meyer had scheduled (without our knowledge) 4 other "intelligent design" (ID) speakers resulting in 8 events featuring creationists, and only 2 with evolutionists. Further, the brochure titled the event "Detecting Design in Creation". Consequently, members of the Biology Department were furious both because we had not been consulted about these four additional creationist presenters and because we were concerned that students and others would conclude that this bias reflected an official institutional position.

On to Creation Week!

Johnson's lecture began Creation Week on November 16, 1998. Johnson apparently predicted the nature of his audience well; most students seemed to respond enthusiastically to his energetic, engaging delivery and swallowed his bogus strawmen without hesitation (a student told me later that he still resented the way evolution had been taught in high school, a complaint that must have some validity). Some, my students among them, resented Johnson's distortions and oversimplifications.

Johnson preached a view of science as a struggle between two opposing sides - one having the freedom to follow the evidence wherever it leads, the other being blinded by a naturalistic world view which excludes the possibility of God. He characterized all Christian Darwinists as hopelessly indoctrinated into an extreme version of materialism. He says they are enslaved by a Darwinian power structure which smites dissidents with loss of funding and reputation, and they are thus unable to think objectively!

Although feeling a bit nauseated at this point, I continued to take notes. Johnson built a strawman version of neodarwinism, characterizing it as merely a deduction based on materialistic assumptions with no need of evidence beyond what is necessary to persuade (naive) students. To underline his contention that there exists no middle ground between a (his) proper Christian rejection of evolution and an atheistic acceptance of it, he compared the mindless forces of natural selection to John 1:1: "In the beginning was the Word", not, "In the beginning were the particles, and then you get human beings" (this got a big laugh).

After stating that "anyone can learn enough to make up their minds about evolution in a few days", Johnson nonetheless demurred "I can't run through too much evidence, there is not enough time, and I don't want to bore you". His one example without which evolution utterly collapses was the "peppered moth story". Big deal, he said, no new structures or increased diversity is involved. Further, Johnson charged that the data were fraudulent, the whole thing is a hoax, based on a report in a recent (uncited) issue of Nature: "The moths don't even sit on tree trunks; they were put there by scientists!"

By this time, I was thinking that if this was the best Meyer could come up with, the ID movement was in real trouble. Perhaps I was witnessing a Darwinian principle: Johnson did not have to be "perfect", he just had to be "good enough" (to fool his naive audiences). Johnson ended his talk with two opinions: "Scientists know deep down they can't win" and "It ain't the things you don't know that will hurt you; it's the things you do know that ain't so." In a presentation later in the week, he urged his audience "not to be deceived" by what Miller would tell them. Afterwards, an emeritus Whitworth biology professor told me that he was appalled by such unabashed ideological merchandizing, feeling it was a singular disservice to our students.

During the week Meyer and Johnson breakfasted with the Deans of Whitworth College and neighboring Gonzaga University (where Johnson also spoke) and made a pitch for the hiring of ID faculty in biology departments. These colonizers would in effect be "wedges", in a good position to influence subsequent recruitment of like-minded biologists. While I can imagine the frustration experienced by these IDers at their failure to be taken seriously by the scientific community, they seem to be overlooking the way science works: the theory with the greatest explanatory power and which provides the most fruitful research strategy is (provisionally) accepted. The shortcomings of ID theory are substantial, and it hasn't yet earned a place in academia. To "wedge" ID into the universities before it has earned a place is not only premature, it's cocky.

The next day Scott Minnick from the University of Idaho in Moscow gave a science seminar (with 5-10 times the normal audience size, dominated by first-timer, off-campus folk). In a polished, well-illustrated presentation, Minnick described the structure, assembly and genetic control of the bacterial flagellum. Minnick's presentation was as detailed and comprehensive as seminars I have attended at MIT. However, he stressed trivial details, such as the high rotation rate of the flagellum, failing to mention that such high rates are not so extraordinary given the small scale of the structure, and was rewarded by ooh and ahs; one person even asked him, awestruck, to repeat the 30 000 rpm figure. (I suspect the fact that a bacterium stops in the space of an angstrom would have seemed equally impressive to this audience.) He concluded his straightforward lecture by saying simply "this is too complex and intricate to have resulted from natural processes".

When I asked Minnick why he failed to mention the similar spinning mechanism of the enzyme Aptness, he had no answer. He also failed to see the relevance of the structural similarity and apparent homology of a bacterial cell division protein (FtsZ, which links up into rings) and a eukaryotic cell division protein (tubulin, which also links up into rings, sheets and tubules). However, earlier I had been able to force Meyer to concede that this example offers an instance of a protein developing a novel function, since tubulin is involved in many other activities besides cell division.

Immediately after this seminar, the two sides (Johnson, Meyer and Minnick vs the Biology Department 4 plus Dean Howard Stein) sat down to chat over coffee and brownies. After 2 hours of talking past each other, the only point of agreement we reached concerned the details of how a design-oriented science "freed from the chains of naturalistic blinders" would improve its productivity. After repeatedly being asked the question, Minnick finally admitted that his own scientific strategy would be the same regardless of his taking a Darwinian or anti-Darwinian perspective. Johnson and Meyer also made a guest appearance in an evening science and society "Core" course (a required non-major course), an event that again brought in twice as many off-campus visitors as students.

Finally, Friday brought evolutionist Kenneth Miller to the podium; he presented a whirlwind slide-illustrated talk that touched on 4 basic questions: "Has life remained constant? If not, how has life changed? How long have humans been on earth?" And, "Can you approach such questions by science?"

Miller described 2 ways that creationists attack evolution: First, some say that it's all wrong (the ICR approach). In dealing with the concepts of "young earth" and "flood geology" Miller used some clever tactics, 3 of which I will describe. First, the complete list of radioactive nuclides was examined, revealing that only those elements with a half life of less than 80 million years are present on earth, implying an age much older than 6000 years. Second, given that a young earth explanation for earth's huge sedimentary rock deposits is a global flood that sorted dead animals according to their sinking rates (that is, according to Morris of the ICR, spherical, streamlined objects such as sea urchins sink to the deeper strata), how does one explain the fact that sea urchin fossils are most abundant in the most shallow strata? (After all, sea urchins are not known for their ability to run to higher ground.) Finally, Miller proposed that large Jurassic coprolites (fossilized dinosaur dung) provide a potentially useful test of young earth assumptions, since these assumptions would imply that the remains of "modern" looking mammals such as rabbits might be embedded within the coprolites.

Miller then suggested that the second creationist approach is to turn the tables and describe Darwinian evolution itself as a creation myth and pronounce it to be scientifically invalid, having a flawed methodology and a materialistic bias. This is Phillip Johnson's strategy. Miller challenged the notion that all "types" of creatures were independently created by documenting some striking transitional forms, including some freshwater Mekong River snails, the horse tree (noting that, lacking the context of the tree, the small browser that was once called Eohippus would not be recognized as a horse at all), and the famous rhipidistian lobe-fin fish/amphibian transition. Johnson had written that Darwin himself would have been disappointed if the soft body parts of an ancient amphibian could be examined. In fact, such a fossil has been found, revealing internal fish-like gills unlike those found in modern amphibians. Finally, Miller displayed a set of data showing the gradual, seamless increase in an unidentified organismal trait over time, then revealed the trait: cranial capacity from Australopithecines to species within the genus Homo.

In conclusion, after alluding to recent, cited studies that indicate the actual rate of beneficial mutations in bacteria is sometimes 107 times greater than would be needed to account for the general time course of fossil change, Miller stated his take on Richard Dawkins, the arch-enemy of creationists. Miller (like myself) greatly respects and enjoys Dawkins's thinking on evolution, but criticizes him for his second agenda, actually an extra-scientific conclusion: that the cosmos is necessarily a place of "blind pitiless indifference", devoid of God. According to Miller, Dawkins and the creationists both make the same mistake: they limit God (or the concept of a deity) to a being who must, to use the pool table allusion, hit each ball into the pocket, rather than one that can clear the table with one shot. In other words, to use Miller's phrase, "they think too little of God". Then Miller surprised many in the audience by revealing his Christian, Catholic faith, and his belief that God had enabled a process of evolution that ultimately resulted in an organism, endowed with free will and free choice, that could know and serve God.

The final event was "Homology in Biology: Common Descent or Uncommonly Designed?", a talk on molecular development by Jonathan Wells, who has PhDs in molecular biology and religion. He explored the expression of apparently homologous homeobox genes (master control genes that trigger the expression of many other genes during embryonic development), concluding that since the targets of such genes differ (a mouse gene controls brain formation while the equivalent fly gene influences the head) they cannot be used as evidence for common descent. As a parting shot, I asked him how he interpreted the interchangeable nature of two homeobox genes that control eye development: eyeless in fruit flies and pax-6 in mice. Wells, predictably, gave no ground; he saw no evidence of common descent in this admittedly remarkable experiment.

Despite my fear that students would be misled and confused by Johnson and the lopsided schedule of the week, it appeared that at least some students were offended by the skewed approach. The high point of the week was an informal Q and A session between Miller and an overflow classroom on Friday afternoon. The questions were respectful but bold and sincere; the answers were presented both eloquently and compassionately. Fortunately, Miller was able to describe the recent whale transitional discoveries (assisted, ironically, by an overhead transparency provided by a creationist speaker, since the room was too bright for Miller's whale slides) and elaborate on how he personally manages the perilous balance of faith and science. I could not have imagined a better, more effective person than Miller to represent evolution on the Whitworth campus; students responded with great appreciation of him, and at least he got the last word.

Still, Creation Week may have done more harm then good, in that it suggested to the local news media that Whitworth is a refuge for anti-evolutionary ideologues. Such a reputation, in my opinion, is not in consonance with the college motto: "An education of the heart and mind" and may ultimately cost the Biology Department its best recruitment prospects, be they students or staff.

Meyer has undoubtedly benefited personally from being perceived in the eyes of certain creationist patrons (including a benefactor of Whitworth College) as a leader who courageously spearheaded a confrontation with his Darwinian opponents. As a result the forum increased the visibility and credibility of the ID movement in the minds of some undecided students. This is in keeping with Meyer's directorship of the "Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture". CRSC is a part of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, a right-wing think tank, and seeks the "overthrow of materialism" - that philosophy of "Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud" that "undermined personal responsibility", portrayed humans as "animals or machines", and "spawned a virulent strain of utopianism" and "coercive government programs" (). Clearly, Meyer's intelligent design agenda appears to be just a tip of a much larger iceberg.

About the Author(s): 
Dean M Jacobson
Assistant Professor of Biology
Whitworth College
Spokane WA 99251
djacobson@whitworth.edu

NCSE Members Receive 'Friend of Darwin' Awards

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
NCSE Members Receive 'Friend of Darwin' Awards
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1999
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
8–9
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

In 1994, NCSE established two special awards: the "Huxley Award" for contributions to evolution education was named after Thomas H. Huxley, who advocated public education as ardently as he supported the theory of evolution; the "Friend of Darwin" award honors NCSE members for outstanding effort to support NCSE and its goals. NCSE's Board of Directors recognized four "Friends of Darwin" in 1998: Barbara Forrest (see RNCSE 17:6[31]), Jere Lipps, Betty McCollister, and Richard Trott.

Jere Lipps, Professor of Integrative Biology and past Director of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley, is always on the alert for ways to improve the public understanding of science. Under his direction the Museum he directs grew not only as a leading research institution, but as a leader in outreach to science teachers and the public. For example, in 1991, when the Blackhawk Quarry site was donated to the Museum, Lipps helped create a "community project" in which people from the San Francisco Bay Area could participate in the excavation of specimens. The Museum regularly conducts teacher workshops and lecture series for the surrounding community, and has created a World Wide Web site that is a fine resource for teaching about evolution.

Lipps also works hard to assure that the media accurately present science, especially evolution. Among his many activities in this area, he works with the Council for Media Integrity to encourage accountability among both news and entertainment broadcasters, and serves on the Paleontological Society's panel of consultants who make themselves available to provide reporters with background information on paleontology.

Betty McCollister was actively defending evolution education even before the founding of NCSE. Long-time members will recall that NCSE was founded as an umbrella organization by autonomous "Committees of Correspondence" working to oppose antievolution legislation in a number of states. McCollister was a member of the Iowa Committee of Correspondence, serving as President in 1988. At that time she was in the midst of a 3 year effort to collect and edit position statements by educational, scientific, and religious organizations supporting evolution education; thanks to her, a major accomplishment of NCSE's first year was the publication of the first edition of Voices for Evolution.

No task has been too grand or too tedious for Betty, who has participated in countless panel discussions of evolution and evolution-creation controversies, and written on the topic for a variety of publications including USA Weekend and her regular column in the Des Moines Register. In her years as a contributing editor of NCSE Reports, Creation/Evolution, and Reports of NCSE, she has spent hundreds of hours of painstaking proof-reading, and offered countless thoughtful suggestions, conscientiously representing the viewpoint of non-technical readers.

Richard Trott is one of those VIPs who works tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the show goes on. While he has contributed articles to NCSE publications and the Talk.Origins FAQ (http://www.talkorigins.org), he has never hesitated to share informally information he has gained from his research in creationist literature and his attendance at creationist lectures. Like Betty McCollister, Trott has devoted countless hours to proofreading NCSE Reports and Creation/Evolution, the predecessors of Reports of NCSE. (When you heard him exclaim, "Bring on the intravenous coffee!" you knew another issue would appear soon.) A computer scientist, Rich has also helped bring the defense of evolution to cyberspace, taking an active role in organizing the information collected at the Talk.Origins FAQ.

Still an undergraduate at Rutgers University when he joined NCSE, Trott recently moved to California and had hardly arrived when he visited NCSE's office looking for ways to help. He has donated hardware, software, and programming expertise so that we could add Macintosh computers to our office equipment, adding to our flexibility and improving our ability to work with graphic designers and printers on producing Reports of NCSE and other printed materials.

As NCSE Executive Director Eugenie C Scott has said, "NCSE depends heavily on its members for so much of the important work we do that the hard work and imagination contributed by Friends of Darwin are indispensable. This award is just a small part of our thanks."

Textbook Authors Join NCSE in Defending Evolution Education

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Textbook Authors Join NCSE in Defending Evolution Education
Author(s): 
Eugenie C Scott
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1999
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
9–10
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On March 26, 1999, NCSE released a statement by 23 authors of science textbooks at a press conference held at the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). These authors were responding to numerous incidents over the years, in which state or local school districts have censored or disclaimed evolution in textbooks or have decided not to adopt textbooks that included "too much" evolution (see for example, NCSE Reports 15[4]:10-11, 16[2]:1, 9, 16[3]:9, 16[3]:16, RNCSE 17[1]:5, 17[3]:8).

Below are NCSE Executive Director Eugenie C Scott's remarks at the conference, outlining the recent history of censorship of evolution in textbooks and describing the circumstances leading to issuance of the statement. The complete text of the statement and a list of its signers are on page 11.

Evolution has been under attack for several decades now. Neither the Scopes trial nor the Supreme Court anti-"equal time" law decision of 1987 has ended the assault on evolution in the classroom. Just as the Scopes Trial was precipitated by John Scopes' using a textbook to teach evolution, so today are textbooks still under attack for including an idea considered basic to modern science.

The attack upon evolution in textbooks has waxed and waned over time. After the Scopes trial, textbooks that included evolution tended not to be adopted and the subject was quietly excised from textbooks until, by 1930, it had virtually disappeared. It was brought back into textbooks during the mid-to-late 1960s as commercial publishers, inspired by the National Science Foundation-sponsored Biological Sciences Curriculum Study textbooks, began to include evolution again. By the mid-to-late 1970s commercial publishers found themselves again under pressure to drop or downplay evolution in textbooks, and many of them, once again, bowed to market pressure. Over 24 states had legislation introduced to require "equal time" for "creation science", and two states passed such legislation in the late 1970s.

Another anti-evolutionary pressure came from the state of Texas, which required that any book mentioning evolution contain a disclaimer to the effect that evolution was "theory only" — though cell theory, germ theory, and other theories were not so disclaimed. Evolution again began to become scarce in textbooks, or publishers would disclaim evolution as they did no other scientific theory with phrases like, "some scientists believe...". The age of the earth was downplayed in many books, with "long ago" and such euphemisms replacing previous, more specific statements about "millions of years ago".

Scientists and teachers protested this development, and in fact, in the late 1980s the state of California rejected all junior high life science books — because they didn't contain evolution. Simultaneously, Texas revised its directive to publishers and required that evolution be included in both geology and biology books. Publishers responded to these market forces by bringing evolution back into textbooks, and by 1995, when Texas next adopted textbooks, NCSE could honestly proclaim that "evolution is back in textbooks".

Those of us familiar with this controversy realize, however, that one cannot ever assume that the victory for sound education has been won. It is the case today that, even though the advisory National Science Education Standards and all state standards require that evolution be taught, there still exists considerable pressure on textbook publishers to downplay or disclaim evolution.

NCSE's records over the past couple of years show that textbooks are being rejected at the local level because they have "too much evolution". In another example, a school district asked the publishers of an elementary school book to remove a chapter discussing the evolution of the solar system. The superintendent of one district even glued together the pages of a textbook because it covered only the Big Bang, and didn't give equal time to Genesis; and in 1996, the state of Alabama required a disclaimer be pasted into the front of all biology books. This disclaimer presented erroneous information about evolution and also made the ubiquitous statement about evolution being "only a theory". This disclaimer in one form or another has metastasized into textbooks in several school districts, and was introduced (fortunately, unsuccessfully) as legislation in the state of Washington.

Last summer, a religious right organization sent to all school districts in Texas an analysis ranking biology textbooks according to how much or how little evolution they contained — and recommending the books with the least evolution be adopted.

Scientists dislike this trend; teachers dislike this trend; and textbook authors — who are teachers and scientists — dislike this trend. To publicize recent attacks on evolution in textbooks, NCSE coordinated an effort to have the authors of all the best-selling biology textbooks join in a statement condemning disclaimers and other efforts to downplay or diminish the coverage of evolution in textbooks. These authors are university scientists and master teachers. They have all made a point of emphasizing the importance of evolution in their books, and you can bet none of them wanted their books on a "soft on evolution" list!

The books these authors have written have been published by the largest textbook publishers in the country, including

Addison-Wesley
Benjamin Cummings
DC Heath
Garland
Glencoe
Holt, Rinehart
Kendall/Hunt
Prentice Hall
Southwestern
Worth

The textbook publication business is highly competitive. These authors and their publishers compete vigorously to write the most up-to-date and interesting books, and they compete for the highest sales, but when it comes to the importance of evolution in science education, they agree; and when it comes to defending good science from sectarian attacks, they cooperate.

This afternoon, we have several of these scholars and teachers here. I want to introduce some of these authors to you, and then we'll take questions.

[Note: Besides introducing several textbook authors, Scott distributed an information packet containing position statements by the National Science Teachers Association and the National Association of Biology Teachers. These have been reprinted in NCSE's book Voices for Evolution.
NCSE wishes to thank Richard Goldin for his extensive help with the Textbook Authors' Project.
]

Creationism in Schoolbooks

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Creationism in Schoolbooks: Where Do We Stand Now?
Author(s): 
William J Bennetta
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1999
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
16, 21–22
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
[Editor's note: A colleague recently asked Bill Bennetta for an update on the influence of creationism on schoolbooks. He sent a copy of his reply to us at NCSE, and we invited him to revise it for our readers. Bill is the editor and publisher of The Textbook Letter, and can be reached at textbook@earthlink.net.]

Let's start by reviewing some history. During the 1970s and 1980s, most of the high-school biology texts and middle-school life-science texts printed in this country offered a mangled form of "biology" that reflected decades of pressure from certain religious fundamentalist groups. Some publishers - for example, Addison-Wesley, DC Heath and Company, the Macmillan Publishing Company, and Holt, Rinehart and Winston - issued books that concealed the fact that modern biology is a coherent science unified by the central concept of organic evolution. The books said nothing of evolution or the history of life on Earth, or they buried those topics under mounds of details. If one looked for certain terms or concepts in evolution, they could often be found in glossaries, or "mentioned" in the text; so the publishers could claim that the topics were "covered". However, they gave no sense of the importance of evolution, and the entire topic could be easily avoided. This was convenient for school districts that preferred not to treat evolution, and for publishers that preferred not to publish alternate editions of the same coursebook.

In many cases, the schoolbook-writers went out of their way to teach students that scientific statements about the history of life were nothing more than speculations. For example, Heath Life Science (1984) depicted the ancient dinosaurs as mere figments in which "some scientists believe", and Scott, Foresman Life Science (1987) taught that no one knew whether ichthyosaurs and pterosaurs had really existed.

Some writers made vague allusions to evolution while replacing the word evolution with false synonyms, such as "development" (a completely different biological discipline) or "natural selection" (a mechanism of evolution) or even "environmental change" (which one normally associates with weather and climate). Others mentioned evolution by name, but they presented it as an eccentric "theory" left over from the 19th century which had no modern significance. They also taught that the word theory merely meant a belief, and they urged students to learn about "other theories" pertaining to the origins of organisms. The phrase "other theories" was, of course, a code-word for Bible stories. This led directly to the "two-model" approach of creation and evolution advanced in school districts by many creationists of the 1970s and 1980s.

Other school-book authors - such as certain contributors to Laidlaw's Experiences in Biology (1981) or Holt, Rinehart and Winston's Holt Science series (1986) - went even further. They rejected evolution entirely. They didn't mention the word, they didn't refer to the concept, and so they effectively excluded the biology of the 20th century.

In the late 1980s, however, the major schoolbook-publishers sensed a demand for biology textbooks and life-science textbooks that would present some real science. Since then, they have undertaken - with greater or lesser success - to produce lots of new books that include conspicuous passages about evolution and the evolutionary histories of important lineages. Some of today's biology books even tell students explicitly that evolution is biology's central organizing concept.

Against that background let us consider the situation that prevails today. It has three major aspects:

1. evolutionary content
2. contemporary evolutionary concepts
3. resistance to evolutionary ideas.

Evolutionary Content

If we look at the content of current books, we see that creationist influence has almost disappeared. Exceptions occur in Addison-Wesley Biology and the two Science Probe books issued by South-Western Educational Publishing. I described the case of Addison-Wesley Biology in The Textbook Letter, January-February 1997:
There are scientific theories, and there are "other theories". Scientific theories are explanatory principles that have been tested and confirmed. Each scientific theory is a structure of ideas, confirmed by preponderant evidence.... [It] explains a body of observations and thus explains some aspect of nature.

The "other theories" are Bible stories. The expression "other theories" is one of the [euphemisms] that creationists employ when they try to promote the teaching of biblical myths in science classes. They use it in lines like these: "If students learn about the evolution theory, they have to learn about other theories too," or "If schools don't teach other theories about the universe, they shouldn't teach any theories at all."

...Addison-Wesley Biology [is] a book that Addison-Wesley sells for use in high schools. In both the original version (1994) and the later version (1996), evolutionary biology is introduced in chapter 13. And in both versions, the material at the end of chapter 13 includes this "portfolio" exercise:
There are opponents to the scientific theory of evolution. Conduct library research on the various beliefs and on the evidence for other theories about the origin of life.
For sheer frugality, that's hard to beat. In a single short item, doubtless based on some creationist handout, the Addison-Wesley writers have done 3 of the creationists' favorite routines. They have conflated theories with mere "beliefs", as if those were equivalent. They have promoted one of the creationists' baffle-phrases - "other theories". And in keeping with the creationists' established practice, they have falsely equated "evolution" with "the origin of life".
In the Science Probe books: the writers do not acknowledge any modern interpretation of the fossil record or any genealogical connections among the organisms of different periods. One could easily gain the impression that each period's "characteristic collection of life forms" originated de novo. You may find interesting the reviews on The Textbook League's Web site.

At this point, the Addison-Wesley Biology and the Science Probe books are exceptions. The rule nowadays is that high-school biology books and middle-school life-science books are full of references to evolution, often accompanied by phylogenetic diagrams and other illustrations that purport to reflect information about evolution.

Contemporary Evolutionary Concepts

These books contain information about evolution - so far, so good. But the evolutionary "information" that the books provide is often bogus. It has been hurriedly cobbled together by writers who don't understand what they are trying to write about, and it is often erroneous, incomprehensible, and self-contradictory.

Some of the books are utterly bizarre: They are full of alleged "information" about evolution, yet they resolutely cling to the old practice of viewing the living world in terms of the pre-Darwinian, metaphysical notion of "nature's ladder". The writers are confused about basic concepts such as homology, convergence, and common ancestry. They know little about the physiology and metabolism of living organisms or about their evolution, so they often guess, and guess incorrectly. They think that all scientific methods are experimental, and that the history of life is a ladder toward increasing perfection.

Resistance to Evolutionary Ideas

Regardless of whether the information is right or wrong, books loaded with information about evolution pose a real problem for state agencies or local school boards that are controlled by creationists. So the creationists have counterattacked with ... stickers! That's right - stickers that are pasted into schoolbooks to tell the students that evolution is just a flimsy "theory" and that it shouldn't be taken seriously. An example is Alabama's disclaimer:
"This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants, animals and humans.

"No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact.

"The word "evolution" may refer to many types of change. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species. (White moths, for example, may "evolve" into gray moths.) This process is microevolution, which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing to another, such as reptiles into birds. This process, called macroevolution, has never been observed and should be considered a theory. Evolution also refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things."

Mixed Success

So it appears that there are some gains to celebrate. Nearly all textbooks now attempt a straightforward treatment of evolution, and few attempt to avoid or hide it completely. On the other hand, because most of the textbook writers have not been adequately trained in evolutionary biology (and frequently not in other aspects of biology either), they misunderstand both the basic principles of evolution and the relationship of evolution to other fields of life and earth science. It will probably require another generation of textbooks - assuming that the industry actively solicits the contributions of scientists who are strongly trained in the field - to bring the treatment of this discipline up to some approximation of our present understanding of evolution. However, if educators (and citizens) demand such improvements, they will probably be made sooner.

Just What Do They Say, Dr Morris?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Just What Do They Say, Dr Morris?
Author(s): 
Troy Britain
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
1
Year: 
1999
Date: 
January–February
Page(s): 
22–23
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The March 1999 edition of Back to Genesis, written as usual by the President Emeritus of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), Henry Morris, was titled "What They Say". As we have come to expect from such a title, it was yet another example of a creationist bashing evolutionists with their own words. Knowing that quotes of mainstream scientists given by creationists are not always exactly what they appear to be, I read the article with a wary eye. My skepticism was vindicated when I happened upon the following:
There are no evolutionary transitions fossilized anywhere, although billions of fossils are there still preserved in the rocks.

"One of the outstanding problems in large-scale evolution has been the origin of major taxa, such as the tetrapods, birds, and whales, that had appeared too suddenly, without any obvious answers, over a comparatively short period of time."

Professor Carroll, an eminent Canadian paleontologist, is well aware of such highly publicized fossils as Archaeopteryx (the alleged half-reptile, half-bird) and the so-called walking whale, but he still has to acknowledge that birds and whales arose suddenly without obvious ancestors(Morris 1999: b).
What first made me suspicious about this was the past tense of the sentence ("had appeared") which Morris quoted. Second, I knew that the implication Morris was gleaning from the quote simply wasn't true, and given my understanding that Robert Carroll is a competent paleontologist, I suspected something might be wrong. So I went to look up the context. The text selected by Morris for quotation is indicated in italics.
Is macroevolution conceptually different than microevolution? The main driving forces are the same as at the species level: population growth, genetic variation, and behavioral plasticity. At both time scales, external factors of the biological and physical environment control the rate, scope, and direction of change.

One of the outstanding problems in large-scale evolution has been the origin of major taxa, such as the tetrapods, birds, and whales, that had appeared to rise suddenly, without any obvious answers, over a comparatively short period of time. Increased knowledge of the fossil record has greatly increased our understanding of these and other transitions, and show that they do not necessarily require processes that differ from those known to occur at much lower taxonomic levels. To Simpson and others of his generation, higher categories were recognized by a combination of factors: morphological and adaptive distinction, a significant number of included taxa, and appreciable longevity. From examples considered in this text, it can be seen that adaptive change, morphological change, and radiation can be decoupled in that each may occur at a different time. We now see that the overall rate of evolution is not greatly faster during the origin of a group than it is within the ancestral or the descendant lineages, and with the discovery of intermediate forms, we see that they are not necessarily any more poorly represented in the fossil record than single lineages might be at other stages of evolution (Carroll 19997: 391).
So not only does the very next sentence in the paragraph contradict Morris's implication but a few sentences later Carroll specifically refers to the existence of intermediate forms and explicitly states that the evolution of higher taxa did not occur at a different rate than that of groups at lower taxonomic levels. Even if one were to disagree with Carroll about the facts of the matter it is clear from the context that Carroll is saying the very opposite of what Morris implied he was saying.

But what about being more specific? For example Morris refers specifically to Archaeopteryx and the evolution of birds. What does Carroll say about avian origins in the very book that Morris is quoting from above?
Despite the enormous gap in anatomy, physiology, and way of life between modern birds and the other long-recognized vertebrate classes, the fossil record provided singularly informative evidence of the origin of birds long before we understood the ancestry of tetrapods, amniotes, or mammals. Historically, the question of the origin of birds has concentrated on a single genus, Archaeopteryx from the Upper Jurassic, which appears as an almost ideal intermediate between "reptiles" (specifically dinosaurs) and birds....until recently little was known of either the ancestry of Archaeopteryx or of animals intermediate between this genus and essentially modern birds of the later Mesozoic. Within the past twenty years, a host of new discoveries have begun to fill both these gaps, outlining the accumulative evolution of avian characters over a period that spans approximately 40 million years, from the obligatory terrestrial dinosaurs to an essentially modern avian anatomy(Carroll 1997: 306-7)
And what about whales, which Morris also takes great pains to emphasize as a problem Carroll must admit to?
The transition between mesonychids and primitive but obligatorily aquatic whales is represented by a sequence of intermediate animals from the upper portion of the lower Eocene and the lower half of the middle Eocene of Pakistan, continuing into the later middle and upper Eocene of Egypt and southeastern United States (Fig. 12.20). This sequence extends over a period of 10-12 million years, beginning with riverine sediments, including primarily fossils of terrestrial mammals, through shallow coastal marine, to deep neritic deposits at the edge of the continental shelf. Several genera are recognized, showing the progressive reduction in the size of the appendicular skeleton, freeing the tail for aquatic locomotion, and a succession of modifications in the structure of the middle ear (Carroll 1997: 330).
Morris concludes his article saying, "most everything they [evolutionists] say...seems potentially something that can be used against them" (Morris 1999:c). Well, I suppose if one is willing to rip a scientist's words completely out of context and twist them to imply the exact opposite of their original intent, then Morris might be correct.

There is a further irony in that Morris includes a footnote to the above statement, which refers his readers to his recent book That Their Words May Be Used Against Them (1997). There, he says, one may find further quotes of the same nature almost (3000 of them) as those found in this article (Morris 1997: c). Considering the way in which the quoted sections misrepresent the intent of the works Morris cites, we would have to ask of what use such a tome would be to the serious seeker of knowledge.

References

Carroll RL, Pattern and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution. New York: Cambridge U Press; 1997.

Morris HM, Back To Genesis 1999; 3:b-c.

About the Author(s): 
Troy Britain
TroyBritain@compuserve.com

RNCSE 19 (2)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1999
Date: 
March–April
Articles available online are listed below.

Texas Board of Education Honors Mel and Norma Gabler

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Texas Board of Education Honors Mel and Norma Gabler
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1999
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
6–7
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On May 7, the Texas Board of Education passed a resolution to "honor and commend Mel and Norma Gabler of Longview, Texas for 38 years of sacrificial service, both in textbook review and in the textbook adoption process...."

Long time members of NCSE are familiar with the Gablers, whose Texas-based organization Educational Research Analysts (ERA) has for nearly 40 years been a major influence on textbook adoptions in Texas (see for example RNCSE 11[3]:1,5). They have regularly appeared before the State Board of Education, offering the "conservative, Christian perspective" on content standards and textbook selections for every subject in the K-12 curriculum. Their lobbying activities have influenced other states as well: first, because other organizations - such as the Eagle Forum - rely on their textbook analyses; and second, because Texas is one of the nation's largest textbook purchasers, so Texas standards affect the content of textbooks that will be used in other states.

The Gablers have consistently opposed evolution. For example, in 1991, when Texas Proclamation 66 required evolution as a major theme in biology texts, pressure from the Gablers and other anti-evolutionists led to a lastminute revision calling for inclusion of "scientific evidence of evolution and other reliable scientific theories, if any" (RNCSE 10[6]:10). In 1998, ERA rated textbooks according to how much they "harp on" evolution (RNCSE 19[1]:10). In a section of their website titled "God-given victories", they claim credit for a drop in sales of the book which had received their lowest rating. To see this web page, go to , click on "God-given Victories!", see subhead "credibility with classroom teachers". The same document claims credit for "detection of subtle subversion" in social studies texts.

Given the Gablers' long history of activism and their notoriety in their home state, a public comment about them by even one member of the board of education is a significant statement about the political climate and future educational policy. The May 7 resolution honoring the Gablers is not a good sign. Though the resolution does not refer directly to science education, it notes that "textbook decisions made in Texas greatly affect textbook selections elsewhere..." and praises the Gablers for "critiqu[ing] textbooks and ... alert[ing] parents... concerning textbook errors, omissions, contradictions, and detours...". Since the Gablers have frequently claimed that evolution is erroneous, there is a real question whether the hard-fought battle to include evolution in Texas standards and textbooks, won in 1997, would have ended differently if it had taken place after the 1998 elections. Certainly we will need to be alert for attempts to introduce new antievolution policies.

Trivializing Creationist Scholarship

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Trivializing Creationist Scholarship: A Reply to Dr Wilfred Elders
Author(s): 
Steven A Austin and Wilfred Elders
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1999
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
11–19
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

[In the Jul/Aug 1998 issue of RNCSE Wilfred Elders wrote an extended review essay based on the ideas about the Grand Canyon found in Steven Austin's book, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. In this issue, Austin responds to that review with the following critique. Elders replies below.]

Wilfred Elders' article "Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon" (RNCSE 1998; 18[4]: 8-15) is an 8-page review of my book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe (Austin 1994). This article is the most extensive critical review of Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe to appear in print. "There is perhaps no better place in all the world to appreciate the grandeur of geologic time...," writes Elders (1998: 8), "However, bibliolatry has come to the Grand Canyon." The accusation of "bibliolatry" might suggest a theological discussion of biblical literalism. However, Elders admits that literalism is not the book's thrust. "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 re-interpretations are buttressed by some original creationist research" (Elders 1998:14).

Most unusual is the fact that Elders' book review also promotes the National Center for Science Education's "Creation/Evolution Grand Canyon Raft Trip" scheduled for August 7-14, 1999. The stated purpose of the upcoming raft trip is to rebut the "young-earth creationist" view of Grand Canyon offered by the Institute for Creation Research and promote "critical thinking" (Scott 1998). My response to Elders' book review is directed at helping the NCSE develop a better understanding and appreciation of creationist materials, especially creationist research, so that the upcoming raft trip in August 1999 can better characterize creationist research and interpretations at Grand Canyon. Elders (1998:9) writes, "Austin 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 most pointed criticism from Elders is directed at creationist research (3 pages of the 8-page review). Elders (1998:12) writes, "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."

After Elders assesses the quantity of creationist research, he goes on to trivialize creationist research with what I believe to be the most objectionable statement of the book review. He writes: "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 willful misinterpretation of radiometric dates based on five Rb/Sr isotopic ratios scarcely constitute a deluge of new compelling evidence for the flood of Noah." I will respond by noting severe scholarship problems with Elders' assessment of both the quantity and quality of creationist research at Grand Canyon.

Quantity Of Creationist Research

What can be said about Elders' assessment of the quantity of creationist research? I was able to find not just 5 creationist research projects described in Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe, as asserted by Elders, but at least 8 (I define a research project as involving scientific process of "observation, measuring, interpreting and reporting"). In addition to the 5 examples Elders noticed, I would give "full credit" to a student who offered:

(6) Survey of boulder beds at the base of the Tapeats Sandstone. Austin (1994:47,55) cites and summarizes field work by Arthur V Chadwick (1978), a noteworthy creationist, on the size of boulders and topographic relief within sedimentary deposits just above the Great Unconformity in Grand Canyon. Chadwick (1978) does not mention Grand Canyon in the title of his paper, but anyone consulting this paper would immediately recognize observation, measuring, interpreting, and reporting within a field project concerning the Tapeats Sandstone of Grand Canyon. Obviously, Elders has not read this cited work, and he remains uninformed of the ongoing work by creationists Kennedy, Kablanow, and Chadwick (1996).

(7) Remote sensing search for ancient shorelines. Austin (1994:93,109,110) summarizes research of Edmond W Holroyd, III on ancient shorelines of lakes in the eastern Grand Canyon and central Colorado Plateau. These lakes could have drained catastrophically through the Kaibab and Coconino Plateaus causing significant erosion in Grand Canyon. The cited works of Holroyd (1987, 1990), which are followed by further publication in Holroyd (1994), would satisfy academic standards of research. Elders missed Hoylroyd's significant work even though it is both cited and pictured (Austin 1994:93).

(8) Review of ancient alluvial deposits and erosional features as evidence of the possible path of the ancestral Colorado River. The supposed ancient path of the Colorado River continues to be researched by Emmett Williams and John Meyer, as well as by their creationist coworkers. Austin (1994:109) cited the summary of this work (Williams, Meyer, and Wolfrom 1992a) which is part of a continuing stream of publications (Williams, Meyer, and Wolfrom 1991, 1992a, 1992b; Williams, Goette, and Meyer 1997) containing significant field data and interpretations on the geomorphology of Grand Canyon and vicinity. Elders is oblivious to this work. Is Elders even aware that Meyer and the Creation Research Society have established the "Grand Canyon Experiment Station" in Chino Valley, Arizona? Not a hint is found in his review.

I come back to Elders' research quantity statement, "A careful reading of MTC reveals that the author of this question expects students to be diligent. ..." Is Elders' word "diligent" appropriate for describing his own pursuit of creationist research within the book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe? The word "cursory" seems more appropriate. Only 5 of 28 references are to creationist works beyond the book reviewed. Each of the 5 creationist references cited by Elders had already been cited by Austin. A watchful teacher grading a student's review paper might ask if the student is truly familiar with the sources he has referenced. Had Elders been familiar with these and other creationist sources, he would not have made his noteworthy error of severely minimizing the quantity of creationist research at Grand Canyon.

Quality Of Creationist Research

What can be said about Elders' evaluation of the quality of creationist research in Grand Canyon? Elders is extremely critical in overview, but he is generally nonresponsive to the details. I will give 4 examples of trivializing and nonresponsiveness in the following paragraphs.

What, for example, is Elders' interpretation of the large, abundant, straight-shelled cephalopod fossils called "nautiloids" at Nautiloid Canyon on the Colorado River. How does Elders' interpretation differ from that of a creationist? He criticizes the creationist summary in Austin (1994:27), assuming that only 12 orientations of nautiloids were measured. However, his supposition of only 12 measurements is a big mistake. Another source unknown to Elders reports 71 orientations of nautiloids measured at Nautiloid Canyon (Austin and Wise 1995). Whatever evaluation one may have of the quantity of research and measurements at Nautiloid Canyon, an interpretation of the deposit needs to be offered to the student investigating the creation/evolution issue. Data indicate a sedimentary catastrophe and a nautiloid mass-kill event (Austin and Wise 1995). A critic of quality should portray previous work correctly and promote a better standard.

How does Elders respond to research by creationists concerning the effectiveness of Grand Canyon as a geographic barrier for the distribution of small mammals? Elders (1998:12,14) cites only the study of John R Meyer (1985) on 94 museum specimens of tassel-eared squirrels. This research (publication year cited incorrectly by Elders) was reported in Austin (1994:174-8). The statement, "Animal distribution within Grand Canyon continues to be an important part of creationist studies" (Austin 1994:174) should have alerted Elders to consult the associated reference to further work of Meyer (Meyer and Howe 1988). In their detailed report attempting to quantify the effectiveness of the geographic barrier using field observations at Shiva Temple, Meyer and Howe (1988) record field measurements of air and soil temperature, relative humidity, and plant distributions from a very remote area of the North Rim of Grand Canyon. Elders conveniently overlooks 2 years of field studies by Meyer and Howe, and, instead, implies that the research on geographic isolation concerns only observations on 94 squirrel skins from a museum.

How does Elders respond to peer-reviewed publications by creationist Leonard Brand? Brand's work supports submerged conditions for deposition of the Coconino Sandstone. Elders is strongly opposed in overview to the idea of subaqueous deposition of the Coconino, favoring instead the popular desert environmental model. However, he does not answer the specific evidence cited for the subaqueous model noted by Brand (1978, 1979, 1992, 1996) and Brand and Tang (1991) on the characteristics of fossil footprints as evidence of underwater deposition. He has not responded to the sedimentological argument for water developed by Glen S Visher (Visher and Howard 1974; Freeman and Visher 1975; Visher 1990) as summarized in Austin (1994:32).

Suppose a participant in the NCSE raft trip notices a fossil vertebrate trackway in the Coconino Sandstone (not an uncommon find for Grand Canyon rafters). Also, suppose our hypothetical NCSE participant uses "critical thinking" skills and notices significant dissimilarities between the Coconino vertebrate trackway and a vertebrate trackway from a modern dune above the bank of the Colorado River. Dunes with vertebrate trackways are observed on occasion above the bank of the Colorado River, and these are significantly different than the Coconino examples (see Brand 1996). Then, suppose our participant asks Elders to explain the similarity of the discovered Coconino trackway to trackways made underwater in the fashion of the research conducted by Brand. Is Elders going to respond that the subaqueous idea is unthinkable because somebody once found an extremely rare trackway in the Coconino Sandstone that they proved was made by a scorpion (Elders 1998:13)? Is he going to respond that the trackway makers have been proven to be extinct desert-dwelling reptiles or mammal-like reptiles, but definitely not extinct water-dwelling reptiles or mammal-like reptiles (Elders 1998:13)? If Elders responds in such a fashion to a rafter's discovered Coconino trackway and its relation to a modern trackway, would that be an adequate and scholarly response? Is not the proper response to deal with the interpretation of the empirical evidence at hand? Even the published responses to Brand's work acknowledge the adequacy of Brand's observations. For example, Loope (1992) wrote: "Although I strongly disagree with Brand and Tang's conclusion, I find their experimental approach very useful, and hope to incorporate it in the testing of my own hypothesis." This may explain why the research of Brand (a noteworthy creationist) has withstood scholarly peer-review from 3 evolutionary science journals. Why should Brand's work be dismissed or trivialized outright by Elders?

Elders' review is longest in his response to the critique of radioisotope dating given in Austin (1994:111-31). I suspect that radioisotopes get special consideration because of his position statement concerning Grand Canyon, "There is perhaps no better place in all the world to appreciate the grandeur of geologic time" (Elders 1998:8). If Elders is correct, radioisotope ages of Grand Canyon should be well verified and especially evident to people employing "critical thinking." He is greatly concerned that creationist researchers have performed only 5 rubidium-strontium isotope analyses on Grand Canyon rocks. However, Austin (1992) reports measurements of other radioisotope ratios in Grand Canyon rocks. The work of Austin (1992) is cited in Austin (1994:128, 131) and should not have escaped Elders' "diligent" attention.

Suppose, for example, the NCSE raft trip stops at the extraordinary exposures of Cardenas Basalt (upper Precambrian) at Tanner Rapids. It is the first igneous formation encountered on the raft trip and would naturally come to the attention of the NCSE group. How would Elders respond to the simple question, "Do the different radioisotope methods give concordant ages for Cardenas Basalt?" Would he reply, "In other locations there are tens of thousands of radiometric dates which are consistent with the relative stratigraphic position of the rocks dated" (Elders 1998:13)? Such a response would be incomplete. Scholarship dictates that he summarizes the radioisotope data that is known for Cardenas Basalt.

The publication of Austin and Snelling (1998) concerns the discordance between rubidium-strontium and potassium-argon isochron techniques applied to the Cardenas Basalt and diabase sills within the Precambrian of Grand Canyon. Why are K/Ar "ages" much younger than the accepted Rb/Sr "age" for Cardenas Basalt and diabase sills? Discordance of dates had been previously noted by Austin (1994:120-2) as well as by other researchers. Austin and Snelling (1998) report 13 new K/Ar analyses from Grand Canyon, essentially doubling the number of published K/Ar analyses within the Precambrian of Grand Canyon. Elders can trivialize this creationist work, but he must admit that there are data here needing to be explained.

Elders is convinced very strongly that radioisotopes have successfully dated Grand Canyon rocks at millions or even billions of years. Elders (1998:13) cites 2 kinds of ages he accepts: (1) uranium-lead model ages made on crystals of zircon and monazite from the inner gorge of Grand Canyon, and (2) potassium-argon model ages from lava flows from volcanoes on the rim of Grand Canyon. Suppose, for example, the NCSE raft trip examines some of the monazite-bearing rocks that outcrop within the inner gorge of Grand Canyon. Elders might be asked, "Do monazite crystals in Grand Canyon give concordant U/Pb model ages?" The short answer to this question, I believe, is one word: "Rarely." Hawkins and Bowring (1994) studied 65 monazite grains from the inner gorge of Grand Canyon: "In the absence of physical evidence for inheritance, the range of single grain ages remains problematic. However, the discordant behavior can be explained if single monazite grains comprise complex mixtures of domains which have exhibited open system behavior with respect to U, Th, and Pb, including excess 206Pb, during cooling. Concordant analyses of single grains may represent fortuitous mixtures of these domains." This work generally critical of monazite model-age dating was conducted in conjunction with a PhD dissertation (Hawkins 1996).

Lava Falls Rapids, the largest of the rapids within Grand Canyon, is a routine stop for river boatmen. They stop their boats for safety purposes so they can scout the changing configuration of the torrent before running it. Because the NCSE raft trip is likely to stop at Lava Falls Rapids, participants will see firsthand the most imposing display of basalt within Grand Canyon. Geologists call the lowest part of this erosional remnant "Toroweap Lava Dam". Basalt at the rapids spilled into Grand Canyon as multiple flows from the rim. A sample of this basalt from Toroweap Lava Dam gave a potassium-argon "whole-rock" model age of 1.16 ± 0.18 million years (McKee, Hamblin, and Damon 1968). A NCSE rafter employing "critical thinking" would have opportunity to ask, "Is it possible that the K/Ar age obtained for Toroweap Lava Dam is excessively old because radiogenic argon was incorporated into the basalt as it cooled?" This possibility is admitted by McKee, Hamblin, and Damon (1968:135).

At this point Elders might respond that reliable whole rock K/Ar ages have been obtained from many thousands of rocks outside Grand Canyon (for example, Elders 1998:13), but the question has not been answered. Dalrymple and Hamblin (1998) no longer regard the 1.16 million year age as correct, but they believe the Toroweap Lava Dam is significantly younger. Rugg and Austin (1998) reported "excess argon" from 3 mineral concentrates made from the basalt at Lava Falls. At Toroweap Lava Dam, olivine, a mineral known for very low potassium, possesses significant quantity of argon, giving a K/Ar "age" of 20.7 ± 1.3 million years (Rugg and Austin 1998:478). Again, discordance is discovered with evidence of "excess argon." A NCSE rafter who is familiar with these data and is "thinking critically" might ask the ultimate question, "Has the basalt been accurately dated by the K/Ar method?" Data seem to challenge the "zero-original-argon" assumption made by the popular K/Ar dating method.

Conclusion

Elders offers a significantly flawed critique of both the quantity and quality of creationist research at Grand Canyon. He consistently trivializes creationist research, demonstrating significant ignorance of the data and interpretations that creationists have published. Good scholarship requires that he obtain this proficiency. The book Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe reports at least 8 creationist research projects, not just 5 as claimed by Elders. Creationists measured many more than 12 nautiloid fossils at Nautiloid Canyon. Creationist study of Grand Canyon as a geographic barrier to small mammals involves more than study of 94 squirrel skins. Observations of fossil vertebrate trackways by creationists have a prominent place in peer-reviewed literature that cannot be ignored. Creationists have measured many more than 5 radioisotope ratios in Grand Canyon rocks.

Elders needs to come to grips with the fact that creationists have a continuing research program being accomplished at Grand Canyon. Compared to government-subsidized research, creationist research may seem modest. However, that is no reason to trivialize it.

Elders, in his overview, strenuously objects to creationist interpretations of geology at Grand Canyon, but in his specifics, he is reticent to give details. What is his interpretation of Nautiloid Canyon, Grand Canyon's most prominent fossil deposit? How does Elders respond to details concerning the character of fossil vertebrate trackways in the Coconino Sandstone? What is his explanation offered to discordance of ages often encountered in the dating of Grand Canyon rocks? Will Elders gain competence in basic creationist literature? Elders will need to acquire proficiency in responding to questions like these if he is going to play a significant part in the NCSE creation/evolution raft trip this August in Grand Canyon. Participants in the NCSE raft trip will be committing a significant amount of their personal resources to this rafting activity. They should be concerned about getting their money's worth.

References Cited

Austin SA. Isotope and trace element analysis of hypersthene-normative basalts from the Quaternary of Uinkaret Plateau, western Grand Canyon, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1992; 24(6):261.

Austin SA. (editor). Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee (CA): Institute for Creation Research, 1994.

Austin SA, Wise KP. Nautiloid mass-kill event at a hydrothermal mound within the Redwall Limestone (Mississippian), Grand Canyon, Arizona. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1995; 27(6):369.

Austin SA, Snelling AA. Discordant potassium-argon model and isochron "ages" for Cardenas Basalt (Middle Proterozoic) and associated diabase of eastern Grand Canyon, Arizona. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism 1998; 4:35-51.

Brand LR. Footprints in the Grand Canyon. Origins 1978; 5:64-82.

Brand LR. Field and laboratory studies on the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) vertebrate footprints and their paleoecological implications. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 1979; 28:25-38.

Brand LR. Reply (to comments) on "Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin". Geology 1992; 20:668-70.

Brand LR. Variations in salamander trackways resulting from substrate differences. Journal of Paleontology 1996; 70(6):1004-10.

Brand LR, Tang T. Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin. Geology 1991; 19:1201-4.

Chadwick AV. Megabreccias: Evidence for catastrophism. Origins 1978; 5:39-46.

Dalrymple GB, Hamblin WK. K/Ar ages of Pleistocene lava dams in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1998; 95:9744-9.

Elders WA. Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 1998; 18(4):8-15.

Freeman WE, Visher GS. Stratigraphic analysis of the Navajo Sandstone. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 1975; 45:651-68.

Hawkins DP. U/Pb Geochronological Constraints on the Tectonic and Thermal Evolution of Paleoproterozoic Crust in the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Cambridge (MA): Massachusetts Institute of Technology, unpublished doctoral thesis, 1996.

Hawkins DP, Bowring SA. Complex U/Pb systematics of Paleoproterozoic monazite from the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. United States Geological Survey Circular 1994; 1107:131.

Holroyd ER, III. Missing talus. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1987; 24:15-6.

Holroyd ER, III. Missing talus on the Colorado Plateau. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism 1990; 2:115-28.

Holroyd ER, III. A remote sensing search for extinct lake shore lines on the Colorado Plateau. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism 1994; 3:243-54.

Kennedy EG, Kablanow R, Chadwick AV. A reassessment of the shallow water depositional model for the Tapeats Sandstone, Grand Canyon, Arizona: evidence for deep water deposition. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1996; 28(7):407.

Loope DB. Comment on "Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: evidence for underwater origin". Geology 1992; 20:667-8.

McKee ED, Hamblin WK, Damon PE. K/Ar age of lava dam in Grand Canyon. Geological Society of America Bulletin 1968; 79:133-6.

Meyer JR. Origin of the Kaibab Squirrel. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1985; 22:68-78.

Meyer JR, Howe GF. The biological isolation of Shiva Temple. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1988; 24:165-72.

Rugg SH, Austin SA. Evidence for rapid formation and failure of Pleistocene "lava dams" of the western Grand Canyon, Arizona. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism 1998; 4:475-86.

Scott EC. NCSE "Creation/evolution" Grand Canyon trip challenge! Reports of the National Center for Science Education 1998; 18(4):25.

Visher GS. Exploration Stratigraphy. Tulsa (OK): Penn Well Publishing, 2nd ed., 1990.

Visher GS, Howard JD. Dynamic relationship between hydraulics and sedimentation in the Altamaha Estuary. Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 1974; 44:502-21.

Williams EL, Meyer JR, and Wolfrom GW. Erosion of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River part I - review of antecedent river hypothesis and the postulation of large quantities of rapidly flowing water as the primary agent of erosion. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1991; 28:92-8.

Williams EL, Meyer JR, Wolfrom GW. Erosion of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River part II - review of the river capture, piping and ancestral river hypotheses and the possible formation of vast lakes. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1992a; 28:138-45.

Williams EL, Meyer JR, Wolfrom GW. Erosion of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River part III - review of possible formation of basins and lakes on the Colorado Plateau and different climatic conditions in the past. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1992b; 29:18-24.

Williams EL, Goette RL, Meyer JR. Kanab Canyon, Utah and Arizona: origin speculations. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1997; 34(3):162-72.

Author's Address:

Steven A Austin
Chairman, Geology Department
Institute for Creation Research
Santee CA 92071-2833

Wilfred Elders Replies

Creationist Scholarship and the Grand Canyon of Arizona

I thank Dr Steve Austin of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) for his prompt response to my article "Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon" and appreciate this opportunity to reply and extend my remarks about the ICR textbook on the Grand Canyon (Austin 1994). Austin indicates that his aim is to help the NCSE develop a better understanding and appreciation of creationist materials, especially creationist research. Better understanding is sorely needed. However, the outcome may not be what Austin hopes; understanding could lead to less appreciation of creationist research.

Bibliolatry

Austin is concerned that, in using the term "bibliolatry", I accused his book of biblical literalism. It is true that this was the impression I got from reading it. Austin (1994) is replete with quotations from the King James translation of the Christian Bible, and has an index with 131 citations to that version of scripture. It is clear that Austin reads Powell's "rock-leaved bible of geology" in the Grand Canyon through the distorting lenses of biblical literalism. This appears to be a requirement of Austin's position on the faculty of the Institute for Creation Research. For example, consider the edict of Dr Henry M Morris, the founder and President Emeritus of the ICR, who posits, "...the main reason for insisting on the universal flood as a fact of history and as a primary vehicle for geological interpretation is that God's Word plainly teaches it! No geologic difficulties, real or imagined, can be allowed to take precedence over the clear statements and necessary inferences of Scripture" (Morris 1970).

Austin faithfully follows this injunction. For example, Austin (1994:3) states, "If the evidence of Grand Canyon fits with Noah's Flood, why have not the majority of scientists recognized it? The answer to this can be found in II Peter 3:5,6 where we read, 'For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished'. The Bible teaches that people are willingly ignorant - that is, they deliberately reject the evidence." The irony of using theological bibliolatry to justify geological bibliolatry seems to be lost on Austin.

Burden of Proof

Austin's opinion is that, because I have not read all of the publications on creationist research related to the Grand Canyon footnoted in Austin (1994) or published since, I have no right to criticize the quantity and quality of that research. On the count of not having read all that creationist literature, I plead guilty as charged. However, I believe that I have read sufficient of it to conclude that this corpus of work falls far short of proving Austin's assertion that Noah's flood formed all Phanerozoic rocks and that the Grand Canyon formed in the aftermath of that deluge.

Certain important concepts are so well established today that they form the bases from which contemporary science proceeds. Examples that come to mind include the periodic table in chemistry, the expanding universe in astronomy, organic evolution in biology, and the geologic time scale in earth sciences. Those seeking to reject these concepts must document startlingly new and convincing observations or experiments to support their iconoclasm. The ICR textbook on the Grand Canyon, in common with other modern creationist effusions, rejects both organic evolution and the geologic time scale.

Today the reaction of most working geologists to such contemporary biblical literalism ranges from indifference to wry amusement. This is despite the fact that bibliolatry had had a respectable history in the western world for 2 millennia. During most of that time biblical literalists also propounded the concepts of the flat earth and the earth-centered universe. In spite of the fact that the intellectual battles against those ideas were fought and won by Magellan's circumnavigation in 1520-22, the publication of the Copernican System in 1540, and Galileo's observations of the heavens by telescope in 1610, flat-earthers and geocentrists persist even today (Scott 1997).

As readers are aware, the story of Noah's flood has been an important icon in the western world (Cohn 1996). However, by the first half of the 19th century the rise of scientific geology played the death knell of the idea that the earth began only in 4004 BCE and that the next most important event in earth history was the worldwide deluge of Noah (Gillispie 1959). More than a hundred years later, the discarded idea of Noah's flood of old suffered a reincarnation with the publication of The Genesis Flood by Whitcomb and Morris (1964). This "neocreationism" movement attempted to supply a new "scientific" basis for the Noachian flood to justify biblical literalism. Austin (1994) is firmly in that mold. I have only to remind readers of Austin's astounding claim (Austin 1994:147), "[i]t is not clear whether the order of appearance of organisms in Grand Canyon, or anywhere else on earth, for that matter, is necessarily any different than a random order which a flood might produce", to illustrate the biblical blinkers which Austin wears. In one sentence he discounts the whole science of paleontology.

Given the wealth of information available now, the burden of proof is on Austin as he seeks to use the Grand Canyon to re-establish a once-dominant view that has been overturned consistently by an enormous body of scientific evidence during the last two centuries. Today, for creationist publications such as Austin's (1994) to get sufficient attention from mainstream geologists to cause a revolution in their fundamental concepts would require credible documentation of abundant new, dramatic, and multidisciplinary findings and interpretations. Such scientific revolutions do happen, as anyone familiar with the rise of the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s is aware (Hallam 1973).

A Revolution in Science?

Perhaps an even more relevant example, albeit on a lesser scale, of a revolution in geology is one discussed at length in Austin (1994:46, 94, 104-6) - the flood origin of the Channeled Scabland, a large area near Grand Coulee, in eastern Washington state. Geologists now interpret the dramatic erosional features of that region as having been formed during repeated catastrophic draining of a large periglacial lake, Lake Missoula, in Montana, dammed at the front of the continental ice sheet, during the waning stages of the last Ice Age. However, when Bretz originally proposed the idea in 1923, it was met with skepticism by many geologists (see Bretz 1969). Debate continued for 20 or 30 years until the mounting evidence brought forward by Bretz and his colleagues won the day. The history of this controversy is well documented in Baker (1978).

Austin (1994) uses his discussion of Bretz's work to infer that, because flooding due to catastrophic draining of a large lake caused rapid scouring of the Channeled Scabland, similar catastrophic flooding formed the Grand Canyon during the waning stages of Noah's flood. However, as Heaton (1995) pointed out, Austin fails to take note of the radical differences between the geological formations in the Channeled Scablands and the Grand Canyon. Heaton (1995: 35) states, "The narrow inner gorge of the Grand Canyon and its equilibrium tributaries are the antithesis of the broad flood plain, multiple overflow channels, and gigantic 'ripple marks' of the Channeled Scabland. It would be hard to imagine two canyons more geomorphically dissimilar to one another."

There is a major irony here in using the work of my friend and mentor "Doc" Bretz in support of biblical literalism. It was in discussions with him that I first became interested in the neocreationist movement, shortly after the publication of Whitcomb and Morris (1964). Although the controversy over his work on the Channeled Scabland was protracted, Bretz regarded it as a good example of the self-correcting nature of mainstream science. Creationists subscribing to the views of the President Emeritus of the ICR (Morris 1970) cannot correct the Genesis story, no matter what scientific evidence is produced. Had "Doc" survived to see the publication of Austin (1994) I am sure that his comments would have been pithy and devastating to the creationists' misuse of his work.

Creationist Research Publications

Austin's main objection to my article is that I overstate the dearth of such new revolutionary findings by creationists in the Grand Canyon. He alleges that my assessment that the quantity and quality of creationist research at Grand Canyon is poor derives from my unfamiliarity with the literature of creationist geology. I am happy to concede that he knows that literature better than I and am therefore grateful to him for pointing out that Austin (1994) mentions 8 examples of "original creationist research" rather than only the 5 discussed in my review.

Publications on creationist research are easily overlooked by mainstream scientists. Creationists publish relatively little and tend not publish in journals that geologists are likely to read. For example, the library of the University of California, Riverside, has holdings in excess of 1.5 million volumes. However, many of the publications which Austin finds important enough to cite, such as the Proceedings of the International Conference on Creationism, Origins, and the Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ) are not included in these holdings. The CRSQ is not even cited in GEOREF, the standard bibliographic search engine for geological literature. Another problem in doing bibliographic searches of the creationist literature is that several leading creationists use aliases. For example, Austin also had published under the name of Stuart E Nevins, Paul Nelson publishes under the name of Peter Gordon, and the real name of John Woodmorappe is Jan Peczkis.

GEOREF has 11 entries for Steven A Austin published since 1971, including his Master's thesis and PhD dissertation. Among the remaining 9, 6 are abstracts presented at meetings of professional geological societies, including Austin and Wise (1995). I chose not to mention that interesting abstract in my review for 2 reasons. First, it makes no mention of Noah's flood and so its relevance to the biblical literalism of Austin (1994) was not explicit. Second, the shelf-life of an abstract is very short. After the passage of almost 4 years since the abstract appeared, it seemed reasonable to assume that either the authors or the journal editors have concluded that the material did not warrant further publication.

What is the message here? Does the fact that creationist science tends to be published only in creationist journals, or as abstracts at meetings, mean that there is a conspiracy by the editors of mainstream science publications to prevent dissemination of new, controversial or revolutionary ideas? I think not. Remember that during the plate tectonic "revolution", the key papers appeared in major international scientific journals (Hallam 1973). Similarly Bretz's controversial work on the Channeled Scablands was published in widely circulated publications (listed in Baker 1978). Good new science, even if controversial, eventually gets published in major journals and, having withstood the rigors of peer-review, thus joins the mainstream. In a similar vein, Austin complains that, "Compared to government-subsidized research programs, creationist research may seem modest". As I made clear, my opinion of creationist geological research is that, in fact, it is modest. However, "government-subsidized" research grants and contracts are awarded in a highly competitive funding milieu. Austin and his associates are as free to enter that competition as I have been. Just as good new science eventually gets published in mainstream journals, good new proposals eventually get supported by mainstream funding agencies.

A notable exception to my generalization that creationists tend to publish only in creationist venues are the experiments of Brand on trackways made by newts in an aquarium (Brand and Tang 1991). Some of the publications on this topic are published in widely disseminated journals. The issue here is not the quality of the experiments but rather their applicability to explaining trackways in the Permian Coconino Sandstone in the region of the Grand Canyon. Brand concludes that his work shows that at least part of the Coconino Sandstone was deposited under water. On the other hand, Lockley and Hunt (1995), Loope (1992), and Middleton and others (1990) conclude that the trackways were formed under subaerial conditions, consistent with the nature of the sandstones in which they are found (McKee 1979). In any case, even if could be proved that these sandstones were partially deposited under water, it is a long (and, in my opinion, invalid) extrapolation from Brand's laboratory aquarium to Noah's flood.

Let us examine the publication history and scientific impact of Chadwick (1978), one of the 3 examples of creationist research related to the Grand Canyon which Austin adds to the 5 discussed in my review. It concerns the boulder beds of Precambrian Shinumo Quartzite, locally developed at the base of the Tapeats Sandstone, immediately above the Great Unconformity in the Grand Canyon. The Tapeats Sandstone is the lowest member of the Tonto Group, a sandstone-shale-limestone sequence of Cambrian age. Middleton and Elliot (1990) devote 4 pages to the depositional setting of this formation and cite more than 10 references in mainstream publications in support of their interpretation. The Tapeats Sandstone was deposited above a Precambrian surface that is extensively weathered and had developed considerable relief. They suggest that the basal conglomerate (the megabreccia of Chadwick 1978) was almost certainly deposited by erosion of cliffs of the Precambrian rocks by storm waves, and that the overlying sandstone was formed as beach and tidal flat deposits.The publication by Chadwick (1978) cited by Austin, on the other hand, interpreted the basal conglomerate in the Tapeats Sandstone as being formed in much deeper water by catastrophic debris flows, consistent with Noah's flood. Evidently this work has had zero impact on mainstream geology as it receives no mention in the extensive review by Middleton and Elliot (1990). If, as Austin (1994:67-70) asserts, the Tapeats Sandstone was formed as the first deposit of Noah's flood, we might expect it to contain a fauna and flora representing the abundant life he claims existed on earth before that deluge. However, except for trace fossils, the Tapeats Sandstone is poorly fossiliferous, but it contains brachiopods and trilobites sufficient to establish it as being of late Early Cambrian age. More recently Chadwick and Kennedy have returned to promoting the theme of Chadwick (1978). They have presented abstracts which essentially repeat the same material in each of the 4 years 1995-98 at scientific meetings. I look forward to evaluating their work, if ever it enters the formal literature. Meanwhile these abstracts can be read at www.tagnet.org/gri/w/ekennedy/geology.htm.

Quality of Creationist Research

As Austin added 3 more cases of creationist research on the Grand Canyon to my list, I will return the compliment by adding to his. As part of his laudatory reviews of important creationist research since 1965, Austin's colleague at ICR, Dr Duane T Gish (1989) highlighted the research of Waisgerber and others (1987) at the Grand Canyon. For me this work exemplifies the quality of original creationist research; so it is worth examining in detail. These authors studied the supposed contact between the Cambrian Muav Limestone and the overlying Mississippian Redwall Limestone on the North Kaibab trail in the Grand Canyon. (See Figure 1 of Elders 1998 for the stratigraphy of the Canyon). Having decided that these 2 formations are interbedded and grade into each other, the authors concluded that the 200-million-year hiatus between Cambrian and Mississippian strata did not occur at that site and therefore that the whole geologic column is fictitious. This claim, if substantiated, would definitely constitute a revolution in geology and justify numerous publications on the issue. Instead, the next publication on this topic was published 9 years later. It was a letter to the editor of CRSQ severely critical of the work (Moore 1996).

How good are the original observations by Waisgerber and others (1987)? They spent two days examining the outcrop, with the aid of 5-power hand lens. Rather than relying on their own examination of the Canyon's walls, they used a National Park Service sign to identify the location and nature of the supposed unconformity between the Cambrian and Mississippian strata. This sign may, or may not, have been correctly sited by the Park staff. Instead of using macro- or micropaleontology, petrology, geochemistry or geophysics, they relied on the color and texture of the rocks to distinguish between Cambrian and Mississippian strata. The color of the Redwall Limestone is actually quite variable. It has acquired a superficial staining produced by oxides of iron washed down from redbeds in the overlying Supai Group (Beus 1990: 119-20). This creationist research appears not to have considered that they misidentified the Cambrian/Mississippian contact or that Mississippian dolomite could be filling channels or karsts, etched into the surface of the Cambrian dolomite.

Suppose 3 creation scientists heard that a good time to view Jupiter's moons is when Jupiter is visible in the western sky, but when they went out with a pair of low power binoculars on 2 different nights failed to see any of the moons. Suppose too that they went on to publish, in a leading creationist journal, a paper which concluded that, because Galileo was wrong, the Copernican system is wrong and that we should all return to biblical literalism and geocentrism. I would respond by helping them to recognize Jupiter and lending them a telescope at least as good as Galileo's.

The paper by Waisgerber and others (1987), with its stamp of approval by Gish, is at that level. It is a superficial study of a single outcrop, and concerns a minor problem, which they considered entirely outside of its regional or global context. They then proceeded to extrapolate wildly from their observations. Having exposed geology's dirty secret, they offered it as proof that the entire geologic time scale must be rejected, and be replaced by their version of biblical chronology. Although more sophisticated and detailed, Austin (1994) is another failed attempt to achieve the same end.

Radioactive Dating

Austin pays great attention to radioactive dating because it is the Achilles heel of young earth creationists. Although he emphasizes any perceived discrepancies in radiometric ages published by different workers, he provides no satisfactory explanation of his willful misuse of radioactive dating in the Grand Canyon. Although he had earlier admitted that the Rb/Sr isotopic data from the Pleistocene basalts yield a false isochron (Austin 1988), he later used the same approach to publish what he knew to be geologically impossible results (Austin 194: 124-5) and posed the rhetorical question (Austin 1994: 129), "Has any Grand Canyon rock been successfully dated?" Ilg and others (1996) used U/Pb ratios to date the oldest rocks of the Grand Canyon and found that different units had ages ranging from 1750 to 1660 million years. Larson and others (1994) used Rb/Sr data from the Cardenas Basalt to determine an age of 1103 million years. Dalrymple and Hamblin (1998) measured K/Ar ratios to obtain ages in the range 0.684 to 0.443 million years for the Pleistocene basalts. If Dr Austin has credible data which refute the order in which these rocks were formed, or which even change these numbers significantly, I urge him to publish them in full in a major scientific journal. I would be happy to assist him by reviewing the manuscript.

Conclusions

The gulf between Austin's position and mine is irreconcilable. Austin carefully ignores many of the other important issues raised by my review. For example, his use of uniformitarian strawmen, the robustness of the worldwide geologic column and the geologic time scale, the thermal problem if granites were formed on the third day of creation, the order of occurrence and the space problem of fossils, are ignored in Austin's critique.

Austin asserts that I trivialize creationist research in my review, whereas I protest that he seeks to aggrandize it. I thank him for his input and can now amend the list of original creationist research projects on the Grand Canyon from 5 to 8, or even 9, if we include one or 2 which even some creationists might disavow. My response to his complaint that I trivialize creationist research is that I do not need to do so. Creationist research speaks for itself, in a tiny voice which falls far short of causing a revolution in the paradigms of science.

Finally, Austin is concerned that my lack of proficiency in creationist geology will prevent the participants in the NCSE creation/evolution raft trip through Grand Canyon in August 1999 from getting their money's worth. Concerning that trip, perhaps I might be allowed to follow the example of Austin (1994) and use a selective quotation from the King James Bible. Perhaps Daniel (12:4) is appropriate, "...many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased." I am confident that the NCSE rafters will get value for their investment from the grandeur of the Grand Canyon itself, rather than from my words, or those of Austin. The Grand Canyon speaks for itself and in its own voice, a voice of colorful canyon walls, of whitewater rapids, and the awesome nature of geologic time.

References Cited

Austin SA. (editor). Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee (CA): Institute for Creation Research, 1994.

Austin SA. Wise KP. Nautiloid mass-kill event at a hydrothermal mound within the Redwall Limestone (Mississippian), Grand Canyon. Abstracts with Programs -Geological Society of America. 1995; 27(6):369.

Baker VR. The Spokane flood controversy and the Martian outflow channels. Science 1978; 202:1249-56.

Beus SS. Redwall limestone and surprise canyon formation; in Beus SS, Morales M. (editors) Grand Canyon Geology: New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. Chapter 8.

Brand LR, Tang T. Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of northern Arizona: Evidence for underwater origin. Geology 1991:19 (12): 1201-4.

Bretz JH The Lake Missoula floods and the Channeled Scablands. Journal of Geology 1969: 77 (5): 505-43.

Chadwick AV. Megabreccias: Evidence for catastrophism. Origins 1978; 5:39-46.

Cohn NRC Noah's Flood: the Genesis story in Western thought. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Dalrymple GB, Hamblin WK. K-Ar ages of Pleistocene lava dams in the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 1998:95: 9744-9.

Gillispie CC. Genesis and Geology: a Study in the Relations of Scientific Thought, Natural Theology, and Social Opinion in Great Britain, 1790-1850. New York: Harper Brothers, 1959.

Gish DT. More creationist research. Part 1b: Geological research. Creation Research Society Quarterly. 1989: 25 (4): 161.

Hallam A. A Revolution in the Earth Sciences: from Continental Drift to Plate Tectonics. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973.

Heaton TH. A young Grand Canyon? Skeptical Inquirer, 1995:19 (3): 33-7.

Ilg BR, Karlstrom KE, Hawkins DP, Williams M L, Tectonic evolution of Paleoproterozoic rocks in the Grand Canyon: Insights into middle-crustal processes: Geological Society of America Bulletin, 1996:108(9): 1149-66.

Larson EE, Patterson PE, Mutschler FE. Lithology, chemistry, age and origin of the Proterozoic Cardenas Basalt, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Precambrian Research 1994 : 65 (1-4): 255-76.

Lockley M, Hunt AP. Dinosaur Tracks. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995:40-5.

Lope DB. Comment and Reply on "Fossil vertebrate footprints in the Coconino Sandstone (Permian) of Arizona: Evidence for underwater origin". Geology 1992:20, Nr 7, 667-8.

McKee ED. A Study of Global Sand Seas: Ancient Sandstones Considered to be Eolian. US Geological Survey Professional Paper Nr 1052. US Geological Survey, Reston (VA), 1979.

Middleton LT, Elliot DK. Tonto Group; in Beus SS, Morales M. (editors) Grand Canyon Geology: New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; Chapter 6.

Middleton LT, Elliot DK, Morales M. Coconino Sandstone; in Beus SS, Morales M. (editors). Grand Canyon Geology: New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; Chapter 10.

Moore JL. Comment on "Mississippian and Cambrian strata interbedding: 200-million-year hiatus in question." Creation Research Society Quarterly 1996.

Morris HM. Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science. Phillipsburg (NJ): Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1970, p 32-3. (cited by K Harding at accessed 4/2/1999.

Scott EC. Antievolution and creationism. Annual Review of Anthropology, 1997: 26.

Waisgerber W, Howe GF, Williams EL. Mississippian and Cambrian strata interbedding: 200-million-year hiatus in question. Creation Research Society Quarterly, 1987: 23: 160-5.

Whitcomb JC and Morris HM. The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications. Grand Rapids (MI): Baker Book House, 1964.

Author's Address:

Wilfred A Elders,
University of California
Department of Earth Sciences
Riverside CA 92521-0423

Equal Time for the Origin of Granite

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Equal Time for the Origin of Granite. A Miracle!
Author(s): 
Lorence G Collins
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1999
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
20–22, 27–29
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Introduction

Creationists continue to push for equal time in science classrooms to teach that the Genesis stories in the Bible are valid scientific interpretations of earth history. Equal time for creationists' interpretations is not likely to occur in secular universities and schools, but if the creationists are serious about equal time, then they should be open to granting equal time in their private Christian schools for presentations of both sides of a scientific issue — a literalist biblical view and the modern science view. The origin, age, and other characteristic features of granite are such issues deserving equal time.

The Bible says that the dry land was created on Day 3 of the Genesis Week (Genesis 1:9-10), and presumably this is the time during which granite in continental masses was formed. However, Gentry (1988, p 129-3, 184-5) says that granite was formed both on Day 1 and Day 3 and that granite from both days can be mixed. He also claims that after Day 3, granite magmas must crystallize as rhyolite (the fine-grained volcanic equivalent of granite), rather than coarse-grained granite, and that granites penetrating the Flood deposits result from upheavals of solids but not magma.

Austin (1994) states that the majority of conservative Christian scholars, including Henry Morris, believe that the earliest rocks formed on Day 1. He interprets these to include the Vishnu schists of the Grand Canyon into which the Proterozoic Zoroaster granites were intruded on Day 3, when land and sea were separated. If I were given equal time in a science classroom at a private, fundamentalist, Christian college or secondary school which advocated young-earth creationist views, I would provide the following material and information regarding the formation of granite. This would allow students to compare a modern scientific interpretation of granite with the corresponding creationist biblical interpretation of granite being formed primarily in the Genesis Week.

Modern science's interpretation of granite

Origin. Geologists recognize several possible origins for rocks we classiify as granite(s) which depend upon the processes that operate on the rock systems. However, geologists agree that all granites form below the earth's surface. Some granites form (1) by magmatic processes — a crystallization of magma (melted silicate rock) — with the final form dependent upon crystal settling and the order of crystallization of minerals, (2) by melting of sedimentary rocks whose chemical composition is the same as that in granite, (3) by partial melting of rocks in which the first minerals to melt have the composition of granite; and finally, (4) by chemical replacement processes (Hyndman 1985; Clarke 1992; Collins 1988; Hunt and others 1992). Discussion of these different origins could be expanded here, but it is sufficient to say that modern scientific studies show that granite is formed in many different ways, and these ways contrast with the creationists' model in which granite has a single origin, being created nearly instantly by "fiat" (for example, Gentry 1988).

Mineral and chemical composition. In a general sense "granitic rocks" range in composition from true granite that is rich in potassium and silica to other coarse-grained igneous rocks, such as granodiorite, quartz monzonite, diorite, tonalite, and even gabbro, which are progressively less rich in potassium and silica and richer in iron, calcium, and magnesium (Hyndman 1985). This range in composition is recognized by Gentry (1988), but his emphasis is on biotite-bearing granite that contains Polonium (Po) halos, and, therefore, the same emphasis will be used in this article. For a discussion of Po halos, see also Collins (1988), Hunt and others (1992), and http://www.csun.edu/~vcgeo005/revised8.htm. Nevertheless, the reader can substitute the broader term "granitic rocks" that include the above compositional range in most places in this article where granite is mentioned without being in conflict with Gentry (1988).

True granite is not a pure substance but is a mixture of several different silicate minerals and oxides (Clarke 1992). In the true sense it commonly consists of about one-third quartz, one-third potassium feldspar, one-third plagioclase feldspar, minor amounts of iron- and magnesium-bearing biotite (black mica), and traces of various accessory minerals, including zircon (mentioned later). In addition to biotite, other varieties of true granite may contain small amounts of other iron- and magnesium-bearing silicates or muscovite mica, but biotite granite is the most common variety. In all true granites, however, quartz and feldspars are the dominant mineral species, making the rock white, light cream, or pink, but speckled with one or more of the dark iron-bearing minerals.

Liquid characteristics. In the field, granite can be seen to intrude into other rocks and in some places to exhibit flow banding, both of which are characteristic of moving liquids or plastic solids. Furthermore, in many places fragments of older rock along the walls of a granite body are broken off and enclosed in the granite as inclusions of large or small size, adding further evidence for the liquid origin of the granite body when it was first formed. Finally, if a granite body has a liquid origin, it should have the capability of mixing with other liquids, such as basalt magma, and this mixing is evident, for example, in Maine (Wiebe 1996) and in other parts of the world (cited in Wiebe 1996). Gentry (1988, p 185) also allows for mixing of magma but disregards the physical characteristics of magma, such as its heat capacity and cooling rates that are discussed in a later section.

Order of crystallization. Experimental work in which natural granites are melted in the laboratory shows that a granite in a liquid state would be a water-bearing silicate melt (magma) at temperatures as high or higher than 900°C (Huang and Wyllie 1981). When this silicate melt is cooled and crystallized to become granite, not all of its various minerals crystallize at the same time, but each forms in a specific range of temperatures and in a definite order. The iron-, magnesium-, and titanium-bearing silicates and oxides crystallize at relatively high temperatures whereas the feldspars form at lower temperatures, and quartz is the last to crystallize near 550-650°C, depending upon pressure and other components. This order of crystallization is consistent world-wide regardless of whether the granite is Precambrian in age or younger or whether the granite is attributed to be formed on Day 1 or Day 3.

Evidence for high temperatures of natural granites. Geologists find evidence for the high-temperature crystallization of a granite body by using what are called "geologic thermometers". For example, in an experiment, biotite mica and garnet are crystallized simultaneously from melts. The results show that iron and magnesium atoms are partitioned from the melt into these 2 minerals in different ratios and that these ratios will differ depending on temperature and pressure conditions (Ferry and Spear 1978). By measuring these ratios in biotite and garnet found together in natural granites and comparing them with ratios obtained at different temperatures and pressures in the experimental work, geologists find that the temperatures for the final crystallization of these two minerals in natural granites are commonly higher than 700°C — the presence of certain minerals or combinations of minerals provides a standard or scale for measuring temperature, that is, a sort of geological thermometer. Garnet is not common in granite, but "two-feldspar" and "magnetite-ilmenite" are 2 other common "geologic thermometers" used to measure temperatures in granites. These thermometers also have experimental support, and both mineral pairs give similar high temperature values for the crystallization of granite (Bohlen and Lindsley 1987; Hyndman 1985).

Further evidence of the high-temperature origin of granite is the contact metamorphic aureole that occurs in sedimentary rocks where they are intruded by granite magma. The minerals found in sediments are generally stable near 25°C and one atmosphere of pressure and result from weathering processes at the earth's surface. When these minerals are heated to temperatures approaching those of an adjacent hot granite magma, some (such as quartz) will remain as the same mineral but will recrystallize and increase in size while others will form new minerals that are stable at higher temperatures and pressures. For example, fine-grained fossil-bearing limestones that consist of calcite (calcium carbonate), which are intruded by granite magma, commonly recrystallize as coarse-grained calcite marbles; in this process the fossils are destroyed as the tiny calcite crystals in the fossils grow in size.

On the other hand, sedimentary shales, consisting mostly of aluminum-rich clay, are recrystallized to form other aluminum-rich minerals, some of which are stable at the highest temperatures closest to the granite contact; others are stable at intermediate temperatures at greater distances away; and still others are stable at lower temperatures at even farther distances from the contact (for example, Pitcher and Berger 1972; Holtta 1995). Such features of high-temperature contact-metamorphism of sedimentary wall rocks, called aureoles, are found world-wide around most granite bodies of large size and range from a few to a thousand meters wide or more. Their existence supports the concept that these granite bodies were intruded as a very hot magma. If Gentry (1988, p 185) wishes to have the metamorphic aureole be formed by hot fluids associated with solidified granite, then these hot fluids should also have caused the granite to produce lower-temperature minerals like that found in the aureole, and that is not the case.

Age of Granites. The field evidence supports the concept that not all granites are formed at the same time as other rocks with which they may be adjacent and that some granite bodies are younger in age than other granites. The fact that granite bodies intrude other rocks (by filling in cracks, for example, to form dikes) indicates that the other rocks are older in age than the granite. The intruded rocks have to be there first before the granite can cut through them. In some places granite masses of one type cut across other granite bodies, which also shows that some granites are younger than others. The fact that granites also have several possible different origins, as described earlier, also implies different ages for granite.

For example, if some granites are derived by melting of sediments, erosion of a continental land mass must occur first to produce the sediments. Then, the sediments must be deeply buried, and a strong heat source must be found before the granite can be formed from them. Although Gentry (1988, p 133, 184-5) allows for granite to be formed both on Day 1 and Day 3, the field evidence shows that the mixing of granites of 2 different ages is not by faulting or intrusion of solid rock into solid rock during earth upheavals but only by mixing of 2 "granitic" liquids or by penetration of a "granitic" liquid into a solid. As indicated in the previous sections, this liquid must be in the form of hot magma.

Furthermore, additional age and hot-liquid-origin relationships can be seen for granites that are supposedly formed in Day 3 but cut the Noachian Flood deposits and, therefore, are younger than Day 3. For example, Precambrian granite bodies in the bottom of the Grand Canyon in Colorado have an erosion surface on which the horizontal, Paleozoic, fossil-bearing sediments are deposited, with the Cambrian Tapeats sandstone at the bottom and the Permian Kaibab limestone at the top (Elders 1998). The eroded surface indicates that these granites are older than these sediments, the so-called "Noachian Flood deposits." On the other hand, the Donegal granites in northwest Ireland intrude and enclose inclusions of sedimentary rocks of Cambrian age, illustrating that the granites are younger than the Cambrian deposits, whose contacts with the granites have a high-temperature metamorphic aureole (Pitcher and Berger 1972). This field evidence shows that the sedimentary rocks are not faulted into the solid granites but enclosed in the granites when the granites were hot magma.

The same kinds of metamorphic contact-relationships are found in the granites that intrude fossil-bearing sediments in Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island (Harrison and others 1983). The Narragansett Pier granite in Rhode Island surrounds inclusions of Pennsylvanian metamorphosed sediments containing flora fossils, Annularia stellata (Brown and others1978). The flora fossils are now totally carbonized as graphite, indicating the high temperature of the granite body that metamorphosed the sedimentary inclusions. The fact that the granite contains inclusions of these fossil-bearing sediments makes the granite younger than these supposed "Flood" sediments.

The Sierra Nevada granite intrusions in California also have intruded and metamorphosed supposed "Flood sediments" in roof pendants containing Ordovician graptolite fossils (Frazier and others 1986) and Pennsylvanian brachiopod fossils (Rinehart and Ross 1964; Rinehart and others 1959). In other places, the Sierran granites have intruded and metamorphosed "Flood sediments" containing Triassic ammonites (coiled cephalopods; Smith 1927). A granite in the Mojave desert in California near Cadiz intrudes Cambrian limestone containing stromatolite fossils. At the contact, this limestone is converted to marble with high-temperature metamorphic minerals, but remnants of the stromatolites can still be found (Richard Squires, oral communication 1998). Thus, it is very clear from the above examples that some granite masses are the same age as or even younger than the "Noachian Flood deposits".

Absolute ages of granite bodies, rather than relative ages, can be obtained by using various radioactive isotopes; that is, uranium-lead (U/Pb), potassium-argon (K/Ar), and rubidium-strontium (Rb/Sr) age-dating techniques (Dalrymple 1991). For example, trace amounts of uranium and lead are dissolved in the granite melts. Uranium and lead ions have entirely different chemical characteristics, and they normally crystallize in entirely different minerals. Because the uranium ion is about the same size as the zirconium ion, uranium will substitute for zirconium and crystallize in zircon, but the lead ion goes elsewhere, commonly in potassium feldspar, as the granite magma crystallizes. But the isotope of uranium (238U) is radioactive and eventually decays to form lead (206Pb). When the granite first crystallizes and the radioactive uranium enters the zircon crystal (devoid of 206Pb), the clock is set and "ticking," and the uranium is constantly breaking down, eventually to produce new lead (206Pb) atoms trapped in the zircon crystals.

Because this U/Pb decay-scheme is a constant, the ratio of uranium to lead in zircon populations in granite can be used to determine the age of a granite. World-wide the absolute ages of various granite bodies are consistent with the relative ages described above (Dalrymple 1991). For example, granites in the bottom of the Grand Canyon give Precambrian ages of 1740 — 1710 and 1700 — 1660 billion years, younger than 2 different units of Vishnu schist with ages of 1750 and 1742 billion-years-old (Ilg and others 1996), which the granites intrude, and older than the overlying "Noachian Flood deposits" of about 540 million years for the Cambrian Tapeats sandstone at the bottom to the 225-million-year-old Permian Kaibab limestone at the top. The Narragansett Pier granite that contains 300-million-year-old Pennsylvanian flora fossils (Brown and others 1978) indicates that this granite is younger than the sediments, and this is confirmed by the U/Pb age-date from zircon populations of 273 million years (Zartman and Hermes 1987). And granites in the Sierra Nevada give Jurassic and Cretaceous ages of 66 to 208 million years old that are younger than the rocks (about 230 million years old) containing upper Triassic ammonites, which these granites intrude.

Occasionally, some granites give apparently anomalous isotopic "ages," and some Cenozoic basalts give an age greater than the 4.5-billion-year-age of the earth (Hedge and Noble 1971). These facts are commonly harped on by creationists who are critical of isotopic age-dating methods (for example, Austin 1994). But in these places, logical explanations suggest reasons why the dates are unusual. Close examination generally shows that, where unusual age "dates" are obtained from granite samples, other processes have affected the granite to cause the anomalous dates. For example, the granite may have been deformed and fractured so that fluids have entered and altered the isotopic ratios. Where granites have been dated by the Rb/Sr age-dating method, anomalous measurements are not unusual because of the susceptibility of rubidium and strontium to be added or subtracted by the movement of introduced fluids through fractures and deformed crystals. (Collins 1988; Hunt and others 1992).

The K/Ar age-dating method can also give values that differ from U/Pb age measurements because heat generated from the intrusion of another nearby igneous mass has allowed some of the argon gas to leak. In each of these places, the unusual or unexpected age dates are not a failure of the dating method, but an indication that other events have occurred in the geologic history of these rocks. See also a discussion and explanation of the anomalous age dates of basalts in the Grand Canyon and the reporting of more recent age-dating that gives results consistent with the geologic terrane (Elders 1998, p 13-4).

Geologists realize that apparently inconsistent "dates" can occur and seek to find out why they occur, knowing that the isotopic age-dating technique, itself, is not at fault. Should we re-evaluate the usefulness of radiometric dating then? For example, the following analogy can be used. Water-proof wrist watches that can be worn by scuba divers generally keep good time, but occasionally these watches fail and give faulty time. When that happens, an examination of the watch shows that it has been damaged so that a crack in the holding case has occurred, and water has leaked into the clock mechanism. The faulty time is not because the watch is improperly designed but because water has corroded the gears in the clock. On that basis, a person does not throw out all clocks or watches or cease to buy them, but rejecting all radiometric dating is seriously suggested by creationists.

Likewise, when isotopic age-dating of granites or other igneous rocks produces unexpected or illogical age dates, one does not throw out the whole system of isotopic age-dating. In some disturbed and deformed rocks, the "clock timing mechanism" has been "upset" by "corrosion" or some other factor, and the faulty date is a clue to the geologist to look for the cause. The primary reason for accepting the isotopic age-dating methods is because, in many places, world-wide, where several different kinds of isotopic age-dating methods have been applied to the same rock, all age determinations were found to be about the same (Dalrymple 1991). This equality of measured dates gives confidence that the isotopic age-dating methods are valid scientific procedures. The vastly different half-lives of the radioactive isotopes in each age-dating method and the completely different chemical characteristics of the isotopes make the arrival at the same age dates not a purely coincidental. The age dates must be controlled by physical laws that are very dependable.

Heat capacity of granite. Measurements can be made to determine the heat capacity of a block of granite at a given temperature and also to determine the rate of heat conduction as such a block cools from a higher to a lower temperature. Such laboratory measurements are commonly done by using a calorimeter, and they show that blocks of granite are very poor conductors of heat. If a body of granite magma had a surface area of 30 to 50 square kilometers and a depth of 20 to 35 kilometers (a typical size of a small granite body), the total amount of heat (calories) stored in such a granite mass at a temperature of 900°C is enormous. But, significantly, the heat conduction experiments show that the rate at which this heat is lost by conduction must be very slow. Calculations show that such a volume of granite magma would take several millions of years to cool down from 900°C to near 550-650°C, where it would totally crystallize, and then finally to cool to the 25°C temperature found at the earth's surface.

Pitcher (1993) estimates that a granite body, depending upon its size and depth of burial, cools no faster than 25 to 250°C per million years. This slow cooling is indicated by deeply buried granite magma still giving off heat in the Coso Range of east-central California, containing rhyolite flows (volcanic equivalent of granite); the residual heat is being utilized for steam generation and electrical energy (Bacon and others 1980). An even better example is the Kakkonda geothermal field in a Quaternary granite (younger than 1.1 million years old) that occurs in Japan. Drilling in this granite reveals temperatures of 500(C (Ikeuchi and others 1996). Finally, because many batholiths consist of multiple intrusions of different granitic bodies and because many of the earlier-intruded bodies have completely solidified before subsequent intrusions have occurred, their heat capacities and slow cooling rates imply millions of years for such large volumes of igneous rocks to be formed.

Although the heat capacity of granite is emphasized in this section, similar problems for young-earth creationists are created by the heat capacity of basalt and the cooling rates of large masses of basalt in the oceanic basins. If this basalt were all deposited during the Genesis Week and in the supposed subsequent few thousand years until the present, it should not yet be solidified (see Strahler 1987, p 213-4).

Literal biblical interpretation of granite

When creationists make a literal interpretation of the Genesis accounts for the origin of granite (for example, Gentry 1988), they seek new data to support their views, and ignore or explain away information that contradicts their views. The literalists accept the Genesis accounts as being accurate, only requiring "research" to support their interpretation. Again, creationists are selective in choosing only the scientific data that fit their model of creation and discarding everything else. This procedure is not characteristic of the scientific method.

The creationists' interpretation of granite, when applied to Genesis 1:9-10, is that all granite masses were formed on Day 3 and perhaps Day 1 of the Genesis Week (Gentry 1988, p 133, 184-5). Although Gentry suggests the possibility that the granite formed from melts, his suggested rate of crystallization is many, many times faster than natural laws would allow. Gentry (1988, p 130-1) says that after Day 3 granite magma would form rhyolites and not granite and that during the Flood, some of the granites formed in Day 1 and Day 3 were intruded into the Flood deposits by upheavals as solids. These interpretations are not supported by field evidence, microscopic studies, and experimental work, and they are clearly not accurate because some granite bodies must have been produced from magmas at different times later than Day 3 (either during or after the supposed Noachian Flood as indicated by the metamorphosed fossil-bearing enclaves).

Moreover, if Precambrian granite were produced nearly instantaneously during Day 1 or Day 3, all physical laws would have to be abandoned, and this granite must have been created by a miracle. Even if creationists were to acknowledge that some granite was produced during and after the Noachian Flood, and they cannot deny the evidence, then all physical laws for cooling rates and crystallization would also have to be ignored. Such granites could not be emplaced and solidified in less than one year and not even in 6000 to 10 000 years, if the physical laws governing crystallization and cooling rates are obeyed. Furthermore, if all the heat from the world-wide granite magmas that penetrated the supposed Flood sediments were released suddenly in one year's time to the Noachian Flood waters in order to crystallize the granite masses abruptly, the waters would be heated so hot that the oceans would be boiling and no marine life would survive. Isn't it odd that the chronicles of Noah never commented on this phenomenon! One can teach a rapid formation of granite, but it is not teaching science. The literalist interpretation has to be saying that all granite bodies are formed by miracles.

Conclusion

Equal time, when used to discuss the origin of granite, clearly shows that the creationists' literal interpretation of the Genesis stories in the Bible has no validity for presentation in the science classrooms at secular schools because it is not science. It may have a place in some Christian schools where science is taught as miracles.

References Cited

Austin SA, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Santee (CA): Institute for Creation Research, 1994.

Bacon CR, Duffield WA, and others. Late Cenozoic volcanism, geochronology, and structure of the Coso Range, Inyo County, California. In Bacon CR, and Duffield WA, eds, Coso Geothermal Area. Journal of Geophysical Research 1980; 85(B5):2381-404.

Bohlen SR, Lindsley DH. Thermometry and barometry of igneous and metamorphic rocks. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences 1987; 15:397-420.

Brown A, Daniel P, and others. Pennsylvanian fossils from metasediments within the Narragansett Pier granite, Rhode Island. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1978; 10(2):34-5.

Clarke DB. Granitoid rocks. New York: Chapman & Hall, 1992.

Collins LG. Hydrothermal Differentiation and Myrmekite — A Clue to Many Geological Puzzles. Athens: Theophrastus Publications, 1988.
The Age of the Earth. Stanford: Stanford Press, 1991.

Elders WA. Bibliolatry in the Grand Canyon. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 1998; 18(4):8-15.

Ferry JM, Spear FS. Experimental calibration of the partitioning of Fe and Mg between garnet and biotite. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 1978; 66:113-7.

Frazier M, Stevens CH, and others. Relationship of the Sierran Coyote Creek pendant to the adjacent Inyo Mountains, east-central California. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 1986; 18(2):106.

Gentry RV. Creation's Tiny Mystery, 2nd edition. Knoxville (TN): Earth Science Associates, 1988.

Harrison W, Flower M, and others. Crystalline rocks of northeastern United States. ANL/ES- Argonne National Laboratory 1983; 137.

Hedge CE, Noble DC. Upper Cenozoic basalts with high Sr87/Sr86 and Sr/Rb ratios, southern Great Basin, western United States. Geological Society of America Bulletin 1971; 82:3503-10.

Holtta P. Contact metamorphism of the Vaaraslahti pyroxene granitoid intrusion in Pielavesi, central Finland. In: Holtta, ed. Relationships of granitoids, structures and metamorphism at the eastern margin of the central Finland granitoid complex. Geological Survey of Finland, Bulletin 1995; 382:27-80.

Huang WL, Wyllie PJ. Phase relationships of S-type granite with H2O to 35 kbar: Muscovite granite from Harney Peak, South Dakota. Journal of Geophysics Research 1981; 86:10515-129.

Hunt CW, Collins LG, and others. Expanding Geospheres, Energy and Mass Transfers from Earth's Interior. Calgary (ALTA): Polar Publishing, 1992.

Hyndman DW. Petrology of Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks, 2nd edit. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985.

Ikeuchi K, Komatsu R, and others. Bottom of hydrothermal convection found by temperature measurements above 500C and fluid inclusion study of WD-1 in Kakkonda geothermal field, Japan. Transactions of the Geothermal Resources Council 1996; 20:609-16.

Ilg BR, Karlstrom KE, and others. Tectonic evolution of Paleoproterozoic rocks of the Grand Canyon: Insights into middle-crustal processes. Geological Society of America Bulletin 1996; 108(9):1149-66.

Pitcher WS. The Nature and Origin of Granite. London: Blackie Academic and Professional Press, 1993.

Pitcher WS, Berger AR. The Geology of Donegal: A Study of Granite Emplacement and Unroofing. New York: Wiley Interscience, 1972.

Rinehart CD, Ross DC. Geology and mineral deposits of the Mount Morrison quadrangle, Sierra Nevada, California. US Geological Survey Professional Paper 1964; 385.

Rinehart CD, Ross DC, and others. Paleozoic and Mesozoic fossils in a thick stratigraphic section in the eastern Sierra Nevada, California. Geological Society of America Bulletin 1959; 70:941-6.

Smith JP. Upper Triassic marine invertebrate faunas of North America. US Geological Survey Professional Paper 1927; 141.

Strahler AN. Science and Earth History — The Evolution/Creation Controversy. Buffalo (NY):Prometheus Books, 1987.

Wiebe RA. Mafic-silicic layered intrusions: the role of basaltic injections on magmatic processes and the evolution of silicic magma chambers. Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Earth Sciences 1996; 87(1 & 2):233-42.

Zartman RE, Hermes OD. Archean inheritance in zircon from late Paleozoic granites from the Avalon Zone of southeastern New England: An African connection. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 1987; 86:305-15.

Acknowledgments

I wish to thank Calvin Stevens, Stanley Finney, Kurt Hollocher, and Richard Squires for help in locating references indicating presence of fossils in wall rocks penetrated by granite, Peter Weigand for assistance in locating references containing isotopic age dates, and Barbara Collins, J.F Kenney and 2 unidentified reviewers for editorial suggestions.

NCSE Members Launch A Legend

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
NCSE Members Launch A Legend
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1999
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
30–31
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Evolution-creation controversies contribute their fair share of popular misinformation that spreads all the faster with the help of modern communications. Perhaps the best examples are the Darwin "deathbed conversion" story of Darwin's expressing regret for publishing his ideas on evolution (see review of "The Darwin Legend" by Kevin Padian in NCSE Reports 1996; 16(1):3, 8) and the "Mantracks" claims that fossilized human and dinosaur footprints are found side by side in Glenrose, Texas (see "The Paluxy River Footprint Mystery — Solved", a special edition of Creation/Evolution nr 25; 1985). Even though leading "creation-science" advocates have disavowed these claims, they're still in circulation, making their way from outdated library books to websites, public lectures, and letters to newspaper editors.

The Legends Begin

Now several members of NCSE have added another legend, this time from the "evolution side". It all began on April 1, 1998, when Mark Boslough e-mailed to several friends a satirical "press release" reporting an Alabama legislator's sponsorship of a bill requiring schools in the state to teach that pi=3. Dave Thomas, NCSE member and also president of New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR), posted the piece on Talk.Origins , the Internet newsgroup whose participants discuss and debate evolution and "creation science." The story was filled with amusing references to key individuals and events in the struggle to have evolution included in New Mexico's science curriculum. (For example, "Alabama legislator Leonard Lee Lawson" was modeled after NM state senator Leonard Lee Rawson, who argued against evolution by brandishing a stuffed monkey which he declared was "not my uncle".) It also contained several clues that it was in fact a joke, such as a web address of "April/fool/html". Late on the day the spoof was first posted, an explanation was also posted to the same newsgroup.

By then, however, the legend was out of the bag. After 2 weeks had passed, Thomas was able to find hundreds of internet postings of the story, some of them reporting it as a genuine press release — all the easier to believe since the wire service name had mutated.

One Good Deed Inspires Another

When 1999 rolled around, the original pranksters decided to try it again, but better. They topped their 1998 performance on April 1, 1999, when they launched www.darwindisproved.com. Complete with photographs of what appeared to be partially unearthed, fossilized bones of a dinosaur swallowing a hominid, the site unfolded a tale of excitement and intrigue. In broken English, "Stefan", a graduate student at the University of Heidelberg, describes coming to New Mexico to work with his American mentor, Prof Heinschvagel (resemblance to "hornswoggle" fully intended). And then...

We found a fossil of a hominid, being eaten by an allosaurus dinosaur. Look at the picture1/4. The dinosaur is apparently trying to eat the cave-man, and then both became killed in some event. Perhaps the allosaurus choked on his food.

Intrigue? Did I mention skullduggery? That's right! A cover-up!

Of course, it is the impossible in Darwin's theory for hominids to have been lived 140 million years ago.... All the evidence of this incredible find has been taken away. Except for a few photos which I managed to keep.... [O]ne of the guards came and made me give him all of the film. He said it would be very bad if I did not cooperate... I was so scared and worried that I forgot about the roll that had the 8 shots. When we returned to Albuquerque, I remembered and hid the films till I returned home. Now my friend has been putting them on the internet so everyone can learn what has happened, and how they are covering it all up.

...They told us not to discuss it with anyone, and that no one would believe us, and that our geology careers would be ruined, but mostly that other scientists would rush to publish it first if word of this find was exposed.... It is all being covered up because the scientists think their [sic] going to lose their jobs if everyone learns evolution wasn't true after all. Only I can tell the story. I can not reveal my true name, but my wonderful American friend is helping me to reveal the Truth to the whole World.

Other photos on the site included "graduate students" ("conspirators" David E Thomas, Kim Johnson, and their children) making casts of the "fossil" and a car labeled "New Mexico State Resources" (same initials as "New Mexicans for Science and Reason", of which Thomas is President.)

The site recorded over 1000 hits in the month before a full explanation was posted, ending with the comment: "Disclaimer: This website was created for the sole purpose of fooling any person who might fall for it."

Any Bites?

The "darwindisproved" site drew a lot of email and inspired much speculation. David Thomas reports that, while some of his skeptical email was from creationists, it was only evolutionists who succeeded in tracking down the pranksters. (NCSE member Paul Heinrich traced the domain name to Kim Johnson, and NCSE member Skip Evans contacted Johnson asking for details.) Johnson noted that while many people identified the site as a hoax or — more correctly — as a spoof, they didn't always give the "right" reasons. For example, some commented that the site didn't look like part of the Morrison Formation (where the photos were in fact taken), or that black fossils are improbable (while many fossils in the Morrison formation are dark gray or black).

And yes... somebody bit. Thomas has reported that he received email from well-known creationists who demanded more evidence. But there was one who couldn't wait before (in RNCSE editor Anj Petto's words) taking the bait "hoax, line, and sinker". NCSE members who attended an anti-evolution lecture on May 7 at Philadelphia's Calgary Chapel report that "Dr Dino" (aka Kent Hovind) urged the audience to see the "evidence against evolution" at www.darwindisproved.com.

Review: The Design Inference

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Year: 
1999
Issue: 
2
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
32–35
Reviewer: 
Wesley R Elsberry
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities
Author(s): 
William A. Dembski
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. 260 pages.

In an article appearing in the October 1998 First Things, William A Dembski announced the existence of rigorous and reliable means for detecting the action of an intelligent agent. Its description and justification, said Dembski, would be found in the pages of his new book, The Design Inference (TDI). Dembski made a special point of applying a criterion he called complexity-specification to biological phenomena, with the claim that biologists must now admit design into their science.

Dembski's TDI is a slim and scholarly volume, as one expects from a distinguished academic press. Dembski employs clear writing, illustrative examples, and cogent argumentation. The work, though, is motivated and informed by an anti-evolutionary impulse, and its flaws appear to follow from the need to achieve a particular religious aim. The anti-evolutionary bent is not as overt here, though, as it is in other works by Dembski and his colleagues Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, Paul Nelson, and Stephen Meyer at the Discovery Institute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. The closest that Dembski comes within the pages of TDI to staking out an explicit position on evolutionary issues is in Section 2.3, where a "case study" is made of "the creation-evolution controversy". In it, Dembski accuses evolutionary biologists of rejecting one or more premises of his Design Inference in order to avoid reaching a conclusion of design for biological phenomena. Of course, for "Intelligent Design" creationists, as it was for William Paley, it is not sufficient merely to prove that something was intelligently designed, it is also essential that the agent of design be identified as the God of the Bible. But TDI carefully avoids explicit religious referents, even separating "evidence for design" from "evidence of agency".

In my opinion, Dembski's Design Inference fails to identify reliably phenomena due to design by an intelligent agent because of its logic, and because it fails to consider additional mechanisms (like natural selection) that could produce a designed effect. In the following review, I shall attempt to explain why this is so.

Categories and Definitions

Dembski deploys a large number of specialized terms and phrases in making his argument that design must be recognized as a necessary mode of explanation in science. Fortunately, Dembski generally makes clear what each term means, even when it also has a common or casual usage. Design is one of those terms, and in Dembski's usage it becomes a category defined by the elimination of events that can be attributed to regularity or to chance. Regularity is equivalent to high probability - an event will that "(almost) always happen" (p 36). Chance applies to any event with intermediate or low probability, but for which no specification exists. A specified event conforms to a pattern that is determined in advance or can be given independently of the event.

"Specification" needs further description. Dembski illustrates the meaning of specifications which allow us to reject chance explanations by contrasting them to fabrications which do not. For an archer to hit 100 bull's-eyes is not chance; we would conclude that the archer had great skill. But if the pattern of 100 bull's-eyes was obtained by the archer's shooting the arrows and then drawing targets around them, we would not make the same conclusion. The pattern of 100 arrows and bull's-eyes would be the same in each situation, but because we had specified in advance certain characteristics (like the bull's-eye being on the wall before the arrow was shot), we can eliminate chance in the former situation and attribute the performance to skill.

Complexity-specification describes how the jointly-held attributes of complexity (events of low probability) and specification (previously-determined pattern) reveal the presence of design in an event. And design thus becomes any event with both a low probability and an independently-given pattern. Another way to look at Dembski's Design Inference is that complexity excludes high- and intermediate-probability events, specification excludes chance events, and regularity comprises events marked by high probability. Therefore, complexity-specification yields those events that fall into the exclusionary category of design as Dembski uses the term - events that are of low probability and not due to chance.

For Dembski, the Design Inference is a deductive argument which can lead to the recognition of complexity-specification, and thus design, for a particular event. Since these 3 categories (regularity, chance, and design) embrace all events, and design is established by elimination of the other two categories, design is thus the set-theoretical complement of regularity and chance.

Explanatory Filtering

Dembski applies what he calls his "Explanatory Filter" to determine design. Complete with flowchart (p 37), the Explanatory Filter has 3 decision nodes. In step 1, if an event is deemed to have high probability, it is classified as due to a regularity, or rather that the event can be explained through law-like physical processes. An as-yet unclassified event then moves on to the second decision node. If it has intermediate probability, it is classified as due to chance. Thus-far unclassified events (which have low probability) then move on to the third decision node. If the event both has a low probability and also conforms to a specification, it is classified as due to design; if it has low probability and is unspecified, it is classified as due to chance.

It is time to look more closely at Dembski's Design Inference, to find out whether it does allow us to detect design by the elimination of alternative mechanisms. The Design Inference is a deductive argument based on the elimination of alternatives. Such arguments only work if the conclusion is the result of exhausting the available alternatives. Dembski assures us that this is the case by defining design as what is left after regularity and chance have been eliminated. Thus, what "design" means depends upon the way that regularity and chance are eliminated.

Process of Elimination

Dembski offers 2 somewhat different methods for eliminating regularity. In the first, regularity is recognized if an event has a high probability of occurrence. This is part of his discussion of the Explanatory Filter. The second method identifies an event that conforms to relevant natural laws, but is not constrained by them, and thus is not attributable to those laws. This method is discussed in relation to Dembski's Design Inference (p 53). It is not clear that each of these 2 methods would classify the same set of events as not being due to regularity. This ambiguity increases our uncertainty concerning the residue that is left over to be classified as either chance or design.

Dembski throughout TDI claims that deduction leads ineluctably and conclusively to certain events' being due to design. The catch is that Dembski is using his own definition of design, where design is simply the residue that remains after chance and regularity are eliminated. But there are alternative filters that better fit reality. I will illustrate one such alternative with an example filter of my own.

Alternative Explanations

My alternative Explanatory Filter has 4, not 3 nodes.

  1. First, an event that cannot be statistically distinguished from a random event is classified as due to chance.
  2. Next, an event that conforms to properties of known law-like physical processes is classified as being due to regularity.
  3. An event that conforms to known properties of similar events that are due to intelligent agents are classified as due to design.
  4. Finally, any event which has not yet been classified is now classified as being due to an unknown cause.

My alternative Explanatory Filter differs in several critical ways. First, the ordering of decisions is different. Dembski justifies his choice of order with an explication of explanatory priority (p 38-40). But Dembski's arguments for eliminating regularity before eliminating chance are neither convincing nor reflective of how people ordinarily explain things. Random events conform well to the null hypothesis (that is, that the event is due to chance and not to design or regularity) and should be eliminated first in determination of causation.

Dembski's own example of a pair of loaded dice to show why regularity has explanatory priority over chance demonstrates that his filter has the order reversed. He explains that because the loaded dice yield high probabilities that certain faces will come up, the explanation to be preferred is regularity. However, Dembski ignores the fact that in order to determine that regularity and not chance is at work with the loaded dice, we must compare the rolls of the dice to the expectation for "fair" dice. Only when chance has been eliminated can we then entertain the notion that the results for the particular loaded dice in question are due to a regularity. In point of fact, with sufficient testing and knowledge of the circumstances, the loaded dice example resolves into an instance of design, not regularity. This does not mean that design then has explanatory priority. Rather, it illustrates the superior explanatory power of my alternative filter in which chance must be considered and rejected before either regularity or design can be concluded.

A second advantage to my Explanatory Filter is its additional classification of unknown causation. This alternative recognizes that the set of knowledge used to make a classification can alter the classification. By allowing an event to be classified as having unknown causation, I simultaneously reduce the number of false classifications that will later be overturned by additional information and identify those events whose circumstances require further study in order to identify a causative factor. The use of unknown causation as a category is common in such day-to-day operations of humans looking for design in events, such as in forensics. Forcing final classification of events when knowledge is limited ensures that mistakes in classification will be made when Dembski's Explanatory Filter is employed.

A third advantage to my alternative Explanatory Filter is that the common meaning of "design" is retained as a reliable indicator of "agency". We recognize design in our day-to-day life because of prior experience with objects and events designed or caused by intelligent agents. It is important to recognize that there is a difference between a reliable classifier and a design detector. The goal of such an exercise should be to classify events accurately, not to just single out the designed ones.

Dembski utilizes the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project as an example of detecting design without particular knowledge of a designer. But SETI can only detect signals that possess certain properties known from prior experience of humans communicating via radio wavelengths. SETI works to find events that conform to our prior experience of how intelligent agents use radio wavelengths to communicate. SETI does not support the notion that novel design/designer relationships can be detected. ETI that communicate in ways outside human experience will be invisible to, and undetected by, SETI. The issue of agency, in fact, deserves more attention. Like many "Intelligent Design" creationists, Dembski tries to avoid mentioning the "designer", and in fact, promotes his Explanatory Filter as being superior because it supposedly separates agency from design (TDI p 8, 36, 226-7).

Design, Agency, and Natural Selection

One may wonder what TDI was supposed to accomplish, if design no longer means what Paley meant by it and the attribution of agency no longer necessarily follows from finding design. When he assures the reader that design does not imply agency, Dembski seems to want things both ways: one can detect design without implying agency, though one is justified in inferring agency when one sees design. But is it a secure inference? According to Dembski, because humans identify human agency using reasoning equivalent to the Explanatory Filter, the Explanatory Filter encapsulates our general method for detecting agency. Because TDI is equivalent to the Explanatory Filter, if we conclude design through the TDI, we also must conclude agency.

The apparent, but unstated, logic behind the move from design to agency can be given as follows:

  1. Some subset of objects known to be designed by an intelligent agent possess a common attribute (complexity-specification).
  2. This attribute is never found in objects known not to be designed by an intelligent agent.
  3. The attribute includes the property of directed contingency (choice).
  4. For all objects, if this attribute is found in an object, then we may conclude that the object was designed by an intelligent agent.

This is an inductive argument. Notice that by the second step, one must eliminate from consideration precisely those biological phenomena which Dembski wishes to categorize. In order to conclude intelligent agency for biological examples, the possibility that intelligent agency is not operative is excluded a priori. This is stacking the deck.An intelligent agent reveals itself by making choices, or in Dembski's terms, directed contingency. An intelligent agent chooses "from a range of competing possibilities" (p 62), and does so by actualizing "one among several competing possibilities", excluding the rest, and specifying (ahead of time) what is to be chosen. Dembski claims this triad of criteria - actualization-exclusion-specification - is sufficient for establishing that an intelligent agent has been at work and finds that design as he defines it is congruent with these criteria.

One large problem is that directed contingency or choice is not an attribute solely of events that result from the intervention of an intelligent agent. Both directed contingency and the triad itself can be explained quite adequately by natural selection as a cause. Actualization occurs as heritable variation arises. Exclusion results as some heritable variations lead to differential reproductive success. Specification occurs as environmental conditions specify which variations are preferred. One might thus conclude that Dembski's argument establishes that natural selection can be recognized as an intelligent agent. By my reading, Dembski's argument supports a position that biologists can embrace a conclusion of design for an event of biological origin and still attribute that event to the agency of natural selection.

It is an error to argue from the casual meanings of regularity, chance, and design when discussing causes for events classified by Dembski's Explanatory Filter or by TDI. Someone might seek to exclude natural selection from consideration as a source of events that meet the criteria of design by claiming that it is either a regularity or chance. But TDI classifies events, not causes. Dembski points this out himself when he says that using the Explanatory Filter may not always lead to a conclusion of design for an event that we know is due to the action of an intelligent agent, because agents can mimic the results of regularity or chance.

The point is more significant than Dembski admits. A causal class cannot be classified into regularity or chance in advance without begging the question. Specifically, one cannot state in advance that natural selection is either regularity or chance because the events which are due to natural selection must be evaluated by their own properties to establish which category best describes those events. Just as intelligent agents can sometimes produce events which appear to be due to regularity or chance rather than design, so too can natural selection be responsible for events in all 3 categories. It is insufficient to show that some examples of natural selection fall into either the "regularity" or "chance" explanatory categories. When arguing that no physical process is the agent producing a designed event, one must show that natural selection is incapable in principle of producing events with the attribute of design. Such a demonstration would have to address the application of natural selection in both biology and computer science, where use of the principle of natural selection has been employed in solving very difficult optimization problems.

Conclusions

In summary, the process of detecting design, as it is done by humans in day-to-day activities, is not accurately captured by Dembski's Explanatory Filter. The order in which classes of causes are eliminated makes a difference. Humans attempting to explain phenomena can and often do find insufficient evidence to make a final determination of either design or any other explanation. And when humans use the word design, they typically mean it to carry a real implication of being due to an agent or designer.

Second, Dembski's Explanatory Filter does not help us to identify the cause or the agent of the "specifications" which it seeks to classify. That there is an agent or that the agent is "intelligent" must be concluded prior to applying the Design Inference. Using Dembski's own criteria, we cannot rule out natural selection as a cause for the design found in the events and organisms around us. Somehow, I doubt that natural selection is what Dembski has in mind for the author of design.

Dembski utilizes the Explanatory Filter and equivalent logical arguments in order to place his criterion of design on a deductive footing. That criterion, complexity-specification, does not help us to identify a cause, or an agent, of an event. Its sole purpose is to detect design as Dembski employs the term. The step from detection of design to inference of an intelligent agent is made by an inductive argument, and shares in the problems of all conclusions drawn from an inductive basis. Dembski argues that a triad of criteria reliably diagnoses the action of an intelligent agent, yet this same triad of criteria fails to exclude natural selection as a possible cause of events that have the attribute of complexity-specification. Again, I doubt that natural selection is what Dembski had in mind for the agent of biological design.

The Design Inference is a work with great significance for those anti-evolutionists who have embraced "intelligent design" as their organizing principle and see that Dembski's TDI is supposed to establish the theoretical foundation for all the rest of the movement (see, for example, comments posted on the web at http://www.discovery.org/fellows/design.html). My judgment is that it fails to lay a solid foundation. There are flaws and cracks that can admit the entry of naturalistic causes into the pool of "designed" events. It is unfortunate that Dembski's focus is the establishment of "intelligent design" as an anti-evolutionary alternative, for his insights into elimination of chance hypotheses would appear to have legitimate application to various outstanding research questions, such as certain issues in animal cognition and intelligence. Despite Dembski's commentary in his First Things article, there appears to be no justification for the claim that biologists must now admit design (in its old, agency-laden sense) into biological explanation.

References

Dembski WA. Science and design. First Things 1998 Oct; 86:21-2. http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9810/dembski.html. Accessed April 8, 1999.

Dembski WA. The Design Inference. Center for Renewal of Science & Culture Fellows Publications, http://www.discovery.org/fellows/design.html. Accessed May 31, 1999.

Further Reading

Dembski WA. The Explanatory Filter: A three-part filter for understanding how to separate and identify cause from intelligent design. http://www.origins.org/real/ri9602/dembski.html Accessed March 8,1999.

Dembski WA. Intelligent design as a theory of information. Conference on Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise (Austin, Texas). http://www.dla.utexas.edu/depts/philosophy/faculty/koons/ntse/papers/Dembski.html Accessed March 8, 1999.

[Find an expanded version of this review on the web at http://inia.cls.org/~welsberr/zgists/wre/papers/dembski7.html. Thanks to Bob Schadewald and others who gave helpful commentary on drafts of this review.]

About the Author(s): 

Wesley R Elsberry
Texas A&M University
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
210 Nagle Hall
College Station TX 77843

The NCSE 'Acts & Facts' Checker

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The NCSE 'Acts & Facts' Checker
Author(s): 
William Thwaites
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
2
Year: 
1999
Date: 
March–April
Page(s): 
36–37
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

[Long-time NCSE member and activist Bill Thwaites carefully monitors regular publications from the Institute for Creation Research. Bill has offered to provide us with a synopsis and critique of the salient features from the ICR's monthly Acts & Facts, which we gladly accepted. Ed.]

Introduction

I hope that my writing a review of the February 1999 issue of Acts and Facts from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) will help illuminate some of the issues in the evolution/creation discussion. I have long enjoyed interpreting each month's mailing and sharing my findings and speculations with my good friend, the late Frank Awbrey. Recently NCSE Executive Director Eugenie Scott suggested that I share my thoughts with RNCSE readers.

General Observations

Not Pleasing Anyone — Poor ICR! For purposes of convincing the scientific community that it is wrong about the age of the earth and the existence of biological evolution, the ICR must appear as secular and scientific as possible. The same appearance is handy in selling "scientific creationism" to the public schools and in maintaining ICR's accreditation as a graduate institute of science. On the other hand, for purposes of garnering financial support, ICR must appear to be as religious and evangelical as the "700 Club."

In the February 1999 issue of Acts and Facts, as well as in the accompanying fund-raising letter from the director John Morris, the emphasis is on evangelism. There is also a not-so-subtle appeal for "liberal" creationists to get back on board with regard to the young age of the earth. It would seem that just about everyone is carping at ICR for one thing or another.

Philosophical Naturalism — Both the elder and the junior Morrises of ICR seem to be impressed by Phillip Johnson's tirades against "philosophical naturalism". Morris the elder (Henry) writes that the evil atheistic cosmologists seem to be bent upon explaining the universe without God. Morris the younger (John) complains that naturalistic evolution falsely leads scientists to suppose that they will be able understand how cells and the genetic code originated.

As a biologist, I hasten to add that I'm gratified to see physical scientists criticized for "naturalism" the way biologists so frequently are. The complaints about cosmology show that creationists are fair-minded when it comes to complaints about "naturalism." They are not out just to get biologists. When the creationists are finished with their crusade, we will have theistic geometry, theistic addition, and so on. And I could happily go along with that if a reliable "theometer" is ever invented.

Taking on the Difficult Questions — We have read previously that ICR and its friends are going to put radioactive dating to rest once and for all. In this issue we learn that ICR is going to take on yet another daunting task — to discover the origin of pathogens (micro-organisms that cause disease). Somehow ICR must show that the diabolical mechanisms used to establish and maintain infections were not preprogrammed by a creator who knew in advance that mankind would fail. At the same time, ICR must also show that the more elaborate mechanisms (for example, the ability of many internal parasites to change "protein coats" to avoid recognition by the immune system) did not evolve.

If they admit to either preprogramming or to subsequent evolution, it would seem to weaken their case. On the one hand, an admission of preprogramming would cast doubt on their particular scriptural interpretation. An evolutionary explanation would also be painful. It would undermine the creationist insistence that nothing elaborate could have evolved. I look forward to seeing how they get out of this one almost as much as I anticipate their disproof of radioactive dating.

Impact #308 — In the February "Impact" article, we read a slightly reworked version of an old creationist claim. It goes something like this: "If evolutionary improvements stem from the selection of good mutations, then we should find many examples of good mutations in a typical species." Then the creationist goes to a list of genetic diseases and shows, wonder of wonders, that all the mutations in the list cause disease.

Of course the "good" mutations that evolution depends on are to be found in the variability that we see in any out-breeding population that has not recently come through a population bottleneck. In our own species, we see this as variations in resistance to infectious diseases, longevity, height, ability to succeed at school, resistance to ultraviolet light, resistance to various forms of cancer, and so on. In only a few cases have we been able to identify specific genes responsible for this variability, but the case for the genetic origin of these variations is well established.

And there is another way of looking at the claim that good mutations never happen — with a simple computer program. At San Diego State University we made a program that produced random letter changes that we scored against a target sentence. Those that were the closest to the target sentence were saved as "parents" for the next round of mutation and selection.

Very high mutation rates did not allow the reaching of the target sentence. Very low mutation rates made the achievement of "perfection" extremely slow. But when "perfection" had been achieved, all subsequent mutations were harmful. To a limited extent, that is what happens with real species. While "perfection" might be a bit of an exaggeration, any species that thrives is close to its "target" (that is, reasonably well adapted to its environment). Once that state is achieved, therefore, all subsequent single gene mutations are much more likely to be "bad" than good — that is, more likely to move the "sentence" farther from instead of closer to its target. A computer program elaborate enough to save alternative sentences that had the same meaning as the target sentence could be used to demonstrate this process of the accumulation of good mutations. As usual, there is an experiment which could resolve this apparent problem for the incorporation of useful mutations which could be done, but won't be — at least not by the ICR.

RNCSE 19 (3)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1999
Date: 
May–June
Articles available online are listed below.

Help Counter Creationism in Russia

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Help Counter Creationism in Russia
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1999
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
5
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
NCSE member Barbara Forrest, who recently attended a conference in St. Petersburg, reports that Russian scientists desperately need resources to stem the rising tide of creationism in their country. In Russia, as in many American communities, there are two important dimensions of the situation, religious and educational. But in Russia, both problems are more severe.

In the US, the voices of Biblical literalist religious denominations are balanced by those of denominations that accept evolution. In Russia, there are great numbers of conservative Christian American missionaries fueling a new fundamentalism, while church/state separation in education has come to an end, and the traditional Russian Orthodox Church has considerable influence on the schools. At the same time, science education is limited: "Only one new biology textbook has appeared in the last ten years," Dr. Forrest reports, "and most Russians don't have to study biology in high school anyway."

Forrest's host, Dr Sergei Orlov, is urging colleagues to develop answers to unscientific claims (sound familiar?) and collecting as much creationist literature as he can - a task that's all too easy because St. Petersburg is flooded with Russian translations of books and pamphlets about "creation science". "He once had a copy of Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy," Forrest told us, "but it was so popular with his students that he couldn't get it back. He was delighted when I gave him my own copy."

NCSE is sending more copies, and several back issues of Creation/Evolution, but there is more to do. Will you help?

* If you or a friend is fluent in Russian, you could translate some NCSE literature for Russian scientists to use as a resource, or possibly distribute.

* When NCSE first reported on Institute for Creation Research efforts to export creationism to Eastern Europe (NCSE Reports 14[2]:8), we offered to help members send gifts of literature rebutting "creation science", or explaining science as a way of knowing. You can order any such book that we have in stock and we will send it, charging you our discount price plus cost of shipping. The same offer applies to back issues of Creation/Evolution.

If some among our countrymen are exporting a problem, the rest of us can help with the cure. In 1989, we were moved to see replicas of the Statue of Liberty carried by democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. Like the idea and practice of democracy, the understanding of scientific method and critical thinking is important everywhere. Let's spread the word.

Australopithecus garhi: A New-Found Link?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Australopithecus garhi: A New-Found Link?
Author(s): 
Colin Groves
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1999
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
10–13
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Introduction

The human line separated from the chimpanzee line some 5 million years ago or a little more, according to dates derived from molecular "clocks". The earlier members of the human lineage, all of them entirely African, are lumped together as "australopithecines", named for the genus Australopithecus but including other genera too. Later members are placed together in the genus Homo.

Australopithecines have small cranial capacities (about 350 to 550 cc), large faces, jaws and cheek teeth, and the arrangement of the teeth in the jaws (dental arcade) tends to be rectangular. Where the postcranial skeleton is known, the ribcage is funnel-shaped (narrow at the top, expanding downwards), the hipbones a very wide and flaring, and the legs are short (leg:arm ratio intermediate between chimpanzee and human).The feet are basically bipedal and resemble humans, but the phalanges (toe-bones) are more curved. Fossils of the genus Homo have larger cranial capacities (510 cc upward), usually smaller faces, jaws and cheek teeth, and the dental arcades are parabolic. Except in the most primitive members the ribcage, where known, is barrel-shaped, the hipbones do not flare as much and are more curved, the legs are long, and the feet are fully modern.

Table 1: Brief Comparison of Australopithecus with early Homo fossils

A afarensis A africanus A garhi Early Homo
Molar & premolar size moderate moderate to large huge moderate
Anterior upper premolar asymmetrical more oval more oval more oval
Tooth enamel thickness fairly thick thick thick thick
Dental arcade shape rectangular rectangular rectangular parabolic
converges
backward
diverges
posteriorly
diverges diverges
Anterior depth of palate shallow varies shallow deep
Diastema in upper jaw common absent present rare
Anterior pillars on face no yes no no
Prognathism strong usually strong strong reduced
Supraorbital structure thin bar thin bar thin bar torus
Cranial capacity 343-500 428-ca 515 450 510-752
Table based on Asfaw and others, 1999

As a typical bang-up-to-the-minute biologist, I adopt a cladistic attitude to taxonomy: a family or genus is an evolutionary lineage. I place humans, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans together in the family Hominidae; so "hominid", a term still all too often used to mean "in the human line", actually refers to other living Great Apes too. At most, humans can be separated from other Great Apes as a tribe, Hominini, so fossils on the human side of the divide are "hominins". Anthropologists as a crew are always about 10 years behind other biologists, so it will probably be quite a while yet before textbooks of human evolution stop using "hominids" in the old sense.

The Australopithecines

Among the australopithecines, the earliest member is Ardipithecus ramidus, which is about 4.4 million years (ma) old and presents a quite distinct set of traits. The other distinctive clade represents the "robust" or "nutcracker", Paranthropus species, a distinct lineage which can be traced over a million and a half years from 2.5 to about 1 Ma The others are for the moment (for want of a decent cladistic model, really) lumped into the genus Australopithecus, which contains - or did until early this year - at least 4 species:

  1. Australopithecus anamensis, 3.9 to 4.1 Ma, from Kanapoi and Allia Bay, Lake Turkana district, northwestern Kenya. Though only recently described, this species is represented by quite a range of remains.
  2. Australopithecus bahrelghazali, about the same age as A anamensis. This species is recovered from Koro Toro in Chad and represents the only australopithecine known from western Africa. A bahrelghazali is known so far only by a single jaw.
  3. Australopithecus afarensis is well known from Fejej in Ethiopia; about 4 Ma, Laetoli in Tanzania, 3.5 to 3.75 Ma; and Hadar in Ethiopia, 3.3 to 2.9 Ma These sites cover a wide area in space and time, and not everyone is convinced that they all belong to a single species. Laetoli has over 20 fossil individuals (mainly jaws and teeth), and some important fossil footprints, while the extremely rich deposits at Hadar include a collection called "The First Family" and the very famous partial skeleton, "Lucy".
  4. Australopithecus africanus, the earliest described species, from South Africa; it has long been known from the sites of Taung, Sterkfontein and Makapansgat, and new excavations have recently begun at other sites in the Sterkfontein Valley (Drimolen and Gladysvale). Until very recently no absolute ages for these South African sites seemed possible, but they were dated by comparing their mammal faunas with those from sites in East Africa that could be dated. These comparisons suggested dates of 2.5 to 3 Ma. Very recently, attempts have been made to apply Electron Spin Resonance dating to them, and the results so far seem consistent with the faunal inferences.

The indications are that the early hominins were as diverse as any other group of large mammals. Among all the diversity, however, there must have been some actual ancestors and, human nature being what it is, everyone is obsessed with trying to deduce which, if any, of the fossil species might have filled this role. About all we can say so far about the ancestral possibilities of A anamensis is that it is in the right place at the right time and has no specialized bits of anatomy that would exclude it from having been an ancestor. A afarensis seems pretty primitive all around, but of course is more derived in the human direction than A anamensis. So, a plausible sequence begins to emerge. But what of A africanus?

Opinions have been rather divided about Australopithecus africanus. It is later in time than A afarensis and earlier than the first Homo, H habilis, so it fills the time gap; but it has seemed to be in the wrong place. Maybe our ancestors evolved in East Africa, moved south, and then moved back again in time to become Homo (though of course they may have existed in East Africa too but we just haven´t found any yet). But the differences from A afarensis to H habilis seem mostly to be pointing in the wrong direction. On the one hand A africanus had a larger cranial capacity on average, the lower premolars were wider (in A afarensis they were often narrow and fairly apelike), and the dental arcade sometimes tended to be more parabolic. On the other hand it had larger, broader molars and premolars but somewhat smaller front teeth, and a heavily built-up facial skeleton with what one specialist, Yoel Rak, has called "anterior pillars" - prominent bony thickenings alongside the snout and nasal aperture. If A africanus was ancestral to Homo, these last features would have been developed then lost again - a transition we try to avoid in deriving ancestor-descendant lineages.

Early Homo

Well-preserved specimens of Homo appear at around 2 Ma in East Africa, mainly at Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), where Homo habilis occurs, and at Koobi Fora (Kenya), where 2 species are present, a habilis-like species and the larger Homo rudolfensis. Both, especially H rudolfensis, have large molars, but the premolars are less expanded than in A africanus. The cranial capacity is 510-680 cc in H habilis and about 750 in H rudolfensis. The postcranial skeleton in H habilis, at least, is every bit as primitive as in australopithecines (it is "well known" that the legs are even relatively shorter than in "Lucy", but Asfaw and others [1999] point out that the evidence actually will not sustain this conclusion; this was shown earlier by Korey [1990]). A couple of hundred thousand years after these 2 early Homo species appeared, the first more modern-looking species, Homo ergaster with its long legs, shortened forearms, short face, prominent nose and beetle-brows, and a cranial capacity over 800 cc, appears in the record and is well on the way to becoming us.

The early Homo-bearing beds also have stone tools. Chimpanzees modify grass stems, branches and other perishable material, and they use stones to crack nuts but do not modify the stone. Presumably australopithecines did at least as well as chimpanzees, but not until Homo are there signs that stone was deliberately modified to form tools.

Where, then, did Homo spring from? There has been a big gap in the record before 2 Ma - back to 2.5, if we think that A africanus was the ancestral stock, or to 2.9 if we reject A africanus and take it back to A afarensis. (A related question, where did Paranthropus spring from, has now gone some way to being answered by the discovery, in the mid-80s, of "the Black Skull", from 2.5-ma deposits at Lomekwi, west of Lake Turkana. This specimen is beautifully intermediate between A afarensis and the later (1-2 Ma) Paranthropus specimens we find at Koobi Fora, Olduvai and so on). Until this year, there were just a few suggestive scraps:

  1. A jaw from deposits of 2.3-2.5 Ma at Uraha, in Malawi. This has extremely large teeth and a characteristic U-shape, and has been ascribed to Homo rudolfensis.
  2. A maxilla from 2.3-ma levels at Hadar. This is very clearly Homo, less prognathous ("snouty") than an australopithecine, with a fairly parabolic dental arcade and no anterior pillars. Its smaller teeth resemble Homo habilis. From the same level come stone tools.
  3. A temporal bone fragment, mainly the glenoid fossa (where the joint surface of the jaw fits), from 2.4 Ma deposits at Chemeron in Kenya The glenoid fossa is deep and Homo- (rather than Australopithecus-) like. It appears to be placed more medially (further under the braincase) suggesting that the brain had expanded above and out over the side of the joint.
  4. Finally, a basicranial specimen (Sts 19) from Sterkfontein, found in amongst the Australopithecus africanus remains, has quite a number of Homo-like details of the form of the ear region, all of which distinguish it from any australopithecine. In comparable parts, in fact, it is quite like the Chemeron temporal.

The Uraha mandible and Hadar maxilla are early Homo, there is no disagreement about this. The Chemeron temporal and Sts 19 are much more controversial. Even if we narrow it down to just the first two, we come to the interesting conclusion that by 2.3 Ma two species already seem to be in existence, the same two species that we find in the 2 Ma deposits at Koobi Fora

Enter The Bouri Hominin - or Should That Be Hominins?

And now, and now... hot off the presses ... a paper by Asfaw and others (Nature 1999 Apr 23; 284:629-5) describes a new species which they think "is descended from Australopithecus afarensis and is a candidate ancestor for early Homo". The new species is Australopithecus garhi from Bouri, on the Middle Awash River in Ethiopia. The age is 2.5 Ma, and the remains are associated with large antelope remains with cut-marks on them, apparently from stone tools. The primitive stone tools themselves were found not at Bouri itself but at the nearby, contemporaneous site of Gona.

The type specimen of Australopithecus garhi is a partial cranium. From nearby sites, and perhaps belonging to the same species or perhaps not, come several postcranial bones including a partial skeleton, a fragment of a second cranium, and 2 mandibles (one fairly complete). The specific name, garhi, means "surprise" in the Afar language, and a bit surprising it is, too. It is basically australopithecine, with a small cranial capacity (450 cc), rectangular or slightly diverging dental arcade, and very prognathous face. It lacks the anterior pillars of Australopithecus africanus, and it even has a gap (diastema) between the lateral incisor and the canine, a primitive feature seen in A afarensis but not in A africanus. From the photos, it looks very like A afarensis, but the authors point out some more "advanced" features like the premolar shape and the more anteriorly placed malar (cheekbone) root. Like many australopithecines, including some A afarensis, it has a sagittal crest for anchoring large temporal (chewing) muscles. But what is astounding about the specimen are the huge premolars and molars. The canine, for example, is larger than any other hominin, the anterior premolar is larger than any except for some specimens of Paranthropus boisei (the East African "nutcracker" species), and the second molar is larger than any Homo, though within the range of A africanus.

About the mandible, Asfaw and colleagues say little, except that its morphology would be compatible with belonging to the same species. The stone tools might have been made by A garhi, or they might not. As for the postcranial bones, the authors are careful to explain, they too need not belong to the same species. There could be one species that left its head in the deposits and another that left its postcranial skeleton there (and of course either or neither of them might have made the stone tools). But for what it is worth, and it is worth a good deal, Asfaw and colleagues give a brief description and an interesting diagram of the limb bone proportions. The femur-to-humerus ratio was like Homo ergaster and modern humans (long femur, short "Lucy"-sized humerus), but the forearm (radius and ulna)-to-humerus ratio was long like a chimpanzee or, for that matter, like "Lucy".

Table 2: Body Proportions of Some Important Fossils
Compared With Modern Humans and the Most Humanlike Ape (the Bonobo or "Pygmy Chimpanzee").


Brachial index:
Radius as % of humerus
Humerofemoral index:
Humerus as % of femur
Pan paniscus (Bonobo) 91.9 97.8 ± 2.1
A.afarensis ("Lucy" skeleton) 90.7 84.6 ± 2.8
Bouri (perhaps A.garhi) 97.9 ca. 70.4
H.habilis (OH 62) [79.5-93.2] [94.3 ± 7.7]
Homo sapiens (African) 79.6 ± 2.5 73.3 ± 1.7
"±" means, for living forms, the sample standard deviation; for individual fossils, the standard deviation of the estimate. See especially Korey (1990), who shows how the Homo habilis data have been grossly overinterpreted.

What are we to make of it? One, 2 or 3 species? What we have is

  • a skull (to which the name Australopithecus garhi belongs), resembling A afarensis but more derived; possessing features shared by A africanus and Homo, and without the apparently unique specializations of A africanus;
  • limb bones intermediate in proportion between A afarensis and H ergaster; and
  • the earliest stone tools so far discovered.
On balance, the evidence favors the single-species interpretation, but until we find associated parts we must be cautious, especially because of those vast teeth. It has been argued by McHenry, Tobias and others that megadontia (big-toothedness) is the primitive condition so that the teeth of early Homo ought to get smaller. But that the putative ancestor of Homo had the biggest teeth of the lot - that was entirely unexpected!

Suppose Australopithecus garhi made the tools and was the ancestor of Homo. Where do the 4 early Homo specimens presumed older than 2 Ma fit in? The Bouri cranium lacks a base, so that prevents direct comparisons with both Sts19 and the Chemeron temporal. Asfaw and colleagues do not describe the Bouri-region mandibles, so that (for the moment) excludes comparisons with Uraha. But the Hadar maxilla is definitely different from the one found at Bouri. In fact, it could be lost among the Olduvai maxillae, more than 300 000 years later. So, if A garhi is ancestral to Homo, either there was a rapid change in maxillary morphology in the intervening 200 000 years, or else the Bouri specimen is a late survivor of its species. We must not exclude a speeding-up of evolutionary rates, nor must we fall into the trap of assuming anagenesis (evolution without branching).

It´s an exciting time to be alive if you´re interested in human evolution. New countries are getting onto the paleoanthropological map: India, Syria, Eritrea, Chad, Malawi, and Portugal. Every new fossil fulfils certain expectations but opens up a whole barrel of new research questions. Fossil discoveries are matched by new discoveries of just how human our nearest living relatives are. And the press is avid for them all, as well it might be. Keep on your (bipedal) toes; if you miss this week´s reports you might already be out-of-date.

Further reading

  1. Description of the new species and its environment:

    Asfaw B, White T, Lovejoy O, Latimer B, Simpson S, Suwa G. Australopithecus garhi: a new species of early hominid from Ethiopia. Science 1999; 284:629-5.
    De Heinzelin J, Clark JD, White T, Hart W, Renne P, Wolde Gabriel G, Beyene Y, Vrba E. 1999. Environment and behavior of 2.5--million-year-old Bouri hominids. Science 199; 284:625-9.
  2. What is human-like about the early hominin locomotor skeleton, and what can and cannot be said about them:

    Korey KA.. Deconstructing reconstruction: the OH62 humerofemoral skeleton. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 1990: 83:25-33.
    McHenry HM. Tempo and mode in human evolution. Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 1994; 91:6780-6.
  3. An alternative interpretation of Australopithecus afarensis and A.anamensis:

    Senut B. Pliocene hominid systematics and phylogeny. South African Journal of Science 1996; 92:165-6.
  4. The candidates for earliest Homo (2.3 to 2.5 Ma):


    Uraha:
    Bromage TG, Schrenk F, Zonneveld FW. Paleoanthropology of the Malawi Rift: an early hominid mandible from the Chiwondo Beds, northern Malawi. Journal of Human Evolution 1995; 28:71-108.

    Hadar:
    Kimbel WH, Walter RC, Johanson DC,Reed KE, Aronson JL, Assefa Z, Marean CW, Eck GG, Bobe R, Hovers E, Rak Y, Vondra C, Yemane T, York D, Chen Y, Eversen NM, Smith PE. Late Pliocene Homo and Oldowan tools from the Hadar Formation (Kada Hadar Member), Ethiopia. Journal of Human Evolution 1996; 31:549-561.

    Chemeron:
    Hill A, Ward S, Deino A, Curtis G, Drake R. Earliest Homo. Nature, 1992; 355:719-22.

    Sterkfontein:
    Kimbel WH, Rak Y. The importance of species taxa in paleoanthropology and an argument for the phylogenetic concept of the species category. In: Kimbel WH, Martin LB, editors. Species, Species Concepts, and Primate Evolution. New York: Plenum Press, 1993. pp 461-84.
About the Author(s): 

Dr Colin Groves
Department of Archeology and Anthropology
Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200 Australia
colin.groves@anu.edu.au

The De-riving Force of Cladogenesis

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
The De-riving Force of Cladogenesis
Author(s): 
Andrew J Petto
University of the Arts
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1999
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
13
This version has been significantly updated since the print publication.

Cladogenesis is the term used to describe the branching off of new taxa. These branches — or clades — are based on several criteria which make the descendants along a particular branch different from their ancestors and from related taxa on other branches. Each new branch exhibits a combination of novel characteristics that are unique to that branch mixed with some "familial" characteristics which this branch shares with its evolutionary ancestors. Although certain novel traits may be diagnostic for members of an evolving lineage, it is often the combination of unique and shared characteristics that defines new branches.

The basis of constructing a valid cladogram is the ability to identify the characteristics of the ancestral population and those of the descendants (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_06). Characteristics found among the ancestors and shared by most or all members of related taxa are referred to as primitive. In cladistic studies this word is understood as "original" or "primal" and not as "crude" or "simple". In order to avoid confusion, some writers refer to these traits as conservative or simply ancestral. Shared, conservative traits link the members of related branches to a common ancestor. On the other hand, characteristics that are found in various evolutionary branches that differ from those of the ancestors are considered derived. In many cases these derived characteristics are unique modifications of widely shared ancestral characteristics. Derived traits distinguish the members of one evolutionary branch from the members of another branch.

A cladogram is constructed on these combinations of ancestral and derived characteristics in related taxa by organizing and diagramming the pattern and sequence in which they could have arisen. Ideally, we want a cladogram based on branches defined by uniquely derived characters that emerge once in an evolving lineage and are shared by all subsequent descendants. This helps us to test our hypotheses about common descent in evolving lineages. A branch that includes all the organisms descended from the same ancestral population is said to be monophyletic.

Because living organisms are a complex combination of traits, however, sometimes it is possible to draw more than one cladogram that might reflect the evolutionary history of a group of organisms. There is a variety of methods that researchers use to evaluate these options, and the appropriate choice depends on the kinds of data available and the specific hypothesis to be tested. The goal, however, is to find the tree that best explains the phylogenetic relationships among the organisms included in the tree.

Two fundamental principles used in evaluating cladograms are parsimony (http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/phylogenetics_08) and robusticity. First, when there is more than one way to draw a cladogram, and when there are no other data that suggest one of these is more likely than the others, we tend to choose the one in which derived traits are re-invented in different branches the fewest number of times. Second, we prefer trees that maintain their basic form, even when different options are applied to the sequence of changes in one or more of their branches. However, when more data are available about the history or the origin of a particular feature, these data are more important tools in determining which of the alternative trees is better. In contrast to exercises in mere classification, we want to base our taxonomy on the cladogram. The guiding principle is that our taxa should be monophyletic. Each evolutionary branch must contain all descendants of a common ancestor.

One of the chief criticisms against the "classical" taxonomy that places humans on one branch of the hominoid family tree and the great apes (African apes and the orang utan) on another is that this arrangement fails on the criterion of monophyly. Based on fossil data, comparative anatomy, and molecular biology, humans and African apes share a recent common ancestor and so a monophyletic clade would include humans and African apes together. Any branch that combines Asian apes (such as the orang utan) with African apes, but excludes the human branch, is invalid because it does not include all the descendants of the common ancestor of Asian and African apes (see http://tolweb.org/hominidae/16299).

There is, of course, a uniquely human clade containing all the hominins (species of the genera Homo, Australopithecus, and Ardipithecus) descended from the first upright walkers among the African apes; however, no clade that excludes humans but includes African and Asian groups is phylogenetically valid because it fails on the basic criterion of monophyly: it must include the most recent common ancestor of all the organisms in the tree and all the descendants of that most recent common ancestor.

Fossil data help to refine cladistic analysis by providing information about the sequence or order in which certain derived traits emerged. Cladistic analysis helps to resolve the "problem" of the so-called "missing links" or the intermediate specimens, because it does not require that fossil species evolve into any related species which emerge later. Instead, it represents the evolutionary history of an evolving lineage in terms of a collection of characteristics which can be passed along to descendant populations — or not!

Review: Forbidden Archaeology's Impact

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Year: 
1999
Issue: 
3
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
14–17
Reviewer: 
Tom Morrow
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Forbidden Archeology's Impact: How a Controversial New Book Shocked the Scientific Community and Became an Underground Classic
Author(s): 
Michael A. Cremo
Badger, CA: Torchlight Publishing, 1998. 592 pages.

What if somebody published a 592-page book to answer all the critics of his previous book? That's what Michael Cremo does in Forbidden Archaeology's Impact. In 1993, Cremo and Richard Thompson published Forbidden Archaeology (FA), a voluminous exposé of "anomalous archaeological artifacts" that suggested modern people possibly lived on earth almost as long as the world existed, some 4.3 billion years ago.

Like Christian creationists who accommodate science to the Bible, Cremo and Thompson are Hindu creationists that harmonize science with their sacred Vedic scriptures. The Bhagavata Purana says that men and women have lived on earth for a vast period of time called the Day of Brahma, which is composed of a thousand yuga cycles. Each yuga cycle lasts 12,000 "years of the gods." And since each "year" equals 360 earth years, one yuga cycle equals 4.32 million years while a thousand yuga cycles total 4.32 billion years, summing up the Day of Brahma.

Forbidden Archaeology's Impact describes the notoriety Cremo's first book triggered by including all his personal correspondence, interviews, journal articles, conference papers, and even Internet postings. But Cremo mostly confronts his critics head-on, reprinting their harsh book reviews verbatim while following them up with lengthy rebuttals that he mailed to each reviewer in protest.

And Cremo doesn't suffer critics gladly. He mailed a copy of this book to the NCSE because it includes a voluminous rebuttal to Wade Tarzia's review published 5 years ago in Creation/Evolution 34. So I'll choose my words carefully.

Cremo strenuously protests the ad hominem attacks targeted at Forbidden Archaeology and its abridged edition, Hidden History of the Human Race. And in the reviews he cites, some critics did unnecessarily tease, trivialize, and spoof the authors' deadly serious presentation of their major evidences for human antiquity. And I agree that those reviewers should have analyzed FA's claims more seriously and professionally.

But their scorn could have been provoked by the book's blunt, in-your-face debut. As a publicity stunt, Cremo and Thompson mailed dozens of free, unsolicited copies to various paleoanthropologists to trigger a response. And when these recipients opened their packages to discover a book from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness dedicated to His Divine Grace AC Ghaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and consisting of a thousand-page assault on their profession, accusing them of unwittingly and deliberately suppressing evidence, what were they to think? Perhaps that this book was someone's spooky, surreal prank?

Paleoanthropologists have have grown to expect the taunts of Christian anti-evolutionists who appeal to biblical authority. Now they have to put up with Hindus attacking evolution by invoking cyclical kalpas, manvantaras, and yugas while accusing anthropologists of worshiping at the altar of Darwinian fundamentalism and metaphysical materialism. Gee, where have we heard that before? What kind of reception did Cremo expect?

Besides, many critics had genuine problems with Forbidden Archaeology that went beyond "Darwinism". For all its densely technical discussions of archaeological anomalies, many critics complained that Cremo and Thompson bombarded readers with abundantly useless data. For example, FA devotes 400 pages to analyzing anomalous stone tools depicted in obscure literature over the past 150 years. Worse, these specimens no longer exist. So FA compensated by providing page after page of drawings taken from their original sources. But in his reprinted review on page 103, Kenneth Feder frets that these illustrations are absolutely useless because it is impossible to determine whether these Paleolithic tools are drawn to scale or accurately rendered.

In Forbidden Archaeology's Impact, Cremo boasts that he's overthrowing the Darwinian worldview; but Darwinism is the study of biology, not Stone Age finds. And Cremo ignores animal evolution entirely. In 2 reprinted letters, Cremo says he's writing a book that cites land plants found in Cambrian strata (from reports published 50 years earlier) and fossils of flowering plants found in Jurassic strata (about 213-144 million years ago). Most paleobotanists say that angiosperms didn't appear until the late Cretaceous period (about 70 million years ago). But Cremo never explains why these potential revelations threaten biological evolution.

In their separate reviews reprinted in this book, Tarzia and Bradley Lepper revealed Cremo's biological misunderstandings while critiquing his "ape-man" chapter. Forbidden Archaeology and its abridged version, Hidden History of the Human Race, claimed that Bigfoot, Yeti, and other backcountry "wildmen" really exist and threaten evolution. Why? Because if someone caught a live Sasquatch, that would prove ancient hominids still coexist with modern humans.

But on page 159, Tarzia accuses Cremo and Thompson of "ignoring the possibility of shared common ancestry." Cremo's 14-page rebuttal to Tarzia ignores that criticism. On page 203, Lepper says, "Cremo and Thompson devote an entire chapter to reports of 'living ape-men' such as Bigfoot, which, even if true, contribute nothing to their thesis that anatomically modern humans lived in geologically recent times. Chimpanzees are 'ape-men' of a sort, sharing 99% of our genetic makeup, and their coexistence with Homo sapiens sapiens does no violence to evolutionary theory."

Cremo's response to Lepper on page 213 is oddly revealing: "While evidence of the coexistence of anatomically modern humans with more apelike hominids today does not do any violence to evolutionary theory, their coexistence in the distant past would do some violence to it. And the evidence documented in Hidden History suggests that they did coexist in the distant past."

I read that passage over and over, trying to make sense of Cremo's response. If he concedes that humans and nonhuman hominids coexisting today would not undermine human evolution, then what was the purpose of his ape-man chapter to begin with? And if modern humans and apelike hominids coexisted in the distant past, paleoanthropologists will always presume that they shared an even earlier ancestry. For example, even though some paleontologists and ornithologists currently disagree over whether birds diverged from Cretaceous maniraptorans (a specific group of dinosaurs) or earlier Triassic thecodonts (tree-dwelling reptiles), neither side claims their disagreement invalidates the conclusions of common ancestry for dinosaurs and birds.

What's more, Cremo is oblivious to biological context. One of many reasons why scientists accept evolution is because humans share numerous anatomical traits with all living mammals, not just primates. But if we embrace the notion that modern people lived on earth 600 million years ago, long before the arrival of other mammals, reptiles, fish, vertebrates, or any animal with a skeleton or hard body part, then biological patterns would be rendered senseless.

Even if we overlook the implausibility of humans' thriving in an oxygen-starved world without available food sources, think about what it would mean to have people living on earth, eons before the first arthropods arrived. Finding fossilized humans at every level of the geologic column would not be anomalous at all. Those finds would be the rule, not the exception, and a Darwinian paradigm would have never seized a foothold to begin with.

But of all the criticisms aimed at Forbidden Archaeology, Cremo objects most to those who labeled it pseudoscience, which is understandable. Cremo and Thompson toiled for 8 years on this comprehensive reference work, and calling it a pseudoscience is the same thing as labeling it a fraud. But when I read Forbidden Archaeology's Impact's reprinted correspondence that Cremo exchanged with his sympathizers and supporters, he appears too stubborn and sanctimonious to follow scientific rules. For example, if Cremo and Thompson wanted their debut to be taken seriously, they should have first submitted their findings through an extensive peer-review process, but Cremo thinks "peer-review" simply means conspiracy and censorship. Like all creationists, Cremo's not looking for real answers - just believers.

Next, let's examine portions of the two following letters that Cremo wrote to his supporters. This first one on page 300, is addressed to Dr Horst Friedrich:

In your review, you note that Richard Thompson and I did not discuss the idea of recurring catastrophes or the evidence for advanced civilization mentioned in the Vedic literatures of India. That was deliberate on our part. In Forbidden Archaeology we wanted first of all to demonstrate the need for an alternative view of human origins. In our next book, tentatively titled The Descent of Man Revisited, we shall outline the alternative, drawing extensively upon Vedic source material. This will include, of course, the recurring cataclysms of the yuga cycles and manvantara periods, as well as discussion of Vedic descriptions of advanced civilization in ancient times, and in an interplanetary context as well. I hope that will satisfy you! A new picture of human origins will have to be comprehensive, in the manner you suggest in your NEARA Journal article, incorporating evidence not only for archaeological and geological anomalies, but also paranormal phenomena of all types, including evidence for extraterrestrial civilization.

That's only the beginning. Cremo goes on to describe, in complete detail, 3 unique avatarian manifestations of the Godhead and explains how Shrila Prabhupada spread Krishna consciousness around the world through God's "confidential empowerment". The religious significance of Cremo's research is paramount.

However, Forbidden Archaeology's harshest critics were paleoanthropologists, and it was amusing to watch Cremo lecture professional scientists on how to do their jobs. He even admonished Lepper for not properly understanding Thomas Kuhn's prerequisites for scientific revolutions. Yet despite all this, read the following portion of this letter addressed to Dr William Howells on page 337:

Historically, I would say that the Judaeo-Christian tradition helped prepare the way for the mechanistic worldview by depopulating the universe of its demigods and spirits and discrediting most paranormal occurrences, with the exception of a few miracles mentioned in the Bible. Science took the further step of discrediting the few remaining kinds of acceptable miracles, especially after David Hume's attack upon them. Essentially, Hume said if it comes down to a choice between believing reports of paranormal occurrences, even by reputable witnesses, or rejecting the laws of physics, it is more reasonable to reject the testimony of the witnesses to paranormal occurrences, no matter how voluminous and well attested. Better to believe the witnesses were mistaken or lying. In my opinion, there is even today quite a lot of evidence for paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately, this evidence tends to be suppressed in the intellectual centers of society by the same process of knowledge filtration that tends to suppress physical evidence that contradicts general evolutionary ideas.

In other words, Cremo not only accuses the "scientific establishment" of rejecting the paranormal; but also claims that mainstream scientists are immersed in a conspiracy to suppress its evidence. And he has the effrontery to wonder why scientists won't take him seriously?

Frankly, I appreciate Cremo's courage to express his paranormal leanings so candidly. "Intelligent Design" creationists, in contrast, often wriggle and squirm when confronted with theirs. Let me say that if anybody is interested in the cultural and religious groundwork, sincere personal motivations, and epistemological methods employed by Hindu "creation science", Forbidden Archaeology's Impact is the most comprehensive, conclusive reference work on this topic.

About the Author(s): 
Tom Morrow
662 Hogskin Valley Rd
Washburn TN 37888-1735

Review: Skeptics and True Believers

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Year: 
1999
Issue: 
3
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
18, 23
Reviewer: 
Arthur M. Shapiro
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Skeptics and True Believers
Author(s): 
Chet Raymo
New York: Walker and Company, 1998. 288 p.
Does anyone but me remember "The Conversion of Aurelian McGoggin?" It's a short piece from Rudyard Kipling's "Plain Tales From the Hills," set in British India. McGoggin is an obnoxious autodidactical windbag. Having read some Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer, he has concocted his own creed, a hodgepodge of materialism, positivism, humanism and Darwinism, which he insists on preaching at length to anyone unlucky enough to be within reach of his stentorian voice. His put-upon comrades lovingly refer to him as "The Blastoderm". One day the Blastoderm suffers something like heat stroke, which renders him speechless for 2 days and occasions a 3-month convalescence. That's enough to drive him to serious introspection: being struck dumb was undreamt of in his philosophy. Freed from the pressure of constant oral self-affirmation, he begins to doubt that he is the repository of ultimate wisdom. His associates revel in blessed silence. We all know a Blastoderm or two.

Addressing the zone where science and religion meet, Raymo divides people into "skeptics" and "true believers." ("A term which is charged with the sacred demonizes its antonym," said Jean Starobinski.) However, things are not all that simple. There are religious skeptics — deeply religious skeptics — and atheist — profoundly atheist — true believers. The Blastoderm is a specimen of the latter type. Skeptics and True Believers is about mind-sets. It is firmly opposed to the mind-set of anyone who claims to be In possession of absolute truth, be it theistic or atheistic. In the tradition of Eric Hoffer, the longshoreman-philosopher who popularized the term "true believer" about 4 decades ago, it is a manifesto against all varieties of Blastoderms.

Chet Raymo is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at StonehiII College in North Easton MA and writes a weekly column, Science Musings, for the Boston Globe. He was raised Catholic — he tells of being indoctrinated from Frank Sheed's Theology and Sanity, a book arguing that a truly sane person by definition must be Roman Catholic. Although he has by his own account outgrown all the mumbo-jumbo of his youth, he has never stopped being troubled by how faith and science fit together.

Skeptics and True Believers is a book for other reflective adults. It begins somewhere beyond where certainty has been lost. Call it an affirmation for those looking for hope. But it has little patience for New-Age gurus trying to build cults on foundations of quantum physics or chaos theory and even less for the current "angel" fad. Raymo sees such stuff as foredoomed and contemptible for its shallowness. He is looking for something deeper, something closer to ultimate meaning. For those who reject any prospect of ultimate meaning, his quest is at best quixotic. Raymo's basic argument is not new, but it is lyrically, indeed poetically, put forward here. Scientific method is the pinnacle of human civilization; with all due acknowledgement of its intrinsic falsifiability, scientific knowledge cannot be rejected or ignored. Science neither desacralizes nor demystifies the universe.

Raymo quotes EO Wilson: "Our sense of wonder grows exponentially: the greater the knowledge, the deeper the mystery." Only a soul that is deadened, or dead, can resist the majesty of the universe as revealed to us by science. Speaking of "knowing and being", Raymo says (p 232-4):
Cosmology, spirituality, cerebration — these are the attributes of religion. ...Cosmology reveals the creation. It answers the big questions. ...For better or worse, this is the task of science... now embraced globally as the one truly human instrument of cosmic revelation.

For the method to work, we pretend for the moment that it is possible to step out of ourselves into the world as it is. To this end we invent names — Cercyonis pegol, Cercyonis meadi — that match the patterns we think we see in nature. Of course, perfect objectivity is impossible. ...Science works...in that wall of liquid between mind and world.... With.science, the arrow of transference is inward, from world to mind, a soul-making vector, incandescent with facts, sparks of the white fire kindled in our hearts.... Only when we are emotionally at home in the universe of the galaxies and the DNA will the new story invigorate our spiritual lives and be cause for authentic celebration. Knowing and believing will come together again at last. Cautious and skeptical as knowers, we can then give ourselves unreservedly to spiritual union with creation and communal celebration of its mysteries.
Once again, for the true believer materialist-positivist this is all literal nonsense. But most people are not Blastoderms. The physicist-priest John Polkinghorne says that there is "a God-shaped hole in many people's lives." The Czech president and intellectual Václav Havel has been saying something similar for years (Raymo chides him on p 165-6 for going too far with this). Some sociobiologists argue that religious belief has an evolutionary function, and most social scientists ascribe important social functions to religious belief. The recent history of state-mandated atheism belies the canard that, given a choice, people will gladly throw off the oppressive burden of belief. False consciousness and opiates of the people notwithstanding, most people seem to find it very hard — at least very depressing — to believe in nothing larger than themselves.

Raymo wants to believe that a new spirituality grounded in science will emerge. He fears that if it does not, that God-shaped hole will be filled by oppressive old orthodoxies and superstitions. He has no clear vision of what this new spirituality might be like — only that it has to be cleaner and purer and more uplifting than the incantations of one or another kind of Blastoderm.

[Technical note from the author: The Cercyonis are butterflies and hark back to an earlier discussion of how taxonomy allows us to order nature. Unfortunately, Raymo got one of the names wrong. It's Cercyonis pegala, not pegol. But pegol is intrinsically a pretty word, and I hope someone names a butterfly Cercyonis pegol some day.]

About the Author(s): 
Arthur M Shapiro
Center for Population Biology
University of California
Davis CA 95616

A New Tactic for Getting "Creation Science" Into Classrooms?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
A New Tactic for Getting "Creation Science" Into Classrooms?
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
NCSE Network Project Director
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1999
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
24–26
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
One of the enduring characteristics of evolution/creation controversies in this country is that anti-evolution tactics change over time, although the underlying message does not. One reason these changes occur is that anti-evolutionists respond to court rulings by looking for specific language in these decisions which may seem to provide a "loophole" that can be used as another route for bringing "creation science" into the schools. For example, Eugenie Scott has described the "mutation" of proposals for "balanced treatment" of evolution and "creation science" into proposals for teaching "evidence against evolution" (NCSE Reports 1996; 16[2]:5). The name may change, but the content stays the same; the "evidence" offered "against evolution" consists of the same "unsolved problems" decried by "creation science".

The most publicized efforts to have "evidence against evolution" taught are legislative proposals like the bill introduced in Ohio in 1995 (NCSE Reports 16[3]:18). But there's another way of bringing anti-evolution into classrooms that may be more successful because it is less publicized, and often goes unnoticed; this is for teachers to present it on their own initiative. In some instances, teachers have the support of their communities. In other cases a teacher may continue for years before parents or administrators learn what is happening. It doesn't always occur to students to mention what they were taught, and even the most attentive parents may not happen to see one or a few homework assignments covering the material, or recognize them as such.

Two of the more recent strategies are to argue that individual teachers have a constitutional right to present creationist material and that "evidence against evolution" should be taught in the science classroom as a way to improve teaching and learning. The former insists either that free speech or the free exercise of religion is unconstitutionally abridged when teachers are not permitted to teach creationism in the science classroom. The second usually resorts to a litany of so-called "problems" and "anomalies" in the scientific evidence which proponents claim casts doubt on evolutionary explanations and models.

The "Right" to Teach "Creation Science" - Two Failed Legal Strategies

When they hear that their teachers are teaching "creation science" in the science classroom, school district administrators or board members who understand the scientific issues - or at least the legal repercussions - will often tell them to stop, and sometimes that's the end of the story (for example, in Lakewood, OH, as described in NCSE Reports 1996; 16[1]:6). But 2 instances in which teachers responded by suing their school districts have led to major legal decisions, each upholding the district's actions:

  • In 1990, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decided the case of a teacher who claimed that a school district had violated his free speech rights by forbidding him to teach "creation science". The Appeals Court upheld a lower court's ruling that the teacher's claim was outweighed by a public school's obligation to ensure that religious views are not injected into curricula (Webster v New Lenox School District #122, 917 F. 2d 1004).

  • In 1994 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that a teacher's right of free exercise of religion is not violated by a requirement to teach evolution. The decision issued by the Court specifically rejected the claim that evolution is a "religion" (John E Peloza v Capistrano Unified School District, [1994] 917 F. 2d 1004). The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Peloza decision.

While circuit court decisions do not apply to every state in the US, they do apply within their districts and may be consulted by other circuit courts considering similar cases. Ninth Circuit decisions apply to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, and Arizona; Seventh Circuit decisions apply to Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

A New Approach - Teaching "Evidence Against Evolution"

In recent months, NCSE has been consulted by residents of 2 districts in which teachers are claiming they have a right to present "evidence against evolution". In Faribault, Minnesota, after a series of discussions with school and district officials, high-school teacher Rodney LeVake was re-assigned from teaching a biology class to a general science class. A complaint to the State of Minnesota's Third Judicial District Court, filed on Levake's behalf by the Midwest office of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), alleges that the school district's action has violated a number of LeVake's rights under both state and federal constitutions, including a right to protection from "discriminat[ion]...in terms, conditions and privileges of employment on the basis of his religion...." (ACLJ is a conservative Christian legal organization launched by Pat Robertson, founder of the "Christian Coalition".)

The ACLJ complaint quotes LeVake's statement, in a "position paper" requested by school administrators, that, "I will teach, should the department decide that it is appropriate, the theory of evolution. I will also accompany that treatment of evolution with an honest look at the difficulties and inconsistencies of the theory without turning my class into a religious one." (Minnesota's Science Curriculum Framework specifies that "biological evolution" should be taught in grades 9-12.)

The full text of the "position statement " attached to the complaint contains a litany of familiar "creation science" and "intelligent design" arguments, for example:
  • "neither evolution nor creation can be considered a science..."
  • "amazing lack of transitional forms in the fossil record..."
  • "mutations generally have a negative impact..."
  • "evolution is in clear violation of [the Second Law of Thermodynamics]..."
  • "no reservations [about "microevolution", but] ... recent literature doesn't support...macroevolution..."

LeVake's statement also refers to "irreducible complexity", a concept introduced in Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box, and even lists Behe's example of the structure of flagellae, while stating that LeVake has not read this book (but recommends it anyway!)

Many of LeVake's arguments are familiar, and his legal complaint repeats some claims that have been made in other cases - such as a right to teach anti-evolution as a matter of "academic freedom". However, this appears to be the first time that supposed employment discrimination against a teacher has been alleged against a district that would not permit teaching "evidence against evolution".

Of Pandas and Lawsuits

In Burlington, Washington there has been controversy for over a year concerning Roger DeHart's use of the "intelligent design" textbook Of Pandas and People in a middle-school science class. In 1998, school board members who had supported DeHart said they did not want to risk being sued by the ACLU. A new superintendent ordered DeHart to stop using Pandas and explicitly said he could not teach "creation science." (RNCSE 1999; 19[1]:7).

In the summer of 1999, DeHart sought approval of some portions of Pandas by the district's Instructional Materials Committee (IMC). Local newspapers suggested that attorneys had contacted the school district on DeHart's behalf (Burlington Argus, March 3, 1999:1). Although the IMC committee refused to approve the material, the school's principal gave DeHart permission to use a few pages from Pandas. According to an article in the Seattle Times, the principal said, "He's introducing 'irreducible complexity'.... He also has to have a supporting theory of how evolution addressed complex things...." (June 14, 1999 ). It is clear that District officials believe they have made a compromise. On July 14, the Skagit Valley Herald reported that Superintendent Rick Jones commented, "When I came to this district he was teaching a great deal about intelligent design and now there is nothing being taught. We've made radical changes... but no one seems to be thinking about that."

At the time of publication, no court documents have been filed by either the school district or DeHart's attorneys, so NCSE does not know whether new legal strategies will be attempted. Some correspondence on DeHart's behalf by an attorney for the Rutherford Institute implies that refusing to use Pandas would somehow be unconstitutional. While the concept of "intelligent design theory" has appeared in a federal court (in the Freiler v Tangipahoa case, see RNCSE 1997; 17[3]:5-7), the situation in Burlington may evolve into the first lawsuit in which the constitutionality of using Pandas is an issue.

Coming to a Classroom Near You?

Resources for teachers who want to teach "evidence against evolution" are abundantly available from both "creation science ministries" and conservative religious groups for whom "creation science" is just one concern. For example, a booklet distributed to teachers by Focus on the Family lists 8 organizations with resources for teachers (and here at NCSE we know of many more!). A 1998 International Creation Conference included 11 sessions for teachers, with titles like "Complexity of Blood Clotting: A Laboratory Practicum" and "Funny Bones - Using Humor to Teach Creation in Human Anatomy Courses". Audiotapes of each session are available (see a complete list at http://trfn.clpgh.org/csf/icc98ta.html ). The abundance of resources suggests a wide audience, and numerous surveys finding that many teachers want to teach "creation science" confirm this impression (more than 30% of a national sample of high school biology teachers described in Eve and Dunn, 1989).

What can you do? If you have children in school, you can tell if evolution is being taught (and how well) when helping with science homework or visiting the science classroom on parents' night. You can read your child's textbooks and supplemental materials and check out the school library - books, magazines and other materials such as audiotapes, videotapes, posters, and so on. If you don't have children in school, but know people who do, share your interest in NCSE and good science education. Don't be surprised if some day one of these friends calls and asks, "My child's teacher is talking about 'evidence against evolution'. What can I do?" This has happened to other NCSE members (see NCSE Reports 1996; 16[1]:21-2). And then? Call NCSE - we're here to help.

References

Anonymous, Teachers Guide ... Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Human Origins (Dallas, TX: Haughton Publishing Company, nd) (While the authors and publication date of Pandas itself are known, the Teachers Guide does not give this information).

Eve RA, Dunn D. "High school biology teachers and pseudoscientific belief: Passing it on?" The Skeptical Inquirer 1989 Spring; 13:260-3.

Peloza v Capistrano. Text of 9th Circuit Court decision is available at .

Prentice DA Setting Up Non-Religious, Scientific Models for Teaching Creation and Evolution in the Public School Classroom. New Orleans: Origins Resource Association, 1995.

Sarfati J. Refuting Evolution: A Response to the National Academy of Sciences' Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1999. (A study guide presenting this book's arguments in question-and-answer form is available at www.answersingenesis.org/docs/4059.asp.)

Cheering with the Enemy

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Cheering with the Enemy, or Boosting Your Mileage with the Best from Bad Reviews
Author(s): 
Wade Tarzia
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
3
Year: 
1999
Date: 
May–June
Page(s): 
30–33
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

Introduction

How can ideas that have failed to find acceptance in the scientific arena continue to be promoted as scientifically valid? A common rhetorical strategy among anti-evolutionists is reminiscent of advertisements for bad movies — excerpt the bad reviews and use parts of them to your advantage. In this case the Bhakavadanta Institute excerpted my negative review in Creation/Evolution (Tarzia 1994) to promote the creationist archaeology book, Forbidden Archaeology: The hidden history of the human race by Michael A Cremo and Richard L Thompson. It is a simple method — counter a theory of evolution through acrobatic selective citation. For a Christian creationist example of the method, see Henry Morris's book That Their Words May Be Used Against Them (1998). However, the example I will explore here shows the use of selective citations from negative reviews to promote the book through advertisement on a web site.

The Institute had much material to work with because several scholars published negative reviews of the book. Some of these reviewers made positive remarks about certain aspects of Forbidden Archaeology even if their final judgment was that the book was a work of pseudoscience or had severe shortcomings. Showing resolution before critical adversity, the publishers established a World Wide Web site (http://www.webcom.com/ara/col/books/science/fa.html) composed of positive statements from many negative reviews. Of course, these selective citations have been removed from the context of the overall negative assessments. The publishers introduce these citations with this upbeat statement:
Forbidden Archeology is an extremely controversial book that has attracted a great deal of attention in the academic world. As might be expected, its anti-Darwinian thesis has provoked many negative reviews, some of which misrepresent the substance of the book. But even those who disagree with the book's conclusion have sometimes recognized it as a genuine scholarly contribution and correctly represented the substance of the book to their readers, as shown by the following excerpts.
(http://www.webcom.com/ara/col/books/science/rev.html last accessed on July 19, 1999).

A Trio of Reviews

I will show a few detailed examples from 3 sources I have at hand (Marks 1993; Feder 1994; Tarzia 1994). First I will extract a long section of each review to suggest the author's overall assessment, then show the Forbidden Archaeology web site's use of this material in italics.

From Karl Feder's Review:

While decidedly anti-evolutionary in perspective, this work is not the ordinary variety of anti-evolutionism in form, content, or style. In distinction to the usual brand of such writing, the authors use original sources and the book is well written. Further, the overall tone of the work is far superior to that exhibited in ordinary creationist literature. Nonetheless, I suspect that creationism is at the root of the authors' argument, albeit of a sort not commonly seen before. It is impossible in the context of this short review to deal in an in-depth way with any of the myriad cases cited by the authors buttress their claims he authors to buttress their claims. Instead, their general approach can be summarized.

The authors base virtually their entire book on a literature search and most (though not all) of that literature dates to the early twentieth century. In so doing, the authors have resurrected nineteenth-century claims of "Tertiary Man" (see Grayson 1983), apparently superimposing on this a belief in the instantaneous appearance of anatomically modern Homo sapiens at some point in the very distant past, asserting that the evidence for this is at least as good, and usually better, than that cited for a much later and evolutionary origin for our species. The authors maintain that the analytical techniques applied by nineteenth century scientists to incised bones and "eoliths" that led some to conclude that these very ancient items were the result of human activity, are nearly the same techniques as those applied today to accepted evidence. Therefore, the authors assert, the conclusions reached by nineteenth and early twentieth -century researchers that these very ancient objects were cultural in origin are of equal validity to the identification of more recent (late Pliocene) cultural objects by modern scientists. Thus, when a nineteenth-century researcher using a standard microscope of the time claims that striations found on bones dating back tens of millions of years are butchering marks, this is the equivalent, in the authors' view, of a modern researcher identifying cut marks using a scanning electron microscope. I doubt that many working in the field would agree. ... When you attempt to deconstruct a well-accepted paradigm, it is reasonable to expect that a new paradigm be suggested in its place. The authors of Forbidden Archaeology do not do this and I would like to suggest a reason for their neglect here. Wishing to appear entirely scientific, the authors hoped to avoid a detailed discussion of their own beliefs (if not through evolution, how? Is not within the last four million years, when?) since, I would contend, these are based on a creationist view, but not the kind we are all familiar with.

From Jonathan Marks's Review:

The explicit aims of the authors is to reconcile paleoanthropology to the Vedic ideas that "the human race is of great antiquity" and that "various human and apelike beings have coexisted for a long time" (p xxxvi). That does not sound particularly challenging; but unsatisfied with the apparently easy harmony between normal science and their nebulous theology, the authors decided to redo anthropology. The argument is simple: think of all the generalizations we can make about human evolution. Now think of all the exceptions, paradoxes, mistakes, and hoaxes. Now switch them. That is this book. As the Fire-sign Theatre once proclaimed: "Everything you know is wrong!" (But then, they were trying to be humorous, too). For unclear reasons, given the looseness of their religious thesis, this book is anti-evolutionary. The authors are trying to argue that humans have always been on earth, even unto the pre-Cambrian, when there was not much for them to eat or breathe.... The best that can be said is that more reading went into this Hindu-oid creationist drivel than seems to go into the Christian-oid creationist drivel. At any rate, this is a must for anyone interested in keeping up with goofy popular anthropology; at well over 900 pages, it is a veritable cornucopia of dreck.

From Wade Tarzia's Review:

Forbidden Archeology, a new Bhaktivedanta Institute book, argues that anatomically modern humans have existed for millions of years, which disproves the theory of human evolution; the authors make no specific claims for other kinds of biotic evolution. The book also claims that archaeologists have become a "knowledge filter" (p xxv ff) since the 19th century, laboring under a predisposition to ignore evidence for anatomically modern humans having existed for millions of years. Sometimes the book develops a dishonesty theory-evidence is said to be "carefully edited" (p 150) by scientists so that younger investigators do not see evidence that invalidates the theory of human evolution.

The authors have worked hard in collecting and quoting an enormous amount of material, much of it from the 19th- and early 20th-century, certainly interesting for its historical perspective. Their evidence is as diverse as it is detailed, including, for example, eoliths (crudely broken stones some have considered early tools), "wildmen" (Big Foot, etc), and even a fossilized shoe sole from the Triassic period. Despite all this hard work, I think the book falls short of a scientific work primarily (but not entirely) because (1) its arguments abandon the testing of simpler hypothesis before the more complex and sensationalistic ones, and (2) the use of so many outdated sources is inadequate for a book that seeks to overturn the well-established paradigm of human evolution — scholars must not work in isolation, especially today, when multi-disciplinary approaches are needed to remain on the cutting edge of knowledge. However, for researchers studying the growth, folklore, and rhetoric of pseudo-science, the book is useful as 'field' data.
Note that the italicized quotations are carefully selected summaries of the book or, as in the case of my review, selections of kind opinion (despite an overall negative judgment). In any event, the quotes so selected may appear to suggest that the reviewers are re-stating the book's premises ... and agree! Note that the introduction to this web-page states that the reviewers correctly summarize the substance of the book ... and again fosters an aura of overall agreement between the authors and book reviewers.

The entire effort seems legal to me; the website properly references the reviews. I assume the citations are generally accurate because the 3 I have shown here were cited correctly (although incompletely). The site does not claim that these reviewers agreed with the book.

The Integrity of the Review Process

If the quotations are legal, is there a problem? Are the quotations ethical or misleading? That is difficult to answer; on its surface the site is advertising a book rather than discussing science and this selective citation is not unusual from an advertiser's point of view. But consider also that the site reproduces so much discussion from and about the book (about 9000 words) that the boundary between advertisement and scientific discussion is blurred. The Forbidden Archaeology web site seems firmly in the recent media tradition of technical advertising, so what frame of reference shall we chose to decide whether this use of reviewers' comments is acceptable?

Because Forbidden Archaeology professes to be rigorous and competitive in scholarly circles, we might expect its promotion to be similarly circumspect — keeping in mind that even the publishers of genuinely highly-regarded books are apt to select strong quotations from reviews. Still, is this the same thing as extracting summaries of positive statements from overall negative reviews?

While conceding to the cleverness of the publishers, I would point out the "interesting" rhetorical position in which the publishers have placed us. Of course, the letter of the law has been followed in citation rules; readers can refer to the complete text of the reviews. However, the unusual arrangement of the material on the web site permits the publisher to "cheer with the enemy" in promoting the book. It seems that, when these reviewers tried to describe fairly some interesting feature of the book amidst its overwhelming methodological flaws, their professional approach to a scientifically worthless book was exploited for promotional purposes. Exploited? A strong word, but please read on. The formal arrangement of the citations on the web site seems designed to disorient the reader.

The visitor to the web site looks over bright commentary, self-praise, and lengthy extracts in this web-site, and becomes interested in the promise of exciting new findings dealing with the broadly fascinating topic of human evolution. Then the reader clicks on the link to the reviewers' comments and reads 76 words of a short blurb to the effect, "But even those who disagree with the book's conclusion have sometimes recognized it as a genuine scholarly contribution and correctly represented the substance of the book to their readers, as shown by the following excerpts." There follow 14 selectively good quotes (about 1475 words) devoid of the context of the reviewers' overall negative assessments. The reader is overloaded with the positive, and the brief notice admitting that these quotes are from nonadmirers is now some hundreds of words and perhaps a couple of minutes behind. Technically, the web page seems to remain within the bounds of legal citation; at the same time, the reader loses track of the context of the reviewers' comments — an outcome scholars usually try to avoid.

If the book is as successful as claimed, one might wonder why its promoters would need to risk the accusation of unfair citation — surely not a charge that scholars would want to risk. If the publisher wants the book to be taken seriously or skeptics won over, one wonders how this approach could possibly help.

Building Confidence in the Scholarly Process

My major disappointment rests in the fact that professional courtesy has been exploited. Scientists attempt to be fair, sometimes going so far as to admit to finding something good in an otherwise disappointing piece of work. This is not always or even often a saintly act; a scientific tradition of self-correction sometimes coerces honesty — we fear being proclaimed as unfair, unbalanced, biased. And sometimes — perish the thought — we delight in being fair. As a sometimes voluntary, sometimes coercive self-correcting practice, science tries to avoid ignoring or camouflaging different sides of a debate. When it fails to debate the issues openly and accurately, it just isn't science.

The kind of selective quoting of scholarly reviews shown here may be legal, but it treads on the very outer fringes of scholarship and into the territory of cynical, unbalanced presentation. It seems to violate the scholarly tradition. It isn't consistent with the self-correcting nature of the review process nor does it build confidence in the integrity of authors, reviewers, and publishers. It may convince reviewers to focus on the negative just to be sure they can't be cynically misquoted next time, and that would be a disservice to all parties with an interest in honest, scholarly discourse.

And so this case leads inductively to a general observation. We're always fighting the human in us, aren't we? We rise out of ourselves in ideals in the form of gods and observational-methodological perfection, and here we are, creationists and scientists, united in our urges even when divided about the details. Same urges, different methods, each with its own uses that may vaporize when mixed. Just a thought, but you can quote me.

Acknowledgment

Thanks to Dr John R Cole for reading a draft and making suggestions.

References Cited

Feder KL. Geoarchaeology 1994; 9(4):338.

Marks J. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 1993; 93:140-1.

Morris H. That Their Words May Be Used Against Them. Grand Rapids (MI): Master Books, 1998.

Tarzia W. Forbidden Archaeology: Anti-evolutionism outside the Christian arena. Creation/Evolution 1994 Summer; nr 34; 14(1): 13-25.

Further Reading: Review sources cited by the Forbidden Archaeology Web Site

Ethology, Ecology, and Evolution 1994; 6:461.

Journal of Geological Education 1995; 43:193.

Journal of Field Archeology 1994; 21:112.

Broodbank C. Antiquity 1993; 67: 904.

Davidson J. International Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 1994 Aug: 28.

Feder KL. Geoarchaeology 1994; 9(4):338.

Marks J. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 1994; 93(1):140.

Murray T. British Journal for the History of Science 1995; 28: 379.

Patou-Mathis M. L'Anthropologie 1995; 99(1):159.

Schwarz H. Journal of Unconventional History 1994; 6/1:75-6.

Stoczkowsk W. L'Homme 1995; 35:173.
Tarzia W. Creation/Evolution 1994; 14(1): 13.

Wodak J, Oldroyd D. Social Studies of Science 1996; 26(1):196, 207.

About the Author(s): 
Wade Tarzia
Arts & Humanities Division
Naugatuck Valley Community-Technical College
Waterbury CT 06708
wtarzia@nvctc5.commnet.edu

Wade Tarzia teaches at Naugatuck Valley Community-Technical College in Waterbury Connecticut. He reviewed Forbidden Archaeology for Creation/Evolution, the predecessor of RNCSE.

RNCSE 19 (4)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1999
Date: 
July–August
Articles available online are listed below.

Bleeding Kansas: What Happened? What's Next?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Bleeding Kansas: What Happened? What's Next?
Author(s): 
Eugenie C Scott
NCSE Executive Director
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1999
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
7–9
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
During August and September of 1999, NCSE members and other citizens read in their newspapers, and heard on radio and television, that the Kansas State Board of Education had removed evolution from the state science education standards. Here is the story.

History

After a year of work, a committee of Kansas scientists and master teachers (including several NCSE members) submitted a draft version of the Kansas Science Education Standards, first to public hearings and later to the State Board of Education (SBE). The Committee had followed guidelines developed by the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science for preparation of such standards, and included evolution as an organizing principle ("Unifying Concepts and Processes") of science. Showing sensitivity to the fact that evolution might conflict with religious beliefs of some students and parents, the proposed standards reminded teachers:
Compelling student belief is inconsistent with the goal of education. Nothing in science or any other field of knowledge shall be taught dogmatically.
Evolution was treated matter-of-factly, as the well-accepted principle of science that it is. Nonetheless, some members of the SBE, offended by the absence of creationism or "alternatives to evolution" in the draft, sought changes. School board member Steve Abrams, assisted by the Creation Science Association of MidAmerica, submitted substitute science standards that not only completely ignored evolution, but included some bizarre notions of the nature of science (for example, that "historical" and "theoretical" sciences are inferior to "technological" sciences). After much arm-wrestling, the SBE finally adopted science standards that were a patchwork of the 2 drafts. Evolution as an organizing principle of science was stripped out as was any mention of the Big Bang, cosmology, the age of the Earth, or descent with modification. As a result of these changes, evolution will not be included in the assessment tests students take before leaving high school.

Creationism's Fingerprints

It is clear that the hybrid standards had a creationist parent.
  • These standards spend a great deal of time distinguishing between "macroevolution" and "microevolution". Real biology does not, nor do other state standards.
"Microevolution" refers to the mechanisms of change affecting species and populations within a species; these are primarily genetic mechanisms producing variability in a population or species, and natural selection which acts upon this variation. It also includes non-selective mechanisms such as genetic drift, founder effect and the like. "Macroevolution" — as used by creationists — refers to the basic principle of descent with modification from common ancestors; what anyone else would refer to simply as "evolution."

Macroevolution is a far more complex topic to evolutionary biologists than the simple-minded version presented by creationists. In evolutionary biology, "macroevolution" refers to the patterns and principles that come into effect above the species level — not just the branching of the tree of life at levels such as genera, families, orders, classes and so on, but also such phenomena as rates of change, the mode of change (smooth or jerky), and other considerations that are relevant to the "big picture" of evolution. The Kansas standards take a typical "micro Sí! macro No!" approach with which NCSE has become familiar.
  • Creationist influence also is apparent in the exhortations to teachers to teach catastrophic geology, as in this benchmark for 4th grade which tells teachers to encourage discussion about "...whether or not all fossilized organisms were dead at the time of burial (i.e., closed clam fossils.)"
Of course, evidence for sudden burial and other catastrophic deposition is supposed evidence for Noah's Flood. Teachers are also told (twice) to discuss the Mt St Helens volcano, which is certainly an interesting geological feature, but rarely featured so prominently in science standards. Steve Austin of the Institute for Creation Research uses Mt St Helens to promote the universality of catastrophic geological processes. Because scientists witnessed a 30-foot "little Grand Canyon" being carved by a rush of water through unconsolidated ash, Austin argues that the Grand Canyon also could have catastrophically been cut in a matter of weeks in just the same way. Of course, the Grand Canyon is composed of some 4000 feet of hard limestones, sandstones, granites, and marbles, but those are just details.
  • The revised Kansas standards also recommend that teachers discuss the Allende meteorite, something else never seen in other states' science standards.
Creationists cite a scatter of radiometric dates on the Allende meteorite to argue that radiometric dating is invalid. The argument is that if radiometric dating is invalid, then of course the Earth cannot be old. If the Earth is not old, there is not enough time for evolution to have occurred — so evolution didn't happen. If evolution didn't happen — gee, what does explain the great diversity of life on Earth?

Implications of the Decision: Kansas

What does this mean for science education in Kansas? What does it mean for science education in the rest of the country? Certainly in Kansas, if the current standards take effect in 2001 as scheduled, students will be taught less evolution, especially because evolution will not be included in the assessment exams. Kansas teachers who know what is good for them will "teach to the test" because these scores will determine how they and their school districts will be ranked. Why waste time on something that the students won't "need to know"? Meanwhile, Kansas teachers already fear that they will be subjected to increased pressure to avoid teaching evolution.

We have found that without state science standards to shield them, teachers are less resistant to parental complaints about evolution. A California teacher once faced a trio of parents questioning him about whether evolution would be taught. He explained that he was required to teach it because it was in the California Science Framework. One disappointed parent finally burst out, "Well, you don't have to teach it like you mean it!" Teachers appreciate the shield provided by the "e-word's" inclusion in the state standards.

Also, Kansas students will be shortchanged when they take the ACTs, SATs, and Advanced Placement exams, which include many evolutionary concepts (see RNCSE 1998: 18[3]:27). But perhaps the greatest injustice to Kansas students is denying them the pleasure of learning about one of the most exciting and active fields of science. The net effect of the Kansas science standards is to encourage teachers to pussyfoot around evolution, separating it out from the rest of science as a "theory" (read: "guess") that is controversial and doubtful or "questionable" at best. Students going on to college will be in for a big surprise: evolution is taught matter-of-factly at every respected university in this country, including denominational ones such as Baylor, Brigham Young, and Notre Dame. Kansas students will realize they have been lied to about the position of evolution in modern science. I doubt they will be pleased.

Implications of the Decision: Nationwide

What about those of us outside of Kansas? If other state or local boards of education or legislatures follow in Kansas's footsteps and drop, qualify, disclaim, or otherwise downplay evolution, the rest of us will feel the repercussions as textbooks decrease their coverage of evolution. This is a serious matter, as most teachers rely on the textbook to determine course content. If evolution is in the textbook, there is at least a chance that it will be taught. If it is not, the chance diminishes virtually to zero.

The Future

The consequences of the SBE decision are extensive, indeed. Outraged Kansas scientists and teachers are planning for the election in November, 2000, when they will support candidates opposing those incumbent SBE members who voted for the compromise standards. Meanwhile, 3 organizations whose materials were incorporated into the first version of the standards have announced that they are denying copyright permission to the SBE because with evolution yanked out, the compromise draft does not adequately reflect the intent of their documents. The AAAS (publisher of the Benchmarks for Science Literacy), the NAS (publisher of the National Science Education Standards), and the National Science Teachers Association (publisher of Scope, Sequence and Coordination) issued a joint statement discussing their reasons for denying the copyright, available on the NSTA web site.

The denial of copyright permission will at least make it necessary to rework the compromise draft. With luck, this may provide an opportunity to revisit the content of the standards as well, but I am not holding my breath. The Kansas SBE is unusually independent of any other state agency, and like the proverbial 600 pound gorilla, can sit anywhere it wants.

NCSE will continue working with concerned Kansans and will keep RNCSE readers informed.

Creationist Tornado Rips Evolution out of Kansas Science Standards

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Creationist Tornado Rips Evolution out of Kansas Science Standards
Author(s): 
Deborah L Cunningham
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1999
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
10–15
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On Wednesday, August 11, 1999, the Kansas state Board of Education (BOE) adopted a "compromise" set of Science Education Standards for the state that left the decision to teach macroevolution in science classes up to each of the individual 304 school districts. The 6-4 vote occurred after months of public debate and several public forums, the final one taking place on August 10. The BOE's decision won't disallow the teaching of evolution in public schools, but since the standards will determine the contents of required assessment examinations in the sciences, critics fear that this decision will cause science teachers to spend less time teaching evolution and more time covering subjects that will be included on tests. Supporters of science education are also concerned that this decision will open the door to pressure to include "creation science" and "intelligent design theory" in the curriculum.

The BOE is made up of 5 conservative and 5 moderate members. The conservative victory occurred when Harold Voth, one of the moderates, voted with the conservatives in favor of adopting the new, "compromise" version of the Science Education Standards. These standards for the public school children of Kansas were originally written by a 27-member Kansas Science Education Standards Writing Committee. This committee was composed of science educators and consultants from the preschool to the university level, including 5 Presidential Awardees for Excellence in Science Teaching and 2 Christa McAuliffe Fellows. After a year of research, collaboration, and input from the National Science Teachers Association, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Science, the committee presented the 5th, and final, working draft of the document to the BOE in July, 1999.

The 5th Working Draft and the Compromised Version: Deleting Evolution

The 5th Working Draft of the standards was based on the National Science Education Standards and listed 5 "unifying concepts and processes": (1) systems, order, and organization; (2) evidence, models, and explanation; (3) constancy, change, and measurement; (4) patterns of cumulative change; and (5) form and function.

The explanation of the 4th concept in the working draft reads:
Accumulated changes through time, some gradual and some sporadic, account for the present form and function of objects, organisms, and natural systems. The general idea is that the present arises from materials and forms of the past. An example of cumulative change is the biological theory of evolution, which explains the process of descent with modification of organisms from common ancestors. Additional examples are continental drift, which is part of plate tectonic theory, fossilization, and erosion. Patterns of cumulative change also help to describe the current structure of the universe (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 9).
The "compromise" version of the standards deletes this 4th concept entirely, as well as other items, including the "Big Bang Theory".

The "compromise" set of science standards was written by a "subcommittee" of the BOE comprised of Voth and 2 conservative members, Abrams and Hill. Not only did this subcommittee delete "patterns of cumulative change" from the unifying concepts, it also deleted parts of the "Teaching With Tolerance and Respect" section. (This section was added by the science writing committee as a concession to conservative BOE members.) In the 5th Working Draft of the standards, this section stated
If a student should raise a question in a natural science class that the teacher determines to be outside the domain of science, the teacher should treat the question with respect. The teacher should explain why the question is outside the domain of natural science and encourage the student to discuss the question further with his or her family and clergy. Neither the Kansas Constitution nor the United States constitution require time to be given in the science curriculum to accommodate religious views of those who object to certain material or activities presented in science classes. Nothing in the Kansas Statutes Annotated or the Kansas State Board Regulations allows students (or their parents) to excuse class attendance based on disagreement with the curriculum, except as specified for 1) any activity which is contrary to the religious teachings of the child or for 2) human sexuality education (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 6).
Instead, the subcommittee substituted the following single sentence: "No evidence or analysis of evidence that contradicts a current science theory will be censured" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 6).

An additional change was made to an 8th grade benchmark: "The students will observe the diversity of living things and relate their adaptation to their survival or extinction". Instead of "Biological evolution, gradual changes of characteristics of organisms over many generations, has brought variations in populations" (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 41), the "compromise" standards substituted "Over time, genetic variation acted upon by natural selection has brought variations in populations. This is termed microevolution" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 46).

In the next paragraph, the subcommittee deleted: "Students can compare similarities between organisms in different parts of the world, such as tigers in Asia and mountain lions in North America" as was "Students tend to think of all individuals in a population responding to change quickly rather than over a long period of time" (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 42). Then this sentence was added to the benchmark: "Natural selection can maintain or deplete genetic variation but does not add new information to the existing genetic code" was added to the description of the benchmark (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 46). In addition, 2 indicators were added to that same benchmark in the "compromise" standards, one re-iterating that natural selection acts only on the existing genetic code, and the other that natural selection is a valid theoretical framework.

The subcommittee also made changes at the 8th-grade level in geologic time indicators, allegedly to make them more "academic" (according to Abrams), but the result is that they avoid teaching the students about the age of the earth. Another indicator was also added, describing the importance of falsification: "No matter how much evidence seems to support a theory, it only takes one proof that it is false to show it to be false. It should be recognized that in the real world it might take years to falsify a theory" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 58).

The bulk of the changes occurred at the 12th grade level. The subcommittee added an indicator asserting that natural selection and random genetic drift were the primary mechanisms of genotypic change. Other indicators about geologic formation and earth's history were changed in order to include "different methods" of estimating geologic time and evaluating fossils. Finally, another benchmark description was expanded from "As a result of activities in grades 9-12, students should develop an understanding of the universe, its origin, and evolution" (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 70) to "Students should develop an understanding of the universe. The origin of the universe remains one of the greatest questions in science. Studies of data regarding fossils, geologic tables, cosmological information are encouraged. But standards regarding origins are not mandated" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 78). It is from this section that the "Big Bang" theory was deleted. Hill, when explaining why this change was made, said that he didn't want to limit the information available to children.

The rest of the changes occurred in the Appendices. In Appendix 1, the Glossary, the "compromise" version of the standards altered several definitions. In the original standards, the definition of "evolution" was subdivided into two sections. In the first, "biological" evolution was defined as
A scientific theory that accounts for present day similarity and diversity among living organisms and changes in non-living entities over time. With respect to living organisms, evolution has two major perspectives: The long-term perspective focuses on the branching of lineages; the short-term perspective centers on changes within lineages. In the long term, evolution is the decent [sic] with modification of different lineages from common ancestors. In the short term, evolution is the on-going adaptation of organisms to environmental challenges and changes (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 78).
The second definition of evolution was "cosmological":

With respect to non-living entities, evolution accounts for sequences of natural stages of development. Such sequences are a natural consequence of the characteristics of matter and energy. Stars, planets, solar systems, and galaxies are examples" (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 79).

Instead, the "compromise" version defines "evolution", without subdividing it, as "A scientific theory that accounts for present day similarity and diversity among living organisms and changes in non-living entities over time. With respect to living organisms, evolution has two major perspectives: The long-term perspective (macro-evolution) focuses on the branching of lineages; the short-term perspective (micro-evolution) centers on changes within lineages" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 86).

They also changed the definition of "science" from "The human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us" (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 80) to "The human activity of seeking logical explanations for what we observe in the world around us" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 88, italics added). Finally, the definition of "theory" was changed from "In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses" (Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft, p 80) to a version that leaves out "well-substantiated" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 88).

The subcommittee also added a definition of "falsification":
"A method for determining the validity of an hypothesis, theory or law. To be falsifiable a theory must be testable, by others, in such a way that, if it is false, the tests can show that it is false" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 87)
The issue of falsification was apparently so important to the sub-committee that they replaced the original contents of Appendix 2 to a 2-page treatise on "Falsification — An Essential Verification Strategy". This modified Appendix 2 begins:
Repeatability is an inadequate criterion and is supplemented with falsification. The reason for falsifiability may not be intuitively obvious. It is fine to make statements like 'this theory is backed by a great body of experiments and observations,' but often overlooked is the fact that such claims are meaningless. Experiments and observations do not verify theories, they must be evaluated by human reason to determine the degree of verification they provide (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 90, bold in original).
The original appendix contained a diagram explaining the new science standards and a short description illustrating the connections among them.

Three examples that were originally listed in this Appendix to illustrate why "the experiment, observation, or 'proof' [involved in testing a theory] is deceptive" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 91), were deleted by the subcommittee just before the August 11 meeting.

The final changes were the deletion of Appendix 3, "Scientific Thinking Process", in which specific thinking processes were linked to grade levels, and Appendix 5, "Achievements in the History of Science and Technology", in which Homo erectus was listed as existing at 750 000 BCE.

The Kansas BOE: Evolution of a Controversy

This isn't the first disagreement between conservatives and moderates on the BOE. Since conservatives took hold of half the seats in 1996, the board has deadlocked over several issues from federal initiatives for developing career programs to the use of calculators in the math classroom. Other deadlocks have occurred over student testing, sex education, school accreditation, and teacher licensing. In these discussion conservatives often invoked the issue of "local control" or family prerogatives.

The current controversy began when some Kansans asked the BOE to reject the proposed science standards because evolution goes against their belief that God created the earth and all of its creatures. Conservative board members agreed that the standards focused too much attention on evolution, and one member wanted the standards to include other theories of how life began (Beem 1999a).

In April 1999 the controversy began in Kansas newspapers. Numerous editorials and letters-to-the-editor were published, both for and against teaching evolution. Many of the letters calling to strike evolution from the standards takes the form of old creationist arguments, such as the "religion of evolution", the lack of transitional fossils, the unfairness of teaching only one theory, and, of course, the right of local communities to control the curriculum.

On the other hand, many letters and editorials were pro-evolution. One letter states "It is science teachers and scientists — not citizens with a religious agenda — who should judge when and if alternate theories of evolution should be presented in the classroom" (Connaghan 1999, p B6). Several editorials and letters point out the possibility of lawsuits if "creation science" is taught in a public school environment. Even the state's Republican governor, Bill Graves, publicly criticized the BOE for considering the "compromise" document. Just before the final vote, the presidents of 6 Kansas universities wrote in support of teaching evolution arguing: that the "compromise" proposal "will be detrimental to the future of science education in Kansas. . . [and] will set Kansas back a century" (Hemenway et al. 1999:B6).

It was also in April, according to The Kansas City Star (Beem 1999b), that conservative board member Abrams presented a revised version of the standards to John Staver, the director of the Center for Science Education at Kansas State University, Professor of Science Education at Kansas State University, and member of the writing committee for the Kansas Science Education Standards. While Abrams' version gave authorship credit to the science writing team, he acknowledged that it was actually written by "various citizens" including Tom Willis, the president of the Missouri-based Creation Science Association of Mid-America, and members of a group called the National Committee for Excellence in Science Education. Several moderate members of the board objected to the contributions of anonymous "various citizens" to the revised document.

The Creationist Input

Tom Willis, who volunteered to help the board rewrite the science standards to exclude evolution, was quoted in The Kansas City Star as saying "I believe that history is only available to us in detail if you have a reliable witness. If you believe a reliable witness, then there's no evolution. The testimony in the Bible goes against it" (Beem 1999a).

The version of the standards that Willis helped the subcommittee to write are a stronger creationist version than the "compromise" version sent to the BOE. However, some of its elements were still obvious in adopted standards, such as in an exercise for 12th graders on fossil dating. This exercise has the students "[r]esearch all published data on the fossils present in the layers of the Grand Canyon" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 78, italics added) in order, according to the Lawrence Journal-World, for seniors to contemplate the possibility that the Grand Canyon was formed by a sudden, cataclysmic event (Seba 1999).

In fact, the next exercise listed is "Investigate how rocks and fossils are dated. Identify assumptions used in radioactive decay methods of dating. Compare and evaluate data obtained on ages from such places as Mount St Helens and the meteorite named Allende" (Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee, p 78). The interview with Willis in the Lawrence Journal-World quotes him as saying "The Grand Canyon was not caused by erosion but by a volcanic eruption. We know that from Mount St Helens" (Seba 1999, p 3A).

The Open Forum

On August 10, 1999, the last public forum was held at the BOE in Topeka. About 60 people were allowed one minute each to state their opinions; the majority of those who spoke opposed the teaching of evolution in the public schools of Kansas. Comments included "We can't know what happened in the past", "Creation involves just as much science as evolution", "Evolution involves just as much religion as creation (secular humanism)", "Both theories require faith", "Since neither theory is proven it is crucial that the decision is made locally", and my personal favorite, "We taught our children they were evolved from animals, and then we wonder why they act like animals".

Evolutionists were present however, and pointed out that Kansas students could lag behind their peers from other states in national test scores, such as the SAT and ACT, if evolution was not taught to them, and that the Supreme Court has already ruled that "creation science" could not be taught in public schools. One member of the writing committee, Patrick Wakeman, when addressing the subcommittee's statement that 95% of the original document was left intact, said "If I dissect a human heart, 95% of the body will be the same, but it won't function." Unfortunately, the evolutionists' logical and persuasive arguments were not heeded by the board.

The Vote

The morning of August 11, 1999 Loren, a member of the science writing team, a school district superintendent, and a former physics professor, recommended to the BOE that the 5th Working Draft of the Kansas Science Education Standards be adopted. He pointed out that the draft is widely supported by science organizations and the governor because it is based on national science education standards. He stated that the writing team could not support the "compromise" proposal because it is incomplete, inaccurate, and deletes evolution.

Another member of the science writing committee, John Staver, added that the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Science Teachers' Association indicated that they would need to see the "compromise" proposal, if approved, prior to giving permission include text from their documents in it. He also recommended that the Kansas attorney general and the BOE's attorney examine the "compromise" document for potential legal problems. Staver went on to say over half of the members of the original writing team whom he had contacted would request that their names be removed from the "compromise" document, if passed.

After these opening statements, 3 of the members made statements in support of the 5th Working Draft. At this point, conservative member Hill made several last-minute changes to the subcommittee's document, including removing assessment flags and changing Appendix 2. The moderates pointed out that if board members rewrite documents such as these science standards, it will become increasingly difficult to ask experts to put in long hours working on such documents. Furthermore, some objected that they were unaware that a special subcommittee had been appointed (Abrams, Hill, and Voth) did not have an opportunity to volunteer to serve on it. One member called for an response by the original science writing committee to the new document, but BOE chairwoman Holloway refused, stating that the board had already heard from the experts.

As the board discussed each change, no religious reasons were cited as being behind the alterations. Instead, subcommittee members would say "wording was included to satisfy concerns by board members" or "we're making it more academic." Other justifications for the changes were that they didn't want to limit information available to children and didn't want a dogmatic approach when teaching about the origins of the universe.

Moderate BOE members questioned Hill about the source of the new information which the subcommittee had not acknowledged. Hill insisted that since the subcommittee didn't take any verbatim language from any source, it didn't feel like any had to be acknowledged. He added that the subcommittee's members did not want to add their own names to the document because they are not experts in science. The discussion went on until moderate member Voth stated that he supported the "compromise" proposal, after which the board approved the new document 6-4. Voth justified his vote because he said that the majority of people who contacted him about this matter encouraged him to vote for the "compromise" proposal, and also because he believes that it should be up to local school boards to decide whether or not to teach the theory of evolution.

The Reaction

The public reaction in Kansas newspapers to the vote has been overwhelmingly negative, both from politicians and concerned citizens. "I couldn't have done better" Tom Willis told the Lawrence Journal-World (Seba 1999). Yet, Republican Governor Bill Graves issued a formal statement after the vote: "This is a terrible, tragic, embarrassing solution to a problem that did not exist.". Representative Ralph Tanner, the chairman of the Kansas House Education Committee, said that he would introduce measures during the 2000 legislative session that would either change the way the board is selected or alter its makeup. Tanner also said that he didn't subscribe to the idea that the argument is really about local control, not about evolution. He was quoted in The Wichita Eagle: "We are supposed to have a sense of uniformity across the curriculum across the state. Some people are trying to hide behind the issue of local control. There is no issue of local control on this type of thing" (Rothschild 1999, p 11A, 14A).

Chris Grenz from The Topeka Capital-Journal surveyed some Kansas religious leaders and got a mixed reaction. While many agree with the board's decision, others think that it is important to maintain the separation of church and state. (Grenz 1999, p 9-A).Most of the letters-to-the-editor published in Kansas papers were against the decision, and the Kansas City Star took pains to assure readers that this was because of the staggering imbalance of negative versus supportive letters.

Even Bill Nye "The Science Guy" has joined the fray. He released a statement to the Associated Press which said "To reject this fundamental, beautiful thing about the world around us is hare-brained. It's nutty" (Associated Press 1999:14A). The National Science Teachers Association called the board's action misguided (Associated Press 1999), and Steve Case, a member of the grassroots group Citizens for Science, stated in The Wichita Eagle that "Ordinarily, when a group comes in and demands that something be in the curriculum, you go to your state standards and say, 'Here is what the state says is good science.' That's the leg you stand on. Now, the board has cut those legs out from under them" (Tobias 1999, p 6A).

The BOE has also already been warned of a potential lawsuit. The Associated Press (Miles 1999) reported that the director of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to Education Commissioner Andy Tompkins and board chairwoman Linda Holloway warning of a possible lawsuit if the new standards favor a creationist perspective. The American Civil Liberties Union also sent a letter to Kansas school districts warning them of possible legal action if they taught "creation science".

However, most school districts are reporting that the decision will have little immediate impact on their curricula. Only in the Pratt school district has there been pressure from a group of parents for school officials to adopt a new science textbook that includes "intelligent design orientation". As The Wichita Eagle reported, the request was referred to the committee developing science standards for that district (Tobias 1999). However, the BOE's decision practically assures that more such requests will follow.

The image of Kansas has definitely suffered because of the BOE's decision this month and it has already hurt the state financially in a much more direct way. Ron Burley, the president of an Oregon software company, Broadcast Software International, scratched Topeka off of his list as a possible location for a new regional technical center after hearing of the BOE's decision. In an August 11, 1999 email to The Topeka Capital-Journal, Burley wrote "The issue for us ... is whether ... we can count on finding a good selection of well-educated future employees in the area. Following today's decision, that is in doubt" (McLean 1999, p 1-A).

Kansans will have another opportunity soon to express their opinions on this issue. Of the 6 BOE members who voted for the "compromise" proposal, 4 are up for re-election next year: Holloway, Brown, Abrams, and Hill. One way to make it clear to the BOE and to political leaders that the "compromise" standards are really compromised standards is to go to the polls and change the makeup of the state school board. Until then, science education standards in Kansas must be listed as "missing in action."

References

Associated Press. 'Science Guy' joins debate. The Wichita Eagle 1999 Aug 14:14A.

Beem K. Next conflict for board of Education: Evolution consideration of science standard looms for Kansas. The Kansas City Star 1999a Apr 12:A1.

Beem K. Focus is on state science standards, board member is proposing some changes. The Kansas City Star 1999b May 11:B1.

Connaghan K. Letter-to-the-editor on Evolution Theory. The Kansas City Star 1999 May 5:B6.

Getz B. See no evolution, hear no evolution, teach no evolution. The Wichita Eagle 1999 Aug 15:B1.

Grenz C. Clerics mixed over science standards. The Topeka Capital-Journal 1999 Aug 13:9-A.

Hemenway R, Wefald J, and others. Letter-to-the-editor on Science standards. The Kansas City Star 1999 Aug 10:B6.

Kansas Science Education Standards, 5th Working Draft. July, 1999.

Kansas Science Education Standards, Kansas State Board of Education Science Sub-Committee. July 30, 1999.

McLean J. Businessman: Vote turned him off state. The Topeka Capital-Journal 1999 Aug 13:1-A, 13-A.

Miles D. Debate may evolve into lawsuit. Lawrence Journal-World 1999 Aug 11:1A, 3A.

Rothschild S. Lawmakers aim at state BOE. The Wichita Eagle 1999 Aug 14:11A, 14A.

Seba E. Creationist praises board. Lawrence Journal-World 1999 Aug 10:1A, 3A.

Tobias SP. Standards' effects could evolve slowly. The Wichita Eagle 1999 Aug 12:1A, 6A.

About the Author(s): 
Deborah L Cunningham is a Ph.D. student in Paleoanthropology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

(Phillip Johnson's) Response to Edward Davis

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Response to Edward Davis
Author(s): 
Phillip E Johnson
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1999
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
25
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
[In RNCSE 18(6) we published a review essay by Edward B Davis which examined 3 major books focused on the issue of design in nature. In this issue we print a response from Professor Phillip Johnson of the University of California at Berkeley, followed by Davis's reply.]

On the whole, I thought the review essay on the Intelligent Design Movement by Edward B Davis (Nov/Dec. 1998 issue) was thoughtful and fair-minded. So I write not to complain, but to clarify a single point.

Davis says that I needlessly polarize the debate by referring to methodological naturalism (MN) as "methodological atheism," and by trying "to equate evolution and MN with atheism." Not exactly, as they say in the rental car commercial. I did use the term "methodological atheism" in Chapter 5 of my book Reason in the Balance>, but that was in the context of my response to Fuller Theological Seminary Professor Nancey Murphy, who had used that term before me.

In fact I think that atheism and naturalism are significantly different, and that naturalism is by far the more effective in eliminating God from reality. Atheists (like Richard Dawkins or William Provine) call attention to the importance of the "God question" by noisily insisting that God does not exist. The scientific leadership could not endorse the Dawkins/Provine view and still insist that "science and religion are separate realms." If Darwinian evolution and theism are conflicting answers to the same question ("Who created us - God or nature?"), then it is very difficult to justify saying only that only one answer may be considered in public education, or even in scientific research. Provine recognizes this, and combines his own advocacy of atheism with calls for opening the discussion - in the science classroom and elsewhere - to advocates of theism who think they have evidence to support their position. Wiser heads in the scientific community regard such an open debate as an invitation to disaster.

Atheism accepts the legitimacy of the "God question" by giving a negative answer. A more effective way of disposing of the question is to rule it out of order as irrelevant in science, where we study what really happened. Scientific naturalism accomplishes this by teaching that science is committed by definition to methodological naturalism and that we can have "knowledge" only of things that science can investigate. Instead of "God does not exist," the scientific naturalist position is that "we have no need for that hypothesis." For intellectual purposes, Occam's razor takes care of the rest of the job. Anyone who wants to bring up God (or intelligent design) is banished instantly to the realm of "religious belief", where subjectivity (faith) rules and there is no objective knowledge to be found.

This is the strategy of Stephen Jay Gould's "non-overlapping magisteria" (NOMA) proposal, for example. Religious people may take their seats as citizens when subjects like moral values are under consideration, but they must cede to science (guided by MN) the sole authority to describe factual reality. When the religious people accept that division, as many do, they implicitly concede that God is just as real as Zeus and Santa Claus.

About the Author(s): 
Phillip E Johnson
Professor of Law
University of California, Berkeley

Edward Davis Replies

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Edward Davis Replies
Author(s): 
Edward Davis
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
4
Year: 
1999
Date: 
July–August
Page(s): 
25–26
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
I very much appreciate the genial tone of Professor Johnson's letter and invite further conversation elsewhere, and I thank the editor for space here to elaborate on aspects of my position about which Johnson raises good questions.

The comments providing context for his use of the term "methodological atheism" are especially helpful. I have not read Reason in the Balance and did not know that this term was (apparently) first used by Nancey Murphy — a very interesting point. I had known of his use of the term from friends who are close to the "Intelligent Design" (ID) movement.

It is also helpful to see how Johnson distinguishes between "naturalism" and "atheism" and that he views the former as more dangerous to religion than the latter. I would say myself that atheism is a religious interpretation of the world, based on an extrapolation of methodological naturalism into ontological naturalism — an extrapolation that is certainly not necessary for doing good science (as various historical examples would illustrate well) and that begs the question of whether truth can be attained apart from methodological naturalism. Science is an "as if" story about natural phenomena that assumes, rather than demonstrates, that all things happen "as if" they had only natural causes.

I agree with Johnson that Ockham's razor would be applied by many to cut away any explanations of any phenomena (whether or not they had only natural causes) that appeal to agents or causes beyond those recognized as natural, but I would call for us to recognize (again) that Ockham's razor is itself a methodological principle that originates outside of science per se; that is, it regulates what counts as a proper "as if" story and cannot be regarded as infallible. Who are we to say, really, what causes could or could not be producing all the events in the whole universe? Nor do all practitioners of a given science agree what is the "simplest" explanation, even without considering agents or causes beyond the natural. And who or what determines when explanations are "multiplied beyond necessity," to cite another form of the principle? Necessary for what, and to whom? To state categorically, for all purposes, that religious explanations of events go beyond necessity is to beg the question of whether religion itself is necessary, and for what purposes.

Questions such as these cannot be decided by "science" which is one important reason why the founders of the Royal Society tried to establish a forum free from discussions of religion and politics — a goal they found impossible to implement in practice. There are legitimate truth questions that science cannot answer with "as if" stories constructed according to its own rules. Indeed, the very reason why science has attained such a high level of prestige in our culture is that it has restricted its inquiry, or tried to restrict its inquiry, to questions for which "as if" stories can be constructed -stories that are capable of gaining a consensus within the scientific community. Might it not be the case that people disagree — that is, they lack a consensus — about moral and religious beliefs precisely because they are more important than scientific beliefs, since they deal more openly and directly with values? Such a question cannot be answered apart from a direct appeal to those same values, and thus defies a response that could be called "objective" in the usual sense. I believe in the primacy of "values" over "knowledge," which is why I call for genuine pluralism in publicly funded schools, whether this is achieved by vouchers or by wholly re-imagining what counts as a "public" school. The problem is not that we rule God out of science classes, but that we rule God out of schools entirely, disenfranchising a large part of the citizenry; this is a political issue not a scientific one.

This is not to say that I reject Johnson's belief that evidence for theism can be found in the world — even within the world that science has constructed for us according to its own rules — but I do not always look for it in the same places. As William Whewell stated in a passage quoted by Darwin opposite the title page of the first edition of the Origin of Species, "we can perceive that events are brought about not by insulated interpositions of Divine power, exerted in each particular case, but by the establishment of general laws." Like Aristotle, I believe that meanings and mechanisms are both legitimate, complementary, even necessary parts of explanations; I do not accept the false dichotomy between them erected by post-Cartesians. The fact that human beings come from fertilized ova does not mean that we are not, as individual persons, made in the image of God.

*I find evidence of purpose in the astonishing fact, pregnant with meaning, that a deep and often subtle order exists and can be found by rational creatures — in the fact that methodological naturalism is so fruitful, rather than in efforts to demonstrate the inadequacy of methodological naturalism to account for certain natural phenomena.* This fact about the intelligibility of the world is hardly necessary for our evolutionary survival and raises profound questions about why this should be so. Such questions are meta-scientific in nature and have often been asked by great scientists who do not share a common religious orientation. I also see evidence for theism in various anthropic phenomena discovered by cosmology; in the persistent human belief in a meaning for existence that goes beyond our own time and place; in the equally persistent belief in "right" and "wrong" as moral categories compared to considering "good" and "bad" simply as attributes of things that happen; and even in aspects of the biological world, such as the progressive development on this planet of an extraordinarily diverse and interrelated system of organisms, which in some respects mirrors (in my view) the Trinity itself.

Neither Zeus nor Santa Claus represents a serious answer to questions of this type, but many would say that God does. I count myself among them.

About the Author(s): 
Edward B Davis
Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Grantham PA

RNCSE 19 (5)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September-October
Articles available online are listed below.

Another View from Kansas

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Another View from Kansas
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
4
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The address of Chancellor Robert Hemenway to the 1999 University of Kansas Opening Fall Convocation included these remarks:

The third theme of our Strategic Plan, "Building Premier Learning Communities," seems particularly important given the recent actions of the Kansas State Board of Education. The Board's actions raise for us the question of what constitutes an excellent curriculum for the study of science.

In case you have been stranded on a Pacific Island without contact with the outer world this summer, let me briefly summarize what the Kansas Board of Education has done.

The Board voted 6-4 not to include evolution, as it has been commonly defined, in science standards recommended to Kansas Public Schools. The Board also removed from the proposed set of science standards references to radioactive aging of rocks, continental drift, and the "big bang theory" of the origin of the universe, apparently because some people have religious beliefs which hold that the universe is only about 10 000 years old, rather than the billions of years which seem to be confirmed by the geological evidence.

The Board's action grew out of an earlier attempt by three board members to re-write the set of science standards requested by the Board from a group of 27 board appointed science teachers and science professionals. This rewritten version became an alternative document which included numerous explicit references to "creationism" and "intelligent design" and also made the claim that since both evolution and gravity were only scientific theories, neither should be taught as fact.

This alternative document was eventually abandoned however, [and] [t]he science standards which were finally adopted by the 6-4 vote, made references to evolution in terms of "micro evolution - minor genetic changes observed in a population over time - but eliminated references to evolution as scientists normally understand and define it, and certainly as the accumulated empirical evidence of the past 2 centuries would seem to support it.

...We live in an exceedingly complex world shaped in many ways by scientific knowledge. As citizens we have to form opinions about scientific issues. If we don't, we fail in our responsibility to be contributing members to the democratic discourse that ultimately determines the nature and quality of our society. Whether it is the environment, medical care, or highways, science affects our life. ...Being able to understand these debates is becoming as important to you as being able to read. You must become scientifically literate."

... Scientific literacy as I define it here means quite simply, a sufficient understanding of science to understand and contribute meaningfully to debate on public issues. Scientific literacy is not "doing science." Only highly educated professionals "do science." A scientifically literate person "uses" a knowledge of science to understand the ways that scientific discoveries will affect one's life and change one's society. For example, science literacy is not the ability to sequence DNA, but an ability to understand and comprehend the ways in which the mapping of DNA in the human genome project will affect the practice of medicine, and consequently, one's health care.

I suspect that there are many, both within the state, and nationally, who will be willing to help us if we move ahead. They know that what has happened in Kansas could happen in other states. Of one thing I am certain, there is a need for scientific literacy everywhere in the country, not just in Kansas. If those who were shocked by the Board of Education's decision really care about young people learning science ... or the people of Kansas, they should be the first to enlist in our cause.

Oklahoma Textbook Committee Adopts Evolution Disclaimer

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Oklahoma Textbook Committee Adopts Evolution Disclaimer
Author(s): 
Molleen Matsumura
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
7–8
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
On Friday, November 5, the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee, which is charged with approving textbooks for the state's 540 school districts, voted to require publishers to affix a disclaimer to any science book that discusses the theory of evolution. The committee's decision is not subject to review by any other state agency, including the State Board of Education, and the only way individual districts could avoid using the sticker would be to purchase textbooks without state assistance.

The text of the disclaimer is identical to that adopted by the Alabama State Board of Education in 1996.

According to news reports,
Committee member John Dickmann, who introduced the disclaimer, said it was added because biology texts do not give enough attention to alternate explanations of the development of life.

"Some of us on the committee wanted to send a strong statement to the publishers that we are fed up with textbooks that only present one side of the story," said Dickmann, a Broken Arrow Central Middle School teacher. "I'm not just picking on science, either. I have concerns in other subjects, too." (Associated Press, 1999)
The Committee currently consists of eleven members appointed directly by the governor (there are positions for twelve members); 7 of the eleven members belong to the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators (APOE), an organization only a few years old whose members represent only a fraction of the state's teachers, most of whom belong to the Oklahoma Education Association (Cooper, 1999). Speaking for the Governor's office, Mike Brake told the Tulsa World, "We asked if they knew people in the district who follow the governor's point of view on education. It's no surprise they are members of [the Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators ]", and added , "The governor hasn't selected members on the basis of teacher organization," Brake said. "We look for philosophy first." (Cooper, 1999).

While there seem to be no statements about evolution at the APOE website, the links page, which consists primarily of links to "Alternatives to the NEA [National Education Association] in other states" and to educational policy organizations, also contains a link to the conservative "Family Research Council" (FRC). An FRC policy paper declares:
It was in the 19th century that America's Judeo-Christian foundation started to erode. One contributing factor was Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which began to replace the theory of intelligent design as the accepted explanation for the origin and purpose of the universe and life. America's intellectual elites concluded that God was a myth and that the universe, life, and society had evolved on their own - a conclusion most Americans dispute. The intelligentsia's acceptance of this explanation resulted in the replacement of the Judeo-Christian worldview with humanism's shifting moral and legal standards. (Hoeft, 1999)
Early reactions to the Committee's decision seem mixed. State legislators have said they do not intend to address the issue (Ervin, 1999).While , "State schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett expressed deep annoyance and said, 'We are concerned with this action and are looking into it further'... Education Secretary Floyd Coppedege expressed some sympathy for the committee's opinion but said such decisions 'should have been left to the local textbook committees."such decisions 'should have been left to the local textbook committees'"(AP, 1999 ). The Executive Director of a national civil liberties group sent a later to state officials that read in part, "I am writing today to let you know that this action raises serious constitutional concerns and that failure to reverse it could result in a lawsuit" (AU, 1999).

Scientists and interfaith groups in Oklahoma are organizing to oppose the Textbook Committee's action, and have turned to NCSE for information on the history and legality of evolution disclaimers. NCSE will continue informing Oklahoma members of opportunities to support evolution education, and keep RNCSE readers informed of further developments.

References

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), Americans uUnited urges Oklahoma education officials to block textbook committee's anti-evolution CRUSADE http://www.au.org/pr111199.htm

AP Wire, Evolution disclaimer added to textbooks, November 11, 1999 [while this date appears in search of Associated Press archives, Oklahoma members report that the article appeared in The Oklahoman on November 10).

Association of Professional Oklahoma Educators (APOE), "Professional Organizations and Educational Links", May 15, 1999 http://www.apoe.com/page10.htm

Cooper, Scott, Conservatives fill textbook panel. Tulsa World, November 11, 1999 http://search.tulsaworld.com/archivesearch/default.asp?WCI=DisplayStory&ID=991110_Ne_a1conse

Ervin, Chuck, Lawmakers avoid textbook issue/ Tulsa World, November 11, 1999 http://search.tulsaworld.com/archivesearch/default.asp?WCI=DisplayStory&ID=991111_Ne_a10lawma

Hoeft, Kevin, The ten commandments belong in schools. Family Research Council Perspective http://www.frc.org/perspective/pv99i1ed.html

Dr Dino Does 'Delphia

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Dr Dino Does 'Delphia
Author(s): 
Andrew Petto, Stephen Meyers, Bob Leipold
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
20, 25–27
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

The Setting

Kent Hovind, aka Dr Dino, presented a "Creation Seminar" at Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia on May 7–8, 1999. Flyers advertising the event were distributed throughout the area, but we might have missed it entirely if someone hadn't sent out a mailing addressed generically to "Science Teacher" at a number of local schools and colleges. It was because one science teacher (AP) received a flyer that we were able to rouse an NCSE contingent to attend. We took in the presentation in overlapping shifts and compiled this report from the combined notes from the weekend.

The flyer advertising the event asked, "Is the World a Product of Random Chance?" It also promised answers to the burning questions:

  • Does Science Contradict the Bible?
  • Did you know that Dinosaurs are Mentioned in the Bible?
  • Is there a Political Reason Evolution is Being Promoted in the Public Schools?

The central image in the flyer depicts a human, a theropod dinosaur, and a wooly mammoth eyeing each other warily while an indeterminate flying reptile glides over the banner "CREATION SCIENCE EVANGELISM". With this information and the fact that the event would be held in a conservative nondenominational Christian church, we expected a strong religious component to the presentation.

Philadelphia's Calvary Chapel is a large facility with a worship area, classrooms, and meeting facilities. There is an elementary school affiliated with the church and a number of other social and educational programs. The main sanctuary where Hovind made his presentation is a large room arranged like an amphitheater with a capacity for about 1000 persons. The sloping floor of the hall puts the speaker on a level above the heads of those in the first several rows. In the middle of the hall is a large media area from which technicians can control lighting, sound, and recording equipment. The crowd for Hovind's presentation was far below the capacity for the facility, though there were easily several hundred people in attendance.

Style and Format

Hovind's presentation was animated and entertaining. The format was an illustrated lecture - almost a multimedia performance; Hovind used presentation software to project images, partial quotations from the scientific literature and biblical references. However, the presentation was purely expositional; there was no relationship to a seminar in which the participants are supposed to provide some of the intellectual content and critical analysis. Hovind talked and showed his illustrations; everyone else listened.

The high-quality graphics made for some interesting viewing. Now that the images and the text being presented were easier to see, the viewing angles were more "creative". For example, when using quotes out of the scientific literature, these were scanned in at an angle. This may just be an attempt at an "esthetic" presentation of boring old quotes, but scanning at an angle solves two problems at once. First, Hovind can say that he didn't quote out of context, because, after all, there is the quote right there on the page with the rest of the text. Second, the angle of the view made it difficult to see what the rest of the text really said, because it contains partial segments of a number of sentences - some quite complex. To someone familiar with scientific writing, however, it was clear that a proper reading of the text did not agree with Hovind's interpretation.

The content of the presentation came directly from the materials in Hovind's videos and web site (http://www.drdino.com), though in a much abridged presentation. Indeed it was almost an antiphonal phrase repeated at intervals: There isn't enough time for me to go into this in detail, but you'll find the details in my videos and other materials for sale out in the corridor. Because this presentation was made in a church and before a sympathetic crowd, the connections between the "science" and the Bible were made explicitly and often. As if to underscore the point, Hovind often capped his "scientific" tidbits with a Bible verse.

In the beginning, Hovind listed his objectives for the seminar:

A. Strengthen people's faith in the Bible
B. If you're not saved, I'll try and get you saved
C. If you are saved and not busy for the Lord, I will try to make you uncomfortable.
These are reproduced on his web site (http://www.drdino.com, last accessed Dec 11, 1999).

The "scientific" presentation was a string of summary statements stated out of context and in the most absurd way possible. Hovind followed this by a "Now, isn't that ridiculous?" or "how could they be so silly?" Then, he would give his own interpretation of the data: that the world was created in 6 days about 10 000 years ago — a chant he repeated often throughout the program and had the audience repeating along with him by the end of the first evening's presentation.

Much of the presentation focused on the "political" reasons why biblical creationism is not taught in the schools — after all, Hovind's presentation "proved" that true science supports the accuracy of the Bible as a literal scientific and historical document. Most of these reasons revolve around an international conspiracy Hovind called "The New World Order" (NWO) consisting of Ted Turner (and his wife, "Hanoi" Jane, of course), the British Royal Family, the State of Israel, the ACLU, and a smattering of former and present US government officials, business leaders, and social activists (particularly those advocating population control) — shades of the Trilateral Commission.

What is most remarkable is that Hovind predicted that the "target date" for the implementation of the NWO's world-domination plan was May 5, 2000 — not coincidentally, Hovind noted, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel. This is also the date, according to Hovind, by which the NWO wished to reduce the world's population to no more than 500 million people (less than 10% of the current population). This claim was so remarkable that Skip Evans added a counter on his "Hovind" web page which shows the number of days before the NWO target date (see http://www.mindspring.com/~tallulah/hovind/).

Hovind's "Science"

Throughout the course of the "seminar" were a number of remarkable claims and citations of research. Most, of course, had to do with the "anomalies" and "inconsistencies" in the scientific literature, such as inconsistent radiometric dates and mathematical approximations which turn out not to be correct — ice cores, Mt St Helens, and the "many failures of science" figure prominently here.

The presentation begins pretty much with standard literalist anti-evolutionary fare: micro- versus macro-evolution, the second law of thermodynamics (stated incompletely, of course), and the correlation between teaching evolution and the rise in crime rates, divorce, and venereal diseases with the decrease in "moral values", SAT scores, and IQ — though none of these is documented. Finally, Hovind gave the "evolution fairy tale" — the frog that turns into a prince.

He uses supposed evidence from studies on population growth, star evolution, cometary travels, the decay in the speed of light, oil fields, fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field, the saltiness of the ocean, the young age of the Sahara Desert, geological erosion rates, and more to prove that the earth cannot be older than about 10 000 years old. The details of his "logic" are burdensome, but one example is that of the oldest tree. Hovind argues that since the oldest tree is no more than a few thousand years old, how could the earth be any older? Interested readers can find (and now hear an audio version of) these arguments and "evidence" on Hovind's web site (http://www.drdino.com/SeminarAudio/Part1/index.htm, last accessed Dec 11, 1999).

Briefly, here are the major points covered by Hovind in his May 7–8, 1999 presentation at Calvary Chapel.

On Evolution and Paleontology


Darwin has been disproved at http://www.darwindisproved.com. Unfortunately for Hovind, this site was an April Fool's joke, which would have been obvious to anyone who was scientifically literate.

Dinosaurs are alive and well on planet earth! Someone saw a yellow dinosaur with a beard. There are many reports of Pterodactyls flying around Papua, New Guinea (this information came from Carl Baugh who has been there!). A fisherman caught a small dinosaur in Lake Erie near Lakewood OH which is now on display in Carl Baugh's museum in Texas.

ICA stones from Peru show clear drawings of dinosaurs indicating that man and dinosaurs live together. See the web site http://www.darwindisproved.com.

Leviathan mentioned in the Bible is a fire breathing dragon

In ancient literature what were called "dragons" where actually dinosaurs. The way the ancients killed these dragons (for example, Tyrannosaurus rex) was to pull off their small forearms and let them bleed to death.

We don't see sea monsters (dinosaurs) now, in contrast to many such tales from early sea-farers, because modern ships engines make too much noise and scare them off.

Human and dinosaur footprints were found together in the Paluxy River bed in Waco TX. NOVA filmed a creationist named Baugh and an unnamed evolutionist during this dig, but would not document the findings. The evolutionist refused to examine the evidence.

A clay doll was found in rocks dated at 12 million years old in Nampa ID.

Fossilized insects and animals were of enormous size before the flood; reptiles never stopped growing.

How did Noah get all those animals on the ark? He took 2 of each kind, not necessarily 2 of each species. He also took baby animals because they (1) were smaller, (2) ate less, and (3) had a longer life span to reproduce

All species were vegetarians before the flood, so animals had no fear of humans

On Geology and Earth Science


There was no continental drift. No Pangaea!

Radiometric dating is wrong because the moon rocks have different dates (see http://www.jpdawson.com). Carbon 14 dating is inaccurate because two bones from the same Mammoth date 22 000 and 40 000 years old.

On Health


Hovind has discovered a cure for cancer. A vitamin B17 deficiency causes cancer just like vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. Taking B17 plus C will cure your cancer. See http://www.canceranswer.com or http://www.worldwithoutcancer.com.

"The whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead" because white bread lacks vitamin E and lecithin. Cancer incidence increased when vitamin E and lecithin were removed from breads to make white bread.

One reason Adam and Eve lived so long (more than 900 years) is because they were vegetarians. The average life span of humans before the flood was 912 years. Noah was 600 years old when he built the ark.

A hyperbaric chamber can heal you and grow giants like before Noah's flood where there was twice the current levels of oxygen and atmospheric pressure. This is confirmed by scientists who studied the air bubbles in amber (see Time 1987 Nov 9;p 82). Under these conditions, Dr Mori in Japan grew a tomato plant 40 feet high yielding 15 000 tomatoes.

On Society and Government


We should not have any public schools. See http://www.exodus2000.org.

According to the 10th amendment to the US constitution, the federal government should get out of education.

Democracy, which always leads to a dictatorship, is an illegitimate form of government in that rights are conferred by man. In a constitutional republic like the US, rights are conferred by the creator.

Oral Tradition

Following the presentation, one of us (SM) managed to contact Hovind and ask some specific questions about the sources of his claims. For many of them he seemed to accept at face value the claims of anyone who (a) was a Christian of the same stripe as he, and (b) who seemed (to Hovind) like a reliable source. When asked specifically about certain claims, he replied that he felt no need to investigate.

For example, he thinks B17 is the cure for cancer because people are convinced that they have been cured from cancer after taking B17. Repeatedly, he used testimonies and people's phone numbers as proof positive. Time magazine was the only reference in his seminar.

With regard to the "yellow dinosaur with a beard", he said that is what someone said. When asked if he investigated any of these stories, he replied that takes them at face value and gave more phone numbers of people to call for proof.

He said that the supposed plesiosaur (see RNCSE 1997; 3) is not is not a basking shark because the testing (of the protein sequences in the cartilage) showed only a 97% match to basking shark samples. After all, he said, human and monkey [sic] DNA show the same 97% match. Since no one knows the DNA of a plesiosaur, why would there not be a 97% match between these and a basking shark?

He said that someone told him the morning of his presentation about http://www.darwindisproved.com so he added it to his presentation. Later that day he discovered it was a hoax and removed it (though we have to wonder how much later, since he was still using that example at 9:30 on Friday evening). One would think it would be wise to check out a web site before recommending it to a large audience.

Lastly, we defended his claim about the side-by-side dinosaur and human tracks in the Paluxy River. These had long ago been discredited and disavowed by anti-evolutionists. The president of Philadelphia's Institute for Bible Studies and Science was present at the excavation of a supposed human footprint. He made a cast of it and took it to an expert who said it definitely was not a human foot print. We offered the phone number of the witness as "proof".

He Just Keeps On ...

An important part of the program is Hovind's reminder that it is "perfectly legal" to teach "creation science in schools. The US Supreme Court, he claims, has said so and it is the conspiracy of the NWO which is preventing it. There is now, he claims, an "approved" Bible curriculum for public schools which can be adopted for use; of course he neglects to mention that this curriculum has failed to overcome constitutional challenges to its implementation in the public schools.

Hovind is also undaunted by challenges to his interpretation of the Scripture. He relies on the King James Version as the authoritative text, even when biblical scholars point out to him the different ways in which passages are rendered in prior versions, in particular in Hebrew versions. Hovind replied in a phone conversation (with SM) that he would consider this, but there is no evidence on his web site that there has been any significant change in his evaluation of the specific objections to his interpretations nor any acknowledgment that he has considered any of them.

Hovind returned to the area in mid-November. His presentation was held at Limerick Chapel in Limerick PA. Limerick Chapel is a big church with a big school. In keeping with the suggestions of Barbara Forrest and Pierre Stromberg (see RNCSE 1998) one of our members wrote to the pastor to warn him about Hovind. There was no reply before the scheduled appearance.

While in the area, however, Hovind did manage to make at least one appearance on a radio talk show. When a local NCSE member requested a chance to go on the air at a later date to refute the religious aspects of Hovind's presentation, the producer demurred, saying that they wouldn't do another show on this topic for at least several weeks.

Hovind's next scheduled visit to Pennsylvania will be Nov 4-6, 2000. However, if you want to see when Hovind will visit your area, just connect to http://www.drdino.com/itinerary.htm for all the latest. You will be amazed!
About the Author(s): 

Authors' Address:
c/o NCSE Editorial Office
Division of Liberal Arts
University of the Arts
320 S Broad St
Philadelphia PA 19102-4994

Unmasking the False Prophet of Creationism

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Unmasking the False Prophet of Creationism
Author(s): 
Barbara Forrest
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
28–30
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
The headline in the October 16, 1998, Daily Star, "$10,000 to prove him wrong," told me immediately that the article in my local newspaper was about Kent Hovind, an itinerant creationist who presented a "seminar" at Immanuel Baptist Church in Hammond, Louisiana. (Hammond is in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, where the school board is involved in an ongoing court case involving its evolution disclaimer.) To many interested in teaching evolution in public schools, Hovind is familiar, but as an expert at self-promotion rather than evolution. His true agenda, which he shares with other members of the Religious Right, is undermining public schools by attacking the teaching of evolution. It was essential to expose Hovind locally, so I sent the newspaper a letter which was published after his visit. Hovind's lack of scientific training makes it impossible to engage him on a professional level, so I decided to inform the public of some of his most preposterous ideas, juvenile rhetorical tactics, lack of credentials, and anti-public school agenda. This strategy may be useful to others. (The letter is on Ken Harding's web site. http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Temple/9917/evolution/barb_forrest.html)

Rather than describing Hovind's message, I let him speak through selections from his book, Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution. The following are some of the most egregious, and therefore most effective, quotes (the bracketed insertions are mine):
The Smithsonian Institute [sic] has 33,000 sets of human remains in their basement ... Many of them were taken while the people were still alive. They were so desperate to find missing links, so desperate to prove their theory that they murdered people to prove it. It was the philosophy of evolution that drove them (Hovind, Ch 4).

Five billion people [yes, he says billion] could drown in Loch Ness, and no one would show above the surface. It is a big lake. . . . As of the 1960s, there were over 9,000 sightings of the Loch Ness Monster. Today, there have been over 11,000 such sightings (Hovind, Ch 2).

The Trail of Tears was where the Cherokee Indians were driven out of the Chattanooga area all the way to Oklahoma. ... Evolution is responsible for what happened to the Indians. How any Indian can believe in evolution just blows my mind. ... [T]he evolution theory is what destroyed them (Hovind, Ch 4).
[This quotes exposes Hovind's historical as well as scientific ignorance. The Trail of Tears occurred in America in the 1830s. Darwin's The Origin of Species was not published in England until 1859.]
I believe the Great Pyramid was built to be the Bible in stone. The Egyptians did not build it. (Hovind, Ch 6).

Adam and Eve probably had hundreds of children. They lived 800 years, and one could have a lot of children in 800 years (Hovind, Ch 6).

There has been research that indicates nearly all homosexuals come from families that have a weak father figure, and a dominant mother ... research shows that there is a social link where the children are raised to be wimps or whatever (Hovind, Ch 6).
[The connection in Hovind's mind between homosexuality and evolution is unclear, but this quote demonstrates Hovind's mean-spirited, flippant stereotyping of homosexuals and their families.]
My first question [to God, after Hovind goes to heaven], believe it or not, will be, 'Did Adam and Eve have a belly button?' I don't know why, but that has bothered me for years (Hovind, Ch 6).

The only book that I have read that really struck home with me giving a possible explanation for UFOs was . . .The Cosmic Conspiracy by Stan Deyo. . . . Deyo, a Christian, is a genius who wrote the book way over my head. . . . He says that Satan has always used that mode of transportation to get around because the devil can only be at one place at one time . . . I do not know if it is true, but it is an interesting theory (Hovind, Ch 6).
I ended the quotes with a selection from Hovind's web site, reflecting paranoid ideas common in far-right movements:
Microchips may play an important part in the mark of the beast. One example of technology is the UPC, or bar code. . . . the two skinny lines at the beginning, middle, and end of every barcode stand for '6' in binary code: 666 [the mark of the beast]. . . . four people have called me from Arkansas and Missouri to report seeing customers at the grocery store pay for purchases by scanning their hand (Hovind, FAQ's, http://www.drdino.com).
I offered a final gem from his video series (which he usually sells at his seminars). In Part Four of "Dinosaurs, Creation, Evolution: A Creation Seminar," Hovind shows a slide of a bird hatching from an alligator's egg: "Maybe a reptile laid an egg and a bird hatched out." Hovind's use of this absurd explanation of punctuated equilibrium demonstrates his strategy of discrediting evolution with ridicule. (Readers can download an example of his rhetorical technique in an audio clip, "November 13, 1998, Tuesday, Kent Hovind — 'Evolution, Check Your Brains At The Door.'" http://www.audiocentral.com/rshows/missler/archives.html Accessed January 25, 1999.)

In case my audience was still unconvinced of Hovind's scientific incompetence, I included information about his credentials. Hovind says on his "drdino" web site that he graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in Michigan in education and Bible and received his master's and doctoral degrees in education from Patriot University, "a small Christian University in Colorado." (http://www.drdino.com/FAQs/FAQmisc.htm#Q: Where did you get your degree?). In Part One of his videotape seminar, he boasts a "PhD in education." A little research about these credentials is enlightening.

MBC offers little science instruction, and it is saturated with religious doctrine; the objective of the MBC Department of Education is to train students "for teaching in Christian schools" (http://www.midwesternbaptist.edu/school/courseeducation.htm. The Division of Science offers only 4 undergraduate courses (one is "Creation Science"), all slanted toward Biblical literalism (http://www.midwesternbaptist.edu/school/coursescience.htm. The objective of the sole science education course offered by the MBC Department. of Education is to learn "to present to an elementary class the universe which God has marvelously created" (http://www.midwesternbaptist.edu/school/courseeducation.htm). Hovind's education at MBC would never qualify him to teach in any school with a legitimate science curriculum.

Hovind's credentials from Patriot University are even less substantial. PU was formerly in Colorado Springs CO, but is now in Alamos CO, in a house near the College Heights Baptist Church The street address ["External Studies Department Bulletin," Fall 1997] is the residential address of PU's Executive Director of External Studies, Dr Lonnie Skinner (http://www.anywho.com.) The Bulletin indicates how a university could simply relocate to another town: There is no faculty, and credit is offered for "life experience and ministry evaluation". The courses, workbooks, audiotapes, and videotapes can be completed in 2–4 weeks. Tuition is a voluntary, monthly "freewill offering". The only graduate science course is "SC 701 — Biblical Basis of Modern Science". The DMin is offered in Biblical Studies, Pastoral Studies, Evangelism and Missions, Christian Education, and Christian Counseling.

When I e-mailed Skinner to inquire whether Patriot offered a PhD and whether Hovind had received one, the unsigned reply stated that "Kent Hovind did receive a PhD in Christian Education from Patriot in 1991. I think that may have been the last year Patriot awarded the PhD" (personal communication, January 21, 1999). Patriot is accredited only by the American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions, which Steve Levicoff in Name It and Frame It classifies as an "accrediting mill" (Levicoff, Chapter 12). The US Dept of Education does not recognize AAATI as an accrediting agency (US Dept of Education, September 1998, p 28). Hovind's PhD clearly does not meet even minimally respectable academic standards.

Finally, my letter addressed Hovind's true agenda: attacking public schools for teaching evolution. Hovind clearly favors eliminating public schools: "Should we have a public school system? ... I believe if the government was out of the education business ... many other problems would be eliminated." He urges parents to remove their children from public schools to deprive them of funds: "Transfer your child from public school to private or home school. Public schools lose funding when enrollment drops" (Hovind, FAQ's).

In Part One of his video series he also instructs public school students to ask an impertinent question during lessons on evolution: "Excuse me, teacher, but were you there?" (I advised local teachers to be ready for this.) Hovind's attitude toward teaching evolution was revealed in a remark he made during a debate with Dr Karen Bartelt, a professor of organic chemistry at Eureka College, who debated him in Fall 1998 and provided me with an account. According to Bartelt, Hovind asserted that anyone teaching evolution to children will go to hell.

Concerned citizens should be alert for local churches' booking his "seminars," which sometimes attract hundreds. More ominously, he also claims in his video series to visit public schools. His itinerary is on his web site but sometimes changes, so local newspapers should be watched. In fact, not only should local papers be watched for announcements of his visits, but for their content. Local reporters can be deceived by his promotional propaganda. Prior to his Hammond seminar, the Daily Star portrayed him as a biblical and scientific authority:
"The Rev. Lonnie Wascom, Immanuel's pastor, said Hovind's seminars are fact-filled, exciting and informative causing even the most devout evolutionist to sit up and take notice. ... Hovind is considered one of the foremost authorities on science and the Bible. He has debated evolutionists across America and is dedicated to proclaiming factual scientific evidence supporting the Biblical record of creation and the history of the world. " (Daily Star, October 16,1998, Hammond, LA)
Flabbergasted at this misleading representation, I found during my research that the wording was taken virtually verbatim from the web site containing Hovind's book (http://www.hsv.tis.net/~ke4vol/evolve/introng.html). The newspaper did not reference the source, probably obtaining it directly from the pastor.

Hovind presents to gullible audiences neither real science nor intelligent religious doctrine, but a juvenile attack on evolution, which he does not understand. Exposing Hovind in letters to newspapers can counteract his damage. On the afternoon my letter appeared, I received an e-mail message from an Immanuel member who thanked me, saying he had wondered during the seminar about Hovind's credentials (personal communication, October 30, 1998). He has since related that there was a "big discussion" at the church subsequent to my expose. Writing letters can make a difference.

Acknowledgments

The author thanks Ed Brayton, Skip Evans, and Karen Bartelt for assistance in gathering information for the letter and the article.

References

Hovind K. Dinosaurs, Creation, Evolution: A Creation Seminar. [Videotape], nd.

Hovind K. Evolution, Check Your Brains at the Door. [Audio clip]. http://www.audiocentral.com/rshows/missler/archives.html, accessed January 25, 1999.

Hovind K. FAQ's. http://www.drdino.com, accessed January 8, 1999.

Hovind K. Unmasking the False Religion of Evolution. http://www.hsv.tis.net/~ke4vol/evolve/cover.html, accessed January 8, 1999.

US Department of Education. Current List of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies and the Criteria for Recognition by the US Secretary of Education. September 1998. PDF Format. http://ifap.ed.gov/dev_csb\new\agency.nsf/ALL/, accessed January 8, 1999.

Levicoff S. Name It and Frame It: New Opportunities in Adult Education and How to Avoid Being Ripped Off by 'Christian' Degree Mills, 4th ed 1995. , accessed January 8,1999.

About the Author(s): 

Barbara Forrest, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Southeastern Louisiana University
E-mail: bforrest@selu.edu

A Scientist Responds to Behe's "Black Box"

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
A Scientist Responds to Behe's "Black Box"
Author(s): 
Karen Bartelt, Eureka College
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
5
Year: 
1999
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
34–35
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Dr Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, appeared recently at Lincoln Christian Seminary in Lincoln, IL. In Darwin's Black Box Behe proposes that certain cellular structures are "irreducibly complex" — that all parts must be functional for the structure to work. His main assertion is that gradual Darwinian evolution does a poor job of explaining these features, therefore, there must be an "intelligent designer".

Prior to his appearance, Behe was the subject of a large article by the Michael Miller, religion editor of the Peoria Journal Star. Piqued by what Behe might have to say to a receptive, but nonscientific, audience, I attended 2 of the 3 lectures. What follows are my responses — as a scientist — to Behe's lectures at the seminary and his October 3, 1999 interview in the Peoria Journal Star (PJS).

In his PJS interview, Behe described 3 lines of criticism from scientists. First, he said that scientists consider his findings to be of a religious rather than scientific nature. Since the standard definition of science tends to be something like "the systematic study of the natural world", it is hardly unfair, then, for scientists to respond in this manner! Behe went beyond this in his talk at Lincoln, however, saying (supposedly to mimic scientists), "That Behe fellow is a known Christian.... Therefore design is a religious idea." This is a ridiculous assertion. Some of Behe's most vehement critics are also "known Christians", and never has the idea of design been rejected because it comes from a particular religious group; it is rejected by the bulk of the scientific community because there is absolutely no evidential support.

But what about the evidence that Behe put forward — all of those wonderful examples of irreducible complexity (IC) in Darwin's Black Box? Behe used many of them at Lincoln. They have all been soundly refuted in scientific journals and on the web. Behe proposed that a mousetrap is irreducibly complex (all parts must be there for it to function) and therefore a good metaphor for IC in biological systems. On PBS' Firing Line in 1997, evolutionary biologist and "known Christian" Kenneth Miller demonstrated how that analogy fails. There is a more basic flaw in Behe's assertion, however — that a molecular machine must perform a specific task, or it is useless to the organism. Just as a mousetrap without a critical part might function as a great paperclip or a very interesting earring, a mutated flagellum or enzyme might lead to all manner of interesting innovations. That's basic evolutionary biology.

This brings me to Behe's second allegation: scientists say that he "isn't the proper type of scientist to be discussing evolution". From my reading of many reviews, the criticisms tend to center around the fact that Behe is either selectively ignorant of the evolutionary literature that exists, or that he just doesn't know how to do a computer search! For example, at Lincoln he said that if one looks in the scientific literature for evidence of Darwinian evolution, this literature "is absent." In Darwin's Black Box (p179) he is even more emphatic: "There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on the details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems." How, then could John Catalano have done a keyword search of the word "evolution" and come up with 13 000 hits http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html — articles describing the evolution of the immune system, cilium, flagellum, blood-clotting system, eyes, and so on — articles that Behe says do not exist! Perhaps Behe could be forgiven for being sloppy in 1996 when his book came out, but to make this statement in 1999 indicates either continuing ignorance or arrogance. Scientists have penetrated the "black box" to a much greater extent than Behe would have audiences believe!

Behe's purported third area of criticism from the scientific community is that he hasn't published enough in scientific journals on this topic. Behe agreed, saying later that he wants to see "real laboratory research on the question of intelligent design". Well, so would the rest of us scientists, and then perhaps intelligent design (ID) would be taken seriously! A recent keyword search of the words "intelligent design" turned up exactly one article, and it was about robots! This small well-funded (by the Discovery Institute) cadre of ID proponents is great at attending and hosting conferences, traveling and giving speeches (usually to general, not scientific, audiences), and writing apologetic books. Their own journal, Origins & Design, which I read regularly, should be brimming with research articles on "intelligent design". Instead, there are theological arguments and critiques, articles that address the design issue in general but do not detail any original research that supports intelligent design, book reviews, reports from conferences, and advertising for ID books, videos, tapes, and study kits.

Perhaps part of Behe's publishing dilemma is that neither he nor anyone else in the ID movement can come up with a definition of design that differentiates designs done by their proposed "designer" from products of natural selection. (Elsewhere, fellow ID proponent William Dembski admits this, saying, "In principle, an evolutionary process can exhibit such 'marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." [Dembski, 1998]). At Lincoln, Behe relied upon a particularly egregious "folk-science" definition of design: Using a Far Side cartoon showing a person swept into the air and impaled by a jungle trap, Behe said, "You look and realize that the trap was designed. Just look at how the parts interact." In other words, You just know design when you see it!

In fact, humans are not always able to discern real design from apparent design and tend to impose design when it is not there; hence the "face on Mars", and the sightings of the Virgin Mary on the side of a building or the face of Jesus in a tortilla. Furthermore, if we assume that Behe is correct, and that humans can discern design, then I submit that they can also discern poor design (we sue companies for this all the time!).

In Darwin's Black Box, Behe refers to design as the "purposeful arrangement of parts". What about when the "parts" aren't purposeful, by any standard engineering criteria? When confronted with the "All-Thumbs Designer" — whoever designed the human spine, birth canal, prostate gland, and the back of the throat, and so on — Behe and the ID people retreat into theology. At Lincoln, Behe rebuffed one of his critics who pointed out (referring to biochemical systems) that "no Creator would have designed such a circuitous and contrived system" (Doolittle 1998). Behe accused Doolittle of defending evolution on theological grounds, (also saying that God could do whatever God wanted) but in fact, Doolittle was asking nothing but that an "intelligent designer" design intelligently! This is a big problem for ID proponents, as they admit elsewhere: "Charles Darwin...saw the existence of what he regarded as poor biological engineering (suboptimality)...as prima facie evidence that God could have not directly created the world. This viewpoint continues to undergird much evolutionary reasoning in our own day, and poses a difficult challenge to theories of intelligent design" (Anonymous 1999).

Behe has set himself (and the other intelligent design proponents) up as Davids-with-slingshots against the intractable Goliath of science. In the PJS article, Behe stated that "the scientific community resists such unorthodox ideas as intelligent design," and "I guess every profession has its codes, unwritten or written, and anybody who speaks out, especially in the field of biology, and especially in the field of intelligent design, risks some consequences to their [sic] career." In answer to a question at one of the lectures, Behe stated that though there really is "no place to go", scientists hold to Darwinian theory because they are confirmed atheists and materialists.

Scientists are conservative and don't support new ideas, he continued, noting that the chemiosmotic hypothesis was not supported initially, and the person who came up with the idea committed suicide. It is the height of arrogance for Behe to misrepresent this information so completely! Peter Mitchell proposed the chemiosmotic theory in the 1960's. It did meet with resistance at first, but was well-accepted by the 1970's.
br> Behe also (conveniently?) left out a few little teensy facts: Mitchell was awarded the 1978 Nobel Prize for this theory — a nice monetary vindication! And Mitchell died in 1992. I don't know whether he committed suicide, but his demise occurred 14 years after basking in the glow of a Nobel Prize. This subtle demonization of the orthodox scientific community is important to the ID proponents. Since they have no data to support their hypotheses, they must rely solely upon casting doubts on well-established theories like evolution, and one way to do so is to make science look like a closed union shop unable to respond to new ideas.

So what to make of Behe and ID in general? Rather than the "shockwave in the scientific community", as one of the introductory speakers at Lincoln described Darwin's Black Box, it's really kind of a yawn. Behe and others are attempting to bring back the "argument from design", which goes back at least to the mid 1800s and William Paley. This argument was repudiated in that century, and Behe offers nothing new. Behe is welcome to attempt to resuscitate this dead horse, but he had better do so by taking an honest and complete look at the literature before he eliminates natural selection as an agent of apparent design. He should stop using his Christianity as a crutch to prop up his dubious science, get back into the laboratory, and start producing some results that support his premises.

New ideas in science are treated with skepticism — not only Peter Mitchell, but Barbara McClintock, Mitoo Kimura, and Sewall Wright went through periods where their ideas were thoroughly scrutinized and criticized. Why have they prevailed and their ideas become cornerstones of biology? Because they were able to support their ideas with evidence and a productive research program. Ten years after ID was first proposed in the book Of Pandas and People, we are still waiting for its proponents to produce either one.

References

[Anonymous.] From the Editors. Origin and Design. Winter 1999; 4.

Behe M. Darwin's Black Box. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Catalano, J. Publish or Perish — Some Published Works on Biochemical Evolution. Available from http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe/publish.html. Accessed January 20, 1999.

Dembski W. The Intelligent Design Movement. Cosmic Pursuit 1998; Spring. http://www.origins.org/offices/dembski/docs/bd-idesign.html. Accessed July 29, 1999.

Doolittle R. A Delicate Balance. Boston Review 1998. http://www-polisci.mit.edu/bostonreview/BR22.1/doolittle.html

About the Author(s): 
Dr. Karen Bartelt is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Eureka College

Review: Mystery of Mysteries

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Year: 
1999
Issue: 
5
Date: 
September–October
Page(s): 
43–44
Reviewer: 
Matt Cartmill
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction?
Author(s): 
Michael Ruse
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. 320 pages.
The philosophy of social constructionism claims that the "nature" that scientists pretend to study is a fiction cooked up by the scientists themselves — that, as Bruno Latour puts it, natural objects are "the consequence of scientific work rather than its cause". In this view, the ultimate purpose of scientists' theories and experiments is not to understand or control an imagined "nature", but to provide objective-sounding justifications for exerting power over other people. As social constructionists see it, science is an imposing but hollow Trojan horse that conceals some rather nasty storm troopers in its belly.

Over the past decade, this hostile picture of science has become the conventional wisdom in many academic circles. In this book, the Canadian philosopher and historian Michael Ruse offers an empirical test of these doctrines. If social constructionism is true, he argues, then the political and moral content of a science should remain more or less constant throughout its history. If social constructionism is false, then these "cultural values" should be increasingly shouldered aside in favor of what he calls the "epistemic values" of science itself — predictive accuracy, internal coherence, consistency with other scientific theories, fertility, simplicity, and unifying power.

The example that Ruse chooses for his test is evolutionary theory, which is his special province as a historian. After surveying the works of 10 successive writers on evolution, Ruse concludes that epistemic values have advanced markedly at the expense of the cultural values. Back in the 1790s, the evolutionism of Erasmus Darwin (Charles's grandfather) was mainly a rhetorical prop for his Whig politics and Deism. Two centuries later, Ruse has to strain hard to squeeze a few drops of ideological content out of such recent work as Geoffrey Parker's studies of sexual selection in dung flies and Jack Sepkoski's analyses of the statistics of extinction rates.

Does this prove that the social constructionists are mistaken? Well, yes and no. "Science is special," Ruse concludes, "and this is because of its standards; the critics [of science] were wrong in arguing otherwise. But it is also true that science is not special, and this is because of its culture; the defenders were wrong in arguing otherwise." Even though explicit moral and political values gradually get pushed out of a maturing science, Ruse thinks that science remains saturated with other elements drawn from the surrounding culture. Scientific language, he argues, has to make use of metaphors, which drag in cultural themes and assumptions having nothing to do with science as such. For instance, scientists diagram evolutionary relationships as trees; "trees in our culture are associated with upward striving"; our culture associates the direction "up" with improvement — and therefore we tend to think of evolutionary change as progressive, tending always to make living things higher, better, or more advanced than their ancestors (p 239). And so on.

We can all agree that cultural themes commonly influence scientific thought. But I wasn't persuaded that they always do so, or that metaphors are as pervasive and important in science as Ruse thinks they are. In the particular case mentioned above, I doubt that the tree metaphor prompts us to think of evolution as progressive. After all, we also say that organisms are "descended" from their ancestors; but that metaphor doesn't tempt us to think of evolution as a downhill slide. It seems to me that the historical progressivism of evolutionary thought is just one aspect of a general post-Enlightenment optimism about the future. This optimism has more to do with erosion of belief in the Apocalypse than with the fact that trees grow upward.

Despite the book's subtitle, Ruse doesn't come to grips with the central question here: did evolution really occur? If it did, then there must be something profoundly wrong with social constructionism. I don't see how one can seriously contend that the world is a human construct if we concede that people evolved from nonhuman animals. Unlike the theories of non-historical, experiment-centered sciences like physics and chemistry, evolutionary theory seems fundamentally at odds with social constructionism. This might be why some prominent social-constructionist academics favor bringing creation science into the public schools.

Although Ruse is disappointingly inconclusive about his main topic, anyone who is interested in the "science wars" controversy or in the history of evolutionary thought will find this book fascinating and rewarding. The prose is masterful — relaxed, colloquial, rich in information, and suffused with flashes of malicious wit and delicious historical tidbits. (I will never again think of Erasmus Darwin without recalling Ruse's observation that he had a semicircular notch cut into his dining table, so that he could belly up to his food.) Ruse displays a marvelous gift for capturing the gist and importance of complicated scientific and philosophical arguments in a few words. His first chapter, an even-handed summary and critique of Popper's and Kuhn's conflicting views of science, is surely the best thing ever written on this subject in 24 pages. Taken together, Ruse's sketches of the ideas and careers of his 10 exemplars — the 2 Darwins, Julian Huxley, Dobzhansky, Dawkins, Gould, Lewontin, EO Wilson, Parker and Sepkoski — provide an entertaining outline of evolutionary thought, which touches on the works of a lot of other leading evolutionists and fits them into their historical and cultural context.

One caveat: Ruse is surprisingly harsh towards authors who wrote books for popular audiences, which he treats as a defect in their work. I can see his point where Julian Huxley is concerned, but I think he is unfair to Stephen Gould. Ruse's disdain for popularizers seems odd in a book that is itself so deft and ingratiating in making all these complicated issues accessible to the general reader.

RNCSE 19 (6)

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1999
Date: 
November–December
Articles available online are listed below.

Geologists Explain Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Geologists Explain Evolution
Author(s): 
Wilfred A Elders
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1999
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
6–8
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

On December 16, 2000, geologists at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco held a special session entitled "Explaining Evolution". It was a spectacular success, if we can judge from the attendance — standing room only for the whole morning. The atmosphere was charged, with an attentive audience, which included at least one vocal creationist, John R Baumgardner from the Fluid Dynamics Program of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Brent Dalrymple, the author of that well-known text The Age of the Earth, began by discussing "The Creation/Evolution Issue: Why Should Earth and Space Scientists Care?" He pointed out that young-earth creationists (YECs) include the history of the earth in their definition of evolution. They try to accommodate the expansion of the universe and radiometric dating within their 10,000-year time frame by arguing that, since the Fall of Adam, the speed of light has increased by a factor of 200 million and radioactive decay constants have increased by a factor of 750,000. These requirements in turn force Planck's constant to increase by many orders of magnitude. All of this would lead to a universe that does not work. For example, before the Fall, each atom undergoing radioactive decay would have released energy equivalent to that of an exploding tactical nuclear weapon.

During the question period, the first response was from John Baumgardner. He began by saying that as a committed Christian he was insulted by Dalrymple's characterization of creationists. He expressed his disappointment that the AGU had not invited speakers to present creationist arguments. His exchanges with Dalrymple became quite heated. This made me apprehensive that he would later come after me because in my presentation I would use a slide making fun of one of Baumgardner's sillier ideas — that giant whirlpools on the continents allowed dinosaurs and other large animals to survive until late in Noah's flood, thus explaining why their fossils occur high in the geologic column.

Readers may remember that Baumgardner was featured in the article entitled "The Geophysics of God" in US News & World Report in June 1997 (see RNCSE 1997; 17 [3]: 29-32). He was attending the AGU meeting as the co-author of 4 papers concerning dynamic modeling of the Earth's mantle. However, none of his papers gave even a hint of applicability to a creationist paradigm, whether YEC or any other sort. So it is difficult to see how the results he presented could produce the changes in the values of physical parameters necessary to make plate tectonics happen in 6000 years.

Leo Laporte, a paleontologist from the University of California at Santa Cruz, then talked about "Darwinian Descent with Modification". He made 4 points about the paleontological record: (1) fossils are remains of once-living organisms; (2) fossils occur in rock sequences in temporal order; (3) the absolute ages of these sequences can be determined from radiometric dating; (4) the fossil record provides many examples of transformation of anatomical features through time — for example, the transition from amphibians to reptiles, the evolution of mammalian ear ossicles, and so on. He ended by summarizing his credo that it is the methodology of science that matters, rather than its content.

Baumgardner responded by stating that evolution is not supported by paleontology and challenged Laporte to state his epistemology. Laporte repeated his scientific credo. Baumgardner pressed him again. Eugenie Scott interjected that they were at cross-purposes because Baumgardner was not distinguishing between epistemology and metaphysics. Although scientists should share a common epistemology, she said, they can hold widely different metaphysical positions.

John Hafernik, a molecular biologist from San Francisco State University, then spoke on "Testing Evolutionary Hypotheses: Application of New Developments in Computing and Molecular Biology". His talk was about the advantages of using molecular data for evolutionary studies. Genetic data can be obtained from all kinds of organisms. It provides direct measures of amounts and rates of divergence as well as a nearly unlimited number of characters to analyze. His examples included cladograms of chipmunks and carp.

Lee Allison, the Director of the Kansas Geological Survey, followed with a talk on "Stealth Creationism: The Assault on Teaching Evolution in Kansas". He reviewed for us the political background to the Kansas State Board of Education decision to drop evolution from the state science standards. He pointed out the strong ties between the Board of Education and the conservative wing of the Republican Party of Kansas, and the influence on the Board's actions exerted by the Creation Science Association of Mid-America. He outlined the actions being taken by the Kansas Citizens for Science to redress the decision. I felt that this was an excellent background to my talk later in the morning.

John Geissman, from the University of New Mexico and a member of the AGU Committee on Public Affairs, spoke about "Teaching Geosciences: Challenges and Opportunities". This talk was mostly about how he handles the issue of creationist challenges in teaching large freshman college classes on physical geology. I feel that, although it is important to treat this issue judiciously at the college level, the main challenges lie in the K-12 arena.

Robert Hazen, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the author of the popular book Science Matters, gave a talk on "Teaching the Teachers About Evolution and the Nature of Science: Lessons from the NRC's Working Group on Teaching Evolution". As the title suggests, he was a member of the National Research Council committee that produced the 1998 publication Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. His paper was perhaps the most philosophical presentation. He posed the question "Are science and religion completely separate domains of knowledge?" He suggested that the issues are not black and white. Many religious beliefs are informed by empirical fact, and we should use the scientific method to decide empirical issues.

My talk considered a more limited, but more practical question, "Should We Teach Both Evolution and Creationism?: The Case of the Grand Canyon". After reviewing the fairness issue, I posed the question "If we were to give equal time, what textbooks would we use?" I took the geology and paleontology of the Grand Canyon as my test case, quoting liberally from the writings of YECs Gary Parker, Steven Austin, and Larry Vardiman (who cites Baumgardner on whirlpools). I showed how their interpretations were totally at variance with the standard geological interpretations. I suggested that the burden of proof lies with the creationists. Discussing various published pieces of creationist research on the Grand Canyon, I argued that they are wrong, trivial, or irrelevant. Giving equal time to creationism requires us to teach bad science (and, in my opinion, bad religion).

The concluding talk, by NCSE's Eugenie C Scott, was on "Evolution and the American Public: Perceptions Differ Outside the World of Science". She reviewed the 3 reasons why YEC has such a hold in the US (in contrast to more enlightened countries such as my own — the UK). First, the early European settlers were congregational rather than hierarchical. In the early years of this century, fundamentalism and biblical ignorance rose to the fore. Second, unlike in the rest of the world, the US has a decentralized educational system. Third, in the US there is a cultural imperative of fairness, exploited by the YECs. Having had their efforts to require equal time in the classroom thwarted by the courts, they are using different tactics, such as influencing textbook adoptions, banning the teaching of evolution, and proposing "intelligent design theory" as the thin leading wedge to open up academia to anti-evolutionary thinking.

The formal lecture session was followed by a 90-minute strategy workshop on "Promoting Good Science: Countering Creationism in Public Schools", at which Eugenie Scott was the principal speaker. We were given an excellent notebook prepared by the AGU Public Affairs Office full of good advice. All the front-line troops fighting this battle should have this ammunition.

John Baumgardner continued his vocal opposition. He criticized the Public Affairs committee of the AGU for providing a forum for the National Center for Science Education, which he said he regards as an "extremist organization". On the other hand, I would have been most vociferous if the AGU had provided a forum for the Institute for Creation Research to hold a workshop on "Countering Evolution".

Interested readers can examine the abstracts of the papers in this session on the AGU web page at http://www.agu.org. Follow the links through "Meetings, 1999 Fall Meeting, FM99 Programs & Abstracts On-line". To examine the abstracts in the "Explaining Evolution" session, click on keyword EP41A (the code for the evolution session).

About the Author(s): 

Wilfred A Elders
Riverside CA
E-mail: welders@pe.net

Minnesota Teacher Sues District Over Evolution

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Minnesota Teacher Sues District Over Evolution
Author(s): 
Eugenie C. Scott
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1999
Date: 
Fall
Page(s): 
8–9
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Rodney LeVake was teaching middle school science in Faribault, Minnesota, about 60 miles south of Minneapolis, when he applied for a fall 1997 biology teaching position at the Faribault high school. Because of district policies favoring in-district transfers of teachers with the appropriate credentials, he soon got the job.

According to other teachers at the high school, LeVake "was openly professing his Christianity. He would argue things from a fundamentalist point of view" (Leiblich 1999). His colleagues became uneasy about his approach to evolution, which was decidedly negative. The science chair at the high school, biologist Ken Hubert, talked with LeVake and decided that he needed to meet with the principal and the district science coordinator to discuss how he was teaching the class.

During that meeting, LeVake claimed he was willing to teach evolution, but also wanted to teach the "evidence against evolution". The administrators requested that he prepare a white paper that would describe more precisely what he intended to teach. This document presented the following points (among others):

"[N]either evolution or creation can be considered a science because neither are [sic] observable at the present."
"[P]roponents of either interpretation must accept it as a matter of faith."
"The process of evolution itself is not only impossible from a biochemical, anatomical, and physiological standpoint, but the theory of evolution has no evidence to show that it actually occurred."

LeVake also expressed opinions familiar to readers of creationist literature:

"the amazing lack of transitional forms in the fossil record."
"the mutation changing a leg into a wing could [not] be beneficial for the creature who possessed it."
"The theory of evolution is in clear violation of [the Second Law of Thermodynamics]."
"Natural selection occurs, but it is inadequate to produce 'macroevolution'" [by which LeVake means descent with modification].
"Homology is the study of similar organs/structures on different creatures that have the same function. It has been discovered that they arise from different locations on the DNA sequence."

He also gave a long list of examples of the "incredible complexity" that supposedly cannot be explained by evolution, and which are part and parcel of creationist objections to evolution, including:

"The structure of the microscopic bacterial flagella [sic]."
"The woodpecker's tongue and shock absorber."
"The complete metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly."

LeVake recommended Michael Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial, and Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box, "although I have not personally read the last two books listed as of yet...."

LeVake claimed he would teach evolution, but somehow never got around to it during his first year of teaching. The district has a detailed curriculum for biology instruction, involving the showing of several videos as well as class lectures, laboratories, and assigned reading. Administrators decided that for the 1998–1999 school year, LeVake would be re-assigned to teaching a course in which evolution is not a component: freshman general science. In May 1999, LeVake sued the district in Minnesota state court — as he put it to a reporter, to "get his course back".

LeVake's complaint claims that the district discriminated against him because of his religious beliefs (see RNCSE 1999; 19 [3]: 24–6). He alleges that the district restricted his employment because of his "adherence or non-adherence to certain religious or philosophical beliefs". He also argues, as have creationist plaintiffs before him, a free speech right to teach what he wants. He asks the court to direct "that the district's policy, of excluding from biology teaching positions persons whose religious beliefs conflict with acceptance of evolution as an unquestionable fact, to be unconstitutional and illegal under the US and Minnesota Constitution." He requests $50 000 compensation and court costs.

LeVake has some deep-pocketed allies behind him. His lawyer, Francis J Manion, works for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a Religious Right organization that views the First Amendment, to put it mildly, quite differently than does the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The ACLJ is a spin-off of Christian evangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. At the Christian Coalition's October 1999 annual meeting, chief legal counsel Jay Sekulow described LeVake's re- assignment as an example of "educational McCarthyism" (Lieblich 1999). The LeVake case was the topic of a CNN Newsline program broadcast in March 2000.

In earlier lawsuits in Illinois (Webster v New Lennox) and California (Peloza v San Juan Capistrano), teachers sued their districts over the issue of creationism. LeVake's attorneys take a somewhat different tack by discussing not "creationism" but the neocreationist "evidence against evolution". They may not have an opportunity to introduce this "creationism lite" into the courts, since the school district is approaching the case from the standpoint of employment law. It is the responsibility of the defense attorney to make the best possible case for his client, and much case law supports both the right of a district to determine curricula and the contractual responsibility of a teacher to teach the district-mandated curriculum. The district's position is that LeVake was re-assigned because he did not follow the district curriculum for high school biology. Of course, LeVake could have been fired, but he was merely re-assigned to a course that did not generate the same sort of conflict for him.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in June, though defendants have requested a summary judgment.

References

Leiblich J. Teacher wants to debunk evolution in school. The Detroit News (Associated Press wire story), October 15, 1999.

"Creation Museum" Moves Forward

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
"Creation Museum" Moves Forward
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1999
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
9
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.

On March 5, 2000, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported the end of a 3-year battle to oppose the construction of a "creation museum" in Boone County (see RNCSE 1999; 19 [2]: 5). Answers in Genesis (AIG), the evangelical Christian ministry headed by Ken Ham, is poised to start building the 95 000–square-foot museum/headquarters close to Big Bone Lick State Park, a state park rich in geological and paleontological resources near the state´s border with southern Ohio. AIG had failed to obtain permission to build a museum on a site even closer to the famous fossil site, after meeting opposition from county officials and a coalition of concerned scientists and area residents (see RNCSE 1996; 16(4): 1, 8–9).

Local opposition continued when AIG applied for a zoning variance at a new location, but the last roadblock was removed in February 2000, when a Kenton County judge ruled that there had been no conflict of interest on the part of a zoning commissioner who has ties to the organization and voted in favor of granting a zoning variance to build the museum. Opponents of the proposal will not appeal the decision.

Answers in Genesis staff anticipate that construction will begin in 2001 and that the first exhibits will open in 2002. AIG officials told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the museum will be filled with the kinds of exhibits that are in natural history museums, such as dinosaur replicas, fossils, and a DNA exhibit, but they will be presented as a walk-through history of the world from a biblical perspective. (AIG recently acquired a walk-through model of a cell and other exhibits from a bankrupt science center in Baltimore.)

For a report on the AIG reaction to the story, readers can connect to the AIG web site, http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/4233news3-6-2000.asp

[Details of this story are available at the web site of the Cincinnati Enquirer, http://enquirer.com/editions/2000/03/05/loc_opponents_of_genesis.html.]

Islamic Scientific Creationism

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Islamic Scientific Creationism: A New Challenge in Turkey
Author(s): 
Ümit Sayin and Aykut Kence
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1999
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
18–20, 25–29
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
At the time that "Creation Science: A Successful Export?" was published in RNCSE (Matsumura 1998), there was an notable debate among intellectuals, scientists, lay people and fundamentalist Islamists concerning Islamic scientific creationism in Turkey. Since the early 1990s, the Science Research Foundation (Bilim Arastirma Vakfi, or BAV) has undertaken a new mission of spreading an Islamic version of scientific creationism in Turkey, the ideology of which was mainly imported from the US. However, it was not until late 1998 that many scientists and academics, as well as Turkish science institutions, such as TUBITAK (the Turkish Scientific and Technical Research Council) and TUBA (the Turkish Academy of Sciences), protested the pseudoscience of BAV and published declarations against Islamic scientific creationists. To understand better the Islamic scientific creationism movement in Turkey, it is expedient to review the history of the Turkish Republic and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey.

The Turkish Republic: A Unique Democratic and Secular Islamic Country

Turkey is one of the few secular and democratic Muslim countries. Ninety-nine percent of the population is said to be Muslim — although the definition of "being Muslim" in Turkey makes it unlikely that all of these Muslims practice orthodox Islam. In most of the other Islamic countries, Sharia, Allah's Law for Muslims, dominates the constitution and the legal system, so that the state and the religion are united. Separation of the state and religion remains alien and unrealistic to such countries. In contrast with the constitutions in many other Islamic states, the Turkish Constitution forbids the religious laws from dominating government and society and requires that the state and religion be separated (Article 2, Turkish Constitution [revised in 1982]).

The Turkish Republic was founded in 1923 after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and a period of revolution and reformation led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who became Turkey's first president. When the new republic was formed, the government took many precautions to prevent Islam from being as influential in governance as it was during Ottoman times. Among these reforms were replacing the Arabic alphabet with the Roman alphabet, which is more suited to expressing the Turkish language; granting equal rights to women; and reforming education, including the elimination of compulsory religion courses and the introduction of evolution theory as an important part of the biology curriculum. Prayers once recited only in Arabic were translated into Turkish, so that everyone could understand them; religious education based in extremist sectarian centers called Tekkes, Tariqas, and Zaviyes was banned; and a new legal system based on a European model was adopted. In 10 years (1923-1933), a new modern Western country, with a new identity and ideology, was quickly created from an oriental empire. There was a clear-cut shift in the whole state precept, including secularism.

When Atatürk died in 1938, there were still many other reforms of governmental and cultural affairs to be finished, for the improvement of the new country. After 1950, the Enlightenment-based ideals and reforms of the revolution started to decline. Right-wing and conservative cliques and political parties were ready to exploit the weaknesses of the inexperienced government. Some of the social changes and civil rights attained by the revolution in 1923 were lost. Some politicians appealed to the uneducated and illiterate majority of Turks, who were still very religious and strongly influenced by local religious authorities (Sheiks and Mullahs), who promised a return to the good old Ottoman days. This turmoil continued until the military coup in 1960. A new constitution based on a Western legal system was approved in 1961, which banned efforts to support the establishment of a non-secular religious state based on Sharia Law.

Despite this setback, fundamentalist self-assertion continued into the 1970s. Various fundamentalist parties founded and headed by Necmettin Erbakan were able to attract as much as 9% of the vote, while other right-wing parties also continued to appeal to religious sentiments in order to attain power. In 1980 a right-wing junta headed by Kenan Evren took power, warning of the threat of communism. This was a milestone for the fundamentalists and extreme religious groups, which started to gain even more power. Soon Evren was succeeded by Turgut Özal, an active member of a religious order.

Fundamentalist groups organized within the government, in the bureaucracy, in the armed forces, and among the public, while the secularist, leftist opposition was suppressed. During the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of writers, scientists, journalists, and ordinary people suffered years of imprisonment for criticizing Evren's regime. During this period, no critique of or comment on the possible consequences of the deeds of the government was allowed, since this would be considered a thought crime — the equivalent of being involved in a conspiracy against the Republic, and being a separatist or even a communist. The fundamentalist vote increased to about 20% through the 1990s before declining to 16% in 1999. The main aim of one of these fundamentalist parties (known as the Welfare [Refah] Party), as stated many times by Erbakan and other party members in public talks, was to establish a theocratic and Sharia-based state (as in Iran or Afghanistan) through civil war and to promote Jihad (religious war).

By the late 1990s, things began to change. On February 28, 1997, the National Security Council responded to the fundamentalists and took steps to protect the constitution and the secular-democratic structure of the state by issuing a strong declaration that the Turkish military would protect the constitution and its secular and democratic system by any means necessary. The government toppled, and in 1998, the supreme court revoked Erbakan's senatorship and disbanded the Welfare Party. A few months later, the fundamentalists re-organized under the name of the Virtue (Fazilet) Party.

The Islamic version of "scientific creationism", as promoted by BAV, sprang up and gained power under these circumstances in the early 1990s, with the support of the Islamic fundamentalists and radical Islamic sects (tariqas).

Islam and Creationism

The Qur'an, like the Bible, accepts the creation of the universe, the earth, and life on earth by Allah (the God of Muslims) in 6 days. According to Islamic sources and the Qur'an, Allah created the soil first, then the mountains, light, and the animals, and then Adam (Qur'an: Hjcr 26-29; Zumar 6; Ta Ha 116-119; Baqarah 31-34, 36-37; A'raf 19; also see Arsel 1996, 1997a, 1997b, 1999; Dursun 1992). Adam is created from the soil. However, scholars acknowledge that the Qur'an has been modified and rewritten through the centuries (Lebster 1999; Dursun 1992).

The Qur'an accepts the divine validity of the information presented in the sacred books of Jews and Christians; consequently the creation accounts in the other sacred books are also accepted by the Qur'an. In the Qur'an, the description of Adam and Eve's adventures in Eden is not as detailed as it is in Genesis, but it is obvious that the creation story in the Qur'an was influenced by Genesis. However, the Qur'an provides no basis on which to estimate the age of the earth, in contrast to the scriptural accounts that form the basis of much of Christian "scientific creationism".

Science in Islamic Culture

In Islam, philosophers use the word ilm to refer to science in the broader sense of human knowledge, which can accommodate religious as well as natural studies. In contrast, the Western tradition sees science as a valuable way of describing and predicting the natural world without reference to any religious precepts. Christian fundamentalists promoting "creation science" cloak religious precepts in the trappings of science because of the pre-eminence of scientific method in Western countries. However, such an approach was rare in Islamic countries, where science emerged in a different cultural and religious context-that is, until BAV arose as an Islamic missionary to become the Muslim champion of "scientific creationism" in Turkey and in other Islamic countries.

BAV's activities are integrally connected to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey, where secularism and science have become rooted to some extent and more strongly established than in many other Islamic countries (Sayin 1998a, 1998b; OECD Report 1996). In the style of the Institute for Creation Research, BAV is now trying to supply "scientific" data to the public that, it proposes, proves the religious accounts of the creation, instead of appearing to appeal strictly to dogmas or sacred books.

Even though the Qur'an describes the creation of life on earth as a purposeful action by Allah, some Muslim philosophers have defended evolutionary ideas based on the notion of the Great Chain of Being. This interpretation is similar to that advanced by Christian theistic evolutionists, who claim that evolution is also created by God. One such philosopher was Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), who proposed an evolutionary theory in which created life originated from minerals, evolved into plants, and then evolved into animals.

Ibn Khaldun wrote:
It should be known that we — May God guide you and us — notice that this world with all the created things in it has a certain order and a solid construction. It shows nexuses between causes and things caused, combinations of some parts of creation with others, and transformations of some existent things into others, in a pattern that is both remarkable and endless. ...Each one of the elements is prepared. It started out from minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants...The last stage of plants is connected with the first stage of animals. ... The word "connection" with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group (Ibn Khaldun 1967: 194-5).
Ibn Khaldun is also one of the philosophers who suggested that humans evolved from apes:
The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man after the world of monkeys. This is as far as our physical observation extends (Ibn Khaldun 1967: 195).
Al-Afghani (1839-1897), who initially opposed the theory of evolution, later accepted it, proposing that Muslim thinkers preceded Darwin in advocating the theory of evolution (Bezirgan 1972).

There is considerable room for interpretation within Islam as to the date of the Creation, since there are no explicit statements about it in the Qur'an as there are in the Bible. Other aspects of the Qur'an afford room for interpretation as well. In one place in the Qur'an, a single day is said to correspond to 1000 years, yet in another verse, a day is said to correspond to a period of 50 000 years (Edis 1994). Thus geological time scales do not disturb the Muslim conception of creation (Edis 1999). It is also interesting that those contradictions and many uncertainties in the Qur'an do not disturb Muslims, and the interpretation of the surahs (parts of the Qur'an) can vary depending upon the circumstances or the reader (see Dursun 1992; Arsel 1996, 1997a, 1997b, 1999).

Teaching Religion, Creationism, and Evolution in High School in Turkey

During the Ottoman Period (13th-20th centuries CE), Medreses — Ottoman schools for teaching science and religion, roughly equivalent to sectarian religious universities in the West — taught Islam and the Qur'an as a part of the official curriculum; science was seen as a small part of religious education. It was not only compulsory to learn the Qur'an, but also to believe it under penalty of imprisonment, exile, or execution by order of Sharia judges. There was no tolerance for contradictions between science and creation according to the Qur'an. Ottoman religious authorities banned printing presses and kept Ottomans isolated from the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment until late in the 18th century.

When the Turkish Republic was established in 1923, the whole education system was reformed from high school to the universities. Atatürk himself wrote some chapters in the famous Tarih ve Medeni Bilgiler (History and Civilized Knowledge) textbook for high schools, which defended evolution, materialism, and Western science (Afetinan 1968; Perincek 1994). The participants in the reforms of the Turkish Revolution included intellectuals, scientists, politicians, law professors, and so on, who were educated in Europe (especially France and Germany). Between 1928 and 1948, books about quantum theory, relativity, evolution, Western literature, and modern and classical art were translated into Turkish by the government and delivered to people for free or at low cost. Creationism and compulsory religious instruction were nonexistent in the education system of Turkey during this period.

Under the rising influence of the fundamentalist party of Erbakan through the 1970s, the right-wing governments made religion courses, as well as the recitation of prayers in high schools, compulsory once again. Memorizing and reciting Arabic prayers became obligatory in the 1980s. Thousands of Qur'an courses followed, some outside of the high school curriculum, but all meant to institute government-sanctioned religious instruction.

At first, creationism was taught only in religion and ethics classes in high schools (Ayas and Tumer 1994). Later, in the mid-1980s, creation was made compulsory in biology courses (Kence 1985, 1995; Edis 1994). In 1985 Vehbi Dincerler, the Minister of Education in Ozal's government and a member of a religious tariqa, sent a bulletin to high schools that accused educators who taught and defended evolution of being communists. The fear of communism was as effective for intimidating people in Turkey as it was in the McCarthy era in the US and has been used successfully more recently by BAV to combat evolution.

Thus creationism was introduced to high school biology textbooks as an alternative "hypothesis" (Guven and others 1985). This form of creationism was mostly adopted from Henry Morris's Scientific Creationism (Morris 1974), which was translated into Turkish by the Ministry of Education in 1985. Creation was explained in the biology textbooks as follows:
In creationism's opinion, all living entities and species were created by Allah separately. Although they may have undergone some changes since the day they were created, neither did any evolve into other species (Guven and others 1997: 68).
Even though evolution was still in the textbooks, it was taught in a biased, ludicrous, and non-scientific way, so that it could be discredited easily by some of the religious high school biology teachers. One of the ridiculous statements found in the high school books is:
contrary to what evolutionists claim, it has been demonstrated that frog, mouse, and snake bloods are closer to human blood than that of monkeys (Ayas and Tumer 1996: 12).
Another sentence misconstrued Darwinism by stating that
according to Darwin, strong ones would live, and weak ones would be eliminated. However strong organisms such as dinosaurs, and mammoths have become extinct, whereas some weak organisms such as earthworm could survive (Ayas and Tumer 1996: 13).
When the Social Democrats came to power in 1998 under prime minister Bülent Ecevit, the biology textbooks were revised, and chapters related to Darwin and Lamarck were rewritten more objectively (Korkmaz and others 1998). Creationists' arguments were still presented as alternative hypotheses, but to make the books appear more secular, phrases such as "according to Islam" were replaced with "according to sacred books".

The modifications in the biology textbooks infuriated and mobilized those who wanted evolution to be taken out of the curriculum, including fundamentalists and BAV. The result was a series of belligerent actions against Turkish scientists at universities and at institutions such as TUBA and TUBITAK.

With its considerable political support, it seems that BAV could achieve its goal of replacing evolution with a form of creationism. The BAV aims to convince the majority of the politicians in the parliament that evolution is not a fact, but a hoax. In February 1999 a representative from the fundamentalist Virtue Party proposed a Bill of Anti-Evolution to ban teaching of evolution in the schools and to collect and destroy all the books about evolution in the official libraries, on the grounds that evolution is against Islam (Hurriyet, March 9, 1999).

BAV (Science Research Foundation) and its Activities

BAV is a radical fundamentalist foundation established in 1991 by Sheikh Adnan Oktar. It is an integral part of the rise of fundamentalist Islam in Turkey. BAV is not an independent organization and the source(s) of its funding remain very obscure. Its activities and publications utilize millions of dollars each year, so it is difficult to imagine that this amount of funding can be supplied just by donations, as some at BAV claim. The newspaper Hurriyet recently revealed that Adnan Oktar and BAV have strong connections with Necmettin Erbakan, the former leader of various fundamentalist parties. The newspaper Cumhuriyet recently reported that other support for BAV comes from Fettullahcilar — a tariqa established by Fettullah Gulen, who used to preach the evil and wickedness of evolution (Cumhuriyet, June 29, 1999).

BAV has also published several books under the pen name Harun Yahya and has delivered copies to the public free of charge. It is generally believed that Harun Yahya is actually a commission formed by BAV, although recent reports have claimed that Harun Yahya is Necmettin Erbakan or a collaboration between Erbakan and Adnan Oktar (Hurriyet, September 13-15, 1999).

However, considering the vast range of subjects and the sheer number of books — from The Qur'an-Islam, Free Masonry and Anti-Semitism to Evolution and Molecular Biology — it is unlikely that Harun Yahya is a single person. Both BAV and Harun Yahya are still poorly understood. No one claiming to be Harun Yahya has made any public appearances or has granted any interviews.

BAV has a long history of contact with American creationists, including receiving assistance from ICR. Duane Gish and Henry Morris visited Turkey in 1992, just after the establishment of BAV, and participated in a creationist conference in Istanbul. Morris, the former president of ICR, became well acquainted with Turkish fundamentalists and Islamic sects during his numerous trips to Turkey in search of Noah's Ark (Acts & Facts 1998a,1998b). BAV's creationist conferences in April and June 1998 in Istanbul and Ankara, which included many US creationists, developed after Harun Yahya started to publish his anti-evolution books, which were delivered to the public free of charge or given away by the daily fundamentalist newspapers Akit and Zaman as promotions.

BAV also organized local conferences on creationism in almost every major city and town in Turkey (about 120 locations) about creationism, defending Harun Yahya's claims (Harun Yahya 1997) and similar arguments by ICR (see http://www.geocities.com/evrimkurami for details). The main premise of the conferences was that science has disproved evolution and proved the truth of creation (for details of these conferences and more information, see the web pages attributed to Harun Yahya http://www.harunyahya.org and BAV http://www.bilimarastirmavakfi.org ).

Turkish Scientists Respond to BAV

During the early 1990s, when Harun Yahya's small inexpensive books started to circulate among the public, academics did not take BAV and Harun Yahya seriously, despite the long continuing dissonance between university and scientific circles and right-wing governments over democracy, secularism, and the creation/evolution issue. University academics simply ignored the books, and most of the biology and medicine professors considered it beneath their dignity to answer the arguments of Harun Yahya and other creationists. A similar position was taken by the intellectuals before 1980s — disregarding the majority of the public and some peripheral movements was an important factor that probably contributed to the rise of fundamentalism in Turkey (for details, see Narli 1999).

However, at the turn of the millennium, scientists and academics in Turkey realized that they were besieged by fundamentalist Islamists and a public convinced by Harun Yahya that evolution has collapsed. Even so, most of the scientific organizations and university professors remain unmoved to act against the pseudoscience of BAV. However, the authors of this article believe that defending science and evolution is indispensable in a democracy, and we believe that every single statement of Harun Yahya and BAV should be opposed by using scientific knowledge. As a part of our effort to do so, we have written numerous articles to defend evolution and inform the public about what science really says (see Kence 1982, 1985, 1994a, 1944b; Sayin 1998c, 1998d, 1998e).

After BAV's conferences in 1998, we organized an independent commission to answer the arguments of BAV and to warn the public about the pseudoscience of Islamic scientific creationists. The short-term goals of the commission were to:

1) Publish declarations about the scientific facts to the public in response to the activities of BAV;
2) Gather support from scientists in Turkish universities;
3) Write and/or translate books about evolution and inform the public, as well as other scientists, about current scientific information;
4) Contact other centers, foundations, and scientific institutions, especially in the US and Europe, that are also defending science and evolution against scientific creationists;
5) Publish and distribute answers to the arguments of the Islamic creationists and their pseudoscience; and
6) Inform governmental agencies, universities, schools, and the mass media about the danger of Islamic creationists and their pseudoscience.

This commission made 2 declarations to the public about Islamic scientific creationists in October 1998 and January 1999. In addition, more than 2000 university professors and scientists, along with TUBA and TUBITAK, signed and supported the first declaration. A similar commission had already been formed by TUBA, which also issued a separate declaration in the summer of 1998 defending science and evolution (TUBA 1999; for TUBA's declaration, connect to http://www.geocities.com/evrimkuram ).

When BAV realized that scientists and scientific organizations were publicly opposing its campaign, it responded by trying to intimidate the members of our commission and TUBA, accusing them of being communists, Maoists, atheists, and separatists. Each issue of the BAV bulletin was distributed by mail and by fax to 11 793 addresses, including the high courts of the state, the attorney general's office, district attorneys' offices, governorships, army headquarters, police headquarters, and various government offices. Furthermore, BAV included photographs of some of the scientists and described them as Maoists. The addresses and names of 6 members of the commission were published in the militant fundamentalist daily newspaper Akit (December 2, 1999). Akit published the names and photographs of some of the scientists from the commission (Aykut Kence, Isik Bökesoy) who were giving public lectures on evolution, accusing them of spreading propaganda and atheism.

However, BAV's intimidation tactics did not succeed. Academics and researchers in universities and scientific organizations were galvanized into action by BAV's tactics. Some of the authors of the declaration, Professor Aykut Kence, Professor Yaman Ors, Professor Isik Bokesoy, Professor Dincer Gülen, Dr Umit Sayin, and Dr Serhat Ozyar, whose names were particularly targeted in the BAV announcements, filed a complaint in the 3rd Civil Court of Ankara against BAV over its accusations. In May 1999, the court ruled against BAV and ordered it to pay the equivalent of $6000 to the scientists for damages (Cumhuriyet, June 25, 1999; for the English translation of this news, see http://www.geocities.com/evrimkurami/press.html ).

Islamic Scientific Creationism and its Christian Allies

Even though they are using arguments that ICR has developed and passed on to them, Islamic creationists usually adapt ICR's arguments to fit their view of Islam or construct their own arguments to meet their own objectives for defeating evolution. So the Islamic creationism of BAV is not merely a carbon copy of ICR's creationism; it has its own style and format.

Part of the difference between ICR's and BAV's versions of creationism relate to their different scriptural bases. The flexible and interpretable text in the Qur'an allows BAV to avoid the issue of the date of creation. In contrast to some of the ICR's positions, BAV asserts that the Qur'an does not give any date for creation and that the Flood may have been a local, rather than a worldwide, event.

Here are some examples of the basic ideas defended in Harun Yahya's books, which were also featured in the nationwide conferences (Harun Yahya 1997, 1998a, 1998b, 1998c). There are several points of departure from the creation model commonly promoted by the ICR.

1) Earth and life on earth were created by Allah all at once. There is no evolutionary process. No species has ever evolved into another species. Life was probably created on earth during the Cambrian Explosion.
2) The Qur'an is the best of the religious scriptures, so it does not make mistakes as do the other sacred books, such as estimating the earth's age as 10 000 years or asserting the occurrence of a worldwide Flood. The Qur'an is the ultimate scientific truth. Nothing can contradict the Qur'an.
3) Matter is an illusion of the mind. In truth, only mind exists; matter does not! The outside world is the illusion of the mind, and mind transforms and determines the reality. (However, they try to use data obtained from that illusory world to prove that evolutionists are making mistakes!)
4) Evolution is the greatest hoax of all centuries. All the scientific data collected during the last 150 years disprove evolution. All the scientific data prove that, from DNA to organisms, everything has a design and purpose, and that everything was created all at once. Science has proved that Allah exists and created the life on earth.
5) Darwinists' or evolutionists' tendency to defend evolution is ideological, rather than scientific. They probably defend it because of their communist, materialist, Satanist, or racist ideologies. People who defend evolution are mentally ill, because they continue to defend it against all scientific evidence.
6) Humans are created in the image of Allah, so we cannot have evolved from apes, which are subhuman animals. Science has not found a single clue that apes are relatives of Homo sapiens.
7) Modern secular systems are the traps and deceits of Satan. (They are not against science, they say, but they oppose secular modern science and its cooperation with Satan. They propose the way of the Qur'an and Sharia as the ultimate and ideal way. Their understanding and definition of science are very obscure, especially since they deny that matter exists!)
8) Evolution is not a fact, because it is not reported in the Qur'an. (When they do not have information or evidence to explain a phenomenon, they cite some surah of the Qur'an and refer to the Qur'an as a scientific source. When they oppose theistic evolutionists, they claim that Allah could have created evolution, if he had wanted to, but since this is not reported in the Qur'an, it cannot be a fact.)

Tactics and Pseudoscience of Islamic Creationists

BAV's tactics and strategies are also adapted from those used by ICR for decades. Most of the information, slides, figures, and ideas they use in their conferences resemble those long used in ICR presentations. A quick overview illustrates both the ICR heritage and the local adaptations in the BAV approach.

1) BAV uses pseudoreferences. The references they cite in their books and presentations usually support and defend evolution, but they take just one sentence that they think might seem to support their arguments and use it as their scientific reference. They claim that they can find scientific proof of creation in journals such as Discover, Scientific American, Nature, and Science, even though a cursory reading would show that these references support evolution, not creation. Because it is so difficult for Turkish readers to have access to these journals, however, most of Harun Yahya's arguments go unchallenged.
2) BAV never acknowledges the overwhelming weight of scientific research supporting evolution, but generally distort a single news item (for example, from a popular journal like Discover) to "prove" their conclusion. It does not discuss the fact that the rest of the article or other articles in the same issue of that journal defend and support evolution.
3) BAV first concludes that evolution is wrong and then tries to build up a whole system of "proofs". These proofs do not use any traditional logical and scientific methods to reach the scientific conclusions; instead, they cite the Qur'an as the ultimate (and also the scientific) truth. They even cite surahs as scientific references. Creation is an axiom, not a hypothesis to defend!
4) BAV rejects anything that opposes its ideology or that supports evolution. It does not accept any evidence that shows its proposals as unscientific. According to BAV, science is what proves the Qur'an — and BAV's interpretation of it.

These characteristics are consistent in approach and method with the ICR's version of creationism — selective citation, incomplete survey of appropriate literature, prior conviction that evolution must be wrong (and evil) with an emphasis on the scientific truth of scripture, and the conviction that "true" science must be concordant with scripture.

However, there are some significant differences between the approaches of these two groups. For the most part, Harun Yahya is not aiming for a sophisticated scientific presentation. Acting in Turkey, BAV does not face the difficulty of opposing a highly trained and prominent scientific community, as does the ICR in the US where some of the world's most sophisticated scientific knowledge is produced. BAV has not faced much resistance from the universities or scientific organizations until our recent campaign.

Conclusions

Islamic scientific creationism has become a threat not only to science but also to democracy and the secular system in Turkey. Unlike Christian creationism, it is a critical part of the rise of an extreme religious movement and has actively contributed to the decline of democratic reforms and progress in scholarship and research in the Turkish Republic. If groups like the BAV are unopposed by Turkish science organizations, universities, the government, and individual scientists, they will continue their propaganda unchecked. If they succeed in their efforts, they will influence not only the believers but also the rest of the society, since there is a very weak scientific foundation among the vast majority of the Turkish public. We must recognize the power of the BAV's appeal and take a page from the successful opposition to the ICR and its allies in the US. The only hope for Turkish science and society is a vigorous campaign to expose and oppose Islamic creationism in every forum throughout the country.

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr Taner Edis for reading the manuscript and giving his valuable suggestions. A version of this article can also accessed at http://www.geocities.com/evrimkurami .

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Yahya H. Yaratilis Gercegi [The Truth of Creation]. Istanbul: Vural Yayincilik [Vural Publications], 1998a.

Yahya H. Evrim Teorisinin Cokusu [The Collapse of Evolution]. Istanbul: Vural Yayincilik [Vural Publications], 1998b.

Yahya H. Evrimcilerin Yanilgilari [The Defects of Evolutionists]. Istanbul: Vural Yayincilik [Vural Publications], 1998c.

About the Author(s): 
Umit Sayin is in the Department of Neurology in the School of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Aykut Kence is in the Department of Biology at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. Both have long been active in promoting science and opposing creationism in Turkey.

Cloning Creationism in Turkey

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
Cloning Creationism in Turkey
Author(s): 
Taner Edis
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1999
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
30–35
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
To observers in the industrialized Western world, "scientific creationism" often seems an American phenomenon. In other English-speaking countries, creationism has a much smaller constituency, and though orthodox Israeli Jews or French Muslims occasionally make a stand against Darwin (Numbers 1992; Kepel 1997), creationism has not become the persistent nuisance for public education that it is in the United States. Even within the United States, creationism typical of that promoted by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) is clearly a sectarian position, drawing support from the evangelical Protestant community but largely unable to reach beyond its boundaries. Tracing the history of US creationism, we find that it is rooted in a populist Protestant culture that demands that both nature and Scripture be accessible to common-sense interpretation (Gilbert 1997). Although followers of many Abrahamic religious traditions express discomfort with Darwinian evolution, a full-blown attempt at creation "science" appears to be largely an American evangelical Protestant peculiarity.

Since "scientific creationism" has such a narrow, if numerous, constituency, defenders of evolution in science education can often succeed by appealing to pluralist principles — allowing creationism into the classroom would favor a blatantly sectarian viewpoint. Although ICR separates "biblical" from "scientific" creationism and emphasizes the latter, evolutionists usually consider this an artificial distinction; after all, the supposedly scientific aspect of creationism is endorsed by few people who are not biblical literalists.

While this is a reasonably accurate picture of "creation science" in the Western world, the emergence of an Islamic creationism, which is practically a clone of ICR's "scientific" vision, means we have to reassess our picture of creationism. Though Turkish creationists hail from a very different religious culture and history, their wholesale adoption of ICR-style arguments means that we cannot explain creationism by narrowly sectarian factors alone. Creationism mobilizes traditional Abrahamic convictions about the moral significance of the natural world against the threat of social modernity. Hence successful variants of creationism have a potential to spread beyond the environments in which they originally evolved.

A New Wave of Turkish Creationism

Turkey has been the most Western-oriented among Muslim countries, a legacy of modernization efforts going back more than 150 years. Most significantly, the early years of the new Turkish Republic, spanning the 1920s and 1930s, saw aggressive state-sponsored efforts to bring the European Enlightenment to a country with a traditional Islamic culture. While this revolution created some enduring modern institutions and an urban secular elite, a religiously-tinged conservative populism came to dominate politics in the 1950s. However, until the 1980s, explicitly Islamist political movements remained mostly submerged. Evolution was not a flashpoint, flashpoint, partly because it was a religiously unpalatable element in secular public education, and so did not receive major curricular emphasis.

The aftermath of a military coup in 1980 presented new opportunities for Islamist politics and for creationism. Concerned that secular government allowed too much space for left-wing dissent, risking national fragmentation and social unrest, the military junta and subsequent governments promoted a more religious ideology. This naturally affected education policy. While compulsory religion courses and the teaching of a conservative view of history were its most visible results, natural science did not escape untouched. The 1980s saw the state-sponsored translation and distribution of ICR material, explicitly creationist high-school textbooks, and a general anti-evolutionary climate in secondary education (Edis 1994). In 1992, ICR's Duane Gish and John D Morris appeared at a creationist conference held in Istanbul.

Recent years have brought important political changes that affect the creation-evolution conflict in Turkey. Islamists have grown stronger, even tasting power on their own instead of through factions within more moderate conservative parties. Although the Islamist Party lost some support to a more nationalist ultra-right party in the elections of April 1999, there is still a powerful constituency that objects to "polluting young minds" with Darwinian biology. However, the Turkish military has emerged as a counterbalancing force. Freed from the need to promote religious conservatism for anticommunist purposes, in the past few years the military has once again acted in defense of the secularist ideals of the early republic. This has extended to applying pressure to remove an Islamist-led government from power in 1997 and insisting upon educational reforms aimed at undercutting the base of Islamist politics.

In this highly charged environment, 1998 brought a new wave of creationism to Turkey. Unlike previous efforts directly aimed at public education, this wave is much more an exercise in popular propaganda through the media. By producing a series of scientific-appearing meetings and books, creationists organized in the Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV; the Science Research Foundation) caught the public eye — not only through the extensive Islamist media which cheered them on and secularist newspapers which expressed concern, but also through the wider commercial media with a nose for controversy. As John Morris observes, BAV has considerable media clout: "As a group, they have access to more than adequate financial resources, as well as to the media, and are able to blanket the country with creation information. They choose to invite international creationists for their publicity value, but especially welcome Christian creationists in the ICR mold rather than those who hold merely an anti-Darwinian stance" (Morris 1998).

In April and July 1998, BAV held 3 "international conferences" in the major cities of Turkey, with a theme of "The Collapse of the Theory of Evolution: The Fact of Creation" [see sidebar, p xxx]. Joining Duane Gish and John Morris to support Turkish creationist academics were creationist luminaries Michael P Girouard, Edward Boudreaux, Carl Fliermans, and David Menton. These meetings were well-attended and well-publicized, producing successful, organized media events for creationism.

This media-savvy attention to production details is apparent in the creationist books distributed by BAV as well. Most representative is Harun Yahya's text The Evolution Deceit. The book comes in 2 versions — a large, attractive 370-page volume notable for its many full-color illustrations and slick appearance (Yahya 1997) and an abridged 128-page booklet with fewer illustrations, which was widely distributed free of charge to the public (Yahya 1998). Especially in light of the sorry state of popular science publishing in an underdeveloped country like Turkey, these lavish productions are very impressive and demonstrate the considerable finances BAV commands.

The arguments presented both in the conferences and the books are very similar to ICR's; indeed, ICR remains the most important source of material for Turkish creationists. Popular Muslim apologists often present examples of intricacies or harmony in nature and suggest that it is obvious to anyone paying attention that these indicate supernatural design. This is a traditional approach that partly derives from Muslim scriptures: although the Qur'an does not often attempt to support its claims through natural theology, it speaks of God’s manifesting "signs" in nature that we may be convinced. Observing the awesome and orderly aspects of nature — the heavens and the stability of the earth, lightning and rain, useful plants and fruits, and so on — prompts common sense to conclude that all this must be designed for a purpose (13 Ar-Rad 2, 3; 30 Ar-Rum 20-27). However, in a changing society in which people are exposed to the mass media and impressed with the products of modern science, a simple appeal to teleological intuitions is no longer sufficient. For Muslim creationists, ICR's ostensibly nonbiblical arguments supply a scientific veneer while retaining the commonsense thrust vital for an effective media message.

Hence the Yahya book, while drawing on Muslim apologetic styles, ends up reading like a compendium of classic ICR arguments. All the usual suspects appear, including claims concerning the lack of transitional fossils, the impossibility of functioning intermediate forms, the fraud of human evolution, the unreliability of dating methods, and the statistical impossibility of evolution at the molecular level. The book also explains why Western scientists and Turkish fellow-travelers are so enamored of evolution when it is so clearly false. Sounding much like one of its major sources, Henry Morris, the book tells how, beguiled by the secular philosophies of the European Enlightenment, scientists got caught up in a long war against God (Yahya 1997; Morris 1989). The content of Turkish creationism, then, is strikingly unoriginal; with generally trivial modifications, much of ICR's "scientific" material fits BAV's needs very well.

Creationism in the mass media naturally produced a reaction from mainstream Turkish academics. Previously there had been scattered, ineffective resistance to the inroads creationism was making at the high-school level; the latest high-profile wave of creationism appears to have prompted defenders of evolution to attempt a stronger response. Shortly after the BAV conferences, the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TUBA) condemned creationist efforts in a statement to the press, warning that "certain interests are continuing a war against the secular system and free and modern education". Declaring that evolution is a vital, well-confirmed part of modern science, TUBA pointed out that creationism was spread by Christian groups but had "been completely rejected in scientifically advanced countries" (TUBA 1999). A commission, including some TUBA members, was formed to combat creationism publicly. Its work continues (see Sayin and Kence 1999).

Just as Turkish creationists rely on their US counterparts, defenders of evolution plan to make use of the experience of Western evolutionists; for example, by translating proven anti-creationist material. Furthermore, in Turkey as well as in the US, scientists can try to get media attention by presenting themselves as experts: the proper authorities on biology. Unfortunately, this can be expected to have only limited success. The difficulties in explaining a counterintuitive scientific concept that faces populist religious resistance are intensified in Turkey not only because of widespread scientific illiteracy but also because the scientific community is much less powerful.

The creation-evolution conflict in Turkey is also dissimilar to the controversy in the US in other important ways, and emphasizing the broad picture of scientists and educators battling resurgent fundamentalism might obscure this. The Turkish creation-evolution dispute has a much more intense political aspect. When BAV creationists describe evolutionary scientists in conspiratorial, red-baiting terms, they may seem merely to echo the more rhetorically extravagant of the US creationists, but in the context of the present political situation in Turkey, and with militant Islam's history of violent action against critics, such descriptions take on a darker meaning. Protestants emphasize individual choice, which becomes more sharply defined against a background of doubt and backsliding. Orthodox Islam, however, is more similar to premodern Christianity: criticizing the faith not only puts the individual's soul at risk but is also treachery against the community. When a prominent Islamist newspaper (Akit, December 2, 1998) published the names of the signatories of the TUBA statement on its front page, suggesting they trespassed against Islam, this had overtones of an invitation to violence.

Such a climate does not allow for even a pretense of intellectual debate. Just as creationists rely on their Islamist base, evolutionists also see their dispute in current political terms; the TUBA statement charged creationists with aiming to undermine the secular state and produce a generation incapable of critical thought "who accept the dogmatic and incorrect information given to them without question." Political accusations fly back and forth with regularity, particularly on the part of the creationists (Sayin and Kence 1999).

Set in a culture that is caught between modernity and premodern religious and social ideals, creationism and evolution in Turkey are much more explicitly connected to the struggle between secularism and the Turkish version of the religious right. And though defenders of evolution might mobilize Westernized, secular segments of society, it is hard to see how they can appeal to others in a country that is not religiously pluralist in its common culture. Turkish evolutionists will have to invent new ways to combat creationism in very difficult circumstances.

Why Would Muslims Copy ICR?

In Turkey we find a significant creationist presence outside the United States; indeed, one altogether outside the culture of evangelical Protestantism. Although its flourishing is recent, this Islamic creationism is in some ways more powerful than its Christian counterpart — it probably enjoys better prospects for success. It is no surprise that a traditional Abrahamic religion would inspire opposition to Darwinian evolution. On the other hand, it is somewhat strange that some Muslims borrow so extensively from ICR. After all, we tend to think that creationism is a product of a particular religious history and social needs that is manifested in biblical literalism: it is not nature that constrains ICR but a narrowly sectarian religious point of view. But the history of orthodox Islam has little similarity to that of Protestant Christianity; socially it is quite different, and it does not share the same scripture. Protestantism is religiously individualist while orthodox Islam is a communal, premodern faith in which religious doctrines have a different social function. And although Islam also tends to scriptural literalism, and the Qur'an affirms special creation in a general sense (for example, 55 Ar-Rahman 13), it does not contain detailed creation stories as does the Bible. If the driving force behind creationism is a literal interpretation of the Genesis story, it is hard to see why Muslims would copy ICR — except perhaps because they will accept any aid in opposing evolution.

Some similarity among varieties of creationism is only to be expected; after all, there are only so many ways to argue that transitional fossils do not exist or that the complexity of biological molecules precludes a naturalistic account of their origin. Indeed, Islamists occasionally published anti-evolution books before the 1980 coup; these presented a few typical creationist arguments, such as the improbability of protein formation, independently of ICR (for example, Akbulut 1980). But such examples also illustrate that there are many ways of standing against evolution besides copying ICR. Since Islam is but a distant relative of Protestant Christianity, we might have expected a broader version of anti-evolutionary "science" than ICR's would have appealed to Muslim apologists. In fact, it would seem just the thing has recently been developed: "Intelligent Design" (ID) theorists present not only a more sophisticated position, but a view that lays claim to very general theistic intuitions about creation without getting bogged down in too many sectarian details (for example, Moreland 1993; for critiques, see Davis 1998; Pennock 1999). Islamists could presumably adapt this strategy, attaching specifically Islamic details as needed. But although the BAV material quotes ID proponents such as Phillip Johnson with approval, it treats ID as the ICR does — citing it to bash evolution and quickly moving on to arguments that would embarrass Johnson.

BAV does not, of course, crib indiscriminately from ICR. Their most striking divergence is BAV's omission of flood geology, ICR's signature doctrine. This is largely because Islam supports a different theological view of history than Christianity’s. Traditional Christian theology includes a strong sense of salvation history. Not only does the Bible contain something like a story line, which is easily read as a historical narrative, but even long-established Christian sects harbor millenarian strains looking forward to an imminent culmination of history. Orthodox Islam, though retaining the overall framework of time unfolding between Creation and Judgment, does not convey this sense of a cosmic salvation history. Occasionally, God sends messengers to the different nations, punishes a disobedient tribe, or performs miracles through a prophet. But such stories in the Qur'an are told as "a collection of interesting anecdotes about persons who had lived at some period in the past — a collection not in any way chronologically ordered" (Watt 1968). In Muslim culture, history is not important as a straightforward sacred narrative but because Muhammad, the final prophet, spoke the words of God, and from then on everything was radically different. Even non-Arab Muslim peoples tend to see their history before Islam as a time of darkness, as if history only began for them once they received Muhammad's message.

This means that geological time scales do not much upset Muslim conceptions of history. So Muslim creationists generally advocate an old earth or downplay the question because establishing a specific time scale is simply not that important for them. Although ICR gnashes its teeth at modern cosmology, BAV cites old-earther Hugh Ross in its magazine and triumphantly proclaims that the Big Bang proves the existence of God (BAV 1999).

However, BAV creationists are not committed to an old earth. A young earth, after all, would make evolution very implausible, so Harun Yahya once again copies ICR and cheerfully attacks all modern dating methods (Yahya 1997, ch 4). This brings up the interesting question of whether Muslim creationism could evolve in a young-earth direction. After all, a world only a few thousands of years old makes better sense if humans are central to the purpose of creation, and so the Abrahamic traditions all leaned this way before modern science. Critics of creationists like to cite Augustine's admonitions against naive literalism, but often overlook how he also wrote about history's moving through 6 ages corresponding to the days of creation, and how these ages were most naturally understood as lasting thousands of years (Patrides 1972, ch 2, 3). Muslim thinkers of the classical period also adopted the view that the earth was 6–7 thousand years old. So it is possible that some Muslims will toy with young-earth ideas. But it is very unlikely that this will ever become an important issue among conservative Muslims.

Another interesting difference from ICR emerges when BAV explains how a godless conspiracy established evolution. Much of what appears under the pseudonym Harun Yahya comes straight from Henry Morris, but it identifies the main forces behind evolution as Masons and Jews. This fits in with the all-too-common antisemitism among Islamists; indeed, Harun Yahya is also listed as the author of a book entitled The Holocaust Hoax, which borrows much from well-known American holocaust-deniers (Yahya nd). Bashing Masons may seem peculiar, but this is actually a common motif in Islamist tirades, where Freemasonry, as for many Christian conspiratologists in the past, serves as a symbol personifying the Enlightenment culture that helped to erode traditional religiosity. Usually the ancient enemies — the Jews, who refused to accept Muhammad as the final prophet — turn out to be behind Masonry, secularism, communism, and just about every godless evil.

BAV and ICR differ in some other particulars, but these are trivial. And even the differences involving flood geology and antisemitism do not obscure the fact that BAV's creationism is nearly a clone of ICR's. If anything, such differences highlight the need to explain this similarity. Clearly BAV does not blindly copy ICR; rather, it introduces minor adaptations for a Muslim environment. Why are the adaptations so minor?

We can begin to sketch an answer by observing that like the Christian version, Muslim fundamentalism is not a traditionalist movement. Islamists draw support from newly urbanized populations rather than from peasants; they are likely to be led by engineers instead of religious scholars in the traditional mold (Roy 1994). In this, they are similar to American creationists, who also find their constituency among a modernizing population, including many who have become part of the professional classes, who are trying to reproduce their culture in a changing social environment (Eve and Harrold 1991). Muslim as well as Christian creationists widely accept science as a cognitive authority, in part because Muslims perceive that their once superior civilization has been humiliated by the West’s technological advantage. This is fertile ground for pseudosciences claiming that modern knowledge validates the old stories.

In these circumstances, evolution is an obstacle, though not just because it does not fit particular scriptures. ICR's "creation science" appeals to BAV not because it upholds the authority of the Bible, but because it upholds a divine moral order — an order manifested in the evident design of nature. As with most traditional religions, old-time Abrahamic faiths sanctify a social order by inscribing it into the very structure of the universe. Origin myths function as communal constitutions; the divine purpose in creation underwrites moral convictions. Theological conservatives want to retain this morality-infused view of nature as the social disruptions of modern life encroach upon their communities.

This difference between traditional Abrahamic and modern views of morality is starkest in matters like sex roles, where fundamentalists of all stripes uphold very rigid roles discovered in nature as well as scripture (Kintz 1997). Popular Muslim apologetics, in fact, lean even more heavily on nature. Consider how theologian Suleyman Ates justifies 2 Al-Baqarah 228 in the Qur'an, which asserts that men are superior to women:
It is true that as a whole, the male sex has been created superior to the female. Even the sperm which carries the male sign is different from the female. The male-bearing sperm is more active, ... the female less. The egg stays stationary, the sperm seeks her out, and endures a long and dangerous struggle in the process. Generally in nature, all male animals are more complete, more superior compared to their females…. Man, being more enduring at work, and superior in prudence and willpower, has been given the duty of protecting woman (Ates 1991: 37; translation by author).
Such Aristotelian views of biology are quite common, even among theologians like Ates who think that some form of development in time may be acceptable to Islam.

Darwinian evolution severely undermines all such views of nature; for evolutionists, biological facts no longer carry a clear moral significance deriving from specially designed roles for each living thing. Fundamentalists quite correctly perceive that evolution radically threatens their conception of morality, though they often mistakenly go on to claim that evolution sanctions moral attitudes they consider degenerate. More modern-minded religious thinkers, of course, see opportunity here. If biological nature is no longer strongly coupled to morality, it also becomes easier to suspect that our moral convictions derive from a source transcending nature. However, exploring such an apologetic strategy is not an option for conservatives committed to a premodern social ideal. Taking a liberal point of view would in effect endorse a fluid, human-created moral environment, however sugar-coated by mystical intuitions.

Religious conservatives, then, have very good reasons to attack evolution, and this goes for Muslims as well as Christians. When, in another echo of Christian creationists, Harun Yahya digresses to denounce evolution because it describes homosexuality as natural, therefore "seeking to legitimize perversion" (Yahya 1997: 307), this might seem bizarrely out of place in an argument that is ostensibly about biology. From a fundamentalist perspective, however, it makes perfect sense — worries about morality and social decay are intimately connected to the fundamentalist view of biology.

This, then, is the key to why BAV copies ICR. They hail from doctrinally and socially different religions, but they represent constituencies confronting modernity in similar ways. They both answer a need to claim science for the side of old-time social morality, and both correctly see that evolution is a major intellectual obstacle. So BAV can borrow from ICR because ICR has already done the work of constructing a populist pseudoscience that is, in fact, relatively free of narrowly Protestant literalist doctrinal idiosyncrasies. ICR has a product which will work for almost any Abrahamic fundamentalism. Conservative Christians and Muslims may strongly disagree about religious matters — Yahya rails against the Trinity, and Henry Morris hopes the Muslims influenced by the ICR will come to know Jesus (Morris 1998) — but they can agree on their overall conception of social morality and upon "creation science".

Back Home

Watching a familiar "creation science" take root in a different culture can give us a new perspective on creationism back home. To begin with, we can more easily see the real difference between "scientific" and "biblical" creationism. They are not as separate as creationists claim — reading Henry Morris worrying about matters like the water table in the Garden of Eden (Morris 1976), it is easy to see the literalist motivations behind much of "creation science". Nevertheless, much of ICR's work has a broader potential appeal than its narrowly literalist base suggests. Defenders of evolution too often oversimplify creationism (Edis 1998); reducing US creationism to an obsession with Genesis also misses much. Becoming more aware of the wider motivations behind anti-evolutionary views, particularly the moral concerns driving them, might improve critiques of creationism.

More importantly, however, observing Turkish creationism shows the comparative weakness of the US variety. While Western cultures have secularized over the past few centuries (Bruce 1996), the Muslim world has not. There are, of course, scholars who propose more liberal approaches to Islam, hoping that it will become a matter of personal conscience rather than a communal ideology. But many also realize that liberal Islam does not exist as a significant social force and that popular sentiment leans towards political Islamists (for example, Tibi 1998). To most Muslims, especially those fundamentalist leaders who are very aware of the decline of Christianity in the industrialized West, liberal religion presents only a pale remnant of a once glorious God. And so, although unsuccessful in solving real-world political and economic problems, political Islamists remain stronger than modernists, who appear culturally alien. In such an environment, Turkish creationism enjoys some success both at the grassroots and at the governmental level.

US evolutionists can be more optimistic. The rise of ICR's creationism was part of a wider evangelical resurgence, when the "Southern style" of religion spread to the rest of the country. However, it now appears that this has come at the cost of a "Californification" of Southern religion, in which doctrinal rigidity becomes diluted through increasing individualism and shallowness in commitment (Shibley 1996). In fact, even evangelical theologians have begun to express concern over how evangelicals have come to emulate the wider culture, where religion serves as a source of therapy rather than of truth (for example, Wells 1993). This suggests that the wild popularity of evangelical religion does not effectively threaten American religious pluralism. Working against a pluralist culture and a strong legal tradition of church-state separation, US creationists face a severe struggle.

With some vigilance, our homegrown creationism should not become more than the major nuisance it already is. In Turkey, there is a real possibility that we will find out what happens to science when creationists actually succeed.

References

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Ates S. Gercek Din Bu, vol 1. Istanbul: Yeni Ufuklar Nesriyat, 1991.

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Bruce S. Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Eve R, Harrold F. The Creationist Movement in Modern America. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Davis EB. Of gods and gaps: Intelligent design and Darwinian evolution. RNCSE 1998 Nov/Dec; 18 (6): 20–3.

Edis T. Islamic creationism in Turkey. Creation/Evolution 1994; 14 (1) nr 34; 1–12.

Edis T. Taking creationism seriously. Skeptic 1998; 6(2): 56.

Gilbert J. Redeeming Culture: American Religion in an Age of Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Kepel G. Allah in the West: Islamic Movements in America and Europe. Milner S, translator. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Kintz L. Between Jesus and the Market: The Emotions That Matter in Right-Wing America. Durham (NC): Duke University Press, 1997.

Moreland JP. The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer. Downers Grove (IL): InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Morris HM. The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976.

Morris HM. The Long War Against God: The History and Impact of the Creation/Evolution Conflict. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989.

Morris HM. Creation, Christmas, and the Qur'an. Back to Genesis 1998 Dec; 120.

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Pennock RT. Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press, 1999.

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Wells DF. No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? Grand Rapids (MI): Wm B Eerdmans, 1993.

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About the Author(s): 
Dr Taner Edis
Department of Physics
Truman State University
Kirksville MO 63501
E-mail: edis@grant.phys.subr.edu

What Makes Islamic Science Islamic?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Title: 
What Makes Islamic Science Islamic?
Author(s): 
Muzaffar Iqbal
Volume: 
19
Issue: 
6
Year: 
1999
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
38–39
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
I know that I have wandered into difficult terrain. What makes science Islamic, or in other words, what adds a religious dimension to science, is a problematic question because the answer depends on certain definitions that are not universally recognized. But let us try to look at the question from the perspective of Islamic tradition, which has at its very heart the concept of Tawhid, the Unicity of God.

This concept is embodied in the first part of Shahadah, the testimony of faith: "There is no god but God." Everything in Islamic civilization, including the sciences, has sprung forth from this fundamental statement, which is an expression of the transcendence of divine unity. This consciousness of the Oneness of God is placed at the center of the Islamic worldview so as to act as a directing force that draws to itself all levels of manifest reality in the cosmic plane. To proclaim that there is no god but God is to testify that there is an essential unifying principle behind the apparent multiplicity of the universe which, in Islam, is not restricted merely to observable and perceptible reality but goes beyond to the realm of the Unseen.

For over 1400 years, Muslims, as well as some non-Muslims, have drawn inspiration from the Qu'ran, which they consider to be the actual Word of God, revealed to the Prophet Mohammed by the archangel Gabriel. For Muslims, the Qur'an not only establishes what is lawful and what is not, but also defines the scope of human activity — from conception to death, and beyond physical death to resurrection and life after death.

Because developments in the sciences, as in any discipline, largely depend on the particular worldview of their practitioners, the growth of various branches of science in the Islamic civilization can be related to the Islamic worldview, and this relationship can be studied in a variety of ways. Since science is a discipline with a well-defined subject matter, methodology, theories, and accumulated body of knowledge, the scientific process is both a social and an epistemological phenomenon dependent on the worldview of its practitioners.

The Islamic worldview is based on the Revealed Book, the Qur'an, which accepts as solved the basic enigmas of life — birth, death, resurrection and life after death. Its basic goal is to guide human activity within legal limits. It grants humans the basic right to make moral choices between right and wrong and calls upon us to reflect on the consequences of our choices. In addition to a large number of historical examples, the Qur'an presents the whole of the manifest universe to humans as our field of reflection. In sum, the Islamic worldview — centered on the single concept of Tawhid — clearly elucidates the hierarchy of the created beings, establishes their legal limits, and puts humans in the center of the created universe and the human heart at the center of human existence. It is the heart from which flow all actions and thoughts, all discoveries and all sciences.

By accepting this covenant offered to us, humans have entered into a special and unique relationship with God, which distinguishes us from other creatures. At the very foundation of this relationship is the communicated word — intelligible speech — which issues forth from the tongue as an instrument of the spirit's inner state. An attentive reader of the Qur'an discovers, over and over, that the inner dimensions of certain acts of worship — like fasting, prayers, and hajj — prepare the body to receive the divine grace by being watchful, receptive, and in a state of peace with the Divine writ (amr-e Rabbi). In Islam, this purification of the heart through vigorous application to a discipline is considered to be an integral part of the methodology of acquiring knowledge. Thus, it is not unusual to find examples of scientists of great stature (for example, Ibn Sina and Al-Biruni) who prayed fervently to God and sought divine help to solve their scientific and philosophical problems.

From the very beginning, Islam provided Muslims with a rich repository of technical terminology that soon paved the way for the development of a conceptual framework from which various branches of science emerged in due course. This terminology is essentially based on the Qur'anic concepts of life, death, resurrection, prophethood, and our moral response to the whole scheme of a purposeful creation of the universe.

Islamic Concepts of Knowledge and Nature

It is noteworthy that the testimony of faith itself is a statement of knowledge. "When a man dies", the Prophet of Islam is reported to have said, "his work also stops, except for 3 [things]: acts of charity, which are continued, knowledge by which [all] profit, and a righteous child who prays for him." He also said:
Whoso walks in the path seeking knowledge thereby, God will make him walk in the paths of paradise; and verily, the angels spread out their wings out of pleasure for the seeker after knowledge; and verily those who are in the heavens and the earth and fish also in the midst of water, all ask pardon for him; and, verily, the excellence of a learned man over a mere worshipper is as the excellence of full moon over the stars. And, verily, the learned men are the inheritors of the prophets; for verily, the prophets' heritage is not [riches], but the heritage of knowledge; whoso then receives this, he has received ample good fortune.
The Qur'anic verse "my Lord, increase my knowledge" was one of the constant prayers of the Prophet of Islam, who also asked God to show him "things as they really are". This prayer of the Prophet has echoed throughout the history of Islam in many forms, but perhaps its most eloquent expression is by the 16th-century Persian Sufi poet and scholar, 'Abd al-Rahman Jami (d 1492) who prayed to God thus:
O God, deliver us from the preoccupation with worldly vanities, and "show us the nature of things as they really are". Remove from our eyes the veil of ignorance, and show us things as they really are. Show us not non-existence as existent, nor cast the veil of non-existence over the beauty of existence. Make this phenomenal world the mirror to reflect the manifestation of Thy beauty, not a veil to separate and repel us from Thee. Cause these unreal phenomena of the Universe to be for us the source of knowledge and insight, not the causes of ignorance and blindness. Our alienation and severance from Thy beauty all proceed from ourselves. Deliver us from ourselves, and accord to us intimate knowledge of Thee.
Thus from the very moment of birth to the last breath, a Muslim is required to seek knowledge. This extraordinary emphasis on acquisition of knowledge is not surprising for a religion that is based on a book.

The emergence of sciences in Islamic civilization was also viewed in the same religious perspective because Nature as a whole is considered to be a work of God — as one of His Signs — and knowledge concerning nature is sought in order to know God. Likewise, the planetary system is considered in Islam to be a sign of God. Over and over our attention is drawn to the fact that there is an order in the cosmos, and that the sun and the moon move according to a fixed reckoning.

In Islam, the highest source of knowledge is revelation. According to revealed knowledge, the whole of the cosmos is open to our reflection. Nature, in Islam, consists of 2 levels of reality: the material or corporeal (nasut) and psychic or animistic (malakut). The third and the highest state in the manifest world is the spiritual or the angelic level (jabrut), which governs the other two.

The Islamic cosmos, therefore, can be envisaged in this tripartite structure. True science, according to Ibn Sina (980-1037) is science that seeks knowledge of the essence of things in relation to their divine origin. The traditional human microcosm, represented by body, soul, and spirit, corresponds to the tripartite structure (the corporeal, the psychic, and the spiritual worlds) of the cosmos.

In Islamic terminology, body is called jism, soul nafs and spirit 'aql. Of these 3, the last one, 'aql — reason, active intellect — is the one that directly concerns us here, for it is through 'aql that human beings are capable of knowing, and the metaphysical aspects of 'aql have profound implications for the whole tradition of the scientific enterprise in Islam. It is also the concept that has received a great deal of attention from all schools of Islamic thought. Human intellect, according to the Islamic worldview, is merely a tool, which can be used only in the light of the revealed knowledge, the Qur'an. It remains dormant, unutilized, as long as it is not touched by the light of revelation. Reaching to its highest potential, the active intellect can grasp certain levels of manifest reality. It is the active intellect, illumined and brought to its full potential through submission to divine command, which is operative behind the whole scheme of scientific methodology in Islam. In order to know, the knower must be guided from beyond.

The Islamic Roots of Science

This is how science in Islam is rooted in a transcendental realm. This spiritual element is what makes science Islamic. In addition, there is the Islamic ethical framework, which defines the nature of inquiry and imparts a characteristic Islamic element to the study of Nature and life. Science in Islam is merely a means to reach the higher truths. It is not an end in itself. It is one of the branches of knowledge, and the Qur'an clearly explains the purpose of gaining knowledge. When the purpose is absent, knowledge becomes sterile. Its pursuit then becomes a mere futile exercise without benefit: one who is engaged in such a pursuit is just like a donkey carrying a load of books. The spirit of this essential aspect of knowledge was beautifully captured by the celebrated mystic Mansur al-Hallaj in his elegant Qasida Li'l-'ilmi ahlun:
For knowledge, there are vocations; for faith, there is a progression. And for sciences as well as scientists, there are experiments. Knowledge is of two kinds: one sterile, the other that bears fruit. The ocean is two oceans: one that allows passage, the other dangerous. And time is two days: blamed and the praised. And the human race is two races: one endowed and the other deprived. So listen with your heart to what a sage says. And ponder in your understanding, for discernment is a gift.
[This item is an edited version of a longer article that originally ran on the listserver Meta as posting 112 on June 18, 1999. It was the first of several columns by Iqbal on different aspects of science from an Islamic perspective. Meta is an edited and moderated listserver and news service dedicated to promoting the constructive engagement of science and religion. Subscriptions are free. For more information, including subscriptions, archives and submission guidelines, go to .]

About the Author(s): 
Muzaffar Iqbal is Regional Director for the Muslim World, Science-Religion Program of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), Berkeley. He is the former Director for Scientific and Technological Cooperation, Pakistan Academy of Sciences, and also former Director of Scientific Information for the Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH) in the Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC). From 1991 to 1996, he was the editor of Islamic Thought and Scientific Creativity, an international quarterly journal of Islamic thought. Iqbal is the author of Science in Islamic Polity in the Twenty-First Century. Many of his published research papers have focused on the history of the philosophy of science, the history of Islamic science, and the relationship between Islam and science.

Review: Tower of Babel

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Year: 
1999
Issue: 
6
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
40–42
Reviewer: 
Eugenie C Scott, NCSE Executive Director
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism
Author(s): 
Robert T Pennock
Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2000. 451 pages.
Christian creationists have long opposed evolution, first attempting to ban it (as in the Scopes-era anti-evolution laws) and more recently inventing "creation-science", alleged scientific evidence for biblical literalism. In 1987 the Supreme Court in Edwards v Aguillard struck down equal-time-for-creation-science laws because creationism is an inherently religious idea and teaching it as the equivalent of science (evolution) unconstitutionally promotes religion. This led to selective pressure to avoid the religious term "creationism", and within a few years of Edwards, some creationists were calling not for "creation" science, but for "abrupt appearance theory", "evidence against evolution", or — most recently — "intelligent design theory". In Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism, philosopher Robert T Pennock neatly exposes the creationist roots of "intelligent-design theory"; from the beginning he refers to "intelligent-design creationism" and shows us how it has descended with modification from its creation science predecessor.

Intelligent-design creationists primarily are conservative Christians greatly concerned over the increasing secularization of US society. They wish to promote Christian theism over philosophical materialism — the view that there are no supernatural forces in the universe, only matter, energy, and their interactions. Because science rules out supernatural explanations, intelligent-design creationists believe that it promotes philosophical materialism and thus devalues faith. They accuse scientists of clinging to their naturalistic explanations because of pre-existing materialist prejudice rather than the power of empirical evidence.

Because evolution deals with theologically sensitive issues, such as humanity's place in the universe, it becomes the special target of intelligent-design creationists. Movement leader Phillip E Johnson, a professor of criminal law at the University of California at Berkeley, argues that by showing the weaknesses in evolution, they will drive a wedge into the ideology of materialism, and theism will emerge triumphant. One of the goals is to replace modern science with a "theistic science" in which supernatural explanations will be allowed. It is therefore a religious movement that is both antiscience — at least as science is practiced today — and anti-evolutionary.

Pennock systematically reveals the philosophical problems inherent in intelligent-design creationism. He shows in several ways that science is not inherently antireligious. Intelligent-design creationists confuse materialist philosophy and the methodological materialism of science, which says that science cannot use supernatural cause to explain the natural world. To explain by natural cause does not make a field antireligious; as Pennock wryly notes, science is no more atheistic than plumbing. "To say nothing of God is not to say that God is nothing." Intelligent-design creationism also errs in assuming that if a natural phenomenon can be explained without reference to God, therefore God had nothing to do with it. This brings us to the "design" in intelligent-design creationism.

These creationists have taken William Paley's 18th-century Argument from Design and established an entire subspecies of anti-evolutionism around it. Paley found proof of God's existence in the intricacies of nature. Complex structures as the vertebrate eye "could not have occurred by chance", so they must have been designed by an omniscient God, much as the existence of watches implies a watchmaker. Charles Darwin's major contribution to science was showing that structural complexity could be explained through natural processes and did not need the guiding hand of God.

The "God of the Gaps" Problem

Most Christian theologians today believe that God can be Creator and be in charge of the universe without having to line up the chromosomes during each cell division or having to adjust planetary orbits directly. In fact, mainstream Christian theology long ago ceased making design explanations of the natural world, partly to avoid the "God of the Gaps" problem: if the direct hand of God explained unknown natural phenomena, once a natural explanation was discovered for it, God was left with one less gap to fill, reducing His majesty.

Although it finds structural perfection in molecular biology and information theory rather than in the vertebrate eye, intelligent-design creationism nonetheless repeats Paley's errors. Pennock details how intelligent-design creationists zero in on currently unsolved problems, such as the origin of life and the Cambrian explosion of invertebrate phyla, and declare them to be "too complex" to be explained by a natural cause, requiring explication by an unnamed "intelligent agent". Theologically, intelligent-design creationism is still stuck with the God of the Gaps, and scientifically, it confuses the unexplained with the unexplainable.

But the Argument from Design and science as materialism are easy to sell to the public, which is more concerned (as Pennock wisely points out) with existential issues of meaninglessness and purpose than with empirical scientific evidence. One of the strengths of Tower of Babel is that it specifically addresses these existential issues. A theist himself, Pennock presents a particularly thoughtful discussion of why neither science nor evolution renders life meaningless. He recognizes that some atheist scientists agree with intelligent-design creationists that evolution and religion are incompatible, and he demonstrates the error of "naturalizing God" into a testable hypothesis: it redefines science in harmful ways and, for theists, devalues God.

Polls show that close to half of Americans prefer Genesis-type special creation of humans over human evolution. In an excellent analogy for such Americans, Pennock invokes the biblical Tower of Babel, where God specially created the many different languages of humankind. Linguists have learned that languages have descended with modification: they have evolved by some (though not all) of the same mechanisms as biological species.

Most religious people can accept language evolution. So if it is acceptable that languages evolved rather than having been specially created, why not species? Although languages are used by intelligent humans, languages change not by design or human planning but according to rules that only recently are becoming understood. Citing Bibles through the ages, Pennock illustrates English language evolution with the first line of the Lord's Prayer — which is virtually unreadable in its Anglo-Saxon form and even in medieval versions. Pennock makes an especially interesting comparison of differences between "designed" languages like Esperanto and "natural" languages: the former are much more regular, orderly, and precise; natural languages grow by accretion and look like it. This is directly relevant to the design argument: neither languages nor living things have the orderliness of specially designed phenomena but look far more like "jerry-built jumbles" such as would be produced by evolution.

He That Troubleth His Own Home

Pennock also uses the Tower of Babel as a metaphor to describe the confusion and squabbling among anti-evolutionists themselves, detailing the nuances of intelligent-design creationists, young earthers, old earthers, progressive creationists, and others. Perhaps being mindful of the proverb "He that troubleth his own home shall inherit the wind", Johnson and other leaders try hard to hide theological differences in and outside their camp, claiming that such "details" as the age of the earth, Noah's Flood, and the like should be set aside until theism triumphs over the evils of materialist science. Intelligent-design creationists try to keep the peace by avoiding any specific empirical claim about what the designer might have done, relying instead on bashing evolution. In this way, the movement shows its inheritance from its creation science ancestor, which specialized in the negative argument of "if evolution is wrong, then creationism is right".

But Pennock cleverly shows that merely disproving evolution fails to win the day, because (among other reasons) there are more than 2 alternatives. The Raëlian movement, for example, proposes a purely secular, naturalistic alternative to both evolution and Christian creationism: life on earth is the result of a long-term experiment by technologically and intellectually superior (but fully material) extraterrestrials. Pennock shows that Raëlians marshal the same arguments to support the extraterrestrial intelligent designer that intelligent-design creationists use to promote their Godly intelligent designer — and both arguments share the same weaknesses, of course. Extraterrestrial intelligent design and Godly intelligent design ultimately fail as science (Pennock discusses why at length); either must be taken on faith.

Intelligent-design creationism versus evolution is not just a philosophical and theological intellectual exercise: it is also a fight over what will be taught in our public schools. At the National Center for Science Education, we see more school districts contemplating adding "intelligent-design theory" to the curriculum or being pressed to adopt the intelligent-design textbook Of Pandas and People. Pennock illustrates that if they do, they will find the familiar laundry list of long-refuted creation science "arguments against evolution" and the sterile creation science approach of attempting to prove creationism by disproving evolution. The Supreme Court held in Edwards that teachers may teach secular and scientific alternatives to evolution, but intelligent-design creationism fails on both accounts. At heart it is religious (Pennock relates how on creationist Web sites and among believers, "intelligent designer" is described as the "politically correct term for God") and to qualify as scientific, it has to argue for the redefinition of science to include "intervention" — miracles, by any other name. One district court already has used "intelligent design" as a synonym for "creation science", so teachers would be advised to use caution when considering advocating it in public schools.

Creation science was rejected by university scientists, but proponents tried by statute to force high school teachers to teach it, arguing that it was only "fair" to teach creation science if evolution were taught. Its descendent, intelligent-design, theory similarly argues "viewpoint discrimination" instead of earning its right to be taught by persuading the scientific community of its veracity.

Continental drift, punctuated equilibria, and quantum theory had to be accepted by the scholarly community before being included in high school curricula, and this is the task for intelligent design. Its proponents are not there yet: Pennock cites a computerized journal search for "intelligent design" that revealed no scientific research using intelligent design as a biological theory. Intelligent design remains a virtually empty bandwagon. To understand why, instructors might consult Pennock's index for long lists of "problems with arguments" of intelligent-design creationism, of Johnson and other leaders, and of terms-of-art like "irreducible complexity", "information", and "explanatory filter".

Certainly there are legal and scientific problems with the teaching of intelligent-design creationism. But perhaps of most concern, it misrepresents science as an inherently antireligious enterprise, and evolution as the first step down this slippery slope. This is no way to improve science literacy in America.

Originally published in Scientific American
August 1999 pp. 92-94; reprinted by permission.

Review: Did Darwin Get it Right?

Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Volume: 
19
Year: 
1999
Issue: 
6
Date: 
November–December
Page(s): 
42–43
Reviewer: 
Thomas Scharle
This version might differ slightly from the print publication.
Work under Review
Title: 
Did Darwin Get it Right? Catholics and the Theory of Evolution
Author(s): 
George Sim Johnston
Huntington (IN): Our Sunday Visitor, 1998. 175 p.
About a decade ago, Our Sunday Visitor, a publisher of periodicals and books and other items of interest for Roman Catholics in the US, published an encyclopedia (Stravinskas 1991). It had a quite balanced, brief article on evolution, describing it thus:
Evolution: The process by which existing organisms have developed from earlier forms through transformations of characteristics in successive generations. The most widely accepted theory explaining this process is that originally advanced by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace in 1858, and subsequently amplified by the work of other scientists.
It goes on to discuss natural selection, mutations, and recombination. This discussion is followed by a paragraph dismissing any conflicts between any theory of evolution and Catholic doctrine, as long as one accepts the creation by God of each individual human soul. The book under review, although from the same publisher, takes a far different stance on the question of whether Darwin "got it right".

George Sim Johnston is described on the jacket of this book as a 3-time winner of the Journalism Award from the Catholic Press Association. He is also the author of an entry on evolution in a recent revision of Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia (Johnston 1997), and one may expect that his book will appear on many Catholic bookshelves — especially in Catholic secondary schools. That is unfortunate for the influence that it may have on Catholic young adults.

There are some positive things to be said about this book. It does have a more sophisticated approach to the meaning of "creation" than is common in most fundamentalist or creationist literature. He recognizes the difference between creation and design, for example, and puts down the simplistic "watchmaker" argument of Paley (p 152-3). The author asserts no problem with evolution, common descent (p 16), and a 4.5-billion-year-old earth (p 30). He adds: "[E]ven if some day the origin of life were proven to be a mechanistic phenomenon (which is not very likely), I would be unperturbed" (p 125). Johnston also makes a commendable call for a debate in the calm and conciliatory "irenic" tradition of Church discourse: "The Catholic side of the debate over evolution should be calm and charitable" (p 154). Unfortunately, major flaws in the book massively outweigh these virtues.

He quotes a number of well-known Catholics who have considered evolution: among others, Popes Pius XII and John Paul II, St George Jackson Mivart, GK Chesterton, and Jacques Maritain. This may serve as an introduction to Catholic thought on the issue in the first 100 years or so after Darwin. However, Johnston overlooks a literature that provides a better coverage, including later generations of Catholic thinkers — for example, McMullin (1985).

Furthermore, Johnston may accept "evolution", but he finds "Darwinism" sorely lacking: "Darwin's theory is due for retirement within the next generation ... because scientists themselves now have serious reservations. The word 'crisis' is not too strong" (p 11). Darwinism, he says, will "someday be retired. Whether this will happen rapidly (in the form of a Kuhnian paradigm shift) or gradually, one cannot say" (p 154). And the retirement will also call for a "New Theology of Creation" (p 147).

There is no reason to catalog Johnston's "scientific" arguments against "Darwinism" for readers of RNCSE or for those familiar with creationist literature. There is nothing novel. However, this book makes a real muddle out of some very important and intellectually challenging issues in the dialogue between religion and science.

For example, some of the ideas seem entirely contradictory. Johnston reminds us that we must recognize "two different orders of knowledge — theological and scientific — and allow each its due consequence. ...Putting God in the gaps unexplained by science has always been a mistake" (p 17). And yet elsewhere, "[A] Christian physicist or biologist who runs into an intractable problem ... waits patiently for a natural explanation. If such is not forthcoming, he admits a scientific mystery and humbly hands over his data to philosophers and theologians" (p 22-3). Perhaps someone can make this all consistent, but Johnston does not give us much guidance.

One recurring problem with this book is that his presentation has many such major incongruities, if not inconsistencies. Although he does accept portions of evolutionary biology, he does not seem to give any reasons for this acceptance. Indeed, on the contrary, we find the same old arguments of the creationists — the arguments against evolution — on matters of common descent, an "old earth", and natural origin of life.

As an example, consider Paley's "watchmaker" argument from design. Although Johnston rejects that argument in strong terms, he quotes favorably Michael Behe's version of that argument, one which is a "challenge to evolution", even though Behe welcomes the parallel with Paley at length (Behe 1996: 209-16).

Another striking case is that, although Johnston accepts the great age of the earth, he objects to the accepted dating of hominid fossils. "[R]adioactive dating depends on several unverifiable assumptions" (p 89), he tells us. Perhaps some "intense cosmic radiation" (p 89) throws it off. In this case, he simply transforms a "young earth" argument into a "young man" argument.

An incongruity occurs in his discussion of the difference between chimpanzees and "man" [sic] (p 93-6). It seems to me that one of Johnston's major concerns is "in John Paul II's words, an 'ontological leap' between the rest of the animal kingdom and man" (p 18). Johnston is undoubtedly being deliberately facetious when he says that one distinction between chimps and humans is that we can understand "what the Super Bowl is, or the difference between Democrats and Republicans" (p 94). Of course, he does go on to mention other distinctions such as free will, conscience, language, and art. But once his facetious comment has called to mind that there are plenty of men and women, Americans and non-Americans, who do not understand the Super Bowl or who cannot tell the difference(s) between Democrats and Republicans, could we then also argue that there are humans who don't have free will, conscience, language, or art? And conversely, characteristics once thought to be exclusively human have a history of failure, so drawing such specific lines of demarcation between humans and other animals may create a sort of "'man' of the gaps" scenario — we look for gaps between humans and other animals that natural science has not yet filled and then move the ontological barrier into those positions.

Despite Johnston's irenic exhortation, and despite his realization that he needs to defend himself by saying "[t]his book is no diatribe against science" (p 12), there is one final incongruity. A great deal of the book is an excoriation of Darwinists as being downright malicious. He tells us both that the "tenacity of Darwin's theory ... can only be explained by its crude materialism" (p 15) and that "the tenacity of Darwin's theory ... can be explained by the fact that it is an effective club with which to beat religion" (p 106). Darwinism, according to Johnston, is a replacement for "political Marxism" among the "cultural elite" (p 10): "Darwin's apologists have few inhibitions about displaying a flippant agnosticism" (p 14). So all you Darwinists are simultaneously crude materialists, religion-clubbers, political-Marxist also-rans, and displayers of flippant agnosticism (I wonder if a Marxist can be an agnostic). Take that! But of course, take it only in the spirit of calm and charitable debate.

Johnston lets off relatively mildly those scientists who are afraid of making their anti-Darwinism known (p 11-2), and scientists who let down their guard when writing for a technical audience (p 45-6). Johnston's disdain also extends to various non-Catholic Christians, although not with the same bile. He thinks that Anglican theology is a "straw man" (p 59) — though it is unclear how something that is seriously advocated by millions can be a straw man. He also has disdain for fundamentalists and evangelicals (p 122). This is definitely not a book for "testifying" to non-Catholics.

Johnston spends some time in Darwin-bashing, telling us about how he was always either a weak Protestant or a stealth atheist, and how overall he was not much of a scientist. And Johnston does not think much of Darwin's family or teachers, either (p 19-23). Relatively mild ad hominem is stretched to the limits when Johnston describes how both the Marxists and the robber barons were Darwinists (p 100 and following). Then, beyond the realm of civilized discourse, he reminds us how Hitler rationalized his regime on the basis of natural selection, and then, surpassing the limits of outrageousness, he concludes: "It is a short step from Darwin to gas ovens and abortion mills" (p 103).

That is the kind of language that one would expect of those comic-book "Christian" publications, and I cannot understand the lapse of the publishers in allowing this obscenity. I do not know whether this comic-book treatment of scientists will succeed more in turning impressionable readers away from "Darwinism" or away from Catholicism. There is a place for calm and charitable — and enlightening and novel — discussion of the relationship between science and faith, but this book is not where to find it.

References

Behe M. Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: The Free Press, 1996.

Johnston GS. Evolution. In: Shaw R, editor. Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine. Huntington (IN): Our Sunday Visitor, Inc, 1997. p 219-24. McMullin E, editor. University of Notre Dame Studies in the Philosophy of Religion. Notre Dame (IN): University of Notre Dame Press, 1985. Nr 4, Evolution and Creation.

Stravinskas PMJ, editor. Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia, Huntington (IN): Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. 1991.

About the Author(s): 
Thomas Scharle
2721 East Edison Road
South Bend IN 46615-3505
email: scharle.1@nd.edu