A closed system has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of casuistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself ... In fine, the mentality of a person who lives inside a closed system of thought ... can be summed up in a single formula: He can prove everything he believes, and he believes everything he can prove. The closed system sharpens the faculties of the mind, like an over-efficient grindstone, to a brittle edge; it produces a scholastic, Talmudic, hair-splitting brand of cleverness which affords no protection against committing the crudest imbecilities.
And, let me (for what seems the millionth time in my life) protest at the Creationists appropriating exclusively unto themselves the mantle of religion. The world of life may or may not be designed. But the argument is not that the choice is between an exclusive disjunction of evolution and design. I believe that if God chooses to do things through unbroken law, then that is God's business, not ours. What is our business is the proper use of our God-given powers of sense and reason, to follow fearlessly where the quest for truth leads. Where it does not lead is to the pages of the book Of Pandas and People (Ruse 1989).
[O]ne might suppose that if organisms are not ideally adapted, if they have characteristics that are not adaptations, they could not have been intelligently designed-or at least the designer couldn't come up with the right materials or the right plan. A designer wouldn't equip organisms with useless appurtenances; yet every species has vestigial structures that may once have been adaptive but are adaptive no longer. Every species also has characteristics that are not now and never were adaptive-characteristics that are the "side effects" of genes that serve some other adaptive function (Futuyma 1995, 128-9).
Suppose creationism had equal time in science classes. What would be taught? If creationists teach that the universe and all its inhabitants were suddenly created a few thousand years ago, and that all of extinction and all of geology were caused by a universal flood, what more can they say? Shall they provide scientific evidence that explains why blue-green algae are in the lowest geological strata and flowering plants in the uppermost? Shall they explain, in terms of modern biology, how a million or more species of animals fit into the ark? Shall they provide evidence from modern physics that explains away the fact that we can perceive light from stars that are billions of light years away, and took billions of years to get here? Shall they provide a testable hypothesis to explain the genetic similarity of apes and humans? Will they describe experiments that elucidate the mechanisms of creation, as geneticists have the mechanisms of evolution? You will seek in vain for answers... (Futuyma 1995, 215-6).Pandas commits the philosophical error of assuming that because our minds see order there must be an intelligent designer. But a number of laboratory experiments (see, for example, Amabilino and Stoddart 1994, Futuyma 1995, and Ingber 1998) have shown that matter can self-organize. Scientists have even observed single-celled amoebas self-organizing into a sort of multicellular creature (Zimmer 1998). Studies in the mathematical field of complexity theory have shown that chaotic systems can exhibit patterns that look like order. Computer studies have shown how evolution can work (see, for example, Dawkins 1986 and chapter 2 of Pennock 1999). In short, Of Pandas and People fails to deal with the very real probability that order is intrinsic in nature and not superimposed.
Of Pandas and People is a tract on hard-shell fundamentalist creationism in disguise. This underlying theme never speaks its name in this tract, but it is there nonetheless. It is hard to say what is worst in this book: the misconceptions of its sub-text, the intolerance for honest science, or the incompetence with which science is presented. In any case, teachers should be warned against using this book (Padian 1989).
Bob was a technical writer by profession, but he was known to NCSE members and many others as a researcher of the scientifically quirky. The creation/evolution issue occupied much of his time, but his true specialty was the turn-of-the-century flat-earth, geocentric, and hollow-earth movements. It would not be an exaggeration to say that he was truly the authority on these early pseudosciences, about which he wrote several articles.
He assembled an unusually complete library of materials on these enthusiasms, including original books and pamphlets as well as copies of obscure and one-of-a-kind items archived at libraries in the US and abroad. Bob was a bibliophile's bibliophile: whenever he visited a city, he inevitably would check the library's holdings, and he always made the rounds of used book stores. Bob's library reflected his fascination with how science could be distorted, spun around, and turned inside out to justify false claims, whether those of special creation, or the even more bizarre "theory" of a hollow earth. He delighted in pointing out similarities in how geocentrists, flat-earthers, and creationists marshaled their arguments. One of his prize possessions was a framed certificate declaring him a member of the International Flat Earth Society, headed by Charles K Johnson, of Lancaster, California. He was always happy to relate the story of how Johnson rescinded his membership after he discovered that Bob possessed "spherical tendencies".
When I broke the news of his death to various friends and associates, the universal response was dismay that Bob had died so young, depriving us of his intelligence, his knowledge, his wit, and his company. "He knew so much!" was a common lament, and indeed, Bob had a wealth of information, seemingly retrievable on a moment's reflection. I know that I relied a lot on his mental encyclopedia as well as on his keen insight into the people and ideas of the creationism controversy.
For Bob, more than any of us, personally knew and was friends with many of the people whose ideas we disagree with. Readers of RNCSE (and its predecessor, NCSE Reports, which Bob once edited) will recall Bob's published analyses of quadrennial International Creationism Conferences, which he faithfully attended. There was never any question that he disagreed profoundly with the "research" presented at these meetings, and he gave no quarter in vigorous debate with the creationists participating in these meetings, but he saw no contradiction in going out afterward for a beer with these same adversaries. He made a distinction between creationists whom he considered sincere and who treated the scientific data on evolution fairly (even if they rejected it), and others whom he considered "snake-oil salesmen". When one creationist recently lost most of his personal library in a fire, Bob generously boxed up duplicate copies of his books on the creation/evolution controversy and shipped them off. There are a number of creationists who personally will miss Bob, even though they may not miss his barbed criticisms of their scientific statements or his astute dissections of their logic.
Bob resigned from the NCSE Board of Directors in the mid-1990s, citing increased demands of work as well as some personal reasons. But he remained an "on-call" advisor to me and other Board members, and was a strong proponent of NCSE to the general public. He maintained informal email connections to many other "creationism fighters", sharing information and suggesting strategy up until the last week of his life.
Once, after a typically long NCSE board meeting, a group of us had gone out for dinner. Immersed as we were in the creation and evolution controversy, after a few drinks, we started talking about creationist "scientific models" — laughing about the convolutions of data and theory required to accommodate scientific data within a 6-day creationist model. Much of the conversation consisted of "and can you believe that they actually think…?" as we regaled one another with examples of creationists' apparent ability to believe at least 7 impossible things before breakfast. We were having a pretty good time at the opposition's expense, when Bob looked up and said, "You know, somewhere, there's probably a bunch of creationists sitting around a table, drinking beer, and saying, 'those evolutionists! Can you believe they actually think…?'"
We're going to miss him.
By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional (1996: 39).
In 1793, Eli Whitney's cotton gin that removed seeds from short-stapled cotton was based on the Indian charka, which had been in use for thousands of years to remove seeds from long-stapled cotton. Joseph Henry's electric motor of 1831 copied many of the mechanisms involved in the steam engine. The development of the first transistor at Bell Laboratories in 1947 ... owed much to the work of German physicist Ferdinand Braun who, in the 1870s, found that certain crystals conduct electricity in only one direction (1995: 163).
Radiometric dating of rocks and minerals using naturally occurring, long-lived radioactive isotopes is troublesome for young-earth creationists because the techniques have provided overwhelming evidence of the antiquity of the earth and life. Some so-called creation scientists have attempted to show that radiometric dating does not work on theoretical grounds (for example, Arndts and Overn 1981; Gill 1996) but such attempts invariably have fatal flaws (see Dalrymple 1984; York and Dalrymple 2000). Other creationists have focused on instances in which radiometric dating seems to yield incorrect results. In most instances, these efforts are flawed because the authors have misunderstood or misrepresented the data they attempt to analyze (for example, Woodmorappe 1979; Morris HM 1985; Morris JD 1994). Only rarely does a creationist actually find an incorrect radiometric result (Austin 1996; Rugg and Austin 1998) that has not already been revealed and discussed in the scientific literature.
The creationist approach of focusing on examples where radiometric dating yields incorrect results is a curious one for two reasons. First, it provides no evidence whatsoever to support their claim that the earth is very young. If the earth were only 6000–10 000 years old, then surely there should be some scientific evidence to confirm that hypothesis; yet the creationists have produced not a shred of it so far. Where are the data and age calculations that result in a consistent set of ages for all rocks on earth, as well as those from the moon and the meteorites, no greater than 10 000 years? Glaringly absent, it seems.
Second, it is an approach doomed to failure at the outset. Creationists seem to think that a few examples of incorrect radiometric ages invalidate all of the results of radiometric dating, but such a conclusion is illogical. Even things that work well do not work well all of the time and under all circumstances. Try, for example, wearing a watch that is not waterproof while swimming. It will probably fail, but what would a reasonable person conclude from that? That watches do not work? Hardly.
A few verified examples of incorrect radiometric ages are simply insufficient to prove that radiometric dating is invalid. All they indicate is that the methods are not infallible. Those of us who have developed and used dating techniques to solve scientific problems are well aware that the systems are not perfect; we ourselves have provided numerous examples of instances in which the techniques fail. We often test them under controlled conditions to learn when and why they fail so we will not use them incorrectly. We have even discredited entire techniques. For example, after extensive testing over many years, it was concluded that uranium-helium dating is highly unreliable because the small helium atom diffuses easily out of minerals over geologic time. As a result, this method is not used except in rare and highly specialized applications. Other dating techniques, like K-Ar (potassium-argon and its more recent variant 40Ar/39Ar), Rb-Sr (rubidium-strontium), Sm-Nd (samarium-neodynium), Lu-Hf (lutetium-hafnium), and U-Pb (uranium-lead and its variant Pb-Pb), have all stood the test of time. These methods provide valuable and valid age data in most instances, although there is a small percentage of cases in which even these generally reliable methods yield incorrect results. Such failures may be due to laboratory errors (mistakes happen), unrecognized geologic factors (nature sometimes fools us), or misapplication of the techniques (no one is perfect). In order to accomplish their goal of discrediting radiometric dating, however, creationists are faced with the daunting task of showing that a preponderance of radiometric ages are wrong — that the methods are untrustworthy most of the time. Not only that, they have to show the flaws in those dating studies that provide independent corroborative evidence that radiometric methods work. This is a tall order and the creationists have made no progress so far.
It is rare for a study involving radiometric dating to contain a single determination of age. Usually determinations of age are repeated to avoid laboratory errors, are obtained on more than one rock unit or more than one mineral from a rock unit in order to provide a cross-check, or are evaluated using other geologic information that can be used to test and corroborate the radiometric ages. Scientists who use radiometric dating typically use every means at their disposal to check, recheck, and verify their results, and the more important the results the more they are apt to be checked and rechecked by others. As a result, it is nearly impossible to be completely fooled by a good set of radiometric age data collected as part of a well-designed experiment.
The purpose of this paper is to describe briefly a few typical radiometric dating studies, out of hundreds of possible examples documented in the scientific literature, in which the ages are validated by other available information. I have selected four examples from recent literature, mostly studies involving my work and that of a few close colleagues because it was easy to do so. I could have selected many more examples but then this would have turned into a book rather than the intended short paper.
In the Cretaceous Period, a large meteorite struck the earth at a location near the present town of Manson, Iowa. The heat of the impact melted some of the feldspar crystals in the granitic rocks of the impact zone, thereby resetting their internal radiometric clocks. These melted crystals, and therefore the impact, have been dated by the 40Ar/39Ar method at 74.1 Ma (million years; Izett and others 1998), but that is not the whole story by a long shot. The impact also created shocked quartz crystals that were blasted into the air and subsequently fell to the west into the inland sea that occupied much of central North America at that time. Today this shocked quartz is found in South Dakota, Colorado, and Nebraska in a thin layer (the Crow Creek Member) within a thick rock formation known as the Pierre Shale. The Pierre Shale, which is divided into identifiable sedimentary beds called members, also contains abundant fossils of numerous species of ammonites, ancestors of the chambered nautilus. The fossils, when combined with geologic mapping, allow the various exposed sections of the Pierre Shale to be pieced together in their proper relative positions to form a complete composite section (Figure 1). The Pierre Shale also contains volcanic ash that was erupted from volcanoes and then fell into the sea, where it was preserved as thin beds. These ash beds, called bentonites, contain sanidine feldspar and biotite that has been dated using the 40Ar/39Ar technique.
The results of the Manson Impact/Pierre Shale dating study (Izett and others 1998) are shown in Figure 1. There are three important things to note about these results. First, each age is based on numerous measurements; laboratory errors, had there been any, would be readily apparent. Second, ages were measured on two very different minerals, sanidine and biotite, from several of the ash beds. The largest difference between these mineral pairs, in the ash from the Gregory Member, is less than 1%. Third, the radiometric ages agree, within analytical error, with the relative positions of the dated ash beds as determined by the geologic mapping and the fossil assemblages; that is, the ages get older from top to bottom as they should. Finally, the inferred age of the shocked quartz, as determined from the age of the melted feldspar in the Manson impact structure (74.1 ± 0.1 Ma), is in very good agreement with the ages of the ash beds above and below it. How could all of this be so if the 40Ar/39Ar dating technique did not work?
Meteorites, most of which are fragments of asteroids, are very interesting objects to study because they provide important evidence about the age, composition, and history of the early solar system. There are many types of meteorites. Some are from primitive asteroids whose material is little modified since they formed from the early solar nebula. Others are from larger asteroids that got hot enough to melt and send lava flows to the surface. A few are even from the Moon and Mars. The most primitive type of meteorites are called chondrites, because they contain little spheres of olivine crystals known as chondrules. Because of their importance, meteorites have been extensively dated radiometrically; the vast majority appear to be 4.4–4.6 Ga (billion years) old. Some meteorites, because of their mineralogy, can be dated by more than one radiometric dating technique, which provides scientists with a powerful check of the validity of the results. The results from three meteorites are shown in Table 1. Many more, plus a discussion of the different types of meteorites and their origins, can be found in Dalrymple (1991).
There are 3 important things to know about the ages in Table 1. The first is that each meteorite was dated by more than one laboratory — Allende by 2 laboratories, Guarena by 2 laboratories, and St Severin by four laboratories. This pretty much eliminates any significant laboratory biases or any major analytical mistakes. The second thing is that some of the results have been repeated using the same technique, which is another check against analytical errors. The third is that all three meteorites were dated by more than one method — two methods each for Allende and Guarena, and four methods for St Severin. This is extremely powerful verification of the validity of both the theory and practice of radiometric dating. In the case of St Severin, for example, we have 4 different natural clocks (actually 5, for the Pb-Pb method involves 2 different radioactive uranium isotopes), each running at a different rate and each using elements that respond to chemical and physical conditions in much different ways. And yet, they all give the same result to within a few percent. Is this a remarkable coincidence? Scientists have concluded that it is not; it is instead a consequence of the fact that radiometric dating actually works and works quite well. Creationists who wants to dispute the conclusion that primitive meteorites, and therefore the solar system, are about 4.5 Ga old certainly have their work cut out for them!
One of the most exciting and important scientific findings in decades was the 1980 discovery that a large asteroid, about 10 kilometers diameter, struck the earth at the end of the Cretaceous Period. The collision threw many tons of debris into the atmosphere and possibly led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other life forms. The fallout from this enormous impact, including shocked quartz and high concentrations of the element iridium, has been found in sedimentary rocks at more than 100 locations worldwide at the precise stratigraphic location of the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) boundary (Alvarez and Asaro 1990; Alvarez 1998). We now know that the impact site is located on the Yucatan Peninsula. Measuring the age of this impact event independently of the stratigraphic evidence is an obvious test for radiometric methods, and a number of scientists in laboratories around the world set to work. In addition to shocked quartz grains and high concentrations of iridium, the K-T impact produced tektites, which are small glass spherules that form from rock that is instantaneously melted by a large impact. The K-T tektites were ejected into the atmosphere and deposited some distance away. Tektites are easily recognizable and form in no other way, so the discovery of a sedimentary bed (the Beloc Formation) in Haiti that contained tektites and that, from fossil evidence, coincided with the K-T boundary provided an obvious candidate for dating. Scientists from the US Geological Survey were the first to obtain radiometric ages for the tektites and laboratories in Berkeley, Stanford, Canada, and France soon followed suit. The results from all of the laboratories were remarkably consistent with the measured ages ranging only from 64.4 to 65.1 Ma (Table 2). Similar tektites were also found in Mexico, and the Berkeley lab found that they were the same age as the Haiti tektites. But the story doesn’t end there.
The K-T boundary is recorded in numerous sedimentary beds around the world. The Z-coal, the Ferris coal, and the Nevis coal in Montana and Saskatchewan all occur immediately above the K-T boundary. Numerous thin beds of volcanic ash occur within these coals just centimeters above the K-T boundary, and some of these ash beds contain minerals that can be dated radiometrically. Ash beds from each of these coals have been dated by 40Ar/39Ar, K-Ar, Rb-Sr, and U-Pb methods in several laboratories in the US and Canada. Since both the ash beds and the tektites occur either at or very near the K-T boundary, as determined by diagnostic fossils, the tektites and the ash beds should be very nearly the same age, and they are (Table 2).
There are several important things to note about these results. First, the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods were defined by geologists in the early 1800s. The boundary between these periods (the K-T boundary) is marked by an abrupt change in fossils found in sedimentary rocks worldwide. Its exact location in the stratigraphic column at any locality has nothing to do with radiometric dating — it is located by careful study of the fossils and the rocks that contain them, and nothing more. Second, the radiometric age measurements, 187 of them, were made on 3 different minerals and on glass by 3 distinctly different dating methods (K-Ar and 40Ar/39Ar are technical variations that use the same parent-daughter decay scheme), each involving different elements with different half-lives. Furthermore, the dating was done in 6 different laboratories and the materials were collected from 5 different locations in the Western Hemisphere. And yet the results are the same within analytical error. If radiometric dating didn’t work then such beautifully consistent results would not be possible.
In the early afternoon of August 24, 79 CE, Mt Vesuvius erupted violently, sending hot ash flows speeding down its flanks. These flows buried and destroyed Pompeii and other nearby Roman cities. We know the exact day of this eruption because Pliny the Younger carefully recorded the event. In 1997 a team of scientists from the Berkeley Geochronology Center and the University of Naples decided to see if the 40Ar/39Ar method of radiometric dating could accurately measure the age of this very young (by geological standards) volcanic material. They separated sanidine crystals from a sample of one of the ash flows. Incremental heating experiments on 12 samples of sanidine yielded 46 data points that resulted in an isochron age of 1925 94 years. The actual age of the flow in 1997 was 1918 years. Is this just a coincidence? No — it is the result of extremely careful analyses using a technique that works.
This is not the only dating study to be done on an historic lava flow. Two extensive studies done more than 25 years ago involved analyzing the isotopic composition of argon in such flows to determine if the source of the argon was atmospheric, as must be assumed in K-Ar dating (Dalrymple 1969, 26 flows; Krummenacher 1970, 19 flows). Both studies detected, in a few of the flows, deviations from atmospheric isotopic composition, most often in the form of excess 40Ar. The majority of flows, however, had no detectable excess 40Ar and thus gave correct ages as expected. Of the handful of flows that did contain excess 40Ar, only a few did so in significant amounts. The 122 BCE flow from Mt Etna, for example, gave an erroneous age of 0.25 0.08 Ma. Note, however, that even an error of 0.25 Ma would be insignificant in a 20 Ma flow with equivalent potassium content. Austin (1996) has documented excess 40Ar in the 1986 dacite flow from Mount St Helens, but the amounts are insufficient to produce significant errors in all but the youngest rocks.
The 79 CE Mt Vesuvius flow, the dating of which is described above, also contained excess 40Ar. The 40Ar/39Ar isochron method used by the Berkeley scientists, however, does not require any assumptions about the composition of the argon trapped in the rock when it formed — it may be atmospheric or any other composition for that matter. Thus any potential error due to excess 40Ar was eliminated by the use of this technique, which was not available when the studies by Dalrymple (1969) and Krummenacher (1970) were done.
Thus the large majority of historic lava flows that have been studied either give correct ages, as expected, or have quantities of excess radiogenic 40Ar that would be insignificant in all but the youngest rocks. The 40Ar/39Ar technique, which is now used instead of K-Ar methods for most studies, has the capability of automatically detecting, and in many instances correcting for, the presence of excess 40Ar, should it be present.
In this short paper I have briefly described 4 examples of radiometric dating studies where there is both internal and independent evidence that the results have yielded valid ages for significant geologic events. It is these studies, and the many more like them documented in the scientific literature, that the creationists need to address before they can discredit radiometric dating. Their odds of success are near zero. Even if against all odds they should succeed, it still would not prove that the Earth is young. Only when young-earth creationists produce convincing quantitative, scientific evidence that the earth is young will they be worth listening to on this important scientific matter.
I thank Chris Stassen and 2 anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments, which led to important improvements in the manuscript.
Alvarez W. T Rex and the Crater of Doom. Vintage Books, 1998.
Alvarez W, Asaro, F. An extraterrestrial impact. Scientific American 1990; 263 (4): 78–84.
Arndts R, Overn W. Isochrons. Bible-Science Newsletter 1981; 14 (4): 5–6.
Austin SA. Excess argon within mineral concentrates from the new dacite lava dome at Mount St Helens volcano. Creation Ex Nihlo Techncal Journal 1996; 10: 335–43.
Dalrymple GB. 40Ar/36Ar analyses of historic lava flows. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 1969; 6: 47–55.
Dalrymple GB. How old is the earth? A reply to scientific creationism. In: Awbrey F, Thwaites WM, editors. Evolutionists Confront Creationists, Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting, Pacific Division, American Association for the Advancement of Science, vol 1, part 3. 1984. p 66–131.
Dalrymple GB. The Age of the Earth. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1991.
Dalrymple GB, Izett GA, Snee LW, Obradovich JD. 40Ar/39Ar age spectra and total-fusion ages of tektites from Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary sedimentary rocks in the Beloc formation, Haiti. US Geological Survey Bulletin 2065. 1993.
Gill CH. A sufficient reason for false Rb-Sr isochrons. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1996; 33: 105–8.
Izett GA, Cobban WA, Dalrymple GB, Obradovich JD. 40Ar/39Ar age of the Manson impact structure, Iowa, and correlative impact ejecta in the Crow Creek Member of the Pierra Shale (Upper Cretaceous), South Dakota and Nebraska. Geological Society of America Bulletin 1998; 110: 361–76.
Krummenacher D. Isotopic composition of argon in modern surface volcanic rocks. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 8: 109–17.
Morris HM. Scientific Creationism. 2nd ed. San Diego (CA): Creation-Life Publishing, 1985.
Morris JD. The Young Earth. Colorado Springs (CO):Creation-Life Books, 1994.
Renne PR, Sharp WD, Deino AL, Orsi G, Civetta L. 40Ar/39Ar dating into the historical realm: Calibration against Pliny the Younger. Science, 1997; 277: 1279–80.
Rugg S, Austin SA. Evidence for rapid formation and failure of Pleistocene “lava dams” of the western Grand Canyon, Arizona. In: Walsh RE, editor. Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Creationism Pittsburgh: Creation Science Fellowship, 1998. p 475–86.
York D. In Search of Lost Time. Bristol (UK): Institute of Physics Publishing, 1997.
York D, Dalrymple, GB. Comments on a creationist’s irrelevant discussion of isochrons. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 2000; 20 (3): xx–xx.
Woodmorappe J. Radiometric geochronology reappraised. Creation Research Society Quarterly 1979; 16: 102–29, 147.
We believe God has raised up ICR to spearhead Biblical Christianity's defense against the godless dogma of evolutionary humanism. ... ICR is funded by God's people ... to proclaim God's truth about origins.The Institute for Creation Research calls itself "a Christ-focused creation ministry". It says humans were made fully developed "in the 6 literal days of the creation week described in Genesis". It says this was a "relatively recent" event, and that fossils were formed during Noah's flood. It says anyone not saved "solely" by Jesus will "be consigned to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels". In other words, a billion Muslims, a billion Hindus, and hundreds of millions of Buddhists, Jews, Baha'is, Shintoists, and so on are doomed to fry forever, according to the ICR.
The knowledge in my first edition came from education and indoctrination; it was that neo-Darwinism is certainty. The knowledge in this second edition comes more from working things out for myself; it is that evolution is certainty. And part of the ignorance in the first edition concerned the difference between neo-Darwinism and evolution, whereas the ignorance in this edition is of the completeness of neo-Darwinism as an explanation of evolution ... I think that belief [shared ancestry] is now confirmed as completely as anything can be in the historical sciences ... [but] ... I am no longer certain that natural selection is the complete explanation...". (p vii).Although Patterson considers the general theory of evolution ("evolution has occurred") to be a historical theory and hence "by some definitions" not a part of science because it deals with unrepeatable events, he acknowledges that it does have rules, does make general predictions, and is open to disproof. Furthermore, evolution has survived a series of severe tests unimaginable to Darwin - including its consistency with genetics, the universality of DNA, and "the evidence from DNA sequences of innumerable 'vestigial organs' at the molecular level" (p 117).
[Science and religion scholarship] ... can best be fostered by the University's Institute for Faith and Learning where it seems to be naturally at home. In pursuing this mission, room should be made for a variety of approaches and topics. It would clearly be too restrictive on the part of the Institute to focus attention in this area on a single theme only, such as the design inference.In its recommendations, the committee continued its lukewarm assessment of the MPC and ID theory. It recognized
... research on the logical structure of mathematical arguments for intelligent design to have a legitimate claim to a place in current discussions of the relations of religion and the sciences. Although this work, involving as it does technical issues in the theory of probability, is relatively recent in origin and has thus only just begun to receive response in professional journals (see, for example, the essay by Elliot Sober in Philosophy of Science 1999; 66: 472-88), the Institute should be free, if it chooses, to include in its coverage this line of work, when carried out professionally.Because the cited article by Sober (and coauthors) is strongly critical of ID, and because the IFL (rather than the MPC) is called upon to include, "if it chooses", only ID research that is carried out professionally, the implication is clear that the committee did not have much confidence in the current scholarly status of ID theory.
Design theory has had considerable difficulty gaining a hearing in academic contexts, as evidenced most recently by the whole Polanyi Center affair at Baylor University. One of the principal reasons for this resistance and controversy is not far to seek: design-theoretic research has been hijacked as part of a larger cultural and political movement. In particular, the theory has been prematurely drawn into discussions of public science education, where it has no business making an appearance without broad recognition from the scientific community that it is making a worthwhile contribution to our understanding of the natural world.Later, in what is perhaps a swipe at Dembski's affiliation with the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, Gordon comments, "If design theory is to make a contribution in science, it must be worth pursuing on the basis of its own merits, not as an exercise in Christian 'cultural renewal,' the weight of which it cannot bear." In his final paragraph, he carefully delineates the nature of design theory's possible contribution to science: "[I]t is crucial to note that design theory is at best a supplementary consideration introduced alongside (or perhaps into, by way of modification) neo-Darwinian biology and self-organizational complexity theory. It does not mandate the replacement of these highly fruitful research paradigms, and to suggest that it does is just so much overblown, unwarranted, and ideologically driven rhetoric." Should Gordon's cautious attitude become more widely adopted by ID proponents, it might alleviate much of the controversy about the status of intelligent design.
[I]t does not matter if there is an infinity of days. ... It is a gross fallacy to suppose that the quantity of days or time available changes anything. (To put the proposition mathematically, the probability on any given day that the monkey will type the works of Shakespeare . . . is not one in some very, very large number; it is zero.) Randomness does not engender order on any appreciable scale, no matter how many billions of years or opportunities you give it (Glynn 1997: 46).But instead of relying on gut instinct, let us see if a far more reliable appeal to probability theory cannot shed some light on the subject. (Borel's law of chance is of no use to us here, for it is applicable only to real world cases, not hypothetical cases like this where we have eternity at our disposal.)
Moreover, except for the issues surrounding the teaching of evolution that arise in a relatively small number of states, the sciences do not seem to be plagued with the political-ideological infighting concerning content that characterizes some of the other areas, notably history and English literature.Indeed, politics had impinged on instruction in most if not all subjects taught in the schools, science not excepted. This was made explicit in two recent publications which reviewed such political pressures throughout the curriculum (Gross 2000; Levitt 1999). We therefore resolved to make a special study focused on the treatment of evolution and the consequences thereof for science instruction in general. This study (Lerner 2000) was published in September 2000.
Table I: Distribution of Grades For Treatment of Evolution
|Number of States||9||15||7||6||12||1|
|States||CA, CT, IN, NJ, NC, RI, SC, DE, HI||CO, MN, VT, WA, MI, AZ, ID, MA, MO, MT, PA, OR, SD, UT, DC||MD, NM, NV, NY, NE, LA, TX||AR, KY, WI, VA, AK, IL||WY, ME, OH, OK, NH, FL, AL, ND, GA, MS, TN, WV||KS|
It is unclear on what basis LeVake argues that his right to free exercise of religion was violated. LeVake does not contend that respondents prohibited him from practicing the religion of his choice. He does not assert that respondents demanded that he refrain from practicing his religion outside of the scope of his duties as a public school teacher in order to retain his teaching position, and he does not assert that the curriculum requirements incidentally infringed on his religious practice.Regarding the free speech argument, the Court supported the right of the district to determine curriculum, a position supported with abundant case law:
The classroom is a "marketplace of ideas," and academic freedom should be safeguarded. But LeVake, in his role as a public school teacher rather than as a private citizen, wanted to discuss the criticisms of evolution. LeVake's position paper established that he does not believe the theory of evolution is credible. Further, LeVake's proposed method of teaching evolution is in direct conflict with respondents' curriculum requirements. Accordingly, the established curriculum and LeVake's responsibility as a public school teacher to teach evolution in the manner prescribed by the curriculum overrides his First Amendment rights as a public citizen. [Citations omitted.]Regarding the due process claim, the Court wrote:
The school board may regulate a teacher's speech in the classroom if it has provided the teacher with specific notice of what conduct is prohibited. LeVake's due process claim is premised on his belief that respondents deprived him of his liberty interest to teach his class free "from state action which impinges upon and violated his constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise" by failing to provide him with adequate notice of what types of expression were prohibited before reassigning him. The cases LeVake relies on in making this argument involve the termination of teachers, but LeVake was not terminated. In fact, he was not even demoted. Further, before accepting the position to teach tenth-grade biology, LeVake understood that respondents' prescribed curriculum included teaching students about evolution. LeVake was given sufficient notice about what he could and could not teach through the established curriculum and the syllabus. [Citations omitted.]Concluding the decision, the Court wrote:
Because LeVake's position paper and his statement to Hubert make it clear that LeVake would not teach the required course curriculum in the manner established by the school board, LeVake has not presented any genuine issue of material fact regarding his free exercise, free speech, and due process claims. Thus, the district court did not err in granting respondents' motion for summary judgment.For the complete text of the decision, see http://www.lawlibrary.state.mn.us/archive/ctappub/0105/c8001613.htm>.
There simply are no transitional forms in the fossil record between the marine mammals and their supposed land mammal ancestors . . . It is quite entertaining, starting with cows, pigs, or buffaloes, to attempt to visualize what the intermediates may have looked life. Starting with a cow, one could even imagine one line of descent which prematurely became extinct, due to what might be called an “udder failure” (Gish 1985: 78-9).
Originally published in RNCSE 20 (6): 4. The version on the web might differ slightly from the print publication.
On June 13, 2001, the US Senate adopted a “Sense of the Senate” resolution, proposed by Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Authorization bill, S1, currently under consideration. The resolution (Amendment #799) reads:
It is the sense of the Senate that (1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and (2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why the subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.
Although the resolution appears innocuous, it is telling that only evolution is singled out from all possible controversial issues. If the goal of the resolution were simply to encourage discussion of the social dimensions of scientific issues, or critical thinking, or some other secular purpose, the second clause of the resolution might have read, “when controversial issues are taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why the subjects generate controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subjects.”
The fact that evolution is singled out from all controversial issues indicates the amendment’s intention to discourage evolution education. It is no coincidence that Senator Santorum cited arguments for “teaching the controversy” made by intelligent design proponent David DeWolf in presenting his resolution. In the June 18 Washington Times, another intelligent design promoter, Phillip Johnson, is quoted as having “helped frame the language” of the resolution.
The vote to adopt the resolution was 91–8. It seems likely that most or nearly all senators were unaware of the anti-evolution implications of the language of the amendment. However, the tactic of singling out evolution for special mention as controversial is commonly used by anti-evolutionists in states and localities where they challenge its place in science education.
The comments of several senators in the Congressional Record suggest that they recognized the implications of the resolution. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas stated that passage of this resolution would justify the 1999 actions of the Kansas State Board of Education in removing evolution from their test standards. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia also expressed doubts about the reality of evolution before supporting the amendment.
The comments of anti-evolution groups following passage of the resolution also show the propaganda value they recognize in this language. The Answers in Genesis ministry web site headlined its account “US Senate supports intellectual freedom!”. AIG also informed its readers how to “… contact your Congressman to express your support of the Senate version of the Education bill that states that evolution is controversial…” A student “intelligent design” club at the University of California at San Diego headlined its report “Some Democratic and Republican Senators Feel Questioning of Evolutionary Theory in Schools is Legitimate”.
On June 14, the overall bill passed the Senate 91–8. The House of Representatives had previously passed a version of the Education bill without a comparable evolution statement. The two versions are currently before a conference committee, which will resume work on reconciling the bills following Congress’s August recess.
Other accounts of the Santorum amendment are available on the American Geological Institute’s web site or visit here.
On August 2, 2001, the Hawai'i Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to reject proposed changes to the state's science education performance standards, including the changes proposed by BOE member Denise Matsumoto to include "multiple theories of origin" and related wording. As a result, the standards will revert to the original wording, which is more in line with the National Science Education Standards. The BOE members patiently endured 65 three-minute oral testimonials on these changes; about 75% of the presenters opposed the proposed changes. Apparently, this was a record turnout for a BOE hearing. Additionally, the BOE had received over 200 written testimonials.
Testimony opposing the proposed changes came from a wide spectrum of people, including university-level professors, Hawai'i science teachers, concerned citizens, a former BOE member, and a surprising (and encouraging!) number of religious leaders. Almost without exception, this testimony was eloquent and extremely effective in addressing the real points of concern. Those testifying in favor of the proposed changes had a much less unified message to present, covering the typical range of anti-evolutionary positions — attacks on evolution as unsupported conjecture, appeals for children to be given both perspectives and allowed to think critically and objectively to make their own decisions, support of "Intelligent Design" theory as legitimate science, and the moral imperative of teaching the Bible to build character and integrity in our children.
Overall, the testimony provided by supporters of evolution was effective and to the point. Long before the end of hearing, it was evident that this would end up being a "slam dunk" decision by the BOE. There was almost no discussion among board members before making the final, and the final vote was unanimous — making it obvious that even Matsumoto conceded the issue. This outcome confirms resoundingly that community support can help level heads to prevail. In light of this success story, I think that we can renew our confidence in the Hawai'i State Educational system. However, it is clear that we should not allow ourselves to slip into complacency at this point. We were extremely lucky that Matsumoto apparently blundered into the situation with such a naive perspective. Our success was due in part to the disorganization of the opposing side. Had this hearing been coordinated by some of the big anti-evolutionist organizations on the mainland, it might have been a longer, more complicated struggle. What our experience shows is the importance of having a network of concerned and informed citizens ready to act when evolution education is threatened. It is also important that our network reaches beyond the academic world to other interested communities of educators, clergy, and citizens in all walks of life.
Organizations such as NCSE and the American Institute for Biological Sciences (see sidebar on AIBS state list servers, p 35) provide resources and connections to concerned communities throughout the nation. These networks allow us to be ready whenever a threat to evolution education pops up again (as experience tells us it will) and to coordinate efforts with maximum effectiveness.
He brought home a great quantity of bones of various animals, two simian teeth, the thigh bone of a man, and the cap of a skull which some say is that of a man, others, that of an ape, and others still, that of a "missing link". As the brain case is missing, it is not possible to decide to which category it belongs.von Koenigswald, he reports, made a final attempt to find more specimens of Java Man in the 1930s, but all he produced was
He brought home at the same time two human skulls, known as the Wadjak skulls, of large brain capacity... Dr Dubois concealed these on his return... He produced them, however, in 1925, 30 years later... (p 159).
parts of four skulls so broken that the brain capacity could not be determined. Romer, in Man and the Vertebrates, describes these as "three more skullcaps, a lower jaw and an upper jaw". ...As there were only skullcaps, it is impossible to tell what was the brain capacity, but Romer, Vallois and other propagandists for the man-from-ape theory, give the capacity as much the same as that given by Dr Dubois' first specimen — between 800 and 900 cc (p 161)."Skullcaps" again! Had O'Connell ever seen any of them, even photographs? All four — Dubois's from Trinil, and von Koenigswald's from Sangiran — are substantial specimens, from which it is easy to obtain cranial capacities. This is also the case for at least three of the many, many specimens which have been discovered since then, mainly by Indonesian scholars. As for the Wadjak (now Wajak) skulls, they were not "concealed", but described by Dubois in three separate papers in the 1890s (Brace 1987).