On April 19, 2008, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology opened a new exhibit to celebrate the central role of evolutionary science in modern biology.The exhibit, entitled Surviving: The Body of Evidence, runs through May 2009 and is the museum's contribution to the Year of Evolution of public programs and events that coincide with the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species.
The University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Museum are joined by major Philadelphia cultural organizations in launching an ambitious Year of Evolution of public programs and events. These events will draw on the contributions of many outstanding educational and research institutions in Philadelphia, including the Academy of Natural Sciences, The Franklin Institute, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Mütter Museum and College of Physicians, the American Philosophical Society Museum, and the Wagner Free Institute of Science. In addition to highlighting Darwin's contribution to modern biology, the partner institutions will offer special programs on the work of Gregor Mendel, evolutionary medicine, and primate ecology and evolution, as well as featured lectures and presentation from prominent internationally known experts in evolutionary science (including NCSE Supporters Donald Johanson and Kenneth R Miller).
According to the Year of Evolution website, the exhibit and related programs provide an opportunity to reflect on the importance of Darwin's contribution to biology and the impact it has had on our understanding of the history and diversity of life:
As we approach the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the originator of the modern theory of evolution, it is a rich time to take stock of how much we've learned since On the Origin of Species was published in 1859.
To round out the celebration, there will be additional lectures, Penn Museum programs for children and families, scholarly symposia, and an evolution-focused freshman class book-reading selection at the University of Pennsylvania.
For more information, visit the exhibit's web site http://www.museum.upenn.edu/surviving.
[Thanks to Pam Kosty at the Penn Museum for the information used in this note.]
The most commonly available form of Islamic creationism appears under the "Harun Yahya" brand. For the last ten years, books, articles, websites, and videos by Harun Yahya have been promoting an intellectually negligible but very postmodern and media-savvy form of creationism to a wide audience. The Harun Yahya operation is based in Turkey, but it has an international reach. Indeed, Yahya's influence goes beyond other Muslim countries and Muslim immigrant populations. Even my students, in a Midwestern university, will often stumble upon Harun Yahya web sites when researching creationism, and sometimes they do not realize that it is an Islamic rather than Christian form of creationism they have encountered.
Harun Yahya is a pseudonym, and Adnan Oktar, a Turkish sect leader and art school dropout, is said to be the person who writes all the Yahya material. Given the immense quantity of output under the Yahya label, this claim is implausible. I think of Harun Yahya as a brand, and Oktar as the public face of the brand. The details and funding sources of the organization that supports Oktar are not clear. The Science Research Foundation, BAV (Bilim Aras, tirma Vakfi in Turkish), is a group that supports creationism and boasts Oktar as its honorary president, but not much about BAV is known aside from its public activities in support of creationism and a moderate religious nationalism.
The Yahya form of creationism has been enjoying a degree of success that Protestant creationists based in the United States can only envy. But Oktar has also been embroiled in legal battles in Turkey, from long before he reinvented himself as a creationist guru. In May 2008, Adnan Oktar's legal troubles reached a new peak with the announcement that Oktar and some associates have been sentenced to three years in prison. He and a number of other defendants associated with BAV have been convicted of extortion and of forming an organization for the purpose of committing criminal acts.
The Oktar and BAV saga is far from over. There is an appeals process to look forward to, and Oktar and supporters are already calling foul and alleging that the Turkish courts have acted under political pressure. Given that Oktar has some wealthy and powerful friends — and likely some powerful enemies as well — there may be all sorts of goings-on unknown to the public. The mainstream Turkish press did not report many details on Oktar's conviction beyond the basic legal facts.
On May 10, 2008, Oktar appeared in a news conference to present his view of events. While expressing respect for the judicial outcome, he and his spokespeople described the conviction as a legal scandal and a violation of due process. In particular, Oktar and his associates attributed their legal troubles to a conspiracy, speaking at length of a Masonic plot against BAV and Oktar. Apparently the conspiracy is international, with European Freemasons behind the 2007 Council of Europe report against the teaching of creationism (see RNCSE 2007 Sep–Dec; 27 [5–6]: 20–5), which cited Harun Yahya as an example. As part of the worldwide conspiracy, Oktar's group said, Turkish Masons also oppose BAV and its work in favor of creationism and other religious, conservative, and nationalist causes. Oktar also said that he will soon have another book out, which will expose Masonic activities.
In the press conference, Oktar and his supporters emphasized the theme that the persecution they are facing right now was similar to that undergone by prophets, such as related in the story of Joseph in the Qur'an. Strong defenders of the faith should expect persecution by worldly powers, and possible jail time will be faced by true believers as a badge of honor. Oktar already interprets past episodes in this fashion, such as the time before he became a creationist figurehead when he was forced to spend time in a mental institution. This, too, was a conspiracy that only strengthened Oktar's resolve.
It is still unclear what the recent convictions mean for Oktar and the Yahya brand of creationism. Even if Oktar's appeals fail and he does time in jail, his movement may be able to turn this into a tale of martyrdom in the hands of secular powers. The prodigious output in the name of Yahya might slow down, which might give defenders of evolution in Muslim lands a respite.
But even if the Yahya brand were to vanish as a result of all these legal troubles, this would only be a minor setback for Islamic creationism. The Harun Yahya phenomenon has made it clear that the Muslim world resists evolutionary science, and that more evolution-friendly interpretations of Islam remain weak. The Yahya operation has established that there is a considerable market for an Islamic-colored version of creationism. If Harun Yahya were to fall silent, this could just be an incentive for other brands to compete for that market.
The titleThe title. Scientific papers do not talk about the "soul", and although this could be just a clever metaphorical usage of that word, the title should raise suspicions that the paper contains something other than science.
The creationist claim
Alternatively, instead of sinking into a swamp of endless debates about the evolution of mitochondria, it is better to come up with a unified assumption. ... More logically, the points that show proteomics overlapping between different forms of life are more likely to be interpreted as a reflection of a single common fingerprint initiated by a mighty creator than relying on a single cell that is, in a doubtful way, surprisingly originating all other kinds of life.Aside from the fact that this sentence is so badly written as to be nearly incomprehensible, the phrase "mighty creator" sticks out like a sore thumb. Boiled down to its essence, Warda and Han are saying "God did it."
The problem is that we described in very clear and definite way the disciplined nature that takes part inside our cells. We supported our meaning with define proteomics evidences that cry in front of scientists that the mitochondria is not evolved from other prokaryotes. They want to destroy us because we say the truth; only the truth.And in response to a question about plagiarism, he wrote "I not burrow [sic] any sentences from others," despite the obvious evidence that he borrowed voluminously.
I found the serious mistakes in the paper during the process of edits, which I confused between the early drafts and the latest versions: I did not check the use of the sentences in the references (more than 200 references). Finally I made serious error to make the final version. In order to rectify an error, I requested to retract the paper to the editorial office of Proteomics.Myers pointed out, correctly, that this response does not really explain anything: not the creationist claims, nor the bizarre title, and certainly not the extensive plagiarism.
The theory of evolution by natural selection, a theory included in this document, states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things. Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in a population, it is assumed, based on the study of artifacts, that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed. Because of its importance and implications, students should understand the nature of evolutionary theories. They should learn to make distinctions among the multiple meanings of evolution, to distinguish between observations and assumptions used to draw conclusions, and to wrestle with the unanswered questions and unresolved problems still faced by evolutionary theory.The Fordham report cuts to the heart of this disclaimer:
Although this is focused on evolution, and it paraphrases the "critiques" of evolutionary biology currently advanced by "intelligent design" creationism, it quite effectively derogates every branch of science. (There are, for example, many basic, "unanswered questions" about the fundamental forces of nature. Do we, for this reason, warn students to be suspicious of, or to "wrestle with," the "unresolved problems" of physics?) The Alabama preface sows confusion and offers a distorted view of what science is and how it is pursued. The quoted paragraph is preceded by mention of Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein, all physicists or astronomers; it then launches into an attack by misdirection on (evolutionary) biology. (Gross and others 2005: 27)Other school systems have mimicked Alabama, using either the language or the general approach in this disclaimer (for example, Cobb County, Georgia).
Teaching about Scientific Origins: Taking Account of Creationism is a patchwork of thoughtful essays on evolution and creationism from some prominent voices in science education and philosophy. According to the editors of the volume, the aim of the book is to "address the challenges of teaching about scientific origins in the context of religious concerns" (p ix). This text is an excellent contribution to the Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education series because of its polyvocal representation of the evolution/creationism controversy.
Polyvocality is a postmodern textual representation that showcases multiple, often non-convergent, viewpoints (Guba and Lincoln 2005). The aim of a polyvocal text is to highlight the complexity of an issue by problematizing rather than resolving. Traditional texts offer solutions; polyvocal texts ask questions. The editors of Teaching about Scientific Origins prepare the reader for a polyvocal style by stating: "It needs to be stressed that there is not a single account of how the authors in this book see the relationship between science and religion nor of how we envisage that that relationship should be taught, if it is to be taught at all" (p 8).
Even without the projection of a single metanarrative, twelve of the thirteen chapters are written from the scientific consensus position, as supported by National Science Education Standards (National Research Council 1996) and by science organizations (AAAS 1990, 1993), that evolution is the cornerstone of the biological sciences and that teaching biology without evolution is a mismanagement of the science curriculum.
The first third of the book looks at the history, sociology, and politics of teaching evolution as viewed from outside of the classroom. The second third of the book shifts argumentation. Here the authors either present an argument for a particular position, such as teaching creationism or evolution, or they dissect the arguments that others have employed. Within this second portion of the book is a chapter presenting a creationist perspective on teaching evolution, notably the only chapter not reflecting the views of national and international science organizations. Finally, the last third views the professional and personal nature of the evolution/creationism controversy through the lens of teacher and student. These chapters describe the impact of the controversy in classrooms and recommend ways of dealing with it, such as insisting on respectful interpersonal relationships, particularly with students who may have creationist beliefs.
Beginning the first third of the book, Randy Moore and Michael Ruse examine the historic politics that led to the modern controversy. Moore describes the social discord between evolution and creationism as it was expressed in the late 19th century and in early 20thcentury politics. In the second half of the chapter, he answers some questions that teachers have about the legal boundaries to teaching evolution (or creationism) in public schools.
Ruse writes specifically about "Christianity" and "Darwinism," emphasizing the contrasting epistemologies that define the modern evolution/creationism controversy. He challenges contemporary polarized debates about science and religion, referring to such conflicts as remnants of the 19th century. Using Richard Dawkins, a biologist and vocal atheist, as a focus, Ruse describes how arguments from the extreme ends of the belief spectrum — such as arguments between evolutionary dogmatists and fundamentalist creationists — anchor science and religion to a common, confrontational center point.
Chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7 shift the reader’s attention toward the argumentation tactics used in the broad conflict between science and religion as well as strategies used by proponents within specific domains, such as creationists. David Mercer conducts a highly philosophical examination of the conflict between science and religion, criticizing the tendency to oversimplify the nature of both science and religion. Media sources and public science particularly are chastised for giving such oversimplified representations. Mercer recommends that we talk about science and religion in a more humanistic way that is representative of the manner in which the controversy is lived and that we think about the science curriculum through an inclusive social context that he calls "science studies" (p 53).
Robert Pennock traces the emergence of "intelligent design" (ID) creationism in schools and specifically focuses upon the ID proponents’ argument to "teach the controversy" of biological evolution in science classrooms, dissecting, by way of example, a video developed by ID advocates intended to show teachers how to legally "teach the controversy about Darwin." Pennock describes the ID argument as "smoke and mirrors," contending that the ID argument intentionally and strategically neglects science in order to promote its non-scientific goals. In the concluding remarks, his perspective on the debate is clear: teach real science.
Michael Poole unpacks and redistributes what he calls "areas of difficulty" between science and creationism, where meanings are in conflict when considered from creationist versus scientific perspectives. They include understandings about the age of the earth, chance, atheism, naturalism, explanation, reification, and evolutionism. Poole develops the essay by first making a statement of conflict and then examining it from scientific and religious perspectives. For example, he examines ideas that connect science and atheism by discussing the statement "Science is often presented as an atheistic activity that makes no place for God" (p 83). I particularly appreciate how Poole resolves the conflict about science and atheism with a description of how the omission of religion from science is not a denial of religion: "It need be no more surprising to the religious scientist not to find God mentioned in science texts than to find that Henry Ford is not mentioned in the instruction booklet of that make of car" (p 84).
Shaikh Abdul Mabud argues that evolution, as it is taught in schools and represented in selected British textbooks, is treated as "fact" and does not provide science students with a balanced perspective, offering arguments for and against evolution. A creationist from the Islamic faith, he uses many of the arguments found in other creationist literature, such as challenges to homology, complex biochemical events, and natural selection. Mabud is the only strong anti-evolution voice in the text, but the inclusion of this chapter shows how polyvocal texts break from authoritarian truth notions.
The next five chapters examine the evolution/creationism controversy from the perspective of teacher and/or student. Several authors tell personal stories about their experiences with the evolution/ creationism conflict in the classroom. Wolff-Michael Roth presents a discourse analysis of conversations with a high school physics student who deliberated on his personal conceptions of science and religion. Roth’s analysis untangles some of the complex and multifaceted relationships between self, science, and religion, providing insight into how science and religion interact in lived experience. The chapter concludes by encouraging teachers to consider the complexity of human understanding of science and religion and recommending that teachers find ways to discuss what Roth calls the "different life domains" (science and religion) with students in the hope that such conversations will translate into students’ having a personal understanding of how different domains interact in their own lives (p 122).
David L Haury emphasizes the role of curriculum in the evolution/ creationism controversy. Observing that human evolution has been overlooked in science standards documents and biology curricula,Haury blames the human evolution gap in American biology curricula on the prevalence of creationist ideology and goes on to describe several concepts that, combined, serve as a rationale for teaching human evolution. These concept — which include the nature of science, evolutionary theory, human family, ecological identity, worldview, and spirit of discovery — mediate dichotomous arguments such as science versus religion (or evolution versus creationism). Like many of the other authors in this portion of Teaching about Scientific Origins, Haury’s approach is scientifically grounded while remaining considerate of students’ beliefs.
Lee Meadows explains that conflict management, rather than conflict resolution, is an appropriate instructional aim in biology classrooms. Meadows explains that conflict management shows respect for religious students who are likely to experience conflict with evolution. After a discussion of clashing religious and scientific worldviews, Meadows offers five recommendations for teachers who wish to adapt their teaching aims to incorporate conflict management: 1. Respect your students’ religious beliefs, 2. Present evolution as an undeniable scientific understanding; 3. Model the difficult process of facing biases and conflicts of belief; 4. Consider teaching evolution as a case study in the nature of science; and 5. Don’t push religious students who may not have the emotional maturity to deal with the conflicts between their religious beliefs and their science learning.
David F Jackson recounts his personal experiences as a teacher educator who moved from the liberal northeastern US to more conservative Georgia where many, if not most, of his students are practicing Christians. Jackson discusses the overlap and conflict that science teachers feel within "the personal and the professional" aspects of themselves. His approach to mediate controversy within the classroom is to be sympathetic to students’ beliefs but maintain scientific integrity. Additionally, he encourages science teachers who are Christian to give voice to their own life experiences, exposing and exploring the personal and professional selves.
Co-editor Leslie S Jones presents a personal reflection on the impact of the evolution/creationism controversy in her college biology courses. Jones shares how she came to a deeper understanding of the conflict by learning about students whose creationist backgrounds have taught them to distrust science. By having personal conversations with her students, she was able to gain trust and open the door to learning evolution. Jones's essay shows how important it is for teachers to make a distinction between belief and understanding, especially when teaching topics that potentially challenge students' beliefs.
In the concluding chapter, "Teaching about origins in science: Where now?", coeditor Michael Reiss synthesizes the first twelve chapters and identifies three themes that ran through many of the essays — teaching the nature of knowledge, teaching about controversial topics, and consideration for the personal significance of the controversy. Reiss offers insights into the relationship between controversy and uncertainty, explaining that naïve students assume that evolution is uncertain because of its association with controversy. By teaching about the relationship between science and religion, educators can inform students about the controversy without unnecessarily introducing a conflict between science and religion.
The controversy surrounding science and religion (and evolution and creationism) is a resilient social and political conflict. The many perspectives involved in this controversy make the arguments complex, highly emotional, and often deeply personal to individuals, regardless of their position on the controversy. Teachers, as intermediaries between science and the public, have a responsibility to develop their own understanding of the controversy's complexity. Well-informed teachers realize that absolutist notions of "right" and "wrong" are blurred by the chance to engage in dialog. This approach to teaching about evolution is a marked shift from more dogmatist approaches to teaching science in areas where belief and truth claims may come into conflict. Although a dogmatic approach to teaching science is not scientifically inaccurate, the approach could be insensitive to students' beliefs.
While Teaching about Scientific Origins may not be appropriate for use in a K–12 science classroom and does not offer any narrow, prescriptive directives for teaching evolution, the text provides valuable insights into the science–religion controversy, examining its complexity from a variety of educational vantage points. I think that diverse perspectives, such as those presented in this book, lubricate conversations, opening up safer spaces for us to discuss the otherwise hidden conflicts that educators and students experience with regard to creationism and origins.
[AAAS] American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1990. Science for All Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.
[AAAS] American Association for the Advancement of Science. 1993. Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Guba EG, Lincoln YS. 2005. Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In: Denzin NK, Lincoln YS, editors. The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks (CA): Sage Publications. p 191–215.
National Research Council. 1996. National Science Education Standards. Washington (DC): National Academy Press.