Abiogenesis & Evolution

Godspell Follies

On the favorite errors of creationists.

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Evolution wins Pennsylvania trial -- Judge declares intelligent design is creationism in disguise.

Evolution wins Pennsylvania trial-Judge declares intelligent design is creationism in disguise A federal judge has ruled that teaching intelligent design in US public high schools is unconstitutional.

On 20 December, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Judge John Jones issued a scathing opinion in which he described a local school board's efforts to promote intelligent design as 'breathtaking inanity'.

Rather than just throwing out the policy because of the religious motivations of the school board members who instituted it, Jones went on to state that intelligent design was clearly religious and indubitably not science.

"We conclude that the religious nature of intelligent design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," he writes.

In his 139-page opinion, Jones reviews the history of intelligent design. He declares: "The overwhelming evidence at trial established that intelligent design is a religious view, a mere re-labelling of creationism, and not a scientific theory."

The decision will not have legal precedence for similar cases in other districts, but because of the thoroughness of the opinion, it may have what lawyers term "persuasive authority". The ruling bans the reading of the Dover statement, which was due to go ahead next month at the beginning of the ninth-grade evolution unit.

The school board that wrote the policy has since been voted out, and their replacements are unlikely to appeal.

Biologists who testified in the case were even more ecstatic. "I think it is everything we could have hoped for," says Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. "The opinion is splendid. What is very clear is that the judge worked hard, diligently followed the scientific arguments, and understood them thoroughly."

"The whole place here is saying that this is beyond our wildest dreams," says Kevin Padian, a palaeontologist and trial witness from the University of California, Berkeley, speaking from Harrisburg. "This means that as science, intelligent design is effectively dead."

Nick Matzke of the National Center for Science Education, a non-profit organization in California that guards the teaching of evolution in public schools, says that intelligent design, under any name, is hard to squelch. "The history of creationism is that it doesn't go extinct... it evolves," he says. "We fully expect that they will come up with a new strategy.""

Full text of Judge Jones' Opinion

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Scripture vs Scholarship 10.05.2005

10.05.2005 - In the matter of Scripture v. scholarship: "The public debate over the relationship between religion and science in the classroom figures prominently in a lawsuit against the University of California filed recently on behalf of applicants for admission from Christian high schools. Filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Aug. 25, the complaint claims that UC violated the First Amendment rights (specifically those guaranteeing freedom of speech and religion) of some Christian schools and that it practiced 'viewpoint discrimination' against their students by finding that some of the schools' courses do not meet UC requirements for college preparation.

The plaintiffs are the Association of Christian Schools International, the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, Calif., and six Calvary Chapel students (or their parents on their behalf).

At issue in the lawsuit are academic standards for admission to the university, specifically UC's process for assessing high-school courses to verify that they meet the system's college-preparatory course requirements (known as the a-g requirements). For a new or substantially revised course to be approved for the a-g list, a high school must submit a request, listing the course curriculum, textbook information, and supplemental materials, to UC for approval. Staff at UCOP review such applications to make sure that courses meet UC academic standards established by the systemwide Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS).

UC also disallows science courses that rely solely on BJU and A Beka Books textbooks. At issue, the fact sheet says, "is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide a comprehensive view of the relevant subject matter...." In the BJU Press and A Beka Books science textbooks, it goes on, "the publishers themselves acknowledge that the primary goal is to teach religious doctrine rather than the scholarship that is generally accepted in the relevant fields of study."

The introduction to Biology for Christian Schools (2nd Edition, BJU Press) clearly states, for instance, that students' conclusions must conform to the Bible and that scientific material and methods are secondary: "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second. To the best of the author's knowledge, the conclusions drawn from observable facts that are presented in this book agree with the Scriptures. If a mistake has been made (which is probable since this book was prepared by humans) and at any point God's Word is not put first, the author apologizes.""

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The Wedge Document

The New Yorker: PRINTABLES: "In 1999, a document from the Discovery Institute was posted, anonymously, on the Internet. This Wedge Document, as it came to be called, described not only the institute’s long-term goals but its strategies for accomplishing them. The document begins by labelling the idea that human beings are created in the image of God “one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built.” It goes on to decry the catastrophic legacy of Darwin, Marx, and Freud—the alleged fathers of a “materialistic conception of reality” that eventually “infected virtually every area of our culture.” The mission of the Discovery Institute’s scientific wing is then spelled out: “nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.” It seems fair to conclude that the Discovery Institute has set its sights a bit higher than, say, reconstructing the origins of the bacterial flagellum."

See the original at: The Wedge Strategy

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On the teaching of pseudoscience.

SCIENCE POLICY: ON THE TEACHING OF PSEUDOSCIENCE: "To understand why intelligent design constitutes an insidious menace to medicine, it is helpful to trace its roots. In part, it evolved from creationism, which takes the Genesis story of creation literally. Creationism has been discredited, however, by indisputable physical evidence -- carbon dating, for example. In 1987, the teaching of creationism in public schools was forbidden by the US Supreme Court (Edwards v. Aguillard). Still, a large part of the public believes in creationism and yearns for a return to God in public schools. At its root, intelligent design is a medieval theological proposition that is based on faith, not logic, and certainly not science. It is theology dressed up as science, but it cannot be easily dismissed."

A large part of the ~American~ public believes in creationism -- the public in other Western nations is less indoctrinated to believe in creationism.

The so-called "intelligent designer" is merely God in a not-so cunning disguise. When proponents of ID claim that they do not speculate on the identity of the designer they are prevaricating, or, to put it bluntly, outright lying. The designer is supposedly the creator of life's complexity = Creator of Life = God. Apparently prevarication is not regarded as a sin when the purpose is to defy the separation of church and state.

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15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense -- Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don't hold up: "Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as 'intelligent design' to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. "

Comment: In this Scientific American article, the author contends that evolutionists ought to counter creationist claims with scientific facts. While this is good advice, many creationists simply refuse to acknowldge the empirical evidence provided by science. I contend that evolutionists can also refute the illogical arguments of creationists and id-ists by calling attention to the specific fallacies of logic inherent in those arguments. See Fallacies of Logic.

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Creationist and "Intelligent Design" confusion about Entropy

The Woodstock of Evolution -- The World Summit on Evolution (ScientificAmerican.com): "Creationists and Intelligent Design theorists like to inquire how information can increase in a world filled with entropy and the decay of information. "

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contradictions within idism

The New Yorker: PRINTABLES: "Dembski's views on the history of life contradict Behe's. Dembski believes that Darwinism is incapable of building anything interesting; Behe seems to believe that, given a cell, Darwinism might well have built you and me. Although proponents of I.D. routinely inflate the significance of minor squabbles among evolutionary biologists (did the peppered moth evolve dark color as a defense against birds or for other reasons?), they seldom acknowledge their own, often major differences of opinion. In the end, it's hard to view intelligent design as a coherent movement in any but a political sense.

It's also hard to view it as a real research program. Though people often picture science as a collection of clever theories, scientists are generally staunch pragmatists: to scientists, a good theory is one that inspires new experiments and provides unexpected insights into familiar phenomena. By this standard, Darwinism is one of the best theories in the history of science: it has produced countless important experiments (let's re-create a natural species in the lab - yes, that's been done) and sudden insight into once puzzling patterns (that's why there are no native land mammals on oceanic islands). In the nearly ten years since the publication of Behe's book, by contrast, I.D. has inspired no nontrivial experiments and has provided no surprising insights into biology. As the years pass, intelligent design looks less and less like the science it claimed to be and more and more like an extended exercise in polemics."

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. . . evolving since 10/06/06