Science, Just Science

1 December 2008

The Evidence For And Against Evolution

A nice little post over at the Daylight Atheism blog:

“Teaching the controversy” has always been a rhetorical centerpiece of the intelligent-design movement, but it has become a more prominent part of their strategy in the wake of ID’s 2005 court defeat in Dover, Pennsylvania. Seeking to avoid blame for the Dover verdict, creationist groups such as the Discovery Institute pleaded that they had never wanted to teach intelligent design per se, but only the “evidence for and against” evolution.

The most sinister part of this argument is its apparent fairness. Who could object to teaching students all sides in a dispute? Hardly anyone, of course, which is why ID advocates sometimes trumpet polls showing that large majorities say students should be taught the evidence for and against evolution. That shouldn’t be a surprise: if there were legitimate evidence against evolution, even I would certainly want it to be taught, as I think most atheists would. But the problem is that these polls ask a loaded question by assuming that there is such evidence.

If there is a legitimate, scientific controversy over some issue, then by all means, teachers should present all sides in a fair and even-handed manner. However, this is not a description which applies to the teaching of evolution. Creationists and their intelligent-design comrades have steadfastly avoided making their case to the scientific community (where it meets with near-unanimous scorn). Instead, they’re attempting to do an end-run around that scrutiny by forcing their beliefs into public schools before they have won the approval of practicing, qualified scientists in those fields. This is completely backwards from how these controversies are supposed to be resolved.

The problem with “teaching all sides” is that it can give fringe ideas a credibility they have not earned. Excessive concern for “balance” leads to presenting the speculations of cranks and crackpots as if they were on equal footing with the positions defended by vast majorities of qualified experts. (The media has a similar problem.) And this is very useful to advocates of pseudoscience, who often do not need to win the rhetorical battle outright; they can triumph merely by muddying the waters and preventing a consensus from forming around the truth. This is the same strategy employed by tobacco companies, as we can see from the second excerpt above, as well as by oil companies seeking to forestall regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

[Read The Rest Of The Blog Post Here]

And that, in a nutshell, is the point … that is exactly why ID has no place in the science classroom.

“Teach The Controversy” they say. “What controversy” we ask, “There is no controversy!”

“Teach both sides of the argument, show the evidence for and against evolution” they say, but the sad fact (for them) is that there is no evdience against evolution, no evidence, no controversy and ID is not now and never will be science.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

1 October 2008

Pharyngula: A Review Of “Explore Evolution”

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:16 am

According to PZ Myers of the Pharyngula Blog, The Discovery Institute is about to replace it’s previous anti-evolution textbook, “Of Panda’s And People” and John Timmer of Ars Technica reviewed it saying:

“the book doesn’t only promote stupidity, it demands it. In every way except its use of the actual term, this is a creationist book, but its authors are expecting that legislators and the courts will be too stupid to notice that, or to remember that the Supreme Court has declared teaching creationism an unconstitutional imposition of religion.”

PZ Myers has read it and agrees it is as bad as the reviewer says.

Read Myers slightly more comprehensive comments here and the full review here.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

30 September 2008

Brunswick School Board Update

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:27 am

From PZ Myers Pharyngula Blog:

After reading e-mails by people disgruntled about the idea of teaching creationism, hearing about the state’s point of view and consulting with attorney Kathleen Tanner, Babson said she thinks the board will not try to go against the law to teach creationism, although she would like to see it in the classroom one day.

Fanti said he learned about the court cases after addressing the board and now thinks the idea of teaching creationism as part of the curriculum will be crushed. But he plans to ask the school board to encourage “evolutionists” in the schools to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their theory.

“Instead of making it a religious issue, let’s make it a scientific issue,” said Fanti, who identifies himself as a chemical engineer.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

24 September 2008

US (Brunswick County): New Attempt To Teach Creation In Schools

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News — Kyuuketsuki @ 12:17 pm

Just saw this mentioned on Center For Inquiry:

Brunswick school board to consider creationism teaching

Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 10:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 10:40 p.m.

The Brunswick County school board is looking for a way for creationism to be taught in the classroom side by side with evolution.

“It’s really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism,” county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday’s meeting. “The law says we can’t have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists.”

When asked by a reporter, his fellow board members all said they were in favor of creationism being taught in the classroom.

The topic came up after county resident Joel Fanti told the board he thought it was unfair for evolution to be taught as fact, saying it should be taught as a theory because there’s no tangible proof it’s true.

“I wasn’t here 2 million years ago,” Fanti said. “If evolution is so slow, why don’t we see anything evolving now?”

The board allowed Fanti to speak longer than he was allowed, and at the end of his speech he volunteered to teach creationism and received applause from the audience. When he walked away, school board Chairwoman Shirley Babson took the podium and said another state had tried to teach evolution and creationism together and failed, and that the school system must teach by the law.

“Evolution is taught because that’s what the General Assembly tells us to teach,” Babson said, adding that she doesn’t agree with it, but that students must learn it to graduate


[Read More Here]


James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

21 February 2008

BBC: ‘Frog From Hell’ Fossil Unearthed

Filed under: Education,News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 7:31 pm

From The BBC’s News (Science & Nature) site:

A 70-million-year-old fossil of a giant frog has been unearthed in Madagascar by a team of UK and US scientists.

What the 'Frog form hell' may have looked like

The creature would have been the size of a “squashed beach ball” and weighed about 4kg (9lb), the researchers said.

They added that the fossil, nicknamed Beelzebufo or “frog from hell”, was “strikingly different” from present-day frogs found on the island nation.

Details of the discovery are reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The team from University College London (UCL) and Stony Brook University, New York, said the frog would have had a body length of about 40cm (16 inches), and was among the largest of its kind to be found.

“This frog, a relative of today’s horned toads, would have been the size of a slightly squashed beach-ball, with short legs and a big mouth,” explained co-author Susan Evans, from UCL’s Department of Cell and Developmental Biology.

“If it shared the aggressive temperament and ‘sit-and-wait’ ambush tactics of [present-day] horned toads, it would have been a formidable predator on small animals.

“Its diet would most likely have consisted of insects and small vertebrates like lizards, but it’s not impossible that Beelzebufo might even have munched on hatchling or juvenile dinosaurs.”

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

News In Science: World’s Oldest Bat Hunted Without Sonar

Filed under: Education,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 6:27 pm

From Australia’s ABC “News In Science” site:

A nearly perfect bat fossil, the oldest ever found, lacked a key feature seen in most bats: the ability to hunt and navigate using sonar.

The finding, settles a long-simmering evolutionary debate: first came flight, and only then did bats develop echolocation to track and trap their prey.

Most experts thought it was the other way around, according to the study in today’s issue of the journal Nature.

Echolocation, the ability to emit high-pitched squeaks and hear the echo bouncing off flying insects as small as a mosquito, was assumed to be what made a bat a bat.

There are over 1000 species of bats in the world today, and all of them can ping the air with sound waves.

But some, especially larger fruit bats, depend on their sense of smell and sight to find food, showing that the winged mammals could survive without their amazingly capacity to gauge the location, direction and speed of flying creatures in the dark.

The bat, which would have flown around 52 million years ago, was dug out of limestone deposits in the US state of Wyoming in 2003.

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

20 February 2008

Scientific American: ‘Junk’ RNA May Have Played Role In Vertebrate Evolution

Filed under: Education,News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 7:48 pm

From Scientific American:

Genetic material once dismissed as mere “junk” may in fact be responsible to the evolution of simple invertebrates into more complex organisms sporting backbones, according to a new study.

Tiny snippets of the genome known as microRNA were long thought to be genomic refuse because they were transcribed from so-called “junk DNA,” sections of the genome that do not carry information for making proteins responsible for various cellular functions. Evidence has been building since 1993, however, that microRNA is anything but genetic bric-a-brac. Quite the contrary, scientists say that it actually plays a crucial role in switching protein-coding genes on or off and regulating the amount of protein those genes produce.

Now, researchers from Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and the University of Bristol in England report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that these tiny genetic segments could be responsible for the evolution of animals with backbones, noting that they found a surfeit of microRNA in the genomes of the earliest vertebrates, such as lampreys (jawless fish), when compared with invertebrates like sea squirts.

“There’s this dramatic increase in microRNAs that were fixed in the genome of vertebrates and were rarely secondarily lost,” says study co-author Kevin Peterson, an associate professor of biological sciences at Dartmouth. “If a human has a microRNA that’s also found in zebra fish, we [typically] find it in lamprey but we don’t find it in any invertebrate,” implying that that piece of genetic material is unique to vertebrates.

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

23 April 2007

Attacks On Science

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 12:25 pm
*** Originally posted by Tim Hague at SJS ***

The latest round of attacks on science in the USA (and just recently in the UK) from Intelligent Design Creationism is just one in a long trail of such attacks. This article discusses the history of the various attacks on science and evolution.

Most of this content has been reproduced by kind permission of Lenny Flank at Creation Science Debunked.

Introduction To Creationism

The term “scientific creationism” (and its new incarnation as “intelligent design theory”) is a fairly recent label for an old ideology. Almost as soon as Darwin’s Origin of Species was published, it became the focus of attack by religious fundamentalists who asserted that the Bible was the literal, revealed word of God, and was true and correct in all its proclamations. The Biblical story of Genesis, according to the fundamentalists’ literal interpretation, states that the universe was created by God less than 10,000 years ago, in six 24-hour days, and that all life was created, in its present form, during a two-day period of time. Further, at some point in the recent past there occurred a world-wide flood, which killed all life on earth except for those organisms that were saved on Noah’s Ark. All living organisms, the creationists assert, are direct descendants of the organisms which Noah had with him on the ark, and all human beings are direct descendants of Noah and the seven relatives he had with him on the ark. In its original form, creationism was an openly religious viewpoint, which advocated the Biblical creation story instead of the “godless atheistic” Darwinian viewpoint. The original creationists flatly asserted that there have been no new species since the day of creation and no species have been lost (except for those that drowned in the Flood).

1920’s – The Scopes Trial

The high point of the creationist movement came in the early decades of the 20th century, when several states (mostly in the southern “Bible Belt”) passed laws making it illegal to teach evolution. In 1928, for instance, the state of Arkansas passed a law (by referendum) making it illegal to teach “the theory or doctrine that mankind ascended or descended from a lower order of animals.” (Arkansas Initiated Act 1, 1928, cited in Eldredge 1982, p. 15 and LaFollette, 1983, p. 5) The Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925 resulted when the ACLU deliberately violated such a “monkey law” (the Butler Act, which made it against the law to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals” (Tennessee Legislature Act , 1925, cited in Eldredge 1982, p. 14) ) in order to test its constitutionality. Scopes was convicted of violating the state’s anti-evolution law, but the conviction was overturned on a technicality. After the trial, several states, including Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, kept their monkey laws on the books, but made little effort to enforce them.

1950’s & 1960’s – Science On The Rise

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik satellite, shocking the United States out of its intellectual complacency and dramatically illustrating the inadequacy of science education in the US. In response to the new “space race”, Congress passed a number of laws like the National Defence Foreign Languages Act and the National Defence Education Act, instituting a crash program to bring American science education up to par. One of these new programs was the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, begun in 1959, to produce new up-to-date biology textbooks. Written by professional scientists in their fields, the BSCS texts prominently featured evolutionary theory as the foundation of all the biological sciences. Within a few years, nearly half the high schools in the country were using BSCS biology textbooks, despite the fact that anti-evolution laws were still on the books in a number of states.

In 1961, the Tennessee state legislature attempted to repeal the Butler Act, but failed after an acrimonious debate, during which one legislator equated evolutionists with communists: “Any persons or any groups who assist in any way to undermine faith in the teachings of the Bible are working in harmony with communism.” (W. Dykeman and J. Stokely, “Scopes and Evolution–The Jury is Still Out”, New York Times Magazine, March 12, 1971, p. 72) In 1967, teacher Gary Scott of Jacksboro, Tennessee was fired for violating the Butler Act. He fought his firing in court and won, and the Butler Act was finally ruled unconstitutional by the Federal courts.

1960’s & 1970’s – Evolution Fights Back

Shortly afterwards, Arkansas biology teacher Susanne Epperson filed a court challenge to the Arkansas monkey law. When the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the law, Epperson appealed to the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 1968 that all state monkey laws were unconstitutional, on the grounds that they served to establish a state-supported religion and eroded the separation of church and state. The anti-evolution laws, the Court decided, were nothing more than “an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, taken literally.” (US Supreme Court, Epperson v Arkansas, 1968)

In 1973, just six years after repealing the Scopes anti-evolution law, the Tennessee State Legislature passed a replacement for the Butler Act. The new law stated, “Any biology textbook used for teaching in the public schools, which expresses an opinion of, or relates a theory about origins or creation of man and his world shall (give). . . an equal amount of emphasis on . . . the Genesis account in the Bible.” (Public Acts of Tennessee, 1973, Chapter 377, cited in LaFollette, 1983, p. 80) Within two years, this law had also been struck down by the Federal Courts, which ruled that the Tennessee law was “a clearly defined preferential position for the Biblical version of creation as opposed to any account of the development of man based on scientific research and reasoning. For a state to seek to enforce such preference by law is to seek to accomplish the very establishment of religion which the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States squarely forbids.” (US District Court, Daniel v Waters, 1975)

1980’s – Creation Science ‘Evolves’

In response to this ruling and the earlier Epperson Supreme Court decision, the creationist movement made the tactical decision to downplay the religious aspects of creationism, and began to argue that creationism could be supported solely through scientific evidence, without any reference to God or the Bible. Thus was born “creation science”–it is nothing more than an attempt by the fundamentalists to sneak their religious views into the classroom by pretending that they are really a “science”.

In 1981, the state of Arkansas passed a law, Act 590, mandating that “creation science” be given equal time in public schools with evolution. A dozen or so clergymen of differing denominations, supported by legal help from the ACLU, sued and argued that creation “science” was nothing more than fundamentalist Biblical literalism pretending to be science. Creationists from the Creation Research Society argued to the court that their viewpoint was a scientific model and not based at all on religion. Judge William Overton, after listening to both sides, was unconvinced by the creationists’ arguments, and ruled that creation “science” was not a science, but was merely an attempt to introduce religious beliefs into the public school system, and was therefore unconstitutional.

Under the US Constitution, it is illegal for the Federal Government or for any state to pass a law which establishes government support for any religious view, or which serves to advance any particular religious view. The “Balanced Treatment Law”, Judge Overton concluded, violated this “Establishment Clause”.

“The evidence is overwhelming, that both the purpose and the effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion in the public schools.”
(Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)

Citing a number of letters and statements made by the creationists themselves, the judge concluded …

“Act 590 is a religious crusade, coupled with a desire to conceal this fact”.
(Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)

“The proof in support of creation science consisted almost entirely of efforts to discredit the theory of evolution through a rehash of data and theories which have been before the scientific community for decades. The arguments asserted by creationists are not based upon new scientific evidence or laboratory data which has been ignored by the scientific community.”
(Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)

“The creationists’ methods do not take data, weigh it against the opposing scientific data, and thereafter reach the conclusions stated in Section 4(a). Instead, they take the literal wording of the Book of Genesis and attempt to find scientific support for it.”
(Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981)

“Creation science, has no scientific merit or educational value as science . . . Since creation science is not science, the conclusion is inescapable that the only real effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion.”
(Overton Opinion, McLean v Arkansas, 1981).

The Arkansas monkey law was ruled unconstitutional and was thrown out.

1980’s – Creation Science Keeps Trying

The creationists, however, were unbowed. As the state representative who sponsored Act 590 told the newspapers,

“If we lose, it won’t matter that much. If the law is unconstitutional, it’ll be because of something in the language that’s wrong . . . . So we’ll just change the wording and try again with another bill . . . We got a lot of time. Eventually we’ll get one that is constitutional.”
(Washington Post, December 7, 1981)

On the very day that Judge Overton ruled the Arkansas law unconstitutional, the Mississippi State Legislature passed a similar “Balanced Treatment” bill by a vote of 48-4.

Creationists tended to view the Arkansas ruling as a fluke, pointing out that the state Attorney General had refused to allow prominent creationist lawyers to assist in the case (prompting charges from fundamentalists that he “hadn’t really been trying” to win the case). In Louisiana, where the State Legislature had passed a “Balanced Treatment” bill mandating equal classroom time for “creation science” and “evolution science”, the creationists finally got their chance for an all-out attack, led by Wendell Bird, the creationist lawyer who had drafted many of the model “balanced treatment” bills. Despite their efforts, the bill was struck down in January 1985 by a Federal judge, who concluded that the law was unconstitutional “because it promotes the beliefs of some theistic sects to the detriment of others.” (US District Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1985, cited in Berra, 1990, p. 137) This ruling was upheld by a Federal Court of Appeals six months later, and the creationists appealed to the US Supreme Court.

In June 1987, the Supreme Court ruled against the creationists, concluding by a vote of 7-2 that the purpose of creation “science” was “to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint.” (US Supreme Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1987) “The pre-eminent purpose of the Louisiana Legislature,” the Court decided, “was clearly to advance the religious viewpoint that a supernatural being created humankind.” (US Supreme Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1987)

“Because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to endorse a particular religious belief, the Act furthers religion in violation of the Establishment Clause. . . . The Act violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because it seeks to employ the symbolic and financial support of government to achieve a religious purpose.”
(US Supreme Court, Edwards v Aguilard, 1987)

As a result of this decision, all existing “Balanced Treatment” laws were thrown out.

1980’s & 1990’s – Creation Science Changes Tack And Claims: “Evolution Is Religion”

Following this defeat, however, the creation scientists once again changed their tactics. First, they moved their focus from attempting to pass state laws mandating the teaching of creation “science” to attempting to pressure textbook committees and local school boards (where their highly organized and well-financed political machines can exert tremendous influence) into voluntarily granting equal time for “creation science”. Secondly, they have changed their arguments–now, instead of arguing that creationism is a science and should therefore be taught in public schools, they have argued that creationism really is religion, but so is evolution–evolution is, they now said, really nothing more than the “religion” of “secular humanism”, and therefore evolution should not be taught in public schools either. This argument has already failed in a number of Federal courts.

In 1981, a prominent creationist in California sued to have the teaching of evolution removed from the classroom on the grounds that it violated his and his children’s Constitutional right to free exercise of their religion. In response, the California Superior Court ruled that teaching evolution in science class does not establish a religion or interfere with the religious rights of any citizens (Sacramento Superior Court,Segraves v California, 1981).

The issue came up again in 1994, when a California biology teacher sued the state and the local school district, claiming that teaching evolution illegally established the “religion of secular humanism”. The teacher also claimed that the state and school district were conspiring against him as a result of their “group animus towards practising Christians” (US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994).

The Court ruled …

“Adding ‘ism’ does not change the meaning nor magically metamorphose ‘evolution’ into a religion. ‘Evolution’ and ‘evolutionism’ define a biological concept: higher life forms evolve from lower ones. The concept has nothing to do with how the universe was created; it has nothing to do with whether or not there is a divine Creator (who did or did not create the universe or did or did not plan evolution as part of a divine scheme). ”
(US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994)

The court rather sardonically noted …

“On a motion to dismiss we are required to read the complaint charitably, to take all well-pleaded facts as true, and to assume that all general allegations embrace whatever specific facts might be necessary to support them. Charitably read, Peloza’s complaint at most makes this claim: the school district’s actions establish a state-supported religion of evolutionism, or more generally of ‘secular humanism.’ According to Peloza’s complaint, all persons must adhere to one of two religious belief systems concerning ‘the origins of life and of the universe:’ evolutionism, or creationism. Thus, the school district, in teaching evolutionism, is establishing a state-supported ‘religion.’ We reject this claim because neither the Supreme Court, nor this circuit, has ever held that evolutionism or secular humanism are ‘religions’ for Establishment Clause purposes. Indeed, both the dictionary definition of religion and the clear weight of the case law are to the contrary.”
(US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994)

“Evolutionist theory is not a religion, Plaintiff’s assertions that the teaching of evolution would be a violation of the Establishment Clause is unfounded.”
(US Circuit Court, Peloza v New Capistrano School District, 1994)

The court concluded that Peloza’s case was “frivolous” and ordered him to compensate the state and school board for costs and attorney fees.

Another Change Of Tack – “Evolution Is Just A Theory”

One of the newest creationist tactics has been to lobby state textbook committees to either drop mention of evolutionary biology altogether, or to add a “disclaimer” to their texts opining that evolution is “just a theory”. On January 16, 1998, for instance, the Washington State Senate introduced a bill requiring that all science textbooks contain a printed disclaimer stating that evolution is only a “theory”, and listing a series of inaccurate criticisms of evolution. The bill is a virtual word-for-word copy of an earlier proposal passed by the Alabama state Board of Education in November, 1995. The Washington bill reads:

All science textbooks purchased with state moneys must have the following notice placed prominently in them.

A MESSAGE FROM THE WASHINGTON STATE LEGISLATURE

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 grey moths.) This process is micro-evolution, 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 macro-evolution, 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.

“There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including:

  • Why did the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil record (known as the “Cambrian Explosion”)?
  • Why have no new major groups of living things appeared in the fossil record for a long time?
  • Why do major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record?
  • How did you and all living things come to possess such a complete and complex set of “Instructions” for building a living body?”

In April 1994, the Tangipahoa School Board, in Louisiana, passed a policy mandating that a disclaimer be presented before any discussion of evolutionary theory. The policy states:

Whenever, in classes of elementary or high school, the scientific theory of evolution is to be presented, whether from textbook, workbook, pamphlet, other written material, or oral presentation, the following statement shall be quoted immediately before the unit of study begins as a disclaimer from endorsement of such theory.

It is hereby recognized by the Tangipahoa Board of Education, that the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept.

It is further recognized by the Board of Education that it is the basic right and privilege of each student to form his/her own opinion and maintain beliefs taught by parents on this very important matter of the origin of life and matter. Students are urged to exercise critical thinking and gather all information possible and closely examine each alternative toward forming an opinion.

A number of parents in the school district filed suit. In the Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Education case, the Federal District judge ruled that the disclaimer was an unconstitutional establishment of religion. This decision was upheld on appeal by the Federal Circuit Court. In its opinion upholding the appeal, the Circuit Court writes:

“We conclude that the primary effect of the disclaimer is to protect and maintain a particular religious viewpoint, namely belief in the Biblical version of creation,” and noted that the stated purpose of the disclaimer, to “exercise critical thinking”, was “a sham”
(US Circuit Court, Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Ed, 1999) .

“In reaching this conclusion, we rely on the interplay of three factors: (1) the juxtaposition of the disavowal of endorsement of evolution with an urging that students contemplate alternative theories of the origin of life; (2) the reminder that students have the right to maintain beliefs taught by their parents regarding the origin of life; and (3) the ‘Biblical version of Creation’ as the only alternative theory explicitly referenced in the disclaimer.”
(US Circuit Court, Freiler v Tangipahoa Board of Ed 1999)

In June 2000, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the Freiler case and let the Circuit Court’s ruling stand.

2000’s – Into A New Century: More Disclaimer Stickers

In February 2000, the Attorney General of Oklahoma ruled that the State Education Board there had no legal authority to require biology textbooks to carry a disclaimer similar to the ones in Washington and Louisiana. He also concluded that the Board had violated state law by adopting the proposed disclaimer without previous public notice or discussion. Just a few weeks later, the Board voted to reject a total of five biology textbooks because they discussed evolution.

The Freiler ruling made it likely that all the remaining “disclaimers” would also be rejected by the Courts on Constitutional grounds. And indeed, the creationists lost yet another “disclaimer” case in January 2005, when a Federal judge in Georgia ruled that such disclaimers violated the separation of church and state. Judge Clarence Cooper wrote …

“Due to the manner in which the sticker refers to evolution as a theory, the sticker also has the effect of undermining evolution education to the benefit of those Cobb County citizens who would prefer that students maintain their religious beliefs regarding the origin of life. The distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case. The school board has effectively improperly entangled itself with religion by appearing to take a position. Therefore, the sticker must be removed from all of the textbooks into which it has been placed.”
(Selman v Cobb County School District, US District Court, January 2005)

Just as had creation “scientists” at the time of their loss in Arkansas, the ID’ers immediately began whining that they had only lost because the lawyer for the county had presented “an incompetent defence” of the law. (“Incompetent Defence by Cobb County Attorney May Have Caused School District Loss”, Discovery Institute Website, January 13, 2005)

However, despite their steady string of losses regarding “disclaimer stickers”, the creationist movement at the same time has been pursuing an alternative strategy.

The First Signs Of Intelligent Design

In 2001, the Discovery Institute, which argues in favour of a new form of creationism known as “intelligent design theory”, took the anti-evolution issue to the Federal level. “Intelligent design theory” is a watered-down version of creationism which attempted to avoid falling afoul of Constitutional conflicts by removing nearly all of the previously accepted tenets of creationism. Rather than a “creator”, ID “theory” speaks of an unnamed “intelligent designer”, which they make no effort to identify. In order to avoid identification with Genesis or other religious beliefs, “intelligent design theory” makes no statements about the age of the earth, or any of the particular actions which the “intelligent designer” may or may not have done. By limiting ID “theory” to vague assertions and inferences, advocates hope to avoid identifying their “scientific theory” with religion, and thus to avoid the Constitutional issues that had doomed all of the previous anti-evolution efforts.

The “intelligent design” movement got its first legal test in June 2001, when the Senate was debating the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Authorization Bill (later renamed the “No Child Left Behind” Act). During the debate, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum introduced an amendment that had been partially written by Discovery Institute lawyer Phillip Johnson (and based on a law journal article written by Discovery Institute activist David DeWolf). The Santorum Amendment, introduced as a “sense of the Senate” resolution, read:

“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.”

Because the House version of the No Child Left Behind Act did not include any corresponding version of the Santorum Amendment, a House/Senate Conference Committee was required to reach agreement on a joint bill to be agreed upon by boht chambers of Congress. After a flood of letters and testimony from prominent science and education groups pointed out that the Santorum amendment was nothing but a thinly veiled excuse for teaching “intelligent design theory” in classrooms, the conference committee dropped the amendment, noting, in their Conference Report, “The conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.” When the final version of the No Child Left Behind bill was passed by both the House and the Senate, it did not contain any portion of the Santorum Amendment.

Creationists/IDers and their supporters have, however, attempted to claim that the No Child Left Behind bill not only permits but actually requires schools to teach “intelligent design theory”. Santorum himself, for instance, wrote in March 2002, “At the beginning of the year, President Bush signed into law the “No Child Left Behind” bill. The new law includes a science education provision where Congress states that “where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist. If the Education Board of Ohio does not include intelligent design in the new teaching standards, many students will be denied a first-rate science education.” (Washington Times, March 14, 2002, cited in “ID-Activists-Guide”, NCSE website). Two Ohio Congressmen also claimed, “The Santorum language is now part of the law”. (Washington Times, March 20, 2002, cited in “ID-Activists-Guide”). Neither of these claims, of course, are true — the Santorum language was dropped from the bill in committee, and the only time it is mentioned is in the accompanying Conference Report, which is not a part of the bill and has no legal force or authority.

Intelligent Design In Ohio

The topic of the Santorum Amendment was brought up in Ohio as the result of another legal effort by the Discovery Institute to force “intelligent design theory” into school classrooms. In early 2002, the state of Ohio was carrying out a review of its state wide science curriculum, when chemist Robert Lattimer objected to the prominence of evolution in the science standards, and lobbied for inclusion of “intelligent design theory” as a “scientific alternative” to evolution. The effort attracted the attention of the Discovery Institute, which unleashed all its lobbying abilities in an effort to push ID “theory” into the Ohio science standards. Friendly legislators introduced a bill into the state House of Representatives which would:

“Require that whenever an explanation for the origins of life and its diversity is included in the instructional program of a school district or educational service centre the instructional program shall encourage the presentation of scientific evidence objectively and disclose the historical nature of origins of life science and any material assumptions on which the explanation is based.”

The bill read:

“Sec. 3313.6013. It is the intent of the general assembly that to enhance the effectiveness of science education and to promote academic freedom and the neutrality of state government with respect to teachings that touch religious and non-religious beliefs, it is necessary and desirable that “origins science,” which seeks to explain the origins of life and its diversity, be conducted and taught objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumption. To further this intent, the instructional program provided by any school district or educational service centre shall do all of the following:

(A) Encourage the presentation of scientific evidence regarding the origins of life and its diversity objectively and without religious, naturalistic, or philosophic bias or assumption;

(B) Require that whenever explanations regarding the origins of life are presented, appropriate explanation and disclosure shall be provided regarding the historical nature of origins science and the use of any material assumption which may have provided a basis for the explanation being presented;

(C) Encourage the development of curriculum that will help students think critically, understand the full range of scientific views that exist regarding the origins of life, and understand why origins science may generate controversy.” (Ohio House Bill 481)”

The Discovery Institute brought out all its big guns in Ohio, including such luminaries as Johnson and Dembski, but in the end, the legislative bills all failed. Not only did the Ohio board not include “intelligent design theory” in its standards, but it specifically excluded it by name. Although students under the new science standards should be able to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyse aspects of evolutionary theory”, the board noted, “The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of Intelligent Design.” (Ohio Board of Education, December 10, 2002)

Yet Another New Tack: “Teach The Controversy”

“Intelligent design” advocates, however, seized on the words “critically analyse aspects of evolutionary theory”, and immediately re-introduced “intelligent design theory” through the back door, using a new strategy that has become known as “teach the controversy”. Now, instead of attempting to push “intelligent design theory” into schools, the Discovery Institute and its supporters have been forced to retreat to the much weaker notion of teaching the alleged “scientific problems” with evolution instead. The new strategy drops any mention of “intelligent design”, and instead attempts to argue that somehow, somewhere, something must be wrong with evolution.

As part of the new strategy, members of the Ohio Board of Education proposed a “model lesson plan” that was largely written by Discovery Institute members and supporters, entitled “Critical Analysis of Evolution”. The model lesson pointed out the same supposed “scientific problems with evolution” that the Discovery Institute had been preaching for years. Included in the model lesson plan were “goals” such as:

  • “Describe one piece of evidence used to challenge evolution and explain why it is important.”
  • “Compare and contrast the supporting and challenging information regarding the aspect of evolution you studied.
  • “Evaluate the scientific data supporting and challenging areas of evolution in light of the scientific method. In other words, is the data that is used to support or challenge evolution consistent or inconsistent with the scientific method? Are there any limitations? (NOTE: steps of scientific method: Observation, hypothesis, test, retest and conclusion)”

The model lesson plan included links to several Internet websites from the Discovery Institute and other supporters of intelligent design “theory”. These websites were later dropped after heavy criticism. Also dropped was a direct reference to the anti-evolution book “Icons of Evolution”, written by Discovery Institute member Jonathan Wells.

In March 2003, the Board passed a modified version of the lesson plan which, while erasing all of the references to intelligent design “theory”, nevertheless accepted most of the Discovery Institutes’s “teach the controversy” strategy and included many of the supposed “scientific criticisms of evolution” that have been trotted out for years by the Discovery Institute and other creationists. Several court challenges are already pending to the Ohio lesson plan.

“Waterloo” In Dover

Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Case No. 04cv2688, was the first direct challenge brought in United States federal courts against a public school district that required the presentation of “Intelligent Design” as an alternative to evolution as an “explanation of the origin of life”. The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Eleven parents of students in the school district in Dover, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, sued the Dover Area School District over a statement that the school board required to be read aloud in ninth-grade science classes when evolution was taught. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and Pepper Hamilton LLP. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) acted as consultants for the plaintiffs. The defendants were represented by the Thomas More Law Center. The Foundation for Thought and Ethics, publisher of a textbook advocating intelligent design titled Of Pandas and People, tried to join the lawsuit as a defendant but was denied.

The suit was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and tried in a bench trial from September 26, 2005 to November 4, 2005 before Judge John E. Jones III. On December 20, 2005 Judge Jones issued his 139-page findings of fact and decision, ruling that the Dover mandate was unconstitutional, and barred intelligent design from being taught in public school science classrooms. The current Dover school board president stated that the board does not intend to appeal the ruling.

The judge’s decision has sparked considerable response. Judge Jones himself anticipated that his ruling would be criticized, saying in his decision that …

“Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court.”

Newspapers have noted with interest that the judge is “a Republican and a churchgoer”.

The judge’s ruling stated:

“In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavours. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.”

Conclusion

The legal history of creation “science”, therefore, has been remarkably consistent — the creation “scientists” have lost every single Federal court case they have ever been involved with. In every instance where creation “scientists” or intelligent design “theorists” have attempted to argue that their viewpoints are “science” and should be taught in schools, or that evolution is not science and should not be taught in schools, their claim has been rejected by the courts soundly, starkly, and unequivocally.

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