Monday, October 31, 2005


Fundamentalists Embrace the Post Modern

Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Linda Doherty quotes Christian educators from down under as saying no approach to science is "value-neutral" and that both Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and intelligent design "have their own strong ideological foundations."

It seems like only yesterday that those on the cultural right, including Christian fundamentalists, we decrying post-modern scholars for their assertion that all knowledge claims are arbitrary, and that no one is ultimately more objective than any other. In those days, the right was convinced that there really is such an animal as "absolute truth."

Today, however, we find these same forces locked in a passionate embrace with Post Modern thinking. Intelligent design, they say, may not be value neutral, but then neither is science. Each are based on ideology. There's no way of determining the truth in any objective sense. So, we might as well teach both.

Now, Red State Rabble is not one of those who reject Post Modern thinking out of hand. We tend to agree that what we see is influenced by how we see it. We also believe that cultural habits, ideas and customs help shape our knowledge -- and that goes for science, too.

Even so, science has something else going for it that we should not lose sight of: it's evidence based. It tests its hypotheses against the natural world.

That testing of hypotheses against the natural world is something that intelligent design can't do. The worst part about ID isn't that it's not value neutral. It's that it's valueless.


Part II: Are ID Proponents Honest About What They Believe? An Exchange of Views With Casey Luskin

Second of three parts. [Part one]

Red State Rabble recently received a letter of complaint from Casey Luskin, a staff member at the Discovery Institute, about two of our posts, “Casey Luskin: A Pilgrim’s Progress” and “The Misinformation Train.” In his letter to RSR, Luskin wrote, "you make the allegation that ID proponents (including myself) are not open about who they think the designer is [in The Misinformation Train, RSR]."

RSR would have been deeply disappointed if there weren't at least several misstatements of fact in Luskin's note. Fortunately, he didn't keep us in suspense for long -- the very first sentence mangles a simple, easily checked fact.

We did not say, as Luskin asserts, that he is not open about who he thinks the designer is.

Rather, using a post by Luskin on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog, "Darwinist Misinformation Train is Still Chugging Strong," as a starting point, we said, "Luskin writes that while there are ID proponents who have talked about the designer as being God,

... Darwinists always fail to inform the public of the many (if not an overwhelming majority of) instances where ID proponents make it excruciatingly clear that the designer cannot be identified by ID theory. Darwinists are thus still misrepresenting ID theory to the public because they make statements indicating that ID theory universally identifies the designer as God.

RSR responded to this charge by asking:
Isn't it possible, though, that the tactics employed by intelligent design advocates lead critics to believe, legitimately, that they are hiding their real beliefs about the identity of the designer from the public?
RSR went on to cite one example, from among many, of Dover School Board member William Buckingham revealing the religious intent that motivated his actions on the board, ''Nearly 2,000 years ago, someone died on the cross for us. Shouldn't we have the courage to stand up for him?''

Although Buckingham later claimed he made no such statement, his own testimony in U.S. District Court last week makes it abundantly clear that his denial simply isn't credible.

We also pointed out that Court rulings, such as Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578, give the intelligent design activists a strong motivation to conceal their intent from the rest of us. In fact, the intelligent design movement came into being shortly after the Aguillard decision.

Internal documents -- such as the Discovery Institute Wedge Document -- give added support to the view that the public pronouncements of the intelligent design movement are out of sync with their private intentions.

Further, we noted that when intelligent design activists believe they are speaking only to groups of committed supporters, they tend to sing out of a different hymn book than when they are speaking in public.

If Luskin isn't satisfied with the examples we offered then, none of which included him, here's a new selection of the more egregious from just the past few weeks:

These are but a few of the many examples we might have cited. We resisted the urge, for example, to reproduce the utterly damning exhibit from Barbara Forrest's testimony in the Dover trial demonstrating how the words "intelligent design" have come to replace the word "creation" in the ID textbook "Of Pandas and People" in the years since the Edwards v. Aguillard decision.

The fact is, no matter what Luskin says, the legal fine print offered by intelligent design proponents, like so much other boilerplate, is far from convincing -- especially when it is compared side by side with their heartfelt testaments of faith in a Christian God.

Tomorrow, in Part 3, we'll discuss whether Mr. Luskin is correct in saying that Michael Ruse "essentially repudiated his [1982 McLean v. Arkansas, RSR] testimony about a decade later."

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Science Meets the Grassy Knoll

Phillip Johnson spoke at Washburn University in Topeka, Saturday.

"Darwinists want to shut down all public discussion of the problems with the fossil record," retired law professor and intelligent design activist Phillip Johnson, told an enthusiastic audience of about 250 at Washburn University in Topeka last night. The fossil record, Johnson asserted, does not support Darwin's theory of evolution. In fact, fossil discoveries made since Darwin's time make the problems more more difficult for scientists who desperately want to believe in the theory of evolution.

"Darwinists misrepresent the evidence, just like CBS News did when it used forged documents to prove that President Bush didn't fulfill his National Guard service," Johnson said as the audience chuckled knowingly. "They [scientists] say the evidence may be forged, but it's accurate. You see?"

"Scientists are desperate," Johnson claimed. "If the public hears how bad the fossil problem is, the sky will fall."

Johnson's talk, and the worshipful response from most of audience, are but the most recent reflection of what the late Richard Hofstadter, the former DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University, famously called the paranoid style in American politics. The characteristics of the paranoid style -- heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy -- which Hofstadter enumerated in his 1964 Harper's Magazine article were all on display last night in Topeka.

The modern right wing feels dispossessed wrote Hofstadter:

America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers; the old national security and independence have been destroyed by treasonous plots, having as their most powerful agents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of old but major statesmen who are at the very centers of American power. Their predecessors had discovered conspiracies; the modern radical right finds conspiracy to be betrayal from on high...

For Johnson and his admirers on the cultural right, the Illuminati, the Masons, the Jesuits, the communists, cosmopolitans, and foreigners, have now been displaced by a cut-throat cabal of Neo-Darwinists who know the truth about evolution but are involved in an elaborate 150-year-long conspiracy to prevent the public from learning the truth.

Those who doubt the power of this paranoid fantasy need only reflect on the popularity of Dan Brown's bestseller, The DaVinci Code, with its unraveling of a labyrinthine conspiracy pitting two secret societies -- the fictional Priory [an Illuminati stand-in] against a fictionalized Opus Dei -- who know a great, but hidden truth to get a sense the continuing appeal of a paranoid view of history.

To accept Johnson's distorted view of science -- and most of the audience clearly did -- is to believe that scientists have been scheming everywhere -- with the possible exception of the the grassy knoll -- to keep the deadly truth about the fossil record from the public.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Not My Job

In a somewhat crass bid to position herself as a national role model for school board members who want to teach the controversy that is intelligent design, Heather Geesey, a Dover Area School Board member, testified Friday she believed intelligent design was a scientific theory because fellow board members Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham told her so.

Displaying the intellectual curiosity that is fast becoming the hallmark of intelligent design theorists everywhere, Geesey told the court, Bonsell and Buckingham told her intelligent design was "a scientific thing."

"[I]t wasn't my job" to learn more about intelligent design, she added, because she didn't serve on the curriculum committee.

Under cross-examination, plaintiff's attorney Witold Walczak, of the American Civil Liberties Union, observed that Dover High School's science teachers opposed the board's statement.

"The only people in the school district with a scientific background were opposed to intelligent design ... and you ignored them?" he asked.

"Yes," Geesey said.

Martha Raffaele of the Associated Press has more here.


Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness, Unless of Course...

Mike Argento, writing in the York Daily Record, has consistently had the most entertaining coverage of what is proving to be a highly entertaining trial. RSR loves Jon Stewart and the Daily Show -- and we were big, big fans of "Evolution Schmevolution" the Daily Show special report -- but we think that even they had a hard time capturing the unreality based madness that now envelops the defense case in the Dover intelligent design trial.

Take for example, Argento's report of former Dover board member Bill Buckingham's testimony at the trial:

He [Buckingham, RSR] said he stood before the congregation one Sunday morning and said "there was a need" for money to buy "Of Pandas and People" and if anyone wanted to give, they could.

"But I didn't ask anyone for money," he said.

[Plaintiff Attorney Steve, RSR] Harvey asked him whether he took up a collection at his church, Harmony Grove Community Church.

"Not as such," Buckingham said.

So the lawyer asked him whether he got in front of the congregation and asked for donations.

"I didn't," Buckingham said. He paused. "I'm sorry, I did say that, but there was more to it," he said. Anyway, he collected the money — wherever it came from — and then he wrote a check for $850 to Donald Bonsell, father of then-school board President Alan Bonsell.

But previously, when asked by the lawyer about who donated the books, he said he didn't know.

"Mr. Buckingham, you lied to me at your deposition ... isn't that true?" Harvey asked.

"How so?" Buckingham responded.

What we are confronted with in Dover, apparently, is a biblical literalism that demands absolute faith in Genesis, yet embraces a loosey goosey moral relativism on the Ten Commandment's prohibition against lying.

BTW: Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars has also had particularly good coverage of Buckingham's testimony.


Old School

We've never met him, but Phillip Johnson, the father of the intelligent-design movement, must be kind of old school. While some intelligent design "theorists" are running around just now saying the their "theory" is silent on the identity of the designer, Johnson shows no such inhibitions.

''I just propose that we leave whether or not God is necessary as one of those things that ought to be investigated,'', Johnson told a church group in Topeka, Thursday. ''The other side operates to put out a constant stream of propaganda and condemnation.''

Refreshing, eh?

BTW: Johnson will speak again tonight at Washburn University and RSR will be there. Check back Sunday for a report.


State Board to Push Ahead Despite Rebuff

The Kansas State Board of Education is expected to adopt revised science standards critical of evolution at its Nov. 8 meeting in Topeka despite being denied the right to use copyrighted material from the National Academy of Science and the National Science Teachers Association.

NSTA President Michael Padilla , in an Oct. 26 letter denying the use of NSTA copyrighted material, appealed to the board to reconsider the revisions they inserted into the standards:
... the standards, as currently written, will result in Kansas students being confused about the scientific process and ill-prepared both for the rigors of higher education and for the increasingly technological and scientific challenges we face as a nation.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Are ID Proponents Honest About What They Believe? An Exchange of Views With Casey Luskin

First of three parts:

Red State Rabble has received a letter of complaint from Casey Luskin. Luskin, a staff member at the Discovery Institute and Co-President of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center, wrote to protest two of our posts, “Casey Luskin: A Pilgrim’s Progress” and “The Misinformation Train.”

Here's what Mr. Luskin had to say:

"I saw your post a while back on your blog where you make the allegation that ID proponents (including myself) are not open about who they think the designer is [The Misinformation Train, RSR]. In contrast, I have been very open on the internet that I am a Christian and also explained that while I am a Christian, my beliefs about the identity of the designer are not informed by ID theory. They are my personal religious beliefs because I don’t know how the empirical data can tell me who the designer is, or if the designer is supernatural/natural. It’s simply not something that design theory can address. If you would like more information. on this, I’d be happy to send you a free copy of William A. Dembski’s “The Design Revolution,” courtesy of the IDEA Center. Let me know if you are interested. In any case, here are some links where I have either talked about that I am a Christian and/or talked about how ID theory can’t identify the designer."
Luskin then goes on to list a series of links. His e-mail then continues below:

Regarding your most recent post, [Casey Luskin: A Pilgrim’s Progress, RSR] I’ve submitted the following post (appended below) to go online at where I mention the references from prominent philosophers of science (who are all evolutionists, as far as I know), who have questioned both the McLean decision’s criteria of science and also explaining how the McLean definition of science has been rejected by many philosophers. That includes Michael Ruse, who essentially repudiated his testimony about a decade later.

I just wanted to let you know that the post below which I hope to post to soon explains everything you were looking for.

Finally, I’m a decent human being and a nice guy and I do feel like you have not been very charitable in how you have disparaged me on your blog. I have no ill will against you and I wish you the best. Also, that’s great that your kids go to public schools. I also went to public schools from K-12 and I would not have traded my good experiences there for anything.

Take care and blessings to you. Sincerely, Casey Luskin

Permission not given to quote from or forward this e-mail to anyone, in part or in whole.

Luskin then appends his post, which as of this writing has not yet appeared on Evolution News and Views.

Red State Rabble Replies:

Dear Mr. Luskin, This is to let you know that I have received your e-mail, "RE: ID proponents are open about their beliefs and the designer," responding to two posts on my blog, Red State Rabble.

I am in the process of preparing a response to your note and will send it to you shortly, but I wanted to let you know in advance that I don't feel in any way bound by the injunction at the close of your note: "Permission not given to quote from or forward this e-mail to anyone, in part or in whole."

It is my intention to publish your note on my blog and respond to it publicly there. I will, of course, as a courtesy, send you an advance copy of what I intend to publish. There are three reasons I don't feel bound to treat your note as confidential:
  1. First and foremost, we are engaged, on opposite sides, in an important public policy debate over what should be taught in public schools, the definition of science, and the separation of church and state. I believe this debate should be conducted in full public view. Moreover, the ostensible purpose of your note is to convince me that ID proponents are open about their beliefs, so let's be open.
  2. The bulk of your e-mail consists of a public response to Red State Rabble on methodological naturalism and philosophy of science you indicate will be published soon on
  3. Finally, I note that the subject line of your e-mail begins with "RE:" an indication that although it is addressed to me, I did not receive it myself until after you had already shared it with others.

I'd like to address this comment in your note, as well:

Finally, I'm a decent human being and a nice guy and I do feel like you have not been very charitable in how you have disparaged me on your blog."

I want to assure you, Mr. Luskin, that I have no doubt that you are indeed a very decent human being and a nice guy.

Red State Rabble is quite often sharply worded. We also use wit and humor to enliven what otherwise might be a very dry debate. Please don't take it personally.

Red State Rabble has, in recent weeks, had a little fun at the expense of you, and others at the Discovery Institute, who have had the unenviable task of putting a positive spin on the news coming out of the Kitzmiller v Dover trial.

Even so, we've tried to be scrupulously accurate in quoting you in our posts so that our readers might accurately judge the arguments you make for your position. Our responses, though light in tone, nevertheless do you the favor of taking you seriously enough to fully and fairly engage the ideas and arguments you raise.

Perhaps, some of the sharpness of language and pointed humor you feel unfairly mocks you in RSR's responses is driven by our belief that you have not been nearly so careful in quoting those you do not agree with. And that – no matter how earnest your tone – you do not really bother to come to grips in a serious, intellectually honest, way with the issues and ideas you argue against.

The paradoxical nature of political battles, such as the one we are engaged in, is that there are good, decent human beings – nice guys – on each side. The problem between us is not your "nice-guyness," but rather that I believe the public policy you advocate would be disastrous for public education, science, and religious tolerance in this country.

I further believe, that while your motives may be pure, your methods too often are not.

I can't promise that Red State Rabble will stop using sharply formulated language or wit when discussing the issues that divide us. I can promise you that we will continue to do you the honor of treating your ideas seriously by reporting them fully, honestly, and fairly. I can also promise we will do everything in our power to defeat them.

Monday, in Part 2 of this exchange, RSR will address the issue of whether Mr. Luskin and other ID activists are, as he claims, open and honest about who they think the designer is. Finally, Tuesday, in Part 3, we will discuss whether Mr. Luskin is correct in saying that Michael Ruse "essentially repudiated his [1982 McLean v. Arkansas, RSR] testimony about a decade later."

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Skeptic's Circle

Crave a dose of reality? The 20th edition of the Skeptic's Circle is up at the incrediblehallq. Check it out.


Joint Statement from the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association Regarding the Kansas Science Education Standards

After carefully reviewing Revision 2-d of the draft KSES, the leadership of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) regret that, as scientists and teachers, we cannot grant the Kansas State Board of Education copyright permission to use the National Science Education Standards, published by the National Academies’ National Research Council, or Pathways to Science Standards, published by NSTA, in the Kansas Science Education Standards (KSES) as they are currently written.

While there is much in the Kansas Science Education Standards that is outstanding and could serve as a model for other states, our primary concern is that the draft KSES inappropriately singles out evolution as a controversial theory despite the strength of the scientific evidence supporting evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and its acceptance by an overwhelming majority of scientists. The use of the word controversial to suggest that there are flaws in evolution is confusing to students and the public and is entirely misleading. While there may be disagreements among scientists about the exact processes, the theory of evolution has withstood the test of time and new evidence from many scientific disciplines only further support this robust scientific theory.

In addition, the members of the Kansas State Board of Education who produced Draft 2-d of the KSES have deleted text defining science as a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena, blurring the line between scientific and other ways of understanding. Emphasizing controversy in the theory of evolution -- when in fact all modern theories of science are continually tested and verified -- and distorting the definition of science are inconsistent with our Standards and a disservice to the students of Kansas. Regretfully, many of the statements made in the KSES related to the nature of science and evolution also violate the document’s mission and vision. Kansas students will not be well-prepared for the rigors of higher education or the demands of an increasingly complex and technologically-driven world if their science education is based on these standards. Instead, they will put the students of Kansas at a competitive disadvantage as they take their place in the world.

We have notified officials at the State Board and the drafting committee of our decision to withhold copyright permission in separate letters. Copies of those letters, along with analyses of our findings, are posted on our individual websites. We have also offered our assistance to the Board to help resolve these issues and we hope they accept our offer for the benefit of the students and people of Kansas.

Background and Justification:

On August 22, 2005, our organizations received a letter from Carol Williamson, co-Chair of the Kansas Science Education Standards (KSES) Revision Committee, requesting our review of Revision 2-d of the new Standards. These reviews were solicited to enable us to decide whether to grant copyright permission for the Kansas State Board of Education to use substantial sections of text from the National Science Education Standards and Pathways to Science Standards in the KSES. Similar to the individual decisions that we made in 1999 when we had been asked to grant copyright authorization to a revised version for the KSES, our decisions to again disassociate our publications and our organizations from the KSES were made with much careful thought. Many parts of Draft 2-d of the KSES continue to be consistent with the goals and visions set forth in our documents. For many areas of science education, this draft of the KSES provides a model for other states to emulate. For example, the standards that stress the teaching of science through inquiry-based and interdisciplinary approaches will provide an excellent foundation for students as they pursue their studies.

We also note that many of the problems that we found had fatally compromised the 1999 KSES have been resolved in Draft 2-d. For example, six years ago we noted that while the KSES indicated that students should understand evolutionary processes that lead to changes within species (referred to as "microevolution" in the Kansas document) that version of the KSES effectively eliminated consideration of any aspects of evolution that ask students to examine scientific explanations for origins of the Earth, life on Earth, and the processes that may give rise to the formation of new species (also known as "macroevolution"). Those deleted standards appear to have been reinstated in Draft 2-d.

However, our independent reviews of version 2-d of the KSES find that scientific ideas about evolution and origins are singled out as the only areas of science where there is major scientific controversy because of alleged weaknesses in the theory of evolution. The robustness of any scientific theory rests on the accumulation of supporting evidence and the ability of the theory to predict as yet unobserved phenomena. In this regard, evolutionary theory has stood the test of time in serving as the most comprehensive scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth and it is accepted by the overwhelming majority of scientists. Data collected from scientists in many disciplines and published in tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers both support and continue to strengthen evolution as the underlying basis for understanding how life diversified on this planet. The only controversies discussed by most scientists lie in understanding the possible mechanisms by which evolution operates, not in its ability to explain the diversity and relatedness of life forms.

The reviewers from each of our organizations also were extremely concerned with and dismayed by attempts in this version of the KSES to redefine what constitutes science. The draft that was prepared by the full writing committee and that preceded Draft 2-d
states that science is a search for natural explanations of observable phenomena but the revised definition would delete this critically important criterion from the definition of science (page xi). The power of science results from a strict adherence to seeking natural mechanisms and explanations for natural phenomena. The revised version of the KSES blurs and distorts the line between science and other ways of knowing. Kansas students will be both confused and ill-served by an explanation of science that allows for other, explanations, including supernatural ones, of the natural world.

For these reasons and others that we detail in our individual responses, we must again dissociate our organizations and our publications from version 2-d of the KSES by denying copyright permission to the Kansas State Board of Education.

Ralph J. Cicerone, Ph.D. President, National Academy of Sciences,
and Chair, National Research Council

Michael J. Padilla, Ph.D. President, National Science Teachers Association

Letter from NAS to Kansas State Department of Education
Letter from NSTA to Kansas State Department of Education


Phillip Johnson to Speak in Topeka Saturday

Retired law professor Phillip Johnson, the father of the intelligent design movement and longtime critic of evolution, is scheduled to speak Saturday, Oct. 29, in the Washburn Room of the Washburn University Memorial Union at 7 p.m.

The topic of his talk is, “Asking the Right Questions about Darwinism.” No admission will be charged and the public is welcome. Johnson’s visit is sponsored by Christian Challenge, a student organization at Washburn.


The ID Braintrust: A Peek Behind the Curtain

Celeste Biever reporting in New Scientist (sub. req.) from Dover, Pennsylvania offers an insiders guide to the intelligent design trial. Here's a juicy tidbit:
In conversation, other pro-ID school board members adopt a more measured tone. Pentecostal minister Ed Rowand, for example, insists ID is science, although he admits he doesn't understand it. How does he know? "Well, it sounds like science, doesn't it?"


Scopes and Dover: The Same Stuff

University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton moderated a forum in which a historian, a journalism professor, a biochemist and a religious studies professor discussed the impact of the 1925 Tennessee Scopes Trial on society, reports Rob Noce in the Columbia Missourian.

Panelist Frank Schmidt, an MU professor of biochemistry, sees similarities between the Scopes trial then and the Dover intelligent design trial now:

“It’s the same stuff. In many cases the language is actually identical,” says Schmidt.


A Little Respect

Not impressed by the "science" backing up intelligent design? You're not alone.

"I'm appalled by the lack of respect for the evidence," says Matthew Chapman, a freelance writer who is covering the Dover intelligent design trial. Chapman, who just happens to be Charles Darwin's great-great-grandson notes that, "Darwin spent 23 years compiling evidence he gathered to present his theory."


NAS and NSTA Deny Kansas Use of Materials in Standards

John Hanna of the Associated Press is reporting that the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association have notified the Kansas State Department of Education, in writing, that the state can't use their copyrighted material in proposed science standards that are critical of evolution.

The department had sought permission to use material from each group's standards.


Pennsylvania Citizens for Science

Pennsylvania Citizens for Science has a website up now that supporters of reason, science, and public education may want to visit.

PACFS has posted a mission statement, a series of links to web resources, and a number of other useful items. As a group they also seem to have a sense of humor, as this excerpt from their mission statement demonstrates:
To make sure that the Pennsylvania Citizens for Pseudoscience, Bad Science, and Fake Science (they go by different names, of course) have no influence on science instruction in Commonwealth public schools.

Looks like they're taking the lead in building another site that will provide information on all state citizens for science organizations. It's still under construction, but, already, there's useful information there, as well.

Give 'em a look. Right now, they're on they're on the front line alongside the ACLU, Americans United, and Dover CARES.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Evolution and Medical Research

Intelligent design gurus often tell us that evolutionary theory is of no use in scientific or medical research. Of course, since none of them are involved in this sort of research, they may not know what they are talking about.

Here's another view from Stephen W. Scherer, an HHMI international research scholar, senior scientist in the Genetics and Genomic Biology Program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and an associate professor of molecular and medical genetics at the University of Toronto, as reported by Medical Science News.
... Scherer focused his research on large structural variations in chromosomes between humans and chimps, specifically genetic inversions. Inversions can disrupt the expression of genes at the point where the chromosome breaks, as well as genes adjacent to breakpoints.

"From a medical genetics perspective, there are probably hundreds of disease genes that have not yet been characterized," said Scherer. "The vast majority of disease gene discovery has been based on gene sequencing, but this is not a comprehensive view of chromosomes. We are using an evolutionary approach to identify mutations that may predispose people to disease."


KU Natural History Museum: Explore Evolution

A new exhibit, Explore Evolution, opens Tuesday at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum in Lawrence. The new exhibit is funded through a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is a partnership of six museums.

Explore Evolution focuses on seven research projects that have made a major contribution to our understanding of evolution: the work of Charles Wood on the rapid evolution of HIV, Edward Theriot and Sheri Fritz on the emergence of a new diatom species in the fossil record, Cameron Currie on fungus-growing ants and their coevolving partners, Kenneth Kaneshiro on sexual selection among Hawaiian flies, Rosemary and Peter Grant on Galápagos finches, Svante Pääbo and Henrik Kaessmann on the genetic ties between humans and chimps, and Philip Gingerich on fossil discoveries of walking whales. The new permanent interactive exhibit galleries will give visitors an opportunity to experience aspects of the research conducted by the scientists.

Entrance to the exhibit is free, however, there is a suggested donation is $3 for adults, $2 for children to enter the museum. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday


Channeling Gould

Yesterday, RSR posted twice on Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary's new found ability to channel Harvard Paleontologist and champion of evolutionary theory Stephen Jay Gould from beyond the grave.

Gould, writes O'Leary, was no fan of natural selection. She breathlessly calls this a developing "scandal."

RSR posted Gould's testimony in McLean v. Arkansas in a comment on O'Leary's blog Post-Darwinist demonstrating his strong support for natural selection as a major cause of evolution. Others have followed our example with more quotes from Gould.

Then we received this e-mail from O'Leary (BTW, even Ms. O'Leary's e-mails carry an ad for her book):

Well, Pat, Gould's friend is making the noise. Right? Wrong? Either way, it's a story. But my money's on the friend. I don't make this up. I couldn't. Incidentally, the peppered moth example you cited is just the sort of minor change that Pivar said Gould WOULD allow to natural selection, but he denied that it could do the huge things that, for example, Dawkins would credit it with.

Her money is on the friend.

Gould wrote a popular monthly column in Natural History magazine for many years. Off the top or our head, we can think of at least 15 books published by Gould -- we know there are more -- including a number of best sellers. He lectured widely, and taught a number of generations of Harvard students. RSR watched him fill the Lied Center in Lawrence in 1999 and heard him speak in New York several times in the 80s.

But now, only now, do we learn that America's greatest defender of Darwin opposed the theory he was famous for.

Her money is on the friend.

In the journalism game, this is a called a judgement question. The reporter hears different stories. How does she or he sort them out? What is the route to the truth? Wise journalists are very careful when making these judgements, because they know their readers will hold them responsible if they guess wrong.

So, in this case, we have the life work of the most famous evolutionary biologist since Charles Darwin. A man who has left a voluminous written record of his thoughts on the matter of evolutionary theory. He was a widely admired and popular public figure -- so much so that he was transformed into a cartoon character on one episode of the Simpsons. And then, of course, there is the "friend."

And, O'Leary's money is on the friend.

There is in all this, the mad-eyed glint of flat earth lunacy, but then, isn't that really the operating definition of intelligent design, anyway?


Message Group to Sponsor Eugenie Scott in D.C. Area

The Message Group, featured recently in the Washington Post, is sponsoring a public meeting titled: “News from the front: Creationist efforts in our schools and legislatures” with keynote speaker Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education.

The event will be held Wednesday, Nov. 30 from 7 :00 to 9:00 pm at Oakton High School, 2900 Sutton Road, Vienna, VA 22181


Ken Miller Goes Head to Head With Richard Thompson, Mark Ryland

Did you miss the American Enterprise Institute panel discussion between Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, Richard Thompson, of the Thomas More Law Center, and Mark Ryland, of the Discovery Institute, on science, religion, and intelligent design?

You can still watch Parts 1-3 on C-SPAN, here.

Here's what RSR's friend BF had to say:

Even Thompson came across as sincere. He answered questions straightforwardly and without evasion. No so Ryland. Not only did he tell a bald-faced lie that Thompson caught him on, he was easily dispatched by Miller and the legal specialist, Gey.

It was very interesting to see the DI in action, so rare, too, and especially witness their complete non-response to Ken Millers attack on their disinformation strategy. I guess the strategy is working down on the farm, but it didn't play well in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Dear, Dear Denyse

Earlier today, we commented on the surprising ability of Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary to channel Harvard Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould from beyond the grave.

Over at her blog, Post-Darwinist, O'Leary makes the astounding claim that "Gould did not credit natural selection with the ability to do very much at all..." he would never have signed the National Center for Science Education's Project Steve statement, claims O'Leary.

O'Leary describes her fantasy post as a developing scandal, and, in true tabloid fashion, breathlessly headlines her credulous post a "Newsflash!" -- demonstrating, we thought, remarkable restraint by limiting herself to just one exclamation point.

Her unimpeachable source? Stuart Pivar, a chemical engineer, described as a "friend" of the now deceased Gould.

Responding to a note from Eugenie Scott, O'Leary writes:

That natural selection is a "major mechanism" may be Scott's view, NCSE's view, and the view of whatever US courts can be got to rule in its favour. And it is certainly Richard Dawkins's view from across the Pond .... but was it Gould's view? His friend says no. The list is named after Steve Gould, not Richard Dawkins.

Red State Rabble admits that, unlike O'Leary, we do not have an unimpeachable source such as Gould's reputed "friend" to rely on for this post, nor can we communicate with Gould now that he is dead.

We were able to look at his testimony in McLean v. Arkansas, available online here, however. Now it may be that Gould has changed his mind now that he is dead. We can't be sure of that. Nevertheless, when he was still with us and acting as the scourge of creationists everywhere -- intelligent design wasn't even a glint in the creationist's eyes back then -- here's what he had to say:

Q: In terms of the evidence, the physical evidence we have observed, you do mention in this article The Peppered Moths, which has been referred to before in this courtroom. Now I want to see if I understand how you view this. Did these moths change color?

A: Evolution changes gene frequencies within populations. What happened in the case of the peppered moths is that before industrial soot blackened the trees around Manchester, that the moths which exist in two different forms, depending on which state of the gene they have, basically peppered and black, with very few black ones, almost all the moths in the population were peppered, when industrial soot blackened the trees in England, there was very strong selection for the first time against peppered moths, which had been virtually invisible against the lighter trees. And there was then for the first time an advantage to the black moths, as we call them, black moths, a few of them. And within fifty years the population consisted almost entirely of black moths, and that's natural selection.

Q: But did the peppered moths reproduce into black moths?

A: No. What happened was what the theory of natural selection predicts would happen, namely, that from a spectrum of variability, which included the peppered moths and black moths, the gene frequencies changed, indeed, the gene from black moths — the gene that produces black colors, excuse me, increased markedly and frequently within the population until virtually all moths were black. [Emphasis added, RSR]

From pages 618-619 of the transcript.

Update: Here's Gould from an article, "Darwinian Fundamentalism" -- well worth reading for those who really want to understand his position on adaptation and natural selection -- in the New York Review of Books (Volume 44, Number 10 · June 12, 1997).
" ...may I state for the record that I (along with all other Darwinian pluralists) do not deny either the existence and central importance of adaptation, or the production of adaptation by natural selection. Yes, eyes are for seeing and feet are for moving. and, yes again, I know of no scientific mechanism other than natural selection with the proven power to build structures of such minently workable design."

Every time RSR thinks we've plumbed the depths of intelligent design foolishness, we stumble across someone such as O'Leary who is determined to prove us wrong.


Collateral Damage

In the battle over teaching creationism and intelligent design in public schools, the collateral damage to civility and social cohesion may prove more destructive in the long run than any injury to public education or the practice of science.

This has been reflected in a number of ways, perhaps most recently in this statement by Kansas State Board of Education member Carol Rupe, a good church-going Episcopalian, who opposes introducing intelligent design into the curriculum:
"There has been the implication that those of us who want the true science standards taught must be atheists, because otherwise we wouldn't want that," she said. "But the whole idea that you can't be a person of faith and want good science is just ridiculous."

It is the conscious strategy of John Calvert, of the Intelligent Design Network, and the fellows of the Discovery Institute, in Seattle, to portray everyone who opposes their absurd project to replace science with Christian fundamentalism as atheists.

Now Red State Rabble doesn't find the atheist label to be quite the epithet that others might. We wear our skeptic's badge proudly. However, when fundamentalists begin to call anyone who worships in a different church an atheist, it reflects a troubling breakdown of religious tolerance.

When these same fundamentalists begin to write their beliefs into public policy and the law -- and that is exactly what they are doing when they demand their religious beliefs be taught as science in public schools -- they are setting the stage for a very dangerous social confrontation.

Most Americans are relieved, we believe, that our country hasn't experienced the sort of religious strife that countries like Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and Iraq have suffered with in recent years. The push by Christian fundamentalists to establish their beliefs as a state religion, however, may come to mean that the horrible destruction we witnessed in those devastated countries is less a painful memory of others woes than a dreadful portent of things to come.


State of Reason

Gary Stern, a reporter for the The Journal News, a newspaper serving Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties in New York writes that "Charles Darwin may be on the run in statehouses and classrooms across America, not to mention a federal courthouse in Harrisburg, Pa. But in the public schools of New York state, he is still openly revered by educators who champion the scientific method."

As the article indicates New York school districts and educators are already planning a formidable defense of reason there. Educators and parents in other states that value education should follow New York's example and begin to prepare, rather than wait and be put on the defensive.


Smells Like ID Spirit(uality)

First Michael Behe says astrology is a scientific theory, now Denyse "Buy My Book" O'Leary is channeling Stephen Jay Gould from beyond the grave. Where will it all end?


Double Speak Comes to Kansas Schools

Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins is out with his vision statement in the Wichita Eagle:
Education today is an extremely big business, and its success, as large private corporations have found, depends on tenets such as decentralization, innovation, employee empowerment and total customer satisfaction.
Reads a little like one of those internal Enron memos, doesn't it?

For those of you who don't do corporate-speak, RSR is providing this free corporate blather translator:

Decentralization: Your job is going to China.
Innovation: You're about to lose your pension in a bankruptcy filing.
Employee Empowerment: Find a part time job at WalMart, because we're cutting your pay.
Total Customer Satisfaction: Please stay on the line. Your call is important to us, it will be answered in the order received. The approximate wait time for this call is...


Fools Rush In

Red State Rabble is not one of those naive types who believe in some lost, mythical, golden age of American politics. We have always had our share of demagogues, charlatans, and crooks in public life. Perhaps we always will.

Even so, there was a time -- mostly forgotten, now -- when having some minimal knowledge of the issues was thought a prerequisite for speaking out on questions of public policy. In those far off days, it wasn't so much that those seeking public office were better qualified than the wanna-be leaders of today. It was just that they feared being exposed as fools if they spoke out publicly on things they did not understand.

Sadly, that quaint inhibition is no longer with us.

Steve Rauschenberger, one four candidates vying for the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois, is a case in point. Mr. Rauschenberger endorses the teaching intelligent design in Illinois public schools:

"When I went through school they were certain that dinosaurs were reptiles and cold-blooded and slow-moving," Rauschenberger says. "Today it seems increasingly clear they weren't, that they were much more closely related to birds."
Can't get enough of the maneuvering among that hardy band of stout-hearted Republicans who refuse to let a little thing like ignorance stand in the way of their quest for the Illinois gubernatorial nomination? Check out Associated Press reporter Christopher Wills' "GOP candidates struggle with delicate issue of religion in schools" in the Belleville News-Democrat.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Inquiring Minds

Got a question you'd like to ask prospective Kansas School Board candidates? Josh Rosenau over at Thoughts from Kansas is compiling a list. Drop in over there and suggest a question. Although we're more than a year away from the general election, three prospective candidates have already stepped forward to challenge conservative board members who are up for election.

The August 2006 primary and the November 2006 general election offer a unique opportunity to restore sanity and sound leadership to the State Board of Education -- four of the six conservatives are up for election.

Here's RSR's question: As a candidate for school board, do you agree with Board Chairman Steve Abrams that Christians must choose between believing in the Bible, and believing in evolution.

Here's another: If elected, will you vote to fire Education Commisioner Bob Corkins and hire a professional educator to guide the Kansas Department of Education?


ID: The 98-Pound Weakling of Theories

Today, on his Uncommon Descent blog, William Dembski, writes, "As far as the science of ID goes, there is no way to get from the data of nature to the God of, say, Christianity (or any other deity for that matter)."

Last week, plaintiff's attorney Eric Rothschild forced Michael Behe to admit that intelligent design also does not propose a mechanism that explains how complex biological structures arose. Here's an excerpt from pages 86-87:

ROTHSCHILD: I asked you, "In terms of the mechanism, it's just a criticism of Darwinian evolution's mechanism and not a positive description of a mechanism." And what did you answer, Professor Behe?

BEHE: I said "that s correct." But again, I think this is completely consistent with what I just said. Again, it does not propose a step-by-step description, but it -- but it proposes or it accounts for some very important features of what was involved in its origin, and that is intelligent activity.

If intelligent design can't identify its designer, and won't propose a mechanism to explain how the life around us arose, just what, exactly, can it do?


Big Brother

George Neumayr of the American Spectator has a good column about the Dover trial, says Johnathan Witt on the Discovery Institute's Evolution News and Views blog:
"The ACLU has gone from defending teachers to prosecuting them," Witt quotes Neumayr as writing. "In a federal courtroom this week, the ACLU argued that science teachers in the school district of Dover, Pennsylvania, are not free under the Constitution to question evolutionary theory."

Oh, really?

Just last Friday, Dover Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Nilsen's told the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg he was surprised when teachers asked that their names be removed as authors of the biology curriculum. Nilsen testified that he was "confused," since "the teachers had written 99 percent of it;" the only difference was the addition of intelligent design.

On October 6, Jennifer Miller, head of Dover's high school biology department told the court she had expressed her concerns to school board members and school faculty many times about the probable negative effects of including intelligent design in the curriculum.

That same day, Bertha Spahr, a chemistry teacher who has taught in the Dover School District for her entire 41-year career read a letter saying that "the draft of a letter from the school board, written without the science department's input, was unlawful, illegal and unconstitutional; that ID is about the origin of life, so by mentioning it the teachers would be violating school policy; and that Ms. Spahr believed that ID is creationism under another name," according to a report by Cheryl Humes, a legal intern for ACLU of Pennsylvania, published on the ACLU of Pennsylvania blog, Speaking Freely.

In fact, it was the refusal of the entire science faculty to read the board's intelligent design statement that compelled administrators to do the board's dirty work.

What we have in Mr. Witt's endorsement of the "good column" by George Neumayr in the American Spectator is deeply disturbing, and more insidious than the usual false statement that the ACLU has gone to court to prevent teachers from questioning evolutionary theory.

What's implied by Witt and Neumayr is more disturbing even than the curbing of free speech, if it were true.

By endorsing Neumayr's big, clumsy lie, Witt takes a dangerous step closer to the abyss of authoritarianism. He stands dangerously close to the edge now. Just one short step away from compelling teachers to make public statements that they don't believe. Ordering them to teach students what they know is a lie. Will Big Brother Witt know it and pull back before he crosses the line to denying teachers their own conscience? Their own thoughts?


Cornell President Sounds Call to Action

"Now, with the well-organized, resolute intelligent design movement, the issue is back again. What adds urgency to this iteration of the dispute is the fact that this country is so polarized, both culturally and politically. When we divide ourselves into “Red States” and “Blue States”; into the people who watch Fox News and those who watch PBS; into “people of faith” and “secular humanists,” when ciphers substitute for nuanced ideas, is it any wonder that this debate now concerns matters as fundamental as what we teach in our primary and secondary schools, what academic standards universities require, and what rhetoric candidates adopt in political races? When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers," says Hunter R. Rawlings III, Interim President of Cornell University in an Oct. 21 "State of the University Address."

Rawlings statement -- coming on the heels of a "Letter to the University of Idaho Faculty, Staff and Students" from University President Timothy White affirming scientific principles that are testable and anchored in evidence -- is an important new development in the battle against creationism and intelligent design.

Rawlings speech gives a nuanced account of the various battles being waged across the country against science education by creationists and intelligent design advocates. Perhaps more important, he commits university resources to a battle that he quite correctly notes is "above all a cultural issue, not a scientific one. The controversy is about the tensions between science and belief, reason and faith, public policy and private religiosity."

Perhaps, even more important, Rawlings envisions bringing the "disparate parts of the modern research university back together" to defend science education and the separation of church and state.
We have at Cornell philosophers expert at making fine distinctions and careful definitions. We have scholars of literature who have made the close reading of texts their life’s work. We have historians and scholars of American Studies who can identify and explicate the antecedents of the current controversy. We have economists, sociologists, political scientists and others adept at exploring linkages among science, religion and public policy and their relationship to broad societal themes like privilege, poverty, and inequality.

This is a broad and bold vision. Red State Rabble urges all supporters of science education to read Rawlings speech carefully. The war we are now involved in has, in various forms, raged across the centuries. There will be no knockout blows. No unconditional surrenders, nor ultimate victories. Each generation will have to step forward in its time.

However, it is possible to prevail in the battle to defend science education in public schools. President Rawlings has laid out what we believe is a winning strategy -- and, he's committed resources to it.

Until recently, university presidents have stood mostly on the sidelines in this important public policy debate. That is beginning to change now -- for the better.



"That's the issue, whether we should suppress the open discussion of evolution," said John Calvert, managing director of the Kansas-based Intelligent Design Network. "Can evolution ever be falsified if it can't be criticized?"

RSR would like to know, has a day gone by in the last 10 years that Calvert hasn't criticised evolution?

This debate has nothing to do with free speech, the suppression of ideas, or the conduct of scientific research. It's about making rational decisions about what topics are covered in introductory biology classrooms in public schools. That's all.

Calvert, Dembski, Behe, Meyer, Wells and their country cousins Ken Ham and Kent Hovind have been braying about intelligent design and creationism for years and no one has ever laid a finger on them.

If ID activists like Calvert really wanted to falsify evolutionary theory, they'd get busy and do something -- like conducting a little research and submitting their findings to a peer reviewed science journal. But, as Michael Behe, the Lehigh University biochemist, told the court in the Dover intelligent design trial last week, that would be "fruitless."


Pushing Back

Over the weekend, Peter Dizikes of the Boston Globe reported that "the looming presence of Intelligent Design has started having a discernible impact on evolutionary scientists. While it may not be driving their research, or dampening their sometimes boisterous internal debates, the public controversy may be forcing biologists of all kinds-and not just evolutionary biologists-to take a wide-angled view of their field, to examine how their current research contributes to evolutionary theory, and to consider how best to present evolution in the public sphere."

The Globe article interviews Marc Kirschner, founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and John Gerhart, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, coauthors of a new book, The Plausibility of Life, that tells the story of recent advances in evolutionary biology for a broad public audience.

More evidence here, that a growing number of scientists are aware, now, of the threat posed by intelligent design and creationism, and have resolved to fight back.


Happy Birthday

In case you missed it, yesterday, October 23, was our happy little planet's birthday... according to James Ussher (1581-1656), the Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin.

Following exhaustive research on the Bible, the good bishop calculated that the earth was created on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC. By-the-way, Adam and Eve were put in time out on Monday, November 10, 4004 BC, and Noah's ark touched down on Mt. Ararat on May 5, 2348 BC -- that was on a Wednesday -- according to the bishop's calculations.

One Kansas wag recommends that you "get your very own copy of this masterwork, The Annals of the World, before it becomes a required text for Kansas school children."

You can read a portion of it here.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Theory Is As Theory Does

Is it too early to conclude that the testimony of Michael Behe at the Dover intelligent design trial in U.S. District Court has been a disaster of unimaginable proportions for the Dover School Board, Discovery Institute, and the ID movement? When the dust settles, supporters of science education in the U.S. may conclude that with enemies like Behe, we don't really need friends.

Here's a tasty little excerpt from the official transcript where Dr. Behe is forced to own up to the fact that the definition of "scientific theory" employed by intelligent design "theorists" opens the door to such sciences as astrology.

PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY ERIC ROTHSCHILD: But the way you are using it [Defining scientific theory, RSR] is synonymous with the definition of hypothesis?

MICHAEL BEHE: No, I would disagree. It can be used to cover hypotheses, but it can also include ideas that are in fact well substantiated and so on. So while it does include ideas that are synonymous or in fact are hypotheses, it also includes stronger senses of that term.

Q: And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory, correct?

A: Yes.

Q: Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your definition, correct?

A: Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences. There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that – which would fit that definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

Q: The ether theory of light has been discarded, correct?

A: That is correct.

Q: But you are clear, under your definition, the definition that sweeps in intelligent design, astrology is also a scientific theory, correct?

A: Yes, that’s correct. And let me explain under my definition of the word "theory," it is -- a sense of the word "theory" does not include the theory being true, it means a proposition based on physical evidence to explain some facts by logical inferences. There have been many theories throughout the history of science which looked good at the time which further progress has shown to be incorrect. Nonetheless, we can’t go back and say that because they were incorrect they were not theories. So many many things that we now realized to be incorrect, incorrect theories, are nonetheless theories.

Note: Here's how the American Association for the Advancement of Science defines "scientific theory:" A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.


Clever Little Serpents

"... [E]ven with God's blessing, it's helpful to consult a lawyer before joining the battle," advise speakers at a conference called "When Christians and Cultures Clash," held Wednesday at the Lebanon County, Pennsylvania Evangelical School of Theology.

For instance, the Dover area school board might have had a better case for the intelligent design disclaimer they inserted into high school biology classes had they not mentioned a religious motivation at their meetings, Daniel Burke or The Lancaster New Era reports Randy Wenger, a representative of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, as saying.

"Give us a call before you do something controversial like that," he said."I think we need to do a better job at being clever as serpents," Wenger added.


Skeptic's Circle

Send your best skeptical blogging -- you know the stuff, urban legends,the paranormal, quackery, pseudoscience, historical revision, and critical thinking -- to Chris Hallquist at The next Skeptic's Cirlce will be up at his place Oct. 27.

Friday, October 21, 2005


The Powers of the Intelligent Design Movement

During cross examination in the Dover intelligent design trial, Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biochemist and ID activist admitted that using his definition of scientific theory, astrology might be considered a science. In this excerpt from the official trial transcript, Behe uses this new definition to see into the future. Thanks to RSR reader BF for calling it to our attention.

CROSS MR. ROTHSCHILD: Professor Behe, you know who Jon Buell is, correct?


Q: He’s the president of Foundation for Thought and Ethics?

A: Yes, that s right.

Q: And they were the publisher of Pandas when you participated?

A: That’s correct.

Q: And you’re familiar with who the Foundation for Thought and Ethics is?

A: Yes.

Q: And you re familiar with their mission?

A: I can’t say that I m familiar with the mission. I know Jon Buell, I’ve spoken with him a number of times and met with him and participated in activities with him, yes.

Q: And this is a deposition that was taken in this case of Mr. Buell on July 8, 2005.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: Matt, could you go to page 129, and highlight lines 11 to 13. Make it easy on you, may I approach the witness?

THE COURT: You may.

Q: If you could turn to pages 129 -- to page 129 of the deposition.

A: Yes.

Q: And look at line 11. And Mr. Buell is asked, "Who are the authors of Design of Life as you understand it?" And can you read his answer?

A: He says, "Kenyon, Davis, Dembski, Behe and Wells, Jonathan Wells."

Q: So Mr. Buell thinks you’re an author too?

A: That s correct. I think he’s working under the same impression as Bill, that he wanted to get together people who were most involved with the intelligent design movement to have a book which would be authored by them. And again, I told them that right now I was too busy. I told them that a couple years ago. But I said that perhaps in the future I could be involved.

Q: Mr. Behe, this statement is false, isn’t it?

A: I m sorry?

Q: The statement is false, isn’t it?

A: What statement is that?

Q: The statement that you’re an author, and Mr. Dembski’s statement is false too, isn’t it?

A: That’s not what it says on the screen, sir. It says, "Who are the authors of Design of Life as you understand it?" And the way I read that is that he’s seeing into the future and seeing when this actually will be published and anticipating that I will participate in the publication of the book at that point.

Q: Seeing into the future is one of the powers of the intelligent design movement?

A: I think –

MR. MUISE: Objection, argumentative.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: I’ll withdraw it, Your Honor.


Peer Review

Yesterday, Red State Rabble published the transcript of Michael Behe's testimony in the Dover intelligent design trial concerning the peer review of his book Darwin's Black Box. Now, one of the "reviewers," Dr. Michael Atchison, head of biochemistry in the department of animal biology at the University of Pennsylvania, has told the story of his participation in the "review."

It's making quite a splash around the web. You can read Ed Brayton's comments on Panda's Thumb, John Lynch's comments at Stranger Fruit, or Atchison's own comments on Mustard Seed.

Was the peer review less than vigorous. You be the judge.


ACLU to Rio Rancho Teachers: Just Say No to ID

Rio Rancho science teachers are getting some advice from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico: don’t “be afraid to refuse to discuss or teach intelligent design…Any teacher who is disciplined in any way for declining to discuss or teach intelligent design should contact the ACLU immediately.”

The ACLU made those recommendations in an email letter that it sent yesterday to eighty science teachers in Rio Rancho middle and high schools. The letter responds to a recently-passed Rio Rancho school board policy on science education that many have interpreted as a tactic to introduce intelligent design, the belief that a supernatural creator ‘designed’ the universe, into science classrooms.

“We wanted science teachers to know that the ACLU supports them and that the Constitution does give them some control over this situation,” said ACLU executive director Peter Simonson. “Intelligent design is religion, not science. No credible scientist or science association endorses it. To allow the study of intelligent design in the science classroom not only would violate the school district’s standards on science education, but it also would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.”

Last Friday, a group that calls itself “Pastor’s Net” held a meeting at Destiny Church in Rio Rancho to encourage students in Rio Rancho schools to provoke discussions about intelligent design in their science classes. The ACLU letter urged science teachers to respond to such activity with “a brief comment on why intelligent design is not science–and therefore not appropriate material for the science classroom–and then direct the class to legitimate science curriculum.”

Simonson said, “One of the most troubling aspects of this controversy is the willingness of some Rio Rancho school board members to make a political battleground of the classroom–and the subtle ways in which they are enlisting students to carry out their campaign. Science teachers should be left alone to carry out the important mission of delivering a legitimate science education, instead of being made a focus of religious politics.”

The ACLU has vowed to file suit against the Rio Rancho school district if it requires science teachers to promote the study of intelligent design.

Source: A news release by the ACLU of New Mexico. Also, check out the website of New Mexicans for Science and Reason for Rio Rancho Updates.


Gaps in Intelligent Design? Oh, no!

Lauri Lebo of The Evening Sun nails it:

In his writings supporting intelligent design, Michael Behe, a Lehigh University biochemistry professor and author of "Darwin's Black Box," said that "intelligent design theory focuses exclusively on proposed mechanisms of how complex biological structures arose."

But during cross examination Tuesday, when plaintiffs' attorney Eric Rothschild asked Behe to identify those mechanisms, he couldn't. When pressed, Behe said intelligent design does not propose a step-by-step mechanism, but one can still infer intelligent cause was involved by the "purposeful arrangement of parts."



[Plaintiff attorney, Eric] Rothschild asked Behe why he hadn't conducted research to determine whether the immune system could develop through random mutation and natural selection, as described by the Darwinian theory. Behe countered that he believed such an endeavor would be ''fruitless.''

Reported by Christina Gostomski of The Morning Call.


Ken Hamm: ID Not A Christian Movement

Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, is not the sort of man to entertain doubt about anything, but he is of two minds about intelligent design:
"The intelligent design movement is not a Christian movement," says Hamm. "They're not all about the Bible; they don't tell you who this is 'intelligence' is." And because of that, he is concerned that students who start to believe in an unidentified "intelligence" could easily be "directed to a Muslim god or a Hindu god or a New Age god or whatever."

Ham also urges Christians to understand that the intelligent design movement is not against evolution. "They're not against evolutionary geology, they're not against evolutionary biology or evolutionary astronomy or evolutionary anthropology," he says.

Still, it's not all bad, the Dover Area School Board is to be congratulated for encouraging "critical thinking rather than insist[ing] on reflexive allegiance to a theory."

Via Allie Martin and Jody Brown of Agape Press.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Prague Post: Imposing Theological Concepts on Science

An editorial in the Prague Post responds to the Discovery Institute's plan to hold a Europen ID conference there:

But it is surprising in this day and age that some religious theorists continue to feel compelled to impose theological concepts on the scientific world — a practice just as preposterous as if physics tried to explain the difference between good and evil or the meaning of life. And in a way, needing to cloak a religious doctrine with the veneer of science is almost an admission of its defect — true faith doesn't require scientific proof, since the definition of faith is to have belief in the absence of proof.

Ultimately, then, perhaps it's appropriate for the Intelligent Design conference to take place in Prague, the final resting place of astronomer Tycho Brahe, eternally ensconced in the Ty´n Church on Old Town Square. Brahe spent years trying to force a mathematical model of the universe into harmony with the theological teachings of the Catholic Church, to no avail. Galileo and Copernicus found their scientific discoveries equally at odds with religious teachings — which at times put them in peril. Perhaps, as Intelligent Design advocates visit Europe to spread their teachings, they can look to religion's own history and learn something as well.


Down Under: Scientists Say ID as Scientific as Astrology, Spoon Bending, Flat Earth

Deborah Smith, Science Editor, of the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"Intelligent design is as unscientific as the flat Earth theory and should not be taught in school science classes, a coalition representing 70,000 scientists and science teachers has warned.

Yesterday they expressed "grave concern" that the subject was being presented in some Australian schools as a valid alternative to evolution. Proponents of intelligent design claim that some living structures are so complex they are explicable only by the action of an unspecified "intelligent designer".

But the scientists and teachers say this notion of "supernatural intervention" is a belief and not a scientific theory, because it makes no predictions and cannot be tested.

"We therefore urge all Australian governments and educators not to permit the teaching or promulgation of intelligent design as science," they say in an open letter to newspapers.
"To do so would make a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views - be they astrology, spoon bending, flat Earth cosmology or alien abductions."

The signatories to the letter include the Australian Academy of Science, the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies and the Australian Science Teachers Association. The coalition was brought together by the executive of the faculty of science at the University of NSW, led by its dean, Professor Mike Archer.


Discovery Institute Announces Prague ID Conference

A Discovery Institute news release announces a "Darwin and Design: A Challenge for 21st Century Science" conference in Prague, Czech Republic next Saturday, October 21. The conference sponsors are listed as Konos Connection, Discovery Institute, European Scientific Network, and Komenského institut v Praze. Jonathan Wells, John C. Lennox, Charles Thaxton, Stephen C. Meyer, and Michael Behe are the listed speakers.


ID: Fails a Simple Test

Archaeologist R. Joe Brandon has organized a massive, four-day online campaign in the scientific community in response to the Discovery Institute's ongoing efforts to include Intelligent Design content in public school science classes.

The petition, at, was circulated between September 28th and October 1st to scientists trained in evolutionary theory and gave them an opportunity to publicly state that Intelligent Design should not be taught in public schools within the science curriculum. The results were overwhelming -- 7,733 signatories, more than half of whom are scientists with Ph.Ds.

"I organized this project as a response to the Discovery Institute's four-year petition initiative which gathered only 400 scientist signatures opposing evolution and promoting Intelligent Design as a scientific theory," said Brandon. "During my short, four-day experiment, I received about 20 times as many signatures at a rate that was 697,000 percent higher than what Discovery Institute can claim."

Scientists who signed the petition, including 21 National Academy of Science members, nine MacArthur "genius" awardees, and a Nobel laureate, object to efforts to place Intelligent Design on par with scientific theory, Brandon said. Signatory Dr. Steve Brill of Rutgers University agrees. "To be called a scientific theory, Intelligent Design must be at the very least, disprovable. Since there is no way for Intelligent Design to be disproved, it fails the simplest test of scientific theory."


Retired Biology Teacher to Challenge Kansas School Board Conservative

"A pro-evolution leader will run next year for the [Kansas] State Board of Education," reports John Hanna of the Associated Press, "hoping to unseat a conservative who favors proposed science standards criticized as promoting creationism."

Harry McDonald, a retired biology teacher, announced Wednesday he will challenge John Bacon in the Aug. 1 Republican primary, making him the second conservative to face GOP opposition. Both are from Olathe.

McDonald has become visible as president of Kansas Citizens for Science, which wants public school science standards to continue treating the theory of evolution as long-established science, crucial for students to learn.


Behe's Black Box

Here's a little tidbit from Michael Behe's defense of intelligent design "theory" in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School Board on Monday. Mr. Muise is an attorney representing the board:

DIRECT BY MR. MUISE: Sir, is it accurate to say that, in this book, [Darwin’s Black Box, RSR] you coined the term irreducible complexity?


Q. Had you used that term previous to the publication of this book?

A. Not in any publication that I can remember.

Q. Through the writing of this book, did you become familiar with the scientific evidence as it relates to the Darwin's theory of evolution?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Sir, was this book peer reviewed before it was published?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. By whom?

A. Well, the publisher of the book, Free Press, sent it out to be -- sent the manuscript out to be read prior to publication by five scientists.

Q. What were the backgrounds of some of these scientists?

A. One is a man named Robert Shapiro, who is a professor in the chemistry department at New York University and an expert in origin of life studies. Another man was named Michael Atchinson, I believe, and he's a biochemistry professor, I think, in the vet school at the University of Pennsylvania.

Another man, whose name escapes me, I think it's Morrow, who was a biochemistry professor at Texas Tech University. Another biochemist, I think, at Washington University, but his name still escapes me. And I have forgotten the fifth person.

Q. Now did you suggest any names of reviewers for the publisher?

A. Yes, I suggested names, uh-huh.

Q. From your years as a scientist, is that a standing practice?

A. It's pretty common, yes. A number of journals, a number of science journals require an author, when submitting a manuscript, to submit names of potential reviewers simply to help the editors select reviewers. Oftentimes, the editor is not really up-to-date with who's working in which field.

Q. Dr. Padian, if my recollection is correct, testified on Friday that it wasn't a standard practice to identify potential reviewers for your work. How do you respond to that?

A. Well, Professor Padian is a paleontologist. Maybe I'm not familiar with paleontology journals. Perhaps in those, it's not common. But it certainly is common in biochemistry and molecular biology journals.

Q. Now after this book was published, was it reviewed by scientists?

A. Yes, it was reviewed pretty widely.

Q. And some criticisms were offered, is that correct?

A. Yes, that's fair to say.


Pandas Poo-Pooed

Red State Rabble took a brief dip into the Kevin Padian transcript from the Dover intelligent design trial last night. Padian, a paleontologist at U.C. Berkeley, testified on Day 9 as an expert for the plaintiffs on paleontology, evolutionary biology, integrated biology, and macroevolution. Here's a sample:

DIRECT BY MR. WALCZAK: When we finished we were talking about the evolution of birds, and just one last point I want to make on that before we move on to mammals. On page 99 to 100 of Pandas it makes the statement there that I think has been read previously in this trial that, "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact," and it says, "birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc." Now, in fact does the fossil record show whether birds evolved with those features intact?

DR. PADIAN: You have a thing about the birds today. Dinosaur for lunch? To answer your question, it definitely doesn't show that these features evolved all at once intact, but rather in a step-like progression of features.

Q. So did the birds at first have just feathers and then the other features evolved?

A. We saw the simplification, we saw from a very simplified picture of all the features that evolve in birds, but they start with very simple filamentous hair-like structures that are feathers, but if I had shown all the features of birds evolving we would have seen the wishbone appear very early before birds evolved and become a very boomerang shaped structure well before birds evolved or take flight. So that evolved for completely different purposes anyway, but birds do use the wishbone today as an anchor of some of the flight muscles. That wasn't the case originally for birds. There's just lots of features like that we could go through, sure.


Padian, Behe Transcripts Online

The National Center for Science Education Dover blog has posted the transcripts for Kevin Padian -- testifying for the plaintiffs -- and the first part of Michael Behe's testimony.

You can find them here.


What's Your Sign?

“Under my definition," Michael Behe told the court Monday in the Dover intelligent design case, "scientific theory is a proposed explanation which points to physical data and logical inferences.”

As has been widely reported, Behe was forced to admit under cross-examination by plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric Rothschild, that using his definition, Astrology might also be considered a scientific theory.

Red State Rabble wondered, what might Behe's horoscope have been on Monday when he gave this astonishing testimony? Although we were hindered by not knowing Behe's birth date, we still think these predictions are as accurate as any:
Random, purposeless thoughts may swarm like mosquitoes around your head, today. Think carefully before you give an answer, but don't worry, things are not as irreducibly complex as they may at first seem. Cling as tenaciously to facts as you would a life preserver. Flee from inference. Appearances are deceiving. Objects in the mirror may be closer than they seem.


Behe in the Lion's Den

Celeste Biever of New Scientist elicited this comment from an observer of ID activist Michael Behe's testimony at the Dover intelligent design trial:

“You've got to admire the guy. It’s Daniel in the lion’s den,” says Robert Slade, a local retiree who has been attending the trial because he is interested in science. "But I can’t believe he [Behe] teaches a college biology class."


God of the Gaps

Faye Flam of Knight Ridder Newspapers has written an interesting history of the idea of intelligent design. Here's a sample:
University of Pennsylvania anatomy professor Peter Dodson said his Catholic faith does not require an intelligent designer to leave clues in nature. "I'm an evolutionary biologist and I'm a Christian, and these issues are not problematic for me."

Dodson, who has lectured on the relationship between religion and science, said the intelligent-design argument falls into an old philosophical notion called "God of the gaps" - the search for signs of the supernatural in otherwise unexplainable natural phenomena.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


The Plausibility of Life

On Tuesday WBUR, the NPR affiliate in Boston, aired an interview with Marc Kirschner, professor and chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and co-author, along with John C. Gerhart of "The Plausibility of Life, Resolving Darwin's Dilemma."

"On Point" host Tom Ashbrook asks Kirschener how a feature as delicately engineered as the human eye could have arisen from a series of random mutations. Kirschner explains the theory of "Facilitated Variation" which accounts, he says, for the appearance of the bat's wing, the human arm, and the eye.

The development of complex structures, says Kirschener, in body parts as different as eyes, and ears, and arms are built up by the same basic molecular mechanisms. These building blocks -- like Legos -- can be rearranged and linked in novel ways with less chance of fatal variations than random mutation of DNA would allow.

Listen to it, here.

Added bonus: a report from Dover, and an interview with Eugenie Scott on how Evo Devo may affect intelligent design.


NSF Grant Funds Emergence of Life Project

Kansas' Connie Morris, famously, is a little confused about the pre-biotic soup, but that may now all be cleared up for her. According to a news release issued by the Santa Fe Institute, the National Science Foundation has announced that the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) -- along with collaborating institutions George Mason University, University of Colorado, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Arizona State, and Carnegie Institution of Washington -- has been awarded a five-year Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research (FIBR) grant for their joint project, "The Emergence of Life: from Geochemistry to the Genetic Code."

This FIBR project will inject a broad array of novel theory and experimental data into the debate on the origin of life, involving an integrated approach that brings together microbiology, geochemistry, physics, biochemistry, computer simulation and a modern understanding of complex dynamical systems to provide, for the first time, a coherent account of the evolution of metabolism and the development of the modern genetic code. The project team will formulate and test an integrated theory of the early stages in the emergence of life from abiotic chemistry. The unifying premise of this theory is that robust core pathways and molecular associations were the statistically favored result of geochemical processes on the early Earth, which can be reconstructed computationally and in the laboratory.

During the last decade or so, the origins issue has become more pressing, with the exploration of space and of extreme or remote terrestrial environments on Earth. These spectacular endeavors have highlighted the need for a better understanding of the very definition of life and its detection from metabolic activity or other environmental effects, and have brought to the fore the notion that life may be more robust and widespread than previously recognized, at least on Earth, and potentially elsewhere too.

Stimulation of debate on the chemical origins of life based on data and theory developed in this project will have significant broader impact throughout biology and beyond, in areas such as geochemistry, chemical biology, evolutionary theory, and paleobiology. The project will involve interdisciplinary training of students and the outcome will be disseminated to a broad audience. At the end of the project, a symposium will be organized to summarize its outcome and provide an overview of modern biogenesis, and its broader implications for the prebiotic origins of life.


Attuned to Irony

"The defense on Monday concentrated on establishing the validity of intelligent design as a scientific theory and refuting any religious connections with it. The school district is represented, for no charge, by attorneys from the Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which describes its mission as 'to defend and protect Christians and their religious beliefs in the public square.'"

Reported by Lisa Anderson of the Chicago Tribune via The Kansas City Star.


KU Natural History Museum to Explore Evolution

The 5th floor gallery of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum is closed for renovation in preparation for the Explore Evolution exhibition, scheduled to open in November 2005 according to the museum's website.

Explore Evolution features the work of scientists who are making leading discoveries about the evolution of life. Common patterns and principles in the evolution of all organisms is the central theme of the exhibition.

The project is sponsored by the National Science Foundation's Informal Science Education Program and developed by a consortium of six museums working together with six statewide 4-H programs to make evolution research accessible to young people and the general public.

Although you can't view the exhibit until November, you can visit the Explore Evolution website now.

The University of Kansas Natural History Museum is located in Dyche Hall, on the main campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan. It's open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday, and Noon to 5:00 pm on Sunday.


Museum Goers Support Evolution

A. J. Hostetler of The Richmond Times reports:
In a survey presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the Association of Science-Technology Centers, 9 percent of those visiting one of six participating museums said they reject the theory of evolution.

The rejection rates ranged from a high of 16 percent at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum -- located in a battleground state for the debate over evolution -- to a low of 2 percent at the Page Museum at the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in California.

Lynn Dierking of the Institute for Learning Innovation in Annapolis, Md., who assisted in analyzing the survey, said it showed that museum visitors tend to have some insight of biological change over time; fossils as evidence of past animal or plant life; and stratigraphy as a way of using the Earth's layered rock to understand its past.

However, Dierking added that many participants failed to understand that evolution is a continuing process happening now, as can be seen in the avian-flu crisis that has spread beyond Asia to Europe or in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Museums need to do a better job in addressing that lack of knowledge, she said.


False Dichotomy

Retired lawyer Tim Beazley takes apart a key claim made by intelligent design "theorists" and creation "scientists" on the ACLU of Pennsylvania's Speaking Freely blog:

"False dichotomy arguments are very simple. First, the creationist claims that evolution and ID are the only two possible choices. That's the dichotomy. Then, he points out alleged problems in evolution. Finally, hetriumphantly concludes that, since evolution has problems, ID must necessarily be correct, since it is the only other option available. Voila. The debate's over, and ID won."


Did Litigious Larry Bite Off More Than He Can Chew?

Michael R. Smith, the assistant chancellor for legal affairs at University of California at Berkeley, said that the university would defend itself against a lawsuit brought by intelligent design gadfly litigious Larry Caldwell "with vigor and enthusiasm" and pointed out that the first amendment also enshrines the right to free speech.

Berkeley is being sued for running Understanding Evolution, a website for school teachers.

Reported in an article by Donald MacLeod in The Guardian (UK).


Detail, details...

Behe, according to Jon Hurdle of Reuters, refuted the Academy's statement that intelligent design theory attributed the complexity of nature to "the hand of God."

"I advocated none of those ideas," Behe said. "I take this as a political statement unsupported by any references."


A lawyer for the parents produced an article by Behe saying the theory of intelligent design would be undermined without the existence of God. Earlier in the day Behe denied intelligent design was equivalent to creationism.

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