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1354Re: PBS series 'Evolution' gets hot reception, etc

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  • Stephen E. Jones
    Oct 9, 2001

      Here are excerpts from recent webbed scientific news articles. My
      comments are in square brackets.

      My last such excerpts post is at:

      The Discovery Institute's Viewer's Guide to PBS's "Evolution" is now
      available in HTML format:

      A Critique of PBS's Evolution
      Discovery Institute
      Executive Summary
      Table of Contents
      Episode 1: Darwin's Dangerous Idea
      Episode 2: Great Transformations
      Episode 3: Extinction!
      Episode 4: The Evolutionary Arms Race
      Episode 5: Why Sex?
      Episode 6: The Mind's Big Bang
      Episode 7: What About God?
      Episode 8: Conclusion


      The Boston Globe ...'Evolution' gets hot reception ... Most of the scientific
      world accepts evolutionary theory. But a small group of scientists, and a
      larger group of religious leaders, contend that Darwin's views on natural
      selection don't reconcile with biblical teachings or current scientific
      research. The debate has played out in school board meetings, in the media,
      and in the courts. In 1987, the US Supreme Court struck down as
      unconstitutional a Louisiana state law that required public schools that
      taught evolutionary theory to also teach creationism as science. The new
      PBS series "Evolution" - two years in the works and featuring interviews
      with more than 40 scientists, theologians, and scholars in 14 countries - is
      the latest battleground in the ongoing argument. ... the seven-part series
      has been called inadequate and inaccurate by organized groups that plan to
      protest its four-night run. ... Richard Hutton, the author of seven books on
      science and medicine and producer of two 1980s documentary series, "The
      Brain" and "The Mind," served as executive producer. "The idea of
      evolution is the linchpin of all biology. If we want to understand our
      origins, we have to understand evolution," Hutton said. "But it's become a
      huge threat to people. If people could understand the basics of it, maybe
      they could accept it. This isn't about attacking faith. Our dream is to reopen
      dialogue." Some groups say the series presents a one-sided case. The
      Discovery Institute, a public policy group in Seattle, has created a Web site
      (www.pbsevolution.com) [now http://www.reviewevolution.com/%5d to air
      its concerns about the show. It contends, among other things, that the
      program ignores the fact that not all scientists agree with Darwinism.
      "They want everybody to think that only religious fundamentalists oppose
      Darwinism," said institute president Bruce Chapman. Answers in Genesis, a
      group that produces books, seminars, and other information to defend the
      biblical account of creation, is preparing daily critiques of the series that
      will run on its site (www.answersingenesis.org). A few PBS stations
      around the country ... are scheduled to broadcast programming with
      differing viewpoints immediately before and after "Evolution." "`Evolution'
      is going to get some backs up," said Debi Robertson .... "We know we live
      in a very conservative part of the country. We wanted to present more of
      the creationist point of view." Actor Liam Neeson narrates the series,
      which was financed by Clear Blue Sky Productions, the independent film
      company owned by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. In addition to the
      television show, the project includes classroom teaching materials that, to
      date, have been distributed to 60,000 schools nationwide. An interactive
      Web site, www.pbs.org/evolution, is scheduled to go online today. It
      includes excerpts from Darwin's writings, news about evolution, and an
      online forum. The project also includes a HarperCollins companion book
      by science writer Carl Zimmer titled "Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea."
      The series begins with tonight's two-hour episode, called "Darwin's
      Dangerous Idea." It features reenacted drama about Darwin's life in the
      1800s as he struggled to balance his scientific and religious beliefs. There
      are also scenes with modern-day biologists who explain Darwin's theory.
      Other episodes address such topics as disease and sex. The last episode
      tries to square evolutionary theory with religious faith. But critics say the
      series doesn't give enough air time to scientists who themselves have
      doubts about evolutionary theory, and relegates them to the final episode.
      Ken Ham, executive director for Kentucky-based Answers in Genesis, is
      featured in the last episode. He contends he was misrepresented because
      "Evolution" portrays him as "Bible thumping." "They interviewed me for
      two hours and filmed almost an entire seminar but they didn't play the bit
      about me talking about science," Ham said. "I don't disagree with genetics,
      mutations, and natural selection. ... But I don't believe that any species can
      change into a totally different family. ... We believe real science confirms
      the Bible's account of history." The show's producers "have an agenda,"
      Ham maintained. "They want to attack Christianity." Hutton said the show
      is not anti-Christian, but conceded that "if you believe God created the
      Earth in six days and then Adam and Eve, you have a legitimate conflict
      with `Evolution."' ... [For once I agree with Ken Ham. From all accounts
      this PBS series confirms that evolution is much more than just a scientific
      theory. It is also effectively a *religion*! (see tagline). It is not just YECs
      that evolution has a problem with, but *any* religion in which a Creator
      could supernaturally intervene in natural history. It is bizarre that Hutton
      says: "Our dream is to reopen dialogue" when the series refused to allow
      any creationist or ID advocate "dialogue" in the *scientific* segments, but
      only in the stereotyped box called "religious faith".]

      Yahoo! ... September 9 ... Scientists, Companies Clash Over Research
      WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The editors of the world's most prestigious
      medical journals unveiled a new policy ... aimed at limiting the influence
      of pharmaceutical companies in research they fund involving their own
      products. Following are examples of some recent controversies. -- In
      2000, scientists at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF)
      acted against the wishes of Immune Response Corp., which had sponsored
      their research, and published a study that found that one of the firm's HIV
      therapies did not help patients already getting standard treatment. The
      company then sued the university for allegedly hurting its business. --
      Knoll Pharmaceutical Co. for seven years prevented the publication of a
      study it had funded conducted by UCSF clinical pharmacist Betty Dong
      that did not come to the conclusion it had wanted. The study found that the
      company's thyroid medication Synthroid was no more or less effective
      than less costly competitors. The company in 1999 agreed to pay 37 states
      more than $40 million to settle a lawsuit charging that it had impeded the
      publication of the study and made false claims about the superiority of its
      product. -- University of Toronto liver specialist Nancy Olivieri lost her
      research contract with Canadian firm Apotex Inc. after she defied the
      company and published in 1998 an article on research it had funded that
      called into question the safety and effectiveness of one of the company's
      drugs. The drug was for treating the blood disease thalassemia. The
      company maintains it dumped her contract because she did not follow the
      protocol it had devised for conducting the study not because of the results.
      ... http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010909/sc/health_journals_dc_1.html
      Yahoo! ... September 9 ... Medical Journals Act to Limit Drug Firms'
      Influence ... WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seeking to curb the growing
      influence exerted by drug firms over research findings, the world's top
      medical journals announced steps ... to prevent firms that fund studies
      from manipulating results to favor their drugs or bury studies that are
      unfavorable. A dozen prestigious journals in eight countries -- including
      the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England
      Journal of Medicine, the Lancet and the Annals of Internal Medicine --
      unveiled uniform requirements for studies submitted for publication. The
      policy seeks to guarantee that companies that are bankrolling the research
      permit the scientific independence of investigators involved in the study.
      ... http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20010910/sc/health_journals_dc_2.html
      Yahoo! ... September 10 ... Consumer Advocates Welcome Medical
      Journals' Move ... WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Consumer advocates on
      Monday welcomed a move by the world's top medical journals to curb the
      manipulation of studies by drug companies, but the journals acknowledged
      that the influence of the industry in research likely will not wane. ... [It is
      always good to see science self-correcting, even if it is belated! This
      influence of drug companies in distorting science is relevant to the next
      story and my `coming out'! :-)]

      Yahoo! ... September 10 ... S.Africa's Mbeki Again Disputes AIDS Is
      Main Killer JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President
      Thabo Mbeki, who has attracted a storm of controversy for questioning the
      link between HIV and AIDS , has stated once again that AIDS is not the
      biggest killer in the country. ... Mbeki said South Africa's biggest killer
      was external causes and that HIV/AIDS formed only 2.2 percent of total
      deaths in South Africa. The figures that Mbeki quotes were compiled by
      the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) for 1995. "I can
      confirm that this data is on the WHO Web site," said Richard de Luyt, a
      spokesman in South Africa for UNaids, the U.N. agency that compiles
      AIDS statistics for the WHO. "I must stress however that WHO collects
      such data from national governments," .... Mbeki's spokesman ... [said] the
      president's letter to the minister formed part of an on-going debate with
      the government on health policy. "Needless to say, these figures will
      provoke a howl of displeasure and a concerted propaganda campaign
      among those who have convinced themselves that HIV/AIDS is the single
      biggest cause of death in our country," Mbeki wrote. "These are the people
      whose prejudices led them to discover the false reality, among other
      things, that we are running out of space in our cemeteries as a result of
      unprecedented deaths caused by HIV/AIDS," .... The letter is likely to
      attract further controversy over Mbeki's stance on HIV-AIDS, which
      affects close to five million South Africans, more than any other country.
      Mbeki has acknowledged that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a
      cause of AIDS, but does not accept it is the only cause. He argues that
      poverty plays a key factor in the pandemic that affects more than 25
      million Africans. ... Mbeki said violence and not AIDS was the biggest
      killer in South Africa. He has denied to sufferers state-sponsored life-
      prolonging antiretroviral drugs on cost and safety grounds and appointed
      to his own panel on the disease scientists who argue AIDS is caused by
      recreational drug use ... [Interesting. I should disclose that I am a long-
      standing AIDS sceptic in that I believe that there is good evidence that: 1)
      HIV is only one of a number of causal factors in the collection of diseases
      lumped together into the immunodeficiency syndrome known as AIDS; 2)
      AIDS deaths are inflated out of all proportion in the media, particularly in
      Third World countries, as the result of propaganda by a handful of
      immensely rich and powerful drug companies; 3) these drug companies
      have almost total control over HIV-AIDS research; and 4) much (if not
      all) anti-HIV drug cocktail treatment is unfalsifiable pseudoscience. I
      expect this will all come out one day, when science's self-correcting
      mechanism *finally* kicks in!]

      http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/18/health/psychology/18ALTR.html ...
      The New York Times ... September 18, 2001 ... Of Altruism, Heroism and
      Nature's Gifts in the Face of Terror ... For the wordless, formless,
      expectant citizens of tomorrow, here are some postcards of all that matters
      today: Minutes after terrorists slam jet planes into the towers of the World
      Trade Center, streams of harrowed humanity crowd the emergency
      stairwells, heading in two directions. While terrified employees scramble
      down, toward exit doors and survival, hundreds of New York firefighters,
      each laden with 70 to 100 pounds of lifesaving gear, charge upward, never
      to be seen again. As the last of four hijacked planes advances toward an
      unknown but surely populated destination, passengers huddle together and
      plot resistance against their captors, an act that may explain why the plane
      fails to reach its target, crashing instead into an empty field outside
      Pittsburgh. Hearing of the tragedy whose dimensions cannot be charted or
      absorbed, tens of thousands of people across the nation storm their local
      hospitals and blood banks, begging for the chance to give blood, something
      of themselves to the hearts of the wounded - and the heart of us all -
      beating against the void. Altruism and heroism. If not for these twin radiant
      badges of our humanity, there would be no us, and we know it. And so,
      when their vile opposite threatened to choke us into submission last
      Tuesday, we rallied them in quantities so great we surprised even
      ourselves. Nothing and nobody can fully explain the source of the
      emotional genius that has been everywhere on display. .... And while
      biologists in no way claim to have discovered the key to human nobility,
      they do have their own spin on the subject. The altruistic impulse, they say,
      is a nondenominational gift, the birthright and defining characteristic of the
      human species. As they see it, the roots of altruistic behavior far predate
      Homo sapiens, and that is why it seems to flow forth so readily once
      tapped. Recent studies that model group dynamics suggest that a spirit of
      cooperation will arise in nature under a wide variety of circumstances.
      "There's a general trend in evolutionary biology toward recognizing that
      very often the best way to compete is to cooperate," said Dr. Barbara
      Smuts ..., who has published papers on the evolution of altruism. "And
      that, to me, is a source of some solace and comfort." Moreover, most
      biologists concur that the human capacity for language and memory allows
      altruistic behavior - the desire to give, and to sacrifice for the sake of
      others - to flourish in measure far beyond the cooperative spirit seen in
      other species. With language, they say, people can learn of individuals they
      have never met and feel compassion for their suffering, and honor and even
      emulate their heroic deeds. They can also warn one another of any selfish
      cheaters or malign tricksters lurking in their midst. "In a large crowd, we
      know who the good guys are, and we can talk about, and ostracize, the bad
      ones," said Dr. Craig Packer .... "People are very concerned about their
      reputation, and that, too, can inspire us to be good." Oh, better than good.
      "There's a grandness in the human species that is so striking, and so
      profoundly different from what we see in other animals," he added. "We
      are an amalgamation of families working together. This is what civilization
      is derived from." At the same time, said biologists, the very conditions that
      encourage heroics and selflessness can be the source of profound barbarism
      as well. "Moral behavior is often a within-group phenomenon," said Dr.
      David Sloan Wilson ... "Altruism is practiced within your group, and often
      turned off toward members of other groups." The desire to understand the
      nature of altruism has occupied evolutionary thinkers since Charles Darwin,
      who was fascinated by the apparent existence of altruism among social
      insects. In ant and bee colonies, sterile female workers labor ceaselessly for
      their queen, and will even die for her when the nest is threatened. How
      could such seeming selflessness evolve, when it is exactly those individuals
      that are behaving altruistically that fail to breed and thereby pass their
      selfless genes along? By a similar token, human soldiers who go to war
      often are at the beginning of their reproductive potential, and many are
      killed before getting the chance to have children. Why don't the stay-at-
      homes simply outbreed the do-gooders and thus bury the altruistic impulse
      along with the casualties of combat? The question of altruism was at least
      partly solved when the British evolutionary theorist William Hamilton
      formulated the idea of inclusive fitness: the notion that individuals can
      enhance their reproductive success not merely by having young of their
      own, but by caring for their genetic relatives as well. Among social bees
      and ants, it turns out, the sister workers are more closely related to one
      another than parents normally are to their offspring; thus it behooves the
      workers to care more about current and potential sisters than to fret over
      their sterile selves. The concept of inclusive fitness explains many brave
      acts observed in nature. Dr. Richard Wrangham ... cites the example of the
      red colobus monkey. When they are being hunted by chimpanzees, the male
      monkeys are "amazingly brave," Dr. Wrangham said. "As the biggest and
      strongest members of their group, they undoubtedly could escape quicker
      than the others." Instead, the males jump to the front, confronting the
      chimpanzee hunters while the mothers and offspring jump to safety. Often,
      the much bigger chimpanzees pull the colobus soldiers off by their tails and
      slam them to their deaths. Their courageousness can be explained by the
      fact that colobus monkeys live in multimale, multifemale groups in which
      the males are almost always related. So in protecting the young monkeys,
      the adult males are defending their kin. Yet, as biologists are learning, there
      is more to cooperation and generosity than an investment in one's
      nepotistic patch of DNA. Lately, they have accrued evidence that
      something like group selection encourages the evolution of traits beneficial
      to a group, even when members of the group are not related. In computer
      simulation studies, Dr. Smuts and her colleagues modeled two types of
      group-living agents that would behave like herbivores: one that would
      selfishly consume all the food in a given patch before moving on, and
      another that would consume resources modestly rather than greedily, thus
      allowing local plant food to regenerate. Researchers had assumed that
      cooperators could collaborate with genetically unrelated cooperators only
      if they had the cognitive capacity to know goodness when they saw it. But
      the data suggested otherwise. "These models showed that under a wide
      range of simulated environmental conditions you could get selection for
      prudent, cooperative behavior," Dr. Smuts said, even in the absence of
      cognition or kinship. "If you happened by chance to get good guys
      together, they remained together because they created a mutually beneficial
      environment." This sort of win-win principle, she said, could explain all
      sorts of symbiotic arrangements, even among different species - like the
      tendency of baboons and impalas to associate together because they use
      each other's warning calls. Add to this basic mechanistic selection for
      cooperation the human capacity to recognize and reward behaviors that
      strengthen the group - the tribe, the state, the church, the platoon - and
      selflessness thrives and multiplies. So, too, does the need for group
      identity. Classic so-called minimal group experiments have shown that
      when people are gathered together and assigned membership in arbitrary
      groups, called, say, the Greens and the Reds, before long the members
      begin expressing amity for their fellow Greens or Reds and animosity
      toward those of the wrong "color." "Ancestral life frequently consisted of
      intergroup conflict," Dr. Wilson ... said. "It's part of our mental heritage."
      Yet he does not see conflict as inevitable. "It's been shown pretty well that
      where people place the boundary between us and them is extremely flexible
      and strategic," he said. "It's possible to widen the moral circle, and I'm
      optimistic enough to believe it can be done on a worldwide scale."
      Ultimately, though, scientists acknowledge that the evolutionary
      framework for self-sacrificing acts is overlaid by individual choice. And it is
      there, when individual firefighters or office workers or airplane passengers
      choose the altruistic path that science gives way to wonder. Dr. James J.
      Moore ... said he had studied many species, including many different
      primates. "We're the nicest species I know," he said. "To see those guys
      risking their lives, climbing over rubble on the chance of finding one person
      alive, well, you wouldn't find baboons doing that." The horrors of last week
      notwithstanding, he said, "the overall picture to come out about human
      nature is wonderful." "For every 50 people making bomb threats now to
      mosques," he said, "there are 500,000 people around the world behaving
      just the way we hoped they would, with empathy and expressions of grief.
      We are amazingly civilized." ... [I held this over for a couple of weeks. It is
      also a `good' example of how evolutionary psychology (aka. sociobiology,
      social Darwinism) can `explain' anything and its opposite!]

      Electronic Telegraph 06.09.01 ... Star of Bethlehem 'was two brilliant
      meteors' ... THE Star of Bethlehem that led the wise men to the infant
      Christ was two brilliant meteors following similar paths, according to a
      study by Sir Patrick Moore. ... The astronomer has investigated theories
      about the nature of the star in the east described in St Matthew's account of
      the nativity in the Bible. In his book, The Star of Bethlehem ... [Moore]
      dismisses previous scientific explanations for the star as improbable. He
      claims the star was two meteors, or shooting stars, rising in the east and
      crossing the sky in a westward direction, leaving a trail visible for several
      hours. "Meteors are the only natural objects which show definite movement
      across the sky over a short period of observation," he writes. While not
      proposing to have found the definite answer, [he], believes his theory
      cannot be disproved. He has tested other theories against the criteria that
      the star must have been unusual and conspicuous to the wise men and it
      must have appeared between 7BC and 4BC, the dates between which
      Biblical scholars believe Christ was born. For the star to have been noticed
      by the wise men, and not by everyone else, it must have appeared for a
      short time and have moved in a way quite unlike that of any other star or
      planet. [Moore] ... said the sight of a procession of shooting stars would
      have been spectacular, brighter than a full moon. "If these had appeared in
      a very sparsely populated area only those looking up at the same time
      would have seen it," he added. The study offers no explanation for the
      "unmeteoritic behaviour" reported in Matthew's gospel of the star stopping
      at the place where Jesus Christ lay. "We will have to allow Matthew a
      sufficient degree of poetic licence," .... His book is devoid of any cynicism
      about the nativity and he does allow for the possibility that the star was a
      message from God and so "beyond science". The star is mentioned four
      times in Matthew's gospel, with little detail, and not once in Luke's account
      of the nativity. The gospels of Mark and John do not mention the nativity.
      Mark Kidger, an astrophysicist who has been interested in the star of
      Bethlehem for 20 years and last year published a book on the subject, is not
      convinced by [Moore]'s theory of the two meteors. "A bright meteor you
      see for one or two seconds and in exceptional cases as much as 10
      seconds," ... "It would have appeared and disappeared so quickly the wise
      men would have had to have had jet propelled camels to have followed it."
      ... [These naturalistic explanations of the Star of Bethlehem usually appear
      leading up to Christmas! Why would "the possibility that the star was a
      message from God" be "beyond science"? It was a singular event in history,
      and science deals with other singular events in history, e.g. the Big Bang,
      the origin of life, the origin of the Moon, etc. A Christian who was a
      methodological naturalist would (presumably) agree that this really was a
      supernatural event which was detected in history. Yet they would be forced
      to either: 1) try to declare it off-limits to science (but why should their
      atheist colleagues take any notice of their demarcation); or 2) naturalise it
      by explain it away (but carried out consistently this would eviscerates their
      Christianity). This shows the inadequacy of methodological naturalism, and
      that methodological theism (aka theistic realism) would be more
      comprehensive and hence scientifically preferable.]

      Electronic Telegraph 20.09.01... Human clone doctor expelled by peers ...
      THE fertility expert who plans to clone a human baby has been disowned
      by his peers in an international dispute with his profession. Private fertility
      specialists voted to throw Dr Severino Antinori out of their international
      association for "disreputable conduct" .... Dr Antinori denied he had been
      expelled .... The dispute became public this month when the International
      Association of Private Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinics and
      Laboratories, A Part, voted to cut ties with a forthcoming cloning
      conference in Monte Carlo ... organised by Dr Antinori. ... the
      organisation's managing board - which includes Dr Antinori - was asked
      by its president, Prof Wilfried Feichtinger, to vote on expelling Dr
      Antinori for his serious shortcomings in organising the congress and
      "disreputable conduct in recent months related to the topic of human
      reproductive cloning which has injured the reputation of A Part". Prof
      Feichtinger announced the results ... "Dr Antinori has been expelled from
      A Part today, according to a vote of the managing board. This has to be
      reconfirmed yet by the general assembly of our members. His membership
      rights shall be suspended until the final decision is taken." In an email ...
      to Dr Antinori, Prof Feichtinger said: "your membership at our
      organisation has been suspended" .... He told Dr Antinori: "You should
      appreciate this decision of the managing board and learn from it that there
      are certain rules within the scientific community and in medical
      associations that have to be respected. Many members have rejoined after
      the decision to withdraw A Part from Monte Carlo and from the 'cloning
      conference' ... . "I have learned there was more interest by the media than
      by doctors and scientists, who did not like to be involved with another
      media show by Dr Antinori." Dr Antinori [said] ... the Monte Carlo
      meeting would be a success and cited around 30 experts who were the
      "true A Part", adding that they had decided to expel Prof Feichtinger. He
      said: "It is not true that I have been expelled. This is unreal information
      distributed by Feichtinger." Prof Feichtinger said some of Dr Antinori's
      supporters did not pay their membership dues for 2001. A few were not
      members at all. ... [It is also good to see science at last taking
      decisive action against this charlatan.]

      "Thus man's destiny has become that of realising his evolutionary
      potentialities and furthering the evolutionary process, which for Huxley is a
      notion that may be contemplated with a kind of religious enthusiasm:
      `Instead of worshipping supernatural rulers,...[the new evolutionary
      humanism] will sanctify the higher manifestations of human nature, in art
      and love, in intellectual comprehension and aspiring adoration, and will
      emphasize the fuller realization of life's possibilities as a sacred trust.'"
      (Huxley J.S., "The Humanist Frame," Allen & Unwin: London, 1961, p.26)
      The use of words such as 'sanctify', 'adoration' and 'sacred' is indicative of
      the elevation of evolutionary theory to the religious plane. Huxley sees the
      evolutionary emergence of intellectual powers in man as something
      inherently good and worthy of esteem. The process of the realisation of the
      possibilities of man (through the application of the methods of science, but
      with due regard to aesthetic considerations) has become the object of his
      faith." (Oldroyd D.R., "Darwinian Impacts: An Introduction to the
      Darwinian Revolution," [1980], New South Wales University Press:
      Kensington NSW, Australia, Second Revised Edition, 1988, reprint, p.254)
      Stephen E. Jones. sejones@.... http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones
      Moderator: CreationEvolutionDesign@yahoogroups.com
      Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CreationEvolutionDesign