The Kansas debate!
- Please note the following quote in the current article:
> The 2001 seven-part PBS seriesThen consider the latter article below dealing with that very problem.
> "Evolution" agreed, stating, "all
> known scientific evidence supports
> (Darwinian) evolution" as does
> "virtually every reputable scientist
> in the world."
Debate is no longer 'science, religion'
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The debate is officially back in Kansas, although it never really left.
A resolution was passed calling for Kansas school children to be
notified that the theory of evolution is only a theory, and it should be
studied with an open mind. Once again we hear the debate is between
"science" and "religion."
The publicly-aired opinions from scientists in virtually every media
outlet will be from people like Ernst Mayr, who claimed, "No educated
person any longer questions the validity of the so-called theory of
evolution, which we now know to be a simple fact."
The 2001 seven-part PBS series "Evolution" agreed, stating, "all known
scientific evidence supports (Darwinian) evolution" as does "virtually
every reputable scientist in the world."
What we likely will not hear over the airwaves will be that such
statements are made of imagination rather than evidence, that science
routinely points to the contrary, or that the response from within the
scientific community after the PBS series aired was often decisively in
the opposite direction.
Over 100 scientists from virtually all parts of the scientific community
sponsored a two-page ad in The Weekly Standard after the PBS mini-series
stating, "We are skeptical of the claims for the ability of random
mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life."
Random mutation and natural selection are the backbone processes claimed
to drive evolution in neo-Darwinian theory.
This statement was therefore heretical to often-interviewed scientists
such as Mayr.
The scientists sponsoring the ad did not fit the "uneducated religious
zealot" stereotype, though. They included professors from Yale Graduate
School, MIT, Tulane, Rice, Lehigh and at least 15 state universities'
science departments as well as scientists from the National Museum of
Natural History at the Smithsonian, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore
Laboratories. They included Nobel-prize nominees and directors of major
laboratories. These men and women wanted the world to know that
evolution has not been proven, and they are dissatisfied with the
inability of the theory to address the actual evidence.
The more advanced the science, the more many scientists see amazing
evidence of incredible intelligence, designs that cannot happen in small
steps, where every attempt to explain the findings in strictly
naturalistic terms falls flat. The "religious fanatics" are not the only
ones who rely on miracles in light of the mounting evidence. More and
more, naturalistic and materialistic scientists are forced into a
circular argument where the evidence for evolution is the fact that
things fit together just like they need to; i.e. "and then a miracle
happened." Proponents of Intelligent Design have a source of miracles,
as the Psalmist wrote, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Materialists are left with blind luck and a long, but not endless,
period of time. At best, they claim there may be a creative force, but
that it would be impersonal (and yet is purported to create personal
Evidence against evolution is found in all life, from the smallest
bacterium's unbelievable "irreducible complexity," as microbiologist
Michael Behe calls it, to the universe itself with its forces balanced
on a knife-edge exactly as they must be for life to exist. More and more
reputable scientists have been renouncing evolution in recent years and
are willing to speak up, saying it cannot explain what they see. Viable
data is abundant which supports at least one other theory.
The debate is therefore not really about "science" vs. "religion." No,
it has become more about whether only one theory can be taught, not
because the data points to that theory, but rather for political
reasons: we can't hint at "religion" in our public schools. Such a
debate is no longer about science, it is about whether or not the
implications of scientific findings are palatable to those with the
loudest voice, and therefore has parted ways with science that "advances
Far from being a laughingstock, Kansas should be applauded.
Mike McClary, rural Hesston
11/29/2001 - Doubting Darwinism through Creative License
by Skip Evans
In October and November 2001, the Discovery Institute (DI), a
Seattle-based public policy institute, placed advertisements in at least
three periodicals, including The New York Review of Books, The New
Republic, and The Weekly Standard. The advertisement in The New York
Review of Books appeared under the headline "A Scientific Dissent from
Darwinism" followed by this text:
Public TV programs, educational policy statements, and science textbooks
have asserted that Darwin's theory of evolution fully explains the
complexity of living things.
The public has been assured, most recently by spokespersons for PBS's
Evolution series, that:
> "all known scientific evidenceThe following scientists dispute the first claim and stand as living
> supports [Darwinian] evolution"
> as does "virtually every reputable
> scientist in the world."
testimony in contradiction to the second. There is scientific dissent to
Darwinism. It deserves to be heard.
After this brief statement is a gray box taking up the majority of the
page which contains in small print a list of names followed by the names
of the institutions at which the signatories work, previously worked, or
attained doctoral degrees. In a cleared space in the middle of this
display is an area containing the statement to which the signatories
> We are skeptical of the claimsUnder close examination, the text of both the leading paragraphs and the
> for the ability of random mutation
> and natural selection to account
> for the complexity of life. Careful
> examination of the evidence for
> Darwinian theory should be
statement attested to appear to be very artfully phrased.
The first paragraph tells readers that spokespersons for the PBS series
Evolution have assured the public that "all known scientific evidence
supports [Darwinian] evolution."
But notice that "Darwinian" appears in brackets.
That "all known scientific evidence supports evolution" is a different
claim than "all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian]
Exactly who is equating Darwinian evolution and evolution?
In the same vein, the signatories to the second declaration are
described as dissenting from "Darwinism" - but do they reject evolution
as well? NCSE decided to go to the source to ask the questions.
On October 31, 2001, Mark Edwards of the DI responded to an e-mail
request for the source of the quote. He stated that he did not know
offhand the source of the quotation in the first paragraph but would
make an effort to track it down. As of this writing, he has not supplied
Personnel from public television station WGBH, the coproducer of the PBS
Evolution series, were unable to find the exact quotation in any of
their published literature. An internal memorandum providing background
information on the Evolution series to PBS stations nationwide contains
an almost identical sentence:
> "All known scientific evidenceLet us assume that this internal memorandum (described on the DI web
> supports evolution." - without
> the word "Darwinian".
page) is the source of the quote used in the advertisement.
If the word "Darwinian" does not occur in the original quote, why was it
added here? In the rest of the paragraph from which the quote was
evidently taken there is a discussion of "new discoveries over the past
150 years", including much of the fossil record, DNA, and the process of
The paragraph goes on to state that any of these discoveries could have
potentially discredited evolution, but they did not. In fact, they have
provided even more evidence for descent with modification and common
The paragraph concludes by acknowledging that there certainly are things
about evolution we do not yet know, just as with "all comprehensive
scientific theories, from the theory of gravity to quantum mechanics."
We believe that the Discovery Institute intentionally modified the
sentence and thereby changed its meaning.
The original PBS sentence focused on evolution - the thesis that living
things have common ancestors. It would not be equivalent to say that
"all known scientific evidence supports Darwinian evolution"; by adding
"Darwinian", the meaning of the quotation is changed.
Is there healthy scientific debate about the role natural selection
plays in evolution? Absolutely, and this is widely recognized. The
discoveries of genetics have led to a better understanding of the
sources for variation, and the latter half of the 20th century has
witnessed a vigorous debate about the roles of proposed additional
mechanisms - including genetic drift, gene flow, and developmental
processes. These are some of the most interesting topics in modern
evolutionary science. But arguments within the scientific community
about how evolution occurs should not be confused with arguments -
conspicuously absent from the scientific community - about whether
The signatories appear to attest to a statement about the ability of
natural selection to "account for the complexity of life" - in other
words, a statement about how evolution takes place.
Given the anti-evolutionary tone of the introductory paragraphs, a
layperson reading the advertisement might well assume that the
signatories objected to evolution itself, rather than to the
universality of natural selection as its mechanism.
But did the scientists themselves object to evolution?
Any of them?
All of them?
Or were some of them only questioning the importance of natural
Many scientists - including many associated with NCSE - could in good
conscience sign a statement attesting to natural selection's not fully
explaining the complexity of life!
The list consists of 41 biologists (over half of whom are biochemists),
16 chemists, 4 engineers, 2 geologists/geophysicists, 8 mathematicians,
10 medical professionals, 4 social scientists, 15 from physics or
astronomy, and 3 whose specialties we were unable to determine. Few were
from biological subfields associated with organismic and
population-level biology - the divisions of biology most closely
associated with the study of evolution. None was recognizable as a
prominent contributor to the scientific literature debating the role of
natural selection in evolution. (The list published on the review
evolution web site, which we analyzed, originally contained 103 names.
The ads published in the print media contained 105 names, with the
addition of the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture, the
creationist arm of the DI, President Stephen Meyer and Fellow Paul
Nelson, both of whom hold PhDs in philosophy.)
NCSE contacted a sample of the signatories and asked them specific
questions about their attitudes concerning evolution, namely whether or
not they accepted "evidence for common ancestry, meaning that different
species today shared common ancestors in the past," and whether or not
they were convinced "that humans and chimps both share a common
We anticipated that signatories working for Christian anti-evolution
ministries - especially those who are young-earth creationists, such as
David A Dewitt, PhD, an adjunct faculty member at the Institute for
Creation Research - would answer in the negative, but responses from
some of the other signatories were quite revealing. One signatory
responded to each of the two questions with "I don't have a problem with
this," then went on to elaborate that his "dissent mainly concerns the
origin of life." But, of course, evolution is not a theory of the origin
of life, nor was "Darwinism" in any of its forms; evolution concerns
what happens after life appears.
Although another signatory responded that "the definition of species is
very troublesome," he added that "I certainly do accept that SOME
(perhaps most) modern species shared at least a recent common ancestor."
On the question of whether chimps and humans share a common ancestor, he
said, "I believe the genetic evidence is overwhelming for the
Another signatory has elsewhere written, "I am not a creationist and
have no reason to doubt common descent."
Therefore, although the signatories represent a diverse range of
opinions about the role of natural selection in evolution, the list is
nothing more than careful word play - what is known as "spin."
Should one draw the conclusion from the advertisement that there is a
growing movement of scientists who doubt evolution?
Hardly; many of the names on the list are not new to anti-evolutionary
Ironically, if one were to conduct a survey of scientists who accepted
evolution, the size of that list would swamp by tens of thousands this
list assembled by the Discovery Institute!
It is regrettable that the public is likely to be confused by these
advertisements and be misled into thinking that all of these scientists
reject evolution, or that there is a groundswell of scientists rejecting
evolution. Neither is true.
The National Center for Science Education is a nonprofit organization,
based in Oakland, California, dedicated to defending the teaching of
evolution in the public schools. On the web at www.ncseweb.org.
For information contact Skip Evans, NCSE Network Project Administrator.
November 29, 2001