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The evolution of creationism

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  • Carol Hayman
    ... Subject: The evolution of creationism Date: Sun, 18 Nov 2007 20:25:28 -0500 From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG Reply-To: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG To:
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2007
      -------- Original Message --------
      Subject: The evolution of creationism
      Date: Sun, 18 Nov 2007 20:25:28 -0500
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      http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/11/13/intelligent_design/
      The evolution of creationism

      After their notorious legal defeat, intelligent design
      proponents are resurfacing with insidious new assaults
      on science.

      By Gordy Slack

      Nov. 13, 2007 | Two years ago, Pennsylvania federal
      Judge John Jones III handed down a stunning decision
      that many said would take down the intelligent design
      movement. But American creationism doesn't die. It just
      adapts.

      Decades earlier, when the courts deemed creation science
      -- proto intelligent design -- a religious view and not
      constitutionally teachable as science in public schools,
      it adapted by cutting God off its letterhead and calling
      itself "intelligent design." The argument for I.D., and
      for "scientific creation theory" before it, is that
      evolution isn't up to the task of accounting for life.
      Given biology's complexity, and natural selection's
      inability to explain it, I.D. thinking goes, life must
      be designed by a, well, designer. I.D.ers skirted any
      mention of God, hoping to avoid getting snagged on the
      First Amendment's prohibition against promoting religion
      by arguing that I.D. was just a young and outlying
      science.

      In the Pennsylvania case, Kitzmiller v. Dover, Judge
      Jones ruled that if you want to teach intelligent design
      in science class, first you have to show that it is a
      distinct species from its earlier, creationist form, not
      just a modified type. You've got to show us the science
      part, he said. Besides, Jones declared, your intelligent
      designer is obviously God.

      The six-week trial -- the focus of a Nova documentary,
      "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial," airing Nov.
      13 -- addressed a host of heady questions. What is
      science and how does it work? Can evolution account for
      the diversity of life we see on earth? What is religion?
      Can science say anything about the existence of a
      creator and still be science? It also examined the
      motivations of a local school board that tried to
      smuggle creationism into its high school biology
      curriculum. The judge's decision -- that I.D. was not
      science and that the school board was trying to promote
      its members' own religious views -- was followed by a
      short period of shock from the I.D. community.

      But like bacteria adapting to antibiotics, creationism
      has slimmed down once again, this time shedding even a
      mention of an intelligent designer. A new textbook put
      out by the Discovery Institute, the Seattle think tank
      that promotes I.D., doesn't even have the words
      "intelligent design" in its index. Instead of pushing
      I.D. explicitly, "Explore Evolution: The Arguments for
      and Against Darwinism," promoted as a high school- or
      college-level biology text, "teaches the controversy."
      Teach the controversy is the new mantra of the I.D.
      movement.

      "We want to teach more about evolution," says Discovery
      Institute's Casey Luskin, "not less." The "more" they
      want to teach, of course, is what they see as
      evolution's shortcomings, leaving an ecological niche
      that will then be filled by intelligent design.

      But not all creationists have embraced the strategy.
      Many responded to the Dover trial by coming out of
      I.D.'s big tent, which once gave shelter to young earth
      creationists, old earthers, academics interested in
      I.D.'s hypotheses, and anyone who wanted to promote a
      Christian-compatible view of science. Judge Jones'
      decision was like a lightning strike on the big top,
      sending many of the constituents running home through
      the rain. Creationist groups like Answers in Genesis,
      the Institute for Creation Research, and Reasons to
      Believe are now attacking I.D. for not having the guts
      to call its designer God or to be explicit about such
      key questions as the age of the world. (Answers in
      Genesis' answer: about 6,000 years.)

      Perhaps not surprisingly, the I.D.ers have adopted a
      persecution complex. "After Dover," Luskin says,
      "there's been an increase in the boldness of Darwinists
      who persecute I.D. proponents: researchers, teachers and
      students. The debate in the academy has intensified
      radically," he says. "It's just a lot more political."
      He points to Guillermo Gonzalez, a physicist at Iowa
      State who failed to get tenure, allegedly because he is
      an advocate of I.D., and Richard Sternberg, a scientist
      at the National Institutes of Health who was "attacked"
      for publishing an article by Stephen Meyer, a proponent
      of intelligent design, in a peer-review journal
      Sternberg edited.

      Evolutionary biologists respond that hiring a biologist
      who doesn't accept evolution is like hiring a
      mathematician who doesn't accept multiplication. That
      oversimplifies, but for better or worse, the battle has
      intensified and come out more into the open.

      Recently, long retired chemist Homer Jacobson retracted
      a paper titled "Information, Reproduction and the Origin
      of Life," which he'd published in the journal American
      Scientist 52 years ago. Upon Googling himself, the 84-
      year-old Jacobson found that his old paper was often
      cited by creationists as evidence of the implausibility
      of life emerging from the prebiotic soup found on early
      Earth. Jacobson noticed some errors in his paper (it was
      a half-century old!) and, in order to keep neo-
      creationists from engaging in "malignant denunciations
      of Darwin," he wrote a letter of retraction to the
      journal. Retraction of a scientific paper is rare, and
      doing it for political reasons is rarer still. The act
      provoked accusations of "historical revisionism" from
      Discovery Institute senior fellow William Dembski.

      Following the Dover decision, some I.D.ers became more
      timid, or at least more evasive. John Angus Campbell, a
      Discovery Institute fellow and coauthor of a book about
      teaching I.D. in the schools, ran for a school board
      seat in Mason County, Wash., last week. During his
      campaign, he intentionally left his middle name out of
      his election materials and failed to mention his
      affiliation with the Discovery Institute. The camouflage
      strategy worked and he was elected.

      I.D. will also be striking back in "Expelled: No
      Intelligence Allowed," a pro-I.D. documentary, to be
      released in February. Featuring conservative writer and
      political commentator Ben Stein, it portrays I.D.
      proponents as a group of iconoclastic firebrand
      scientists with the guts to go after the dogmatic
      Darwinists who have, the I.D.ers say, grown lazy and
      corrupt sitting atop a monopolistic theory with zero
      tolerance for dissent, within or outside of their ranks.

      Stein told the New York Times that Darwin may well have
      been onto something with his theory of evolution, but
      that it is isn't up to explaining the origins and
      diversity of life on its own. Plus, he thinks Darwinism
      leads to racism and genocide. If Stein had his way, he
      said, the documentary would have been called "From
      Darwin to Hitler."

      No, the battle between creationism and evolution is
      hardly over. The true believers in intelligent design
      and other forms of creationism aren't about to lay down
      their worldview for a federal judge or anyone else. And
      polls show that about half of America is on their side.
      "Evolution remains under attack," says Eugenie Scott, an
      anthropologist and a director of the National Center for
      Science Education, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching
      evolution in public schools. "If creationists have their
      way, teachers will eventually just stop teaching
      evolution. It'll just be too much trouble. And
      generations of students will continue to grow up
      ignorant of basic scientific realities."

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      --


      Carol Hayman
      Anthropology
      Austin Community College
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