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The Fish Wars



A Christian Evolutionist Speaks



Updated: 2017-05-16T03:21:50.431-07:00

 



Shall the Fundamentalists Win?

2009-04-13T21:26:20.424-07:00

Stained glass window depicting the empty tomb at a church in L.A. - Inscription says - "He is not here, he is risen!"Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee HoltcampI just stumbled on this 1922 sermon, later published as a booklet, written by Presbyterian Minister Harry Emerson Fosdick, "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?: Defending Liberal Protestantism in the 1920s," while researching my book (on making peace between evolution and Christianity, which by the way is due very soon - agghhhh!!!) All I have to say is wow, wow, wow!! What a powerful and profound message, and also very interesting given that this took place nearly a century ago. It outlines some of the same controversies of fundamentalism vs modernist/liberal thought, and science versus religion. Fosdick was investigated and later resigned from the Presbyterian Church after publishing this, but soon became a minister at a Baptist church, and then founded Manhattan's Riverside church. This was just three years before the Scopes Monkey Trial, and one of the Presbyterians promoting the opposing view of fundamentalism was the attorney in that trial – William Jennings Bryan. Here are some quotes from the sermon that resonated with me:"Science treats a young man’s mind as though it were really important. A scientist says to a young man, “Here is the universe challenging our investigation. Here are the truths which we have seen, so far. Come, study with us! See what we already have seen and then look further to see more, for science is an intellectual adventure for the truth.” Can you imagine any man who is worthwhile turning from that call to the church if the church seems to him to say, “Come, and we will feed you opinions from a spoon. No thinking is allowed here except such as brings you to certain specified, predetermined conclusions. These prescribed opinions we will give you in advance of your thinking; now think, but only so as to reach these results.""...the Fundamentalists are giving us one of the worst exhibitions of bitter intolerance that the churches of this country have ever seen.""...there is one thing I am sure of: courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right. Opinions may be mistaken; love never is.""...there are multitudes of reverent Christians who have been unable to keep this new knowledge in one compartment of their minds and the Christian faith in another. They have been sure that all truth comes from the one God and is His revelation""...for the sake of intellectual and spiritual integrity, that they might really love the Lord their God, not only with all their heart and soul and strength but with all their mind, they have been trying to see this new knowledge in terms of the Christian faith and to see the Christian faith in terms of this new knowledge." This was written just 3 years before the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial and during a time at which there existed a huge controversy between "modernists" and "fundamentalists" within the Presbyterian Church, which made up around 25% of Christians at that time. The split affected many other denominations as well, and led to the decline of Presbyterianism in the U.S. I was actually researching the history of the term fundamentalist, which is when I learned about this whole history - fascinating!! Fundamentalism arose at the Niagara Bible Conferences which were held annually from 1876-1897 where a fourteen-point creed was developed, and later distilled at the 1910 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church to 5 fundamentals of the Christian faith:Inerrancy of the ScripturesThe virgin birth and the deity of Jesus (Isaiah 7:14)The doctrine of substitutionary atonement by God's grace and through human faith (Hebrews 9)The bodily resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 28)The authenticity of Christ's miracles (or, alternatively, his pre-millennial second coming)I actually hold to a fairly conservative ("fundamental") belief in all of these things other than the pre-millennial second coming (I believe that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod which I attend does not hold that belief either and t[...]



Awesome video

2009-03-27T20:18:46.644-07:00

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Please all Christians watch this awesome and funny video of a Christian to other Christian on why you should listen to the expertise of REAL scientists - ie evolutionary biologists!

IN fact check out his whole "channel" - I haven't watched any of his other videos but I'll be back to check them out! http://www.youtube.com/user/DonExodus2

I will post some links to blogs etc on the Texas State Board of Education results from the past 3 days testimony and voting of the Board on science standards. It's a mixed bag.



Not on the Test

2009-03-18T07:24:58.200-07:00

Check out this fantastic song/video by Grammy winner Tom Chapin, Not on the Test. It aired on NPR and is a sarcastic song about the problems with standardized testing, sung to his 3rd grade son. Check it out: http://www.notonthetest.com

Here is one stanza of lyrics, mid-song


Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers, their jobs are at stake.
Your score is their score, but don't get all stressed.
They'd never teach anything not on the test.

And here's an article in NY Teacher, Union fights the trend that starts with teaching to the test.




God spot and White House science advisors

2009-03-11T09:26:39.627-07:00

Just wanted to post a couple links. I came across this article today in the Daily Mail newspaper online, and found it interesting.
Scientists discover the brain's 'God spot'... and show that faith helps human survival.

The only thing that annoys me about the journalist's reporting of the story, and possibly inherent in the research (I haven't read the scientific papers themselves so can't remark) is in this sentence in the article: "Scientists, philosophers and theologians continue to argue about whether religious belief is a biological or a sociological phenomenon."

Why is it an either/or proposition? It's NOT.

Second I wanted to express my complete excitement when I got an email over a listserv I've long been a member of, ECOLOG-L (sci.bio.ecology) talking about the Obama administration inducting zoologist Jane Lubchenco as NOAA advisor and former AAAS president (American Association for the Advancement of Science) John Holdren as White House Science Advisor. I saw this and thought, wow how exciting that a scientist whose marine ecosystem work I read about in my Biology 101 textbook back in 1989 or so is now being inducted in the Obama admin! How cool to not have industry cronies advising the White House on science! But then I also saw that some Senator has placed an "anonymous hold" on them... and I am not sure what that means, exactly, but UGH! Here's a link to a blog post on the hold:

http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2009/03/science_advisor_and_noaa_admin.php



quotes on truth

2009-02-20T09:32:11.336-08:00

I am writing, and revising, my chapter on truth - how we come to believe what we do. I've come across some fantastic quotes I thought I'd share here.

There are truths, that are beyond us, transcendent truths, about beauty, truth, honor, etc. There are truths that man knows exist, but they cannot be seen - they are immaterial, but no less real, to us. It is only through the language of myth that we can speak of these truths. - J. R. R. Tolkien

Only through myth, through story telling can we aspire to the life we were made for with God. To write and/or read myth was to meditate on the most important truths of life. – JRR Tolkien

"No doubt those who really founded modern science were usually those whose love of truth exceeded their love of power." -- CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man

"And then she understood the devilish cunning of the enemies' plan. By mixing a little truth with it they had made their lie far stronger." -- CS Lewis The Last Battle (this has got to be the most insightful quote ever - so apropos to intelligent design!)

"To admire Satan [in Paradise Lost] is to give one's vote not only for a world of misery, but also for a world of lies and propaganda, of wishful thinking, of incessant autobiography." --CS Lewis, A Preface to Paradise Lost

"Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it." - Pascal.



The E Word: a playground adaptation

2009-02-03T15:02:23.296-08:00

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Just wanted to give a quick shout out to the blog for the upcoming play by Sharon Sparlin, who I met at the November 2008 hearings at the State Board of Education in Austin. The play looks riotously funny - I've seen the "treatment" which takes place between young kids (the young Charlie - aka Charles Darwin and Emma). Check out the E Word blog: http://www.theewordplay.blogspot.com/. She also links back to my blog, as well as several other fantastic science blogs out there.




Colbert on evolution

2009-02-01T14:55:48.851-08:00

A brief interruption in programming to share something funny.

“Evolution is that like, millions and billions of years of mutations and recombinations and cosmic rays knock something out of one DNA so when the mitosis or myosis or whatever –osis come together something else happens and the fur falls off and suddenly King Kong is a man?”


– Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report.



Mixed outcome in TX Edu Board vote

2009-01-24T14:03:14.684-08:00

"I am on fire because I have mountains of ice before me to melt."
- Wendell Phillips


I missed Wednesday's State Board of Education hearing due to a hospital stay (details at my personal blog, Bohemian Adventures - I'm ok!) but here are a few links of interest.

The New York Times did a good balanced article on what happened, Split Outcome in Texas Battle on Teaching of Evolution.

There's a fantastic new website called TeachThemScience.org: Science Education Matters that has a wealth of great information on the issues, specifically related to Texas science education. It is a joint project of The Clergy Letter Project and The Center for Inquiry. The Clergy Letter Project is described on their website as:


For too long, the misperception that science and religion are inevitably in conflict has created unnecessary division and confusion, especially concerning the teaching of evolution. I wanted to let the public know that numerous clergy from most denominations have tremendous respect for evolutionary theory and have embraced it as a core component of human knowledge, fully harmonious with religious faith.

In the fall of 2004, I worked with clergy throughout Wisconsin to prepare a statement in support of teaching evolution. We were called to action by a series of anti-evolution policies passed by the school board in Grantsburg, WI. The response was overwhelming. In a few weeks, nearly 200 clergy signed the statement, which we sent to the Grantsburg school board on December 16, 2004. Additionally, groups of educators and scientists sent letters to the Grantsburg School Board and to the Superintendent of Schools protesting these policies. In response to all of this attention, as well as the efforts of others, the Grantsburg School Board retracted their policies.


The outpouring of support from clergy around the country encouraged me to make this a nationwide project. If you want to read more about it or join us in sharing this important perspective, click here. Encourage your clergy to consider signing the statement and please feel free to link to these webpages. And, while the current focus is on Christian clergy, please let me know if you are willing to write and/or host a statement from other religions.


It is formally endorsed by the United Methodist Church, and I hope that many more denominations embrace it. I was asked to be a scientific consultant of the Project, and my name is now listed in their directory of scientific consultants on call to help clergy (or others).




progress on my book

2009-01-16T00:26:57.198-08:00

I've been working hard on my book (which as I've mentioned before is about making peace between evolution and Christianity and will be published by Beacon Press). I've been writing new content, and rearranging my first few chapters into a cohesive story. I can write a feature article like it's nothing, since I've been doing it for nearly a decade and a half, but this is my first book and wrapping my head around the overall structure is challenging - but I'm actually having a lot of fun with it.

I've cleared my plate of other tasks and made it my only focus for the time being. The first chapter in the book, The Making of a Christian Evolutionist, talks about how I came to be a Christian who accepts evolution. It takes the reader from me as a naive but faithful young child, through some challenging life situations and to the point where I became an atheist in high school and college, then ultimately back to the Christian faith. But of course during college, I became educated as an evolutionary biologist/ecologist. The chapter tells the story of my life, in a nutshell.

The next chapter is titled - as it stands now - The Fish Wars. This introduces the whole debate over evolution and creationism from the perspective of me teaching biology at the community college where I worked for several years, and the interactions with my students. This chapter gives a good, simple overview of what evolution actually is - and what it isn't. The next chapter is In Search of the Holy Grail of Truth (Or, I Don’t Quite Understand Your Question) - and it's in progress, but covers my experience testifying at the Texas State Board of Education in 2003 and this year (well late 2008 - and there's another hearing next week!), conflicting views on "truth" and how and why people come to believe what we believe.

The next chapter, There is a Striking Resemblance Between You and a Monkey, is about my travels to Colorado to spend Easter with the Epperson family, who were involved in the landmark 1968 Supreme Court case Epperson v. Arkansas that essentially overturned the infamous 1929 Scopes Monkey Trial which confirmed that it was ok to make teaching (human) evolution illegal. I love the title of this chapter! It's actually what someone said in a letter to Susan Epperson during the time of the Supreme Court battle back in the 1960s. The things people say! Yes, as a matter of fact there is a striking resemblance between you (and me) and a monkey!

So that's where I'm at now, completing and organizing and writing these first few chapters - the first half of the book. I've already done the excursions and such for the rest of the chapters too (which include narrative chapters on young earth creationism, and one on intelligfent design, among others). I'm having a lot of fun with it all, and am very excited about my progress! Prayers are much appreciated!!




New Texas SBOE science standards hearing

2009-01-15T08:15:44.150-08:00

A few items of note. There's a new hearing of the Texas State Board of Education on the science textbook issue. By law they're required to have 2 hearings, and I blogged about my experience at the previous one. This one they're limiting to 4 hours max of testimony. So I may or may not get time to testify, depending on when I sign up on Friday - the only day they have open for signing up! But I'm going to Austin to meet up with and talk with folks from the National Center for SCience Education (NCSE) and others supportive of evolution.

Here's a press release about registration, which is tomorrow, Friday Jan 16, 2009, only.

Dear Texas Friends,

The Texas State Board of Education has an upcoming meeting on 21 January 2009 at which there will be an opportunity for the public to testify about the third TEKS draft.

The third and final TEKS draft has been released, and we feel that speakers should encourage the SBOE to adopt this draft. The third draft does not use the “strengths & limitations” language present in the second draft and is stronger scientifically than the previous drafts. However, the SBOE may decide to ignore these recommendations and cobble together their own Science TEKS at the last minute, which this board previously did for the English Language Arts TEKS.

To testify, you must register this Friday, 16 December, between 8 am and 5 pm (Central). Registration usually occurs on the Friday and Monday before the meeting; however, this time Monday is a holiday. Because there will be a 4-hour time limit on the testimony, we encourage potential speakers to sign up early on Friday. Each speaker is limited to 3 minutes, and should bring 35 handouts of the main points of his or her testimony.

According to the TEA website, you may register, by phone, fax, or in person by:
1. phone: 512-463-9007
2. fax: 512-936-4319 (on this form, chose “Full Board”:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/forms/registration_testimony.html
3. in person: at the William B. Travis (WBT) State Office Building, 1701 N. Congress, Austin, Texas 78701

TEA webpage for testifying before Full Board:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/op_rules.html#publictestimony

TEA webpage for meeting (the details of the 21 January meeting are not yet
posted, but will be posted to this address):
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/sboe/mtg_mat_current.html

The third TEKS draft:
http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/teks/Sci_TEKS_9-12_Clean_010509.pdf

On another note, I came across this interesting Pharyngula blog post, Texas has a problem, by PZ Myers about the state of Texas education...



fair, or "balanced"?

2008-11-23T14:03:29.918-08:00

Check out this absolutely excellent analysis of the media coverage of the Nov 19, 2008 Texas State Board of Education hearing, fair, or "balanced"? by Tony Whitson on his Curricublog. What he says is absolutely right on the money. They give equal coverage to the sides even though that's not an accurate portrayal of the situation.

Only a few newspapers - including the Ft Worth Star Telegram reporter that quoted me in an article - mention the overwhelming number of scientists and pro-science advocates versus the few creationists. The reporters also quote people like someone from the Texas Free Market Foundation, without mentioning that he was a registered lobbyist for Focus on the Family. Sometimes journalism is very discouraging - and the daily and local newspapers tend to be the worst. I'm in the media, but I do believe magazine reporting is often much higher caliber. For one thing, we have longer turnaround times, allowing for more fact-checking. The writers tend to (but not always) have more science background, or know how to research a little better. Anyway check out the curricublog. Very astute observations that should get wider play.




Fox News on TX Evolution Debate

2008-11-23T12:02:50.735-08:00

The truth will set you free. But first it will make you damn mad.
- Scott Peck.

I just came across this Fox News video "Evolution Debate Could Decide Children's Future" - which covered the State Board of Education hearing last Wednesday, and I'm in the video at two places: first coming into the hearing room after Clare Wuellner, Director of Center for Inquiry Austin, who they interviewed (she was dressed in the 1860-era getup, and is in the photos posted in my previous blog post). And then later you can see me standing in the audience at the Texas Freedom Network press conference. I would embed the video but I don't think I can... check it out!

Oh, and even though the coverage is decent, the title is kind of stupid, like how exactly is evolution going to decide children's future? The actual video shows that the decision of the Texas SBOE could determine how other states act on textbooks - but that was actually the issue at debate in 2003 and is not up for debate, currently. The issue currently is about the TEKS or standards. Yes, other states sometimes follow Texas' lead in some things, but... do they really? Actually come to think of it this reporter did not do his background research at all.

The other thing he missed is that although this coverage was better than most in terms of repesenting accurately that the science advocates came out in force and the creationisst were few in number, he did allow Mark Ramsey to wave about the "academic freedom" argument, but the reporter never counterpoints to explain that the reality is that nobody is trying to stop academic freedom. That is absurd! The point is that you don't teach *high school* students every brand new hypothesis and idea in science and/or allow them to debate the merits or come up with their own hypotheses. They are simply not equipped for it. Textbooks have always taught the current state of science (or whatever subject), and the process of science. And, if that were heeded, then intelligent design would not be in the textbooks. Nor would there be any "weaknesses" of evolution taught because evolution is one of the most robust theories in science - and if taught thoroughly (as I did when teaching at Kingwood College) it should be quite clear to students that the theory has genetic, genomic, physiological, anatomical, paleontological, and geological evidence - as well as predictive power.

The debate of evolution is a cultural and religious one and NOT a scientific one. So if creationists want it to be taught, they need to have a different class set up, or to teach it in social studies or current events. Dumbing down science is not going to help our children's future.

So maybe the Fox News report got the title right after all. If we remove or weaken evolution education in schools, our children's future IS at stake. As is our nation's future, really. And general concern over America's science lead was clearly shown in the National Academy of Sciences report (that I quoted in my testimony) Rising Above the Gathering Storm.




photos from SBOE hearing

2008-11-23T12:03:29.256-08:00

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.
- Voltaire



I have posted blog posts about my testimony at Daily Kos as Messin' with Texas Education, and at Texas Kaos - where it's currently on the recommended diary list.

Please go and add a comment at Daily Kos, or recommend me in the Tip Jar (the first comment) so that it gets on the Recommended List!

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Claire Wuellner, Director of Center for Inquiry-Austin, dressed in a 1860-era getup to make the point that the only scientific controversy over evolution ended around 1860 after Darwin's theory was first introduced on the scene.

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Dinosaur Barney and Clare Wuellner (as 1860-era woman) were some of the characters who showed up at the Texas State Board of Education hearing.

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At the Texas Freedom Network press conference prior to the hearing, someone holds a sign of the earth, asking "How old am I?"

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Gail Lowe, one of the creationist board members.

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The audience looks riveted. ;)

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Notice all the "Stand Up for Science" stickers on everyone?




slam dunk at the State Board of Education

2008-11-23T20:43:07.079-08:00

A man of sincerity is less interested in defending the truth than in stating it clearly, for he thinks that if the truth can be clearly seen it can very well take care of itself. -Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island.I just got home from Austin after a very long day at the State Board of Education hearing. Testimony on science TEKS didn't even start until about 3:45pm, and I spoke about 6pm, about halfway through the speakers. Something like 92 people signed up to testify - overwhelmingly scientists and science advocates. I think in the first 4 hours only 3 creationists spoke. This was a very different situation from in 2003 when I think it was about 60-40 (60% science advocates, 40% creationists). However that hearing was about textbooks, was more widely publicized, and intelligent design proponents flew in from Seattle, and evolution advocates from California. It was a bit more of a media circus.This year, they are revising the TEKS, which occurs every 10 years. They had a panel of scientists and science teachers who came up with a new version of the TEKS, and it was posted online Sept 15 here. These were pretty good. Then Monday, 2 days before the hearing, they posted a "new" version which had stealthily snuck back in the "strengths and limitations" (formerly "strengths and weaknesses") language which has been in the TEKS for 20 years but it has increasingly been seen and used as a possible place for those opposed to evolution to insert a wedge to criticize the theory - so was removed by the panel in the first (Sep 15) version.This is the problem with that language. Despite hysterical claims that science advocates and "evolutionists" are trying to prevent academic freedom, the reality is that analysis and criticism of scientific theories belongs in the halls of academia, in the laboratory, and among those scientists with enough know-how and expertise to know what they're critiquing and analyzing. It is not something that middle or high school students are educated enough or equipped to be able to adequately discuss the merits of a theory. I think it would be useful for students to debate or discuss the evolution-creation controversy but NOT in the science classroom, but in a cultural studies, religion, or social studies course, and because of the controversy this would need to be developed in a textbook or textbooks that could present the information in a non-biased manner.I wrote my testimony a couple days ago. However, during the hearing I got so absolutely disgusted at the behavior of the creationist board members that I added a paragraph to my testimony and called them out on their lies. In a repeat of the antics in 2003, which will be covered in my book, these Board members questioned people just for the sake of making their own points, putting people on the spot to answer questions outside of the testimony-givers realms of expertise and then fail to ask questions of actual scientific experts. They often asked questions of the young people, and those few creationists who agreed with them. Also, three creationist board members in particular, Terri Leo, Gail Lowe, Ken Mercer, and Barbara Cargill - repeatedly denied that the strengths and limitations language and their various changes on the November TEKS update had anything to do with religion. Sure. Whatever.This is how it went when I gave my testimony.I open with the same paragraph I wrote and posted previously, giving my background as a Christian and evolutionary biologist, mom, and former college biology instructor. Then I added something like this (it was written down but I spoke extemporaneously so it veered a bit):Despite what the creationist members of the Board say - Ms Lowe, Ms Leo, Ms Cargill, Ms Dunbar, Mr[...]



Newsflash to Palin

2008-10-26T21:52:09.278-07:00

Palin gave her first policy talk and during this talk which was about special needs funding, she ridiculed fruit fly research... She said:

“…sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.”


This has a clip:
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Research on fruit flies may seem esoteric to someone who has absolutely no understanding of science, but, Newsflash: Fruit fly research provided the bedrock foundation of modern genetics. Anyone who paid any attention in biology (that is, if their state's education system wasn't already completely floundering) should know that. Because fruit flies reproduce readily and produce many offspring in short periods of time, you can study the changes that occur when you breed together different strains (red eyes, white eyes, messed up wings, etc - and that allowed scientists to find where the specific genes were and what they were linked to - and that is how modern genetics was born).

Now that the genome of Drosophila has been mapped, fruit fly research is even more valuable - including research on things like autism which is one of "Special needs" that Palin wants to support and fund. She needs to do her research a little better! It does not bode well for science funding should McCain-Palin get elected. Nor for the future of sound science education.




Expelled Exposed

2008-04-26T14:53:39.731-07:00

The movie Expelled hit the theatres recently. While I want to watch the movie, I don't want to contribute any money to the coffers of these people who want to undermine science education and science. I recommend everyone check out the excellent website Expelled Exposed. As it says on the banner, "Flunked, not Expelled: What Ben Stein isn't telling you about intelligent design."

Expelled Exposed was created by the National Center for Science Education, a highly reputable organization led by Dr. Eugenie Scott. There's a great video on the website. Educate yourself on this Expelled Exposedvery important issue, and don't be swayed by the flashy Hollywood documentary movie and the mega-millions being spent by the intelligent design supporters.



Science and PR

2008-10-13T16:00:00.607-07:00

I have much more to say on this topic, but I'm replying to a comment a friend made to a previous post, and I realized it was worthy of its own post. She said:

"I do kind of disagree with you on the 'science and scientists do not have PR campaigns.' comment. Basically I view a lot of modern medicine to be a PR campaign. Sure I understand that the scientists creating the vaccines aren't necessarily the one's creating the ads but at the same time I often wonder how often medicine gets 'ok'd' just so someone can get their name recognized and the drug put on the market."

She's definitely right that sometimes technology or scientific endeavors DO have PR campaigns. But the pharmaceutical industry and the medical industry are not SCIENCE themselves, but the fruits of research. Companies with an agenda (profit) then take up a scientific "result" and push to get it used or accepted by more and more people so they can "save lives" or "help people" but really, sadly, that is secondary to their primary goal to make more money. I say that because I've seen too many products rushed througH FDA approval and then revoked years later or sold with stringent warnings - from tobacco to DES to DDT to many many more pharmaceuticals that end up in litigation over deaths and injuries.

My main point was that the process of scientific inquiry takes years and many multiple independent studies are required before a concept becomes accepted as a reliable theory with predictive power, like evolution. Even if Intelligent Design WAS "scientific" (rather than having a predetermined conclusion, which makes it not science) it would still be in its infancy, and so their groups' desire to get it into textbooks is as ridiculous as the tobacco industry trying to get into school textbooks that smoking is good for you! However, convincing the public of buying something - whether a product or an idea - THAT is the job of advertisements, which are really just subtle propaganda or "PR". That is why the Expelled movie is not doing intelligent design any favors because it just shows even more that ID is merely a big PR machine and not a genuine scientific endeavor.

If you dig deep enough and are not dead-set on your conclusion, even those convinced either that ID is "God's way" or that evolution is false, can and will see the truth. They usually don't want to dig much though. Many people do not like to challenge their beliefs because it's difficult and uncomfortable.



Evolution Weekend

2008-02-08T15:46:05.229-08:00

It's Evolution Weekend and check out the post on the Beacon Broadside, the blog of my upcoming book's publishing house, Dust Off Your Darwin Costume: It's Evolution Weekend! by Glenn Branch. He talks about his book (co-authored with NCSE Director Eugenie Scott), "Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Deisgn is Wrong for Our Schools." I met Dr Scott when I testified before the Texas State Baord of Education in 2003 regarding the Texas textbook adoption process. She's an amazing person, and NCSE does great work! We're gearing up for another crazy battle this coming school year since Governor Perry appointed Don McLeroy as the chairperson of the SBOE - and McLeroy is a loud and devout creationist.

For an alternative view from a Christian, read my testimony at the 2003 SBOE, which says that evolution and Christianity are fully compatible. Branch and Scott agree with this view. Happy Darwin Day!



scott peck on reality and truth

2008-01-27T19:43:05.107-08:00

Here are some great quotes from a genius, Scott Peck, Christian psychotherapist and best-selling author of The Road Less Traveled. These quotes speak to some very profound truths that the world would be wise to understand.

"By attempting to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we are giving away our power to some other individual or organization. In this way, millions daily attempt to escape from freedom."


"If our lives are to be healthy and our spirits are to grow, we must be dedicated to the truth. For truth is reality. And the more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world."


"Only a relative and fortunate few continue until the moment of death explorng the mystery of reality, revising and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true."


"We must always hold the truth, as best as we can determine it, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort."


Amen!



the deception and lies of ID

2008-01-27T10:27:35.892-08:00

Although I wrote in a previous post: "The whole problem with intelligent design as 'science' is that the concept has a predefined result - that the origins of the natural world must literally match the Genesis Creation account," the slippery snakes of the ID movement do not tell you their intention outright. The original (young earth) creationists did/do not hide this intention, but ID creationists do. Instead, ID proponents say they are looking for "signs of a designer" which may be an alien culture, a purple playdough man, or God (OK I added the purple playdough man idea myself). Why don't we add the Flying Spaghetti Monster to the list, too?

So my point is that they've deviously veiled their intent by claiming they are looking for signs of intelligence using probability theory and signs of "irreducible complexity" which fools their followers but not most scientists. And fortunately, not Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case who ruled ID is religious-based "creationism in disguise" and not science. Hence, teaching it in schools AS SCIENCE violates the constitutional separation of church and state. Make no bones about it, the proponents of ID want to break down that wall between church and state. The Kitzmiller vs. Dover court case was a resounding victory for science, but ID proponents certainly won't stop there.

As a Christian myself, I always wonder why the IDers don't think for a moment that maybe God *isn't* on their side when he keeps giving victory after victory to the supposedly "other side"? Although God's ways are mysterious and no one can claim to fully know God's ways, God is certainly on the side of Truth (and I do believe that there is Truth), especially since in the Bible the devil is described as the "father of lies."

The extent of ID proponents' lying, hypocrisy, and deception is truly frightening. Of course, isn't it always the case that those who are most guilty of propaganda and lying will cast this stone out to the other side. Have you ever had a cheating spouse or significant other accuse you of cheating? Or lying? It's a very common psychological tool used by the lying, deceiving person or group to sidetrack attention away from themselves. ID and other creationists frequently accuse evolution advocates of propaganda. Of course discerning the truth is not all that difficult, but it requires critical thinking, deeper research and understanding the issues, motives, and truths to all these situations. Unfortunately, most people do not have time for that, so they just tend to accept whatever the group/crowd thinks that they most closely align themselves with. To our country's peril! And to that individual's detriment as well.

I plan to start working on a course, seminar and workshop series that will help people decipher the real story from propaganda, and to discern lies versus truth. Are you being duped? Find out how to find out for yourself! Details coming soon.

I'd support having the "controversy" taught in schools, BUT it should be done in a social studies, religion, or cultural studies course and absolutely NOT in a science classroom!



is there evidence for macroevolution?

2008-01-24T20:36:25.788-08:00

After I cross-posted my last blog entry to The Daily Kos I got some good comments and discussion. The poll was done just for fun, sort of tongue-in-cheek though it did offend a couple of friends! That doesn't bother me so much, but one friend actually said she FORGAVE ME as if a difference of theological opinion is enough to cause a Christian friend of 20+ years to not forgive me? What about Jesus saying forgive 7 x 7 times?! I just wish we could all have a sense of humor here, people! :) Anyway I believe that we have to stand up for Truth and that is why I am adamant about evolution. I KNOW evolution is fact. I have Faith in God and Christ. There's a big difference. So the comment from a random person I don't know on Daily Kos was: It surprises me to here [sic] so many argue against ID and in support of Evolution on the basis of facts when most of the facts I've heard on these posts are either wrong or the arguments are lacking the facts. First it's important to know what the basis of ID is and what the followers believe. Not what the religious conservatives who tried to use ID in there favor to get religion back in school believe it is. It's a story of "really don't be on my side" because the conservatives are not helping the idea behind ID. Also to those who boldly call evolution a fact and not a theory. The science has the evidence to support the evolution of species due to natural selection. However, Evolution remains a theory that has plenty of gaps in going from one family to another. Apparently I must have had a terrible evolution teacher when I took the course in college because the gaps are amazing when you actually look at the details. Probabilities and mathematics are a science. You can prove how statistically improbable something is due to its complexities. How different is that basic concept than ID.And my response: You must certainly have had a very bad biology teacher because the evidence for macroevolution - NOT just microevolution and natural selection - is overwhelming not scant.The very fact of the universal genetic code in itself overwhelmingly supports common descent of all organisms from bacteria to human(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_code). That is just the beginning. Other basic facts (not theory) in support of evolution are: the shared muscle & bone arrangements in all vertebrates, which have been modified to fit the function in various creatures (birds versus whales versus bats versus fish etc) evidence from convergent evolution (unrelated organisms will evolve in very similar ways to rspond to similar evolutionary pressures) evidence from similarities of flora & fauna on Africa and South America and other continents due to plate tectonics (the continents used to be connected, so organisms on continents that used to be connected are more similar genetically than continents that were not connected - or in relation to time apart since at one point everything was one land mass which then moved apart into Gondwanaland and Laurasia, and then further split). The fact that geneticists can actually detect specific changes in genes and how that affects traits in one closely related organism to the next.This is just the very beginning of evidence!!I get frustrated that people who have had a single Biology class in college, learning evolution for a max of 3-4 weeks, think that they can debunk the whole thing by saying there'e no evidence. Try taking a bio class again, or reading about evolution from a non-biased source (scientists) or take an Evolution c[...]



Expelled: The Intelligent Design movie

2008-01-20T21:30:39.477-08:00

Cross-posted with a tongue-in-cheek quiz at the Daily Kos.The whole problem with intelligent design is that its proponents like to say it is science, and that the status quo of scientists are not allowing this new concept to be introduced into science classrooms, from some sort of discrimination or something. It's a reasonable enough sounding argument, and the premise of the new documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." And the makers of this film want people to see this movie so badly that they're offering to pay schools and churches $5 per student to see it. I first read about this on The Daily Irrelevant and The Bad Idea Blog.What intelligent design proponents - in the movie and elsewhere - don't tell you is that science and scientists do not have PR campaigns. They don't have to pay money to people to accept scientific theories and facts. They quietly go about their work in the halls of academia, in the laboratory, using computer models, in the field doing experiments, publishing results in scientific peer-reviewed journals. This is how science works. Scientific ideas don't need a PR campaign, films, and money to promote themselves. They MAY use these techniques as teaching tools, but that is generally after a scientific concept is well established.Intelligent design is not well-established, and despite what the film may tell people, it's not being expelled. It doesn't have enough data or studies behind it to be put into textbooks. In fact, it's not even science. Somehow we as a society seem to have forgotten what science even is. This shall not do! Science revolutionized the way people thought, paving the way for the amazing scientific and technological advances since then - germ theory, vaccines, antibiotics, traveling to the moon. The key here is that science requires scientists to throw out ideas that don't have supporting data. Every scientific hypothesis is always open to falsification - being shown to be false.The whole problem with intelligent design as "science" is that the concept has a predefined result - that the origins of the natural world must literally match the Genesis Creation account. Science does not work if you have a pre-set conclusion! No, for a process or idea to be science, those testing the premise have to be able to throw out the hypothesis if the data doesn't fit. Intelligent design is not willing to do that. Because that would mean they are saying, nope, we're wrong. God didn't create the world. At least that is what the fear it means.People that promote intelligent design KNOW that there is a God who created the universe. And I, myself a Christian, believe that they're right. But that doesn't make intelligent design right. Because ID does not even provide a proper mechanism, or method, through which the universe came into existence other than "God did it," (technically, their terminology is that the world has "irreducible complexity" that could not possibly have been created by anything other than an intelligent designer).However, evolution by means of natural selection has amazing explanatory power in terms of how the world could have gone from single-celled organisms to complex beings, even human beings. There's no scientific controversy over evolution. There is ONLY a social, religious and cultural controversy.Another problem with intelligent design proponents is this - very few people who follow it have ever taken a college Biology class in which they learned about evolution and its evidence. Instead they learn ab[...]



When science & faith find common ground

2008-01-20T11:52:20.179-08:00

Daily Kos contributing editor Steven Andrews wrote a fantastic Op-Ed in Wednesday Jan 16's Austin American-Statesman, "When science and faith find common ground." He starts by saying
"The age-old, simmering conflict between science and religion is threatening to boil over in Texas with the usual battle lines being drawn around evolutionary biology and public education science standards. Here's a thought: Instead of a long and potentially bitter stand-off between science advocates and creationist proponents, why doesn't Texas skip that mess and go straight to a reasonable compromise? Instead of arguing about fossils, radiometric dating methods or constitutional law, I'd ask those skeptical of evolution what better natural evidence for the brilliance of a Creator could there be than myriad complex processes unfolding over billions of years through countless steps in exquisite order spanning the entire cosmos?"
But my favorite line is when he uses the term "professional creationists" in this paragraph:
"It's no coincidence that professional creationists try to frame the issue as a struggle between science and religion. It's a false dichotomy to be sure, but it's also a powerful public relations tactic, one that serves their goals well. But despite what creationists may say, the choice is not between science and religion, or belief vs. atheism."
I've never heard it put like that, but it's such a perfect characterization of the people who devote their lives to pushing creationism in the classrooms and in society. I strongly believe that despite it being led largely by (right-wing conservative) Christians, creationism detracts from Jesus' message and does far more harm to Christianity than good. In fact, I don't see any good coming from it at all. It wastes taxpayers money (over $1 million spent on the recent Dover court case), tries to insert a religious concept into science classrooms, weakening science education, specifically and our school systems, generally, and last but not least, makes Christians look foolish to educated scientists and academics, many of whom are turned away from religion because of such tomfoolery. And as a concept, it's simply wrong, false, untrue, a lie masquerading as "Christian truth" which is really the most insidious of all things. A wolf in sheep's clothing, if ever there was one. Beware of creationism and inteligent design!

Christianity is about loving God and loving your neighbors of all sizes, shapes, creeds, colors, and religions. And forgiveness and grace. Fighting to get everyone to take a literal view of Genesis creation account should not be the central focus of any Christian's life. Nor should fighting to get schools to remove evolution, or introduce its supposed "weaknesses" or to push intelligent design (another form of creationism). What the Creation tale offers us is not a scientific treatise on Creatoin, but a story of how humanity got a soul, a conscience. Adam didn't eat an apple. It didn't have anything to do with sexual sin. What he did was eat of the "fruit of the knowledge of good and evil." If that is not profound, and clear, I don't know what is.



Call for Presidential Debate on Science

2008-01-19T19:56:25.669-08:00

This is sooooo needed!!! For information about ScienceDebate2008, visit: http://www.sciencedebate2008.com/

From the National Center for Science Education newsletter:
A CALL FOR A PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

A non-partisan coalition is calling for a presidential debate on science and technology. "Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness," the coalition writes, "we call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of the environment, health and medicine, and science and technology policy."

In a December 26, 2007, press release, John Rennie, editor-in-chief of Scientific American and a member of the coalition's steering committee, explained, "Matters of science and technology underpin every important issue affecting the future of the United States. It's crucial for the nation's welfare that our next president be someone with an understanding of vital science, a willingness to listen to scientific counsel, and a capacity for solid, critical thinking. A debate would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities on these issues."

The coalition is chaired by Representatives Vern Ehlers and Rush Holt, scientists themselves, who remarked in a joint statement, "We believe a debate on these issues would be the ideal opportunity for America and the candidates to explore our national priorities for the twenty-first century, and we hope candidates will wish to be involved in such a discussion." Among the others calling for the debate are fourteen Nobel laureates, the editors-in-chief of Nature and Science, and NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott. The coalition is accepting new supporters on its website.



news on the evolution front

2008-01-19T19:57:37.093-08:00

There was an interesting article in the Washington Spectator, Is Darwin Losing the Battle With God? It covers the battle to keep creationism out of science classrooms, starting with the Dover courtcase and ending with the firing of Texas Education Agency (TEA) Director Chris Comer. I think the most startling point is in the concluding paragraph: Now, teachers she knows in small towns across Texas have come to her [Chris Comer] to say they've been forced to teach creationism in science class for years. She asked them why they didn't do anything about it. "Come on," they told her. "What can I do? It's Texas." Yowza. I've heard of high school teachers avoiding evolution in class for fear of being called "spawn of the devil" or other names by enraged parents (never mind that students have to learn these topics to pass their state skills tests). But I've never heard of teachers being forced to teach creationism! That is a major violation of the separation of Church and State. People, this issue of separation of Church & State is what caused Americans had to fight for our independence against the Crown of England! Have we forgotten so soon what America was founded on, and why?in other news, the National Academies of Sciences & the Institute of Medicine have published a new book, Science, Evolution, and Creationism.A description from the NAS website for the book: How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable. In the book Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a group of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine explain the fundamental methods of science, document the overwhelming evidence in support of biological evolution, and evaluate the alternative perspectives offered by advocates of various kinds of creationism, including "intelligent design." The book explores the many fascinating inquiries being pursued that put the science of evolution to work in preventing and treating human disease, developing new agricultural products, and fostering industrial innovations. The book also presents the scientific and legal reasons for not teaching creationist ideas in public school science classes. Mindful of school board battles and recent court decisions, Science, Evolution, and Creationism shows that science and religion should be viewed as different ways of understanding the world rather than as frameworks that are in conflict with each other and that the evidence for evolution can be fully compatible with religious faith. For educators, students, teachers, community leaders, legislators, policy makers, and parents who seek to understand the basis of evolutionary science, this publication will be an essential resource. A gorgeous and educational 8-page brochure is available online as a PDF and a Press Release from NAS is available also.[...]