SCIENCE
Darwin vs Intelligent Design [Part 2]
By Dr. Rizwana Rahim
Chicago, IL


Part I of this article was published in Pakistan Link (‘Commentary’ section) on 17 Feb:
http://www.pakistanlink.com/Commentary/2006/Feb06/17/03.HTM .
Last year Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection (Variation, Inheritance, Selection over Time and Adaptation, or VISTA) didn’t just remain in the scientific, academic arena. Nor did Creationism and Intelligent Design (ID), as non-science challenges to it:
Creationism is rooted mostly in Biblical interpretation of the creation of the universe and life on earth, pushed mostly by religious conservatives, while ID is presented as a secular theory which holds that living organisms are far too complex to have evolved on their own and without direction (as Darwin suggested), and must have been designed by some unidentified ‘intelligent’ force.
These alternative theories, their proponents insist, should be taught in public school as part of the science curriculum -- alongside Darwin’s. Toward this end, the proponents have for some time been pressuring the educational boards around the country to marginalize Darwin in the schools. In 1987, this debate reached even the Supreme Court which struck down the Louisiana’s ‘Creationism Act’ (teaching ‘creationism’ with the theory of evolution) as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, i.e., separation church and state (Edward vs. Aguillard, 482 US 578; http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bi...=482&invol=578). Another battle on the same constitutional principle was won last December by the pro-science groups in a Pennsylvania federal court.
In October 2004 Dover, PA, the School Board made the public school students listen to a statement at the start of the biology class that evolution was a flawed theory and ID was an alternative they could also study. That was enough to make the parents of the 9th grade students file a suit against the Dover Board in a PA federal district court (Tammy Kitzmiller, et al v Dover_Area_School_District et al). It became the nation's first test case on the merits of ID teaching in public schools, and was closely followed in the academia, the press, around the country, around the world.
In a six-week trial, not only were the scientific arguments for and against ID/creationism analyzed, with expert testimony from both sides, but the constitutional issues were also sharpened. Judge John E. Jones III, a life-long Republican and a GW Bush appointee ruled against the Board and the IDers in a thorough but scathing 139-page report that traced the ID-Creationism link, the scientific merits of the claims, and the missteps of the Dover Board
(http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover_decision.html) :
1. ID is "an interesting theological argument, but it is not science," and “has utterly no place in a science curriculum.” ID “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents”; it is “nothing less than the progeny of creationism” [its teaching in public schools was ruled unconstitutional in 1987].
2. The Board thinks that the evolutionary theory “is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general.” This was a case of “breathtaking inanity.” Their “bedrock assumption” is “utterly false.”
3. Darwin’s theory may have gaps and flaws and does not explain abiogenesis (creation of life from non-living matter), but just because “a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an un-testable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.”
4. “It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.”
5. This case, the Judge said, “[was] the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board. ” For further study, Dover 9th graders had been referred to “Of Pandas and People,” by Dean Kenyon, Percival Davis, and Nancy Pearcey, all acknowledged creationists, and published by a Christian religious organization. It came out in the trial that in this book, the word "creation" was changed to “intelligent design,” AFTER the 1987 Supreme Court ruled against ‘creationism’ in public schools.
6. It was "unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom" because it “violates the Establishment Clause.” Based on the violation of fundamental rights, the Judge ordered “permanently enjoining [the School Board] from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID.”
7. Ripping the argument that ID should be taken as science, the Judge said: ID doesn’t qualify as science but it invokes “supernatural causation”; its fundamental argument of irreducible complexity is “flawed” and that ID “ failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community,” and it’s "a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory." There’s “the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory”, and NO experimental data exist on “how intelligent design of any biological system occurred,” or any empirical evidence of ‘irreducible complexity’, and ID and its core ‘irreducible complexity cannot be proved “by experiment.” This was admitted in the court by Behe, an ID proponent.
8. The Judge said, ID's goal, put out by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, has been to "defeat" science and “scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies" and "replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God." These "Governing Goals" form the crucial part of the Institute’s ‘Wedge Document.’
But this court decision may not be the end of the story. This year is still young, and some embers lie scattered around the country (e.g. in Muscatine, IA ). The National Center for Science Education (Oakland, CA) suspects efforts in “at least two dozen states” to introduce challenges to evolution in their science curricula, perhaps more like the conservative State Board of Education of Kansas which expanded the very definition of science which may allow teaching ID and other non- or super-natural beliefs.
This may not be surprising according to a CBS poll last October, which suggested that 51% of Americans reject the theory of evolution, and that God created humans in their present form. This followed a poll last August by Pew Research Center which suggested about 38 percent of Americans believe that creationism should be taught instead of evolution. When asked about this question, President Bush said that "both sides ought to be properly taught." Last year, 38 Nobel Laureates called ID “fundamentally unscientific,” and some 70,000 Australian scientists and teachers labeled it as “not science.”
In an article this January in L'Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper, Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, labeled the Judge’s decision as "correct." It may not be the official Vatican position but the article explained that people did not have to abandon religion to accept Darwin’s theory of evolution. Lawrence M. Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH commented: "Science does not make that requirement."


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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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