Friday, January 27, 2012

Indiana Joins the Fray

According to a report from the NCSE, Indiana's state senate has passed a bill that:
if enacted would allow local school districts to "require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science," was passed by the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development on January 25, 2012. The vote was 8-2, with the bill's sponsor and committee chair Dennis Kruse (R-District 14), Carlin Yoder (R-District 12), Jim Banks (R-District 17), Jim Buck (R-District 17), Luke Kenley (R-District 20), Jean Leising (R-District 42), Scott Schneider (R-District 30), and Frank Mrvan Jr. (D-District 1) voting for and Earline S. Rogers (D-District 3) and Tim Skinner (D-District 38) voting against the bill.
All but one a Republican. Natch. More and more, this whole “academic freedom” legislation is becoming a plank of the Republican party. Mitt Romney and Ulysses S. Gingrich are out of step. This is surely a procedural, academic vote since it will likely not pass constitutional muster, given the ruling handed down in Dover vs. Kitzmiller. Those that passed the bill must know this. That is what makes it even more ridiculous—that they would take time to debate something that is dead in the water. As Todd Rundgren sings: “Too little to do and too much time.” The text of the bill is remarkably brief and does not even define creation science, which is also problematic. It reads:
The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.
Are there really only two people in that committee that have decent enough backgrounds in science to know a bad idea when they see it?

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Well Could Archaeopteryx Fly?

Science Daily has a story on Archaeopteryx and its ability to fly. Quoth they:
Some secrets have been revealed by an international team of researchers led by Brown University. Through a novel analytic approach, the researchers have determined that a well-preserved feather on the raven-sized dinosaur's wing was black. The color and parts of cells that would have supplied pigment are evidence the wing feathers were rigid and durable, traits that would have helped Archaeopteryx to fly.
It is nice to have yet more information about this genus. This new information adds yet another dimension to the transitional nature of Archaeopteryx, which is regarded as having mostly theropod dinosaurian characteristics. It does not help the YEC-based arguments that Archaeopteryx was just a bird.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yes, the Neandertals Knew What They Were Doing...

Science Daily has a report from the University of Kent, in which researchers examined large numbers of Levallois stone tools to determine just how much “engineering” took place in the making of them. From the story:
Now, an experimental study – in which a modern-day flintknapper replicated hundreds of Levallois artifacts – supports the notion that Levallois flakes were indeed engineered by prehistoric hominins. By combining experimental archaeology with morphometrics (the study of form) and multivariate statistical analysis, the Kent researchers have proved for the first time that Levallois flakes removed from these types of prepared cores are significantly more standardised than the flakes produced incidentally during Levallois core shaping (called ‘debitage flakes’). Importantly, they also identified the specific properties of Levallois flakes that would have made them preferable to past mobile hunter-gathering peoples.

Dr Metin Eren, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation and the flintknapper who crafted the tools, said: ‘The more we learn about the stone tool-making of the Neanderthals and their contemporaries, the more elegant it becomes. The sophistication evident in their tool-making suggests cognitive abilities more similar to our own than not.’
This is not news to most palaeoanthropologists, who regard the Levallois core technology, which is found not just in Europe but in the Levant and Russia as well, as being a sophisticated method for mass-producing stone tools. I guess it is finally nice to get confirmation that the Neandertals were more complex than some people thought, even if Dr. Erin damns them with faint praise at the end.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

More Trouble in Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has drafted a state budget that calls for 286 million dollars in cuts, some of which will come in the form of cuts to university and community colleges, grants to local school districts and library and archive services. While these are alarming to many in the Bluegrass state, what has more than a few people riled up is that the $43 million in tax incentives for the Ark Encounter are being left alone. Were these taxes collected, it would amount to 15% of the total cuts and would probably save some important programs from being cut at all. As Daniel Koecker, of Gather Politics writes:
The budget ideas combined with the tax cuts for the religiously themed park are highly controversial. With the state facing such budget issues, granting such a generous tax break is probably not the best idea, but the fact that it's going towards a biblically themed amusement park is quite interesting. Some say that the park will create jobs, but this was based on a report from the park's developers. While the budget cuts claim to avoid layoffs, and construction will no doubt need workers, it is perhaps a mark of botched priorities when cuts are made to higher education at the same time as a multi-million dollar budget cut is given to a theme park, religious or not; Beshear has also supported the project for years.
The wisdom of preserving these tax incentives becomes even more questionable when you factor in the recent news that the park is having trouble meeting the financial goals necessary to go ahead with the project. If enough negative support can be mustered in protest of the new budget and its deference to the Ark-n-Park, it might cause the whole project to capsize.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chris Stringer on Modern Human Origins

Chris Stringer was one of the original progenitors of the Out of Africa model of modern human origins, which posited that anatomically modern Homo sapiens arose in sub-Saharan Africa as a speciation event1 and then replaced the archaic humans that they came into contact in other areas of the Old World. Needless to say, this perspective has been rocked by a number of astonishing studies that have come out in the last few years, including but not limited to these reports:
These have cast considerable doubt on the integrity of anatomically modern humans as a separate species but suggest, instead that despite the timing of some of these trysts, Homo sapiens was a much more polytypic species then met the eye.

Now the grand don of the replacement model is undergoing a re-think. The Edge provides us with a wonderful trek through the history of the origins of modern humans debate and the current evidence for it. He hasn't given up the ship yet, though. He notes:
In my view the Neanderthals were closely related and probably potentially able to interbreed with modern humans, but until recently I considered that while there could have been interbreeding forty or fifty thousand years ago, it was on such a small scale that all trace of it vanished in the intervening years. But it now seems from Neanderthal genome studies that that was not so. We do have a bit of Neanderthal in us, you and I—it's a small amount, but certainly not negligible..

Does that mean Neanderthals are a different species or does it mean we should include them in Homo sapiens? Well, they are still only a small part of our makeup now, reflecting something like a 2.5% input of their DNA. Physically, however, they went extinct about 30,000 years ago. They had distinct behavior and they evolved under different conditions from us, so I still think it's useful to keep them as a separate species, even if we remember that that doesn't necessarily preclude interbreeding.
The percentage of Neandertal genes ranges from a low of 2% to a high of 9%, depending on who you read. The problem here is that, while we currently only have the small percentages, what can be said of the early modern Europeans, or of the people in Europe even as late as the Neolithic? It is almost certain that they would have had much higher percentages.

Further, do these genes explain the traits that Dave Frayer has been seeing for years in the earliest modern humans, such as the extended hemi-buns of the central European sample from Předmosti or archaic characteristics of the Mladeč crania?

The talk is quite long but worth every minute to get the full understanding of how vexing the search for the origins of modern humans has been. As Glenn Reynolds would say: Read the Whole Thing.

1Stringer, C. B., & Andrews, P. (1988). Genetic and Fossil Evidence for the Origin of Modern Humans. Science, 239(4845), 1263-1268.

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Missouri House Bill No. 1227: The Invisible Hand of The Discovery Institute

This is quite something to behold. This bill, which is authored by Rick Brattin, a Republican representative mandates the equal teaching of intelligent design in classrooms in Missouri. Let's see what it says.

First, it starts out with some definitions. Among them are “Biological Evolution” and “Biological Intelligent Design.” The definition of biological evolution moves along just fine until the end when we find this:
Theory philosophically demands only naturalistic causes and denies the operation of any intelligence, supernatural event, God or theistic figure in the initial or subsequent development of life;
No, it doesn't. The theory has absolutely nothing to say about the existence or non-existence of God. It simply provides a mechanism for understanding evolution that is observable in the natural world. All Charles Darwin did was remove the necessity of explaining evolution using supernatural means. That is a very different thing. Darwin's own struggles with belief in God had little to do with his understanding of the natural world. Onward. Here is part of the definition of Biological Intelligent Design:
"Biological intelligent design", a hypothesis that the complex form and function observed in biological structures are the result of intelligence and, by inference, that the origin of biological life and the diversity of all original species on earth are the result of intelligence. Since the inception of each original species, genetic material has been lost, inherited, exchanged, mutated, and recombined to result in limited variation. Naturalistic mechanisms do not provide a means for making life from simple molecules or making sufficient new genetic material to cause ascent from microscopic organisms to large life forms.
I can't think of a single biologist who would agree with this statement. It is Discovery Institute 101 and reflects the whole “No Free Lunch” paradigm of William Dembski that has been refuted time and time again. Evolution produces enormous amounts of variation that is acted on by selection to produce a wide range of species. This process ought to be patently obvious even from our own genetic mechanisms such as crossing over of homologous chromosomes and independent assortment. A bit down, we encounter this:
The origin of life on earth is inferred to be the result of intelligence directed design and construction. There are no plausible mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic origin of the first independent living organism;

(b) All original species on earth are inferred to be the result of intelligence directed design and construction. There are no significant mechanisms or present-day experiments to prove the naturalistic development of earth's species from microscopic organisms;

(c) Complex forms in proteins, enzymes, DNA, and other biological structures demonstrated by their constituent molecules in regard to size, shape, quantity, orientation, sequence, chirality, and integration imply intelligent design was necessary for the first life on earth. Intelligence is capable of designing complex form;

(d) Complex functions demonstrated by growth, reproduction, repair, food metabolization, waste disposal, stimuli response, and autonomous mobility in microscopic organisms imply intelligent design was necessary for the first life on earth. Intelligence is capable of designing complex function;

(e) Within the history of human experience, all exhibits of recurring discrete symbols from a set of symbols arranged in a specific sequence which store information and can be read by human intelligence, is itself the result of intelligence. DNA contains stored information for the assembling of proteins and enzymes which can be read by humans and is the result of intelligence. The recurring discrete symbols sequenced within DNA which store information are the molecules adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine;

(f) Intelligence-directed design and construction of all original species at inception without an accompanying genetic burden is inferred rather than random mutational genetic change as a constructive mechanism. Random mutational genetic change results in an increasing genetic burden and species degradation rather than species ascent;

(g) Intelligence-directed action is necessary to exceed the limits of natural species change, which is a combination of autogenous species change and environmental effected species change. Multi-generation breeding experiments illustrate the limits of natural species change and its inadequacy for developing required genetic information found in dissimilar species;
In all of these statements, evolution is said to only bring about decay and disorder because everything is random and an increase in randomness only leads to chaos. All of these assertions about evolution reflect William Dembski's stubborn lack of understanding of how selection works. If evolution were to proceed in a completely random fashion like he thinks it does, then this statement would carry some weight but it does not behave that way.

This could all be picked apart but overall, it is clear that it is written by someone with no understanding of science. What this all amounts to is argument from negative evidence. It is inferred that there is no evidence that any of this occurred naturally, therefore it must have been done by a creator. In other words, your theory is wrong, therefore mine must be right.

The other problem that this section exhibits is that there is a subtle redefinition of science. In three instances in the above paragraph, the word “inferred” is used, as if that were enough to promote a scientific model. There is no statement that any of the above inferences can be scientifically supported. That is not what is important here. What is important is showing that evolution is a godless process and must be disposed of.

The bill continues:
(g) Intelligence-directed action is necessary to exceed the limits of natural species change, which is a combination of autogenous species change and environmental effected species change. Multi-generation breeding experiments illustrate the limits of natural species change and its inadequacy for developing required genetic information found in dissimilar species;

(h) The irreducible complexity of certain biological systems implies a completed design and construction at inception rather than step-by-step development, as indicated by the structures observed for sight, hearing, smell, balance, blood coagulation, digestion, and hormone control;

(i) The lack of significant transitional forms between diverse species existing today and in the fossil record implies all original species were completed at inception rather than by a step-by-step development from other species. A lack of transitional forms is illustrated by the appearance of large complex life forms in the Cambrian fossil record without any significant previous fossils;
The irreducible complexity argument is, of course, Behe's, but here the bill extends it to systems that have been shown to have intermediate stages, such as coagulation, sight, and hearing. The only thing missing from this laundry list is the chloroquine resistance argument.

Then the old stand-by comes out—that there are no transitional fossils. As I have mentioned before, this has been refuted so many times that it is now reasonable to call it a lie by those promoting it. There are so many examples of transitional fossils that it is difficult to keep track of them. Here is a nifty video on transitional fossils which should put any doubt to rest. Alternatively, you could look up Don Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters.

There is a section toward the end in which the concepts of scientific “laws” are delineated. Here is what Mr. Brattin thinks a theory is:
If scientific theory is taught, the theory shall be identified as theory when taught orally or in writing. Empirical data and conjecture may be presented to support taught theory where considered instructive. As used in this subsection, the term "theory" shall mean theory or hypothesis;
This definition is laughable in the extreme. The fact that he doesn't seem to know basic science is one thing. That he did not even go to the dictionary to find out what he is writing about is inexcusable. Here is the dictionary definition of hypothesis:
A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.
Here is the dictionary definition of theory:
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world.
This is a far cry from what Mr. Brattin thinks a theory is and his definition would change the understanding of how students understand the scientific method and make it more in line with common public misconception.

Toward the end, he puts in the best land mine, though:
A temporary committee shall be established and serve without compensation to develop supplemental textbook material for interim use by public schools for the teaching of biological intelligent design within two years after this section becomes law. The committee shall consist of nine individuals who are knowledgeable of science and intelligent design and reside in Missouri. Each member of the state board of education and the commissioner of education shall appoint one person to the committee. The supplemental material shall be based on subdivision (3) of subsection 2 of this section and its use by schools shall be optional. Interim supplemental material shall be accessible for copying on the department of elementary and secondary education internet website without cost or restriction.

Would this committee be composed of people as scientifically literate as those in the Texas School Board of Education, headed by Don McLeroy, who famously stated, “Someone has to stand up to experts!” before he was summarily shown the door? Would the supplemental material be young-earth creationism-based like that proposed for use in the Livingston Parrish public schools, down in Louisiana? Funny, every place where you have an “academic freedom” bill, the YEC supporters seem to pop up.

This is a bad bill from the get-go, written by a man who has little understanding or regard for the scientific process. He simply doesn't like evolution. That he has no idea what it is, is irrelevant.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

More Information on the Extinction of Neandertals

Science Daily has a report on some work that has been done at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado on the process of Neandertal extinction, which is still a tad more than a minor mystery. The author writes:

The paper “Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia” is co-authored by Julien Riel-Salvatore, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver; John Martin “Marty” Anderies, an associate professor of computational social science at ASU in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the School of Sustainability; and Gabriel Popescu, an anthropology doctoral student in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at ASU.

“It’s been long believed that Neanderthals were outcompeted by fitter modern humans and they could not adapt,” said Riel-Salvatore. “We are changing the main narrative. Neanderthals were just as adaptable and in many ways, simply victims of their own success.”

The interdisciplinary team of researchers used archeological data to track behavioral changes in Western Eurasia over a period of 100,000 years and showed that human mobility increased over time, probably in response to environmental change. According to Barton, the saw hunter-gathers, including both Neanderthals and the ancestors of modern humans, range more widely across Eurasia searching for food during a major shift in the Earth’s climate.

In this scenario, modern humans did not out-compete their brethren or wipe them out by means of war, but simply that they intermixed with them and, as the climate changed and the selection pressures of maintaining the bulky Neandertal form changed, two things happened: negative selection was placed on the Neandertal genome and the influx of the modern human genome swamped that of the Neandertals. To be sure, there were likely refugia and it is possible that Zafarraya (which has a full suite of Neandertal characteristics at 26 Ky BP) represents this, but it is an explanation which has a good deal going for it.

As Dave Frayer put it, you can find individual Neandertal traits in early modern humans but no one person has the whole suite of them.

The paper can be found at

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Early Evolutionary Step Replicated

This from Science Daily: a story where an early evolutionary step in which single-celled organisms began to band together to form mats and communities is replicated. The author writes:

It all started about two years ago with a casual comment over coffee that bridging the famous multi-cellularity gap would be "just about the coolest thing we could do," recall postdoctoral researcher Will Ratcliff and associate professor Michael Travisano, both from the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.

So they decided to give it a try. Then came the big surprise. It wasn't actually that difficult. Using yeast cells, culture media and a centrifuge, it only took them one experiment conducted over about 60 days, says Travisano, who is senior author on the PNAS paper.

"I don't think anyone had ever tried it before," says lead author Ratcliff. "There aren't many scientists doing experimental evolution, and they're trying to answer questions about evolution, not recreate it."

Although this doesn't answer all of the questions about how early life evolved, it answers some important ones.

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Explanation on Yesterday's Post about AiG

The only reason that I gave Answers in Genesis a grade of “D” and not “F” is that there is some non-origins related scriptural guidance on the site. One has to be careful, though because even that will sometimes have land mines in it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yes, But What About the Content?

Now we find that the AiG web site has been given the award of “Best Ministry Website” by the National Religious Broadcasters. The Community Press of Kentucky reports:
“With a clean, streamlined look, Answers in Genesis’ website presents all their resources in an easy to navigate format,” Frank Wright, National Religious Broadcasters President and CEO, said in a statement. “Anyone with questions pertaining to the Bible’s authority and relevance to life in today's world would be well served at their site.”

Ken Ham, co-founder and CEO of AiG praised the website staff for its efforts.

“We have a hard-working, creative team that refreshes our website every 24 hours with excellent content,” Ham said. “They are committed to proclaiming the authority of the Bible from the very first verse.”
It is unfortunate that the National Religious Broadcasters don't examine content in giving out this award (or maybe they do, which would be worse) because that grade would be a D. So much misinformation in such a streamlined site. Aren't we blessed.

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Is Noah's Ark Sinking?

I missed this story when it came out in late December. It seems that the funding for the “Ark-n-Park” has run aground. Simon Brown of Americans United writes:
According to multiple reports in LEO Weekly (Louisville), AiG said in January that ground would be broken on the project in the spring of 2011. Then in May, AiG said groundbreaking would be over the summer. In June, AiG said construction would begin in August. By early August AiG still had not broken ground but promised that it would happen “in the next few months.” Then in late August, AiG bumped the timetable way back, saying groundbreaking would begin in the spring of 2012. In the meantime, AiG continues to take donations even though it is well short of the total it needs to build the “Ark Park.” According to another article in LEO Weekly, the project has received just $4.3 million of the $24.5 million sought. Donations have totaled a mere $1.3 million in the last seven months.
I can muster little if any support for this project as I think it promotes a bankrupt scriptural model. There just is not any evidence whatever that there was a world-wide flood and to tell people otherwise when there is little in the Bible to warrant only that explanation is misguided at best. I am guessing that, given the power behind this troubled venture, it will eventually get built. Oh can only hope not.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rediscovery of a Lifetime

According to a story in Planet Earth Online, a large cache of fossils has been rediscovered at the British Geological Survey, some of which produced quite a surprise. Adele Rackley writes:
Dr. Howard Falcon-Lang, a palaeontologist at Royal Holloway, University of London was in the BGS archive looking for carboniferous fossil-wood specimens when he made the discovery.

"I spotted some drawers marked "unregistered fossil plants", he recalls. "I can't resist a mystery, so I pulled one open. What I found inside made my jaw drop!"Inside were hundreds of fossil plants, polished into thin translucent sheets known as 'thin sections' and captured in glass slides so they could be studied under a microscope.

Falcon-Lang's jaw dropped even further when he began to take out the slides. One of the first he looked at was labelled 'C. Darwin Esq.'
These were, in fact, some of the fossils that Charles Darwin had brought back from the trip aboard the Beagle. They had been given for safe keeping to Joseph Hooker and, somehow, just slipped through the cracks. It does give one a picture of the enormity of how much was being discovered even at that time. There is, in fact, a dirty secret in that most museums display only a fraction of what they actually have in their vaults, much of which is uncatalogued. Remember that the next time that someone tells you that the fossil record has gaps in it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Geologically Recent Ape in Europe

Deutsche Welle world has an interesting story about dental remains that have been discovered in Europe that put Miocene apes in the region as recently as 7 million years ago. According to the story:
"The latest data have shown that contrary to the hominids in Western and Central Europe (with the exception of the insular Oreopithecus), hominids from the Eastern Mediterranean may have lived up to 8 to 7.5 [million years ago], preadapted to the more open biotopes of the Balkan-Iranian zoographic province," the team wrote.
What is important to note about this story (and it threw me for a minute) is that the author is using the newer phylogenetic systematics-driven definition of “hominid.” In this scheme, “hominids” are now at the family level and include us and all of the great apes and “hominins” (us and our ancestors) are at the sub-family level.

A problem, voiced by one of the excavators, is, of course, that it is just one tooth, so we cannot say too much about it. Still, it is interesting if it bears up.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Jay Mathews on Rick Santorum, Intelligent Design and Education

Jay Mathews has a column for the Washington Post on Rick Santorum and the promotion of Intelligent Design. It is peculiar, to say the least. Mathews writes:
Advocates of intelligent design at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute have influenced Santorum. They accept many Darwinist concepts, such as the notion that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. They see a weakness in Darwinian theory because of the lack of much evidence of natural precursors to the animal body types that emerged in the Cambrian period 500 million years ago. How did we get from random chemicals to creatures with eyes and spines? They say that gap in knowledge leaves open the possibility of intervention by an outside force.
But is this really from whence his influence came? Santorum is, in fact, a very conservative man who is adamantly against the teaching of evolution. He has stated:
I believe in Genesis 1:1 -- God created the heavens and the earth. I don't know exactly how God did it or exactly how long it took him, but I do know that He did it. If Gov. Huntsman wants to believe that he is the descendant of a monkey, then he has the right to believe that -- but I disagree with him on this and the many other liberal beliefs he shares with Democrats.
This does not track with influence from the DI. Santorum may have gotten his “academic freedom” ideas from them, but it is not clear he got much else. What it tracks with is influence from one of the young-earth organizations such as the ICR or AiG.

is what has people running scared. As far as they are concerned (and I think they are right), he doesn't really want equal footing for evolution and ID. He very plainly derides evolutionary theory and he wants evolution education gone. He just can't come right out and say it.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Todd Wood on William Jennings Bryan

Todd Wood, who teaches at Bryan College, named for William Jennings Bryan has written a glowing tribute to the late orator. He writes:
As an outspoken critic of evolution (which he called a “guess with nothing in the universe to support it”), the college’s namesake isn’t known for his love of science. In his own day, critics accused Bryan of spreading “appalling obscurantism” and “peculiar imbecilities.” Bryan—and creationists like me—are commonly believed to be antiscience. After all, how could you possibly doubt something so well established as evolution? You might as well believe the earth is flat, or so the common wisdom would have you believe.
But is this really so? Ron Numbers, in his article on the creationists in Science, writes:
Though one could scarcely have guessed it from his public pronouncements, Bryan was far from being a strict creationist. In fact, his personal beliefs regarding evolution diverged considerably from those of his more conservative supporters. Shortly before the trial he had confided to Kelly that he, too, had no objection to “evolution before man but for the fact that a concession as to the truth of evolution up to man furnishes our opponents with an argument which they are quick to use, namely, if evolution accounts for all the species up to man, does it not raise a presumption in behalf of evolution to include man?”
This puts him more in the camp of C.S. Lewis, who was accepting of evolution as a scientific discipline but not of “evolutionism” (what we would refer to as philosophical naturalism). This does not paint a picture of an anti-evolutionist at all but one concerned about the effects of evolution in society.

What is also side-stepped in this article is the fact that Bryan was not a young-earth creationist at all but rather accepted that the earth might be millions of years old. This also puts him at odds with modern creationists and, as Numbers writes, more in tune with other conservative theologians of his time. In writing about William Jennings Bryan's anti-evolutionism, these things should have been addressed.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

New Hampshire Joins the Anti-Evolution Fight

Legislators in New Hampshire remind us once again that politicians should not be involved in science education, since they evidently know so little about it. Two bills have been introduced, according to Ben Wolfgang of the Washington Times. He writes:
Legislators in New Hampshire have introduced a pair of anti-evolution bills, one of which calls for intelligent design to be taught as a hypothesis for how life began. The measure’s co-author, state Rep. Gary Hopper, told the Concord Monitor newspaper last week that he wants “to introduce children to the idea they have a purpose for being here.”

“I want the problems with current theories to be presented so that kids understand that science doesn’t really have all the answers. They are just guessing,” Mr. Hopper said.
You've got to be kidding me! How can you get into a position of authority such as a state representative and be that stupid??? This man has no business serving in any public capacity that deals with education whatsoever. That statement alone should produce calls for his resignation. It just gets better:
A companion bill, introduced by Rep. Jerry Bergevin, would require that evolution be taught as a theory, and that students be presented with the “godless” worldview that he believes accompanies the idea.
In one swell foop, our good representative reveals that he has no idea what a theory is or that evolutionary theory is perfectly compatible with belief in God. Did these people take ANY science courses at all?? New Hampshire deserves better, smarter politicians.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Ted Davis on Evangelicals and Fundamentalists

Ted Davis, Vice-President of the ASA contacted me today and had some kind words to say about my blog. He also reminded me of a great article he wrote in 2008 about how evangelicals deal with science. A high point:
Evangelicals and fundamentalists share many core beliefs, but differ from one another mainly in attitude, especially their overall attitude toward modernity, including science. George Marsden, the leading historian of fundamentalism, defines it as “militant anti-modernism,” and both parts of that definition are crucial. Where fundamentalists have historically emphasized separation from the world and its “worldliness,” evangelicals have typically been much more willing to engage the world on its own terms, and thus their understanding of the world is negotiated to a much greater extent than that of fundamentalists
He is quite correct and I am often guilty of lumping them into the same group: science skeptics. it nonetheless continually puzzles me when many evangelicals that I know will have absolutely no trouble accepting the findings of modern chemistry, physics, cell theory, germ theory and other scientific perspectives and yet reject those of others, almost arbitrarily. He makes mention of this as being the difference between the so-called historical sciences and the "current" sciences. The problem is that the same techniques apply, something that most evangelicals don't seem to understand. Read the whole thing.

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