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An Open Letter to the Kansas State Board of Education
Discovery.org ^ | 5/12/05 | Dr. Philip S. Skell

Posted on 05/12/2005 5:17:22 PM PDT by Michael_Michaelangelo

May 12, 2005

Dr. Steve E. Abrams, Chair
Kansas State Board of Education
C/o Kansas State Department of Education
120 SE 10th Avenue
Topeka KS 66612-1182
Fax: (785) 296-7933

Dear Dr. Abrams:

I have been following the controversy over the adoption of new science standards in your state with interest. I am writing—as a member of the National Academy of Sciences—to voice my strong support for the idea that students should be able to study scientific criticisms of the evidence for modern evolutionary theory along with the evidence favoring the theory.

All too often, the issue of how to teach evolutionary theory has been dominated by voices at the extremes. On one extreme, many religious activists have advocated for Bible-based ideas about creation to be taught and for evolution to be eliminated from the science curriculum entirely. On the other hand, many committed Darwinian biologists present students with an idealized version of the theory that glosses over real problems and prevents students from learning about genuine scientific criticisms of it.

Both these extremes are mistaken. Evolution is an important theory and students need to know about it. But scientific journals now document many scientific problems and criticisms of evolutionary theory and students need to know about these as well.

Many of the scientific criticisms of which I speak are well known by scientists in various disciplines, including the disciplines of chemistry and biochemistry, in which I have done my work. I have found that some of my scientific colleagues are very reluctant to acknowledge the existence of problems with evolutionary theory to the general public. They display an almost religious zeal for a strictly Darwinian view of biological origins.

Darwinian evolution is an interesting theory about the remote history of life. Nonetheless, it has little practical impact on those branches of science that do not address questions of biological history (largely based on stones, the fossil evidence). Modern biology is engaged in the examination of tissues from living organisms with new methods and instruments. None of the great discoveries in biology and medicine over the past century depended on guidance from Darwinian evolution---it provided no support.

As an aside, one might ask what Darwin would have written today if he was aware of the present state of knowledge of cell biology, rather than that of the mid 19th century when it was generally believed the cell was an enclosed blob of gelatin? As an exemplar, I draw your attention to what Prof. James A. Shapiro, bacteriologist, U. of Chicago, wrote (http://www.bostonreview.net/br22.1/shapiro.html).

For those scientists who take it seriously, Darwinian evolution has functioned more as a philosophical belief system than as a testable scientific hypothesis. This quasi-religious function of the theory is, I think, what lies behind many of the extreme statements that you have doubtless encountered from some scientists opposing any criticism of neo-Darwinism in the classroom. It is also why many scientists make public statements about the theory that they would not defend privately to other scientists like me.

In my judgment, this state of affairs has persisted mainly because too many scientists were afraid to challenge what had become a philosophical orthodoxy among their colleagues. Fortunately, that is changing as many scientists are now beginning to examine the evidence for neo-Darwinism more openly and critically in scientific journals.

Intellectual freedom is fundamental to the scientific method. Learning to think creatively, logically and critically is the most important training that young scientists can receive. Encouraging students to carefully examine the evidence for and against neo-Darwinism, therefore, will help prepare students not only to understand current scientific arguments, but also to do good scientific research.

I commend you for your efforts to ensure that students are more fully informed about current debates over neo-Darwinism in the scientific community.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Philip S. Skell
Member, National Academy of Sciences
Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus
Penn State University


Source: Link


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: controversy; crevo; crevolist; education; evolution; id; intelligentdesign; kansas
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To: Coyoteman; Elsie; AndrewC; jennyp; lockeliberty; RadioAstronomer; LiteKeeper; Fester Chugabrew; ...
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such education establishment, and to provide new guards for their future intellectual security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these red states; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of education. (underlined either altered or added to Declaration of Independence text)

I heard this quoted on the movie National Treasure and thought it appropriate.

21 posted on 05/13/2005 7:46:28 AM PDT by bondserv (Creation sings a song of praise, Declaring the wonders of Your ways )
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To: Sola Veritas
You statement is untrue. No true "ID" proponents have an agenda of getting "creationism" taught in the schools.

http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/idt/wedge.html

http://www.cse.msu.edu/~weinshan/Intelligent%20Design%20Movement%20in%20Their%20Own%20Words.htm

http://www.au.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5582&abbr=cs_

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1188

http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=cs_2005_02_special


22 posted on 05/13/2005 8:27:40 AM PDT by Coyoteman
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To: Sola Veritas

I had a class taught by an Emeritus professor when I was at Penn State ... I assume that since he taught the class ... he wasn't retired. I don't think Emeritus means retired ... I think it means "extremely distinguished and accomplished during his tenur ..."


23 posted on 05/13/2005 10:04:37 AM PDT by dartuser (Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism.)
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To: bondserv

Thanks for the ping!


24 posted on 05/13/2005 10:39:22 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Michael_Michaelangelo
Phil Skell is a well-known creationist gadfly on the Internet...

Phil Skell: Dingbat Emeritus

The Discovery Institute is such a haven for lying phonies. Their weird little blog has an article with this title: An NAS Scientist Breaks Ranks: Urges Kansas to Teach the Controversy over Neo-Darwinism

Who is this "NAS Scientist" who has broken ranks? None other than infamous crackpot Phil Skell, emeritus professor of chemistry at Penn State. No rank breaking occurred, of course; Skell has been in the loon brigade for years, with his johnny-one-note complaint that evolutionary theory is useless and has never helped any biologists…and yep, that's what he's doing again in his ridiculous letter to the Kansas State Board of Education.

Darwinian evolution is an interesting theory about the remote history of life. Nonetheless, it has little practical impact on those branches of science that do not address questions of biological history (largely based on stones, the fossil evidence). Modern biology is engaged in the examination of tissues from living organisms with new methods and instruments. None of the great discoveries in biology and medicine over the past century depended on guidance from Darwinian evolution—it provided no support.

Spare me. I've been all over his dishonest claim before. ...

Here's a good example of Skell's output.

And here's an eloquent essay on Skell's main argument that evolution is irrelevant to working biologists.

25 posted on 05/13/2005 2:26:57 PM PDT by jennyp (WHAT I'M READING: The Pentagon's New Map by Barnett)
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To: Coyoteman

These are all sites controled by persons/organizations hostile towards ID proponents. This is hardly proof of some grand conspiracy. Your sources are the ones that have an interest in trying to descredit ID folks. Once again, you need to directly talk with pure ID folks and then pure creationists. You will find there is no collusion between them.

For instance, the flagship of creationists is ICR. They do NOT endorse ID. Also, I think you will find that mainline ID proponents think creationists to be extremists.

Try doing some personal/original research that can document your claims and stop listening to biased sources. Stop being so gulible. The MSM and liberals love your type.


26 posted on 05/14/2005 7:37:12 AM PDT by Sola Veritas (Trying to speak truth - not always with the best grammar or spelling)
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To: Coyoteman
Re:
http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/idt/wedge.html
http://www.cse.msu.edu/~weinshan/Intelligent%20Design%20Movement%20in%20Their%20Own%20Words.htm
http://www.au.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5582&abbr=cs_
http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1188
http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=cs_2005_02_special
Did you actually take the time to read these sites? I thought I'd give it a shot and found the first one to be written by some "anti-creationist". The second article likewise is from another anti-creationist who attributes the article to an anti-creationist organization. As au.org is Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I would not finding it the least bit surprising that they would be inclined to link ID with creationism.

Sadly, the only reasoned link appears to be: http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1188, which says:
FAQ: Isn't intelligent design just a movement trying to push a political agenda? The Short Answer: No, definitely not. Many people view intelligent design as forcing a political agenda upon science. There may be some individuals who would like to see public policy changes in light of intelligent design theory (many have also sought to make public policy changes in light of evolutionary theory), but that does not mean that intelligent design theory is not a bona fide scientific theory or that it is just a political movement. Intelligent design theory is trying to do neither of these, as it is a serious scientific research program. For those who want to see how the research of the ID movement is real science with a science-oriented basis and goal, visit the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID.org). At its heart, intelligent design is based upon science.

27 posted on 05/20/2005 9:57:57 AM PDT by yevgenie
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