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Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution To Fundamentalists
Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette ^ | 03 December 2004 | SHARON BEGLEY

Posted on 12/18/2004 5:56:30 PM PST by PatrickHenry

Professional danger comes in many flavors, and while Richard Colling doesn't jump into forest fires or test experimental jets for a living, he does do the academic's equivalent: He teaches biology and evolution at a fundamentalist Christian college.

At Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., he says, "as soon as you mention evolution in anything louder than a whisper, you have people who aren't very happy." And within the larger conservative-Christian community, he adds, "I've been called some interesting names."

But those experiences haven't stopped Prof. Colling -- who received a Ph.D. in microbiology, chairs the biology department at Olivet Nazarene and is himself a devout conservative Christian -- from coming out swinging. In his new book, "Random Designer," he writes: "It pains me to suggest that my religious brothers are telling falsehoods" when they say evolutionary theory is "in crisis" and claim that there is widespread skepticism about it among scientists. "Such statements are blatantly untrue," he argues; "evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny."

His is hardly the standard scientific defense of Darwin, however. His central claim is that both the origin of life from a primordial goo of nonliving chemicals, and the evolution of species according to the processes of random mutation and natural selection, are "fully compatible with the available scientific evidence and also contemporary religious beliefs." In addition, as he bluntly told me, "denying science makes us [Conservative Christians] look stupid."

Prof. Colling is one of a small number of conservative Christian scholars who are trying to convince biblical literalists that Darwin's theory of evolution is no more the work of the devil than is Newton's theory of gravity. They haven't picked an easy time to enter the fray. Evolution is under assault from Georgia to Pennsylvania and from Kansas to Wisconsin, with schools ordering science teachers to raise questions about its validity and, in some cases, teach "intelligent design," which asserts that only a supernatural tinkerer could have produced such coups as the human eye. According to a Gallup poll released last month, only one-third of Americans regard Darwin's theory of evolution as well supported by empirical evidence; 45% believe God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago.

Usually, the defense of evolution comes from scientists and those trying to maintain the separation of church and state. But Prof. Colling has another motivation. "People should not feel they have to deny reality in order to experience their faith," he says. He therefore offers a rendering of evolution fully compatible with faith, including his own. The Church of the Nazarene, which runs his university, "believes in the biblical account of creation," explains its manual. "We oppose a godless interpretation of the evolutionary hypothesis."

It's a small opening, but Prof. Colling took it. He finds a place for God in evolution by positing a "random designer" who harnesses the laws of nature he created. "What the designer designed is the random-design process," or Darwinian evolution, Prof. Colling says. "God devised these natural laws, and uses evolution to accomplish his goals." God is not in there with a divine screwdriver and spare parts every time a new species or a wondrous biological structure appears.

Unlike those who see evolution as an assault on faith, Prof. Colling finds it strengthens his own. "A God who can harness the laws of randomness and chaos, and create beauty and wonder and all of these marvelous structures, is a lot more creative than fundamentalists give him credit for," he told me. Creating the laws of physics and chemistry that, over the eons, coaxed life from nonliving molecules is something he finds just as awe inspiring as the idea that God instantly and supernaturally created life from nonlife.

Prof. Colling reserves some of his sharpest barbs for intelligent design, the idea that the intricate structures and processes in the living world -- from exquisitely engineered flagella that propel bacteria to the marvels of the human immune system -- can't be the work of random chance and natural selection. Intelligent-design advocates look at these sophisticated components of living things, can't imagine how evolution could have produced them, and conclude that only God could have.

That makes Prof. Colling see red. "When Christians insert God into the gaps that science cannot explain -- in this case how wondrous structures and forms of life came to be -- they set themselves up for failure and even ridicule," he told me. "Soon -- and it's already happening with the flagellum -- science is going to come along and explain" how a seemingly miraculous bit of biological engineering in fact could have evolved by Darwinian mechanisms. And that will leave intelligent design backed into an ever-shrinking corner.

It won't be easy to persuade conservative Christians of this; at least half of them believe that the six-day creation story of Genesis is the literal truth. But Prof. Colling intends to try.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: christianschools; christianstudents; colling; crevolist; darwin; evolution; heresy; intelligentdesign; nazarene; religionofevolution; richardcolling; scienceeducation
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To: Ichneumon
From your linked review of Lee Strobel:

Incredibly, Strobel's discussion of this "rebuttal evidence" does not even include a summary of that evidence. Not only did Strobel fail to interview a single member of the Jesus Seminar, Strobel neglected to quote or even summarize the Jesus Seminar's arguments for their position.
That's the fingerprint of religious horror. The person attacking a statement can't even repeat what is being waved away. That's why the "critics" of evolution on these threads cannot correctly recapitulate the mainstream science version of much of anything.

I'm not endorsing whatever the Jesus Seminar is or was. I don't even know what they said. Strobel apparently attacked them in his book without ever saying what they said. Amazing!

1,051 posted on 12/22/2004 6:48:07 AM PST by VadeRetro (Nothing means anything when you go to Hell for knowing what things mean.)
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To: PatrickHenry

Fundamentalists largely have problems in my experience with just the very basics of theological thought.

For example, some of the greatest arguments for religion ever done were done by St Thomas Aquinas.

He argued the 5 proofs of God's existence... and he spoke in them that effectively change and evolution are defacto proof of God's existence.. Now he did not speak of biological evolution as he wrote long before Darwin lived. However change, regardless of what it is, is at its core observable evidence of God's existence.

Evolution and Theology are not in conflict, never have been, even the Vatican has agreed that Evolution is not in conflict with religion. It is disheartening that both the religious and the pegan refuse to accept this.


1,052 posted on 12/22/2004 7:02:16 AM PST by HamiltonJay
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To: Ichneumon
However, eventually you'll find that individuals in X1 and X2 can no longer interbreed WITH INDIVIDUALS FROM THE *OTHER* subpopulation, because each subpopulation has accumulated *enough* small mutations that the total "genetic difference" between the two subpopulations *has* become too great to allow interbreeding with each *other*, even though they can still interbreed *among themselves*.

Thanks for your response. I understand what you are trying to convey. However, it seems that what you are describing would result in a loose definition of species (matter of fact, you used the word 'subpopulations'). X1 and X2 wouldn't be that much different from another, would they? It seems to me that it would take the success of a 'cataclysmic' mutation, if you will, to make the two so distinct as to be noticeably different. Going from a pool of chemicals and information to "us" would require it (many 'cataclysmic' mutations). You would also need a *lot* of time for each 'jump'. Based upon the DNA evidence, some of the "transitions" occurred in a very short amount of time. Not over vast amounts of time as Darwin believed.

1,053 posted on 12/22/2004 7:09:22 AM PST by Michael_Michaelangelo (The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.)
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To: Ichneumon
However, eventually you'll find that individuals in X1 and X2 can no longer interbreed

One more question. How do we know they can't interbreed unless we artificially inseminate them and see what happens? (there's a fun job...NOT). They may just be picky, or it could be a passe' thing to do at that point in time/history.

1,054 posted on 12/22/2004 7:34:12 AM PST by Michael_Michaelangelo (The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.)
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To: xzins; PatrickHenry
Thank you so much for the ping!

He may deal with the specifics of the stories elsewhere, but there are biblical stories told that his "God-guided evolution" has to dovetail into at some point. I don't see how he can pull it off.

For example, pull a rational dovetailing of stories that puts australopithecus into the fall in Eden.

IMHO, because he puts too much emphasis on randomness --- a feature of the original Darwin formulation but not up-to-date with current thinking wrt the rise of complexity in biological systems --- he'll never be able to reconcile evolution with Scripture.

A number of us on the forum are engaged in a rather fascinating research project on the subject of complexity, randomness and biological information. There was a brief discussion on this thread beginning at post 116. But the bulk of the conversation is ongoing on this thread from about post 267 forward.

In sum, the notion that biological life arose by happenstance is being discredited by scientists and mathematicians. The discovery that complex systems – such as eyeness – evolved across many phyla concurrently is strong evidence that evolution was directed – the metaphysical naturalists and scientific materialists might suggest it was directed by immutable control genes in a common ancestor whereas Christians and Jews might say it is evidence of God’s voice in Creation. Either way, it is not "random".

The first link above is about the famous Oxford professor who was atheist for about a half century but has now decided that God is because there is no material explanation for the origin of life and rise of complexity in biological systems. He evidently came to this conclusion after a conference he attended with Gerald Schroeder, a Jewish Physicist. Perhaps he was influenced by Schroeder’s views on the subject:

Evolution: Rationality v Randomness


1,055 posted on 12/22/2004 7:46:27 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: general_re
How do we spot intelligent design - especially nonhuman intelligence

Has anyone played that game lately? I wanna see more cool pictures!

1,056 posted on 12/22/2004 8:16:43 AM PST by RightWingNilla
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To: RightWingNilla

Alas, no takers. Offer's still open, though ;)


1,057 posted on 12/22/2004 8:26:30 AM PST by general_re ("What's plausible to you is unimportant." - D'man)
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To: PatrickHenry
I don't yet have a section for links about idiots.

Calling Hovind an idiot would be far too generous.

1,058 posted on 12/22/2004 8:34:54 AM PST by RightWingNilla
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To: PatrickHenry
Filkin' Placemarker:

Veteran of a Thousand Crevo Wars
(with apologies to Blue Oyster Cult)

You see me now, a veteran
Of a thousand crevo wars.
I've been posting on these threads so long
Where the wind of ignorance roars
I've tackled ID proponents
And battled YEC.
I've ripped into catastrophism
Until there was nothing left to see.

[Refrain]
Please bring the creos on
I'll never need a break from it
Don't like it you can leave
We've been living in the flames
We've been revving up our brains
Oh, please, please bring those creos on.

Sometimes I get so weary
Repeating stuff to you
You call me a bloody commie
And blame me for Nazis too
But the war's still going on dude
And there's no end in sight
And I can't say if we're ever
I can't say if we're ever gonna end this fight

[Refrain]

1,059 posted on 12/22/2004 8:39:26 AM PST by Junior (FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC)
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To: Junior

(stands on chair, holding lighter aloft)


1,060 posted on 12/22/2004 8:42:30 AM PST by general_re ("What's plausible to you is unimportant." - D'man)
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To: Michael_Michaelangelo
One more question. How do we know they can't interbreed unless we artificially inseminate them and see what happens? (there's a fun job...NOT). They may just be picky, or it could be a passe' thing to do at that point in time/history.

Oh, they try all on their own. For a real life example, check the fertility rates of Englishmen/Australian Aborigine marriages.

1,061 posted on 12/22/2004 8:56:06 AM PST by balrog666 (The invisible and the nonexistent look very much alike.)
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To: Alamo-Girl
... the bulk of the conversation is ongoing on this thread from about post 267 forward.

Wow! Heavy duty stuff, and flame-free, too. Thanks for the pointer...

:)


1,062 posted on 12/22/2004 9:11:14 AM PST by forsnax5 (The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.)
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To: forsnax5
You are quite welcome!!! Merry Christmas with Hugs!
1,063 posted on 12/22/2004 9:23:10 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Junior

That was good. Take a bow.


1,064 posted on 12/22/2004 9:25:39 AM PST by PatrickHenry (The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: Junior
Excellent! Here's one for you:

*cough*

I was a tadpole when I began to begin

Next I was a frog with my tail tucked in

Then I was a monkey in a coconut tree

And now I'm a man with a PhD.

~Tim Leigh

1,065 posted on 12/22/2004 9:36:21 AM PST by Michael_Michaelangelo (The best theory is not ipso facto a good theory.)
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To: Junior
There once was a creo from Kansas,
Whose rational faculty was hopeless,
When given a fact,
He'd inevitably react,
With ignorance imperviously righteous.
Not my best effort.
1,066 posted on 12/22/2004 9:52:05 AM PST by PatrickHenry (The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: Doctor Stochastic

Thanks for the link. I will read it later today. :-)


1,067 posted on 12/22/2004 9:57:33 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Junior

I like that song! :-)

Bravo! clap clap clap! You did a marvelous job. :-)


1,068 posted on 12/22/2004 9:59:37 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Junior
Fire of Unknown Origin!

I think that tape is in the trunk of my car somewhere.

1,069 posted on 12/22/2004 10:03:39 AM PST by RightWingNilla
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To: RightWingNilla

I have that song on CD. :-)

I first heard it watching the movie "Heavy Metal". (got it on DVD as well) LOL!


1,070 posted on 12/22/2004 10:07:51 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Junior
Veteran of a Thousand Crevo Wars (with apologies to Blue Oyster Cult)

Well, I guess I'm just going to have to trot out my "Ballad of the CREVO Troll" (a remake of the old "Rawhide" TV show's theme song.)

=============================

Keep trollin', trollin', trollin!
Through their threads we're scrollin’
Keep them Strawmen rollin', Troll-ooooon!
Don't try to understand 'em!
Just hook ‘em, play, and land 'em!
“Holy Warriors,” a crusade we are on.
My brain ain’t calculatin’
cuz I ain’t had no edjoocatin’
So I cut’n’paste “Hovind” until dawn.

Set ‘em up; knock ‘em down,
Knock ‘em down, prop ‘em up,
Prop ‘em up, knock ‘em down, Troll-oooon!
Knock ‘em down, set ‘em up,
Set ‘em up, knock ‘em down,
Knock ‘em down, prop ‘em up, Troll-oooon!

Keep trollin’, trollin’, trollin’,
A hundred “Strawmen” rollin’,
Keep them threads a boilin’, Troll-ooooon!
In spite of facts and reason
it’s anti-Evo season,
Glad that Charles Darwin is long gone!
Their evil lives we'll straighten
With quotes we're good at fakin',
and fallacies far and wide until dawn...

Set ‘em up; knock ‘em down,
Knock ‘em down, prop ‘em up,
Prop ‘em up, knock ‘em down, Troll-oooon!
Knock ‘em down, set ‘em up,
Set ‘em up, knock ‘em down,
Knock ‘em down, prop ‘em up, Troll-oooon!
TROLL-ON!!!


1,071 posted on 12/22/2004 10:28:58 AM PST by longshadow
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To: PatrickHenry
"evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny."

What new species have evolved since the theory surfaced ?

1,072 posted on 12/22/2004 10:30:26 AM PST by af_vet_1981
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To: RadioAstronomer; RightWingNilla
Heavy Metal's where I first heard it, too. I also went out and bought the soundtrack. I need to buy that movie.
1,073 posted on 12/22/2004 10:35:51 AM PST by Junior (FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC)
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To: Junior
I need to buy that movie.

For the longest time it was not released. (Song copyrights and all that)

Glad it's out now. Is a fun late night popcorn movie. :-)

1,074 posted on 12/22/2004 10:43:30 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: af_vet_1981
What new species have evolved since the theory surfaced?

Ah, you brush aside all the accumulated evidence and you latch onto this. Okay. Tell me, is this your last remaining reason for rejecting the theory? If I took the time to give you evidence that would answer this question, would it make any difference to you?

1,075 posted on 12/22/2004 11:03:36 AM PST by PatrickHenry (The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: PatrickHenry

What kind of animal or hybrid life form did you evolve from ?


1,076 posted on 12/22/2004 11:04:43 AM PST by af_vet_1981
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To: af_vet_1981

I should have know better than to respond to someone who shows up in a thread with over 1,000 posts and posts something silly to #1. My mistake. I assumed you were serious.


1,077 posted on 12/22/2004 11:15:50 AM PST by PatrickHenry (The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: af_vet_1981
What new species have evolved since the theory surfaced ?

The North American Creatinoid Militantius ignoramus

1,078 posted on 12/22/2004 12:13:28 PM PST by RightWingNilla
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To: Junior; RadioAstronomer
Heavy Metal's where I first heard it, too.

Haven't seen that movie in ages. Used to be a big B.O.C. fan though.

1,079 posted on 12/22/2004 12:15:13 PM PST by RightWingNilla
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To: xzins
Yeah, the old Dake's bible. I have one, and used to use it when I first got saved as my main bible.

That's pretty much the gap theory.

1,080 posted on 12/22/2004 2:46:15 PM PST by ovrtaxt (Political correctness is the handmaiden of terrorism.)
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To: xzins
To elaborate, the use of 'became' in v. 2, plus the word 'darkness' is a double whammy.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

The word 'darkness' and 'vain' in the above verse are the same word. Follow the logic, and you have God stating that Gen. 2 is not the first instance of creation.

1,081 posted on 12/22/2004 2:50:12 PM PST by ovrtaxt (Political correctness is the handmaiden of terrorism.)
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To: longshadow

Now they are patting themselves on the back, convinced they have won something, having not heard a word and never realizing how stupid they look.


1,082 posted on 12/22/2004 8:25:53 PM PST by BJungNan (Did you call your congressmen to tell them to stop funding the ACLU? 202 224 3121)
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To: PatrickHenry
I should have know better than to respond to someone who shows up in a thread with over 1,000 posts and posts something silly to #1. My mistake. I assumed you were serious.

You are such an a$$.

1,083 posted on 12/22/2004 8:27:01 PM PST by BJungNan (Did you call your congressmen to tell them to stop funding the ACLU? 202 224 3121)
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To: Ichneumon

you may want to go back and reread the article,...thanks, though it was a good read.


1,084 posted on 12/23/2004 12:27:06 AM PST by Cvengr (;^))
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To: Doctor Stochastic

Depends,...if you are using a device to be employed several million years from now, you might want to revisit the identification problem with the mathematics.


1,085 posted on 12/23/2004 12:28:51 AM PST by Cvengr (;^))
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To: Cvengr
Non-responsive. The question was: do you want to nuclear safety to be done using the same methods as used for radiometric dating (current practice) or do you have a Creationist non-exponential decay law that you would rather have? Do you feel lucky?
1,086 posted on 12/23/2004 6:06:46 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: BJungNan
Now they are patting themselves on the back, convinced they have won something, having not heard a word and never realizing how stupid they look.

Yes; it's standard operating procedure of the anti-Evo/anti-science crowd.

Thanks for pointing it out.

1,087 posted on 12/23/2004 8:23:49 AM PST by longshadow
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To: Dr. Eckleburg
As I said, I've heard about the caterwalling that went on in the evo threads, and you have not disappointed.

FOFL, so Eckleburg, have you figured out that the level of intelligence that you're dealing with here is about second year of high school level? They can't get beyond it, either in intellectual achievement or in flatulence jokes. It's like poking into a nest of demented flapdoodlebugs

1,088 posted on 12/23/2004 10:42:14 AM PST by D Edmund Joaquin
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To: HamiltonJay
Fundamentalists largely have problems in my experience with just the very basics of theological thought.

Not all fundamentalists or evangelicals are on the order of Jack Chick or Peter Rucker, any more than the Soviet geneticist Lysenko is representative of advocates of "unguided" evolution or Hans Kung or Leonard Feeney are of Roman Catholicism. Evangelical Christian theology is essentially the theology of the Reformation. Present day Calvinist theologians like R.C. Sproul (PCA) or Albert Mohler (Southern Baptist) are part of a theological heritage stemming from Jesus and Paul, Augustine and other Church Fathers, the reformers John Calvin and John Knox, and theologians and preachers like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and J. Gresham Machen into the present time.

It would appear that your experience with evangelical Christians and their beliefs is very limited.

1,089 posted on 12/23/2004 2:08:58 PM PST by Wallace T.
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To: Doctor Stochastic

The nuclear safety errors on the side of prudence. Evolutionary theory errors on the side of ignorance.


1,090 posted on 12/24/2004 3:48:02 AM PST by Cvengr (;^))
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To: Hetty_Fauxvert

Hello Hetty,

You got it precisely. Would that more people were as insightful! Warmest regards.


1,091 posted on 01/04/2005 4:15:53 PM PST by Random Designer designer
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To: JFK_Lib

Hello JFK_Lib

Indeed, it has been quite a stimulating existence of late.

An Op-Ed piece is slated for this weekend's edition of the York_Dispatch newspaper in Pennsylvania. There is an Intelligent design/evolution court case there between the ACLU and the Dover school board.

This should help you understand my thoughts on ID.

Warmest regards...
RGC


1,092 posted on 01/04/2005 4:27:09 PM PST by Random Designer designer
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To: Random Designer designer

Thank you for mentioning it.

I hope you post link on a *seperate* thread!

Heheh.


1,093 posted on 01/04/2005 7:18:03 PM PST by JFK_Lib
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