Skip to comments.Evolution vs. Intelligent Design : Chesterfield School Board takes up debate on theories of life.
Posted on 06/08/2007 10:45:45 AM PDT by SirLinksalot
How were the oceans, puppies and human beings formed? Was it through evolution, creationism or something in between?
It's a heavy topic that's generated debate for years. That discourse landed in Chesterfield School Board members' laps recently when they set about adopting new science textbooks for middle and high schools.
At issue was the concept of intelligent design, and why none of the proposed textbooks offered an alternative to evolution for how the universe came to be.
Intelligent design proponents urged the School Board to include that theory in the school system's science curriculum so students can consider differing viewpoints in the classroom. But, federal law requires school systems to remain neutral on the topic, making it illegal for teachers to prompt discussions involving intelligent design or creationism.
In the end, members unanimously approved the proposed textbooks, but issued a formal statement saying, "It is the School Board's belief that this topic, along with all other topics that raise differences of thought and opinion, should receive the thorough and unrestricted study as we have just articulated. Accordingly, we direct our superintendent to charge those of our professionals who support curriculum development and implementation with the responsibility to investigate and develop processes that encompass a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of these topics."
(To read the School Board's complete statement, visit www.chesterfieldobserver. com and click on the link for "special" in the menu on the left.)
Superintendent Marcus Newsome was also asked to ensure teachers are aware of federal laws regarding any discussions of religion in the classroom. Currently, any discussions of creationism or intelligent design must be raised by students not teachers and teachers must remain neutral on the topic.
But some proponents of intelligent design who spoke before the School Board last week believe limiting discussions to evolution is anything but neutral.
"Our children are not being educated; they are being indoctrinated," said Cathleen Waagner. "Let the evidence speak for itself and let [the students] draw their own conclusions."
Another speaker, Michael Slagle, presented a document containing 700 signatures of scientists worldwide who have questioned the validity of evolution.
"Students are being excluded from scientific debate. It's time to bring this debate into the classroom," he said.
On a personal level, some School Board members appeared to agree that discussions on the beginning of life should encompass more theories than just evolution. Dale District representative David Wyman said limiting discussions to evolution is "counterscientific" and said religious topics are already frequently touched on in classrooms. He cited the Declaration of Independence, the paintings in the Sistine Chapel and the Crusades as examples.
School Board Chairman Tom Doland stressed that students are not discouraged from discussing alternatives to evolution or any religious topic. "They do not leave their First Amendment rights at the door," he said.
"As individuals, as parents, we have the right to instruct our children, and we should never turn that over to someone else," he added.
Clover Hill District representative Dianne Pettitt reminded everyone that "teachers are agents of the government Students are free to initiate discussions but we do have to stay within the limits of the law. We cannot just do what we personally want to do."
Midlothian District representative Jim Schroeder said he didn't want those who attended the meeting to "walk out of here thinking, 'There goes the public schools kicking God out of the schools again.'"
"I believe God is the author of life, and I don't want anything taught in schools that denigrates that," he added.
Bermuda District representative Marshall Trammell Jr. was more cautious, saying he was afraid to have teachers deal with such issues in the classroom because they might infringe on students' personal religious beliefs.
"I don't want that in a public school," he said. "That is a matter for church and home."
Students will begin using the new textbooks this fall.
Darwin's theory isn't the only one taught in introductory biology classes. Any lecture on macroevolution should cover at the bare minimum both gradualism (Darwin) and punctuated equilibrium (non-Darwin.)
Based on my experience, the students are learning about both, as they should. And, they are given the freedom to take both theories into account and decide, also as they should.
A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
In this sense, evolution most certainly can be a religion. I pursue its instruction in the science classroom everywhere with zeal and conscientious devotion, and I am against any and all attempts to legitimize intelligent design.
Of course, if this is the definition you're using, then you'd be hard pressed to say that intelligent design is not also religion.
So, exactly what definition are you using?
"Of course, if this is the definition you're using, then you'd be hard pressed to say that intelligent design is not also religion."
Thank you for admitting that evolution is just as much a religion as the naturalists claim is ID.
And that ID is just as 'scientific' as evolution.
And that ID is just as 'scientific' as evolution.
Now, I have not admitted anything like this. Oh, no.
Let's once again visit the American Heritage Dictionary. They define 'scientific' as an adjective meaning "Of, relating to, or employing the methodology of science"
The core of intelligent design ideology - our origin is best explained by divine intervention - cannot be observed, much less tested. As Kitzmiller v. Dover demonstrated, for intelligent design to be considered 'scientific,' the scientific method would have to be expanded to include the supernatural. There's a reason why no one has claimed James Randi's million dollars; supernatural phenomena disappears in the lab.
Whether you believe in intelligent design or not is none of my business. But, if it can't be observed or tested, it's not scientific.
Well, not explicity no. You never will. It will come down to parsing planck particles, however.
"Whether you believe in intelligent design or not is none of my business. But, if it can't be observed or tested, it's not scientific."
And using those same criteria, neither are the evolutionary steps that believe, unless you define them in terms that are consistent with ID.
It's a vicious circle and most naturalists cannot understand it.
Please provide a reference showing that this is the core of ID.
While you're at it, please provide a reference showing that our origin is best explained by natural processes - observable and testable, according to your own requirements for ID.
>>At issue was the concept of intelligent design, and why none of the proposed textbooks offered an alternative to evolution for how the universe came to be.<<
Wow. What a dumb reporter. Evolutionary theory does not in any way, shape or form even talk about how the universe came to be.
You left off the "end sarcasm" tag. If you think there is no controversy, you haven't been paying attention!
There is no scientific controversy over evolution. There is scholarly debate over things like the importance of allopatric versus sympatric speciation, gradualism versus punctuated evolution. But there is no scientific uncertainty over the reality of evolution, just a political and social one.
Let's make this clearer.There is no scientific uncertainty over the reality of MICRO-evolution. There is NO CONVINCING EVIDENCE of MACRO-evolution. This is exactly what the book wants to address.
DiogenesTheDog is correct. There is no scientific controversy over whether evolution occurs or not. The questions are instead, How is it best explained? or What mechanism is responsible for it?
DiogenesTheDog brings up two of the main competing theories of macroevolution, namely, Darwins gradualism and the more recent punctuated equilibrium. Neither of these theories claims that macroevolution is false. They differ on how this macroevolution occurs. SirLinksalot seems to be ignoring the fossil record when he says that there is no "convincing" evidence of macroevolution. One needs only to take a look at how the modern horse, Equus, evolved from ancestral horse-like animals or how the modern elephants evolved from ancestral elephant-like animals. You can find other examples in any introductory biology textbook (e.g. Campbells).
When you said those same criteria, in context I will assume you are referring to observation and testing. If this is so, then you are mistaken when you write that neither are the evolutionary steps [scientific].
Let us first address observation.
Why is it that before the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom, most tree moths had lighter colors? The trees werent covered in soot. Darker colored tree moths were more readily spotted by birds and thus their numbers were minimal. After the revolution, though, soot began to make its way to the forests, and consequently the trees became darker. The situation was reversed. Now, lighter colored tree moths were more visible to birds, and their numbers dwindled. Natural selection initially favored lighter colored tree moths, but when the environment changed, natural selection began to favor darker colored tree months. Observation something that intelligent design can not do.
Now, let us talk about testing.
When Dr. Alexander Fleming first discovered penicillin, it was so potent as an antibiotic that it was dubbed a miracle. But, as the decades went on, it started becoming less and less effective. We can continue to test antibiotic resistance in the lab. Take two samples of bacteria and apply an antibiotic to one but not the other (which becomes the control). The antibiotic should destroy the first population of bacteria but still leave some surviving strains. Let these multiply. Then, apply the antibiotic to both populations. The second population should be affected more so than the first. Testing again, something that intelligent design can not do.
I hate how certain American liberals like to play word games when they defend affirmative action as not being discrimination. Likewise, I hate how certain American conservatives like to play the exact same word games when they claim that intelligent design is scientific.
The definition is vague, and since were opposed on this issue, I dont expect you to agree with me that how I defined it is the same as how they defined it.
Nevertheless, no matter how vague the wording is, the English language is not so imprecise as to allow the Discovery Institute to hide the creationism inherent in intelligent design.
They talk about an intelligent cause and undirected processes. What is this mysterious intelligent cause? Can it be observed and tested in the laboratory? Of course not, hence, its no surprise that even Dr. Michael Behe admitted that There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred. Ff the theory disagrees that undirected causes alone are sufficient, then it must espouse directed causes (read: divine intervention).
You ask me to provide a reference showing that our origin is best explained by natural processes - observable and testable, according to your own requirements for ID. Please check out Biology by Campbell and Reece.
You are forgetting, however, that one of the main arguments for punctuated equilibrium has been the absence in the fossil record of evidence of gradual change. The supporters of punctuated equalibrium and the supporters of gradual change both believe “evolution” took place. However, they both argue that the other sides mechanism for evolution cannot work. We Creationists simply agree with both of them and argue that neither proposed mechanism for macro evolution is capable of creating the complexity of life.
Macroevolution means change "at or above the species level." Darwin's finches is the classic example of macroevolution. A more novel example can be found when a plant asexually reproduces and has an error in meiosis resulting in polyploidy. The offspring is phenotypically similar to the parent, but it cannot sexually reproduce with other plants of the parent species because it has more than the normal set of chromosomes. If it can't reproduce with a certain species, then it is distinct of that species. A new creation of a species is, you guessed it, macroevolution. Another example can be found when one population splits into two due to geographic barrier (i.e. geographic isolation). If sufficient time has lapsed and these two populations are reunited, failure to successfully reproduce indicates that these two groups have become two different species. Macroevolution at work yet again.
We Creationists simply agree with both of them and argue that neither proposed mechanism for macro evolution is capable of creating the complexity of life.
You really put a smile on my face with that comment. It was worded very well. I ask you one question - under the scientific method, can you test your creationism in the lab? Like I said to GourmetDan, I don't care whether you believe in it or not, it's not my business. But, if you claim it's science, then I'd like to know just how you can test it.
Thanks for your kind reply - I can see that definition’s are going to be key - I was (probably incorrectly) using the term Macro-Evolution to refer the change of one species into another - such as a fish into an amphibian. I agree with you that species frequently reach a point where they can no-longer interbreed. Where I would disagree is that I don’t see evidence of organisms developing new and beneficial genetic traits - that didn’t already exist in the gene pool - through natural selection.
In order for natural selection to develope a more complex organism it must have the ability to get significant benefits out of a progressive series of small changes to the genetic code. This presents a problem since the genetic code is much like a computer code and many base pairs would have to be changed to code for a new beneficial protein. If only some of those base pairs are changed correctly the changes would not provide any benefit and thus not be supported by natural selection.
In answer to your last question - I would say that creationism is testable in much the same way that evolution is. You can’t reduplicate it but you can look at the fossil record and the complexity of life and see if it is consistant with the view or not. Intelligent Design is simply a theory that much of the complexity of the genetic information contained in the DNA could not have been developed over time by random mutation + natural selection. So, it could be disproved by expiraments which show beneficial new proteins devoloping over time by random mutation + natural selection. Probably the easiest way to do these expiraments would be with Bacteria which have really short lifespans.
Where I would disagree is that I dont see evidence of organisms developing new and beneficial genetic traits - that didnt already exist in the gene pool - through natural selection.
I agree with you, that is, I also do not see evidence of organisms developing new and beneficial genetic traits previously nonexistent through natural selection. Natural selection can only select for what's already in existence. To create "something new," a mutation is required.
Stephen Goulds theory (at least the punctuated part of Punctuated Equilibrium) is one of the few actually based on a LACK of data rather than affirmative data.
Gould and Schwartz should both be applauded for proposing theories that fit better with the actual historical record, but can be justly faulted for their equally problematic reliance on assumed, unobserved and unexplained phenomena such as recessive mutations and resulting saltations.
Is there any reason to believe that an environmental stressor would produce recessive mutations that hang around until poof a new organism appears? Probably not, but it is good to see Schwartz challenge Darwins slight, successive orthodoxy.
John Davidson ( an agnostic biologist ) says :
Gould and Eldredge never had a theory of any description. They dreamed up this abuse of two words that used to have real meanings until they got a hold of them. Those words were punctuated and equilbrium. They sound wonderful dont they but they mean nothing more than the recognition that evolution always occurred in spurts (sort of like sex). It was all pure hype. It explained nothing and only emphasized that which had been known by paleontologists for over a century. Of course it occurred in spurts. So what? What has that got to do with the price of hog bellies anyway? Gould was just another atheist Darwinian mystic like his senile buddy down the hall, Ernst Mayr and the one across the pond, Richard Dawkins. They were all three losers if you ask me so dont ask.
Also please dont dignify punctuated equilibrium by calling it a theory. It makes me irritable and that is not a good idea. Theories are hypotheses that have predicted specific results. Since when has Darwinism predicted anything?”
Using lack of evidence as proof for an argument is rarely convincing (such as Punctuated Equilibrium being true due to the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record).
So is punctuated equilibrium testable? Gould says that a series of fossils showing gradual development of an adaptation would refute punctuated equilibrium. Walter ReMine points out the no lose situation that Gould and company have created here: if the fossils show systematic gaps, then the punctuated equilibrium model of evolution is proven, but if the fossils show gradualism, then the standard Neo-Darwinian model of evolution is proven. In other words, evolution itself is no longer falsifiable! Punctuated equilibrium and Neo-Darwinism are both now part of the evolutionists grab-bag of conflicting theories as Gould and Eldredge now view punctuated equilibrium as an addition to evolutionary theory rather than an alternative.
So, the debate over Punctuated Equilibrium has given publicity to STATIS on the fossil record as a serious problem for evolution (how can you believe in evolution, or change, when the fossils testify to stasis, or lack of change?). The recognition of the reality of abrupt appearance and stasis corroborates what doubters have been saying.
RE : EQUUS
Many Evolutionists themselves long ago abandoned horse evolution as an example of transitional forms, since they no longer believe the fossil record represents anything like a straightforward progression, but instead a bush with many varying branches. As Heribert Nilsson correctly pointed out as long ago as 1954:
“The family tree of the horse is beautiful and continuous only in the textbooks. In the reality provided by the results of research it is put together from three parts, of which only the last can be described as including horses. The forms of the first part are just as much little horses as the present day damans are horses. The construction of the horse is therefore a very artificial one, since it is put together from non-equivalent parts, and cannot therefore be a continuous transformation series.
As far back as the 1950s, scientists already had cast aside the false notion of horse evolution via classic Darwinian changes. [In fact, the vast majority of textbooks (including ones published by National Geographic!) have abandoned the horse in favor of the camela species they believe can paint the same picture but that has not been so publicly ridiculed.] David Raup of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, acknowledged:
“Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded.... Ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwins time. By this I mean that some of the classic cases of Darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be discarded or modified as a result of more detailed informationwhat appeared to be a nice, simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and much less gradualistic”
The late eminent paleontologist of Harvard, George Gaylord Simpson, summed it up well when he wrote:
The uniform, continuous transformation of Hyracotherium into Equus, so dear to the hearts of generations of textbook writers, never happened in nature).
Another scientist from Harvardand a man for whom Dr. Simpson served as mentorStephen J. Gould, bemoaned the continued use of what he termed misinformation such as horse evolution. He wrote.
Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because, as stated above, textbooks copy from previous texts.
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