NAS President Calls on Scientists to Defend Darwinism
The man who described a cell as “a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines” (see 02/10/2003 entry) now wants his fellow scientists to oppose efforts to attribute this factory to design. Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences and editor of The Molecular Biology of the Cell, gave fellow Academy members a “call to arms” on evolution, according to USA Today.
Alarmed over the gains of the intelligent design movement and the “increasing challenges to the teaching of evolution in public schools,” Alberts said in a March 4 letter to colleagues, “I write to you now because of a growing threat to the teaching of science” (emphasis added in all quotes). He claims, “one of the foundations of modern science is being neglected or banished outright from science classrooms in many parts of the United States.” His letter was motivated in part by a survey by the National Science Teachers Association, showing that a third of teachers feel pressured to either diminish the teaching of evolution or include alternatives to it.
One bad habit we need to help the media overcome is the practice of putting “ism” on creation but not on evolution, but for USA Today, this was a surprisingly balanced article; it consisted largely of a back-and-forth series of charges and responses from both sides. Let’s put some of the claims through the Baloney Detector:
- Alberts: the growing threat – fear mongering.
- Alberts: to the teaching of science – equivocation. Science is not at stake; just the religious philosophy of naturalism.
- Alberts: Teachers are under attack – more fear mongering.
- Gerry Wheeler (Natl. Science Teachers Assn): I’m hoping it will give teachers the energy to make sure they stand for high-quality science teaching – non-sequitur; evolution has nothing to do with the quality of science teaching. Good science teachers promote critical thinking, not indoctrination.
- USA Today: To most scientists, evolution is defined as changes in genes that lead to the development of species. – equivocation. Evolution is much more than change; it is the claim that all of life has common ancestry in one or a few original life forms that came from non-living chemicals. Bandwagon: do most scientists really feel this way? Where are the numbers? Even if this claim is correct, what most scientists think is not the issue, but what position the evidence supports.
- USA Today: They see it as a fundamental insight in biology – subjectivity. How a scientist or teacher feels about a belief is irrelevant. An insight is only a hunch or preference till proved right.
- USA Today: Creationism is the belief that species have divine origin – straw man. Fixity of species is not what creationists believe.
- USA Today: Alberts complains that creationists, under the guise of intelligent design, have attempted to push evolution out of textbooks and classrooms in 40 states – big lie. No one is trying to push evolution out. They are trying to add critique of evolutionary theory and give alternatives a chance.
- Alberts: one of the foundations of modern science is being neglected or banished outright from science classrooms in many parts of the United States – glittering generalities, big lie and fear mongering. Again, evolution is not being banished, and if teachers are neglecting it, it is their own problem (perhaps inability to answer the questions perceptive students are asking), not due to laws or pressure. Alberts is turning parents and students into bogeymen, when they are just acting as good citizens and getting involved in a controversial issue that affects their lives. Just let Alberts show all the evidence for evolution and explain his statement about the factory of molecular machines, and tell us how it came about by chance.
The foundations of modern science were laid by Christians and creationists (see online book) long before Charlie and his Musketeers usurped control of the scientific institutions.
- Stephen Meyer: My first reaction is we’re seeing evidence of some panic among the official spokesmen for science – a fair assessment; why else would opponents of ID resort to fear-mongering and pressure?
- Meyer: intelligent design is not creationism but a scientific approach more open-minded than Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution – equivocal and potentially misleading unless terms are defined, which Meyer and other ID leaders have done elsewhere. “Creationism” has become an unpopular buzzword that ID leaders avoid, but Meyer is right that ID is not concerned with the who or how of creation, but only with design detection. It is true also that ID is more open-minded, because it does not rule out intelligent causes a priori.
- USA Today: Biologists retort that any reproducible data validating intelligent design would be welcome in science journals – big lie. Why the uproar, then, when an intelligent-design paper passed peer review and was published in a legitimate science journal? (see 12/28/2004 entry and links). In spite of the bias against overt ID, many papers do publish implicit evidences of exquisite design in living things, with no attempt to give it an evolutionary explanation (see 03/14/2005 and 03/11/2005 entries from many examples in the archives here).
- Jeffrey Palmer: If there were indeed deep flaws in parts of evolutionary biology, then scientists would be the first to charge in there – half truth. We have printed a number of stories about scientific papers by evolutionists pointing out serious flaws with evolutionary theory (try 02/16/2005, 12/30/2004, 11/29/2004 and 08/05/2004 entries, to say nothing of dozens of stories about fossil problems, molecular genetics problems and complexities in life inexplicable by Darwinism or neo-Darwinism). On the other hand, scientists are usually strangely silent about these problems when called as expert witnesses by courts or school boards.
- Meyer: There are powerful institutional and systematic conventions in science that keep (intelligent) design from being considered a scientific process – he has evidence of this from his own recent experience and that of double-PhD editor Richard Sternberg (see Sternberg website).
- Barbara Forrest: Oh, baloney; they aren’t published because they don’t have any scientific data – big, big lie and bluffing.
- Alberts: In his letter, Alberts criticizes Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, a leading proponent of intelligent design, as being representative of the “common tactic” of misrepresenting scientists’ comments to cast doubts on evolution – half truth; quoting opponents as hostile witnesses is a legitimate debating technique; Alberts is bluffing that Behe misrepresents them; let him provide an example.
- Behe: Behe calls this “outrageous,” saying he simply points out that even establishment scientists note the complexity of biological structures – a fair response, since there is plenty of documentation right here to support Behe’s assertion.
- Susan Spath: proponents need to work together more proactively in educating the public about these issues. The silver lining may be that this is an opportunity to enhance public understanding of science – glittering generalities and positive spin doctoring. Nice sentiments, if the pro-Darwinists would follow her advice. If the public got educated about these issues they would throw the Darwinist rascals out. We know from experience what the NCSE means: stifle debate, put up a facade, shield student eyes from incriminating evidence, redefine science as naturalistic philosophy, and demonize all opponents. The last thing they want to do is show students the real scientific evidence, until in graduate school they have passed the temple rituals and sworn allegiance to Pope Charlie.
Parents, teachers and scientists who are unhappy with the Darwinist arm of the Democratic Party (see 12/02/2004) and how they usurped control over the scientific institutions (see 10/24/2002 entry, and 12/22/2003, 01/15/2004 and 01/05/2004 commentaries) had better understand the tactics of their opposition and be prepared to confront them. Remember that the goal is more and better science. Don’t let them portray this debate as trying to “banish” evolutionary teaching. If anything has been banished, it is criticism of his highness King Charlie the Usurper by the ruling Darwinist elites. The battle is to allow more evidence to be heard, and help students learn to evaluate all the evidence with critical thinking skills.
So now you’ve seen the head of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, a man who knows intimately the complexity of the cell, bluff his way past the opposition as if taking personal charge of a crusade. It shows that the battle over origins is a major issue in educational policy with important ramifications for all of us. Concerned citizens need to get informed and involved. Don’t underestimate the power of the Darwin Party, but if you are well armed with evidence, don’t let them intimidate you, either.