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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

California lawyer Caldwell vs. UCal Berkeley : Berkeley cites free speech rights

Inside Higher Education News provides a look at how UCal Berkeley plans to defend promoting liberal (as opposed to conservative) religion on its evolution Web site. Professor Roy Caldwell* is reported by Inside as saying,

"I am a scientist, and I understand what science is. It is fact-based. It involves hypothesis testing. It is not faith-based," he said. The Web site was designed to help teachers — especially those who may feel pressure because of the current attacks on evolution — better explain the science. The information about religious views was included on the Web site not out of a desire to change anyone’s religious beliefs, Roy Caldwell said, but because many teachers ask for advice on how to deal with this issue, since their students ask them about it.

The information about religious groups is strictly factual, he said. “The fact is that there are many people who recognize that religious faith and science are not necessarily incompatible,” he said.

(*Note: One of the professors running the Berkeley site is Roy Caldwell, who is not to be confused with Larry Caldwell, the lawyer who is suing UCal Berkeley.)

Well, fair enough, Roy Caldwell, but does the Berkeley site also offer links to dissent from Darwinism, such as that of Catholic Cardinal Schonborn or similar statements by many American religious denominations? You can't get away with claiming that you are simply "providing information" if it is entirely one-sided and clearly involves a religious issue.

Larry Caldwell asks,

Whatever happened to the National Center for Science Education/ACLU mantra that teaching about religious beliefs on evolution may be appropriate in a comparative religion class, but never in biology class? Come to think of it, aren't the NCSE and ACLU currently using that very argument in their lawsuit against the Dover, Pennsylvania school district –that the mere mention of intelligent design in biology class purportedly violates the Establishment Clause (since NCSE/ACLU incorrectly deem intelligent design to be a religious doctrine, rather than a scientific theory)?

Yeah really. It sounds as though the UCal position may be evolving into a much simpler rule:

- Anything diehard supporters of Darwinism say is science - even when they are quoting from the Bible.

- Anything critics of Darwinism say is religion - even when they are quoting from peer-reviewed science journals.

- Any questioning of Darwinian evolution is suspect as criticism of science in principle.

Well, I guess we will see the whole gang in court - not that a court will settle the issue, of course. But that's the next round.

Religion in science class watch: Geological Society of America presentation

California attorney Larry Caldwell, who is currently suing evolution groups over the use of tax money to promote liberal religious views over conservative ones, has drawn my attention to a clear instance of introducing religion in biology class, but this time, sure enough, the purpose is to promote evolution and an old.Earth, from a presentation at a recent Geological Society of America meeting:

Modern Biblical scholarship indicates that interpreting the Genesis texts as historical or scientific documents, as done by biblical literalists, is inappropriate. Genesis contains two different creation accounts; Genesis 1 dates from the Babylonian exile (6th century BC) whereas the Genesis 2 story dates from the reign of King Solomon (10th century BC). These accounts differ in such aspects as language, emphasis, and mode and sequence of creation. In addition, the Bible includes several other widely differing creation accounts (e.g., Proverbs 8, Psalm 74, Job 26). Inclusion of such varying accounts in the Old Testament indicates that the writers did not intend them as historical, scientific narratives.

I find this outrageous. Let me be up front about my own commitments: I don't particularly doubt current conventional dating of the Earth or common ancestry of apes and humans. I do think that Darwinism is a passe materialist ideology and am merely waiting to see whether ID or some kind of structuralism - or something else altogether - will replace it.

But, I don't think that biology teachers have any business doing the clergy's job for them by explaining to their students how to understand biblical texts! UNLESS, that is, the teachers are prepared to give equal time to those who promote other understandings of the same texts. How many biology teachers have any significant background in exegesis of the Bible anyway? How many even want to get involved? My guess is, about as few as the number of biology teachers who want to read the Dover disclaimer to their students.

I think that today's science curricula should include a history of science module that teaches models for addressing conflicts in society over science findings. Intelligent design is hardly the only such conflict; what about global warming, new biotechnologies, spyware, and bioterror/pandemics? Another thing: Should New Orleans really be rebuilt on its present site? No doubt there are other good questions I can't think of just now, that integrate science knowledge into social issues.

Father: "My family found out firsthand about the new 'hard sell' of Darwinism at museums"

About the new determination of museums to sell evolution, however inappropriately, a midwestern American father, Donald M, writes me to say,

My family and I saw some this first hand this past summer when we visited the Natural History museum on the Mall in D.C., or as I came to call it, the National Temple oF Darwin. The NTD had display after to display of hard sell evolution. In the evolution theater, which was a space where you come watch a hard sell film on evolution, there were benches for visitors to sit on to watch the film. In the middle of one of the benches there was a seated statue of an ape. The visual rhetoric could not have been more clear: come sit by your cousin and enjoy our little film.

In another exhibit, clearly geared to younger children, there was a brass rendering of a monkey's paw, palm up. Children were invited to place their hand next to the bronze one and note how similar they were. Has to be your relative, right?

And, there was sign on one wall for a coming attraction entitled, "What Does It Mean To Be Human?" Based on everything else I saw in the museum, the only answer they could give is "not much!"

– Donald M.

Well, Donald, one thing about being human is that we can understand abstract concepts like "no taxation without representation" and "free choice with regard to entertainment." Fundamentally, citizens can refuse to spend tax or discretionary money on displays aimed at suggesting that there is no important difference between humans and chimps. Come to think of it, that is the important difference between humans and chimps, isn't it? Strange the Museum guys didn't think of that.. But maybe they truly believe their own idea ... no wonder they just don't see da Revolution coming ...

American Enterprise Institute: Recnet articles weigh in on intelligent design controversy

Joe Manzari of the American Enterprise Institute (the folk who are offering the free, and from the looks of things valuable ) conference Friday in Washington DC, calls my attention to several articles he has written on the controversy in the Institute’s magazine. You might want to check out the following:

"Welcome to Stage Two"
"Warnings from the Ivory Towers"
"Live from Pennsylvania: Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District"
"Scopes Turns Eighty"

especially if you can't make it to the Washington conference.

By the way, there will be a live Internet video feed, and I am counting on Joe to let me know when it is available. I will link to that for sure.

Intelligent design question: Computer viruses, designed vs. undesigned?

An assistant prof at a Midwestern university writes me to say,

I asked my grandson (freshman in high school) what percentage of computer viruses evolved and what percentage came about by intelligent design. He estimated 50% Darwinian, 50% intelligent design. I asked him to poll his fellow students and teachers to see what their estimate was.

I think a good follow-up question might be what differences there would be between Darwinian computer viruses and intelligently designed computer viruses.

Well, if anyone out there knows, both the prof and I would be interested to hear.

Letters in The Scientist re uselessness of Darwinism, plus NAS member Phil Skell's reply

National Academy of Sciences member Phil Skell, who is sympathetic to the ID folk (I ran into him at the Smithsonian in June, at the showing of Privileged Planet ) published a commentary in The Scientist, arguing that Darwinism, as currently preached, is generally useless. Well, that set the cat among the pigeons, with a gargantuan roar of angry letters in response. Skell has now replied to the letters, remarking, among other things,

It is noteworthy that not one of these critics has detailed an example
where Darwin's Grand Paradigm Theory guided researchers to their goals. In fact, most innovations are not guided by grand paradigms, but by far more modest, testable hypotheses. Recognizing this, neither medical schools nor pharmaceutical firms maintain divisions of evolutionary science. The fabulous advances in experimental biology over the past century have had a core dependence on the development of new methodologies and instruments, not by intensive immersion in historical biology and Darwin's theory, which attempted to historicize the meager documentation.

Yes, exactly. People who have to spend their own money, not the taxpayers' money, invest in the things that are really useful. For all the frantic claims by the Darwin lobby, Darwin's theory is not in fact one of them - unless you are seeking to use the school or museum system to promote a materialistic philosophy, as Darwinist Michael Ruse has made clear is going on.

Cartoons on the intelligent design controversy: Captions provided for the appalling cartoon in the Caldwell case

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don't). Regular readers of this spot will know that I find the cartoon, ahem, ugly. To assuage my outraged aesthetic sensibilities, the wits over at Discovery Institute's Evolution News blog have undertaken to provide some captions for it. I bet I know who at least some of the suspects are, too.

By the way, Josephine Borgeson is an Episcopalian priest on the staff of Darwin lobby group National Center for Science Education. Her title is Faith Network Project Director, NCSE, and her job explicitly includes talks for faith groups, aimed at reconciling Darwinian evolution with Christianity. That would sure seem like a loser project to Joseph Cardinal Schonborn, but if his activities are religious, surely hers are too.

(See, this is why you read blogs. You did not hear this from the Washington Post.)

Are you looking for the following stories?

The American Enterprise Institute’s free daylong seminar in Washington DC on the intelligent design controversy and the schools, presenting notables from both sides. This is an outstanding value for free, and I wish it were also offered in Toronto.

"Academic Freedom Watch : Here's the real, nasty story behind the claim that 'intelligent design isn't science'?".

Roseville, California, lawyer Larry Caldwell is suing over the use of tax money by Darwin lobby groups to promote religious views that accept Darwinian evolution (as opposed to ones that don’t). I’m pegging this one as the next big story. It will be interesting to see the line that the “separation of church and state” people take.
How to freak out your bio prof? What happened when a student bypassed the usual route of getting frogs drunk and dropping them down the chancellor’s robes, and tried questioning Darwinism instead.

Joseph, Cardinal Schonborn is not backing down from his contention that Darwinism is incompatible with Catholic faith, and Pope Benedict XVI probably thinks that’s just fine. Major US media have been trying to reach rewrite for months, with no success.

Museum tour guides to be trained to "respond" to those who question Darwinism. Read this item for an example of what at least one museum hopes to have them say.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.
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