Monday, September 26, 2005

Intelligent Design Challenge, Day 1, starring Dr. Kenneth Miller

"There is no controversy in the scientific community about the strength of evolution."

And with that opening statement from Eric Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton LLP, the Dover intelligent design trial was off this morning in Harrisburg. Opening statements and our first witness highlighted the day at the federal courthouse.

Eric's opening statement traced the history of the issue with the Dover Area School Board, including memos, board retreat notes, and a report from local Fox affiliate WPMT in which board member William Buckingham refers to creationism.

"It's OK to teach Darwin," Buckingham said, "but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism."

As you can imagine, this was a rather interesting revelation, considering advocates of intelligent design claim that this concept is nothing like creationism.

"Creationists have adapted and created 'intelligent design,'" charged Eric.

"They ignored accepted scientific knowledge. They ignored their own science teachers, who opposed the policy change," Eric said.

Today's sole witness was Dr. Kenneth Miller, biology professor from Brown University and the author of Biology, a widely used high school textbook. He called intelligent design "the argument of ignorance."

"Intelligent design is not a testable theory," Dr. Miller said, "and as such is not generally accepted by the scientific community."

In opening arguments, opposing counsel Patrick Gillen referred to the Dover board's decision as "a modest policy change," a point that Dr. Miller addressed.

"The statement of the Dover School Board falsely undermines the theory of evolution," he said. "It does a great disservice to Dover and the students of Dover."

Dr. Miller and our legal director, Witold "Vic" Walczak, who handled direct questioning for our team, analyzed the four paragraph statement that Dover students hear at the start of their evolution unit.

"By holding this up as an alternative, the students will get the message in a flash," Dr. Miller said. "The message is, 'Over here you have a theory based on God, and over here is evolution, which is based in atheism'."

Along with his publication of "forty-five to fifty-five" peer-reviewed articles (by his count), Dr. Miller is also the author of Finding Darwin's God, in which he comes to terms with his scientific work and his Roman Catholic faith.

If you couldn't make it to court today - and most couldn't since there were only about 40 passes available to the public - Dr. Miller will speak at Lehigh University on October 12 on "Darwin's Genome: Answering the Challenge of 'Intelligent Design'" at an event sponsored by the university and its bio department.

Ironically, Lehigh University also happens to be the academic home of Dr. Michael Behe, the defendants' lead witness. Check out the bio department's statement on evolution and intelligent design.

Under cross-examination from the defense, Dr. Miller noted that "no theory in science is absolute truth." Throughout his testimony, he made it clear that there is no reason to single out evolution from all other scientific theories.

"All scientific theories are subject to further testing."

Submitted by Andy Hoover, community education organizer, ACLU of PA


Blogger Frank said...

Hey, turn on word verification to get rid of that comment spam!

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott M. Haun writes:

Well, the circus has finally started, and the clowns are out in force.

Those who seek to use public schools to push their religious/political agenda, annointing it with the guise of scientific certainty, are at it again, this time in central Pennsylvania. Instead of wasting their time on "minor" issues of the Christian faith -- loving your neighbor, helping the marginalized, welcoming the "strangers in our land", praying in secret, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving allegiance to God only (rather than pledging loyalty to Caesar -- i.e. US nationalism) -- today's Christian crusaders are putting their energies into inserting their very limited, anachronistic, and ludicrous interpretation of their sacred texts in a classroom where scientific methodology is being taught.

Personally, I think it would be a great idea to have a class (NOT a science class) where high school students would learn about the major religions of the world -- where they are similar, where they differ, hearing directly from guest speakers, NOT proselytizing, but explaining their religion's beliefs and understanding of the world and how we got here -- as well the worldview(s) of those who opt for agnoticism or atheism. It would certainly go a long way to helping our children live in an increasingly diverse and pluralistic society without killing each other.

Those who seek to use societal institutions and governmental power never stop in the efforts, however. Unable to convince their fellow citizens to voluntarily accept their beliefs -- perverted as their version of Christianity is by the capitalist, God-Guns-n-Guts, individualism of life in the modern Roman Empire known the US -- (beliefs that are nearly unrecognizable when compared to the revolutionary, money-changers-table-turning Good News lived and taught by Jesus) they now seek ways to co-opt governmental power to FORCE others to abide by these beliefs. "My-Kingdom-is-not-of-this-world"-Jesus must be so pleased when people are coerced into abiding by American "christianity."

What a shame.

Has it ever occurred to them that if they spent more time actually DOING what Jesus said, maybe more people would want to join them? That, perhaps, they are unable to convince people to accept their beliefs because the beliefs that they advance do a grave disservice to Jesus' message, demanding that people shut off their brains and ignore reality in order to follow their red-white-&-blue, US flag-waving Jesus? Probably not, as the actions of the school board in York County seem to indicate.

Here's a place to start, good brethren and sisters in Dover: work on challenging the legacy of racism that has dominated York County for decades, perhaps centuries. York County is an area with one the the highest rates of neo-nazi, white supremacist, hate group activity in the entire US. Which do you think Jesus cares about more: eradicating racism or getting some ultra-radical-strict-creationist foothold in Dover's schools? How about teaching racial tolerance in your classrooms and mega-churches -- teaching your children that racism is unAmerican, despicable, and should be confronted whereever it raises it's ugly head?

Probably not interested, huh? Too busy with the vigils and demonstrations in support of your religious/political agenda.

To be honest, the more that I hear about the "intelligent design" theory and the rationale for sticking it in the classroom, the more ironic I find it, because I doubt that any of these wackos would recognize "intelligence" even if it came up and bit them on the ass. When I see them on camera, yammering on, denying reality, I want to pick up the phone and call the Darwin Institute for Evolutionary Studies, and say, "Hi. Remember that link that missing? I found it! It's in York County -- walking on its HIND LEGS!" -- the final evidence to prove evolution once and for all.

To those in Dover strong enough to see reality and grow in their beliefs without losing faith or denying newly discovered information about our world, I'd like to challenge you to take a bold step forward into the 20th century (we'll deal with the 21st later). Drop your efforts to try to use coercive power to advance YOUR agenda, and start reading your Bibles and living out JESUS' values. We'll all be better off for it.

And to the ACLU -- thanks for defending religious freedom, and ensuring that our publicly-funded institutions are not co-opted by any religious group or agenda. Here's hoping you win, because when you win, we all win.

Scott M. Haun

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note that Miller's talk at Lehigh is October 12, not October 8 as the post says.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Dan Gr said...

I think it's unfair to cast supporters of Intelligent Design in the light Mr. Haun has.

It is not hard to sympathize with an ID proponent. In fact, they are in pretty much the same situation as those who are against it. They have a theory they believe quite strongly in, which is supported, in their eyes, by undeniable evidence (namely, their belief in God).

At the core, it's about them feeling threatened by something taught in their schools. Evolution denies their religious assertions; they don't want their children taught this denial and they are asking for evolution to be cast in a light such that their child can retain some of their religious beliefs.

They aren't waving flags in your face. They aren't preaching capitalism and "God-Guns-n-Guts."

They are asking to have some power of determination in their community.

If you believe, as I believe, that ID shouldn't be taught as a science in the classroom and that the theory of evolution should not have false attacks launched at as policy, then you should focus your efforts on the problem at hand and not assumptions about those on the other side. You should point out, in a calm logical way, how ID is not science; how the attacks on the theory of evolution ignore current knowledge; and how teaching ID in the public classroom eats away at religious freedoms.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Dan's opinion that I (Mr. Haun) am casting supporters of Intelligent Design in an unfair light

FROM: Scott M. Haun

Thoughts appreciated, Dan, but something tells me you haven't been to York County, Pennsylvania.

The comments I was responding to were from a guy -- "Everyman", oddly enough -- who suggested that the likely outcome of this case, even from a very conservative Federal judge appointed by "Dear Leader" Bush -- which most likely will be that the Dover School Board violated the US Constitution in advancing religiously-motivated non-science as science in a public school classroom -- would be "another win for the whacko (sp) left".

As I pointed out, I think accurately, the "Left" (in truth, moderate, reasonable Americans) has no victories of late to tout. Our great nation, founded on laudable principles of religious freedom and Constitutionally-guaranteed individual rights, has been under attack from the far-right (which always postures as being the only truly patriotic group in America) which is now pretty solidly in control of . . . well . . . everything in this country, and THEY'VE destroyed or are in the process of destroying whatever was valuable in this society.

THAT is the stupid and just plain factually false (I, know, I know, facts/truth don't matter to this administration and the lackeys they can always count on) issue I was responding to in my remarks.

On the topic of York County -- this is something I know something about. I went to a conservative Christian college in that county, and lived there for a year after I graduated, prior to becoming an ordained minister in a semi-reasonable denomination for which York County was a stronghold. Even did a stint as a representative to the National Association of Evangelicals, so I know that of which I write, first-hand. For a while I was a substitute teacher in that region, and I gotta tell ya, the mentality that I encountered from the students and the community was truly scary -- to the point where I simply wouldn't accept sub jobs there, and stuck to the other counties nearby. York County is a major hub of neo-nazi and white supremacist activity in the mid-Atlantic region. A few years back, the mayor of York (the city) finally faced a modicum of justice for distributing guns during a late-60s, white racist attack on blacks which resulted in an African-American woman being murdered. Have the good, patriotic "christians" of that county and mindset put the kind of ferocity into combatting that ongoing legacy in the way that they've championed the Biblically-groundless effort to co-opt publically-funded institutions in an effort to give creedence to viewpoints that they can't get people to voluntarily accept or find real science to back-up? [insert hysterical laughter here] Yeah, right.

You wanna know what the ID proponents in York County are like? Ask the plaintiffs in the suit who had these good "christian" brothers and sisters following them around this summer, hopping around like the chimps they are making monkey noises. Look at the transcripts of the school board meetings on the "ID" discussions. You've got this yahoo on the board standing up, practically weeping, asking, "A man died on a cross 2,000 years ago -- will somebody take a stand for him?!" in order to advance this "scientifically-solid" curriculum. If anyone thinks that's why Jesus died, they clearly know nothing of the man and what he was doing here. They worship Uncle Sam in a loincloth on a cross, easily manipulated to champion any ultra-right-wing cause, which is exactly what's been going on in this country for the last few decades. Their agenda is the very antithesis of Christianity, and it's blasphemous when they advance it under that name.

So, no, it's actually VERY easy to not sympathize with Dover "ID" proponents and "creationists" across the board. And as for focusing my "efforts on the problem at hand and not assumptions [ture as they are] about those on the other side," the other side IS the problem at hand, and this is the terrain on which they've chosen to stage this battle. I really understand what you're getting at, Dan, and a part of me would really like to wholeheartedly agree with you, and you are clearly a thoughtful and reasonable guy, but I kind of think that you're really underestimating what these people are like and what their big agenda is. They've mounted a "culture war" (class war/race war) on this country, and I think it's our duty to defend ourselves and fight back against this un-American agenda as vigorously they do in attacking the fundamental foundations of this nation . . . while there's still time.

Personally, the continued teaching of the not-conclusively-proven "theory" of gravity is something I find threatening to MY religious beliefs and something I don't want my children learning. All I'm asking is that ALL students in public schools be taught the "theory" of gravity in a way that allows my children to retain some of my religious beliefs.

Those beliefs being the indisputable proof which I find in the Bible (don't ask me exactly where), which is the obvious truth that we are actually prevented from floating off into space by invisible magnets in our feet and at the center of the earth.

For some reason, I can't find much sympathy out there for my scientifically-valid viewpoint.

-Scott M. Haun

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I again see all the insults hurled at ID without any substantive facts backing your position. I suggest a cure for your ignorance. try reading Beyond the Cosmos by Hugh Ross. Maybe you should ease up on the kool aid also. true science keeps an open mind. Darwinism has many holes in the theory. the first error is that it will not consider any thought that does not have naturalism as it's base. now that's a really scientific approach. you people can remain as atheistic as you like. but please don't try to place a halt on scientific inquiry. to say in a science class that there are ligitimate scientists who find fault with some of the premises of evolution shouln't rock your carefully guarded world. try opening your mind to a new thought. you might find it refreshing. but please, if you want to oppose behe at least give facts instead of simply hurling insults. enjoy your cool aid.

1:59 AM  

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