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Intelligent Design

Hi every body.

Just thought I would add my opinion on this.

I believe that carrots can change there colour,we only know them as orange and also as white and purple.

Maybe once they were green,red or even black, there is no end of colours they could choose to be.

I suggest we accept them for what they are, a colour changing veg.:madeyes:
A range of boldly coloured vegetables may bring an exotic touch to meal times this autumn.

Purple carrots are being introduced across the country for the first time and will be joined by firecracker choica - a deep burgundy potato-type crop from Peru - and colrabi, a green root vegetable that will be available in purple.

Now available in purple
In ancient times carrots were purple or pale-coloured. It was only when a group of patriotic Dutch breeders used a mutant seed in the 16th century that the orange variety began its rise to prominence.

Around 60 tons of the purple variety, known as Betasweet and originally from Texas, are being grown in Cambridgeshire.

From today they are to be distributed to 150 Sainsbury stores following a successful trial last year. Russell Crowe, Sainsbury's carrot buyer, said: "As well as being a talking point at dinner parties, we are hoping the unusual colour will encourage children to tuck in to more vegetables."

But in human genetics, another form of racial discrimination has appeared:

Grant to help study breast cancer racial gap
Why are blacks and Hispanics twice as likely to die from breast cancer and other cancers as whites?

Why do black women develop breast cancer at earlier ages than white women?

These are among the troublesome questions researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago want to begin answering with the help of a major grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The federal agency is doling out .5 million over the next five years to fund eight Centers for Population Health and Health Disparities nationwide to figure out how to narrow those gaps.

UIC and the U. of C. will be home to two of the eight centers. Researchers will build on efforts of the NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

"Much of what needs to be done to end health disparities rests right here in Chicago," Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services Claude Allen said Friday in announcing the grants at UIC's College of Medicine on the Near West Side. The Chicago centers will gather data, track patients and form focus groups within specific areas of the city, mostly minority and lower-income neighborhoods on the South Side.

UIC's .27 million grant will go toward addressing the social, environmental and medical factors that contribute to the unusually high death rates among black and Hispanic women with breast cancer. The goal by the end of the second year is to have community-based intervention programs in place in five neighborhoods, said Richard Warnecke, director of the UIC center.

Working with researchers in Nigeria, the U. of C. will use a .7 million grant to study why African-American and Nigerian women develop breast cancer earlier than white women and in more advanced stages.

Barbara Akpan, a former ER nurse at U. of C. Hospitals, knows all too well how far awareness can take women like herself who are susceptible to cancer. After skipping an annual mammogram, Akpan, 53, went in for another and was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and underwent radiation and now is an advocate for a group called Promoting, Celebrating and Embracing the Health of African-American Women.
Intelligent design study

Intelligent design study appears

Publication of paper in peer-reviewed journal sparks controversy | By Trevor Stokes


The publication in a peer-reviewed biology journal of an article which sounds themes often heard in discussions of "intelligent design"–a theory one critic calls "the old creationist arguments in fancy clothes"–has drawn criticism from the members of the society that publishes the journal, and from others.

In an article entitled "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," which was made available online on August 28 by the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Stephen Meyer concludes: "what natural selection lacks, intelligent selection–purposive or goal-directed design–provides." Meyer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, which, according to its Web site "supports research by scientists and other scholars developing the scientific theory known as intelligent design."

Intelligent design, or the design hypothesis, is the "idea that the origin of information is best explained by an act of intelligence rather than a strictly materialistic process," Meyer told The Scientist.

Eugenie C. Scott, executive director at the National Center for Science Education, learned of the article when several members of the Biological Society of Washington called her office. "Many members of the society were stunned about the article," she said, describing it as "recycled material quite common in the intelligent design community." Intelligent design, she said, is "an evolved form of creationism that resulted from legal decisions in the 1980s ruling that creationism can't be taught in schools."

"There hasn't been anything in peer-reviewed literature about intelligent design," Scott said. "Members of the intelligent design community are very hungry to get articles in peer-reviewed journals."

The article was the subject of a detailed critique on Panda's Thumb, a Web log that focuses on issues in evolutionary science. The critique calls Meyer's article "a rhetorical edifice out of omission of relevant facts, selective quoting, bad analogies, and tendentious interpretations."

"It's too bad the Proceedings published it," Scott said. "The article doesn't fit the type of content of the journal. The bottom line is that this article is substandard science."

The Biological Society of Washington has about 250 members. The journal has an impact factor of 0.284, according to Thomson Scientific, giving it a rank of 2678 out of 3110 scored journals in all science disciplines. Scott described the journal as a "tiny fairly descriptive journal read by people in museums and systematics."

Richard Sternberg, a staff scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information who was an editor of the Proceedings at the time, told The Scientist via E-mail that the three peer reviewers of the paper "all hold faculty positions in biological disciplines at prominent universities and research institutions, one at an Ivy League university, one at a major US public university, and another at a major overseas research institute."

"The reviewers did not necessarily agree with Dr. Meyer's arguments but all found the paper meritorious, warranting publication," Sternberg said.

Sternberg said he was concerned that some in the science community have labeled him and Meyer as creationists. "It's fascinating how the 'creationist' label is falsely applied to anyone who raises any questions about neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory," he said. "The reaction to the paper by some [anti-creationist] extremists suggests that the thought police are alive and well in the scientific community."

Sternberg has ties to the intelligent design community, but he identifies himself as "a structuralist who has given several papers and presentations critiquing creationism." He is on the editorial board of the Baraminology Study Group at Bryan College, Dayton, Tenn. Baraminology, a term introduced in 1990, views biological creation as happening instantly, rather than through evolutionary descent. Sternberg is slated to attend a meeting in October entitled "Evolution, Intelligent Design, and the Future of Biology." The meeting's Web site describes Sternberg's talk as an explanation of why "biology is better understood as a product of intelligent design."

Robert L. Crowther, director of communications at the Discovery Institute, drew a clear distinction "between the scientific theory of intelligent design and creationism."

"Dr. Meyer is a well-known proponent of intelligent design and that is what his paper is about," Crowther wrote in an E-mail to The Scientist. "To try and characterize him as a creationist is just an attempt to stigmatize him and marginalize his paper, all the while avoiding the scientific issues that it raises."

Meyer said: "I have received a number of private communications from scientists expressing their agreement or intrigue with the arguments that I develop in my article. Public reaction to the article, however, has been mainly characterized by hysteria, name-calling and personal attack." Labels, he said, "are ultimately a diversion."

Links for this article
Meyer, S.C. "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117[2]:213-239, August 4, 2004. Republished online August 28, 2004 at
http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view& id=2177

N.S. Greenspan, "Not-so-intelligent design," The Scientist, 16[5]:12, March 4, 2002.

B. Palevitz, "Designing science by politics," The Scientist, 16[11]:25, May. 27, 2002.

National Center for Science Education

A. Gishlick et al., "Meyer's hopeless monster," The Panda's Thumb, August 24, 2004.

Additional information about The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington
http://apt.allenpress.com/aptonline/?request=get-moreinfo&issn= 0006-324X

Occasional Papers of the Baraminology Study Group, Bryan College, Dayton, Tenn.

Evolution, Intelligent Design, and the Future of Biology seminar information
http://www.studium.helsinki.fi/koulutus/ala/index.asp?Tnro=1044 &title=Evolution%2C+Intelligent+Design%2C+and+the+Future+of+Biology
Serb schools told to drop Darwin
Serbia's education minister has ordered schools to stop teaching the theory of evolution for the current school year, a leading newspaper has reported.
The paper, Glas Javnosti, quoted Ljiljana Colic as saying that in future Charles Darwin's theory would only be taught alongside creationism.

Ms Colic said the two theories were equally dogmatic.

Correspondents say the move shocked educators in a republic where religion only recently began to be taught.

Ms Colic said current material on evolution would remain in textbooks but would not be taught.

It was not clear how the ban would be enforced in schools.

Biologist Nikola Tucic described the ruling as "outrageous", and showed Serbia's Orthodox Church was interfering in politics.

"We are slowly turning into a theocratic state and in the 21st Century we are going back to the Book of Revelations," he told the newspaper.

"There were attempts like this in several US states, but they were rejected. It turns out that our fundamentalists are much more successful."

Creationism is the belief that the Old Testament account of God's creation of the world is true.

Darwin's theory of evolution is the dominant explanation of man's origins within the scientific community.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/09/07 18:50:43 GMT
Serbia reverses ban on Darwinism
The Serbian government has reversed an order to ban Charles Darwin's theory of evolution from schools, following widespread criticism from scientists.
"I have come here to confirm Charles Darwin is still alive," said deputy education minister Milan Brdar.

His boss, Ljiljana Colic, who had announced the controversial policy, had gone "away on business", he said.

She had proposed banning the evolution theory this school year, until creationism could be taught alongside.

Both Darwin's theory of natural selection and the Old Testament view on the beginning of life were equally dogmatic, the minister had said.


After a deluge of protest from scientists, teachers and opposition parties, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica called Ms Colic in for a meeting.

They agreed to drop the move, Mr Brdar said.

Biologist Nikola Tucic described the original ruling as "outrageous" and said it showed Serbia's Orthodox Church was interfering in politics.

"We are slowly turning into a theocratic state and in the 21st Century we are going back to the Book of Revelations," he said.

Adam and Eve

However, an influential figure in the Orthodox Church, Bishop Ignjatije, acknowledged Darwin had a place in schools.

Darwin "spoke about ways that humans and the rest of the nature are connected. The connection must not be ignored by anybody, not even by us theologists", he said.

Creationism accepts the Old Testament account of the beginning of human life, in which God created Adam and Eve.

Darwin's theory of evolution is the dominant explanation of man's origins within the scientific community.

His theory is that life evolved over billions of years through natural selection, from microbes through apes up to man.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/09/09 17:34:19 GMT
Readers respond

Readers respond
Story on intelligent design study highlights debate on creationism and evolution | By Alan J Robinson, By David L Bump and By David P Vernon

To the Editor:

The story "Intelligent design study appears" on September 3 dealt with a major unresolved scientific question concerning evolution. I suspect that many scientists, Dr. Meyer included, may not fully realize that biological organisms are not designed the way that humans design mechanisms. Engineers, who deal with complex human-designed systems on a daily basis, have long recognized that the best designs are those that completely separate the functions of subsystems. Thus, the spark plugs of an automobile have an entirely separate function from the tires.

Biological organisms are not designed this way. Even though there is functional specialization with organs and organelles, many functions may be distributed across almost the entire organism, and at all levels, from the molecular level on up. Indeed, such designs appear very complex, and are hard for humans to fathom. It is evolutionary change, of course, working at the whole organism level that produces such designs. Moreover, in many cases, the design of individual biological components and systems does not follow principles of human parsimony and elegance. Examples are the lengths of many biochemical pathways, the very large number of almost identical neurotransmitters and associated receptors, and the very low quality and extreme distortion of visual coding in the optic nerve compared with the reconstructed visual field.

There is a famous article that bears on the whole subject of evolutionary design and optimization. In "The spandrels of San Marco," Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin pointed out that organismal traits and their possible adaptive purpose cannot be considered in isolation. Which leads to the opinion expressed by Sir John Maddux, editor emeritus of Nature, that so-called "evolutionary psychology" is not real science.

Alan J. Robinson

Minneapolis, Minnesota

[email protected]

To the Editor:

Re: "Intelligent design study appears": How sad to see the knee-jerk reaction to one intelligent design (ID) paper being published in a relatively minor journal! I've read science news magazines for years, and over the past year I've studied Nature carefully, and articles with ID themes are common. The only difference is that they toss in some speculation about how evolution might have somehow produced features that have just been compared to advanced human technology. Even some of the cover stories trumpeting new evidence for evolution actually turn out to be completely consistent with current creationists' expectations.

So why all the fuss? The answer isn't complicated: a large part of the scientific community is determined to make science a field of endeavor that can simultaneously explain away all theistic ideas, while never allowing the possibility of support or even allowing much room for theism in human thought. They're happy to trot out scientists who somehow cling to belief in a God who never did anything in our universe, but they dare not allow one paper to point out the incredible design in living things that doesn't at least toss a bone to the gods of evolutionism: time, chance, and survival (natural selection). Having censored anything that doesn't toe the party line, they then turn around and use this shutout as support for their argument that ID isn't scientific. This gives them all the more motivation for keeping the blinders of censorship in place.

The similarities of the mechanisms and systems in living things and those in the most advanced human technologies are obvious, and it is also clear that living things are in some ways far more complex and "hi tech" than anything we've produced so far. It's also clear that after almost 150 years of efforts, we've found no forces or processes of inanimate nature that produce complex organization, we're still far from reproducing the origin of life through our intelligent efforts, and we are still struggling with the most basic questions of speciation and natural selection. Scientists should be willing to consider that living things were produced by an alien intelligence, even if it's one that existed before our universe, just as they are willing to search for extraterrestrial intelligence and speculate about infinite forms of universes and such.

David L. Bump

Flushing, Michigan

[email protected]

To the Editor:

As a doctoral candidate in ecology and systematics at Indiana State University in 1983, I was required by one of my professors, the noted mammalogist John O. Whitaker, to become expert in discussion of and argument about all known issues surrounding evolutionary theory. Although there is little need to defend basic Darwinian concepts to a scientific audience, let me just point out that Darwin was attempting to explain, in the simplest way, all the evidence at his disposal. These included detailed knowledge of artificial selection in fancy pigeons, the biogeography of Asia, Australia, and the Americas, the geology of fossil beds in Europe and North America, and the sudden appearance of the nectarine in a peach orchard in France in the mid 1700s. Application of the Principle of Occam's Razor—the simplest explanation that fits the facts is the most scientific—led him to develop the ideas documented in the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection.

In contrast, the theory of intelligent design makes the claim that the existence of complex systems and phenomena, lacking any justification for their existence that is known to us, implies that such systems exist as the purposeful result of the activity of a powerful, conscious being that designed the visible complexity into them. This is not a scientific explanation, as it posits the existence of something that cannot be tested or demonstrated by experiment, but must be taken on faith.

The contrast between the theory of intelligent design and the theory of special creation is that the latter names the designer "God" and declares the story in the biblical book of Exodus as the whole truth, whereas the former does not name the designer nor does it declare any particular story of the designer's works and actions to be historical truth. However, both of these theories are theology, not biology, and while not identical, are both out of place in a life science journal.

Theologians, and even scientists, are entitled to logically debate questions of faith surrounding the problems of first causes, complexity, the existence of evil, and so forth, but not in scientific publications. Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." Let us be clear, however: science is about knowledge gained by hypothesis testing, and religion is about faith gained from reason, inspiration, and introspection. We must keep them properly separated to understand the difference between that which we can know and that which we must choose, or choose not, to believe.

David P. Vernon

Tucson, Arizona

[email protected]

Links for this article
T. Stokes, "Intelligent design study appears," The Scientist, September 3, 2004.

S.J. Gould, R. Lewontin, "The spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian paradigm: a critique of the adaptationist programme," Proc R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 205:581-98, September 21, 1979.
[PubMed Abstract]
I don't really want to start pointing fingers quite yet but part of teh garudian redesign invovled getting rid of the science section (allegedly in favour of a page of science a day) and come Monday we have a general columnist lobbing softballs to an ID proponent in an interview:

A design for life

John Sutherland meets Michael Behe, a leading proponent of intelligent design, the controversial theory that evolution alone cannot explain life's complexity

Monday September 12, 2005
The Guardian

John Sutherland: For Intelligent Design proponents such as yourself, isn't Darwinism just another theory?

Michael Behe: Well, yeah, sure. But the question is: exactly how did life get here? Was it by natural selection and random mutation or was it by something else? Everybody - even Richard Dawkins - sees design in biology. You see this design when you see co-ordinated parts coming together to perform a function - like in a hand. And so it's the appearance of design that everybody's trying to explain. So that if Darwin's theory doesn't explain it we're left with no other explanation than maybe it really was designed. That's essentially the design argument.

JS: Why do you think we should replay the Darwinian controversies of 1860 and the 1925 Scopes monkey trial?

MB: Because we have new data. It's because science has advanced since then. We now know what the very foundation of life looks like. It's made up of molecules. Not just molecules but sophisticated molecular machinery.

JS: This is your "irreducible complexity" thesis?

MB: Yeah. That's right. Irreducible complexity is a problem for Darwinian evolution. Whenever we see these complex functional systems we realise that they have to be designed.

JS: How is irreducible complexity different from plain old complexity?

MB: Well, think of it this way. If you take away a rock from a pile of rocks you haven't changed much. It's still a heap of rocks - just a rock or two smaller. Take away a component from the mousetrap and it isn't a mousetrap any more.

JS: You're fond of the mousetrap analogy, aren't you?

MB: Yes. It captures the point of irreducible complexity in a way that everybody can see. A mechanical mousetrap is made up of parts, all of which have to work together. You can't just have one part work a little bit then add another part and have it work a little bit better. And that's the sort of thing Darwinian evolution would have to do, if it was true.

JS: Is simultaneity the key here?

MB: Well, sort of, yeah. The trap does not work until all the parts were there. The system itself doesn't work until you fit all of them together.

JS: Is there a discourse problem here? Metaphysics can't engage meaningfully with physics? Does intelligent design belong in science?

MB: I believe it does. I see it as straightforward empirical observation. One analogy I like to use is to Mount Rushmore. If you had never heard of Mount Rushmore, you would see immediately the images of four people and immediately recognise that to be design. There wouldn't be any question of metaphysics there. You can tell that something was designed from its physical structure. In fact, Richard Dawkins himself says exactly the same thing in The Blind Watchmaker.

JS: How does molecular biology have an advantage over zoology, which is often where Darwin is coming from?

MB: It works at a more fundamental level. It's kind of like the outside of a computer and the inside. The outside - the keyboard and the screen and so on - they look complex. But what makes them run?

JS: When you look through your electron microscope, what precisely do you see that suggests to you Darwin with his eyeglass may have got it wrong?

MB: It's that you can see that there are quite literally machines in the cell. Machines made out of molecules. It's not just the intelligent design people who use this term. It's widely used in molecular biology. If you look in any of the science literature you will see that they talk about "machines".

JS: The bacterial flagellum comes up quite often in your discussions. What kind of "machine" is it?

MB: It's a little outboard motor. True! It's a rotary motor. A little group of proteins spins around this whip called the flagellum, which acts as the propeller. There's a flow of acid, which acts rather like water going over a turbine to turn it. There are drive shafts, there are bearings, there are all sorts of mechanical components.

JS: Is this molecular machinery a version of what used to be called the primum mobile? The driving force underlying everything in the universe?

MB: No. I'm just trying to explain the bacterial flagellum. You see, this is one problem I always run into. I see this flagellum and say, "Gee whiz! It looks designed," and then people come along and say, "Well, you're trying to say that the whole world was created by some superagency." No. I'm just focusing on this area in biochemistry.

JS: You're obviously a biochemist who accepts quite large chunks of Darwin.

MB: Yes, that's right. Common sense on the subject? Fine. Micro evolution, as they call it? Sure. It's just when you get to the level of "how do complex systems get there?" - that's the sticking point.

JS: Is there a bottom line in microscopic terms - a ground level below which you can't get any further into the structure of matter?

MB: Yes. We're at the molecular level of biology and from physics we know that's where it ends.

JS: And the baseline is irreducible complexity?

MB: Exactly.

JS: It's no secret that you are a Catholic. But, as I understand it, your scientific theory does not predicate God in any form whatsoever. You've suggested that the designer could even be some kind of evil alien. Is that right?

MB: That's exactly correct. All that the evidence from biochemistry points to is some very intelligent agent. Although I find it congenial to think that it's God, others might prefer to think it's an alien - or who knows? An angel, or some satanic force, some new age power. Something we don't know anything about yet.

JS: But you're not reinserting God into the mix?

MB: No, we focus simply on the observation of design. We don't say the designer is God.

JS: Do you detect among scientists that this is a topic of respectable professional interest?

MB: Right now it's a topic that scientists are interested in but can only talk about in hushed tones behind closed doors. When I go to meetings people come up to me furtively to talk about it.

JS: Has the National Academy of Science taken an interest?

JS: It takes a position strongly condemning it. The recently retired president, Bruce Albert, sent a letter to all 2,000 members of the NAS essentially naming me.

JS: Did Galileo come to mind?

MB: Yeah. In a way it's flattery

www.guardian.co.uk/life/science/story/0 ... 77,00.html

The irony is that it is (today only) listed on the second on the science section:


Below two articles on the binning of teh science section: "The end of Life as we know it" and "Don't dumb me down" :roll:

I will ponder penning a missive over dinner.

[edit: With the banner across the top which refers to the redesign: "Less awkward size; Same awkward questions" !! That does it for me - I'll get the letter off.]
And, of course, it is ironic that in the penultimate edition they had room for an article arguing against ID showing that it hasn't been made to answer "awkward questions":

One side can be wrong

Accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences, warn Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne

Thursday September 1, 2005
The Guardian

It sounds so reasonable, doesn't it? Such a modest proposal. Why not teach "both sides" and let the children decide for themselves? As President Bush said, "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes." At first hearing, everything about the phrase "both sides" warms the hearts of educators like ourselves.

One of us spent years as an Oxford tutor and it was his habit to choose controversial topics for the students' weekly essays. They were required to go to the library, read about both sides of an argument, give a fair account of both, and then come to a balanced judgment in their essay. The call for balance, by the way, was always tempered by the maxim, "When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong."

As teachers, both of us have found that asking our students to analyse controversies is of enormous value to their education. What is wrong, then, with teaching both sides of the alleged controversy between evolution and creationism or "intelligent design" (ID)? And, by the way, don't be fooled by the disingenuous euphemism. There is nothing new about ID. It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name to slip (with some success, thanks to loads of tax-free money and slick public-relations professionals) under the radar of the US Constitution's mandate for separation between church and state.

Why, then, would two lifelong educators and passionate advocates of the "both sides" style of teaching join with essentially all biologists in making an exception of the alleged controversy between creation and evolution? What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of "it is only fair to teach both sides"? The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all. And it is a time-wasting distraction because evolutionary science, perhaps more than any other major science, is bountifully endowed with genuine controversy.

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; "evo-devo"; the "Cambrian Explosion"; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on. The point is that all these controversies, and many more, provide fodder for fascinating and lively argument, not just in essays but for student discussions late at night.

Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for "both theories" would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

So, why are we so sure that intelligent design is not a real scientific theory, worthy of "both sides" treatment? Isn't that just our personal opinion? It is an opinion shared by the vast majority of professional biologists, but of course science does not proceed by majority vote among scientists. Why isn't creationism (or its incarnation as intelligent design) just another scientific controversy, as worthy of scientific debate as the dozen essay topics we listed above? Here's why.

If ID really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn't happen. It isn't that editors refuse to publish ID research. There simply isn't any ID research to publish. Its advocates bypass normal scientific due process by appealing directly to the non-scientific public and - with great shrewdness - to the government officials they elect.

The argument the ID advocates put, such as it is, is always of the same character. Never do they offer positive evidence in favour of intelligent design. All we ever get is a list of alleged deficiencies in evolution. We are told of "gaps" in the fossil record. Or organs are stated, by fiat and without supporting evidence, to be "irreducibly complex": too complex to have evolved by natural selection.

In all cases there is a hidden (actually they scarcely even bother to hide it) "default" assumption that if Theory A has some difficulty in explaining Phenomenon X, we must automatically prefer Theory B without even asking whether Theory B (creationism in this case) is any better at explaining it. Note how unbalanced this is, and how it gives the lie to the apparent reasonableness of "let's teach both sides". One side is required to produce evidence, every step of the way. The other side is never required to produce one iota of evidence, but is deemed to have won automatically, the moment the first side encounters a difficulty - the sort of difficulty that all sciences encounter every day, and go to work to solve, with relish.

What, after all, is a gap in the fossil record? It is simply the absence of a fossil which would otherwise have documented a particular evolutionary transition. The gap means that we lack a complete cinematic record of every step in the evolutionary process. But how incredibly presumptuous to demand a complete record, given that only a minuscule proportion of deaths result in a fossil anyway.

The equivalent evidential demand of creationism would be a complete cinematic record of God's behaviour on the day that he went to work on, say, the mammalian ear bones or the bacterial flagellum - the small, hair-like organ that propels mobile bacteria. Not even the most ardent advocate of intelligent design claims that any such divine videotape will ever become available.

Biologists, on the other hand, can confidently claim the equivalent "cinematic" sequence of fossils for a very large number of evolutionary transitions. Not all, but very many, including our own descent from the bipedal ape Australopithecus. And - far more telling - not a single authentic fossil has ever been found in the "wrong" place in the evolutionary sequence. Such an anachronistic fossil, if one were ever unearthed, would blow evolution out of the water.

As the great biologist J B S Haldane growled, when asked what might disprove evolution: "Fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian." Evolution, like all good theories, makes itself vulnerable to disproof. Needless to say, it has always come through with flying colours.

Similarly, the claim that something - say the bacterial flagellum - is too complex to have evolved by natural selection is alleged, by a lamentably common but false syllogism, to support the "rival" intelligent design theory by default. This kind of default reasoning leaves completely open the possibility that, if the bacterial flagellum is too complex to have evolved, it might also be too complex to have been created. And indeed, a moment's thought shows that any God capable of creating a bacterial flagellum (to say nothing of a universe) would have to be a far more complex, and therefore statistically improbable, entity than the bacterial flagellum (or universe) itself - even more in need of an explanation than the object he is alleged to have created.

If complex organisms demand an explanation, so does a complex designer. And it's no solution to raise the theologian's plea that God (or the Intelligent Designer) is simply immune to the normal demands of scientific explanation. To do so would be to shoot yourself in the foot. You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs.

In fact, the bacterial flagellum is certainly not too complex to have evolved, nor is any other living structure that has ever been carefully studied. Biologists have located plausible series of intermediates, using ingredients to be found elsewhere in living systems. But even if some particular case were found for which biologists could offer no ready explanation, the important point is that the "default" logic of the creationists remains thoroughly rotten.

There is no evidence in favour of intelligent design: only alleged gaps in the completeness of the evolutionary account, coupled with the "default" fallacy we have identified. And, while it is inevitably true that there are incompletenesses in evolutionary science, the positive evidence for the fact of evolution is truly massive, made up of hundreds of thousands of mutually corroborating observations. These come from areas such as geology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, ethology, biogeography, embryology and - increasingly nowadays - molecular genetics.

The weight of the evidence has become so heavy that opposition to the fact of evolution is laughable to all who are acquainted with even a fraction of the published data. Evolution is a fact: as much a fact as plate tectonics or the heliocentric solar system.

Why, finally, does it matter whether these issues are discussed in science classes? There is a case for saying that it doesn't - that biologists shouldn't get so hot under the collar. Perhaps we should just accept the popular demand that we teach ID as well as evolution in science classes. It would, after all, take only about 10 minutes to exhaust the case for ID, then we could get back to teaching real science and genuine controversy.

Tempting as this is, a serious worry remains. The seductive "let's teach the controversy" language still conveys the false, and highly pernicious, idea that there really are two sides. This would distract students from the genuinely important and interesting controversies that enliven evolutionary discourse. Worse, it would hand creationism the only victory it realistically aspires to. Without needing to make a single good point in any argument, it would have won the right for a form of supernaturalism to be recognised as an authentic part of science. And that would be the end of science education in America.

Arguments worth having ...

The "Cambrian Explosion"

Although the fossil record shows that the first multicellular animals lived about 640m years ago, the diversity of species was low until about 530m years ago. At that time there was a sudden explosion of many diverse marine species, including the first appearance of molluscs, arthropods, echinoderms and vertebrates. "Sudden" here is used in the geological sense; the "explosion" occurred over a period of 10m to 30m years, which is, after all, comparable to the time taken to evolve most of the great radiations of mammals. This rapid diversification raises fascinating questions; explanations include the evolution of organisms with hard parts (which aid fossilisation), the evolutionary "discovery" of eyes, and the development of new genes that allowed parts of organisms to evolve independently.

The evolutionary basis of human behaviour

The field of evolutionary psychology (once called "sociobiology") maintains that many universal traits of human behaviour (especially sexual behaviour), as well as differences between individuals and between ethnic groups, have a genetic basis. These traits and differences are said to have evolved in our ancestors via natural selection. There is much controversy about these claims, largely because it is hard to reconstruct the evolutionary forces that acted on our ancestors, and it is unethical to do genetic experiments on modern humans.

Sexual versus natural selection

Although evolutionists agree that adaptations invariably result from natural selection, there are many traits, such as the elaborate plumage of male birds and size differences between the sexes in many species, that are better explained by "sexual selection": selection based on members of one sex (usually females) preferring to mate with members of the other sex that show certain desirable traits. Evolutionists debate how many features of animals have resulted from sexual as opposed to natural selection; some, like Darwin himself, feel that many physical features differentiating human "races" resulted from sexual selection.

The target of natural selection

Evolutionists agree that natural selection usually acts on genes in organisms - individuals carrying genes that give them a reproductive or survival advantage over others will leave more descendants, gradually changing the genetic composition of a species. This is called "individual selection". But some evolutionists have proposed that selection can act at higher levels as well: on populations (group selection), or even on species themselves (species selection). The relative importance of individual versus these higher order forms of selection is a topic of lively debate.

Natural selection versus genetic drift

Natural selection is a process that leads to the replacement of one gene by another in a predictable way. But there is also a "random" evolutionary process called genetic drift, which is the genetic equivalent of coin-tossing. Genetic drift leads to unpredictable changes in the frequencies of genes that don't make much difference to the adaptation of their carriers, and can cause evolution by changing the genetic composition of populations. Many features of DNA are said to have evolved by genetic drift. Evolutionary geneticists disagree about the importance of selection versus drift in explaining features of organisms and their DNA. All evolutionists agree that genetic drift can't explain adaptive evolution. But not all evolution is adaptive.

Further reading

Website explaining evolution in user-friendly fashion

Climbing Mount Improbable
Richard Dawkin (illustrations by Lalla Ward), Penguin 1997

Evolution versus Creationism
Eugenie C Scott, Greenwood Press, 2004

· Richard Dawkins is Charles Simonyi professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University, and Jerry Coyne is a professor in the department of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago

Richard Dawkins book 'The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life' is published by Phoenix in paperback today priced £9.99.

www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0 ... 43,00.html
Cardinal backs evolution and "intelligent design"

Cardinal backs evolution and "intelligent design"
Tue Oct 4, 2005 12:14 PM ET

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - A senior Roman Catholic cardinal seen as a champion of "intelligent design" against Darwin's explanation of life has described the theory of evolution as "one of the very great works of intellectual history".

Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn said he could believe both in divine creation and in evolution because one was a question of religion and the other of science, two realms that complimented rather than contradicted each other.

Schoenborn's view, presented in a lecture published by his office on Tuesday, tempered earlier statements that seemed to ally the Church with United States conservatives campaigning against the teaching of evolution in public schools.

A court in Pennsylvania is now hearing a suit brought by parents against a school district that teaches intelligent design -- the view that life is so complex some higher being must have designed it -- alongside evolution in biology class.

"Without a doubt, Darwin pulled off quite a feat with his main work and it remains one of the very great works of intellectual history," Schoenborn declared in a lecture in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna on Sunday.

"I see no problem combining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, under one condition -- that the limits of a scientific theory are respected," he said.

Science studies what is observable and scientists overstep the boundaries of their discipline when they conclude evolution proves there was no creator, said the cardinal, 60, a top Church doctrinal expert and close associate of Pope Benedict.

"It is fully reasonable to assume some sense or design even if the scientific method demands restrictions that shut out this question," said the cardinal.


Schoenborn, who ranked among the papal hopefuls last April, caused an uproar in the United States last July with a New York Times article that seemed to say the Church no longer accepted evolution and backed intelligent design.

Proponents of intelligent design argue that Darwin's natural selection theory is flawed and alternatives should be taught.

Scientists reject this as a disguised form of Creationism, the literal belief in Creation as described in the Bible and barred by the U.S. Supreme Court from being taught in public schools.

Even Catholic scientists, including chief Vatican astronomer Rev. George Coyne S.J., contested Schoenborn's view.

In his lecture, Schoenborn said his article had led to misunderstandings and sometimes polemics. "Maybe one did not express oneself clearly enough or thoughts were not clear enough," he said. "Such misunderstandings can be cleared up."

Schoenborn said he believed God created "the things of the world" but did not explain how a divine will to bring about mankind would have influenced its actual evolution.

"They were so to speak let free into their own existence," he said.

[Emp edit: Fixing big link]
Seems the Vatican have something o say on this:

Vatican paper raps ‘intelligent design’

Professor’s article appears in official Catholic publication

Updated: 8:23 p.m. ET Jan. 19, 2006

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican newspaper has published an article saying “intelligent design” is not science and that teaching it alongside evolutionary theory in school classrooms only creates confusion.

The article in Tuesday’s editions of L’Osservatore Romano was the latest in a series of interventions by Vatican officials — including the pope — on the issue that has dominated headlines in the United States.

The author, Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, laid out the scientific rationale for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, saying that in the scientific world, biological evolution “represents the interpretative key of the history of life on Earth.”

He lamented that certain American “creationists” had brought the debate back to the “dogmatic” 1800s, and said their arguments weren’t science but ideology.

“This isn’t how science is done,” he wrote. “If the model proposed by Darwin is deemed insufficient, one should look for another, but it’s not correct from a methodological point of view to take oneself away from the scientific field pretending to do science.”

Intelligent design “doesn’t belong to science and the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside Darwin’s explanation is unjustified,” he wrote.

“It only creates confusion between the scientific and philosophical and religious planes.”

Does evolution explain everything?

Supporters of intelligent design hold that some features of the universe and living things are so complex they must have been designed by a higher intelligence. Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism — a literal reading of the Bible’s story of creation — camouflaged in scientific language and say it does not belong in science curriculum.

Facchini said he recognized that some Darwin proponents erroneously assume that evolution explains everything. “Better to recognize that the problem from the scientific point of view remains open,” he said.

But he concluded: “In a vision that goes beyond the empirical horizon, we can say that we aren’t men by chance or by necessity, and that the human experience has a sense and a direction signaled by a superior design.”

Echoing earlier debates

The article echoed similar arguments by the Vatican’s chief astronomer, the Rev. George Coyne, who said “intelligent design” wasn’t science and had no place in school classrooms.

Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed in off-the-cuff comments in November that the universe was made by an “intelligent project” and criticized those who in the name of science say its creation was without direction or order.

© 2006 The Associated Press.


By Jack Woodall


Intelligent Design: The Clincher
A butterfly explodes the theory.


What can we make of the complications that led the Large Blue butterfly (Maculinea arion) to extinction in Britain?

At first sight, nothing could seem less intelligent than the design of a flying insect. From an egg laid in or on a food supply, it hatches into a slow-moving eating machine that keeps outgrowing its skin, so that it has to molt every few days. At the moment of molting, it is extremely vulnerable to predators and parasites. Then, inexplicably, it stops moving and grows a hard shell, inside which it completely redesigns its body from square one, to emerge into a thing with wings that launches itself into hundreds of cubic miles of atmosphere in search of a mate, and a food plant, with nothing to guide it but a few stray molecules - pheromones and plant odors - blowing in the wind.

The fact is, however, that this is a very efficient system for spreading the genes of that species around the landscape, and for locating food plants that would take an Earth-bound caterpillar days to find by dint of much hard crawling. The proof is that there are more species of insect than any other class of animal, and their biomass outweighs the mammals, even though the latter include all the elephants on earth and close to a billion overweight humans as well.

OK, that complicated life cycle seems an intelligent creation in the end. But what can we make of the further complications that led the Large Blue butterfly (Maculinea arion) to extinction in Britain? It entrusts a critical stage in its life cycle to the tender care of a single species of red ant that is particularly finicky about where it nests.

The story goes like this: The Large Blue lays its eggs in the buds of thyme - the culinary herb that grows wild in Europe - in the tight-bud stage. If the butterfly is ready to lay its eggs before the buds appear, or not until after they have started to open, the brood is lost. The eggs hatch after one or two weeks, depending on the weather; warm weather speeds hatching. The young caterpillars feed on thyme flowers for about two weeks during late July and early August, then fall to the ground where they are "adopted" by red ants (Myrmica sabuleti) attracted by a sugary substance secreted from a dorsal gland. The ants carry the caterpillar back to their nest, where it then gorges on ant larvae. While hidden from its own predators, the caterpillar spends 10 months as a predator in the ant nest, and then pupates there. After three weeks pupation the butterfly emerges during the four weeks mid-June to mid-July.

M. sabuleti is a warmth-loving ant that thrives only in short, dry grassland on hot south-facing slopes that are heavily grazed. If the grass grows higher than 3-4 cm and shades the ground, cooling it, this ant dies out and other species of ant take over - ants that are not interested in providing free food and lodging for Large Blue caterpillars. Taller grass also crowds out thyme.

What happened in Britain was a constellation of events that conspired to spell disaster for the Large Blue. One was the increased use of chemical fertilizers that promote vigorous grass growth, which kills off small wild flowers such as thyme. Then, sheep were pulled off the land by a change in livestock farming. For a few years, rabbits spread and kept the grass short in habitats favored by the butterfly, but in the 1950s myxomatosis (a viral disease of rabbits) was introduced and eliminated them. Pastures also were previously burned over, which kept the grass short, but this is no longer done.

So here you have an insect that depends for its very existence on a fragile chain of circumstances that is easily broken by bad weather, changes in exposure to grazing due to human intervention and disease, loss of its unique food plant, and loss of its protector ant species. If I were to design such a silly system I'd at least choose the most abundant, hardy species of ant to host my caterpillars, and ensure that they could feed on other plants beside thyme, and at other stages than the bud. To me, the case of the Large Blue is conclusive disproof of the theory of intelligent design.

Jack Woodall is director of the Nucleus for the Investigation of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Institute of Medical Biochemistry at Brazil's Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
[email protected]

One Scientist's Junk Is a Creationist's Treasure
Catherine Shaffer 06.13.07 | 2:00 AM
Without your "junk DNA" you might be reading this article while hanging upside down by your tail.

That's one of the key findings of the opossum genome-sequencing project, and a surprising group is embracing the results: intelligent-design advocates. Since the early '70s, many scientists have believed that a large amount of many organisms' DNA is useless junk. But recently, genome researchers are finding that these "noncoding" genome regions are responsible for important biological functions.

The opossum data revealed that more than 95 percent of the evolutionary genetic changes in humans since the split with a common human-possum ancestor occurred in the "junk" regions of the genome. Creationists say it's also evidence that God created all life, because God does not create junk. Nothing in creation, they say, was left to chance.

"It is a confirmation of a natural empirical prediction or expectation of the theory of intelligent design, and it disconfirms the neo-Darwinian hypothesis," said Stephen Meyer, director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.

Advocates like Meyer are increasingly latching onto scientific evidence to support the theory of intelligent design, a modern arm of creationism that claims life is not the result of natural selection but of an intelligent creator. Most scientists believe that intelligent design is not science. But Meyer says the opossum data supports intelligent design's prediction that junk DNA sequences aren't random, but important genetic material. It's an argument Meyer makes in his yet-to-be-published manuscript, The DNA Enigma.

Scientists have made several discoveries about what some call the "dark matter of the genome" in recent years, but they say the research holds up the theory of natural selection rather than creationism.

In May 2007, Stanford scientists identified more than 10,000 "snippets" of DNA that are not genes but have been conserved across species throughout evolution.

When genes are conserved through natural selection, it's usually because they have important functions. In this case the researchers believe the DNA snippets are associated with early development.

"We are saying it's functional because we observe this trajectory of a hundred million years," said Gill Bejerano, an assistant professor of developmental biology and computer science at Stanford and co-author of the paper on the 10,000 DNA snippets. "If you disbelieve this process, then from your perspective, we haven't found anything interesting in the genome."

Geneticist Susumu Ohno coined the phrase "junk DNA" in his 1972 paper, "So Much 'Junk' DNA in our Genome." Four years later, Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene, which popularized the idea that genes are the basis of evolutionary selection. Any DNA that was not actively trying to get to the next generation -- namely junk DNA -- was slowly decaying away through mutation, Dawkins wrote.

With scientists increasingly believing that so-called junk DNA regulates other genes, among other functions, creationists like Michael Behe, a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and author of the controversial new book on intelligent design, The Edge of Evolution, are more than happy to point out their errors.

"From the very beginning Darwinism thought whatever it didn't understand must be simple, must be nonfunctional," Behe said. "It's only in retrospect that Darwinists try to fit that into their theory."

Part of the difficulty in studying junk DNA is that it's impossible to prove a negative, i.e., that any particular DNA does not have a function.

That's why T. Ryan Gregory, an assistant professor in biology at the University of Guelph, believes that nonfunctional should be the default assumption. "Function at the organism level is something that requires evidence," he said.

Many scientists, including Francis Collins, author of The Language of God and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, believe that "junk" may have been an overstatement from the beginning.

Collins is known for believing in both evolution and God, but he stops short of using junk DNA as proof of God as the master of creation.

"I've stopped using the term," Collins said. "Think about it the way you think about stuff you keep in your basement. Stuff you might need some time. Go down, rummage around, pull it out if you might need it."

"Obviously 'junk' is pretty much a colloquial term," said Stanford's Bejerano. "There's no scientific definition of what is junk."

http://www.wired.com/science/discoverie ... 6/junk_dna
Here we go again...

New legal threat to school science in the US
09 July 2008
From New Scientist Print Edition.
Amanda Gefter

BARBARA FORREST knew the odds were stacked against her. "They had 50 or 60 people in the room," she says. Her opponents included lobbyists, church leaders and a crowd of home-schooled children. "They were wearing stickers, clapping, cheering and standing in the aisles." Those on Forrest's side numbered less than a dozen, including two professors from Louisiana State University, representatives from the Louisiana Association of Educators and campaigners for the continued separation of church and state.

That was on 21 May, when Forrest testified in the Louisiana state legislature on the dangers hidden in the state's proposed Science Education Act. She had spent weeks trying to muster opposition to the bill on the grounds that it would allow teachers and school boards across the state to present non-scientific alternatives to evolution, including ideas related to intelligent design (ID) - the proposition that life is too complicated to have arisen without the help of a supernatural agent.

The act is designed to slip ID in "through the back door", says Forrest, who is a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University and an expert in the history of creationism. She adds that the bill's language, which names evolution along with global warming, the origins of life and human cloning as worthy of "open and objective discussion", is an attempt to misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial.

Forrest's testimony notwithstanding, the bill was passed by the state's legislature - by a majority of 94 to 3 in the House and by unanimous vote in the Senate. On 28 June, Louisiana's Republican governor, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal, signed the bill into law. The development has national implications, not least because Jindal is rumoured to be on Senator John McCain's shortlist as a potential running mate in his bid for the presidency.

Born in 1971 to parents recently arrived from India, Jindal is a convert to Roman Catholicism and a Rhodes scholar - hardly the profile of a typical Bible-belt politician. Yet in a recent national television appearance he voiced approval for the teaching of ID alongside evolution. He also enjoys a close relationship with the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a lobbying group for the religious right whose mission statement includes "presenting biblical principles" in "centers of influence". It was the LFF which set the bill in motion earlier this year.

"We believe that to teach young people critical thinking skills you have to give them both sides of an issue," says Gene Mills, executive director of the LFF. When asked whether the new law fits with the organisation's religious agenda, Mills told New Scientist: "Certainly it's an extension of it."

The new legislation is the latest manoeuvre in a long-running war to challenge the validity of Darwinian evolution as an accepted scientific fact in American classrooms. Forrest played a pivotal role in the previous battle. It came to a head at a trial in 2005 when US district judge John E. Jones ruled against the Dover area school board in Pennsylvania, whose members had voted that students in high-school biology classes should be encouraged to explore alternatives to evolution and directed to textbooks on ID.

The Dover trial, during which Forrest presented evidence that ID was old-fashioned creationism by another name (New Scientist, 29 October 2005, p 6), revolved around the question of whether ID was science or religion. Jones determined it was the latter, and ruled in favour of the parents who challenged the Dover board on the basis of the provision for separation of church and state in the US constitution.

The strategy being employed in Louisiana by proponents of ID - including the Seattle-based Discovery Institute - is more subtle and potentially more difficult to challenge. Instead of trying to prove that ID is science, they have sought to bestow on teachers the right to introduce non-scientific alternatives to evolution under the banner of "academic freedom".

"Academic freedom is a great thing," says Josh Rosenau of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California. "But if you look at the American Association of University Professors' definition of academic freedom, it refers to the ability to do research and publish." This, he points out, is different to the job high-school teachers are supposed to do. "In high school, you're teaching mainstream science so students can go on to college or medical school, where you need that freedom to explore cutting-edge ideas. To apply 'academic freedom' to high school is a misuse of the term."

"It's very slick," says Forrest. "The religious right has co-opted the terminology of the progressive left... They know that phrase appeals to people."

“It's very slick...The religious right has co-opted the terminology of the progressive left”The new usage began to permeate public consciousness earlier this year with the release of the documentary film Expelled: No intelligence allowed. Starring actor, game-show host and former Nixon speech-writer Ben Stein, the film argues that academic freedom is under attack in the US from atheist "Darwinists". The film's promoters teamed up with the Discovery Institute to set up the Academic Freedom Petition. Their website provides a "model academic freedom statute on evolution" to serve as a template for sympathetic legislators.

So far, representatives from six states have taken up the idea. In Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and Alabama, bills were introduced but failed. An academic freedom bill now in committee in Michigan is expected to stall there.

Louisiana is another story. A hub of creationist activism since the early 1980s, it was Louisiana that enacted the Balanced Treatment Act, which required that creationism be taught alongside evolution in schools. In a landmark 1987 case known as Edwards vs Aguillard, the US Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, effectively closing the door on teaching "creation science" in public schools. ID was invented soon afterwards as a way of proffering creationist concepts without specific reference to God.

In 2006, the year following the Dover ruling, the Ouachita parish school board in northern Louisiana quietly initiated a new tactic, unanimously approving a science curriculum policy that stated: "Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught." The idea that evolution has weaknesses, and is therefore not a solid scientific theory, is a recurring theme in ID-related literature. Not long afterwards, the assistant superintendent of the Ouachita parish school system, Frank Hoffman, was elected to the state House of Representatives and joined the House education committee. "I knew then that something was going to happen," says Forrest.

When Jindal was elected governor last year, the stage was set. The LFF approached Ben Nevers, a state senator, who agreed to introduce the Louisiana Academic Freedom Act on their behalf. "They believe that scientific data related to creationism should be discussed when dealing with Darwin's theory," Nevers told the Hammond Daily Star in April. The bill was later amended and renamed the Louisiana Science Education Act. Its final version includes a statement that the law should not be taken as promoting religion.

That way, those who wish to challenge Darwinian evolution have "plausible deniability" that this is intended to teach something unconstitutional, says Eric Rothschild of the Philadelphia-based law firm Pepper Hamilton, which represented the parents at the Dover trial. "They are better camouflaged now."

Supporters of the new law clearly hope that teachers and administrators who wish to raise alternatives to evolution in science classes will feel protected if they do so. The law expressly permits the use of "supplemental" classroom materials in addition to state-approved textbooks. The LFF is now promoting the use of online "add-ons" that put a creationist spin on the contents of various science texts in use across the state, and the Discovery Institute has recently produced Explore Evolution, a glossy text that offers the standard ID critiques of evolution (see "The evolution of creationist literature"). Unlike its predecessor Of Pandas and People, which fared badly during the Dover trial, it does not use the term "intelligent design".

Because the law allows individual boards and teachers to make additions to the science curriculum without clearance from a state authority, the responsibility will lie with parents to mount a legal challenge to anything that appears to be an infringement of the separation of church and state. "In Dover, there were parents and teachers willing to step forward and say, this is not OK," says Rosenau. "But here we're seeing that people are either fine with it or they don't want to say anything because they don't want to be ostracised in their community."

Even if a trial ensues, a victory by the plaintiffs will only mean that some specific supplementary material is ruled unconstitutional - not the law itself. Separate lawsuits will be needed to address each piece of suspicious supplementary material. "This encourages a lot of local brush fires that you have to deal with individually and that makes it very difficult," says Forrest. "This is done intentionally, to get this down to the local level. It's going to be very difficult to even know what's going on."

Ultimately, if a number of suits are successfully tried, a group like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) could take the law itself to court, citing various cases in which it was used to bring religious material into the classroom. Representatives from the ACLU and from Americans United for Separation of Church and State have already told Louisiana state officials that lawsuits will follow if the law is used for religious ends.

In the meantime, Forrest is working to inform teachers about the supplementary materials being made available. "The pressing need for the coming school year is to get the word out for what teachers need to be on alert for," she says.

As to a future Dover-style trial, this time on Forrest's home turf, "I'll be right there," she says, though it's not a prospect she relishes. "I'd like to think I won't have to do this for the rest of my life. Because believe me, I don't do it for fun. It's a duty."

Bet he wears a big crucifix.

Suit alleges dismissal for intelligent design
http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-nas ... igent.html
March 11th, 2012 in Other Sciences / Other

(AP) -- NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has landed robotic explorers on the surface of Mars, sent probes to outer planets and operates a worldwide network of antennas that communicates with interplanetary spacecraft.
Its latest mission is defending itself in a workplace lawsuit filed by a former computer specialist who claims he was demoted - and then let go - for promoting his views on intelligent design, the belief that a higher power must have had a hand in creation because life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone.

David Coppedge, who worked as a "team lead" on the Cassini mission exploring Saturn and its many moons, alleges that he was discriminated against because he engaged his co-workers in conversations about intelligent design and handed out DVDs on the idea while at work. Coppedge lost his "team lead" title in 2009 and was let go last year after 15 years on the mission.

Opening statements are expected to begin Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court after two years of legal wrangling in a case that has generated interest among supporters of intelligent design. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian civil rights group, and the Discovery Institute, a proponent of intelligent design, are both supporting Coppedge's case.

"It's part of a pattern. There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin and we've seen that for several years," said John West, associate director of Center for Science and Culture at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. "This is free speech, freedom of conscience 101."

The National Center for Science Education, which rejects intelligent design as thinly veiled creationism, is also watching the case and has posted all the legal filings on its website.

"It would be unfortunate if the court took what seems to be a fairly straightforward employment law case and allowed it to become this tangled mess of trying to adjudicate scientific matters," said Josh Rosenau, NCSE's programs and policy director. "It looks like a pretty straightforward case. The mission that he was working on was winding down and he was laid off."

Coppedge's attorney, William Becker, says his client was singled out by his bosses because they perceived his belief in intelligent design to be religious. Coppedge had a reputation around JPL as an evangelical Christian and other interactions with co-workers led some to label him as a Christian conservative, Becker said.

In the lawsuit, Coppedge says he believes other things also led to his demotion, including his support for a state ballot measure that sought to define marriage as limited to heterosexual couples and his request to rename the annual holiday party a "Christmas party."

"David had this reputation for being a Christian, for being a practicing one. He did not go around evangelizing or proselytizing. But if he found out that someone was a Christian he would say, `Oh that's interesting, what denomination are you?'" Becker said.

"He's not apologizing for who he is. He's an evangelical Christian."

In an emailed statement, JPL dismissed Coppedge's claims. In court papers, lawyers for the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, said Coppedge received a written warning because his co-workers complained of harassment. They also said Coppedge lost his "team lead" status because of ongoing conflicts with others.

Caltech lawyers contend Coppedge was one of two Cassini technicians and among 246 JPL employees let go last year due to planned budget cuts.

While the case has attracted interest because of the controversial nature of intelligent design, it is at its heart a straightforward discrimination case, said Eugene Volokh, a professor of First Amendment law at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

"The question is whether the plaintiff was fired simply because he was wasting people's time and bothering them in ways that would have led him to being fired regardless of whether it was about religion or whether he was treated worse based on the religiosity of his beliefs," said Volokh. "If he can show that, then he's got a good case."

Coppedge, who began working for JPL as a contractor in 1996 and was hired in 2003, is active in the intelligent design sphere and runs a website that interprets scientific discoveries through the lens of intelligent design. His father authored an anti-evolution book and founded a Christian outreach group.

He is also a board member for Illustra Media, a company that produces video documentaries examining the scientific evidence for intelligent design. The company produces the videos that Coppedge was handing out to co-workers, said Becker, his attorney.

His main duties at JPL were to maintain computer networks and troubleshoot technical problems for the mission. In 2000, he was named "team lead," serving as a liaison between technicians and managers for nearly a decade before being demoted in 2009.

He sued in April 2010 alleging religious discrimination, retaliation and harassment and amended his suit to include wrongful termination after losing his job last year.

Coppedge is seeking attorney's fees and costs, damages for wrongful termination and a statement from the judge that his rights were violated, said Becker.
More on the Coppedge case.

Ex NASA expert attacks bosses in religious row
http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-nas ... s-row.html
March 19th, 2012 in Space & Earth / Space Exploration

A former expert at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) claimed Monday he was falsely accused of harassing co-workers about religion, as he took the stand at an unfair dismissal trial.

Computer administrator David Coppedge, who describes himself as an evangelical Christian, was fired last year after expressing support for intelligent design to fellow employees.

His trial started last week, and on Monday testified that his supervisor Gregory Chin had wrongly accused him, threatened his freedom of religion and created a potentially hostile working environment.

"You are pushing your religion in this office and harassing people with this religion," Chin said, according to Coppedge, who added: "He was angry and he got angrier."

Coppedge said he asked Chin why he considered intelligent design anything but science. "Dave, intelligent design is religion," Chin replied, according to Coppedge.

Chin warned him against discussing religion or politics with colleagues, he said.

"I felt threatened .. I said: 'Greg, this gets into issues of free speech and freedom of religion ... this could be construed as creating a hostile work environment'," he added.

Coppedge filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in April 2010, and claims he was dismissed nine months later in retaliation for taking the legal action -- but JPL said he was laid off as part of a staff reduction.

Coppedge, who had joined JPL in 1996, was an information technology specialist and system administrator -- and team leader -- on the project's Cassini mission to Saturn.

He lost his team leader role in 2009, and left the company last year after 15 years.

In a sworn declaration last week, he denied he was aggressive in voicing views about religion, including by sending emails criticizing the change in name of the 2003 Cassini Christmas party to a "holiday party."

"I was not pushy, scolding or demanding in these emails," he said. "In fact, my purpose was to convince them to not be so politically correct. It wouldn't have made any sense for me to have been pushy," he said.

In a statement issued as the trial opened, JPL dismissed the charges, saying: "The suit is completely without merit and we intend to vigorously fight the allegations raised by Mr Coppedge."

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, which operates under a contract with NASA.