Re: Shapes of a Wedge

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun May 16 2004 - 15:10:33 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Al Koop" <>
To: <>
Sent: Saturday, May 15, 2004 2:27 PM
Subject: Shapes of a Wedge

> The Science journal of 7 May 2004 has a book review (that is worth
> reading) of 3 creation/evolution books: Darwinism, Design, and Public
> Education by John Angus Campbell and Stephen Meyer eds. of the Discovery
> Institute; God, the Devil, and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design
> Theory by Niall Shanks, and Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of
> Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross. It seems to me
> that fewer of the people now involved in the public discussion of the
> evolution controversey are scientists. John Angus Cambell is a
> communications professor from the University of Memphis. Shanks is a
> philopsophy professor at East Tennessee State and Forrest a philosophy
> professor at Louisana State.
> The reviewer, Steve Olson, a science writer says: "...creationism
> appears to again be in a period of ascendancy." I think that today's
> discussion presented to average citizen (who can understand little
> science in my opinion) has little to to with the principles of science
> and much more to do with the rhetorical and political skills of those on
> either side, along with an appeal to a religious position. The
> antievolution folk are ahead of the proevolution folk in this regard,
> and if the proevolution folk wish to stem the tide they are going to
> have to write a far different type of book than the books by Shanks and
> Forrest and Gross, which the general public will never read. The people
> writing these new books will probably have to take a more political and
> rhetorical approach, as well, if their goal is to move people, rather
> than just pointing out the scientific evidence in favor of evolution to
> the few who can grasp it. There does not seem to be anybody out there
> yet who can come close to filling the shoes of Stephen Gould, much less
> anyone exceeding his ability to engage the general public, at least to
> some degree. Somebody is going to have to get a proevolution book on the
> best sellers list like Hawking and Greene managed to do with cosmology.

        Rhetoric & politics are part of the story but the fundamental issue
here is theological. The great majority of people who oppose evolution do
so on religious grounds. (Of course those religious views may range from a
well thought out & sophisticated to incoherent.) Nonbelievers who are
concerned about this problem can then see elimination of religion as a
solution but that is of course not the case for Christians. Unless we can
present adequate arguments for accepting evolution that take the Bible and
the Christian theological tradition seriously, all the scientific arguments
in the world will accomplish little. (Which is, of course, not to say that
scientific arguments have no place at all in the discussion.)

    FWIW, I append here a letter of mine to the Akron Beacon Journal about
the unfortunate anti-evolution decision made by the state borad of education
a couple of months ago. (I wrote the letter in March but the paper took 2
months to publish it.) I wish more Christians, and specifically, more
clergy, would take pen or keyboard in hand & set out the case for good
science education on religious grounds.

            Critics of the lesson plan approved by the state board of
education ["State OKs evolution lessons", 10 March] are right in saying that
it contains thinly disguised concepts of so-called Intelligent Design. But
even if that is ignored, the whole structure of the plan is fundamentally
wrong. It would give students the impression that the scientific evidence
and arguments against evolutionary theory are about as good as those for it.
This is simply false. There are, of course, debates among evolutionary
scientists about some aspects of how evolution has occurred, but there is no
serious question in the scientific community that evolution itself -
"descent with modification" - has taken place.

                It is not hard to understand why this badly flawed plan has
been pushed so hard and why it has finally been passed: It enables some
Christians to continue to shield themselves and their children from the
reality of evolution. While they think that they are defending true
religion, they are in fact placing a large "Kick Me" sign on the back of the
church. Opponents of Christianity will of course be glad to accept the
invitation and portray believers as ignorant and fearful people.

            The statement by lawyer and board member Michael Cochran that
scientists had spoken on both sides of the issue misrepresents the
situation, since the vast majority of scientists who deal with the relevant
issues favors evolution. But his claim also shows a profound
misunderstanding of the way science works. Scientific questions are decided
by observational evidence and cogent theoretical arguments, not by voting
and other political and legal tactics. But since the opponents of good
science have chosen to make this a matter to be settled by the standards of
lawyers rather than those of scientists, we will have to trust that the
courts will follow precedent and strike down this unfortunate decision by
the board.

The Rev. Dr. George L. Murphy

538 Cynthia Lane

Tallmadge OH 44278


Received on Sun May 16 15:11:26 2004

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