Re: The science educators' Vietnam

Stephen E. Jones (
Mon, 16 Aug 1999 05:21:53 +0800


Attached is an article that appeared in the New York Times at:

in which Phil Johnson pointed out that "defending evolution was becoming
`the science educators' Vietnam.'"

"Phillip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at
Berkeley, who has written books attacking "propaganda" in the teaching of
evolution, said defending evolution was becoming "the science educators'

Johnson's words in "Darwin on Trial" are coming true:

"The Darwinists may have made a serious strategic error in choosing to
pursue a campaign of indoctrination in the public schools. Previously, the
high school textbooks said relatively little about evolution except that most
scientists believe in it, which is hard to dispute. Serious examination of the
scientific evidence was postponed until college, and was provided mostly
to biology majors and graduate students. Most persons outside the
profession had little opportunity to learn how much philosophy was being
taught in the name of science, and if they knew what was going on they had
no opportunity to mount an effective challenge. The Darwinists themselves
have changed that comfortable situation by demanding that the public
schools teach a great deal more "about evolution." What they mean is that
the public schools should try much harder to persuade students to believe
in Darwinism, not that they should present fairly the evidence that is
causing Darwinists so much trouble. What goes on in the public schools is
the public's business, however, and even creationists are entitled to point
out errors and evasions in the textbooks and teaching materials.
Invocations of authority may work for a while, but eventually determined
protestors will persuade the public to grant them a fair hearing on the
evidence. As many more people outside the Biblical fundamentalist camp
learn how deeply committed Darwinists are to opposing theism of any sort,
and how little support Darwinism finds in the scientific evidence, the
Darwinists may wish that they had never left their sanctuary." (Johnson
P.E., "Darwin on Trial," 1993, p146).

Darwinists have used Darwinian evolution as a vehicle to disseminate their
materialist-naturalist philosophy in public schools for decades, cleverly
using the separation of church and State provisions of the USA
constitution to foist their own secular religion on the majority of Americans
who are creationist. But they have overreached themselves and have
provoked the inevitable backlash! As it was with Vietnam, an imperialistic
power has embroiled itself in an unwinnable war, and now its only hope is
to try to beat a strategic retreat, and cut its losses.

And I predict that the ID movement will be a leader in coordinating that
backlash in the 21st century. Note how the media turned to ID leaders like
Johnson and Behe (they were approached-they did not do the
approaching), rather than TEs or even YECs.

The line the ID movement leaders like Johnson and Behe (see attached the
latter's article at in
the New York Times) are taking is that evolution should not be banned
from schools, but that it should be taught *honestly* with its philosophical
assumptions laid bare and all its difficulties frankly admitted.

But if that were the case, then the *evolutionists* would want evolution to
be banned from schools!


August 12, 1999

Kansas Votes to Delete Evolution From State's Science Curriculum



CHICAGO -- The Kansas Board of Education voted on Wednesday to
delete virtually any mention of evolution from the state's science
curriculum, in one of the most far-reaching efforts by creationists in recent
years to challenge the teaching of evolution in schools.

While the move does not prevent the teaching of evolution, it will not be
included in the state assessment tests that evaluate students' performance in
various grades, which may discourage school districts from spending time
on the subject.


And the decision is likely to embolden local school boards seeking either to
remove evolution from their curriculums, to force teachers to raise
questions about its validity or to introduce creationist ideas. Some local
boards have already said they will consider adopting creationist textbooks,
while others have said they will continue teaching evolution.

Creationists say a divine being created humans and other species. They say
that since evolution cannot be observed or replicated in a laboratory, there
is no evidence that it actually occurred.

Kansas is the latest state to face a battle over evolution and creationism in
recent years. Alabama, New Mexico and Nebraska have made changes that
to varying degrees challenge the pre-eminence of evolution in the scientific
curriculum, generally labeling it as a theory that is merely one possible
explanation. Others, like Texas, Ohio, Washington, New Hampshire and
Tennessee, have considered, but ultimately defeated, similar bills, including
some that would have required those who teach evolution also to present
evidence contradicting it. At the local level, dozens of school boards are
trying to make similar changes.

More than a decade after the Supreme Court said states could not compel
the teaching of creationism, creationists appear to be increasingly active,
adopting a new strategy to get around the constitutional issues. Instead of
trying to push creationism onto the curriculum, many creationists are trying
to keep Darwin out of the classroom or insure that if evolution is taught, it
is presented as merely one unproved theory.

In Alabama, for example, biology textbooks carry a sticker calling
evolution "a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific
explanation for the origin of living things." The disclaimer adds: "No one
was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement
about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact."

Randy Moore, a biology professor at the University of Louisville and editor
of the magazine of the National Association of Biology Teachers, said, "It's
going on everywhere, and the creationists are winning." He said the issue
was so charged in some districts that some teachers simply chose not to
teach evolution.

Phillip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at
Berkeley, who has written books attacking "propaganda" in the teaching of
evolution, said defending evolution was becoming "the science educators'

The Kansas decision is significant because the new curriculum, which is a
guideline, deletes not only most references to biological evolution, but also
references to the big bang theory, which holds that the universe was born
from a vast explosion, contradicting creationists' biblical interpretation. The
new curriculum also includes at least one case study that creationists use to
debunk evolution.

"The number of changes made, the thoroughness with which references to
evolution are deleted or definitions changed, it's more extensive than what
we've seen before," said Molleen Matsumura of the National Center for
Science Education.

Mark Looy of Answers in Genesis, a creationist group, said: "Students in
public schools are being taught that evolution is a fact, that they're just
products of survival of the fittest. There's not meaning in life if we're just
animals in a struggle for survival. It creates a sense of purposelessness and
hopelessness, which I think leads to things like pain, murder and suicide."

Scientists say that evolution is the cornerstone of biology and that based on
fossils, anatomy and genetic evidence, life began on earth about 3.9 billion
years ago and humans and other species evolved from a common ancestor.
They point out that much science cannot be repeated in a laboratory and
yet no one doubts the existence of, say, atoms.

Many creationists believe the Bible shows life on earth cannot be more than
10,000 years old. Some have adopted a less religious interpretation, saying
the earth was created by an "intelligent designer" because it is simply too
complex to be explained any other way.

Recently, creationists have been searching for events they say raise doubts
about evolution or suggest the world is much younger than scientists claim.
One common example is the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helen's, which
creationists say proves geologic changes can happen very rapidly. The new
Kansas science standards include Mount St. Helen's and Mount Etna as
examples that "suggest alternative explanations to scientific hypotheses or

The Kansas debate began more than a year ago when the state appointed a
committee of 27 scientists and professors to write a state version of new
national science guidelines.

But when those standards were submitted to the board, a conservative
member, Steve Abrams, a former state Republican chairman, said he "had
some serious questions about it," claiming "it is not good science to teach
evolution as fact."

With the help of creationists, Abrams rewrote the standards, deleting most
of the two pages on evolution. What remained was "micro-evolution,"
which refers to genetic adaptation and natural selection within a species.
But "macro-evolution," the origin of species, was gone.

Abrams also tried to insert these words: "The design and complexity of the
design of the cosmos requires an intelligent designer." But after protest
from scientists, that sentence was stricken. After months of a 5-to-5
deadlock, the new standards were approved by a vote of 6 to 4, with some
anti-evolution board members and others supporting local control.

Biologists, like Steve Case, who was on the original standards committee,
said that because "evolution is such a unifying principle of biology," the
new standards could mean students would be unprepared for college
admission tests and college science courses. Some teachers said they would
continue to teach evolution and resign if forced not to.

Bill Wagnon, a board member who opposed the new standards, said "the
effort to emphasize the rock of ages more than the age of rocks" could
make Kansas science students "the laughing stock of the world."

Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican, also opposed the changes and predicted
that the Legislature might try to make the board an appointed, rather than
an elected body.

The Topeka Capital-Journal recently editorialized that "creationism is as
good a hypothesis as any for how the universe began."

And even some science teachers underscore the complexity. Lu Bitter, co-
chairwoman of the high school science department in Pratt, Kan., said she
strongly opposed the new standards and was also fighting a proposal
before her school board to adopt a creationist textbook.

But she said the school's biology teachers had spent time discussing
creationism, as well as evolution.

"We've covered all views, read Genesis in the classroom," Mrs. Bitter said.
When students leave class, "they know that there are different ways of
looking at the way life exists on earth."


Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company

August 13, 1999

Teach Evolution - And Ask Hard Questions By MICHAEL J. BEHE

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- The debate leading the Kansas Board of Education
to abolish the requirement for teaching evolution has about the same
connection to reality as the play "Inherit the Wind" had to the actual
Scopes trial. In both cases complex historical, scientific and philosophical
issues gave way to the simplifying demands of the morality play. If the
schoolchildren of Kansas and other states are to receive a good science
education, however, then we'll have to forgo the fun of demonizing each
other, take a deep breath and start making a few distinctions.

Regrettably, the action of the Kansas board makes that much more
difficult. Not only are teachers there now discouraged from discussing
evidence in support of Darwin's theory, results questioning it won't be
heard either.

For example, let's look at three claims of evidence for Darwinian evolution
often cited by high school textbooks. First, as the use of antibiotics has
become common, mutant strains of resistant bacteria have become more
common, threatening public health. Second, dark-colored variants of a
certain moth species evaded predation by birds because their color matched
the sooty tree trunks of industrial England. Third, the embryos of fish,
amphibians, birds and mammals look virtually identical in an early stage of
development, becoming different only at later stages.

A relevant distinction, however, is that only the first example is true. The
second example is unsupported by current evidence, while the third is
downright false. Although light- and dark-colored moths did vary in
expected ways in some regions of England, elsewhere they didn't. Further,
textbook photographs showing moths resting on tree trunks in the day,
where birds supposedly ate them, run afoul of the fact that the moths are
active at night and don't normally rest on tree trunks. After learning about
the problems with this favorite Darwinian example, an evolutionary
scientist wrote in the journal Nature that he felt as he did as a boy when he
learned there was no Santa Claus.

The story of the embryos is an object lesson in seeing what you want to
see. Sketches of vertebrate embryos were first made in the late 19th
century by Ernst Haeckel, an admirer of Darwin. In the intervening years,
apparently nobody verified the accuracy of Haeckel's drawings. Prominent
scientists declared in textbooks that the theory of evolution predicted,
explained and was supported by the striking similarity of vertebrate
embryos. And that is what generations of American students have learned.

Recently, however, an international team of scientists decided to check the
drawings' reliability. They found that Haeckel had, well, taken liberties: the
embryos are significantly different from each other. In Nature, the head of
the research team observed that "it looks like it's turning out to be one of
the most famous fakes in biology." What's more, the embryonic stages
shown in the drawings are actually not the earliest ones. The earliest stages
show much greater variation.

If I were teaching a high school biology course, I certainly would want my
students to understand Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection,
which explains antibiotic resistance and a lot of other things. I would want
them to know the many similarities among organisms that are interpreted in
terms of common descent, as well as to understand the laboratory
experiments that show organisms changing in response to selective

But I would also want them to learn to make distinctions and ask tough
questions. Questions we might discuss include these:

If it's so difficult to demonstrate that small changes in modern moths are
the result of natural selection, how confident can we be that Darwinian
selection drove large changes in the distant past? If supposedly identical
embryos were touted as strong evidence for evolution, does the recent
demonstration of variation in embryos now count as evidence against
evolution? If some scientists relied for a century on an old, mistaken piece
of data because they thought it supported the accepted theory, is it possible
they might even now give short shrift to legitimate contrary data or

Discussing questions like these would help students see that sometimes a
theory actively shapes the way we think, and also that there are still
exciting, unanswered questions in biology that may require fresh ideas.

It's a shame that Kansas students won't get to take part in such a
discussion. We should make sure that the students of other states do.

Emotions run very deep on the subject of evolution, and while the morality
play generally casts religious people as the ones who want to limit
discussion, some scientists on the "rational" side could fit that role, too.
But if we want our children to become educated citizens, we have to
broaden discussion, not limit it.

Teach Darwin's elegant theory. But also discuss where it has real problems
accounting for the data, where data are severely limited, where scientists
might be engaged in wishful thinking, and where alternative -- even
"heretical" -- explanations are possible.

Michael J. Behe, professor of biological sciences at Lehigh University, is
author of "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution."


Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company

"If I were a creationist, I would cease attacking the theory of evolution-
which is so well supported by the fossil record-and focus instead on the
origin of life. This is by far the weakest strut of the chassis of modern
biology. The origin of life is a science writer's dream. It abounds with
exotic scientists and exotic theories, which are never entirely abandoned or
accepted, but merely go in and out of fashion." (Horgan J., "The End of
Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific
Age," [1996], Little, Brown & Co: London UK, 1997, p138).