| pg 1 | pg 2 | pg 3 | pg 4 | pg 5 | pg 6 | pg 7 | pg 8 | pg 9 | pg 10 | pg 11
| next>

Revealing Behavior in 'Orangutan Heaven and Human Hell'

People keep asking Carel van Schaik if there is anything left to discover in fieldwork.
"I tell them, 'A lot,' " said Dr. van Schaik, the Dutch primatologist. "Look at gorillas. We've been studying them for decades, and we just now have discovered that they use tools. The same is true for orangutans."

In 1992, when Dr. van Schaik began his research in Suaq, a swamp forest in northern Sumatra, orangutans were believed to be the only great ape that lived a largely solitary life foraging for hard-to-find fruit thinly distributed over a large area.

Researchers thought they were slow-moving creatures - some even called them boring - that didn't have time to do much but eat.
But the orangutans Dr. van Schaik found in Suaq turned all that on its head. More than 100 were gathered together doing things the researchers had never seen in the wild.

Dr. van Schaik worked there for seven years and came to the radical conclusion that orangutans were "every bit as sociable, as technically adept and as culturally capable" as chimpanzees.

His new conclusions about how apes - and humans - got to be so smart are detailed in his latest book, "Among Orangutans: Red Apes and the Rise of Human Culture."

Now a professor of anthropology at the University of Zurich and the director of its Anthropological Institute and Museum, Dr. van Schaik discussed his findings in a recent telephone interview from his office there.

Q. What were you looking for in the Suaq swamp?
A. We'd been working in a mountainous area in northern Sumatra, and it felt as if we were missing the full picture of orangutan social organization. All higher primates - all of them - live in distinct social units except for the orangutan. That's a strong anomaly, and I wanted to solve it.

Q. How was Suaq different from other orangutan habitats?
A. It was an extraordinarily productive swamp forest with by far the highest density of orangutans - over twice the record number. The animals were the most sociable we'd ever seen: they hang out together, they're nice to each other, they even share food.

Q. But you almost left this orangutan habitat after a year?
A. We'd never worked in a place like this, and it was exhausting. To get into the swamp where they were we would wade through water - sometimes chest deep, two hours in, two hours out every day. There were countless species of mosquitoes.

It was what I call orangutan heaven and human hell. But then someone noticed that they were poking sticks into tree holes. It sounded like tool use, so we decided to build boardwalks in the swamp, and things got a lot easier.

Q. Were orangutans using tools?
A. It turned out Suaq had an amazing repertoire of tool use. They shape sticks to get at honey and insects. Then they pick another kind of stick to go after the scrumptious fat-packed seeds of the neesia fruit. One of them figured out that you could unleash the seeds with a stick and that was a big improvement in their diet.

Lean times are rare at Suaq, not only because the forest is productive, but because the orangutans can get to so much more food by using tools. So they can afford to be more sociable.

Q. How did you discover that the tool use is socially transmitted?
A. Well, one way to prove it is to see if the orangutans use tools everywhere the neesia tree exists. This was in the late 90's. Swamps were being clear-cut and drained everywhere, and the civil war in Aceh was spreading. I felt like an anthropologist trying to document a vanishing tribe. It turned out that in the big swamps on one side of a river, the orangutans do use tools, and in the small swamp on the other side, they don't. Neesia trees and orangutans exist in both places. But the animals can't cross the river, so the knowledge hadn't spread. At that point, the penny dropped and I realized their tool use was cultural.

Q. So your discovery that the orangutans learned tool use from one another explains "the rise of human culture" part of your book's subtitle?
A. Well, yes. Orangutans split off from the African lineage some 14 million years ago. If both chimps and orangutans make tools, our common great ape ancestor probably had the capacity for culture.

Q. I always thought we got smart after we came down from the trees.
A. Actually orangutans are the largest arboreal mammal and have no predators up in the trees so they live a very long time - up to 60 years in the wild - and have the slowest life history of any nonhuman mammal including elephants and whales.
A slow life history is key to growing a large brain. The other key to intelligence is sociability.

Q. Were orangutans more social in the past?
A. I guess the rich forest areas that allowed them to live in groups were much more common in the past - they're the ones that are best for rice growing and farming - but there's no way of knowing for sure.

Q. If social inputs make you smarter, why aren't monkeys cleverer?
A. One thing we know is that being close to others isn't enough. Highly tolerant sociability is important - that you can be relaxed next to others. You need to be able to focus on what your neighbor is doing and not worry about whether he is going to sneak something or beat up on you.
It's that kind of social tolerance that is common to all great apes. It's rare in monkeys - except cebus monkeys; they're tool users, long-lived and socially very tolerant.

November 20, 2005

University Is Accused of Bias Against Christian Schools

Cody Young is an evangelical Christian who attends a religious high school in Southern California. With stellar grades, competitive test scores and an impressive list of extracurricular activities, Mr. Young has mapped a future that includes studying engineering at the University of California and a career in the aerospace industry, his lawyers have said.

But Mr. Young, his teachers and his family fear his beliefs may hurt his chance to attend the university. They say the public university system, which has 10 campuses, discriminates against students from evangelical Christian schools, especially faith-based ones like Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, where Mr. Young is a senior.

Mr. Young, five other Calvary students, the school and the Association of Christian Schools International, which represents 4,000 religious schools, sued the University of California in the summer, accusing it of "viewpoint discrimination" and unfair admission standards that violate the free speech and religious rights of evangelical Christians.

The suit, scheduled for a hearing on Dec. 12 in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, says many of Calvary's best students are at a disadvantage when they apply to the university because admissions officials have refused to certify several of the school's courses on literature, history, social studies and science that use curriculums and textbooks with a Christian viewpoint.

The lawyer for the school, Robert Tyler, said reviewing and approving the course content was an intrusion into private education that amounted to government censorship. "They are trying to secularize private Christian schools," Mr. Tyler said. "They have taken God out of public schools. Now they want to do it at Christian schools."

A lawyer for the university, Christopher M. Patti, called the suit baseless. Acknowledging the university does not accept some courses, Mr. Patti said that more than 43 courses were recognized and that university campuses had offered admission to at least 18 Calvary students since 2002. "Calvary students are perfectly free to take whatever courses they like," Mr. Patti said. "All we are saying is that unapproved courses cannot be submitted to satisfy the requirements for entry."
The suit is being closely watched by free speech advocates, other public universities and Christian education leaders. All see it as a possible harbinger for admissions policies at state universities nationally.

Charles C. Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center at the Freedom Forum, which studies press and religious freedom, said the university was sending a chilling message to religious schools. "If you have to clean up your religious act to get courses accepted, that's a problem," said Mr. Haynes, who has reviewed the long complaint.

Discussing the university, he said: "They certainly have a right to say the student needs to take foundational courses. That's fair. But when you get into the business of saying how a particular subject is taught or if it has too much of a religious overlay, then I think you are crossing a line."

The university maintains that under the state Constitution, the Board of Admissions and Relations With Schools, a faculty committee, has the authority to set academic standards for admissions. Ravi Poorsina, a spokeswoman for the university, said the goal was to ensure that entering students were well-prepared and competitive.

"This is not a viewpoint issue for us," Ms. Poorsina said. "Teach whatever you want. We don't want to be in the position of dictating what is taught. But we do have a right to set standards for admission, and ours are not unreasonable requirements."

A lawyer for the Association of Christian Schools International, Wendell Bird, said the Calvary concerns surfaced two years ago when the admissions board scrutinized more closely courses that emphasized Christianity. In the last year, the board has rejected courses like Christianity's Influence in American History, Special Provenance: Christianity and the American Republic, Christianity and Morality in American Literature and a biology course using textbooks from the Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, conservative Christian publishers.

The officials rejected the science courses because the curriculum differed from "empirical historical knowledge generally accepted in the collegiate community," the suit said. Calvary was told to submit a secular curriculum instead. Courses in other subjects were rejected because they were called too narrow or biased.
"What really lights the fire here," Mr. Tyler said, "is when you look at courses the U.C. has approved from other schools. In the titles alone, you can see the discrimination against us."

The university has approved courses on Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and gender and counterculture's effects on literature, he noted. Ms. Poorsina said many courses on Christianity had been accepted, as have Bob Jones science books.

For texts, Ms. Poorsina said, the university wants comprehensive and instructive overviews. A university fact sheet says publishers sometimes acknowledge their books are mainly to teach religion. The sheet has this excerpt from Bob Jones's "Biology for Christian Schools," used in unapproved courses, "The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second."
In a somewhat anti-climactic turn before the end of the conflict, ID supporters including: academics, the religious and even institutions which openly teach a metaphysical world view, rush to disassociate themselves from the battle… everyone agrees- Intelligent Design is stupid…

December 4, 2005
Ideas & Trends

Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker

TO read the headlines, intelligent design as a challenge to evolution seems to be building momentum.

In Kansas last month, the board of education voted that students should be exposed to critiques of evolution like intelligent design. At a trial of the Dover, Pa., school board that ended last month, two of the movement's leading academics presented their ideas to a courtroom filled with spectators and reporters from around the world. President Bush endorsed teaching "both sides" of the debate - a position that polls show is popular. And Pope Benedict XVI weighed in recently, declaring the universe an "intelligent project."

Intelligent design posits that the complexity of biological life is itself evidence of a higher being at work. As a political cause, the idea has gained currency, and for good reason. The movement was intended to be a "big tent" that would attract everyone from biblical creationists who regard the Book of Genesis as literal truth to academics who believe that secular universities are hostile to faith. The slogan, "Teach the controversy," has simple appeal in a democracy.

Behind the headlines, however, intelligent design as a field of inquiry is failing to gain the traction its supporters had hoped for. It has gained little support among the academics who should have been its natural allies. And if the intelligent design proponents lose the case in Dover, there could be serious consequences for the movement's credibility.

On college campuses, the movement's theorists are academic pariahs, publicly denounced by their own colleagues. Design proponents have published few papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

"They never came in," said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

"From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review," he said.
While intelligent design has hit obstacles among scientists, it has also failed to find a warm embrace at many evangelical Christian colleges. Even at conservative schools, scholars and theologians who were initially excited about intelligent design say they have come to find its arguments unconvincing. They, too, have been greatly swayed by the scientists at their own institutions and elsewhere who have examined intelligent design and found it insufficiently substantiated in comparison to evolution.

"It can function as one of those ambiguous signs in the world that point to an intelligent creator and help support the faith of the faithful, but it just doesn't have the compelling or explanatory power to have much of an impact on the academy," said Frank D. Macchia, a professor of Christian theology at Vanguard University, in Costa Mesa, Calif., which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the nation's largest Pentecostal denomination.

At Wheaton College, a prominent evangelical university in Illinois, intelligent design surfaces in the curriculum only as part of an interdisciplinary elective on the origins of life, in which students study evolution and competing theories from theological, scientific and historical perspectives, according to a college spokesperson.

The only university where intelligent design has gained a major institutional foothold is a seminary. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., created a Center for Science and Theology for William A. Dembski, a leading proponent of intelligent design, after he left Baylor, a Baptist university in Texas, amid protests by faculty members opposed to teaching it.

Intelligent design and Mr. Dembski, a philosopher and mathematician, should have been a good fit for Baylor, which says its mission is "advancing the frontiers of knowledge while cultivating a Christian world view." But Baylor, like many evangelical universities, has many scholars who see no contradiction in believing in God and evolution.

Derek Davis, director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor, said: "I teach at the largest Baptist university in the world. I'm a religious person. And my basic perspective is intelligent design doesn't belong in science class."

Mr. Davis noted that the advocates of intelligent design claim they are not talking about God or religion. "But they are, and everybody knows they are," Mr. Davis said. "I just think we ought to quit playing games. It's a religious worldview that's being advanced."

John G. West, a political scientist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, the main organization supporting intelligent design, said the skepticism and outright antagonism are evidence that the scientific "fundamentalists" are threatened by its arguments.

"This is natural anytime you have a new controversial idea," Mr. West said. "The first stage is people ignore you. Then, when they can't ignore you, comes the hysteria. Then the idea that was so radical becomes accepted. I'd say we're in the hysteria phase."

Monkey and Morals
by Gertrude Himmelfarb
Post date: 12.03.05
Issue date: 12.12.05
From So Simple a Beginning: The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin
Edited by Edward O. Wilson
(W. W. Norton, 1,706 pp., $39.95)
Click here to buy this book

Darwin: The Indelible Stamp: The Evolution of an Idea
Edited by James D. Watson
(Running Press, 1,260 pp., $29.95)

In 1958, at a cocktail party in London, I was introduced to Sir Julian Huxley, one of England's most eminent scientists. (He had just been knighted.) My hostess, seeking, in good English fashion, to establish some common denominator between her two guests, told him that I was writing a book on Darwin, and then, perhaps to provoke him, went on to say that the book might put evolution in a new light. "New!" Huxley protested. "There is nothing new to say about evolution. Everything that needs saying has already been said. The theory is incontrovertible." That was the end of that conversation, Huxley promptly going off to find a more congenial drawing-room partner.  

I have had occasion to be reminded often of that remark in the almost half-century since, as scientists discovered many new things about fossils, mutations, and genetics, all of which have prompted some adaptation of Darwinism, in token of which the doctrine is now known as the "Modern Synthesis." Julian Huxley would no doubt have been pleased with most of these findings. But he would have been appalled to realize that this new and improved Darwinism, so far from being a settled cause, has re-emerged as a subject of public controversy--as a "theory," its critics insist (meaning a "hypothesis"), not merely a "synthesis."  
Indeed, most scientists are appalled by this controversy, including the editors of these two handsome one-volume editions of Darwin's major works: The Voyage of the Beagle (1845), On the Origin of Species (1859), The Descent of Man (1871), and The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Both editors are eminent scientists: Edward O. Wilson is best known as the proponent of sociobiology, and James D. Watson, as the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule. And both, in their introductions, express their unequivocal support of Darwinism and their impatience, if not contempt, for its present critics. The re-issue of the founding texts of Darwinism is all the more welcome, because it invites us to return to the fons et origo of the disputes that are now being so passionately argued--and were argued, with equal passion and no less intelligence, in Darwin's time. 


The Origin is the heart of the matter, of course. The other works, however interesting in themselves, are, in this context, prefaces and postscripts to the Origin. And the first notable fact about the Origin is its full title: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Darwin could not have made his intentions clearer. His subject, his distinctive thesis, was not evolution; it was natural selection, the mechanism by which evolution was achieved. Indeed, the word "evolution" does not appear in the early editions of the Origin (it made its first appearance in the 1873 edition), and the word "evolved" appears only once, as the very last word in the book.  

If the term "evolution" was used only occasionally by Darwin's contemporaries--by Charles Lyell in his Principles of Geology in 1830, and by Herbert Spencer in "The Development Hypothesis" in 1852--the idea itself was familiar. It was, as the saying goes, "in the air." It had been in the air for much of recorded history. Aristotle was moved to refute the fantasies of some of his contemporaries about animals having originated in water and discarded their shells in adapting to their new conditions on land; and medieval philosophers spoke of "a scale of nature" that linked together minerals, plants, animals, and men--and, for the more venturesome, God. In more recent times, Newton reported that nature is "delighted with transmutations"; Leibniz found evidence of the continuity of nature in fish that had wings and lived out of water and birds that were cold-blooded and lived in water; and Kant declared species to be images in the mind of man rather than realities in nature and predicted that eventually all living creatures, from polyps to man, would be shown to be of common descent.

Enlightenment philosophers were equally enthusiastic: Buffon disputed Linnaeus's theory of the immutability of species, insisting that man and ape had a common ancestor; and La Mettrie was so impressed by that kinship that he undertook to teach apes to speak using what was called the deaf-and-dumb language.  

And then there was Darwin's own grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, a physician and an ardent if amateur scientist. In popular books of poetry and prose, he expounded the theory of a single "living filament" that gave rise, millions of ages ago, to all the varieties of animal life by means of the steady accumulation of improvements. His grandson read his work with some interest as a youth, but he was not much impressed by him as an adult. In a "Historical Sketch" appended to a later edition of the Origin, he casually assigned him to a footnote as the anticipator of Lamarck's great fallacy. About Lamarck, he was more dismissive, deriding his theory--that evolution progressed by the adaptation of organs to their environment, with the most efficient adaptations passed on to subsequent generations--as "veritable rubbish ... absurd though clever." 

Nor was he taken with another book that enjoyed great popular interest at the time. Vestiges of Creation was published anonymously in 1844, and went through ten editions before the appearance of the Origin. It had sufficient éclat to be attributed to such varied eminences as Thackeray, Lyell, Prince Albert, Byron's daughter, and Darwin himself (who correctly identified the author as Robert Chambers). In addition to the usual scientific evidence derived from geology, anatomy, zoology, and the like, the Vestiges invoked two philosophical principles in support of the "law of development," natural law and the uniformity of nature, which permitted that development to proceed without the intervention of a deity.  

It was at just about this time that Darwin started to write the first draft of what was to become, in much enlarged form, the Origin. Half a dozen years earlier he had picked up--almost by chance and "for amusement," he later said--the book that inspired his theory, Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population. (Perhaps only Darwin would have thought to read it for amusement.) Malthus suggested to him the mechanism by which higher species emerged from lower ones. Just as the Malthusian struggle for existence, caused by the discrepancy between the means of subsistence that increased only arithmetically and the population that increased geometrically, led to the survival of the fittest in human society, so in animal and plant life, Darwin reasoned, a similar struggle led to the preservation of favorable variations and thus the formation of new species.  

A rarely observed oddity in the intellectual history of Darwinism is the fact that Malthus himself, so far from deducing from his principle of population anything like a theory of evolution, took it to mean exactly the opposite. However much breeders might try to cultivate specific desirable qualities, he pointed out, they soon reached a limit, so that the species itself remained fixed. And so it was in man. Indeed, Malthus's purpose in writing his essay was to confute the theories of perfectibility current at the time. The struggle for existence in man, he regretfully concluded, led not to a better or happier mankind but to a mankind doomed to a life of misery and vice.  

Another oddity in this history has received far more attention. In June 1858, Darwin was halfway through the final draft of the Origin, when he received a manuscript in the post from Alfred Russel Wallace, an English naturalist with whom he had once corresponded and who was then living in Malaya. Wallace's essay, he was dismayed to find, was a brief but cogently developed argument for natural selection. Darwin promptly sent it off to Lyell, as Wallace had requested, with every expectation that it would be published, and that its publication would deprive him of priority for the theory he had worked on for more than fifteen years. When Lyell suggested that Wallace's paper be published together with the sketch of the theory that Darwin had written in 1844, Darwin agonized over the ethical propriety of that arrangement; since he himself had not intended his sketch to be published, it might be thought that he was taking advantage of Wallace's essay to further his own. On the urging of both Wallace and Lyell, he finally agreed to this proposal. For his part, Wallace was pleased to be associated with a man whom he much respected and whose work on that subject was far more advanced than his own.  

It was thus that the theory of natural selection first came to the attention of the scientific community--prompted by a four-thousand-word paper written by a relatively young man (Wallace was then thirty-five, Darwin almost fifty) in two feverish evenings (literally feverish--Wallace was recovering from a tropical infection), after the idea had suddenly come to him (as it had to Darwin) by a casual reading of Malthus's Essay

This may be one of the most dramatic examples of simultaneous discovery in the history of science. And it is surely one of the most exemplary; both Darwin and Wallace--Darwin more conspicuously than Wallace, since he had much more at stake--behaving in a most honorable fashion. Apart from whatever else may be deduced from this episode--about the curious role, for example, of Malthus in the origin of the Origin--it is memorable as an object lesson in the manners and morals of scientific discourse. 

Natural selection, then, not evolution, was Darwin's claim to fame, evolution having achieved scientific status, so to speak, only by virtue of the mechanism that brought it about. This was how it appeared to Darwin and to his contemporaries--his critics as well as his admirers. And this is still the heart of the debate today. There are creationists who dispute the idea of evolution on fundamentalist religious grounds. Yet this is not the serious center of the controversy today, and has not been for many years--indeed, has not been since Darwin's own time. In fact, the "warfare of science and religion," as it has been called, was never quite that. Many Victorian clerics found it possible to reconcile not only evolution but natural selection as well with religion, while many secularists had reservations not about evolution but about natural selection. John Stuart Mill, for example, was impressed by the "knowledge and ingenuity" that Darwin brought to bear upon his thesis, but finally decided (as late as 1870) that it "is still and will probably long remain problematical." Moreover, he added, even if it were proved, it would not be inconsistent with creation. He himself, he said, on the state of the evidence, believed in "creation by intelligence." 

"Creation by intelligence"--this by Mill, hardly a religious dogmatist. Today one may hear echoes of those words in the theory of "intelligent design," which is derided by most scientists (including the editors of the present volumes) as a euphemism for creationism and thus a denial of evolution. And so it is, for some of its proponents. Yet others, themselves scientists, insist that their quarrel is not with evolution itself but rather with natural selection conceived as a purely mechanistic and entirely sufficient explanation for evolution. For them, intelligent design is nothing more or less than teleology, the recognition of a purposiveness or direction in nature, with or without a Creator in the orthodox sense of God. 

Reading the Origin today, one cannot help but find in it, as many contemporaries did, evidence not only of a vigorously argued and copiously documented case for natural selection, but also of concepts--"higher" and "lower," "perfect" and "perfection," "beauty" and "grandeur"--that are unmistakeably teleological, transcending the morphological or structural characteristics of individual organisms. The final words of the Origin are sometimes dismissed as "merely" rhetorical, but this hardly does justice to so moving and dramatic a peroration. 

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. 

This passage, much quoted at the time, remained intact in all subsequent editions of the Origin--with one small exception. After the word "breathed," Darwin inserted (probably to placate religious critics) the words "by the Creator." 

Darwin's own religious views, conventional in the period of the Beagle, gradually weakened over the years, partly because he found it difficult to reconcile a beneficent God with all the misery that he found in the world. (He once toyed with the idea of describing himself as an "agnostic," although not, he insisted, an "atheist.") He also wavered on the subject of teleology, sometimes regretting his use of the word "higher" and denying the idea of "design." Yet in his Autobiography in 1876, reflecting upon his work as he himself had conceived and experienced it, he said that the evidence of "this immense and wonderful universe, including man," made it impossible for him to think of it as being the result of "blind chance or necessity." Instead he felt "compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man." "I deserve to be called a Theist," he concluded, adding that these sentiments were particularly strong at the time he was writing the Origin. He may have recalled an exchange he had had two years earlier with Asa Gray, the American botanist and evolutionist, who had congratulated him for restoring teleology to natural science, "so that instead of Morphology versus Teleology, we shall have Morphology wedded to Teleology." "What you say about Teleology," Darwin replied, "pleases me especially, and I do not think any one else has ever noticed the point."  

In fact, a good friend of Darwin's and his great champion--"Darwin's bulldog," as he proudly called himself--had made just this point several years earlier (at about the same time, as it happened, that he popularized the term "agnostic"). T.H. Huxley (the grandfather of Julian Huxley) criticized the German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel, who had praised the Origin for promoting a "causal or mechanical" view of living nature as opposed to a "teleological or vitalistic" view. On the contrary, Huxley insisted, Darwin's great service to biology was "the reconciliation of Teleology and Morphology," the "mutual interaction" of both within the "wider Teleology" that was the "fundamental proposition of Evolution." Huxley quoted this passage almost twenty years later in his reminiscences about the Origin, which he contributed to Darwin's Life and Letters. He then went so far as to invoke the authority of William Paley, "the acute champion of Teleology," he called him, who had, in the classic text of that doctrine, Natural Theology, "proleptically accepted the modern doctrine of Evolution." Paley's successors, Huxley advised, would do well to follow his example before "rushing into an antagonism which has no reasonable foundation."  

If teleology was--and still is--at the heart of the controversy over Darwinism, morality was--and still is--as well. There was a profound ambiguity in the Origin itself. The blissful conclusion, about the "most beautiful and most wonderful" forms evolving from such simple beginnings, was immediately preceded by the observation that it was "from the war of nature, from famine and death," that this "most exalted object" (that is, man himself) derived. Teleology, then, had its underside: a nature that was anything but benign. In one sense, this was the wondrous nature of natural selection, which manages to make good out of evil, much as the "Creator" does, in the traditional theodicy. But how does man, as part of nature, fit into this scheme? How does he bring good out of evil? Philosophically (and theologically), this is a familiar problem. Yet it acquires special significance for the Darwinian--and for the Victorian in particular, for whom morality, even more than God, was an abiding concern. 

Long before the Origin, Matthew Arnold anticipated the problem. In a poem ironically titled "In Harmony with Nature," Arnold warned that there could be no such harmony. 

Nature is cruel; man is sick of blood:
Nature is stubborn; man would
      fain adore:
Nature is fickle; man hath need
      of rest....
Man must begin, know this,
      where Nature ends;
Nature and man can never be
      fast friends.

Tennyson, the poet laureate who was pleased to be also known as the "poet of science," was only a little less pessimistic. He posed the problem:  

Are God and Nature then at strife,
   That Nature lends such
      evil dreams?
   So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life.

And resolved it: 

            Arise and fly
      The reeling Faun, the sensual feast;
      Move upward, working out
         the beast,
And let the ape and tiger die.

But the ape and tiger did not dutifully die. 
Mill reflected upon the same dilemma in a powerful essay called "Nature," written a few years before the Origin. Man is part of nature, to be sure, and therefore subject to its laws--but he is also a conscious and moral being who can stand in judgment of, and if necessary in opposition to, nature. "The very aim and object of action," Mill declared, "is to alter and improve Nature. The ways of Nature are to be conquered, not obeyed." Many years later, in 1893, T.H. Huxley elaborated on the same message; his Romanes Lecture, "Evolution and Ethics," might more properly have been titled "Evolution versus Ethics." 
Both Wilson and Watson quote Huxley in their introductions to their respective volumes, and both to the same effect. "How extremely stupid of me not to have thought of that," Huxley said on his first reading of the Origin. But neither Wilson nor Watson cites his teleological interpretation of the Origin, which they take to be a euphemism for God, but which Huxley, an avowed agnostic, hardly intended as such. Nor do they cite his arguments against the idea of an "evolutionary ethics," which Wilson has revived under the name of sociobiology and which Watson endorses.  

It took Huxley some years to arrive at the position he expressed so passionately in his Romanes Lecture. Before that, he had assumed that natural selection, if not a guide to ethics, was at least consistent with the traditional precepts of ethics. He was moved to re-think that assumption by Herbert Spencer, who carried it to its logical conclusion by making the science of ethics a corollary of the science of evolution. For Huxley, the two realms were not only distinct; they were often in opposition. He believed as firmly as ever in natural selection as the guiding principle of the "cosmic process" (that is, the evolutionary process), but he was also convinced that it had only a negative role in the "ethical process." 

Social progress means a checking of the cosmic process at every step and the substitution for it of another, which may be called the ethical process; the end of which is not the survival of those who may happen to be the fittest ... but of those who are ethically the best.... The ethical progress of society depends, not on imitating the cosmic process, still less in running away from it, but in combating it. 

More than a century later, we are still confronting the issues raised by Darwin and his contemporaries. Notwithstanding Julian Huxley, nothing has been settled. And notwithstanding the editors of these volumes, too, who sometimes sound as dogmatic as the creationists they deride--not only in respect to evolution ("the blind force," as Wilson puts it, that created animals and man) but in respect to all of human behavior. It is interesting to watch Watson's DNA and Wilson's sociobiology working together toward the same end, DNA being the carrier of those traits and mutations that brought man to his present state and that still govern his psychological as well as physical being; and sociobiology defined by Wilson (and quoted by Watson) as the "systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior"--and not only behavior, but emotions, sentiments, ideals, values. "Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology," Watson admits, "have yet to bring about the revolutionary change in approaching human behavior that evolution did for biology"--but, he hastens to add, "I remain optimistic." 

Unlike some Darwinians today (and in Darwin's day) who are tolerant of religion so long as it remains in its proper sphere and does not impinge upon science, Watson and Wilson are uncompromising. Watson fondly remembers the lesson his father passed on to him, that "knowledge [i.e., science] liberates mankind from superstition," from the irrational fear of "this or that deity." Indeed, one of the greatest gifts of science, he observes, is the "continuing elimination of the supernatural." Wilson is no less adamant in his opposition to religion--to religion in principle as well as in practice. He is dismayed to find so many Americans so steeped in "religious dogma" as to reject not only natural selection but evolution itself, and, worse, to find so many people from the religious right and in "faith-based" positions in political life.  

Nor is Wilson better disposed to those, including "a great many well-meaning scholars," who hope that science and religion may find common ground, or "agree to divide the fundamentals into mutually exclusive domains." For him, any such "rapprochement" is neither possible nor desirable. The "battle line," he predicts, will continue to be as it always has been; the inexorable growth of biology will widen, not close, the "tectonic gap" between science and religion. The only alternative to religion, the only "antidote," is "scientific humanism." A creationist could not have made the case more strongly--in reverse, of course. And a historian can only reflect ruefully upon this new "warfare of science and religion" that is, in some ways, more intransigent than the old. 

The editors of these new editions of Darwin may have taught us more than they know. A non-scientist may well stand in awe of the enormous achievements that they as individuals, and science in general, have to their credit. They have learned a great deal, and we have learned a great deal from them. But what they have evidently not learned is humility--an appreciation of the limits of science, of what science does not know and cannot know. This is what they now inadvertently remind us: that there are, after all, other modes of knowledge, other scholarly disciplines--philosophy, history, literature, theology--that have taught us a good deal, over the ages, about human nature, social behavior, ethical principles and practices. There are even non-scholarly, non-professional sources of knowledge that do not come within the purview of science--wisdom, experience, common sense.  

In Darwin's day, some eminent scientists--T. H. Huxley, most notably--were distressed by the mechanistic and reductivist interpretation of evolution itself. Today we have even more cause to be concerned about the mechanistic and reductivist interpretation of all of human life, including its emotional and intellectual dimensions, in the name of Darwinism. This is more than science. It is scientism--and scientism with a vengeance, for it is not only science that is now presumed to be the only access to comprehensive truth, but also that sub-category of science known as Darwinism.  

Not least for this reason, it is finally to Darwin and the Darwinians of his own time that we must turn--to the conquistador who was personally modest even as he was bold in imagination and conception, and to his bulldog who tried to restrain the irrational exuberance of some of Darwin's disciples. We may recall Huxley's advice to Paley's successors, that they follow his example by refraining from "rushing into an antagonism which has no reasonable foundation." All the parties in the current controversies could profit from that wise counsel.
Gertrude Himmelfarb is the author of, among other books, Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, which was recently reprinted by Ivan R. Dee.

In the Dover trial, where intelligent design finally got its day in court, the movement faces perhaps the greatest potential for a serious setback.
The case is the first to test whether intelligent design can be taught in a public school, or whether teaching it is unconstitutional because it advances a particular religious belief. The Dover board voted last year to read students a short statement at the start of ninth-grade biology class saying that evolution is a flawed theory and intelligent design is an alternative they should study further.

If the judge in the Dover case rules against intelligent design, the decision would be likely to dissuade other school boards from incorporating it into their curriculums. School boards might already be wary because of a simple political fact: eight of the school-board members in Dover who supported intelligent design were voted out of office in elections last month and replaced by a slate of opponents.

Advocates of intelligent design perceived the risk as so great that the Discovery Institute said it had tried to dissuade the school board in Dover from going ahead and taking a stand in favor of intelligent design. The institute opposed the Dover board's action, it said, because it "politicized" what should be a scientific issue.

Now, with a decision due in four or five weeks, design proponents like Mr. West of Discovery said the Dover trial was a "sideshow" - one that will have little bearing on the controversy.

"The future of intelligent design, as far as I'm concerned, has very little to do with the outcome of the Dover case," Mr. West said. "The future of intelligent design is tied up with academic endeavors. It rises or falls on the science."


December 6, 2005
A Conversation With Michael R. Rose

Live Longer With Evolution? Evidence May Lie in Fruit Flies

In the 1970's, Michael R. Rose made scientific history with experiments manipulating the life spans of fruit flies.

Through selective breeding, Dr. Rose was able to create a long-lived line of creatures he called Methuselah flies. He then put his research into reverse and developed flies with much shortened life spans.

All this was accomplished within 12 generations by accelerating the evolutionary processes in a laboratory setting.

These days Dr. Rose, who is 50, breeds fruit flies at the University of California, Irvine, where he is a professor of evolutionary biology. From there, he also directs the Intercampus Research Program on Experimental Evolution for the University of California system.

Dr. Rose, who was born in Canada, was in New York recently to promote his book "The Long Tomorrow: How Advances in Evolutionary Biology Can Help Us Postpone Aging."

Q. You are an evolutionary biologist by profession. As a researcher trained mostly in Canada and England, are you astonished by the American battles over Darwinism?
A. Not since coming to California. In 1987, the first day I ever gave a class at Irvine, there was a riot in my classroom. I was introducing the basic principles of evolution, and pandemonium broke out - yelling, students pounding the tables. That was the day I learned about evolution in America.

Recently, I was watching President Bush speak on the potential bird flu epidemic. Pandemic bird flu is exactly a question of evolutionary biology because grave danger will come only if the virus evolves into a form that can spread from human to human.

Of course, Bush couldn't use the word evolution. There were a few key points where I was waiting for him to use the word. Nope! The virus would "develop" the ability to move from human to human. He couldn't use the word evolve because that's a dangerous word.

People in the United States probably don't realize they risk their lives by rejecting evolutionary biology. In the case of avian flu, this could kill people very directly. With aging, the essential tools for solving it are located in evolutionary biology.

Q. Why do scientists need to embrace evolution to do longevity research?

A. Because the common assumption is that young bodies work and then they fall apart during aging. Young bodies only work because natural selection makes them healthy enough to survive and breed.

As adults get older, natural selection stops caring about them, so we lose its benefits and our health. If you don't understand this, aging research is an unending riddle that goes around in circles.

Q. You are known in the genetics world for manipulating the life span of fruit flies. Can you describe your very famous experiment?
A. My experiment was to let my flies reproduce only at late ages. This forced natural selection to pay attention to the survival and reproductive vigor of the flies through their middle age.

The flies evolved longer life spans and greater reproduction over the next dozen generations. This showed that natural section was really the ultimate controller of aging, not some piece of biochemistry.

Q. Why was it important to manipulate the life spans of fruit flies?
A. Because it showed that aging isn't some general breakdown process, like the way cars rust. Aging is an optional feature of life. And it can be slowed or postponed.

This implies that controlling human aging does not require the violation of some absolute scientific law. Postponing human aging is not like building a perpetual motion machine or faster-than-light space travel. It is a scientifically reasonable thing to try.

This doesn't mean it will be easy, or even that it is the best thing to do with our medical resources. But it's not a completely crazy idea.
Q. How did you stop fruit flies from breeding?

A. By discarding their eggs. In my experiment, only those females who reached 50 days of age were allowed to breed.
Obviously, only those females who lived that long, and who could still breed, contributed offspring to the next generation. After about 12 generations, you had longer-lived flies.

Sometimes, journalists have said to me, "Wow, this is what all my friends are doing," and I said, "Right, that's why it's called the career woman experiment." If everybody is like the female neurologist who waits until she is established in her profession before she reproduces, and this goes on for generations, then we will evolve longer life spans - very slowly.

It would take centuries to get a really significant effect. Long before that ever happens, we will have medical interventions that will be far superior.

Q. Do you believe there is such a thing as a limited life span for humans?
A. No. Life span is totally tunable. In my lab, we tune it up and down all the time.

And it's quite clear that the human primate life span got tuned up by evolution over the course of the last few million years.

Almost certainly, we once had the life span of chimpanzees - which is half of what humans have. But we were smarter, able to kill our predators, make deadly tools, find more food, so evolution took us in hand, and we lived longer.

Q. What will it take to increase human life span from present levels?
A. There's not going to be one magic bullet where you take one pill or manipulate one gene and get to live to 500. But you could take a first step, and then another so that in 50 years' time, people take 50 or 60 pills and they live to be 200.

Leaving aside F.D.A. approval, it looks like we are about 5 to 10 years away from therapies that would add years to our present life span. For now, pharmaceuticals will be the primary anti-aging therapy.

After another 10 years or so, the implantation of cultured tissues will become common - especially skin and connective tissues. Reconstructive surgery is certain to become more effective than it is today.

Eventually, we will be able to culture replacement organs from our own cells and repair damage using nanotech machines. All of this will increase life span.
Q. What does religion have to say about all this tinkering with life span?

A. That depends on the religion. About five years ago I was at a meeting convened by the Templeton Foundation to address the ethical question of postponing human aging, and in particular, the possibility of biological immortality, as opposed to immortality in heaven.

And the Christian theologians at this meeting were clearly horrified whereas the Jewish theologian was saying, "Yes, we like this."

In East Asian cultures, you have a split between the Confucian tradition, which is very much for self-sacrifice, versus the Taoist tradition, which very much espouses the idea of living longer. So there's this split there, too.

Q. Aging research has often attracted crackpots and cranks. Why is that?
A. Because it raises hope - a dangerous thing, especially for scientists. Often scientists work on aging only later in their life when they are more worried about their own aging or death. So hope tends to corrupt their judgment.

Q. How has your own aging been proceeding?
A. I have mysterious tumors, high blood pressure, the classic spectrum of age-related deterioration. Though we're testing anti-aging drugs and supplements in my lab every day, they are not likely to benefit me much. But I never started on this to help myself.

My motivation was pure curiosity.

December 22, 2005

Intelligent Design Derailed

By now, the Christian conservatives who once dominated the school board in Dover, Pa., ought to rue their recklessness in forcing biology classes to hear about "intelligent design" as an alternative to the theory of evolution. Not only were they voted off the school board by an exasperated public last November, but this week a federal district judge declared their handiwork unconstitutional and told the school district to abandon a policy of such "breathtaking inanity."
A new and wiser school board is planning to do just that by removing intelligent design from the science curriculum and perhaps placing it in an elective course on comparative religion. That would be a more appropriate venue to learn about what the judge deemed "a religious view, a mere relabeling of creationism and not a scientific theory."

The intelligent design movement holds that life forms are too complex to have been formed by natural processes and must have been fashioned by a higher intelligence, which is never officially identified but which most adherents believe to be God. By injecting intelligent design into the science curriculum, the judge ruled, the board was unconstitutionally endorsing a religious viewpoint that advances "a particular version of Christianity."

The decision will have come at an opportune time if it is able to deflect other misguided efforts by religious conservatives to undermine the teaching of evolution, a central organizing principle of modern biology. In Georgia, a federal appeals court shows signs of wanting to reverse a lower court that said it was unconstitutional to require textbooks to carry a sticker disparaging evolution as "a theory, not a fact." That's the line of argument used by the anti-evolution crowd. We can only hope that the judges in Atlanta find the reasoning of the Pennsylvania judge, who dealt with comparable issues, persuasive.

Meanwhile in Kansas, the State Board of Education has urged schools to criticize evolution. It has also changed the definition of science so it is not limited to natural explanations, opening the way for including intelligent design or other forms of creationism that cannot meet traditional definitions of science. All Kansans interested in a sound science curriculum should heed what happened in Dover and vote out the inane board members.

The judge in the Pennsylvania case, John Jones III, can hardly be accused of being a liberal activist out to overturn community values - even by those inclined to see conspiracies. He is a lifelong Republican, appointed to the bench by President Bush, and has been praised for his integrity and intellect. Indeed, as the judge pointed out, the real activists in this case were ill-informed school board members, aided by a public interest law firm that promotes Christian values, who combined to drive the board to adopt an imprudent and unconstitutional policy.

Judge Jones's decision was a striking repudiation of intelligent design, given that Dover's policy was minimally intrusive on classroom teaching. Administrators merely read a brief disclaimer at the beginning of a class asserting that evolution was a theory, not a fact; that there were gaps in the evidence for evolution; and that intelligent design provided an alternative explanation and could be further explored by consulting a book in the school library. Yet even that minimal statement amounted to an endorsement of religion, the judge concluded, because it caused students to doubt the theory of evolution without scientific justification and presented them with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory.

The case was most notable for its searching inquiry into whether intelligent design could be considered science. The answer, after a six-week trial that included hours of expert testimony, was a resounding no.

The judge found that intelligent design violated the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking supernatural causation and by making assertions that could not be tested or proved wrong. Moreover, intelligent design has not gained acceptance in the scientific community, has not been supported by peer-reviewed research, and has not generated a research and testing program of its own. The core argument for intelligent design - the supposedly irreducible complexity of key biological systems - has clear theological overtones. As long ago as the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas argued that because nature is complex, it must have a designer.

The religious thrust behind Dover's policy was unmistakable. The board members who pushed the policy through had repeatedly expressed religious reasons for opposing evolution, though they tried to dissemble during the trial. Judge Jones charged that the two ringleaders lied in depositions to hide the fact that they had raised money at a church to buy copies of an intelligent design textbook for the school library. He also found that board members were strikingly ignorant about intelligent design and that several individuals had lied time and again to hide their religious motivations for backing the concept. Their contention that they had a secular purpose - to improve science education and encourage critical thinking - was declared a sham.

No one believes that this thoroughgoing repudiation of intelligent design will end the incessant warfare over evolution. But any community that is worried about the ability of its students to compete in a global economy would be wise to keep supernatural explanations out of its science classes.

December 21, 2005

Judge Rejects Teaching Intelligent Design

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 20 - A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that it was unconstitutional for a Pennsylvania school district to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in high school biology courses because it is a religious viewpoint that advances "a particular version of Christianity."

In the nation's first case to test the legal merits of intelligent design, the judge, John E. Jones III, issued a broad, stinging rebuke to its advocates and provided strong support for scientists who have fought to bar intelligent design from the science curriculum.

Judge Jones also excoriated members of the Dover, Pa., school board, who he said lied to cover up their religious motives, made a decision of "breathtaking inanity" and "dragged" their community into "this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

Eleven parents in Dover, a growing suburb about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, sued their school board a year ago after it voted to have teachers read students a brief statement introducing intelligent design in ninth-grade biology class.

The statement said that there were "gaps in the theory" of evolution and that intelligent design was another explanation they should examine.

Judge Jones, a Republican appointed by President Bush, concluded that intelligent design was not science, and that in order to claim that it is, its proponents admit they must change the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations.

Judge Jones said that teaching intelligent design as science in public school violated the First Amendment of the Constitution, which prohibits public officials from using their positions to impose or establish a particular religion.

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect," Judge Jones wrote. "However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions."

The six-week trial in Federal District Court in Harrisburg gave intelligent design the most thorough academic and legal airing since the movement's inception about 15 years ago, and was often likened to the momentous Scopes case that put evolution on trial 80 years earlier.

Intelligent design posits that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent source. Its adherents say that they refrain from identifying the designer, and that it could even be aliens or a time traveler.

But Judge Jones said the evidence in the trial proved that intelligent design was "creationism relabeled."

The Supreme Court has already ruled that creationism, which relies on the biblical account of the creation of life, cannot be taught as science in a public school.
Judge Jones's decision is legally binding only for school districts in the middle district of Pennsylvania. It is unlikely to be appealed because the school board members who supported intelligent design were unseated in elections in November and replaced with a slate that opposes the intelligent design policy and said it would abide by the judge's decision.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said at a news conference in Harrisburg that the judge's decision should serve as a deterrent to other school boards and teachers considering teaching intelligent design.

"It's a carefully reasoned, highly detailed opinion," said Richard Katskee, assistant legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "that goes through all of the issues that would be raised in any other school district."

Richard Thompson, the lead defense lawyer for the school board, derided the judge for issuing a sweeping judgment in a case that Mr. Thompson said merely involved a "one-minute statement" being read to students. He acknowledged that his side, too, had asked the judge to rule on the scientific merits of intelligent design, but only because it had to respond to the plaintiffs' arguments.

"A thousand opinions by a court that a particular scientific theory is invalid will not make that scientific theory invalid," said Mr. Thompson, What would he have said if he had won? the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says it promotes Christian values. "It is going to be up to the scientists who are going to continue to do research in their labs that will ultimately determine that."

The scientists who have put intelligent design forward as a valid avenue of scientific research said they were disappointed by Judge Jones's ruling but that they thought its long-term effects would be limited.

"That was a real drag," said Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University who was the star witness for the intelligent design side. "I think he really went way over what he as a judge is entitled to say."

Dr. Behe added: "He talks about the ground rules of science. What has a judge to do with the ground rules of science? I think he just chose sides and echoed the arguments and just made assertions about our arguments."

William A. Dembski, a mathematician who argues that mathematics can show the presence of design in the development of life, predicted that intelligent design would become much stronger within 5 to 10 years.

Both Dr. Behe and Dr. Dembski are fellows with the Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design.

"I think the big lesson is, let's go to work and really develop this theory and not try to win this in the court of public opinion," Dr. Dembski said. "The burden is on us to produce."

Mainstream scientists who have maintained that no controversy exists in the scientific community over evolution were elated by Judge Jones's ruling.
"Jubilation," said Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University who has actively sparred with intelligent design proponents and testified in the Dover case. "I think the judge nailed it."

Dr. Miller said he was glad that the judge did not just rule narrowly.

Jason D. Rosenhouse, a professor of mathematics at James Madison University in Virginia and a fervent pro-evolution blogger said: "I was laughing as I read it because I don't think a scientist could explain it any better. His logic is flawless, and he hit all of the points that scientists have been making for years."

Before the start of a celebratory news conference in Harrisburg, Tammy Kitzmiller, a parent of two daughters in the Dover district and the named plaintiff in the case, Kitzmiller et al v. Dover, joked with other plaintiffs that she had an idea for a new bumper sticker: "Judge Jones for President."

Christy Rehm, another plaintiff, said to the others, "We've done something amazing here, not only with this decision, but with the election."

Last month, Dover, which usually votes majority Republican, ousted eight school board members who had backed intelligent design and elected the opposition that ran on a Democratic ticket.

Witold Walczak, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, who helped to argue the case, said, "We sincerely hope that other school districts who may have been thinking about intelligent design will pause, they will read Judge Jones's erudite opinion and they will look at what happened in the Dover community in this battle, pitting neighbor against neighbor."

The judge's ruling said that two of the most outspoken proponents of intelligent design on the Dover school board, William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell, lied in their depositions about how they raised money in a church to buy copies of an intelligent design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," to put in the school library.

Both men, according to testimony, had repeatedly said at school board meetings that they objected to evolution for religious reasons and wanted to see creationism taught on equal footing.

Judge Jones wrote, "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the I.D. policy."

Mr. Bonsell did not respond to a telephone message on Tuesday. Mr. Buckingham, a retired police officer who has moved to Mount Airy, N.C., said, "If the judge called me a liar, then he's a liar."

Mr. Buckingham said he "answered the questions the way they asked them." He called the decision "ludicrous" and said, "I think Judge Jones ought to be ashamed of himself."

The Constitution, he said, does not call for the separation of church and state.
In his opinion, Judge Jones traced the history of the intelligent design movement to what he said were its roots in Christian fundamentalism. He seemed especially convinced by the testimony of Barbara Forrest, a historian of science, that the authors of the "Pandas" textbook had removed the word "creationism" from an earlier draft and substituted it with "intelligent design" after the Supreme Court's ruling in 1987.

"We conclude that the religious nature of intelligent design would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child," the judge said. "The writings of leading I.D. proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity."

Opponents of intelligent design said Judge Jones's ruling would not put an end to the movement, and predicted that intelligent design would take on various guises.

The Kansas Board of Education voted in November to adopt standards that call into question the theory of evolution, but never explicitly mention intelligent design.

Eugenie Scott, executive director, National Center for Science Education, an advocacy group in Oakland, Calif., that promotes teaching evolution, said in an interview, "I predict that another school board down the line will try to bring intelligent design into the curriculum like the Dover group did, and they'll be a lot smarter about concealing their religious intent."

Even after courts ruled against teaching creationism and creation science, Ms. Scott said, "for several years afterward, school districts were still contemplating teaching creation science."
Kenneth Chang contributed reporting from New York for this article.

December 27, 2005

Helping Out Darwin's Cause With a Little Pointed Humor

The regular armies of science have long marshaled heavy intellectual weapons in their battle to keep creationism and its cousin, intelligent design, out of the nation's public schools. Among their big guns are philosophers of science, and even DNA.

When they take these weapons into the nation's courtrooms, they win - again and again. Their victory in Dover, Pa., last week was only the latest of a string going at least as far back as 1987 when the Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard that creationism was a religious view, not science.

But as many of the nation's science teachers know only too well, repeated declarations from the bench do not necessarily trump community pressure in a country where, surveys show, only a minority accepts Darwinian evolution.

So now guerrilla forces are joining the fray, with an unorthodox weapon: laughter.

On Web sites, with games and in silly songs, they advance the idea that creationism and its doctrinal relative, intelligent design, are not just misguided - they are laughably misguided.

"The scientific community just isn't touching John Q. Public," said Donald U. Wise, an emeritus professor of geology at the University of Massachusetts. "We just have to find a way of breaking through. The only way we will do that is with humor."

Dr. Wise's first foray is a parody song about intelligent design called "Marching Song of the Incompetents," which had its premiere in October when hundreds of geologists sang it enthusiastically at the otherwise conventional meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Another scientist at the University of Massachusetts, Diane Kelly, an adjunct professor of biology, is a founder of Zygote Games, a new company whose first product, "Bone Wars: The Game of Ruthless Paleontology," involves players who compete to reconstruct dinosaurs, learning as they go about how scientific theories are developed.

Because school officials in Kansas have redefined "science" so as to include intelligent design in the state's curriculum, the company offers the game at a 20 percent discount to residents of the state (zygotegames.com).

After the Kansas decision, Bobby Henderson, who variously describes himself as a concerned citizen, amateur pirate and a person of negligible education, created the on-line Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which holds that "an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe." This dogma is no less worthy of inclusion in science classes than intelligent design, the F.S.M. movement asserts on Mr. Henderson's Web site, venganza.org.
Even Doonesbury has gotten into the act. In a recent strip, a doctor and patient confer over how to treat the patient's newly diagnosed tuberculosis. If the patient is a creationist, the doctor says, he might want drugs used decades ago against the disease. If he believes in evolution, though, he might want newer drugs, "intelligently designed," the doctor notes, to match the TB microbe's evolving resistance to the earlier drug.

Dr. Wise's avowed goal is to use the techniques of Karl Rove and other conservative image-meisters to replace the phrase "intelligent design" in the public mind with one he thinks is more apt, "incompetent design."

His song describes some of the ills to which the human body is prey, all of which result from the way evolution produced Homo sapiens from our hairier hominid ancestors. It notes for example that the spine, well-adapted to four-footed locomotion or even knuckle-dragging, has doomed primates to ruptured disks and lower back pain ever since they began walking on two feet. And people suffering from crooked teeth or sinus trouble can thank the way the large human brain evolved and expanded to crowd the mammalian skull.

The song, to the tune of "Battle Hymn of the Republic," goes like this:

My bones proclaim a story of incompetent design
My back still hurts, my sinus clogs, my teeth just won't align
If I had drawn the blueprint I would certainly resign
Incompetent Design!
Evo-Evo-Evolution. Design is but a mere illusion
Darwin sparked our revolution. Science shall prevail!

Dr. Wise said he wrote the song "when I was invited to give a talk at the G.S.A. meeting on how to deal with incompetent - excuse me - intelligent design."
"I tried to set up how would you run this as a political campaign. It needs slogans, bumper stickers - but then you need a song to go with it," he continued.
When he displayed the lyrics at the G.S.A. meeting, the scientists started singing along. "Everybody was out of sync," Dr. Wise said. "It was just gloriously miserable."

"The legions of reason have done very well in scientific arguments," said Dr. Wise, who has advanced a few himself in learned journals like American Scientist. "But this isn't where the battle is being fought."

Dr. Kelly conceded that most Kansas customers for Bone Wars had been "people who are pretty appalled by the Board of Education vote."
"I had one person call to order and assure me they were not all like that out there," he continued.

And it is always possible that making fun of creationism and intelligent design will offend so many people it will end up doing evolution more harm than good. As one posting on the venganza site put it, "It is a serious offense to mock God."

But for Dr. Wise, like many other scientists, religion is apart from science. "It's untestable and, worse than that, it conjures up in the public mind that this is a battle between science and religion," he said.

He does not worry much about whether some will find his song offensive. "The main bulk of the American public is the target, and for them humor and a bit of evidence will convince them." So he is thinking about what aspect of creationism to tackle next.

"One of the directions I may want to go," he said, "is trying to show the stupidity of the arguments of thermodynamics making evolution impossible," which some creationists argue. The overall goal, he said, is to get creationist ideas "into popular culture as something you laugh at."
He added, "We need more spaghetti monsters, I think."

January 1, 2006

In Evolution Debate, a Counterattack

IN the 2005 culture war over evolution, the prime battlefields were Kansas, where the state school board voted to require that criticism of Darwin's theory be taught in biology classes, and Dover, Pa., where parents sued the school district for promoting the alternative theory known as intelligent design.

Dover voters in November tossed out the conservative school board members who changed the curriculum, and a federal judge later ruled that their requirement that intelligent design be mentioned in class violated the Constitution.

In 2006, the focus will again be on Kansas, where a raft of politicians from both parties are plotting to wrest control of the 10-member state board of education from a conservative majority.

What used to be sleepy contests that drew little publicity and even less voter turnout are expected to attract attention, and money, from Kansans riled up by 2005's skirmishes and from national interest groups on both sides. Connie Morris, who represents the wide open spaces of the state's western flank, spent less than $10,000 to win her seat in 2002; Sally Cauble, one of two candidates trying to unseat Ms. Morris, is planning to raise $100,000.

The four conservatives up for re-election are expected to face moderate Republicans in the August primary and Democrats in the November general election, with five candidates already campaigning well ahead of the June filing deadline. The state legislators and school board members in 20 states and dozens of districts across the country pushing to modify how evolution is taught will be watching the results.

If the moderates succeed, they could erase the new science standards before state tests based on them are ever administered. The tests are scheduled to be introduced in 2008.

Such a seesaw would be déjà vu all over again for Kansans, who have watched late-night talk show hosts, among others, use the evolution debate to mock the state's supposed backwardness.

Kansas first plunged into the issue in 1999, when the state board stripped the curriculum standards of virtually any mention of evolution.
Moderates elected in 2000 restored Darwinian theory to the curriculum. The conservatives who took control in 2005 made Kansas the most aggressive challenger to evolution in the nation, by adopting standards that redefined science itself so it is not explicitly limited to natural explanations.

January 11, 2006

California Parents File Suit Over Origins of Life Course

A group of parents are suing their small California school district to force it to cancel a four-week high school elective on intelligent design, creationism and evolution that it is offering as a philosophy course.

The course at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec, which serves a rural area north of Los Angeles, was proposed by a special education teacher last month and approved by the board of trustees in an emergency meeting on New Year's Day. The 11 parents are seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the course, which is being held during the session that ends on Feb. 3.

Last month, a Federal District Court in Pennsylvania ruled that it was unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in a public school science class because it promoted a particular religious belief. After the ruling, people on both sides of the debate suggested that it might be constitutionally permissible to examine intelligent design in a philosophy, comparative religion or social studies class.

But the parents, represented by lawyers with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, contend that the teacher is advocating intelligent design and "young earth creationism" and is not examining those ideas in a neutral way alongside evolution.

Intelligent design posits that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent force. Young earth creationism holds to the biblical account of the origins of life and the belief that the earth is 6,000 years old.

In their suit, the parents said the syllabus originally listed 24 videos to be shown to students, with 23 "produced or distributed by religious organizations and assume a pro-creationist, anti-evolution stance." They said the syllabus listed two evolution experts who would speak to the class. One was a local parent and scientist who said he had already refused the speaking invitation and was now suing the district; the other was Francis H. C. Crick, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, who died in 2004.

A course description distributed to students and parents said, "This class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the scientific, biological and biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin's philosophy is not rock solid."

The school principal referred inquiries to the superintendent, John W. Wright, who was in Washington and did not respond to an interview request.
But Mr. Wright said in a letter on Jan. 6 in response to a complaint from Americans United, "Our legal advisers have pointed out that they are unaware of any court or California statute which has forbidden public schools to explore cultural phenomena, including history, religion or creation myths."

Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said, "This is apparently the next wave of efforts to bring creationism to schools, and that's why we want to dry it up immediately."

The school district, with 1,425 students, serves several towns in a mountain area where many students are home schooled. The special education teacher, who is married to the pastor of the local Assemblies of God church, amended her syllabus and the course title, from Philosophy of Intelligent Design to Philosophy of Design after parents complained. The course was approved by the trustees in a 3-to-2 vote, despite testimony from science and math teachers that it would undermine the science curriculum. The parents who brought the lawsuit said 13 students were enrolled in the class.

Kitty Jo Nelson, a trustee, said the community was split.

"If we had to describe this in one word," Ms. Nelson said, "it would be 'controversial.' "

January 19, 2006

In 'Design' vs. Darwinism, Darwin Wins Point in Rome

ROME, Jan. 18 - The official Vatican newspaper published an article this week labeling as "correct" the recent decision by a judge in Pennsylvania that intelligent design should not be taught as a scientific alternative to evolution.

"If the model proposed by Darwin is not considered sufficient, one should search for another," Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna, wrote in the Jan. 16-17 edition of the paper, L'Osservatore Romano.

"But it is not correct from a methodological point of view to stray from the field of science while pretending to do science," he wrote, calling intelligent design unscientific. "It only creates confusion between the scientific plane and those that are philosophical or religious."

The article was not presented as an official church position. But in the subtle and purposely ambiguous world of the Vatican, the comments seemed notable, given their strength on a delicate question much debated under the new pope, Benedict XVI.

Advocates for teaching evolution hailed the article. "He is emphasizing that there is no need to see a contradiction between Catholic teachings and evolution," said Dr. Francisco J. Ayala, professor of biology at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Dominican priest. "Good for him."

But Robert L. Crowther, spokesman for the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, a Seattle organization where researchers study and advocate intelligent design, dismissed the article and other recent statements from leading Catholics defending evolution. Drawing attention to them was little more than trying "to put words in the Vatican's mouth," he said.

L'Osservatore is the official newspaper of the Vatican and basically represents the Vatican's views. Not all its articles represent official church policy. At the same time, it would not be expected to present an article that dissented deeply from that policy.

In July, Christoph Schönborn, an Austrian cardinal close to Benedict, seemed to call into question what has been official church teaching for years: that Catholicism and evolution are not necessarily at odds.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times, he played down a 1996 letter in which Pope John Paul II called evolution "more than a hypothesis." He wrote, "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not." See: pgs 36-42

There is no credible scientific challenge to the idea that evolution explains the diversity of life on earth, but advocates for intelligent design posit that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent source.

At least twice, Pope Benedict has signaled concern about the issue, prompting questions about his views. In April, when he was formally installed as pope, he said human beings "are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution." In November, he called the creation of the universe an "intelligent project," wording welcomed by supporters of intelligent design.

Many Roman Catholic scientists have criticized intelligent design, among them the Rev. George Coyne, a Jesuit who is director of the Vatican Observatory. "Intelligent design isn't science, even though it pretends to be," he said in November, as quoted by the Italian news service ANSA. "Intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

In October, Cardinal Schönborn sought to clarify his own remarks, saying he meant to question not the science of evolution but what he called evolutionism, an attempt to use the theory to refute the hand of God in creation.

"I see no difficulty in joining belief in the Creator with the theory of evolution, but under the prerequisite that the borders of scientific theory are maintained," he said in a speech.

To Dr. Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor at Brown University and a Catholic, "That is my own view as well."
"As long as science does not pretend it can answer spiritual questions, it's O.K.," he said.

Dr. Miller, who testified for the plaintiffs in the recent suit in Dover, Pa., challenging the teaching of intelligent design, said Dr. Facchini, Father Coyne and Cardinal Schönborn (in his later statements) were confirming "traditional Catholic thinking." On Dec. 20, a federal district judge ruled that public schools could not present intelligent design as an alternative to evolutionary theory.

In the Osservatore article, Dr. Facchini wrote that scientists could not rule out a divine "superior design" to creation and the history of mankind. But he said Catholic thought did not preclude a design fashioned through an evolutionary process.

"God's project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction," he wrote.

Neither Dr. Facchini nor the editors of L'Osservatore could be reached for comment.

Lawrence M. Krauss, a professor of physics and astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, said Dr. Facchini's article was important because it made the case that people did not have to abandon religious faith in order to accept the theory of evolution.

"Science does not make that requirement," he said.

Ian Fisher reported from Rome for this article, and Cornelia Dean from New York.


<previous | pg 1 | pg 2 | pg 3 | pg 4 | pg 5 | pg 6 | pg 7 | pg 8 | pg 9 | pg 10 | pg 11 | next>

Home | About | Biography | Press 1 - 2 - 3 | Murals 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 | Nudes 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 | Portraits 1 - 2 - 3 | Sculpture | Drawings | Still lifes 1 - 2 | Copies 1 (Tamara) - 2 (Old Masters) - 3 (Impressionists) - 4 (Various) | Watercolour | Landscape | Swimming pool | Site map | Portrait rates |
Blog 1
- 2 - 3 | The God Blog 1 of 11 | Art-Q quiz! 1 - 2 - 3 | Victor Herman- paintings | Animation |
Privacy Policy |
Art Workshop in Spain
| What every artist should know about copyright | Contact Form | E-mail


Herman Studios
Home | About | Biography | Press 1 - 2 - 3 | Murals 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 | Nudes 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 | Portraits 1 - 2 - 3 | Sculpture | Drawings | Still lifes 1 - 2 | Copies 1 (Tamara) - 2 (Old Masters) - 3 (Impressionists) - 4 (Various) | Watercolour | Landscape | Swimming pool | Site map | Portrait rates | Blog 1 - 2 - 3 | The God Blog 1 of 11 | Art-Q quiz! 1 - 2 - 3 | Victor Herman- paintings | Animation | Privacy Policy |
Art Workshop in Spain
| What every artist should know about copyright | Contact Form | E-mail