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May-18-2010 10:34printcomments

Darwinism As A Campaign Issue

How are we going to keep up with the rest of the world in innovation and scientific discovery when adherents of pseudo-science wield so much influence in our society?

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin

(SAN FRANCISCO) - Darwinism versus creationism became a campaign issue in the Alabama GOP nomination for governor. A conservative political action committee (PAC) called “True Republican” put out a television ad denouncing Bradley Byrne, who is seeking the GOP nomination for Governor, for saying that he believes in evolution and that the bible is “only partially true.”

The ad, funded by PACs connected to the Alabama Education Association, describes Byrne as “another liberal blowing in the wind trying to look conservative.” Byrne responded stating that he thinks “every single word” of the Bible is absolutely, positively the truth.

A little background information on the Darwinism versus Creationism controversy is in order. Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution set forth in his "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," and subsequent writings, is considered the foundation of biology.

Darwin posited a tree of life with one species giving rise to another species over billions of years. Species evolved over time through natural selection acting on inherited traits. Darwin had no idea how those traits arose or how they were passed on from generation to generation. The discovery of DNA gave rise to a new field of science called genetics, which confirmed Darwin’s theory and explained how traits are passed on. Genetics also confirmed the most controversial part of Darwin’s theory that humans and apes have a common ancestry. But even after 128 years, his theory supported by information which has been tested again and again over time is still anathema to many Americans.

The Bible (Genesis) tells us that God created heaven and earth and all contained therein in six days. (God rested on the seventh day). Genesis is treated by most scholars as an allegory, not literally true. Remarkably, about one-third of Americans do believe the Bible is literally true. While most Americans probably agree that God was responsible for the creation of life on earth, many disagree on what happened next. About 49 percent believe that humans and other living things evolved over time (Darwin) while 48 percent believe that humans and other living things have stayed the same since creation (creationists).

Creationists believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and that Darwin’s theory does not adequately explain the complexity of life. They believe that various forms of life began abruptly by an intelligent agency (God) with their distinctive features in place, i.e., fish with scales and fins, birds with feathers and wings, etc. Creationists cannot accept that humans evolved from apes. To them this is sacrilege. "Intelligent design” -- creationism repackaged -- holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause (God), not an undirected process such as natural selection.

The courts have ruled that intelligent design and creationism should be taught, if at all, in Sunday school - not in our public schools. Some important court decisions in this area include the 1968 case of Epperson v. Arkansas, where the Supreme Court found an Arkansas statute prohibiting the teaching of evolution unconstitutional on the grounds that "the First Amendment does not permit the State to require that teaching and learning must be tailored to the principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma."

In 1987, the Supreme Court in Edwards v. Aguillard held unconstitutional Louisiana's "creationism act," which required "creationism" be taught if Darwin's theory of evolution was taught. The Supreme Court found that such a requirement "impermissibly endorses religion" and therefore violates the U.S. Constitution's "Establishment Clause," which requires the separation of church and state.

In 2005, a federal district court in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (Pennsylvania), ordered the school district to refrain from maintaining an Intelligent Design Policy whereby intelligent design had to be offered as an alternative to evolution. The court stated: "Intelligent design cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents" and thus, is unconstitutional.

The judge also stated: "Intelligent design is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community." (I recommend Nova’s “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” (2007), a documentary about the Kitzmiller case. I also recommend the movie "Creation, which may enlighten more Americans about evolution and its important place in science.)

Who are these creationists? Broken down by religious groups, 70% of white evangelical Protestants say that life has existed in its present form since the beginning of time; fewer than half as many white mainline Protestants (32%) and white Catholics (31%) agree. In addition, only 48 percent of American adults accept evolution (even if guided by God) and only 26 percent are convinced of the validity of Darwin's theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

What is troublesome about creationism and intelligent design is that it contributes to an anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism in our public life and in our schools, resulting in a dumbing down of Americans. For example, 38 percent favor replacing evolution with creationism in public schools. The ignorance of the average U.S. adults of basic scientific facts has been well documented by surveys, finding that fewer than one in five Americans met a minimal standard of scientific literacy.

How are we going to keep up with the rest of the world in innovation and scientific discovery when adherents of pseudo-science wield so much influence in our society? Even more troublesome, there are creationists teaching science in our colleges and universities and in our high schools. Junk in, junk out. And reportedly, Sarah Palin is a creationist--or at least she advocates teaching creationism alongside evolution in the public schools. I, therefore, conclude that she believes that Charles Darwin's tested theory of evolution is on the same scientific level as creationism.

Remember, however, we should never underestimate the power of ignorant people in large groups.

================================================== Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address stonere@earthlink.net




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Ralph May 22, 2010 10:31 am (Pacific time)

"Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. In science (as in science class), only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world." "The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings. In fact, many religious people, including theologians, feel that a deeper understanding of nature actually enriches their faith. Moreover, in the scientific community there are thousands of scientists who are devoutly religious and also accept evolution."


Anonymous May 20, 2010 10:42 am (Pacific time)

Gerrit Kroes wrote: "Mr. Stone, I will not call you ignorant." That's good... because there was not a single thing in Mr. Stone's article that even remotely suggests that he is in any way 'ignorant' with respect to his topic. In fact, he is quite well-informed. But here's the thing... the manner in which you expressed yourself is what the more polite among us... 'us' meaning 'sane people'... would call 'disingenuous'. Personally, I would be more inclined to call it dishonest and cowardly. You say it in a way that implies that Mr. Stone IS ignorant... and that you really OUGHT to call him 'ignorant'... but SOMETHING (manners?... 'Christian values'?... political correctness?... other?) prevents you from doing so. Gerrit Kroes wrote: "I believe you have much collective knowledge. Perhaps too much." Well... now you've gone and confused me. Here, you seem to be speaking out IN FAVOR OF 'ignorance'. Not that I'm surprised by that; to the contrary... it is entirely consistent with what I have come to expect from Christ-cult God-bots. Gerrit Kroes wrote: "I hope that some day as you observe this beautiful world we live in, that you will come to the same conclusion that I have. This world is wonderfully made and has not come into being by happenstance." That's not a 'conclusion'... that is a 'delusion'... AND (dare I say it?... yeah!)... ignorant. Here's the thing... the world is NOT 'made'... it was not 'created'... and it DID NOT "come into being by happenstance." That is not a matter of 'belief'... it is a matter of FACT. We KNOW that it is a fact because we know and understand the completely natural processes by which the world was formed... the same processes via which ALL planets are formed... processes that we can SEE taking place in the universe around us, in nearby regions where stars and planetary systems are being formed RIGHT NOW. YOu present your ignorance (lack of knowledge) and reality-denial as something to be proud of... but it is not. It is something to be ashamed of. Here's the thing that you need to ponder: Ignorance is curable... but stupid is forever. The 'knowledge' by which you can cure your ignorance is readily available to you, should you decide to seek it out. NOT deciding to seek it out represents a decision to CHOOSE ignorance... and THAT is stupid. You choose. Gerrit Kroes wrote: "For you to believe that is a leap of faith much larger than the faith I have in a Creator. Keep an open mind." You really have no idea how ridiculous that is, do you? Having an open mind means having the willingness to honestly consider new, alternative, possibilities. That goes hand-in-hand with 'intellectual honesty'... the willingness to honestly question and doubt your own presumptions. YOUR presumptions are not NEW at all; they are rooted-in and depend directly from the myths, superstitions, fairy-tales, fables, and fantastical delusions of an ignorant gaggle of Bronze Age fishermen and peripatetic, militant, marauding, murdering, genocidal goat-herders. The 'open-minded' label DOES NOT apply to you... it applies to the people who are willing to REJECT the entrenched millenia-old myths that YOU embrace, and accept that which REALITY is revealing to them. An intellectually-honest look backwards in time, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, informs ANYBODY who is even moderately smarter that a cauliflower that 'god' is an abstraction... a HUMAN construct which functions as a place-holder for 'knowledge'. Up until the time that 'knowledge' is accessible and available to us, 'god' stands in its stead. There are dozens... HUNDREDS... of clear historical instances where humanity has succeeded in extracting ACTUAL knowledge from nature, which then replaced 'belief'... the ILLUSION of knowledge... i.e., "God did it." If you pay attention, it might suddenly dawn on you that such instances can be seen as SOME SORT OF A F***in' CLUE! People who choose to ignore such clues are not just ignorant... they are WILLFULLY ignorant.


Matt Sternberg May 19, 2010 11:53 am (Pacific time)

Mr. Stone, I think we could make the point even stronger if we point out one thing: All biological laboratories in the world use evolutionary biology as the basis for their research. Not one uses so-called "intelligent design"; it's an unproductive and sterile foundation. It doesn't lead to breakthroughs. It doesn't even contribute to research. These aren't eggheads in ivory towers; these are workaday researches seeking cures for cancer, drugs for Alzheimers, new strains of wheat and apples and coffee and corn, and new sources of biofuel. These people work in companies like Monsanto and Pfizer, companies whose sole basis for action is the maximizing of shareholder profit: can you imagine them leaving any money on the table at all? If anything other than evolution was a fruitful line of research, for-profit corporations would be using it. They aren't. It isn't. Meanwhile, every student we discourage from studying evolution is one less student in the pool of potential future research biologists. No other country allows parents and school boards to destroy their nation's futures in such a purblind fashion. There is nothing wrong with the minds of students in Germany, Korea, China, India, or any other country. In a generation, though, they will have far more skilled and brilliant college graduates per capita than we will. If I wanted to destroy America, I couldn't imagine a better technique than convincing a large voting bloc of America's citizens that the single most productive research paradigm in science is not only unnecessary but evil.


Wayne Hollyoak May 19, 2010 8:33 am (Pacific time)

Ralph, One thing you fail to grasp is that all theories about the origin of living things make direct statements, if not implications about theology. If you are so adamant about purging our educational systems from religious teachings, then make sure you insist on denying all discussion and teaching about origins. Maybe you can be a little more skilled at sniffing out antichristian prejudice than Judge Jone was. Or maybe fairness and impartiality isn't high on your list either.


Gerrit Kroes May 18, 2010 6:21 pm (Pacific time)

Mr. Stone, I will not call you ignorant. I believe you have much collective knowledge. Perhaps too much. I hope that some day as you observe this beautiful world we live in, that you will come to the same conclusion that I have. This world is wonderfully made and has not come into being by happenstance. For you to believe that is a leap of faith much larger than the faith I have in a Creator. Keep an open mind.


gp May 18, 2010 12:55 pm (Pacific time)

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