Darwin on Trial

From May 2005 - 20th September 2008

First read this:

The Parable of the Sower

"And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: a sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
—Luke 8:4-8.

The above is a perfect description, suitable for the time and audience and for later generations, of the principle of Natural Selection.  The telling of it is what one would expect of the wisest of teachers, the recording and transmission of it is what one would expect of civilisations that recognised its supreme value. The explanation of the parable is also included by Luke, along with the explanation of why such truths are taught in parables. With the passage of time we can appreciate this even more clearly.
How, then, are we to explain the unbelievable blindness and stupidity of those who refuse to understand it 2000 years later?

It is perhaps not fair to say "only in America" when reading the news item below, as there are other places where 'fundamentalists' are ignorant of the fundamentals. But Americans have less excuse than others for the mess they have made of their brains. Further reading of the New Testament reveals that Jesus warned that this refusal to understand would be the case. [Addendum Jan 26 2006 - see the Jan 26 2006 entry. It was unfair. In the UK the situation is just as bad, we just didn't hear from them.]

The solution to the problem posed below concerning what children should be taught is simple. They should be given the New Testament and The Origin of Species to read, told they are both part of the syllabus and not interfered with by half-witted teachers. They will find the two perfectly compatible

Darwin on trial: Evolution hearings open in Kansas

By Carey Gillam Thu May 5, 2005  3:46 PM ET

TOPEKA, Kan. (Reuters) - A six-day courtroom-style debate opened on Thursday in Kansas over what children should be taught in schools about the origin of life -- was it natural evolution or did God create the world?

The hearings, complete with opposing attorneys and a long list of witnesses, were arranged amid efforts by some Christian groups in Kansas and nationally to reverse the domination of evolutionary theory in the nation's schools.

William Harris, a medical researcher and co-founder of a Kansas group called the Intelligent Design Network, posed the core question about life's beginnings before mapping out why he and other Christians want changes in school curriculum.

School science classes are teaching children that life evolved naturally and randomly, Harris said, arguing that this was in conflict with Biblical teachings that God created life.

"They are offering an answer that may be in conflict with religious views," Harris said in opening the debate. "Part of our overall goal is to remove the bias against religion that is currently in schools. This is a scientific controversy that has powerful religious implications."

Conservative groups are trying to convince state education officials to change guidelines for how evolution theory is taught in science classes at a time when Kansas education authorities are producing new science teaching guidelines.

The hearings -- organized by a committee of the Kansas Board of Education -- were taking place 80 years after the so-called "Monkey Trial" of John Scopes, a Tennessee biology teacher who was found guilty of illegally teaching evolution.

There is renewed debate over evolution in more than a dozen U.S. states and a resurgence across the nation in the influence of religious conservatives, who played an important part in the reelection of Republican President Bush last year.


The Kansas hearing drew a large crowd that included students, teachers and preachers. National and local scientific leaders for the most part boycotted the event.

Pedro Irigonegaray, a lawyer defending evolution in the debate, said he planned to call no witnesses, though he did cross-examine witnesses, sometimes combatively.

Harris acknowledged under questioning that there were many people who saw no incompatibility between religious beliefs that God created life and evolutionary teachings about how life evolved through natural processes.

Outside the hearing room, outraged scientists challenged the validity of the hearings. "This is a showcase trial," said Jack Krebs, vice president for Kansas Citizens for Science. "They have hijacked science and education."

Ken Schmitz, a University of Missouri/Kansas City chemistry professor attending the hearing said he worried that the attack on evolution could confuse students and endanger their ability to excel in science.

"They are not going to understand this," said Schmitz.

Changes to the curriculum proposed by the conservatives would not require inclusion of Biblical beliefs in science classes, also called "creationism" - the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that creationism could not be taught in public schools alongside evolution.

But they would involve questioning the principles of evolution as explanations for the origins of life, the universe and the genetic code. As well, teachers would be encouraged to discuss with students "alternative explanations."

Kansas has been struggling with the issue for years, capturing worldwide attention in 1999 when the state school board voted to downplay Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in science classes.

Subsequent elections altered the membership of the board and led to renewed backing for evolution instruction in 2001. But elections last year gave conservatives a 6-4 majority and the board is now producing new science teaching guidelines.


OK, I give up. Only in America.

OCTOBER 1st 2005 - Yahoo News Report

Lawyers fire opening shots in Intelligent Design case

Tuesday September 27, 04:30 PM
By Celeste Biever, Dover, Pennsylvania

The opening shots were fired on Monday in the first court trial to scrutinise the Intelligent Design movement. ID proposes that life is so complex it cannot have emerged without the guidance of an intelligent designer - it is seen as a religion-friendly alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution.

"It is going to be the role of the plaintiffs to argue that ID is a form of religious advocacy," says Eugenie Scott of the US National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which is advising

the plaintiffs. "The defence will argue that ID is actually science and is valid. We will argue the opposite."

Backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiffs in the civil case are 11 parents who believe their high school's board is encouraging children to consider ID as an alternative to evolution because of their evangelical Christian motivations. It is unconstitutional to teach anything in US schools that does not primarily have a secular motive and effect on pupils.

The plaintiffs' attorneys are deploying a double-barrelled strategy, aiming to show that ID is not science and highlighting its similarities to creationism. Following a Supreme Court ruling in 1987, it is now illegal to teach creationism in schools.

In his opening statement, Eric Rothschild, attorney for the plaintiff, said: "ID is not new science, it's old theology. There is no controversy in the scientific community."

The plaintiffs then called their first expert witness to the stand, biologist Kenneth Miller of Brown University, Rhode Island. He criticised the content of a book Of Pandas and People , which promotes ID and was recommended by the Dover School Board for students.

Miller used several examples to argue that it inaccurately interprets Darwin's theories, e.g. that apes and humans share a common ancestry, and omits scientific research in order to denigrate the theory of evolution. He also said that ID could not be considered as science because it is incapable of providing testable hypotheses.

He explained the process of peer review - through which scientists critique each other's work - and the process by which hypotheses are generated and then tested by experiment. These approaches have been employed for evolution, elevating it from hypothesis to theory, but not for ID, he said.

A defence attorney cross-examined Miller, asking him to admit that evolution is "just a theory" and that there are "gaps" in Darwin's theory. Miller only partially agreed to modified versions of these statements, but defence lawyer Richard Thompsonclaimed at the end of the day that Miller had agreed to these statements. The case continues.

- Monday 26th September 2005: opening statements

- First week: testimony from plaintiffs' expert witnesses, including scientists Kenneth Miller of Brown University, Robert Pennock of Michigan State University and Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University, followed by John Haught a theologian at Georgetown University

- Next two to three weeks: continuation of plaintiffs' case - more expert witnesses including Brian Alters at Harvard University and Kevin Padian at the University of California, Berkeley.

- Last two to three weeks: defence's case, including expert witnesses such as scientists Michael Behe, Scott Minnich of the University of Idaho and Warren Nord of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Also, Dick Carpenter of US Evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family and sociologist Steve Fuller of the University of Warwick, UK.

- Early November: closing arguments

- Early December: Judge's verdict


I suppose it is all for the best that this contest does take place. and result in some enlightenment for both sides and for the spectators. Darwin's theories were of course only a very broad outline and cannot be used as an explanation of the mechanisms or even the principles of evolution except in a very general way. Darwin himself had no idea how it really works. There have been a great number of discoveries since his day which have advanced our understanding but even then there are very few people who have, as we say today, 'got their heads round it'.

Aug. 12, 2005
Special to World Science

   . . .  Rather, the new thinking hands a bit of control to the creatures themselves: it claims that new species can to some extent “learn” their way into existence. And far from being a product of religious fervor, it stems from Darwin’s own evolutionary theory.

Yes, - this has been clear for years, as has the evolution that now takes place in the human brain. It is something that shows up in the species, selected by the interaction with the environment and enhanced by the advantages of sexual reproduction.

The current court hearing is a classic example of argument at cross purposes, both sides being incapable of understanding more than a partial view. I have more sympathy with the Plaintiffs - that is the US National Center for Science Education, who do not wish Creationism to be taught as science, who are defending evolution against Intelligent Design. They do not bring speculation into their argument, and their case is that the defendants are trying to teach fundamentalist religion as science based on what they describe as gaps or failures in Darwinian theory. What is needed instead is a better understanding of religion and an updating by scientific means of Darwin's theory. The latter takes place at a snail's pace year by year. Scientists are loath to draw conclusions from what they learn. The truth is that evolution develops intelligence through experience and there is a reasonable possibility that this intelligence is involved in the continual generation, regeneration and evolution of 'life, the universe and everything'. The evolution of evolution. The Universe as the mind of God. There is a poetic justice in the way every protagonist ends up proving the truth of the argument of their opponents, truth that these opponents cannot prove themselves as it exceeds their limited vision. This has been true of the fundamentalists of both mathematics and of theology. Hawking and Dawkins are NOT at the frontiers of thinking, they have just made narrow sallies into some extremities. The Pope is NOT at the frontiers of Theology. There are millions of people all over the world who know more than either of them - and have done, for ages.

Regardless of these hearings and their outcome, my advice remains constant.

Meanwhile, absolute confusion reigns, as the next entry here shows

OCTOBER 28th 2005

Alan Elsner of Reuters writes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bitter debate about how to teach evolution in U.S. high schools is prompting a crisis of confidence among scientists, and some senior academics warn that science itself is under assault.

In the past month, the interim president of Cornell University and the dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine have both spoken on this theme, warning in dramatic terms of the long-term consequences.

"Among the most significant forces is the rising tide of anti-science sentiment that seems to have its nucleus in Washington but which extends throughout the nation," said Stanford's Philip Pizzo in a letter posted on the school Web site on October 3.

Cornell acting President Hunter Rawlings, in his "state of the university" address last week, spoke about the challenge to science represented by "intelligent design" which holds that the theory of evolution accepted by the vast majority of scientists is fatally flawed.

Rawlings said the dispute was widening political, social, religious and philosophical rifts in U.S. society. "When ideological division replaces informed exchange, dogma is the result and education suffers," he said.

Adherents of intelligent design argue that certain forms in nature are too complex to have evolved through natural selection and must have been created by a "designer," who could but does not have to be identified as God.


In the past five years, the scientific community has often seemed at odds with the Bush administration over issues as diverse as global warming, stem cell research and environmental protection. Prominent scientists have also charged the administration with politicizing science by seeking to shape data to its own needs while ignoring other research.

Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have built a powerful position within the Republican Party and no Republican, including Bush, can afford to ignore their views.

This was dramatically illustrated in the case of Terri Schiavo earlier this year, in which Republicans in Congress passed a law to keep a woman in a persistent vegetative state alive against her husband's wishes, and Bush himself spoke out in favor of "the culture of life."

The issue of whether intelligent design should be taught, or at least mentioned, in high school biology classes is being played out in a Pennsylvania court room and in numerous school districts across the country.

The school board of Dover, Pennsylvania, is being sued by parents backed by the American Civil Liberties Union after it ordered schools to read students a short statement in biology classes informing them that the theory of evolution is not established fact and that gaps exist in it.

The statement mentioned intelligent design as an alternative theory and recommended students to read a book that explained the theory further.

Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller believes the rhetoric of the anti-evolution movement has had the effect of driving a wedge between a large proportion of the population who follow fundamentalist Christianity and science.

"It is alienating young people from science. It basically tells them that the scientific community is not to be trusted and you would have to abandon your principles of faith to become a scientist, which is not at all true," he said.

On the other side, conservative scholar Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute, believes the only way to heal the rift between science and religion is to allow the teaching of intelligent design.

"To have antagonism between science and religion is crazy," he said at a forum on the issue last week.

Proponents of intelligent design deny they are anti-science and say they themselves follow the scientific method.


Polls for many years have shown that a majority of Americans are at odds with key scientific theory. For example, as CBS poll this month found that 51 percent of respondents believed humans were created in their present form by God. A further 30 percent said their creation was guided by God. Only 15 percent thought humans evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years.

Other polls show that only around a third of American adults accept the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe, even though the concept is virtually uncontested by scientists worldwide.

"When we ask people what they know about science, just under 20 percent turn out to be scientifically literate," said Jon Miller, director of the center for biomedical communication at Northwestern University.

He said science and especially mathematics were poorly taught in most U.S. schools, leading both to a shortage of good scientists and general scientific ignorance.

U.S. school students perform relatively poorly in international tests of mathematics and science. For example, in 2003 U.S. students placed 24th in an international test that measured the mathematical literacy of 15-year-olds, below many European and Asian countries.

Scientists bemoan the lack of qualified U.S. candidates for postgraduate and doctoral studies at American universities and currently fill around a third of available science and engineering slots with foreign students.

Northwestern's Miller said the insistence of a large proportion of Americans that humans were created by God as whole beings had policy implications for the future.

"The 21st century will be the century of biology and we are going to be confronted with hundreds of important public policy issues that require some understanding that all life is interconnected," he said.


Oh boy. This is a tangled web indeed.
Michael Novak of the American Enterprise Institute "believes the only way to heal the rift between science and religion is to allow the teaching of intelligent design" and that "To have antagonism between science and religion is crazy."  The truth is that religions that refuse to accept the evidence of human eyes, ears and instruments are bound to have antagonism to science. Those that do not refuse this have no problem. However those that teach speculation as established science will cause antagonism with scientists and this is the problem with Intelligent Design taught as it is being taught in America.

It has been agreed, uncontested throughout recorded history, that all knowledge comes from experience. At our human level this experience can be personally acquired or passed on by others. It can be conscious or unconscious

It can be objective (i.e. peer-reviewed or experienced by many individuals who agree on the external evidence). The experience from which the knowledge is derived is repeatable so long as the circumstances for its manifestation are repeatable. Measurement is possible.

It can be subjective (i.e. personal, peer-reviewable only to the extent that others may claim a similar personal experience.) The subjective experience cannot be disproved, and therefore cannot be objectively proved.

There is no cause here to get into discussions on Quantum Mechanics, the axiom is purely that both types of knowledge come from experience and we cannot envisage, contemplate or describe other kinds of knowledge or other sources.

It therefore follows that the knowledge behind any Intelligent Design that arises in Nature must be the result of experience. That is also what current scientific theory holds to be the case. The physical experience of the energy manifested in the emergence of the material universe is subject to this logic just as much as the experience of living species and individuals.

When it comes to the evolution of life, whether some or all genetic mutations are more or less random, or more likely to happen because of the environment and capabilities created by previous events does not, therefore, bear either way on the source of knowledge. Natural Selection is still an inevitability. When mankind as part of Nature can guide this selection another level has been reached and knowledge will come from new experience, trials and errors. This is the evolution of evolution, but it does not change the axiom that all knowledge, including the knowledge for any Intelligent Design, wherever this knowledge resides, comes from experience.

If human societies wish to give the name God or Allah to aspects of Nature that are repositiories of this experience they can do so. It is their option and it may be enabling for them. If they claim to have a personal relationship, then they do. If they claim it is empowering, then it is.

None of this should cause a problem for adherents of the Christian religion which holds that what was formally known as God, remote, superior and aloof, experiencing existence only on another plane, is in fact immanent and working on a universal level of experience that includes our own. If this experience was, is or will be unnecessary, then Christianity would indeed be meaningless.

There is no problem, except in the minds of those who understand neither religion nor science. This, we are now confidently told, includes at least 30% of Americans.

December 20th 2005

Judge bans teaching intelligent design 

By Jon Hurdle  December 20th

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A judge on Tuesday barred the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution at a Pennsylvania school, saying in a scathing rebuke to the school board that it violated a constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge John Jones dealt a blow to Christian conservatives who have been pressing for the teaching of creationism in schools and who played a significant role in the re-election of President George W. Bush "Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in a public school classroom," Jones wrote in a 139-page opinion in the case, brought against the Dover School District.

Jones condemned the "breathtaking inanity" of the policy of the board, all but one of whom have now been ousted by local voters. "Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and are merely secondary to a religious objective," he said.

Intelligent design holds that some aspects of nature are so complex that they must have been the work of an unnamed creator rather than the result of random natural selection, as argued by Charles Darwin in his 1859 theory of evolution.

Opponents argue it is a thinly disguised version of creationism - a belief that the world was created by God as described in the Book of Genesis - which the Supreme Court has ruled may not be taught in public schools.

Jones said the students and teachers of Dover High School "deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

The school district was sued by a group of 11 parents who claimed teaching intelligent design was unconstitutional and unscientific and had no place in high school biology class.


Christy Rehm, one of the plaintiffs, said she was "ecstatic" about the judge's ruling. "This is a victory for education, a victory for science and a victory for science education," she told Reuters.

Richard Thompson, head of the Thomas More Law Center which represented the defendants, said in a statement: "The founders of this country would be astonished at the thought that this simple curriculum change (was) in violation of the constitution that they drafted."

Asked about the ruling, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president has said he believed such decisions should be made by local school districts.

"The president has also said that he believes students ought to be exposed to different theories and ideas so that they can fully understand what the debate is about," he said.

The six-week Harrisburg trial, one of the highest-profile court cases on evolution since the 1925 Scopes "monkey trial," was closely watched by Christian conservatives in other states who are planning similar initiatives.

The Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the court decision "a significant blow to religious right-led efforts to sneak fundamentalist dogma into public schools under the guise of science."

But Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think-tank that champions intelligent design theory, criticized the ruling.

"The judge thinks intelligent design is a supernatural explanation, but it clearly is not. So the entire decision is predicated on a false perception of intelligent design," Luskin said in a telephone interview.

"This is by no means the end of this issue, legally speaking," said Luskin, adding that the court only has jurisdiction over part of Pennsylvania.

In October 2004, Dover became the first U.S. school district to include intelligent design in science curriculum.

Ninth-grade biology students were presented with a four-paragraph statement saying that evolution is a theory, not a fact, and that there are "gaps" in the theory. The statement invited students to consider other explanations of the origins of life, including intelligent design.


The decision will probably be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. It is only valid for part of Pennsylvania. However, I don't think the judge considered that ID is a 'supernatural' explanation (as the ID defender Casey Luskin maintains). he thought it was just bad science. He has NOT asked that ID Theory textbooks should be removed from schools, just that it should cease to be taught as science. It will be a difficult judgement to overturn.

JANUARY 26th 2006

In his weekly opinion column, Harold Evans considers the current fight in the US over evolution, which spreads from classrooms to courtrooms.

  "President Bush is down on his ranch in Crawford doing what he likes best for relaxation - attacking timber with a chainsaw. As a warm-up, just before he decamped to the Texas White House for the rest of the summer, he sawed into a leafy, living branch of science - Darwinian evolution.

He did it with his usual nonchalance, in an off-the-cuff response to a reporter, by coming out on the side of religious activists who are campaigning for public schools to retreat from Darwin and teach something called "intelligent design" or ID.

In a nutshell, the ID activists maintain that many forms of life are too complex to have been the result of any random - indeed mindless - natural selection. A highly intelligent supernatural force must have designed, say, the human eye or the neurology of the brain.

Yet, as Charles Darwin demonstrated in his book Origin of Species in 1859, we weren't designed by any hidden hand in a single brilliant moment, but have all evolved from lower orders - ape to man - over hundreds of millions of years.

Bush didn't saw through the Darwinian branch entirely. He said that ID should be taught alongside evolution "because part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought".

That may sound harmless enough - free speech and all that - but coming from a president already known for his disdain for scientific research, notably on global warming and stem cells, it has further dismayed the scientific community and many others.


They see that phrase "different schools of thought" as putting faith and science on equal footing. But to the scientists, ID is no more than a priest in lab workers' clothing. After Bush has finished pronouncing on science expect to see headlines like Opinions on Shape of Earth Differ, said the columnist Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

Of course, a president can't ordain what is taught in the public schools. That is a matter for the states and their elected boards of education, but he could encourage the Justice Department to support challenges to Darwin.

Certainly his words have given impetus to a motley collection of anti-Darwinians who are laying siege to the boards in at least 20 states.

They have already won a first round in the small Republican farm town of Dover in Pennsylvania, where last October the school board ruled that ID should be given equal status with evolution. Eleven parents and the American Civil Liberties Union are now challenging the Dover board in a federal lawsuit - about time someone made a fight of it.

Science teachers and scientists in the state of Kansas made the mistake of boycotting similar school board hearings, saying they didn't want to dignify ID with serious rebuttal. As a consequence, it looks as if Kansas is also on the brink of opening its classrooms to ID.


More epithets are sure to fly because the president's apparently innocuous few words are seen as another shot in the culture wars in America, where the frontier between religion and politics is jealously contended.

The founding fathers thought they had settled the question of the role of religion in a free and plural society by enacting the First Amendment. It says: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

They were godly men but were determined not to confuse religious authority with earthly power as was the case, they felt, in the England they had left behind.

All men are equal before God, wrote John Adams. So all men should be free to worship God as they pleased, be they the original Puritans or those who followed to create the world's most diverse religious community - Dutch Mennonites, Portuguese Jews, French Huguenots and so on through the alphabet of American denominations produced by waves of immigration.

But with succeeding waves of foreigners crowding the big cities there were immense social changes and with the changes immense anxiety among the settled population. Few peoples have had to adjust as much and as rapidly as generations of Americans.

One can sympathise with how evangelical Protestants reacted to what they saw as assaults on their traditional values from cultural turmoil. They clung to the certainties of the bible as the only expression of man's hope of salvation. Theirs is a touching and simple faith. Lark Myers, a shop owner in Dover, says: "I definitely would prefer that God created men than that I'm the 50th cousin of a silverback ape."


The sentiments are not very different from the hot July 80 years ago when there was a classic collision between science and religion in the small mountain settlement of Dayton, Tennessee.

Farmers and their families, in overalls and gingham, flocked in from miles around agog to hear the brilliant orator William Jennings Bryan. The three times Democratic presidential candidate defended their bible against the new fangled notion that everyone's great-grandpappy was a monkey.

This was the famous trial which is often regarded as a defeat for Darwin when it was nothing of the kind. John Thomas Scopes - the schoolteacher who had given lessons in evolution - had clearly broken the new law of the state, but the real issue was how Bryan would fare under cross-examination by the great criminal lawyer, Clarence Darrow. Darrow, as we know, succeeded in making a fool of Bryan - and Creationism.

One exchange gives you the tenor of the disaster for the fundamentalists: Did Bryan really believe that the serpent is compelled to crawl on its belly because the Lord punished it for tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden? "I believe that," said Bryan. Had he any idea, mocked Darrow, how the snake got around before it was cursed. Did it perhaps walk on its tail? The huge crowd laughed at Bryan and, in a way, their own credulity.

Darrow won public opinion. The bigotry and ignorance associated with the cause rallied liberal Christians, who believed that there was no necessary conflict between the teachings of Christianity and the findings of science.

But biblical fundamentalism has itself been evolving. By the 60s it had mutated into "scientific creationism". The movement's leader, a civil engineer and writer by name of Henry Morris, declared: "Evolution has served effectively as the pseudo-scientific basis of atheism, agnosticism, socialism, fascism, and numerous other false and dangerous philosophies over the past century."


Now "scientific creation" comes to us in a subtler guise. The well-funded leading propagators of ID have learned from the monkey trial, from the rhetoric of scientific creationism and the subsequent defeats right up to the last Supreme Court hearing in 1987. They say they don't want to outlaw Darwin, just have a discussion of unanswered questions.

The leaders are sophisticates - a biochemist, a mathematician and an emeritus professor of law. They are determined not to invite ridicule by arguing about Adam and Eve and the serpent. They don't even invoke the Almighty, but an anonymous designer whom they forbear to name.

They do accept some evidence of evolution, but challenge evolutionists to explain how the cell, now recognized as astonishingly complex, could ever possibly have emerged from random mutation. Lark Myers, the shopkeeper in Dover, has picked up the theme: "What's wrong with wanting our children to hear about all the holes in the theory of evolution."

Once this argument is really joined - by the scientific, education and legal establishments in America - I'm sure Darwin will continue to prevail in court and classroom. But science altogether is in trouble with the Bush administration. Indeed, of rather more concern to thinking Americans than where we came from is where we're going to. I'll report on this next week. "

INITIAL COMMENTS ON THE ABOVE ON THE BBC SITE, with my comments to the comments in red.

"Intelligent design" isn't a scientific theory at all: it's an unfalsifiable conjecture, and is therefore not susceptible to enquiry via the scientific method. To dignify it with the status of "scientific rival" to evolution is to fundamentally (and deliberately) misunderstand the nature of science itself. ID isn't just wrong: in scientific terms, it's meaningless, because it asks no testable question.
Rog Patterson, Nottingham, England             Mr Patterson is correct. Intelligent Design is possible but has not been proved to be necessary. The Intelligent Designs that we observe could be an achievement of Nature starting from certain basic properties of Nature. This does not preclude a God that is the very start of Nature and therefore compatible with both (i) Hebrew and (ii) Christian descriptions .  [ (i) Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End  (ii) "In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was God." ]

Many consider evolution to be scientific fact. However, scientific facts require the direct observation of the processes in question. No-one has ever observed the evolution of one species into another, therefore both evolution and creationism must be considered as only theories and accepted on faith. The question people need to ask themselves is why do they want evolution to be true?
Peter Cross, Ash Grove, Missouri, USA        Mr Cross is wrong. Scientific facts do not require the direct observation of processes. Observation of recorded moments of the process can be sufficient. At the moment, there is a massive amount of evidence for evolution and no evidence for any other, even if there was an intelligent design of the nature of spacetime. This is particularly strong in the case of humans and apes coming from the same route, and now we have access to DNA we can see all life has developed from the same beginning. We are happy for evolution to be true because it gives purpose to universal existence even if it is sometimes painful. What is not known is the complete mechanism of evolution. Natural Selection is inevitable.  In a dynamic universe change is inevitable. The material universe will therefore evolve before life as we know it emerges. When life emerges as a logical result of the properties of the material universe, life will evolve due to natural selection if the reproduction of living species has variations. There will then inevitably be an evolution of evolution as complex living cells learn to select the variations they give rise to. This applies exponentially to groups of cells which cooperate and incorporate. The variations that follow are not random - a fact that many supporters of simple Darwinism did not appreciate. With the advent of sexual reproduction yet another layer of intelligent input destroys the randomness of variation. Random mutations therefore play only a part in the variation, and the 'Lamarkian Heresy' can be re-interpreted once these sophisticated mechnisms, which decide the characterisitics of the next generation from a range of alternatives before birth, are taken into account. Trust me, I had a look at this in turtles in the 1980s. By now, much more is known.

I am totally perplexed at why it is that folks cannot see that "Intelligent Design" and "Evolutionary Theory" are not comparable in terms of the well-established scientific method. The former should remain as a topic in religious education and not presented as science. How can it be an "alternative" theory when the "evidence" is, apparently, the unerring word of God?
Dr Paul Spencer, Bristol, United Kingdom         Dr Spencer is right.

Evolution can only help explain how different species developed. Evolution cannot prove or disprove the existence of a Guiding Hand. The chance factor that even such small organs like the eye have evolved into what they are today is so mind-boggling small, that many see the need for a Guiding Hand. But whether or not Evolution was guided by the hand of a creator is not a question for Science; and therefore shouldn't be legislated for one way or another.
Steve Blunden, Reading, UK           Mr Blunden is right in part, but it can explain how one species might very likely develop into another. A likelyhood which is overwhelming when we consider what a really appalling world it would be if this is not how it happened and still happens. We may of course SEEK guidance, and the very properties of our brains enables us to seek it through the contemplation of history, of all the thoughts of those who lved before us, of all current knowledge, and b observing the effects of certain actions. The Christian teaching is 'seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened under you. So guidance there is. The hands are ours. That's why Nature developed them, and why 'The Word became Flesh'.

It scares me to think how far Bush and the fundamentalist christians can take this. If we turn our backs on science, all the progress we have made over the years will be wasted. Religion is good, it has it's place in our society and it can make make people and their lives richer and better. But so has science. Without it, we would be no more advanced than the Neanderthals.
DAVID, DALLAS, TEXAS USA       David is right.

There is a disturbing lack of critical thinking when it comes to evolution. Any religious credulity of 80 years ago has been eclipsed by today's mindless assent to the scientific version of events. It's been drummed into society so hard that there are normal intelligent people who believe that evolution has the same status as the experimentally repeatable law of gravity. In my opinion some scientists hold evolution as something akin to a faith system. Lets remember the scientific process; put forward a theory, let everyone shoot as many holes in it as they can, see what's left. And no sacred cows, religious or otherwise!
Martin, London, UK          Martin is confused, but can be excused and there is some point to what he says. Richard Dawkins is enough to turn any real scientist into a rligious fundamentalist

We need to remember that there are Christian people in America who are as 'fanatical' about their religion as any other fanatic around the world. I see the 'Church', to use a very general term for all religions, going through something of a renaissance at the moment, it seems to be flexing it's muscles ready to take on the establishment! Perhaps we are witnessing the start of the next crusades?
Ade Sinclair, Hampshire, UK       I hope we will see the opening of the eyes of both sides. The truth is far more amazing than either of them think

Surely the "intelligent design" crusaders do not want Bush associating with their cause, he can only act as proof of evolution, and the odd mutations it results in. If there is an unknown intelligence (Aliens???) directing the growth of the Human race how is ID going to explain him, as a joke?
Redmond O'Hanlon, Dublin, Ireland        Yes George is completely lost. But Nature is using him just as it uses every part, all the time. He is doing what he thinks is right. It will all come out in the wash.

As a Kansan, I find this whole situation utterly humiliating. As an atheist, I feel that belief in any God or any other supernatural entity is no more legitimate than belief in leprechauns and magic-fairies. The fact that a few ignorant rabble-rousers think they have the right to force their ridiculous religious teachings disguised as legitimate science, and to do so in schools that MY tax dollars pay for, is an abomination to all human knowledge and dignity.
Tom Wilhauk, Kansas, USA         Their religious teachings were not ridiculous. They are now, because we have left our religious heritage in the hands of people who were not concened with bringing it interpretation up to date.

The way to deal with the 'holes in the theory of evolution' is to use science to plug those holes, not primitive superstition. Science may not "yet" have all the answers, but at least it knows what most of the questions are.
russ, cornwall uk           Yes, except some scientists don't know what the questions which most people want answers to are. They wish to leave these questions to philosophy and non-fanatical religion. Philosophers and theologians should leave science to scientists. They can, I assure you, be compatible. But to get there we have to let the fundamentalists shoot themselves in their respective own feet.

Does this mean that they are going to teach all creation theories such as The universe was dreamed into existence as the Australian Aborigines believe or is it going to be just the Christian view?
david, Leeds         Exactly David. But ID promoters want to teach an ID compatible with observation and teach it as science, avoiding your ridicule but invading the science class. That's why they should not do it.

So who, may I ask, designed the designer?
Roger Hyam, Lauder, Scotland, UK         This why the only scenario that makes sense is that Nature is achieving its design by evolution. There may well be a moment of total blindness when nature gambles all on existence and the total experience from which all knowledge is gained. More than one of the world's greatest recognised philosophers have reasoned that there is a moment, or point of crisis in the life of the Absolute or Infinite. Whether this is a continual or repeatable even changing event depends on notions of time and eternity beyond the scope of this discussion. But in the universe we observe, the blind watchmaker of immanence makes its own senses early on, and then actual eyes. It can reasonably be speculated that the Universe is the Mind of God, that the material universe represents plural existence emerging from a singularity in order to know itself. It is reasonable to suppose it is the total experience from which total knowledge is gained, and that it is all of these things at once. There are multidimensional models than can harbour speculations that explain everything we know has happened and those we can imagine might be, and even WHY! But these are not for the science class in school. They are speculations that are reasonable in the minds of scientists and philosophers who have respect for all the scientist and theologians of the past as well as the latest observations. None of these speculations lead to a conclusion that the truths of our religious texts, if properly understood, are invalid. I recommend reading THE GOD STORY on this web site.

also from the BBC Web site, also today 26 Jan 2006:

Britons unconvinced on evolution
More than half the British population does not accept the theory of evolution, according to a survey.

Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science lessons.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI for the BBC's Horizon series.

Its latest programme, A War on Science, looks into the attempt to introduce intelligent design into science classes in the US.

Over 2000 participants took part in the survey, and were asked what best described their view of the origin and development of life:

Intelligent design is the concept that certain features of living things are so complex that their existence is better explained by an "intelligent process" than natural selection.

Education questioned

Andrew Cohen, editor of Horizon, commented: "I think that this poll represents our first introduction to the British public's views on this issue.

"Most people would have expected the public to go for evolution theory, but it seems there are lots of people who appear to believe in an alternative theory for life's origins."

When given a choice of three theories, people were asked which ones they would like to see taught in science lessons in British schools:

Participants over 55 were less likely to choose evolution over other groups.

"This really says something about the role of science education in this country and begs us to question how we are teaching evolutionary theory," Andrew Cohen added.

The findings prompted surprise from the scientific community. Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, said: "It is surprising that many should still be sceptical of Darwinian evolution. Darwin proposed his theory nearly 150 years ago, and it is now supported by an immense weight of evidence.

"We are, however, fortunate compared to the US in that no major segment of UK religious or cultural life opposes the inclusion of evolution in the school science curriculum."

In the US, a recent high profile court case ruled that the intelligent design movement is motivated by a desire to introduce God into the classroom after parents in Pennsylvania took a school board to court over its demand that biology classes should not teach evolution as fact.

Horizon: A War on Science is on BBC Two at 2100GMT on Thursday, 26 January 2006

FEBRUARY 13th 2007   The farce in America continues, with the biblicists unable to understand the Bible and the scientists unable to straighten them out because they don't understand the history of ideas and religion.

I can summarise: The point being argued.....

Intelligent Design theory "holds that an intelligent force -- which some proponents would say is God -- is probably responsible for some aspects of nature."

The reality: Nature and God are one, that is what the New Testament Gospels teach. "In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Words was God.............and the Word became Flesh."

Is that really too hard to understand. They got the message 2,000 years ago. Recently the biologists astrophysicists have shown us how it happens, though our understanding is still ery incomplete. For God's sake, what's the problem? What is it these morons don't understand? Everything else in the Gospels, apart from some essential folklore that was suitable for the period but now has to be seen in the light of developing understanding and observations.

There is also deep truth in the Old Testament for those who are capable of reading it properly, but the idea that it can or should contradict peer-reviewed scientific observation is just half-witted. But read on, if only for laughs or tears. One thing for sure, the journalists understand neither side and always seem to be proud of that.

God, Darwin clash again in Kansas

By Carey Gillam Tue Feb 13, 7:19 AM ET

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (Reuters) - For the fourth time in eight years, the Kansas Board of Education is preparing to take up the issue of evolution and what to teach -- or not teach -- public school students about the origins of life.

After victory at the polls in November, a moderate majority on the 10-member board in the central U.S. state plans to overturn science standards seen as critical of evolution at a board meeting on Tuesday in Topeka.

New standards would replace those put in place in 2005 by a conservative board majority that challenged the validity of evolution and cited it as incompatible with religious doctrine.

The 2005 action outraged scientists across the United States, with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Teachers Association refusing a request by Kansas to use copyrighted material in textbooks.

Voters in last year's elections then swayed the balance of power on the board to moderates.

The move on Tuesday to rewrite the science standards would come a day after the birthday of evolution scholar Charles Darwin, who gained fame in 1859 for his book "The Origin of Species."

Some religious groups argue that evolution cannot be proven and is not in accordance with Biblical teachings regarding the origins of life. Teaching evolution misleads and confuses students, opponents say.

But supporters say religion has no valid role in a science class and evolution is the foundation for understanding key concepts in biology and other scientific fields.

Adding fuel to the debate, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute issued a press release on Monday protesting the board's planned move.

"You have a board in Kansas that is so extreme," said John West, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, a think tank focusing on science education and intelligent design.

That theory holds that an intelligent force -- which some proponents would say is God -- is probably responsible for some aspects of nature.

Still, some were cheering the board's move to restore standards that anti-evolution forces rewrote in 1999, only to be followed with a rewrite by evolution supporters in 2001 and then the anti-evolution board in 2005.

"I'm very much hoping that history repeats itself ... and the 2007 school board makes the right decision for Kansas students to restore the valid standards," said National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott.

"These are standards that reflect science, rather than a politicized curriculum that miseducates students."

The repeated changes have left schools and teachers scrambling to keep up. Educators say some aspects of a curriculum change can usually be implemented by the next school year but some, such as buying new textbooks, can take years.

SEPTEMBER 19th 2008
Now we are really with Alice in Wonderland. The Royal Society has become involved in the debate on creationism, when its Director of Education, Michael Reiss, says Creationism could be discussed as well as evolutionary theory in schools. This argument is based on a supposed difference between Biblical and scientific accounts. Examples of how confused children and adults can think are related in an article in today's Independent. Typical is: "Who did the Big Bang? God must have done the Big Bang. I believe that God is the person that really invented it."

Yet in the Bible it is obvious to St John the Evangelist that God was the Big Bang, not outside it, and the writer makes that very clear. So there is no conflict between the Gospel and Science, just between people who don't read what is written and science. It is equally clear that the Old Testament creation stories are symbolic and metaphorical and were composed as such by their originators. There is no conflict there either as they were never meant to be a scientific account when they were devised or when they were recorded in the collection we have. Yet we now have this pathetic debate on the level of simple minded adults and badly taught children, occupying the minds of supposedly sane academics and journalists. Just reading this article is enough to drive one up the wall. At the start of this file I thought 'Only in America', but the awful truth is it can happen here.


Creationist Britain (would you Adam and Eve it?)

The creationism row at the Royal Society has exposed the number of Britons who believe Darwin was wrong about man's origins – and the Bible right. James Macintyre investigates

Read it and resist despair if you can. One would think by now that the principles of evolution and reproduction would be understood as fundamental in Nature and therefore likely to be the explanation of universal existence. An intelligent reading of our religious heritage reveals nothing to contradict this and everything to corroborate it. Yet we continue to be assailed with this endless bollocks from believers and atheists alike.

Perhaps one of the saddest examples is that of the estimable Derren Brown, brilliant illusionist, trickster and hypnotist, who has confused mediaeval and fundamentalist Christian belief with the modern understandng of this religion. In a recent programme he managed to pass off what he calls his 'trickery' to get accepted by various American societies of paranormal persuasion, but made the absurd mistake of classing Christianity itself as one of these. Fortunately the pastor in question did not fall for it even though he was quite rightly immensely impressed with Brown's performance.  But the ultimate irony is that Brown himself fails to understand the merit of his own techniques and their legitimate connection to the truths contained in the Christian view once the word supernatural is understood as super-natural in the sense of extreme, not contra to nature. Once again we have, in Brown, an example of a very sincere young man who grew up with a naive, intense and unscientific view of religion, not realising that the life and words of Jesus had to have a different meaning 2,000 years ago to what they do today. He was suddenly moved to develop his skills to show anyone can do it, with the aim of discrediting it. I suggest he reads the NT again, as it does not discredit it at all. That is what The Man said - anyone can do it.