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CELEBRATING SCIENCE—DARWIN LIVES

February 17, 2009 - Ray Hall (Archive)
The continuum of history finds us celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of a book that introduced the world to evolution through natural selection.  For 150 years scientists, scholars, searchers and the casually curious have marveled at the mind that dared to imagine a science of biological history that relied on history itself.
 
Probably no other scientific theory has been so rigorously challenged, tested and verified by serious minded peers as has Darwin’s. The soundness of Darwin’s work has been confirmed time and again.   Gregor Mendel’s work on heredity led to genetics that eventually led to DNA that has allowed scientists to trace evolutionary lineages.
 
Despite overwhelming scientific proof there are still the uninformed and ignorant who are strangers to the simplest science let alone Darwin.  Darwin has always had critics that insist he killed God, created Atheism and was responsible for Hitler. However, more dangerous are groups that have religious, political or ideological objections to evolution being taught in our public schools. School book publishers have long been pressured to alter, omit or limit science and history in text books by Christian groups, but as our population becomes more diverse other groups, Islamic and Hindu groups in particular, are exerting even more pressure to influence content.
 
Although opposition pops out around the country, Texas is ground zero in the war on science and textbooks. According to the Texas Freedom Network, Texas is the second largest textbook market in the United States and as a result the outcome of editing and selection serves as a model for other states. The millions of dollars Texas spends on textbooks every year is incentive enough for textbook publishers to make revisions demanded by a small, but vocal group of extremists who have the power to get a book rejected. However, a recent Federal Court Decision in Dover, Pennsylvania ruled in favor of science and Darwin.
 
The Dover Board of Education made an effort to insert of Pandas and People as a reference book for an alternative theory on biological origins.  The book was introduced as an idea that Intelligent Design offered a suitable alternative theory that advocated some life forms were just too complex for rational explanation and was designed by an intelligent agent. The Dover court decision states that on October 18, 2004 the Board passed by a 6-3 vote, a resolution that amended the biology curriculum as follows: 
"Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.  Note: Origins of Life is not taught."
 
Additionally, the Dover Board of education required the following statement to be read to biology students: 
"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it continues to betested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is noevidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who mightbe interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.
With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments."
 
Dover teachers balked, some resigned and the community was awash in controversy.   Teachers who expressed opposition were branded as “unpatriotic, godless atheists,” some even felt they had to move from the area and the result was a federal lawsuit—Tammy Kitzmiller—vs—Dover Area School District.
 
When the 139 page decision was handed down on December 20, 2005 it was a clear and unambiguous victory for Darwin and for his theory of evolution and for science.   In his conclusion Federal District Judge John E. Jones III wrote: …..we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID (Intelligent Design) is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from it creationist, and thus religious, antecedents...
 
Next, Judge Jones drove a truth dagger right into the heart of the proposition that has perplexed, confounded, frustrated and angered scholars and scientists for 150 years. He wrote:
“Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.” (Emphasis added.) 
 
Despite the Dover ruling and many other challenges over the years too many Americans continue to remain clueless and accept the profoundly ignorant statement that evolution is “only a theory” and that Creationism deserves equal standing. That attitude at once reveals that those who utter such claims do not understand the difference between a continuously tested scientific theory and an idea.
Efforts to censor scientific content in textbooks and include the biblical account of creationism a legitimate scientific theory have been alarmingly successful. A recent poll showed that only 39% of Americans believe in evolution and the lack of interest in math and science of U.S. school students has become a national concern and could very well undermine our national security.
 
Bill Gates and other prominent business leaders are alarmed by this steadily worsening crisis and President Obama made teaching science a center piece of his campaign. The Business Roundtable sees the United States falling further behind the world in the fields of engineering and technology to Asian countries, particularly India and China. 
 
Thinkers, scholars, teachers and the intellectually curious must challenge scientific ignorance at every turn. Education is too important to be left to the locals whether it is a matter of Christian doctrine or the dogmas of Islam or Hinduism. Our public schools should be secular. In France public school students are not allowed to wear religious symbols. Most recently Muslim girls were forbidden to wear a headscarf in public schools, but neither are Christian crosses or the Star of David allowed.  Of course,  private or parochial schools in France do not have such restrictions.
 
As citizens, we must stop this “dumbing down” of our children. The future of our nation depends on it.   

 
 

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Contraversial book that advances Intelligent Design.