Monday, February 27, 2017
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Evolution vs Creationism

Syllabus (Text Below)

The tenets of evolution.

Evolution’s application to contemporary medicine, technology and so on.

The confrontation at the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1860.

The Bishop of Oxford and Thomas Huxley argue concerning the merits of evolution. Chaotic confrontation ensues.

The metaphoric beginning of the conflict between religion and science.

Twenty years later, Darwin’s advocates win hegemony in science. Both Huxley and Hooker were presidents of the Royal Society.

The lecture’s purpose- to show that evolution and creationism, from the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, have been in a conflict.

Now in 20th and 21st Century America, the two concepts are in a war, especially concerning what will be taught in U.S. Public Schools.

Scholars who deny the conflict, arguing for complexity of the relationship between evolution and creationism, are mistaken.

The lecture will discuss evolution’s and creationism’s histories, tenets and present state of legal and social clash.

The famous Voyage of the Beagle, 1831-1836. Darwin’s religious journey, from theism to agnosticism. His questions, back in England, concerning his Galapagos observations.

Lyell, the famous geologist and Malthus’s Essay on Population, 1798, and their influence on Darwin.

Darwin the first, with Wallace to follow, to think of the theory of evolution, with natural selection.

Darwin’s insight into the Galapagos finches, why each group on each island had different beaks. Each group, with an original mainland ancestor for all of them, had, with descent with modification, produced beaks most conducive to obtaining the available food supply on each island.

Full development of evolution by Darwin. Natural evolution.

The understanding of genetic traits passed on to future 
generations.

Rediscovery of Mendel’s work in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

The discovery by Crick and Watson, 1953, of DNA.

Neo-Darwinism allows full understanding of evolution. Examples: rabbits in Australia; bacteria resistant to antibiotics; lactase production in humans, genetic drift, and etc.

Darwin’s journey to agnosticism from his autobiography and letters.

Darwin’s death in 1882 and the triumph of his idea of evolution.

Creationism

Creationism in antiquity- Plato and Aristotle’s philosophies, blended with Christian tenets in early Church.

Chain of being, humans over Earth’s creatures, belief in immutable forms.

Christianity’s myth of special creation. God had created the earth in six days in its present form, also the galaxies, cosmos, humans who were rulers of all creatures on earth. Age of earth unimportant, later calculated at 6000 years old.

Stasis of nature used to justify medieval cultural stasis, by Divine Decree.

Divine right of kings.

Rise of middle class, ages of exploration 1500-1800. New animals, plants and humans not mentioned in the Bible- theological difficulties.

Did these new men have a soul? Original sin? The concept of two creations in Genesis.

By the 19th Century, dynamism dominated and replaced stasis. Earth, by the observations of biology, geology and etc., found to be very old.

Opposition to Darwin varied by church and culture, but did not coalesce.

Conflict about biblical descriptions and design and purpose.

America chief center of conflict between evolution and creationism.

America’s decentralized school system and government, local control.

Founding of Fundamentalism, 1910-1915. Biblical inerrancy and other beliefs.

The three stages of creationism in the United States:

(1) Ban evolution in the schools and elsewhere;

(2) try to get equal time for creationism to be taught;

(3) defeated by law, new “scientific” rehash of old 
creationist ideas.

More pupils in high schools in U.S. by 1920, exposed to evolution.

Fundamentalism emerged from Protestantism. Fundamentals were a series of pamphlets, 1910-1915. Put out by millionaire religious conservatives. Biblical inerrancy a tenet. Reaction to German modernist interpretations of the Bible and German militarism.

The tenets of Fundamentalism.

World War I, Capitalism and Laissez-faire. More reaction to German militarism and more 
fear of societal decay caused by tenets of evolution.

Types of creationists and their beliefs- flat earth to Intelligent Design. Old Earth and Young Earth creationists.

The Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, 1925.

The ACLU tries to get Butler Act revoked. 
Scopes a young biology teacher violates law and teaches outlawed evolution. Scopes brought to trial. Darrow and Bryan quarrel in court. Scopes fined.

Evolution not taught in U.S. public schools until 1960 when America started to emphasize science in education.

Competition with Russia.

Critical cases to establish equal time for creationism and creationism’s defeat.

Lemon a precedent for interpreting religious intent, 1987.

Americans fooled by idea of fair play- do not understand science or civics. Creationism is not a science.

Intelligent Design.

Tenets of Intelligent Design, or ID. Rehash of old design arguments. 
Try to denigrate evolution by focusing on what it has not currently solved, like Cambrian Explosion.

ID religious in intent.

ID tenets not able to be analyzed, observed or subjected to experiments or testing.

Statement of ID’s web site- the desire to overthrow materialism.

Dover Trial in 2005. 
The textbook, Pandas and People, and its poor science, a creationist book.

Creationists attempted to get a statement read to freshmen 
high school students casting doubt on evolution, referring them toPandas and People in the school library.

The Judge’s decision against I.D. and his statement blasting its advocates tactics and lack of true science.

Study of how little human evolution is taught in U.S. schools. The Texas School Board always tries to include statements criticizing evolution in text books.

The spread of creationism to Europe and Islam.

Conclusion: Science and reason continue to prevail. We must guard against the return of irrationality and keep the legacy of reason for future generations.

(Text)

In addition to the following Bibliography for the Evolution/Creationism Lecture, AtheistScholar.org contains several Book Lists and Bibliographies, along with Footnotes, under the Heading Biology and Creationism, Creation Science, Intelligent Design, “Strengths and Weaknesses.  There are lists for Anthropology; Biology, Evolutionary Biology, and Paleontology; Physics, Cosmology and Astronomy.

This lecture continues the discussion of the war between science and religion, the subject this time centering on evolution versus creationism and how that struggle has developed in the United States.

I would like to briefly go over some of the tenets of the theory of evolution and then a few of its practical applications for the present day. Biology, particularly evolutionary biology, is one of atheism’s touchstones. The publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859 opened the way for the adoption of scientific naturalism. It has changed modern man’s worldview, exchanging, for many people, the belief in a deity for an understanding that living things are the end result of chemical laws, natural selection and random variation.

Here are the basic tenets of evolution:

A species is a population of organisms that interbreeds and has fertile offspring.

Living organisms have descended with modifications from species that lived before them.

Natural selection explains how this evolution has happened:

More organisms are produced than can survive because of limited resources.

Organisms struggle for the necessities of life; there is competition for resources.

Individuals within a population vary in their traits; some of these traits are heritable- passed on to offspring.

Some variants are better adapted to survive and reproduce under local conditions than others.

Better-adapted individuals (the “fit enough”) are more likely to survive and reproduce, thereby passing on copies of their genes to the next generation.

Species whose individuals are best adapted survive; others become extinct.

Evolution has given atheists a basis for explaining how life exists without a creator god. It is the only explanation of life’s origins that can be tested and replicated. The theory omits the need for a god to be involved in the Universe.

The mythologies of many centuries, which explained man’s origin and purpose, sustaining, yet imprisoning men’s minds, gave way to seeing life’s processes as wholly naturalistic, no longer dependent on divine or supernatural aid and benevolence. Evolutionary theory also made clear to many people that there was no soul and no afterlife, freeing men’s minds from anticipation of reward or punishment beyond their natural life span. They could concentrate on creating meaning, purpose and dignity in their lives and in their societies by their own efforts. They would ultimately use evolutionary theory and evolutionary biology to reshape their environments with dramatic breakthroughs in science, medicine, agriculture and many other fields.

Although Darwin saw that random variations in living organisms furthered evolution, he was not able to say where they came from, nor how those traits could be passed on to subsequent generations. Mendel’s crossbreeding experiments in the 1850’s and 1860’s were an important factor for knowledge of how heritable variants were passed on; and finally, about the time Origin of Species had its 100th anniversary, James D. Watson and Francis Crick had proposed a structure for the DNA molecule.

We will be glancing at both Mendel and Watson in this lecture. It is important to keep in mind that the present concept of evolution cannot be a final and absolute truth. It is subject to further modification and change, as new facts is discovered, using the scientific method, as with all other scientific theories. There are many exciting discoveries ahead for evolution. Evolutionary biology is a necessary component to the newest fields of medicine, agriculture, biotechnology and law.

Here is a summary from a paper by J.J.Bull, professor of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas, Austin:

Evolutionary biology is central to the development of:

  • drug/chemical compounds for medical use
  • methods for tracking pathogens, i.e., infectious diseases
  • biochemicals for medicine and other industrial use
  • data that reveals relationships among organisms

Professor Bull goes on to point out:

  • Evolution underlies many improvements in agriculture (e.g., the artificial selection of crop strains and livestock breeds).
  • A less well-known fact is that evolutionary principles were used to produce many of our best vaccines and that evolution also causes problems with the use of some of those vaccines.
  • Some of the most promising areas for the future use of evolutionary biology lie in drug development and the biotechnology industry; patents worth vast amounts of money are based on ways of creating evolution (or avoiding evolution) in test tubes. 

In 1860, there was a dramatic confrontation at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Oxford. The furor was centered on Darwin’s theory of evolution, published in his book, On the Origin of Species, in 1859. On this particular occasion, Darwin was not present, but some of his advocates were, such as the famous agnostic scientist, Thomas Huxley.  The meeting began quietly enough, with a paper read that discussed applying Darwinian Theory to questions concerning intellectual and social progress.

Then the debate was opened to the general floor.  What ensued has been a wonderful contribution to the history of evolution’s rise to hegemony in the field of science. The narrative is also a colorful illustration of the conflict between science and religion.  The first speaker was Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford. 

It is a shame that we don’t have an exact transcript of what he said, but many scholars believe that his objections to Darwinian Theory that day can be extrapolated from his review of Origin of Species in the conservative Quarterly Review.

Here is a quotation from that critique by Wilberforce. He stated that Darwin’s conclusion implied that “mosses, grasses, turnips, oaks, worms and flies, mites and elephants, truffles and men, are all equally lineal descendants of the same aboriginal common ancestor.”  Wilberforce stated that if the science of this idea were sound, he would not object to the theory.  He then cleverly sidestepped critiquing Darwin’s book on theological grounds, stating that it was very foolish, or unwise, to turn to revelation in order to judge the truth of scientific theories.

But Wilberforce’s review of Origin contained many criticisms of Darwinian Theory, based on the work of Richard Owens, England’s most famous anatomist.  Bishop Wilberforce had two main objections that he believed negated Darwin’s theory on scientific grounds.  His first point was there was no fossil evidence of transitional forms.  Secondly, he stated that breeding of pigeons and dogs had produced many varieties of these animals, but pigeons remained pigeons and dogs, dogs.  Wilberforce maintained there had been no evidence of a new species.

The Bishop used science, or purported science, to denigrate Darwin’s theory, because he was dedicated to a religious view of the human race as different from, and superior to, other created forms.  His review made that clear.  He also objected to what he saw as the demeaning of the human form which Jesus Christ had assumed for his salvation.  In fact, Wilberforce stated, the theory of evolution not only demeaned man, but god. 

The idea that man was nothing more than an improved ape, rather than “nature’s crown and perfection,” was insulting to god.

Wilberforce is then reported to have turned to Darwin’s most important defender, the aforementioned Thomas Huxley, and jokingly asked him on which side of his family was he descended from an ape, his grandfather’s or grandmother’s? Huxley did not take this remark in a jocular spirit.  He turned white with anger, and murmured to a friend: “The Lord has delivered him into mine hands.” His remark is even more amusing because the unbelieving Huxley was not only an agnostic; he had coined the word agnostic. He rose and gravely stated that he would rather be descended from an ape, than from a man who used intellect and influence to bring ridicule into an extremely serious scientific discussion.

There were about 1000 people in the room that day and the discussion became emotional and contentious.  The actual temperature, as well as the metaphoric one, rose also, and one woman fainted.  Captain Fitzroy, a companion of Darwin’s from the historical H.M.S. Beagle days, rose up and hoisted a Bible with both hands.  He then proceeded to denounce Darwin’s theory. The botanist, Joseph Hooker, took the floor and defended the ideas of his close friend, Darwin.  We have his own account that he did so decisively.

In 1860, all the participants and rivals thought that their party had carried the day.  Huxley and Hooker had long been engaged in a battle to separate science from the Church of England, to make science autonomous. They won decisively.  Twenty years later, Huxley and Hooker had risen in scientific prestige and they had also accomplished their mission. 

They had gained their desired ascendancy in the British scientific establishment; both were elected Presidents of the Royal Society.  They had achieved the hegemony of scientific naturalism over the conservative Anglican Church.

Yet, all too many scholars in the academic field of the history and philosophy of science and religion are eager to explain the conflict, so inspiringly illustrated by the 1860 debate, as a political struggle.  But what was behind the political struggle but a bitter conflict between religion and science? The incompatibility of the two world views is seen over and over as science became, and continues to become stronger, its evidence and methodology proving sounder than religious dogma.  Richard Dawkins, the eminent biologist and atheist, insists that the conflict is a war, particularly with regard to the field of biology.  I wholeheartedly agree with him.

This lecture will discuss the theory of evolution, its inception and its place in contemporary society. Then we shall glance at creationism and its continuing, although fruitless, struggle against Darwin’s theory. Creationism and evolution have clashed most belligerently, both legally and culturally, in the United States; we shall discuss the reasons for America being the center for the bitter conflict.  Creationism and its different manifestations will be discussed.  I will be pointing out how a religious viewpoint seems to motivate some people to deny the truths derived from the scientific method. There are many religious advocates who would inhibit the teaching of evolution altogether.  We shall be looking at their tactics in a while.

Charles Darwin made his famous and paradigm shattering journey in 1831 on the ship, the H.M.S.Beagle, and the trip lasted until 1836. 

Only in his twenties, he was already respected as an expert on beetles and his other scientific work when he undertook his voyage.  He was acting as a companion to Captain Fitzroy, but he was also supposed to make observations concerning the natural world he would encounter during the trip. Darwin had been considering taking orders as a minister in the Church of England, but decided against it early in his career. He underwent an evolution in his beliefs throughout his life.  At the time of his voyage, he was still a theist, while his grandfather, father and older brother were all Deists or freethinking unbelievers.  By the end of his life, Darwin had become a stated agnostic, as we shall see in a little while from his autobiography and letters.

After his return to England from the Beagle voyage, Darwin started to think about some of his observations in the Galapagos Islands.  He had read Lyell’s Principles of Geology, 1833, and was very influenced by Lyell’s idea that changes in the earth’s geology had come about through gradual rather than periodical violent events.  In 1838, Darwin read Thomas Malthus’s An Essay on Population, 1798, and realized how Malthus’s idea could be applied to the species question.  Darwin was interested and puzzled by the different species of finches on the Galapagos Islands, each group having different sized and shaped beaks. 

Malthus’s concern was with human populations. 

He believed that human populations increased exponentially from one generation to another, 1, 2, 4, 8 and so on, while the supply of food for the whole group would only increase arithmetically, 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.  Ultimately there would not be enough resources to maintain the correct supply of food.  In such a competitive situation, only the strong would survive.

Darwin was very impressed with Malthus’s ideas.  Just observing his own garden at home seemed to accord with Malthus. He saw the struggle that plants and weeds had over resources, and that the strongest won. Herbert Spencer, the philosopher, would later coin the term, survival of the fittest, for the struggle for existence and its outcome in 1864, after reading Darwin.  Thomas Dixon notes that the struggle for existence and the resulting survival of the fittest concept became Darwin’s central idea for the theory of evolution, although we shall see that “fit enough” is a more concise term. 

Alfred Russell Wallace came up with the same theory in the 1850’s. He informed Darwin, who had delayed publishing, but who now hurried to bring his own work out first.  He had probably delayed because he knew the public outcry which would greet his theory.  At any rate, he and Wallace were the first persons to come up with the idea of evolution, with natural selection.  Richard Dawkins states that neither Plato or Aristotle, Leibniz or Newton, and not even Hume, all formidable philosophers, ever thought of the idea that provided people with the answer to the riddle of their existence. Wallace, himself, coined the word, Darwinism, and called evolution “Darwin’s theory.” 

Now let us return to those famous finches on the Galapagos, with different beaks on each island. 

Darwin made an important breakthrough when he finally solved the difficulty of the disparate beaks. 

The finches were at the ends of varied branches on the tree of life, not separately created by a designer.  A finch, or group of finches, was the original ancestor, likely blown over to the islands from a storm that hit the mainland.  The different food sources available on each islands, seeds, insects, or cactus, determined the size and shape of the finches’ beaks.  The finches who possessed the best types of beaks for the available food on each different island survived at a higher rate than those who did not.  Since the survivors bred more offspring, some of the offspring would have the “right beaks” to avail themselves of the food sources. The rest of the offspring would soon fall to the wayside and produce no or few offspring.  After some generations, the finches on each island would have the optimal beaks that best obtained the food supply.

The idea is beautifully clear. Assaults of nature come in many forms.  There could be a food shortage, a drought, a disease, a new predator, or a change in the weather.  The individuals who are lucky enough to have the physical characteristics which enable them to cope with the new conditions will be the survivors, and those of their offspring who inherit those characteristics will be most likely to survive and breed and so on.  I would like to emphasize once more that there is no designer necessary in this process, unless one posits nature itself, working through chance and random selection.  If one thinks of the repetition of the process through hundreds of millions of years, the vast array of species descended from the simplest forms of life makes sense.  It seems so simple, in retrospect, and yet only two men, Darwin and Wallace, thought saliently about it between the 1830’s and the 1850’s.  That is how long it took to understand our history.

Thomas Dixon states: “The adaptation of organisms to their environments, and the origins of separate species, should be explained not in the terms of a creator, designer god, such as William Paley described, but by geographical distribution, random heritable variation, competition for resources, and the survival of the fittest over vast eons of time.”

There were some pieces still missing to the puzzle, however.  Darwin did not really know how these characteristics were passed on from one generation to the next. Many scientists in Darwin’s day were not comfortable with natural selection because they could not see how a new variation could be produced each generation.

Then, in the late 19th and 20th Centuries, people became interested in Lamarck’s ideas once again.  In the early 1800’s Lamarck actually came up with a comprehensive theory of evolution, although it was incorrect.  He thought that since there was observable change in an individual during its lifetime according to its activity or conditions around the individual, these changed characteristics could be passed on to its offspring.  Experiments yielded no positive results. If a rat lost its tail, its children would still be born with tails.

Darwin himself thought that perhaps there was a blended inheritance which came about when particles which he called gemules, from all parts of the parents’ bodies, would flow to their reproductive organs, blend there and be passed to their offspring.

It took until the 20th Century to rediscover, understand and reconfirm the research an obscure Austrian monk carried out on pea plants in the middle 1800’s. 

By looking at Mendel’s work scientists were able to start explaining the basic principles of heredity.  Earlier scientists of Mendel’s time had been fairly unaware of his research and its implications. 

Scientists finally made the connection between Mendel’s work and Darwin’s in the 1930’s and 1940’s. 

Mendel had demonstrated that whatever it was, in Eugenie Scott’s words, that was passed on from generation to generation, later called genes, did not blend in the offspring,  but stayed separate even if it was hidden for one or more generations  “Genetic information,” Eugenie Scott explains, “is shuffled each time a sperm fertilizes an egg.” “Given the particular nature of inheritance,” continues Scott, “the mixing up of genes among sexually reproducing organisms, and the existence of phenomena such as dominance and recessiveness of genes, it was clear that natural selection would have sufficient variation on which to operate.”

Mendelian genetics provided a serious support to the basic Darwinian model of evolution by natural selection.  The combination of the two ideas is the basic approach and answer to understanding the mechanism of evolution.  Strictly speaking, the updated theory, or synthesis, is neo-Darwinism. This model was expanded in the 20th Century by the second genetic revolution, described as the molecular basis of heredity. Eugenie Scott explains the principles behind that expansion. 

Frances Crick and James Watson, in 1953, discovered the structure of DNA, the hereditary material of cells.

With this determination, investigating the molecular basis of life was expanded almost exponentially, to become the most active, and perhaps the best-funded area of biological research.  Scott states: “The big idea of descent with modification is reflected not only in anatomy and behavior but also in proteins.”

A textbook example of natural selection’s descent with modification occurred in Australia. While illuminating, it is very disquieting story, revealing cruelty to animals and human indifference to other species.  Nevertheless, it is a telling narrative.  In 1859, an English immigrant to Australia released twelve pairs of rabbits, unknown to that country, so he could go rabbit hunting, a very worthy sport for a grown man.  He was not aware that the rabbit has few natural enemies in Australia.  There are some eagles, hawks, and dingoes, the wild dogs, but that is about it.  Predictably, the rabbit population grew, and competed with cattle and domestic animals for grass.  Some areas became dust bowls because the rabbits ate anything green.

The government became very concerned and decided to import a virus from England that was fatal to rabbits.  It was myxomatosis.  It is also called rabbit fever and it spreads from rabbit to rabbit by fleas and other blood sucking insects.  It kills quickly.  The government tried introducing the disease in a test population in 1950.  Well, it worked pretty efficiently.  In six weeks, rabbits in some areas were reduced from five thousand to fifty.  Of course, not all the rabbits died. Some survived to breed.  When that new population bounced back, the government reintroduced rabbit fever once again.  But predictably, this time fewer rabbits were killed.  The new generation contained many rabbits who had inherited their genetic immunity from the earlier surviving generation. 

In time, rabbit fever no long proved effective in reducing the rabbit population.  The government has put up thousands of miles of rabbit proof fencing to try to keep rabbits out of some areas of Australia. 

Biologists explain how the crucial requirements for natural selection were met in the Australian fiasco. 

The first requirement is variation.  The rabbits varied greatly in their immunity to rabbit fever infections. The second requirement is environmental condition.  The government introduced rabbit fever into the population.  This made certain genetic variations in some of the rabbits “more valuable,” as scientists term it, than before.  The third requirement is differential reproduction.  The rabbits that had, by chance, the variation that allowed them to survive the virus, were naturally able to reproduce more and pass on more copies of their genes to future generations. The result was that a large portion of the new rabbit population was very likely to have the valuable variation. As I said earlier, when rabbit fever was reintroduced into their environment, fewer rabbits were killed.

Let us glance at the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics in the present day.  I am quoting from Science Daily in this section concerning how the staph bacteria, popularly known as MRSA, or at the least, a dozen strains of it, have become resistant to vancomycin, an antibiotic of last resort.

The Center for Disease Control states: “Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs are left to grow and multiply.  Repeated and improper use of antibiotics are primary causes for the increase in drug resistant bacteria.  It has increased in the last decade. 

Many bacterial infections are becoming resistant to the commonly prescribed antibiotic treatment.  The consequences are severe- longer lasting hospital stays or more doctor visits, more expensive and toxic medications and sometimes death.  We need to reduce our overuse of antibiotics.”

The three major forces of evolution are mutation, selection and random genetic drift.   One of these, the concept of genetic drift, is becoming more important to many biologists today. Genetic drift is simply a change in the gene pool of a small population that happens completely by chance.  It is responsible for traits disappearing or becoming widespread in a population, without respect to the survival or reproductive value to the population involved.  Why scientists believe that genetic drift can only occur in small, isolated populations is because their gene pools are so small that random events can change their makeup to a great extent. Random genetic mutations were once thought to be neutral, neither positive nor negative. But now, H. Allen Orr states that “…recent experiments show that natural selections of beneficial genetic mutation are quite common.”

There are also interesting examples of mutations that “meet” culture. A good example is the one we are very familiar with in contemporary times.  There is an enzyme called lactase, produced in the intestines, that allows infants and small children to digest the complex milk sugar lactose. Only a few adults can produce lactase.  In 2002, the ability to do so was traced, David M. Kingsley tells us, to a mutation in regulatory DNA, in Europeans, that controls the lactase gene. Lately, different mutations affecting the same gene, and I quote Kingsley again, “were found to predominate in East African and Saudi Arabian populations who traditionally herd milk-producing animals. 

The differing DNA changes indicate that the trait of lactose tolerance has arisen independently, many times in the past 9,000 years.”  Scientists believe the way lactose tolerance has been retained in societies dependent on milk demonstrates how culture reinforces the forces of evolution. 

Simple DNA changes seem to be connected to human cultural evolution, or at least there is a possibility of a link. Kingsley explains that the nutritional advantages this variant provides is demonstrated by it arising in different groups on different continents, effecting changes that are important to entire populations, such as the ones dependent on herding and agriculture. The trait of producing lactase into adulthood helped people develop these new ways of life.  More research needs to be done in this area, but the possibilities are tantalizing.

We have glanced at the history and description of the theory of evolution. Scientists are proving the truth, so-called, of evolution, and it is apparent that the theory is more influential than even the early evolutionists believed.  Here is Dawkins on the topic of the theory’s validity: “As we detectives survey life, both extant and fossilized, we are overwhelmed by literally millions of observations that are exactly as they should be if evolution is, indeed, a fact and natural selection did it.  The distribution of DNA, of proteins, and of other molecules, is exactly as it should be if Darwinism is true.  The distribution of animals and plants and fossils over the islands and continents of the world is exactly as it should be; the distribution of fossils in geological time is exactly as it should be; the distribution of bones, muscles, hearts, brains, and all other meticulously compared anatomical features is exactly as it should be if evolution is a fact.  In the ordinary sense of the words fact and proven, evolution is a proven fact.”

At this juncture, I would like to return to the man who discovered evolution, Darwin himself.  His life journey, from being prepared to take orders in the Anglican Church  in his youth, to stating that he was an agnostic in his old age, will be of interest to most secular people.

As I mentioned earlier, Darwin worked on his theory of evolution twenty years before publishing it.  In 1844, he put down his sketch of evolution into an essay.  He confided to a friend that revealing his belief in evolution was “like confessing a murder.” He entrusted the essay to his wife, Emma, in the event of his sudden death, even though she was a Christian and feared eternal damnation for Darwin. He was afraid that publishing his theory would make him an outcast.

But as we have learned in this lecture, publish he did, spurred by Wallace’s similar theory of evolution and the desire to be the first thinker in print on the topic.  He barely mentioned human evolution in Origin of Species, 1859, but saved it for his 1871 Descent of Man.

Just as Darwin’s clerical aspirations gradually passed away, so, too, did his faith.  His father’s death in 1848 and then his daughter, Annie’s, demise in 1851, precipitated his break with Christianity.  He became sure that eternal punishment was immoral and determined to speak out against it.  I am quoting from his autobiography in this section, written for his family between 1876 and 1881, rather than for publication. The autobiography contained his most definitive statement on religious belief, as he would not speak out against religion in public.

Darwin stated he did not see how anyone, even his beloved wife, could “wish Christianity true.” “The plain language,” he noted of the New Testament, “seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”

He noted that he was one “…with no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal god or a future existence with retribution or reward… I must be content to remain an agnostic, an unbeliever, but no less an upright man, living without the threat of divine wrath.”  Darwin additionally revealed in private letters that he believed “…freedom of thought is best promoted not by direct arguments against Christianity and theism, but by gradual illumination of men’s minds, which follows from the advance of science.”

James Moore tells us, on April 19, 1882, Darwin’s remains were buried, with due pomp, in Westminster Abbey.  Interestingly, Moore states, “…priests officiated at his graveside, politicians of all parties gathered round, and his agnostic allies joined them.”  “By the end of the century, there was no serious opposition,” notes Thomas Dixon, “to the tenets of descent with modification and the common ancestry of all forms of life.”  Darwin’s agnostic friends were now called scientists, and because of Darwin, nature and human future had been transferred into their hands. From that point forward, religion would begin to rapidly lose ground, until in the 21st Century, science would become the most efficacious arbiter of human destiny.

The revolution that Darwin effected was quiet, but inexorable.  Society and science were permanently changed by Darwin.

What he half jokingly feared, becoming a “devil’s chaplain,” has come about.  But what a glorious unfolding of human biological history and understanding of our physical nature the “Devil’s Chaplain” has revealed to humanity.

Creationism

And now we move from the sublime to the ridiculous- creationism and neocreationism and their conflict with evolution.  Creationism is a very old notion, going back to the ancient Greeks.  I should like to begin creationism’s history with the Greeks and move forward, until the time when the conflict concerning origin of the earth and of life escalated into warfare between two opposing views in early 20th Century America.

Plato and Aristotle have helped shape the Western idea of nature and time, as their concepts were adapted and co-opted by the early Christian church.  We have discussed Plato in earlier lectures.  He was an idealist, a philosopher who believed our world and everything in it were imperfect, copies of the ideal which existed somewhere in the mind of god. The philosopher Aristotle focused on form, but also very much on function.  An example would be to state that the function of rain is to water the earth. Another might be the function of a deer’s swift legs is to get away from predators. Eugenie Scott notes that Christians were attracted to Aristotle’s concept.  They elaborated his idea into the notion that humans’ function was to worship god, who had created them to worship him. 

It was Aristotle who first classified plants and animals into a linear ranking, the Great Chain of Being, as it was called, and that concept lasted beyond the Renaissance. It was an extremely important social arbiter and way of looking at the world.

Aristotle thought there were immutable forms. Such forms were ranked from the simplest to the complex.  

Humans were a special case, in later Christian theology, at the top of the earthly chain, just below angels and god, who was at the pinnacle of everything.  Human kings ranked above all other humans, by divine decree. 

In the later mythology of Christianity, the doctrine of special creationism prevailed.  The doctrine decreed that god had created the universe at one time, taking about six days, in its present form. He created the galaxies, earth, and human beings, who were the stewards and rulers of the other created forms on the earth.  In early times, few people considered that the age of the earth was important. While it was finally concluded that the earth was about 6,000 years old, most people did not yet believe the earth and its creatures had a history. They thought that everything existed in their time as it always had, the same as when it was created. The medieval view of cosmic and universal immobility was used to justify the static nature of feudal life- everyone’s place had been created by god and determined by birth.  Serfs were to serve, nobles were to rule the common people, and the King, as I have said, by divine right, was to rule over everyone.  Stasis dominated the world view of the Middle Ages- both theological and societal.

By the time of the Renaissance, which began in the 14th Century, the mechanisms of society began to be viewed as less static, more dynamic.  A middle class was growing more wealthy and dominant. During the Enlightenment in the 1700’s there were increased growth of cities, middle class expansion, and more radical thinkers. The concept of democracy began to replace older notions of kingly rights and church domination.

Natural history became a popular pastime, and when the microscope was invented in the 1600’s, people saw new forms – microorganisms that were astonishing to contemplate.  The Bible had never mentioned such forms. The age of exploration from 1500 to 1800 and its discoveries began to create difficulties for theology and biblical creation stories as well.  The Bible had never mentioned the New World, or the people found in the new, previously unexplored areas. 

We mentioned the geologist, Cuvier, in our last lecture.  In the early 1800’s, he had found fossil bones in Europe that were similar to contemporary forms, but it was obvious that they were different from contemporary animals and reptiles, and that their species no longer existed. Had these lands, people, and creatures been created at the beginning?  Did Native Americans and Polynesians have souls?  The Bible had never said anything about such persons. Were they created or spawned by Satan? The questions proliferated.

In 1665, Isaac La Peyrere came up with an explanation for the newly discovered worlds, the people living in them, and the strange fossil remains. His notion was the first version of gap creationism, but not the last, as we shall see.  He proposed that there were two creations recorded in Genesis.  He called the first Genesis I, and the second, the Adam and Eve creation, he designated as Genesis II. He explained that all those Native Americans, Polynesians, and other peoples were created in Genesis I and were pre-Adamite, including Cain’s wife. (People reading the Bible had always wondered where she came from!)

La Peyrere claimed that god had created new things in Genesis II, and at that time Adam and Eve had propagated the European, Asian and African peoples. But a new problem arose with his explanation.  Did the original Genesis I people need salvation by Jesus, not having been connected to the fall of Adam and Eve?

At any rate, we have seen in the previous lecture on the conflict between religion and science, how geology and other natural sciences progressed. By Darwin’s era, the relationships between geology, biology and temporal concepts coalesced into a view that the Earth was very old and had changed over time.  This view was accepted by scientists, most educated people, and even some of the clergy. Many recognized the idea that if the earth had changed, then living creatures must have changed, too. By the middle 19th Century, dynamism began to dominate and replace stasis.

 But many religious people continued to reject the findings of geology and other sciences.  The theory of evolution was particularly troubling.  We need to look at some of the theological reasons that led many believers to reject the theory of evolution, because theological difficulty was coming from many directions during the nineteenth century.  There were two very important objections to evolution that we shall peruse before going on to the battle for America’s soul and the war between science and creationism in the United     States in the 20th and 21st Centuries.

In the 19th Century, some Christians rejected Darwinism because it conflicted with Biblical special creation, which as I mentioned before, was the belief in the creation of the universe in 6 days.  Massimo Pigliucci explains another important element of special creation.

He states: “In pre-Darwinian times, creationism referred to the belief that each fetus’s soul was especially created, not inherited, from its parents, as some theologians believed.”

Another powerful objection to the theory of evolution was its conflict with design and purpose.  I have previously talked about William Paley’s 1802 Natural Theology, and his concept of design, or what is called teleology.  If you recall, Paley used the analogy of finding a watch on a beach and seeing in its complex design, a designer behind it.  The world is complex, and objects such as the eye are extremely complicated, so Paley maintained that one could infer a designer, who was god.  The contradiction between evolutionary theory and creationism centered on these two beliefs- special creation and design- and some religious people refer to them in the present day when rejecting evolutionary theory.

The previously discussed review by Bishop Wilberforce of the Origin of Species pinpointed additional theological issues that would concern Jews, Christians, Muslims and other faiths as they dealt with the implications of evolution’s tenets.  The various religions had difficulties with evolution, but many religions accepted the basic concept as long as they could claim that it had occurred with god as the originator, and the continuing guiding force behind it. However, Thomas Henry Huxley and Herbert Spencer, strong advocates of evolution, were anti clerical, and their position seemed to imply to some religious intellectuals that acceptance of evolution involved embracing atheism.

There were some social objections as well to the theory of evolution.

There was an excoriation of Darwin in the Victorian Era, because there was an increasing discontent from the working classes in England, whose living and work conditions were often horrific.  The upper classes were fearful of their hegemony and some saw Darwinism as one more factor in threatening the established social system.

Nevertheless, many of the theological objections did not yet lead to the bitter conflict that would later develop in America.  By the middle of the 19th Century, there were many religious intellectuals, scientists, lay persons, and even clergy, who accepted science as proof of god existing, design and so on.  They did not reject the findings of the various fields of science out of hand.  There was generally a mixed reaction in religious denominations.  Presbyterians in Scotland accepted evolution, while Presbyterians in Ireland spoke vehemently against it. By 1950, to jump ahead a bit, the Catholic Church finally came to terms with evolution, accepting its tenets as long as god was not left out of the initial process. 

As I have said, it was the battle for dominance in American education and government that became the focus for 2oth Century creationists and their theories.  Their long, vocal and acerbic fight against evolutionary theory is still playing out today, in churches, in schools and in the courts. In the United States, during the 19th Century, prestigious scientists who were Christians, such as the botanist Asa Gray, accepted evolution and helped the general acceptance process.  While evolution was taught in colleges in the United States, it was traditionally omitted from K through 12 classroom curriculums, unlike Europe and Great Britain. 

Eugenie Scott gives some reasons for its absence in America.  American public education is highly decentralized, with local school boards holding great power over the curriculum. If a school district is controlled by a local board with a majority of people holding conservative religious views, evolution is either not taught, or is downplayed, particularly human evolution. We shall see near the end of this lecture how little human evolution is taught in United States public schools in the present day.                                               

American religion, according to Scott and other scholars, is equally decentralized.  Our country’s churches were often established by religious dissidents from other nations.  We are a country which has seen the birth of independent sects, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7th Day Adventists and so on. As with education, local churches adopted theological positions that might differ from other churches that were ostensibly the same. 

 But Scott, along with many thinkers, believes the most important reason that modern anti-evolution developed so strongly in the United States was the founding of Fundamentalism between 1910 to 1915. Fundamentalism emerged from Protestantism and emphasized the inerrancy of the Bible. We shall discuss its beliefs shortly.  Britain and Europe did not see its successful importation, luckily for them.  But Fundamentalism took hold in the United States and was the force for the anti-evolution movement that culminated in the 1920’s Scope’s Trial and continues to the present day.

I am dependent on Scott and Pigliucci’s research for the following section which demarcates the three periods of anti-evolution development in the United States.

 In the first stage, anti-evolutionists waged a campaign to pass legislation that would eliminate evolution from the classroom and from textbooks.  When such laws as were passed began to be struck down, so-called creation science was used by anti-evolutionists who attempted to get equal time to teach their notions along with evolution in the public schools.  When equal time laws were struck down, the anti-evolution forces rebounded once again, with new schemes and diverse repackaging of creation science.

It is important to remember that although many of our textbooks did include evolution at the turn of the 20th Century, high school education in the United States was for many years only for the city population and the wealthier classes.

But by 1920, almost two million pupils were attending high school, which meant more children were being exposed to the idea of evolution.  Parents who were uneasy, especially for religious reasons, about evolution turned to politicians, such as the populist, William Jennings Bryan, a leader against evolution education, to help them.                                                                                                                                                          In addition, the United States had what, for secular people, was the misfortune to be the home to the development of a theological perspective during the first years of the 20th Century- the aforementioned Fundamentalism.  It was a movement, as I have said, that grew out of American Protestantism.  Its ideas were presented in a series of small booklets called The Fundamentals and came out from 1910 to 1915.  Millionaires with a conservative theological viewpoint funded these publications, as well as founding an evangelical college, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Many copies of The Fundamentals were distributed free to many professors, pastors and theology students in the United States.

Karen Armstrong states that the Fundamental movement stressed a Biblical interpretation that considered the Bible inerrant.  This outlook was partly a reaction to German modernism in the 1880’s, which had begun to look at the Bible in a historical, literary, and cultural manner.  Please see AtheistScholar.org, Biblical Criticism, for a full review of modern Biblical interpretation.

Fundamentalists, according to Armstrong, stressed (1) the inerrancy of Scripture, (2) the Virgin Birth of Christ, (3) Christ’s atonement for our sins on the cross, (4) his bodily resurrection, and (5) the objective reality of his miracles.  The movement crystallized fairly quickly. Fundamental believers were the boots on the ground in the campaign to rid United States public schools of evolution. 

Their motivations were religious beliefs, but also their aversion to what they saw as the social and moral deterioration that was beginning to trend in the United States.

World War I, which took place in the early part of the 20th Century, was an appalling time of death and destruction.  The militarism of Germany was held responsible by many conservative Christians.  The modern Biblical critiques had begun in Germany as well.  Conservative religious people saw such developments as attacks on both religion and civilization.  Unfortunately, too, evolution was inaccurately and unfairly blamed for laissez-faire capitalism, as some business men cited natural selection as justification for their cut throat business tactics. The stage was set for a major confrontation. 

Before I discuss the Scopes Monkey Trial, as it is popularly known, I would like to list the major types of creationism. I am using Eugenie’s Scott’s description of what she calls “the creation/evolution continuum. There are Flat Earth Creationists, who are very firm in their belief that the Earth’s shape is flat, rather than a sphere.  Needless to say, they are hard line biblical literalists.  Then there are the Young Earth Creationists, who accept the heliocentric theory, but reject all the findings of the various branches of biology, geology, and physics concerning the age of the Earth and descent with modification.  They reject the Big Bang Theory and believe that catastrophic events caused the Earth’s geography.  For example, they believe that the Noah’s Ark flood is responsible for forming the Grand Canyon and other geological features. They believe the Earth is merely 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and that there was special creation of separate “kinds” of plants and animals. 

This group is often associated with the members of the Institute for Creation Research, founded by Henry Morris.  Morris and John Whitcomb wrote Genesis Flood, the first 20th Century creationist effort that attracted a large following. The book claimed scientific evidence for Biblical truth and purported to find evolution scientifically flawed.  The group now has a publication branch, is very large, wealthy and influential in American education with regard to anti-evolution.

The Old Earth Creationism movement is quite different. Since the mid 18th Century, Old Earth Creationists have attempted to merge the notion of special creation with indisputable scientific findings of an ancient earth.  

There are two types of Old Earth creationists.  I mentioned gap creationism earlier, the belief that there were two creations, with a large time gap between Genesis I and Genesis II’s creations. This type of gap creationism assumes pre-Adamic civilization was destroyed and after a very long time lapse, Adam and Eve were created by god.  These Old Earthers still retain the twenty-four hour day concept of the six days of creation, but they believe that the purported large time gap between Genesis I and II accounts for the ancient age of the earth.

The second group of Old Earth belief is day age creationism.  This faction believes that the account of the six days of creation is metaphorical, each day representing in reality thousands or millions of years.  They find a rough accord between Genesis and organic evolution, but when their views are contradicted by the fossil record, science is ignored.

The majority of today’s Old Earth Creationists accept progressive creationism. 

They are in accord with scientific findings of the age of the earth, Big Bang, and the temporal length it has taken for earth to arrive at its present form.  They accept that god created single cell organisms and then went on to more complex forms. They do not believe that what they call “kinds,” evolved from one another.  Scott notes that both groups, Young and Old Earthers, are vague about what a “kind” is.  Only some parts of biological science are accepted by the Old Earth members.

The two groups, Young and Old Earth Creationists, were perhaps the most popular types of creationism, until Intelligent Design, or ID, came along.  We shall discuss ID in a little while. 

There are other groups, such as Evolutionary Creationism and theistic creationism, which both basically accept evolution and descent with modification.  They differ in how much each group believes god “tinkers” with the earth and its creatures. They also have differences about how involved god was with creation and how much he miraculously intervenes now and how much he did in the past.

One can see, up to this point in my lecture, the many elements that contributed to the growth and strength of the anti-evolution movement in the United States.  That conflict came to a head in Dayton, Tennessee, on March 23, 1925, when Tennessee passed the Butler Act, outlawing the teaching of evolution, or any theory that denied the story of divine creation as taught in the Bible, and that taught instead that man had descended from a lower level animal.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, took up the challenge of the new law.  They were particularly concerned about free speech being stifled by the government.

Two currents, or perhaps three, came together at this juncture. The ACLU ran ads in Tennessee newspapers asking for a teacher to help challenge the Butler Act.  Then a group of Dayton business men decided such a high profile case would bring publicity and commerce to their town.  The business people helped talk John T. Scopes into being the test case. Scopes, a young science teacher, was not married and did not intend to remain in the community. Since he accepted evolution and disapproved of the new law, he was an ideal candidate to violate the Butler Act.

The ACLU’s strategy was to have Scopes convicted, and then challenge the law on appeal all the way to the Supreme Court.  Scopes taught evolution, was brought to trial, and the rest is history.  Clarence Darrow, the brilliant non-believing lawyer and William Jennings Bryan, the famous creationist politician, came to town, Darrow for the defense and Bryan for the prosecution. H.L. Mencken, the iconoclastic newspaper columnist, sent dispatches which were circulated around the country and critically mocked the fundamentalists of Dayton and savaged the ignorance of Bryan.  There was no doubt about the trial’s outcome.  The prosecution quickly decided to focus on whether the law had been broken and did not call scientists to debate evolution’s scientific merits. Scopes was found guilty.

Scopes was fined $100.00, but the penalty was overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court because the judge had imposed the fine, and the law required the jury to do it.  The ACLU then could not take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Additionally, Tennessee’s Supreme Court decided that the state had a right to set conditions for employment that trumped individual freedom.

Though Darrow and Mencken’s ridicule of creationism persuaded intelligent men and women concerning the merits of evolution, human evolutionary theory was not taught in United States public schools until the 1960’s.

I would like to ask once again at this point in my lecture, does the history of evolution versus creationism sound like a complex relationship between religion and science, or a war?

In 1958, the Biological Science Curriculum Study was founded with federal government money in the wake of Sputnik and the competition of the United States with Russia for scientific preeminence.  The BSCS’s textbooks emphasized evolution and other publishers followed. 

Since the Scopes trial, there have been many, too many, legal attempts to create equal time for creationism to be taught in the United States public schools along with evolution.  Time does not allow us to go into them all, but in 1987, another critically important case was argued in the United States Supreme Court.  Please refer to Atheist History in the United States on AtheistScholar.org, and to my YouTube lecture for a discussion of Lemon, the case that set up criteria for whether or not a law advances religion.  It is the definitive case for scrutinizing a legislative purpose in passing a law; if a law advances religion, it cannot stand. 

In the 1987 Edwards case, seven justices struck down Louisiana’s law requiring equal time for creationism and evolution on the grounds that Louisiana’s equal time law violated the first prong (purpose) of Lemon.  The equal time ploy used by creationists unfortunately resonates with the American idea of fair play. 

Many of our citizens have had a poor science background and simply do not realize that creationism, in any of its guises, is not science.  Many of our citizens in the present day do not have an adequate civics education; they do not understand the history of the reasons behind our constitutional separation of church and state.

One of the cleverest ruses employed by creationists has been the development of Intelligent Design, or ID, which purports to be sound science.  Its primary purpose is to cast doubt on evolutionary theory and defeat scientific materialism.  ID can be classified as neocreationism; and its concepts have already had their last hurrah with William Paley’s 1831 Natural Theology and his watch analogy. 

They are not scientists advancing a new theory, but a regression.  When one of its principal authors and proponents, William Dembski, was asked what sort of experiments the Discovery Institute might undertake if it received federal funding to conduct research on ID, Dembski had no answer. The Discovery Institute is the think tank founded by the politician, Bruce Chapman in 1991, and is the hub of ID activity.

One of the principal arguments of ID against evolution is very old- it claims that intermediate forms of complex organisms would not be adaptive, so complex structures could not have evolved by natural selection.  ID advocates ask what could be done with part of an eye, wing, or three quarters of a flagellum?  As Thomas Dixon and other scholars note, fossils and/or living species have been found with intermediate features that were adaptive. The eye could definitely evolve from a small patch of light sensitive cells within merely a half million years.  Feathers could have been first insulation, and then evolved into flight. ID’s famous example of a bacteria flagellum is incorrect as well. 

Scientists explain that it, too, evolved, and I quote Dixon: “…through the co-option of a very similar existing structure, known as the type three secretory system, used by bacteria for injecting toxic proteins into the cells of their hosts.”

ID also fails in its negative character, in that it is more timid than creationism. Creation science makes bold statements, wrong ones, of course, about the earth’s early age and so on.  ID is stealthy, maintaining that the Cambrian Explosion of species and the blood clotting cascade have too much complexity to be a chance evolution by mutation and natural selection. 

Then ID’s advocates sign off with a statement about such mysteries having come about from the plans of a vague designer, or aliens, or super scientists from more advanced planets and what have you.  The truth of it is that many of ID’s advocates are Christians, some of them Catholics. The biologist, Jonathan C. Wells, is one of ID’s most prestigious advocates. He has stated that the Reverend Sun Moon, the Unification Church leader, was his spiritual father.

ID’s negative concepts are very similar to the outworn notion of the god of the gaps.  But scientific explanations have been proposed for the Cambrian Explosion and the blood clotting cascade.  Eventually the questions concerning these issues will be solved, by using sound science. Sound science means that the proposed answers will be testable, while the notions of ID cannot be subjected to observation, experimentation, and/or hypothetical testing. 

Massimo Pigliucci makes an excellent point: what if we taught in classrooms equally that the Holocaust happened and at the same time taught that it was the fabricated narrative of Zionist proponents? 

Is there actually a Holocaust controversy among accepted historians?  There is not.  Is there a controversy among respectable scientists concerning evolution’s validity?  No, there is not.

The Discovery Institute released the Wedge Document in 1998, drafted by some of its employees.  Eventually it made its way to the Web, where the surreptitious agenda of ID became public.

The ID movement had a five year plan, to attract media and public attention, hold conferences, lobby politicians and become involved in the public schools of the United States, advocating ID theory’s equal time with evolution.  Its covert goal was to ultimately replace the teaching of evolution with ID, as an acceptable scientific theory.

I would like to read you the following statement from a Discovery Institute’s publication which states that the Institute seeks “…to defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. {It seeks} to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.” 2003. That statement certainly appears a worthy scientific goal.  They condemn themselves by their own words. They have issued numerous publications in the same vein.          

In 2005, the champions of evolution waged yet another battle against the continuously evolving creationist movement. The stage this time was in Dover, Pennsylvania, where the local school board voted to institute the policy of reading aloud a disclaimer to ninth grade science classes that evolution was a theory and not a fact, that gaps existed in the theory for which there was no evidence, and that On Pandas and People, a 1989 text from the intelligent design faction, was an alternative text to read.

Parents brought a lawsuit against the school district, and with the aid of the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Pepper Hamilton Law Firm, a major trial was commenced that would help determine the state of science in United States public schools.

The lawsuit argued that the school district’s policy was unconstitutional, and after a (biblical) forty day trial, Judge John E. Jones III, a conservative and a churchgoer, agreed with the plaintiffs.

The evidence against the Intelligent Design movement was devastating to its pretensions. Shortly after Louisiana’s 1987 Balanced Treatment Act, known as Edwards versus Aguillard, was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, the creationist movement had attempted to redesign itself in a more “scientific” guise. In two years, the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, self- styled as a Christian think tank, had published the textbook On Pandas and People, the first place where the systematic use of the words Intelligent Design appeared.

Barbara Forrest, an author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse (2005,) testified that she had gone through the drafts of Pandas and had found that “design proponents” had replaced the word “creationists” shortly after the Edwards versus Aguillard decision. In one case, the transition was not even complete. “Cintelligent design proponentsists’” had been left in the text, proof of hasty and faulty editing that helped convince the federal court of Intelligent Design’s link to creationism and its bid for adoption in science courses in violation of the Establishment Clause. Michael Behe, a biochemist and author who is an advocate of intelligent design, testified under questioning that there had been no articles in the scientific research journals that “provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.”

The judge issued a 139 page ruling that all but called the proponents of ID liars and frauds.

He noted the religious nature of ID, and stated that ID violated the ground rules for science, that ID’s attacks on evolution were denied by the scientific community, that in fact, much of the ID’s strategy was to promote religion and that it was putting forth a canard to supplant evolution with ID.

In 2007, Michael B. Berkman and his colleagues did a study on the teaching of evolution and creationism in American classrooms.  See the Bibliography for their reference.  It is also excerpted in Eugenie Scott’s volume on Evolution versus Creationism, which is listed in the Bibliography.  The study correlated with National Surveys.

Overall, when asked, high school teachers, during an entire year of high school biology, said they devoted about 13.7 hours to general evolutionary processes, including human evolution and 59% devoted 3 to 15 hours of class time.  These were among the teachers who said they took the advice of the National Science Education Standard to make evolution a unifying theme of their classes; but human evolution is not a benchmark of the NSES and many less teachers covered human evolution.  17% did not cover human evolution at all and 60% spent 1 to 5 classroom hours on it.  25% of teachers who devoted time to ID or creationism taught it as a valid scientific alternative to Darwinian explanation of species origin. 

Additionally troubling is that thinkers such as Massimo Pigliucci maintain that schools not only do not teach scientific facts properly; most importantly they fail at teaching students conceptual skills which enable them to evaluate information and develop critical thinking skills. 

The sorry state of science teaching, including evolution, especially human evolution, needs correction if the United States wants to remain competitive with other world powers in science.

Since the Scopes Trial, the federal courts have ruled against many attempts of determined creationists to roll back science.

They have found creationism, in whatever guise it has adopted to undermine evolution, to be coupled with religion, and therefore in violation of the Establishment Clause. While such judicial decisions give rise to guarded optimism, creationism has had some public success: polls have found, as recently as 2009, that the number of people in the United States who accept evolution has suffered a decline from 45% in the past to 40% today.

Belief in creationism is spreading in Europe, giving concern to the Council of Europe, which urged its members to “firmly oppose” the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline in European schools. In 2007, this measure passed in a vote, but many countries voted against it. Michael Reiss, professor of education at the Institute of Education in London, has stated that migration is spreading creationism in England and Europe. He explains that countries with a higher percentage of Muslims and/or fundamentalist Christians are more likely to reject evolution. He claims that about 10% of UK undergraduates in some medical schools are creationists.

 Middle Eastern countries, too, or at least some of their citizens, seem to be adopting the concept of creationism. Jalees Rehman states that Harun Yahya, the pen name of the popular author, Adnan Oktar, is a proponent of creationism, and many books can be downloaded from his web site.

Rehman downloaded The Miracle of the Ant and found that while the text had a considerable amount of scientific information, it also contained “proof” of a creator and Quranic verses.

Most recently, creationists have tried a new tactic. 

They are attempting to have statements of evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses” included in public school textbooks and taught in public school classrooms.  This latest attack on evolution is as obvious as the others that have failed.  “Strengths and weaknesses” has been proposed, dropped, and then proposed again for Texas school books.  It is important that “strengths and weaknesses” does not get into the Texas books because the public school population is so large in that state.  Since the largest amount of books ordered are most often from Texas, publishers frequently include what Texas school boards want in their volumes, and do not change the material for the rest of the country.  If Texas includes “strengths and weaknesses,” many more children in the United States will be exposed to its unsound science.

Science and reason still prevail.  Secularism is growing.  We have truly made progress.  In the West, scientists are not put on trial for making controversial discoveries and publishing them, as was Galileo.  Most people find the notion of a flat earth laughable, as is the idea of our earth being the center of the solar system.  But we secular thinkers must be on the watch for keeping reason alive.  The forces of darkness, ignorance and intolerance never cease their attempts to turn back the clock. Rational people and their principles are in a crucial war against creationism.  

We must fight and defeat the irrationalism of the various forms of creationism swiftly and decisively, in the courts, in the classrooms, in our United States, and in our world.

Bibliography                                                                                                                                             Evolution and Creationism Bibliography

AtheistScholar.org has extensive book lists detailing many of the best volumes for further study in science, evolution and creationism under the following categories: Atheists and Science: Anthropology, Biology and Cosmology, and another section labeled simply Evolution.  In addition to the book lists, each of these sections has a bibliography that will be very useful for reference and further study. 

The following Bibliography is a shorter version of bibliographies under the separate sections and encompasses both Evolution and Creationism.

Armstrong, Karen.  The Battle for God. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000.

Berkman, Michael B., Juliana Sandell Pacheco and Eric Plutzer.  “Evolution and creationism in America’s classrooms: A national portrait. PLOS. Biology 6, no.5 (2008.)

Bull, Jim J. Excerpts from a conference presentation.  Evolutionary Biology: Technology for the 21st Century. n.p.,n.p., August 2000. Web. http://www.actionbioscience.org/newfrontiers/bull.html

Dawkins, Richard. “Darwinism and Unbelief.” In Tom Flynn, Ed. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007. 230-235.

Dixon, Thomas. Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

Evolution Courses for Teachers, Session 2, Summary. Web. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/educators/course/session2/explain_c_pop2.html

Fortey, Richard. “The Greatest Show On Earth, by Richard Dawkins.” The Guardian  6 Sept. 2009. Web.

Gould, Stephen Jay. “Darwinian Fundamentalism.”  The New York Review of Books. 12 June 1997. Web.

Humes, Edward. Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America’s Soul.  New York: Harper Collins, 2008.

Kingsley, David M. “From Atoms to Traits.”  Scientific American. Vol. 300, no.1. Jan. 2008. 52-59.

Marsden, George M. Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth Century Evangelism, 1870-1925. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Mayr, Ernest. What Evolution Is. NY: Basic Books, 2001.

Mindell, David P. “Evolution in the Everyday World.” Scientific American. Vol. 300, no. 1. Jan. 2008. 82-90.

Moore, James.  “Charles Robert Darwin.” In Tom Flynn, ed. The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007. 226- 230.

Numbers, Ronald L. The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1992.

Orr, H. Allen. “Dennett’s Dangerous Idea.” Boston Review. Summer 1997. Web.

­­­________. “Testing Natural Selection.” Scientific American. Vol. 300, no. 1. January, 2008. 44-52.

Pigliucci, Massimo. “Creationism.” In Tom Flynn, ed.  The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief.  Amherst, New York:  Prometheus Books, 2007.  221-224

Scott, Eugenie. Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction. 2nd Ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009.

Sedley, David.  Creationism and Its Critics in Antiquity. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009.

Zimmer, Carl.  Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea.  New York: Harper Collins, 2001.

Creationism –Please See Above for volumes on Creationism in the greater Bibliography. 

Butt, Riazat. “Migration is Spreading Creationism Across Europe, Academic Claims.” Guardian.co.uk. 13 Friday November 2009. Web.

“Education.” 05 10 2007 DW-World. DE Deutsche Welle. Web.

Gallup Poll.   http://www.gallup.com/poll/114544/darwin-birthday-believe-evolution.aspx

Kitzmiller vs. Dover: Decision of the Court. www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover.html

The Complete Court Decision in the Dover Intelligent Design Trial of 2005.

Rehnan, Valees. “Islam Science and Concerns about Creationism in the Classroom.” Religion and Science: A Contemporary Discussion. 1 January 2001. Web. www.huffingtonpost.com/news/religion-science

Jerry Coyne.    Science, Religion, and Society: The Problem of Evolution in America.                                 WEIT blog. 24 May 2012. Pre-published in the journal "Evolution" on May 17, 2012.

 “American resistance to accepting evolution is uniquely high among First World countries. This is due largely to the extreme religiosity of the United States, which is much higher than that of comparably advanced nations, and to the resistance of many religious people to the facts and supposed implications of evolution.”

To read more click here…  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01664.x/pdf

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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