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Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

October 3 2005 at 6:53 PM
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Illyrius  (Login ilir)

 
Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: September 27, 2005

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 26 - Intelligent design is not science, has no support from any major American scientific organization and does not belong in a public school science classroom, a prominent biologist testified on the opening day of the nation's first legal battle over whether it is permissible to teach the fledgling "design" theory as an alternative to evolution.

"To my knowledge, every single scientific society that has taken a position on this issue has taken a position against intelligent design and in favor of evolution," said the biologist, Kenneth R. Miller, a professor at Brown University and the co-author of the widely used high school textbook "Biology."

Eleven parents in the small town of Dover, just south of here, are suing their school board for introducing intelligent design in the ninth-grade biology curriculum. The parents accuse the board of injecting religious creationism into science classes in the guise of intelligent design. Professor Miller, their main expert witness, was the only person to take the stand on Monday.

Intelligent design is the idea that living organisms are so complex that the best explanation is that some kind of higher intelligence designed them. The notion has gained a foothold in some states and school districts as an attractive alternative to evolution, but is shunned by most mainstream scientists.

In a sign of how important this trial is to the adversaries in the intelligent design debate, they came from across the country to hear the opening arguments and to present their case to the cameras waiting outside. The two sides agree that no matter how Judge John E. Jones III decides the case in Federal District Court here, it will probably make its way to the Supreme Court.

Casey Luskin, a program officer at a group that advocates intelligent design, the Discovery Institute, said in an interview outside the courtroom: "No one is pretending that intelligent design is a majority position. What we're rebutting is their claim that there's no controversy among scientists."

The school board members, represented by a nonprofit Christian law firm based in Michigan, are taking the stance that students should have access to a variety of scientific theories.

"This case is about free inquiry and education, not about a religious agenda," Patrick Gillen, a lawyer for the board said in his opening statement.

The board president, Sheila Harkins, said in an interview during a break, "The whole thought behind it was to encourage critical thinking."

It was "not true at all," Ms. Harkins said, that board members were motivated by their religious beliefs.

The front rows of the courtroom were filled on one side with members of the Dover school board, the defendants, and on the other, the Dover residents who filed suit. On both sides of the aisle the mood was grim, and there was barely a look or a handshake exchanged across it.

The plaintiffs are trying to show that intelligent design is just "the 21st-century version of creationism," as a lawyer for the plaintiffs, Eric Rothschild, put it in his opening argument.

Mr. Rothschild said that the board's own documents would show that the board members had initially discussed teaching "creationism" - one former member said he wanted the class time evenly split between creationism and evolution - and that they substituted the words "intelligent design" only when they were made aware by lawyers of the constitutional problems involved.

The board ultimately settled for directing that a four-paragraph statement be read to the students at the opening of the semester's biology class. It says, in part: "Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence."

The statement says that "intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view," and it advises students that a textbook that teaches intelligent design, "Of Pandas and People," is available in the school library.

In his testimony, Professor Miller called the Pandas textbook "inaccurate and downright false in every section." The board's statement "undermines sound science education" by conveying to students that only evolution merits such skepticism, he said.

Professor Miller projected slides that he said contradicted the core of design theory: that organisms are irreducibly complex. He also denigrated intelligent design as "a negative argument against evolution," in which there is no "positive argument" to test whether an intelligent designer actually exists. If the theory is not testable, he said, it is not science.

Randall Wenger, a lawyer for the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, the intelligent design advocacy group that produces the Pandas textbook, said, "If they decide that intelligent design is just a remake of creationism, that horribly undermines" both the Pandas textbook and "the motivation for scientists to study intelligent design."

 
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Grandpa Helicopter
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Re: Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

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October 3 2005, 10:40 PM 

I agree with the prominent biologist. Religion has no place in schools, unless you're talking about Divinity Schools, then I'll understand.

Grandpa h.

 
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Matthew Cserhati
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well then what about the worldview question?

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November 25 2005, 1:11 PM 

Dear Grandpa H,

Well then, what would you say to the atheist propaganda that is overwhelming the public schools? Because it seems to me that what you're saying is okay, keep creation and ID out of school, without taking into account that even thought the public schools claim to be neutral, teachers will always be influenced by their own worldview, which they will take into their teaching wether you like it or not. It's impossible to eradicate completely.

So?

And also, why would we have to define religion as always theistic? What is the basis for this argument?

Take care, MC

 
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Grandpa Helicopter
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Re: Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

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November 28 2005, 9:45 AM 

MC, I never, not in 4 years of attending a public high school, experienced a single anti-religious viewpoint from a science teacher.

Grandpa h.

 
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Grandpa Helicopter
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Re: Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

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November 28 2005, 9:55 AM 

theĀ·ism ( P ) Pronunciation Key (thzm)
n.
Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.

That's why theism is religion--it's the definition.

Grandpa h.

 
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Matthew Cserhati
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theism, evolution

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November 29 2005, 6:31 AM 

Dear Grandpa H,

Hm, anti-religious (or rather, anti-theistic) reactions from science teachers:
I have heard a few anti-"religious" (more rather anti-theistic) comments from Eo:rs Szathma'ry, the most prominent evolutionist here in Hungary. He was discussing the possibility of life in outer space, and he made a comment about how it would be such a disgrace to "religion" if it turned out that there does exist life in space. Also, the evolutionary biology department handed out some stuff to the students from Dawkins which did contain some material which portrayed religion in a bad light. Overall, although not overtly agressive towards theism, ELTE TTK, the college where I went to, did not view theism in a positive light at all.

Theism: right, beleif in a god or gods. But atheism, materialism, naturalism, humanism, Marxism, or other what have you, are all "religion", that is, subjective worldview. At least that's what Marxists arrived to after decades of sporting their worldview as anti-dogmatist.

 
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grandpa helicopter
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Re: Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

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November 29 2005, 8:09 PM 

But there is a difference between higher education and high school, is there not? And the claim that life in space does harm certain existing religious views isn't that incorrect. Unless, of course, one believes in some new age "Heaven's Gate" religion.

Beyond that, let me ask this: If atheism is a religion then what is not a religion? It seems that to include the whole of existence as a religion sort of invalidates sectarian reality.

Grandpa h.

 
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csmatyi
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response

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November 30 2005, 5:46 AM 

But there is a difference between higher education and high school, is there not? And the claim that life in space does harm certain existing religious views isn't that incorrect. Unless, of course, one believes in some new age "Heaven's Gate" religion.

Beyond that, let me ask this: If atheism is a religion then what is not a religion? It seems that to include the whole of existence as a religion sort of invalidates sectarian reality.

Grandpa h.

---------------------------------

1. point: Hm, well, anyway, do you really think that the political climate in high school really is all that neutral in the U.S.?

2. point: This is a good questin, so let my try to answer it: There is a slight difference between religion and atheism. Let me say it this way, the term "religion" is a bit of a misnomer: you could instaed say that everybody has a set of subjectively predefined axioms which comprise your worldview, which aids you when studying the world around you. Since noone knows everything. To get things straight, you could say everybody has their own worldview. In a sense, religion could be taken as a subest of worldviews.

Sects are religions in themselves. False religions.

 
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Grandpa Helicopter
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Re: Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

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November 30 2005, 12:06 PM 

1. point: Hm, well, anyway, do you really think that the political*
climate in high school really is all that neutral in*
the U.S.?*

Maybe not in every single classroom. But Creationists (or "ID" promoters) are currently creating controversy where otherwise there wouldn't be any.
Simply put, science is not about asking "why" but "how."
That's why religious views needn't be applied in a classroom.
Any kid scan say God created the universe, but the job of a science teacher is to teach science--not preach a religious point of view.

2. point: This is a good questin, so let my try to answer it:*
There is a slight difference between religion and atheism.*

I would say it's more than slight. In fact, atheism means
"Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods."

Let me say it this way, the term "religion" is a bit of a misnomer:*
you could instaed say that everybody has a set of subjectively*
predefined axioms which comprise your worldview, which aids you* when studying the world around you.*
Since noone knows everything.*
To get things straight, you could*
say everybody has their own worldview.*
In a sense, religion could be taken as a subset of worldviews.*

But a worldview is not necessarily religious.

Grandpa h.

 
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MC
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December 1 2005, 4:49 AM 

Maybe not in every single classroom. But Creationists (or "ID" promoters) are currently creating controversy where otherwise there wouldn't be any.
Simply put, science is not about asking "why" but "how."
That's why religious views needn't be applied in a classroom.
Any kid scan say God created the universe, but the job of a science teacher is to teach science--not preach a religious point of view.

MC: But if a supernatural creation is plausible, and since it can't be denied a priory by any means, then why not discuss it? If both supernatural or natural creation are possible means of the universe coming into being, then how is it impossible to be able to pose pertinant scientific questions about a supernaturally created world?

MC: Also: True, science talks about "how", and not "why". Therefore we learn about anatomy, ecology, taxonomy, genetics, biochemistry, macromolecules, we describe a lot of things in science. We describe "what is". But the situation is different when it comes to teaching "origins science". When it comes to either evolution or creation. Because when we go over the metaphysical boundary, then we are dealing with "why". Take a look even when Newton talks about gravity in the Principia, he writes "I do not feign hypothesis", saying that he doesn't give any explanations, he just measures. But evoltuion is more than just measurement, observation, it stems from a naturalistic scientific philosophy...

I would say it's more than slight. In fact, atheism means
"Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods."

MC: Antitheism, but still a subjective worldview. I have heard other definitions of atheism from athists themselves.

Let me say it this way, the term "religion" is a bit of a misnomer:*
you could instaed say that everybody has a set of subjectively*
predefined axioms which comprise your worldview, which aids you* when studying the world around you.*
Since noone knows everything.*
To get things straight, you could*
say everybody has their own worldview.*
In a sense, religion could be taken as a subset of worldviews.*

But a worldview is not necessarily religious.

MC: True, but still subjective.

 
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grandpa
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Re: Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

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December 1 2005, 4:39 PM 


MC: But if a supernatural creation is plausible, and since it can't be denied a priory by any means, then why not discuss it? If both supernatural or natural creation are possible means of the universe coming into being, then how is it impossible to be able to pose pertinant scientific questions about a supernaturally created world?

Grandpa h: I understand your point. But a discussion of such things would be limitless and ultimately wouldn't prove anything. It's not really science to throw personal "why" beliefs into a "how" related field.
Science also cannot prove a supernaturally created world.
The supernatural aspect would have to be forcefully applied, as it's irrelevant. It would be a distraction.

MC: Also: True, science talks about "how", and not "why". Therefore we learn about anatomy, ecology, taxonomy, genetics, biochemistry, macromolecules, we describe a lot of things in science. We describe "what is". But the situation is different when it comes to teaching "origins science". When it comes to either evolution or creation. Because when we go over the metaphysical boundary, then we are dealing with "why". Take a look even when Newton talks about gravity in the Principia, he writes "I do not feign hypothesis", saying that he doesn't give any explanations, he just measures. But evoltuion is more than just measurement, observation, it stems from a naturalistic scientific philosophy...

Grabdpa h.: Anything dealing with humans stems from some sort of philosophy--that's unavoidable. But what is avoidable is seeking a supernatural explanation for things. That is not really science. One can understand anatomy, ecology, etc. without throwing in supernatural explanations. One can also understand religion without science. Why is that? Because they aren't really the same thing. Science uses naturalistic explanations because that is where science must start. It isn't science otherwise.

I would say it's more than slight. In fact, atheism means
"Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods."

MC: Antitheism, but still a subjective worldview. I have heard other definitions of atheism from athists themselves.

Grandpa h.: Actually, it is more objective than religion, in my opinion. Atheism is about observing what is readily apparent. It does not necessarily even involve years of specialized learning and obeying a set of rules to get to heaven. It just came naturally to me. I would be considered an atheist simply because I was not subjected to a religious upbringing.

Grandpa h.

 
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MC
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religion/science

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December 2 2005, 4:32 AM 

Grabdpa h.: Anything dealing with humans stems from some sort of philosophy--that's unavoidable. But what is avoidable is seeking a supernatural explanation for things. That is not really science. One can understand anatomy, ecology, etc. without throwing in supernatural explanations. One can also understand religion without science. Why is that? Because they aren't really the same thing. Science uses naturalistic explanations because that is where science must start. It isn't science otherwise.

MC: Well, I don't think you must avoid a supernatural explanation at all costs. Because if you make it a rule to exclude all the time either a naturalistic or a supernatural explanation for a given phenomena, then this means you're biased either way (like slipping over from methodological naturalism to philosophical naturalism). To me evolution is sort of like a black box, which Darwin and then subsequent naturalistic scientists adopted as sort of an explanation for life's appearance. Not proven, but just a black box, used to explain a lot of things, even almost everything, and not lacking in auxilary hypotheses at all. But then this could get us back to our main point about science: science is all about measurement and observation and doing tests on made-up hypotheses. I think therefore that either both creation/ID and evolution should be tought in school (strictly as a part of metaphysics discussion), or neither one at all.

Grandpa h.: Actually, it is more objective than religion, in my opinion. Atheism is about observing what is readily apparent. It does not necessarily even involve years of specialized learning and obeying a set of rules to get to heaven. It just came naturally to me. I would be considered an atheist simply because I was not subjected to a religious upbringing.

MC: No, I think that your bland of atheism (if I understand you correctly) would be the same as methodological atheism, nothing more.

csmatyi

 
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Grandpa Helicopter
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Re: Evolution Lawsuit Opens in Pennsylvania

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December 2 2005, 11:53 AM 

* = You
= Me



MC: Well, I don't think you must avoid a supernatural explanation at all costs.*
Because if you make it a rule to exclude all the time either a naturalistic or a*
supernatural explanation for a given phenomena, then this means you're biased*
either way (like slipping over from methodological naturalism to philosophical*
naturalism).*

But science IS biased. That's why there is a "scientific understanding" and a "religious" one.
They are two different avenues of life. I am not suggesting religion should be completely banned, but that it must pass the criteria any other scientific theory should pass. And that includes evidence, a testable hypothesis and yes, believability. I hate to say it, but religion is basically outside of this criteria.
That's just the way it is and some Christians accept that.

To me evolution is sort of like a black box,*
which Darwin and then subsequent naturalistic scientists adopted as sort*
of an explanation for life's appearance.*
Not proven, but just a black box, used to explain*
a lot of things, even almost everything, and not lacking*
in auxilary hypotheses at all.*

But many things about evolution have been proven. We know, for example, that mutations can occur and we can actually observe certain changes in species of animals. For example, changes in fur color.
Also, people in higher elevations tend to have greater lung capacity, do they not?
See, those are things people can readily observe. We cannot observe this mythical "watchmaker" creationists often allude to unless we simply believe in one.

But then this could get us back to our main*
point about science: science is all about measurement and observation*
and doing tests on made-up hypotheses.*
I think therefore that either both creation/ID and evolution*
should be tought in school (strictly as a part of*
metaphysics discussion), or neither one at all.*

But religion cannot be scientifically discussed. It simply does not meet scientific criteria and therefore should NOT be mandated as a form of science.

MC: No, I think that your bland of atheism (if*
I understand you correctly) would be the same*
as methodological atheism, nothing more.*

What do you mean by methodological atheism? There are no "methods" required to be an atheist.
Scientists needn't be atheists--but they do need to be scientists. And I'm afraid religious beliefs cannot be verified by a scientific method.

Grandpa h.

 
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