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    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    Darwin Watch

    Two significant events this week regarding the Darwin debate...

    Feb. 13 - On the 197th birthday of Charles Darwin, ministers at several hundred churches around the country preached yesterday against recent efforts to undermine the theory of evolution, asserting that the opposition many Christians say exists between science and faith is false...The event, called Evolution Sunday, is an outgrowth of the Clergy Letter Project, started by academics and ministers in Wisconsin in early 2005 as a response to efforts, most notably in Dover, PA., to discredit the teaching of evolutionary theory in public schools.

    Feb. 14 - The Ohio Board of Education voted 11 to 4 Tuesday to toss out a mandate that 10th-grade biology classes include critical analysis of evolution and an accompanying model lesson plan, dealing the intelligent design movement its second serious defeat in two months.

    Many thanks to those who have participated in this on-going discussion (see below). Your comments are welcome and appreciated! For those interested, here's a summary of some of the arguments:
    Read More
    "Darwin's theory is antireligious." - Not true. Many people of faith, including scientists, find no conflict between evolution and their religion. They believe that evolution is the process through which God creates life (also known as theistic evolution).

    "Darwin's theory is inherently racist." - Not true. The theory of evolution by means of natural selection is no more a justification for racism than the theory of gravity is justification for pushing someone off a cliff. Scientific laws of nature have no inherent moral implications.

    I would point out that the two arguments above have nothing to do with scientific proof against evolution. What it does show is that many oppose evolution not because of its scientific flaws, but because of a perceived cultural and moral threat.

    "Evolution is a theory not a fact." - It's both. Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time. That this happens is a fact. Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors. The evidence for historical evolution (genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc.) is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact. The Theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution. So evolution is both a fact and a theory.

    "Darwin's theory has never been proven." - Not true. The word "theory" in no way implies uncertainty in the scientific community. On the contrary, in this case "theory" means a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed. Any honest scientist will tell you that nothing can ever be proven with 100% certainty, not even something that is considered a fact (even though the evidence in favor of it is so overwhelming that there is very little doubt anymore). Evolution is as well supported by evidence as the theory of gravity or the heliocentric theory of our solar system. Darwin's theory remains the cornerstone of modern biology and it increases our understanding of issues of major importance to society, including research into virulent new diseases as well as genetics.

    "Intelligent design (ID) is a valid alternative to evolution and should be taught." - Not true. Intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Intelligent design is not a scientific theory. Supernaturalism is not included within science because it is untestable. By introducing the supernatural we undermine the very basis for empirical testing. To teach and therefore accept ID we would be allowing all empirical investigation to stop, for scientists would have a ready-made answer for everything. As one scientist recently put it. "In the spirit of balance and fairness, ID proponents would like to weaken the coverage of evolution to the point that we risk raising a generation of young people so mistrustful of science that they turn their backs on the scientific community and abandon science as a way of knowing about the world and improving the human condition." (Kenneth Miller - Brown University)

    Shared by Silke @ 6:53 AM

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