The American Problem of Science and Religion as Subjects in Public Education
David J. Turell, M.D.
Presented to the Raleigh Tavern Philosophic Society
March 31, 2005
The American Problem of Science and Religion As Subjects in Public Education
The United States is unique among the leading First World countries in the problem it is having in the battle within public education over the issues of how to teach science and religion. One reason is within the Bill of rights: the First Amendment ‘Establishment Clause’ forbids a nationally imposed state religion, and current judicial interpretations, in my opinion, have created a ‘wall of separation’ which is far more rigid than the Founders intended.
In the other nations of the Western First World the problem does not exist. In many ways our country is just as secular as those nations, but overall the other nations are much more secular than we are. Belief in God approaches 90 per cent in the United States, and certainly in Third World Countries in Latin America, for example, belief is the same. In contrast, in the leading countries of Europe religion has much less force and the relationship between the states and the practice of religion has developed a gradual accommodation since the start of the Reformation, without constitutional impediments.
In this country there are several sides to the battle. First, the scientists who want only their favored paradigms presented. Second, very fundamentalist religious groups who would prefer that the science taught actually reflect what the Bible tells them. Third, the ACLU and other organizations defending ‘The Wall of Separation’. And fourth, a group composed primarily of scientists, who propose to explain the deficiencies in the Darwin Theory with an approach called ‘Intelligent Design.’
This paper will cover the history of the development of this battle, analyze the various parties to the conflict, review case law from the Supreme Court, present a study of ‘activist’ (fundamentalist) Christians on school boards, and offer an obvious solution. And a solution is needed: Currently the hottest conflict is in Dover, Pennsylvania where the school board recently set a policy that demanded the teachers present both the Darwin Theory and Intelligent Design in equal manner when evolution is studied. Two board members have resigned, and the ACLU has gone on the attack. Reviewing Dover, conservative talk show hosts are having a field day spreading more heat than light on what to do. In fact, Dover is only one location. There are school boards all over the country involved in the same battle.
Science was originally the province of philosophers and of religion. The Catholic Church actually has always supported scientific research, notwithstanding the altercations with Galileo, Keppler and Copernicus, the trio who removed us from the center of the universe, and described elliptical orbits for the planets when they should have had perfectly circular orbits. The Church accepts evolution and Pope John Paul II has stated that God added human souls at the appropriate point in evolution. Now the two approaches to reality, science and religion, appear to be combatants. Walter A. Nord, who teaches philosophy at the University of North Carolina, points to the Reformation as the starting point, which resulted in causing this polarization. (Religion &American Education, 1995) “The Reformation displaced ‘the beliefs, practices, and institutions that had organized daily life and given it security and meaning for the greater part of a millennium.’” The resultant Protestant states maintained established religions, but “Luther and the Reformers secularized huge segments of public life, cutting the theological cord that bound good works and the religious governance of society to salvation. They legitimized secular culture and secular rulers, and in their emphasis on conscience they provided theological support for the idea of religious liberty and the secular state. By glorifying the irrationality of grace and faith they began to secularize reason.”
Individualism was encouraged and organized religion somewhat de-emphasized by “making individuals responsible for working out their own salvations.” The Bible could now be read in the vernacular, and people could reach their own conclusions as to the proper interpretations. As a result theological controversies mushroomed, as understanding and interpretation of the Bible was no longer hidden in Latin. Nord has concluded that the secularization of the modern world was not intended, and was not the work of secularists. It was the natural outcome of Protestantism and pluralism, science and technology, economic and political liberalism.
As we all know the reaction of the Founders of the United States to the Enlightenment was to arrangement for a form of government, which did not have a state religion. About 90 percent of Americans believe in God, but the great majority of us lead very secular lives and our view of the world’s affairs is also very secular. “An intellectual wall of separation divides religion from our popular culture; it is no longer obvious to most of us what difference our religious beliefs and traditions should make. We have privatized our religion as we have secularized our culture.” (Nord) With so many interpretations of the Scriptures deeply and privately held, it is no wonder that as secular science is taught in our public schools, it conflicts with Creationist interpretations of the Bible, and has resulted in an increasing furor in the independent school districts around the country. This has brought into sharp focus the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, Thomas Jefferson’s ‘wall of separation’ between church and state, and what can constitutionally be taught in public schools.
The Supreme Court is usually blamed for taking religion out of the public schools, but by and large the religious emphasis and content that was present in the early years of this country in public schools had virtually disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century. “Not just theology but the capstone course in moral philosophy and the classics had fallen by the wayside…Contemporary education takes virtually no note of religion. Its overriding values are Americanism, pluralism, and liberty, science and technology, economics and vocationalism.” (Nord)
The first case that applied the Establishment Clause to the states is Everson v. Board of Education (1947). Judge Hugo Black wrote the opinion: the “establishment of religion of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against the establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘ a wall of separation between church and state’.” Black added that the First Amendment requires the state “to be neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and non-believers.” That is, there must be absolute neutrality between religion and non-religion: “State power is no more to be used so as to handicap religions than it is to favor them.”
The second precedent-setting case was Abington Township School District v. Schempp (1963) in which the ruling was that Bible devotional reading in school was not permitted, but Justice Tom Clark wrote an opinion that “it might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.” The Court prohibits the practice of religion in public education but not the study of religion.
The “Lemon Test”, which has three ‘prongs’, is another way the Supreme Court evaluates Establishment Clause cases. In Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) Chief Justice Warren Burger stated: “First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; and finally the statute must not foster ‘an excessive government entanglement with religion.’” The third prong has the purpose of preventing “as far as possible the intrusion of either government or religion into the precincts of each other.” Note the use of the term ‘excessive’, which recognizes that the separation of church and state can never be complete. The Lemon Test has been used in many other cases that have since come before the Court. Note, again, that strict neutrality is called for in the second prong neither supporting nor attacking religion.
The final case that is often referred to by lawyers and books covering this subject is Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). Arkansas and Louisiana had both passed education laws called “balanced treatment acts’, which called for the teaching of “creation-science” if “evolution-science” was being taught in a school district. (Creation-science for the uninitiated is not true science. Review of their literature and websites demonstrates that they “take the literal word of the Book of Genesis and the attempt to find scientific support for it,” to quote the District court judge who overturned the Arkansas Act. Specifically creation-science accepts: 1) a sudden creation of the universe; 2) mutations and natural selection alone cannot account for common descent from an original single-celled organism; 3) current plant and animal species can vary but not change to another species; 4) humans and apes have separate ancestry; 5) Noah’s flood explains the earth’s geology; and 6) the earth originated about 10,000 years ago. (Taken from Teaching the Controversy: Is It Science, Religion or Speech? pg. 92 in Darwinism, Design and Public Education, 2003) Specifically points 4-6 have no scientific support, while 1-3 have much support from scientific findings.)
The Louisiana Balanced Treatment Act was declared unconstitutional. The Supreme Court opinion by Justice Brennan used the same reasoning as the Arkansas judge that the purpose of the act was to promote religion---“to restructure the science curriculum to conform with a particular religious viewpoint.”
Reviewing these decisions makes it quite clear that neutrality and ‘balance’ in the teaching of science courses in public education is absolutely mandatory. For example, presenting the Darwin Theory as an absolutely proven mechanism for evolution is not allowed according to the Supreme Court. Yet when the controversy about Darwin is presented, the scientists and their organizations, and the ACLU start to shout that the advocates of the controversy are trying to bring religion into the schools. Not presenting all sides of the science about evolution, including those findings that dispute Darwin is indoctrination. And indoctrination is not allowed by the Court. In fact, “the 2001 federal No child Let Behind Act urges schools to adopt a scientific curriculum that ‘helps students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist’ about controversial subjects ‘such as biological evolution’ and ‘why such topics may generate controversy’.” (Darwinism, Design, and Public Education) A final quote from Edwards v. Aguillard enforces the point: “We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. In a similar way, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction.”
On January 13, 2005 a federal district judge ordered the Cobb County, Georgia ISD to remove stickers from high school biology texts, which stated that evolution is “a theory, not a fact.” These stickers have been on the books since 2002. The judge’s opinion is obviously counter to the Supreme Court case material just presented. He wrote: “By denigrating evolution, the school board appears to be endorsing the well-known prevailing alternative theory, creationism or variations thereof, even though the sticker does not specifically reference any alternative theories.” The judge added: “While evolution is subject to criticism, particularly with respect to the mechanism by which it occurred, the sticker misleads students regarding the significance and value of evolution in the scientific community.” The ACLU brought the case. (H. Chronicle, 1/14/05)
In Alabama there is a more complete disclaimer on their biology texts, which has not yet been challenged. It states that “any statement about life’s origin should be considered theory, not fact…[There are] many unanswered questions about the origin of life not mentioned in your textbook…[For example] how did you and all living things come to possess such a complete and complex set of ‘instructions’ for building a living body?” Perhaps a disclaimer can pass judicial muster if it is carefully worded. In 2004 the Oklahoma House 96-0 passed a bill which added a disclaimer describing evolution as “a controversial theory which some scientists present as explanation of the origin of living things and “[evolution is] the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.” The disclaimer ends with an admonition that students keep an open mind. In March 2004 the Ohio state school board approved a 22-page biology lesson plan called Critical analysis of Evolution. (Science & Spirit, May June 2004)
In Darby, Montana (a little town south of Missoula) in May 2004 citizens voted down school board candidates who favored allowing scientific criticisms of the theory of evolution to be presented to school classes. According to a local citizen who wrote the newspaper, the ACLU, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the National Center for Science Education had all threatened legal action, and had ‘lied’ to the voters. “Their first lie was that there are no valid scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution. And second, the policy is intended to ‘water down’ science by inserting religion and the Bible into Darby’s curriculum.”(ravallirepublic.com/articles/2004/05/18)
All the writer wanted was scientific objectivity and intellectual honesty, but what happened is the usual tactic by those opposed to any challenge to Darwin. “The opposition chose to resurrect a 75-year-old stereotype pitting religious fundamentalists against mainstream science or scientific facts against religious fiction.” This is the tactic used all over the country to defend Darwin. And these battles are going on all over the country. In March 2004 a survey by Science& Spirit magazine found only eight states in which there was no “creationist activity” as they called it, defined as state-level legislation, state school board or local school board proposals. The most recent battle to reach national prominence was the Dover, Pennsylvania school board directive, mentioned earlier.
Most of the school board battles are still an attempt to fight the teaching of evolution, which started in the early 1920’s when “fundamentalist Christians first organized to fight the introduction of Darwin’s theory of evolution into public classrooms. Between 1921 and 1929, opponents of evolution succeeded in proposing forty-five antievolution bills in twenty-one different state legislatures. Five of these bills ultimately passed. Perhaps most important, however, is that this conservative Christian movement succeeded in influencing the contents of many science textbooks, published by companies who, afraid of the controversy that might ensue, opted to omit references to evolution.” (School Board Battles. The Christian Right in Local Politics, Deckman, 2004)
A major partner to the battle over evolution, the ACLU, advertised for a teacher who taught evolution in Tennessee in order to set up a show trial to try and take down a Tennessee law, which forbid the teaching of evolution. The trial of the teacher John Scopes, who participated because he felt strongly that the law infringed upon his academic freedom, was in 1925. Although Scopes was found guilt and the State of Tennessee won the trial decision, the impression was made throughout the country that the fundamentalist crusade against evolution was a fringe impediment and discredited. The follow-up partially fictional “Inherit the Wind” certainly leaves that impression around the country.
However, the Scopes decision demonstrated that antievolution legislation passed in state legislatures could be upheld in court. With many textbooks omitting the subject of evolution, it is estimated that up to 70 percent of high schools did not teach evolution between the1920’s and the 1960’s. In the 1960’s the federal government pushed for stricter and higher standards for teaching science in high schools, as a result of the need for more engineers and scientists in the space race with the Soviet Union. At that point evolution resurfaced as an important part of biology courses. From the 1960’s onward spoken prayer disappeared from the schools as unconstitutional, although a moment of silence was allowed. Sex education appeared, with discussions of homosexuality and heterosexual sex practices. Multiculturalism and teaching about ‘diversity’ appeared to downplay the Judeo-Christian moral underpinnings of this country to many Christian groups. And so the battles at the school board level and in state legislatures tooted up after a forty-year hiatus. (School Board Battles)
It is the fundamentalist Christian population and the people they elected to school boards that is the source of most of the battling. As a result Melissa Deckman wrote her book, School Board Battles, The Christian Right in Local Politics by expanding her doctoral thesis, which surveyed Christian candidates, campaigns and actions when elected to the school boards, to find out just how much effect these candidates had when on school boards. “Critics of conservative Christian candidates accused them of using unfair, ‘stealth’ campaign practices promoted by Christian right organizations such as the Christian Coalition.” According to the stealth theory, successful candidates had campaigned primarily in conservative churches, had avoided mainstream audiences and had avoided being connected to Christian Right groups. And were successfully elected to school boards in part due to low voter turnouts in off-year elections. The ‘stealth’ theory suggested that the Christian Right candidates had an advantage in being elected to the school boards; Deckman found no “ empirical data to support such theories.” Some Christian Right candidates did win their elections, or battles over evolution and other issues would not have ensued in some school districts. Deckman’s study was to determine just “how effectively conservative Christians govern[ed] on school boards once they had been elected.”
Deckman found that Christian Right candidates were “no more likely to win school board elections than non-Christian right candidates.” This indicated that the ‘stealth’ approach was not an effective election technique. When reelection was studied it was found that reelection rates were the same for Christian Right and non-Christian Right school board members. This suggested that “conservative Christians, once in office are not necessarily likely to make decisions that lead to their dismissal in the next elections---or, that if they do, [Deckman concluded] their local communities can live with such decisions.” She further concluded that “fears of a Christian Right ‘takeover’ are greatly exaggerated. ‘Stealth’ campaigns did not seem to be widespread.” But once on the board, even in the minority, often conservative Christian criticisms did sway public opinion enough that the board majority would adopt some of their initiatives. Obviously though, the Supreme Court decisions starting in the 1960’s are the major controlling factor in how evolution has been taught. Conservative Christians have turned to home schooling to avoid many of the problems they see in public schooling, and in the 1990’s over one million children were educated this way.
Is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Proven?
To me it is quite clear that scientific evidence shows evolution by some mechanism did occur, but Darwin’s theory does not really tell us how. In 1859, Charles Darwin published Origin of Species and proposed a relatively simple theory of evolution: that species could gradually change into more advanced forms from simple ones. He used the word ‘evolve’ not the current term ‘evolution’. He had traveled the world and had seen the variations in plant and animal species as related to their environments. In the Galapagos Islands, Darwin found iguanas (like in our deserts) that swam in the ocean. He knew that breeders created different forms within a species. (Just like the difference between Rat Terriers and Mastiffs.) He did know the existing simple geological theories and thought the Earth, contrary to the Bible, was millions of years old. He had studied the fossils that had been found and saw their progressive development from very simple to very complex animals and plants. Darwin did not know genetics, a science that appeared 50 years after his proposed theory. His theory seemed very logical: if breeding could vary animals, then they could also vary naturally by chance. They were challenged by nature to survive; and only the most capable of the variations would survive. And, in very small steps would continue to vary into new species.
. In the 1940-1950 period, Neo-Darwinism research appeared primarily by adding the science of genetics. Today Darwin is presented as a continuous branching tree of life, a descent from a single-celled form, the start of life, to living beings as complicated as humans, or in terms of the other well-known phrase, ‘descent by modification’. According to the theory, all of this is from chance mutations, spontaneous changes in DNA. Challenges from nature, so-called natural selection, wipe out the bad mutations, with new species appearing in very tiny gradual steps. This is a very passive and very slow process, and the scientists insist there is no evidence of purpose or plan. It is all luck. And those scientists note there is lots of time for the process. After all, they claim the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and life started (by chance) about 3.6-3.8 billion years ago.
I believe in the findings of the research scientists, in the age of the Earth, and when life started. I believe that evolution did occur through some mechanism, but I disagree with their conclusions as to how it all works. The fossil record shows a developmental tree-like pattern and progresses from the oldest layers of the Earth to the most recent. That aspect of the science is proven. But the scientific research simply has not supported the very gradual changes claimed by Neo-Darwinism. The fossil record shows large jumps. The species are quite distinct from each other. Yes, there are transitional forms like fish with legs that progress onward to land animals, but the jumps in-between are huge. Darwinists might argue that the fossil record is very incomplete, creating the appearance of gaps, but actually most scientists claim the fossil record is really very complete, with constant new discoveries. The famous paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould, himself put the lie to this claim: “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.” (“Evolution’s Erratic Pace,” Natural History, May 1977: 12,14, my italics)
As an example of large jumps in evolution, the scientists have no explanation for the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ in animal development. About 530 million years ago the only multicellular forms were asexual sheets of similar cells. Suddenly in a 5 million year period about 50 fully formed animal types appeared, including our original ancestor, a little fish with a backbone. These animals had several different integrated organ systems, an assortment of legs or fins; some had eyes. 36 of these types survived and created 36 of the current 37 animal families. Note again, these tiny weird-looking, multi-organed, fully formed sexual critters appeared out of the blue. At almost the same time, the same thing happened in the plant kingdom, referred to as the ‘plant bloom.’ Change from asexual to sexual is by itself a huge jump; it takes ‘two to tango,’ involving the simultaneous alteration into male and female forms. None of this fits Darwin’s Theory.
What the scientists can point to as proven is ‘microevolution,’ the variation within species as they adapt to environmental and geologic changes. ‘Macroevolution’ has not been shown by the scientists to occur by the Darwin mechanism of tiny gradual changes by chance. ‘Macroevolution’ appears to have occurred in the pattern of the tree of life, from simple species to complex, but how?
Another example of rapid evolution is the fact that the human brain grew by four times its original size and complexity from that of our early human ancestors in a period of 2.5 million years. Research shows over and over that evolution proceeds by leaps and spurts. Darwin scientists have even given this a name: ‘punctuated equilibrium,’ meaning that things stay the same for a long time and then suddenly jump forward. Giving it a name makes it seem like you know what is going on when you really don’t. This rapid ‘complexification’ may be explained shortly. Scientists are currently finding RNA segments hidden in the ‘junk DNA,’ as they call it, between the genes. This ‘interference’ RNA instructs the genes as to how to create more complexity in a living form. It may also be the way that animals seem to be able to guide their own adaptation to environmental changes, known by scientists as the “Baldwin Effect.” That is not passive, but active change. Again, not Darwin.
To review, to ‘prove’ the Darwin theory, scientists present evolution as a tree of life, starting with an unknown one-celled organism that started life. The tree then progresses with many branches as the scientists compare many similar forms and parts of various animal and plant species, concluding that by ‘morphology’ they can really set up the tree of ‘common descent’. Obviously, there was an early split between animals and plants. The living organisms will become more and more complex, from single cells, to sheets of similar cells, to livings things with organ systems integrated to work together. Asexual cells that produce by simply dividing into two will eventually become sexual organisms that reproduce by sharing and combining DNA inheritance, allowing greater attempts at diversity and complexity.
To establish and prove a complete pattern of descent ancient plants and animals must be tracked through geologic layers, whose ages are known, advancing from the past to the present. Further aging must be done by radioactive isotopes, of which there are five systems which correlate well with each other (within twenty per cent). Then, now that it can be done, DNA patterns (as genes) must be followed throughout the tree, and there should be changes that imply direct evolution. Common molecules, such as hemoglobin (red blood) should be tracked in the same way, following the gradual changes that should be present as evolution proceeds through the ages. There will be similar parts of animals (or plants), which will be seen to transfer up the tree from earlier forms to later forms (homologies). Gene control of development of old parts will gradually become control of newer parts as they are modified and scientists should be able to follow the genes as they orchestrate the progression of changes.
What I am delineating again, for emphasis, is Darwin’s “descent through modification”, all done in very tiny steps from that single cell to the massive tree of life we now see, passively by chance mutation and mediated by natural selection. ‘Natural selection’ is actually circular reasoning: who survives, the fittest. How do we know they are the ‘fittest’? They survived. David Raup, a world recognized statistical paleontologist, in his book, Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck?, 1991, pointed out that most extinct species were quite successful, and were done in by bad luck. Think of the dinosaurs and the asteroid that destroyed them after 150 million successful years on Earth.
Does the current research in evolution support that picture? Not at all. Does that deny evolution occurred? Again, not at all. Using the animal tree, that tree looks real enough, and the developing fossils follow along properly with the aging of the earth’s layers. The mechanism of how evolution occurred is what is at issue and whether the tree is really accurate. The tree is set up in large part by looking at the morphology of animals and how their parts seem similar. One type of resemblance is called ‘analogous’, in which the parts are similar but are the result of the modification of dissimilar structures, for example, the flipper of a whale and the fin of a fish. Evolution scientists point to analogous parts and praise the wonders of natural selection which ‘caused’ these parts to adapt, making natural selection not passive at all but implying that it is ‘active’. Analogous resemblance does not support to construction of the ‘tree’. The other sort of resemblance is called ‘homologous’ and happens when the origin is in a similar structure, but is modified to serve dissimilar ends, as in the forelimbs of vertebrates. The arm of man, the wing of the bird or the bat, and the flipper of the porpoise all point to a similar basic design.
Evolutionists would be delighted if homologies supported the construction of the ‘tree’, but they do not. Michael Denton in, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1985 devotes an entire chapter to “The Failure of Homology.” Sir Gavin de Beer, British embryologist and past Director of the British Museum of Natural History in his monograph Homology, an Unresolved Problem, 1971 describing the problem as “homologous structures are often specified by non-homologous genetic systems and the concept of homology can seldom be extended back into embryology.” (Denton) “There is no question that, because of great dissimilarities of the early stages of embryogenesis in the different vertebrate classes, organs and structures considered homologous in adult vertebrates cannot be traced back to homologous cells or regions in the earliest stages of embryogenesis. In other words, homologous structures are arrived at by different routes.” Further damning the use of homology to outline the evolutionary tree is “the discovery that apparently homologous structures are specified by quite different genes in different species.”(Denton) Further, by following developmental molecular pathways it has been shown that “similar developmental pathways may produce very dissimilar features…[and] similar features are often produced by very different developmental pathways.” As another example of the problem with homology is that “not all structural similarities are inherited from a common ancestor. The eye of the mouse is structurally similar to the eye of an octopus, yet their supposed common ancestor did not possess such an eye.” (Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, 2003, pg. 304)
A careful look at proteins found in most animals also raises important questions about evolution. If Darwin is correct, a slow sequence of chance mutations should alter the inheritance of vital proteins in some sort of sequential fashion. Cytochrome C (a very important part of energy production) and hemoglobin (red blood which carries oxygen) have been extensively studied by establishing the sequences of amino acids in these molecules, as well as many other molecules. “Thousands of different sequences, protein and nucleic acid, have now been compared in hundreds of different species but never has any sequence been found to be in any sense the lineal descendant or ancestor of any other sequence. It is now well established that the pattern of diversity at a molecular level conforms to a highly ordered hierarchic system. Each class at a molecular level is unique, isolated and unlinked by intermediates. Thus molecules, like fossils have failed to provide the elusive intermediates so long sought by evolutionary biology.” (Denton)
Evolution is a very clever process, however it works. It progressed from very simply single-celled forms to the complexity seen in human beings. We are vastly more complex than chimpanzees, our closest relatives, with less than a two per cent difference in DNA. Stephen Jay Gould (the famous paleontologist from Harvard) blamed the ‘apparent’ drive to complexity simply due to the fact that life could only progress in one direction and that any one advance was an accident contingent upon previous events. Anything less than a single-celled organism could not live. Humans are a “glorious accident”.
Simon Conway Morris (the famous paleontologist from Cambridge) points to a totally different mechanism built into the evolutionary process, labeled ‘convergence’. As Morris demonstrates in his book, Life’s Solution, Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, 2003 the evolutionary process contains a methodology that creates similar organs over and over in a massive variety of species. The eye is a supreme example. There is the camera eye of vertebrates; the compound eye of insects and their arthropod relatives; the camera eye of the octopus, which differs from the vertebrate eye. There was the double-lensed eye of the Trilobites, a successful species that lasted 250 million years and died out for an unknown reason, which corrected for the aberration in vision while seeing under water. There are other ‘eyes’ but the point is made. The aim of Conway’s “book [was] to show that the constraints of evolution and the ubiquity of convergence [made] the emergence of something like ourselves a near-inevitability.”
Gould and Morris are Darwinists with major philosophic differences in their conclusions concerning the similar research they both studied. There are many other major controversies among Darwin scientists. Morris spends the first 14 pages of his book describing disputes; Jeffrey Schwartz, in Sudden Origins, 1999 spends literally hundreds of pages on controversies. Richard Morris book, The Evolutionists, The Struggle for Darwin’s Soul, 2001, is entirely about the different camps of thought. There are classical Darwinists who believe in gradual evolution (the gradualists) and the puctuationists who see the long periods of “stasis” (lack of progress on new developments) and then a sudden shower of new body types. Schwartz describes the “heated and sometimes nasty debates that have taken place between gradualists and puctuationists, [and] between micromutationists and macromutationists, who [perceive] there can be only one correct answer. ‘We both can’t be right, so you have to be wrong’”. Schwartz notes that beneficial mutations are almost always recessive. They need to be converted to dominant form to create change. “To this day, no one knows how the transformation of a recessive allele into a dominant one occurs.” Once again, for emphasis, the mechanism by which evolution works is not known
The origin of life is another major stumbling block for scientists. The Neo-Darwinists have added the start of life to the Darwin Theory, of course occurring by chance. In the 1950’s electric sparks in a bottle containing a mixture of gases, thought (incorrectly) to make up the ancient earth’s atmosphere, did create a few of the amino acids used by living forms. (Miller-Urey experiment)Amino acids are the building blocks of life and a total of 20 different amino acids are essential to create the proteins of life. In nature living matter uses only left-handed forms. The few amino acids the scientists got in the bottle were equally left- and right-handed, (mirror images of each other), which is always the case when amino acids are made from inorganic molecules. The nucleic acids in RNA and DNA must all be right-handed in nature, and like amino acids, when manufactured from inorganic molecules are 50/50 right and left.
50 years latter and after lots of lab work the origin-of-life scientists are no further ahead. They have no idea how to have RNA and/or DNA spontaneously appear from inorganic matter to create and run a living cell. The jump from inorganic chemicals to living organic chemicals is a much bigger jump than anything else in the Theory of Evolution. The integrated workings of a single cell, like a free-living bacterium, is made up of roughly two hundred cooperating protein molecules, each over 100 amino acids in length. The odds against such a cell appearing by chance are enormous. The Darwin scientists imagine an “RNA World”, in which 20-22 base-long RNA molecules somehow-or-other are formed, are self-replicating, and gradually ‘mutate’ by Darwin’s principles into DNA with meaningful genes filled with life’s information. One such molecule has been created in the laboratory, after studying hundreds of trillions of combinations. This molecule’s only life-like attribute was that it could replicate itself 95% of the time, a disaster if one is trying to create life in the laboratory. How did chance do it? Again, no one has any fertile idea.
Stuart Kauffman, who feels that Darwin is incomplete, is a scientist/M.D. currently studying self-organizing properties of complex systems. He comments that the RNA World concept “ is an evolutionary just-so story, in honor of Rudyard Kipling and his fanciful tales abut how different animals can to be. Evolution is filled with these just-so stories, plausible scenarios for which no evidence can be found, stories we love to tell but on which we should placed no intellectual reliance.” (At Home in the Universe, 1995) Stephan Jay Gould praises Kauffman’s work in a jacket blurb. Robert Shapiro, a Darwin biochemistry professor at New York University makes comments just as damning: “Many people feel that the efficient production of nucleosides is something that will be demonstrated sooner or later; this approach, unfortunately does not represent science but rather a search for evidence in support of an established mythology.” (Origins, 1886)
Michael Ruse, a widely recognized expert in the science/religion dialogue, a philosopher of science teaching as head of the philosophy department at Florida State University states that he is neither an atheist nor a believer, but has strong views about Darwinism. He testified for the ACLU in the 1982 Overton decision striking down an Arkansas law instructing the school districts to teach creation-science. Ruse divides Darwinism into two parts: “professional Darwinism’ is “true science,” research that is attempting to discover the real mechanism behind evolution. “Popular Darwinism” is described as a form “of secular religion.” “Not only has evolution functioned as an ideology, as a secular religion, but for many professional biologists that has been its primary role. I think philosophically one should be sensitive to what I think history shows, namely, that evolution, akin to religion involves making certain a priori or metaphysical assumptions, which at some level cannot be proven empirically.” (Darwinism, Design, and Public Education)
And one final comment from a combatant in the science/religion field. Jacob Wolf, Professor of Systemic Theology at the University of Copenhagen in an essay on “Theistic Evolution” stated: “ Darwinian accounts purporting to account for the emergence of very complex systems are primarily expressions of hope that the evolution of these systems is explainable by appeal to the Darwinian mechanism. They are wishful speculations.” He also quotes “biochemist Franklin Harold, himself a Darwinist, that ‘ we must concede that there are presently no detailed accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.’ (Franklin Harold, The Way of the Cell, 2001, pg. 205)”. (www.Metanexus.net/metanexus_online/printer_friendly.asp?9224)
In conclusion, all of the material I have presented in this section is available in the scientific literature, and much of it in books that review the subject for lay people. Darwinism is filled with controversy among the believers in Darwin, and there is a growing group of well-qualified scientists who fiercely dispute the Theory.
Intelligent Design (ID) theory is described as follows:
“1. High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of past intelligent design.
2. Biologic systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.
3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.
4. Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanation for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.”
These criteria are from an article by DeWolf, Meyer, and DeForrest, members of the Discovery Institute that champions Intelligent Design. (Darwinism, Design and Public Education, pg. 59) This description is presented to demonstrate that it relies on Shannon Information Theory, something with my postgraduate degree I barely understand if at all. The Shannon Information Theory is an advanced mathematical approach which assigns a numerical value to information in terms of bits, as we see in the information coming into our computers.
It is William Dembski’s contention in Chapter 6 of Intelligent Design, The Bridge Between Science and Theology, 1999, that complex specified information [CSI] cannot be generated by Darwin’s passive process of chance. “Because the Darwinian mechanism of mutation and selection is nonteleological, it cannot specify in advance the adaptations it will produce. Selection and mutation operate with no memory of the past or knowledge of the future--- there’s only the present organism with its ability to survive and reproduce given its environment. Consequently whatever CSI mutation and selection generate must be generated in a single generation. To suppose otherwise is to think that mutation and selection can sustain a specification over multiple generations until the adaptation that was specified comes to fruition. But this is teleology, and teleology is inconsistent with the Darwinian mechanism. For mutation and selection to solve the information problem, they must do it in a single generation.” To explain Dembski, it is his claim that when a mutation occurs, the new structure of the gene creates instructions which change the morphologic or biochemical characteristics of the living organism, which means the mutation has uncovered existing information in DNA to create those changes: “As a mechanism for conserving, adapting and honing already existing biological structures, the Darwinian mechanism is ideally suited. But as a mechanism for innovating irreducible complex biologic structures, it utterly lacks informational resources. Even though it can account for how organisms trade existing biological information, it can never get to the root question of how that information came to exist in the first place.”
“Irreducible complexity” is defined by Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box, 1996) as “a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basis function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” Behe feels that such a system cannot be produced by the Darwin mechanism. “An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight successive modifications of a precursor, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional.” Darwin recognized this problem in Origin of Species. “If it could be demonstrated that any such complex organ existed, which could not have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
Fundamentalist Christians on school boards are trying to use ID theory to drive evolution away or discount teaching Darwin’s theory. It is too complex for high school students and too theistic in its implications to stand up to the Supreme Court Rulings, if bluntly presented to high school students. However, many scientific objections to Darwinism found within Intelligent Design and other Darwinian controversies among Darwin scientists are simple enough to present.
The Supreme Court rulings regarding the teaching of science state that all sides of the controversies among the scientists should be presented. An atmosphere of strict neutrality between science and religion still does not permit, in my opinion and in the view of the courts, that Intelligent Design be presented in the form outlined above. However, presenting the various assertions of the ID theory without using the ID term can work just fine. The points I have covered above in the section, Is Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Proven?, many of which do not come directly from ID proponents, can certainly be raised as well as the issue of whether the passive process outlined by Darwin could create the enormous amount of information tucked into DNA, one of the major points of the ID theory. It should be possible to introduce the ID terms ‘specified complexity’ and ‘irreducible complexity’ in discussing controversial points of view. This approach may alarm the ACLU and other opponents of challenges to Darwin but they should easily win acceptance by the courts in view of the existing Supreme Court decisions.
In view of the battles I have described at the school board level since the 1920’s and also aware that the ACLU is a powerful opponent, the textbook publishers have been less than neutral toward the theories of evolution. (pg. 207) In Darwin, Design and Public Education, there was an essay, which after reviewing science textbooks concluded: “the majority of textbooks exude confidence that confirmation of a naturalistic model of life’s origin is inevitable.” In regard to evolution, high school texts handled the topics of homology, embryology and vestigial organs by providing obsolete and erroneous discussion when compared to mainstream medical and biological texts, effectively slanting the material to “enhance the plausibility of the [naturalistic] hypotheses that are presented.” Nord in Religion & American education reviewed six texts and concluded that “the substance of the texts clearly, and unambiguously, supports evolution,” without any criticisms of Darwinism. Clearly there must be a reappraisal of how to produce neutral biology texts in view of the current state of Supreme Court decisions. No whiff of religion need enter those new texts.
Science has always advanced through competing theories and through intellectual controversy. High school students, as freethinking individuals should be presented with all sides of the subject. They should be told that scientific discoveries clearly support the appearance of a process of evolution, but that no one knows how that process works. For those students who wish to explore the controversy further, their science teachers should provide a list of books that support the theory and a list of those that are critical. Let the students, who wish to do so, do their own research and make up their own minds. Rather than indoctrinating them, which in a sense is the current situation, give them all the current thinking from all theories, a pedagogical process which will allow the development of critical thinking. Then encourage them to go home and let their parents discuss with them the possibilities that cannot be discussed in school: the issue of a supernatural or theistic cause underlying evolution.
Since religion of many varieties has always played a large role in the history of the world and especially of this country, a high school course in United States history should include the role of religion in that history. Further a course in comparative religion would help high school students understand the differences in various religions, and might improve tolerance. The Supreme Court decisions certainly allow for such religious education. However, in the present climate in this country, the development of such courses is very unlikely, despite their obvious value. Perhaps, for the time being, such courses are best left to the college level.