Welcome to the Emory Valley Center for Evolutionary Studies

Emory Valley lies on the eastern edge of the city, and the Clinch River runs through it. It's a beautiful spot to sit and study the world - so let's do that. Here's the Emory Valley Center for Evolutionary Studies...
(Look here for Dover coverage)

Evolution. Darwinism. Neo-Darwinism.

These words terrify a lot of people - and those people are wielding a lot of clout.

Here's a letter I wrote recently:

Re: Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens
By Peter Slevin Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, March 14, 2005

Sir: I am distressed that nowhere in your article did you address the fact that there is NO controversy about evolution in science. The only people you quote on this point are the creationists of various stripes, and the article leads a reader to believe that there is some merit to the position that evolution is just like "any other belief that a kid in class has. It should all be okay," to quote one of your sources. (I reserve the right to doubt how "okay" she'd find it if her kid had to sit through some other religion's creation myth, such as, say Changing Woman, but her hypocrisy is not the point.)

The problem - beyond forcing their religion down the nation's throat in this disguise (necessary because forcing it as religion has failed) - is that "evolution's boosters" are the scientific community. Where was a quote from a biologist? The closest we got was a medical professor, who doesn't favor teaching ID (yet works with those who does). You quoted Eugenie Scott, but not on the merits of evolution, and you quoted Barry Lynn - and both of them were addressing ID/creationism. Both of them were addressing the religious issue. Where was any quote from a scientist to put this in perspective?

The fact is that, as Richard Dawkins puts it, evolution is biology's Grand Unified Theory. No scientist of repute doubts evolution - the most they do is argue about some aspects of it. Stephen Gould's Punctuated Equilibrium is not an alternative to evolution, it is a refinement of it. But you never said this in your article, quoting not one single biologist.

Instead, you spent the entire article quoting those who believe that creationism and its offspring ID are of equal stature as "belief systems" with evolution. But evolution is not a "belief system". Evolution is as close to a fact as we can get (that's what "theory" means in science. Like the "theory" of relativity. Or gravity. It's not a "guess" or a "notion" or a "belief system". Especially not that last.) and there are no grounds for replacing it with ID.

Intelligent Design is not science. It's not even a theory (even in the lay use of the word). It's dogma.

You say that advocates quote polls that show most Americans believe in creationism. Even if that's true, it doesn't matter. There was a time when most people believed the world was flat - that didn't mean the world was. Science isn't a democracy; you don't pick reality. Reality exists whether you believe in it or not.

Next we'll be teaching that geology's dating of the world is "just another belief" - the world only 6000 years old as a valid "belief" to be offered to our children as equal to the world billions of years old. Or that the sun can be stopped to make the day longer, and the earth actually does have corners - cosmology is "just a theory". Or that what color your goats are depends on what their parents saw when they bred - the "laws" of genetics are "just a theory". Or perhaps that leprosy can be cured by smearing animal blood on the patient - bacteria are "just a theory". Heck, the Bible thinks pi *does* equal three - shall we teach that instead of real math? Why not? What's the difference between that and ID versus evolution?

Evolution is a grand, sweeping, and exciting thing. But it's not a religion. It doesn't have anything to say about the existence of God. (It does of course have a great deal to say about the book of Genesis, but that book can't stand scrutiny on many levels, not just this one. Surely God is too big to be bound up in that book.) Your medical professor says, "To say God did not play a role is arrogant. It's far beyond the data." Precisely. Evolution properly does not address that point at all.

Buried at the bottom of your article is a statement which sums up the whole thing: "If evolution's boosters can be forced to back down, he [Terry Fox] said, the Christian right's agenda will advance." Once ID's in the door, the rest of the camel will follow, and we will live to see the US become a second-rate scientific country, teaching only those things that don't have the Religious Right up in arms. I leave you with this thought, from Richard Lederer: There was time when all people believed in God and the Church ruled. It was called The Dark Ages.

Mr Slevin answered me. His letter said: "Thanks for your letter. You make a good and important point. Had I been doing a longer story, or a different story, I would have addressed the science more. I thought asserting the strength of the science of evolution and quoting the likes of Barry Lynn would be clear enough. I'm sorry if the story disappointed you. A number of people did write in to say they were glad to have a story that focused on the links between groups on the other side of the debate, which would not have been possible, I don't believe, in a story that delved deeply into the scientific debate. There will be other chances to do that story."

I appreciate his points, as well. But he's managed to miss mine.

There is no scientific debate. (*see below)

If these people had chosen to begin their attack on science and reason with the age of the Universe, or the claim that all the wonders shown us by the Hubble and Chandra are either (a) lies constructed by the Devil to make us disregard the clear statement in Genesis that the sun, moon, and stars are there to "give light upon the earth", (b) falsely created at great age and distance from the earth by God, to "test us", or (c) created as if they were old and distant by God ditto, would we give them time in our class rooms?

1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 1:15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. 1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, 1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
This account is clearly at odds with everything we know about cosmology. The rest of the Bible isn't much better - witness Joshua "stopping" the sun to make the day longer, for one thing.

But most Americans are totally intrigued and fascinated by deep space and the Hubble, and attacking on this front would be somewhat unproductive. The same is true of attacking plate tectonics - especially after the December tsunami, which so dramatically demonstrated the theory in action - even though it too contradicts Genesis (dramatically).

Even Americans who believe in praying for the sick would probably balk (well, most of them would) if they lost modern medicine and had to start treating illness by smearing themselves with lamb's blood.

But evolution? That's different. For some reason that I can't fathom at all, this piece of science is fair game. On all fronts: not just schools. As Bob Parks says in "What's New"

The 2003 IMAX film "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," sponsored by NSF and Rutgers, would seem to be just the sort of documentary that science centers thrive on. Not exactly. It was turned down by a dozen Science Centers, mostly in the South, because of a few brief references to evolution. There goes the profit margin. The result is that IMAX films just aren't made if the science might offend the religious right. It's worse in schools. Even if there is no prohibition on teaching evolution, teachers leave it out rather than listen to all the complaints. In the 1925 Scopes trial, Clarence Darrow said, "John Scopes isn't on trial, civilization is on trial." It still is. And it's losing.
So while we think we're winning a victory in one place - because stickers have to come out of a book - we're losing on others we can't even fight. How to make IMAX, or Discovery Channel, or PBS stick to the truth? Can't be done if they're too afraid to do it. And with Congress more and more on their side...

Lou Dobbs feels free to say, on a CNN program which was allegedly a fair debate (2 creationists, 1 guy against teaching creationism as science, and Dobbs) on the origins of life, "The fact is that evolution, Darwinism, is not a fully explained or completely rigorous and defined science that has testable results within it." That's not only out of line for the 'moderator', it's flatly untrue. For instance, the National Academy of Sciences considers evolution "the central unifying concept of biology" and "one of the strongest and most useful scientific theories we have."

CNN obviously feels the creationists are so powerful, they don't even need to pretend to be objective. Imagine a discussion on the origin of the universe in which Dobbs would say, "The fact is that astronomy is not a completely rigorous science..." and offer his opinion that the Ptolemaic Earth-centered universe should be taught beside the modified Copernican model. Hard to believe? But what many people, including the NAS, call "the central unifying concept of biology" is fair game.

And if they win this one, they won't stop. If they defeat reason and science (which means "knowing") on one front, they'll come around and attack on another, and from strength.

No? Bush is on record as saying ID should be taught in schools - so's Bill Frist. And John McCain. In fact, all politicians are starting to say it, pandering to the power of those whose faith is more important than their reason.

That scares me. I don't want to live in a country where reason is subordinate to dogma, where science (which means, for those of you who believe in argument from etymology, 'knowing') is subordinate to religion (which means 'to tie down'), ruled by people whose faith is so tenuous that mere exposure to a competing idea is fatal.

As Giordano Bruno said, in 1600 when he was burned alive for espousing the "anti-faith" theory of his day, that the Universe is infinite, the Sun is a star, and other stars have their own planets: "Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it."

But I'm scared enough.

So, I'm doing my bit. I start with

This page is just getting started but if you keep checking back there'll be more. In the meantime, here are some external links to check out:

* Footnote: See, just for instance, Project Steve, where more than 500 scientists have signed a statement saying

"Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate scientific debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism of evolution. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to "intelligent design," to be introduced into the science curricula of the public schools."
PS - they actually give you their affiliations - degrees and current academic or scientific positions. The other guys' list doesn't.

PPS - They're all named Steve. (Or Stephanie). Just imagine how many others there are.

hr

  Chapel | Musings | Magic | Evolution |  

  Greenbelt | Emory Valley | Pellissippi Parkway  
  Bear Creek Road | Key Springs Road | Snapping Turtle Pond  

  Ridges | Walden | Pine | Black Oak | Little Pine | Chestnut | Haw