The return of creationism, in a new disguise
(March 2002)

The struggle by some religiously-minded people to deny evolution continues to cause annoyance to scientists around the world. The problem began with the confusion of Church and State that led to the famous 'Monkey Trial' of 1925, when John Scopes, a high school biology teacher in Tennessee, was placed on trial for daring to teach the facts of evolution in his classes.

William Jennings Bryan, a failed USA presidential candidate, sought to force Godless evolution from the classroom, and came unstuck when Clarence Darrow showed that the sort of narrow interpretation of the Bible that was required, in order to rule out evolution, also proved all sorts of inconsistencies in the Bible itself, if it was subjected to the same narrow considerations. Darrow, it should be remembered, was an outstanding agnostic in his day.

The trial itself was fomented by a largely Christian group in Dayton, Tennessee, people who recognized that evolution is a central part, not just of biology, but of science, and their aim was not to test the Bible, but to test the law. In particular, the strategy was to get a superior US court to rule the Tennessee legislation that barred teaching evolution as unconstitutional.

That attempt failed at the time, and it was not until 1968 that the case of Epperson v Arkansas drew such a ruling, barring the imposition of religious assumptions in science. Before long, though, the opponents of evolution were back, and with a new ploy. They claimed that science could be approached from many angles, that they saw science slightly differently, and they were using a form of science that showed evolution was impossible.

Very occasionally. they could even find somebody to support their case who had some
sort of scientific qualifications, generally in electrical engineering, or something far removed from the central areas of evolutionary science, biology and geology. The trick was a form of scientific sleight-of-hand, to assert that evolution was contrary to the second law of thermodynamics, and so therefore could not have happened.

The problem with this was that the same argument could be used to prove that any supreme being was equally impossible, but that did not occur. Nonetheless, the hard-core 'creationists' tried very hard (and some of them still try hard) to show that they can use science to prove that evolution could never have happened.

Overtime, the lack of intellectual rigor in this sort of posture became apparent, even to the opponents of evolution, and so they tried a return to a line of argument that was popular around 1800, the notion of the intelligent watchmaker.

In this line, one assumes that if a watch was found, the person finding it would look at it, think how clever it was, and assume that an intelligent watchmaker had planned it and made it. The modern version, called 'intelligent design', purports to accept that evolution has happened and is happening, but insists that it could only take place because some oversight from an intelligent designer is taking place.

The current center of the dispute is Ohio, but this is a proxy for the rest of the USA, and possibly even large parts of the world, and so the battle is being fought with all of the fervor and intellectual dishonesty that characterised the Scopes trial and the creation science ploy.

Now it ought properly to be noted here that your reporter is a trained biologist, and cannot even begin to accept any of the arguments put forward by the 'intelligent design' crowd. At the same time, it is fair to note that your reporter is one of a very large number of scientists who have firm religious convictions, and have no problem reconciling their religion with the science that underlies evolution. Your reporter is very much in the middle ground here, trying to give an even-handed account of a situation where one side is playing distnctly dirty pool.

A debate sponsored by the Ohio education board pitted two members of a conservative 'think tank' in Seattle against Laurence Krauss, a physicist, and Kenneth Miller, a biologist. Jonathan Wells, one of the conservatives, argued the 'In' case by brandishing a list of 40 peer-reviewed papers which he claimed revealed scientists criticizing 'Darwinism', arguing that writing ID into the curriculum would free teachers to teach the evolution controversy.

The problem is that nobody would support the original 1859 version of Darwinism 100% today, because we know a great deal more than Charles Darwin ever could have done. We understand about genetics, we understand a lot about genomics, and even proteomics - and it all points at the continuing operations of evolution over prolonged periods. There may be minor disagreements about rates, and whether or not it is continuous or not, but that is as far as it goes.

Depicting scientists as in turmoil about evolution is as valid assaying that people are in turmoil about the motor vehicle, because some of them drive diesel vehicles and others drive cars powered by gasoline (and to heighten the controversy, some of them call it gas, or petrol). March has seen an article on the ID movement in Nature and a book review in Science, neither of them particularly enthusiastic about ID.

The Science book review, in particular, points to the wedge strategy being used by the Discovery Institute, and notes that. . . the ID proponents have not made even a token effort at scientific research. They prefer instead the "creation-science" approach of distorting and attacking evolution and related fields. These advocates carry out their business in popular books and the proceedings of their own conferences; no article demonstrating ID has appeared in a peer-reviewed journal.

The ID problem has been around in one form or another for a very long time, and is not likely to go away quickly. but qiven the effort which is now being brought to bear on it,perhaps it will soon change its spots.

©WebsterWorld Pty Ltd/contributors 2002

Dear NT - page 23

The metro today suggests that NT has allowed a biblical explanation of the way the stones are arranged at Giant's Causeway. By doing this NT is lending credence to wanton ignorance. There is only one explanation of the history of this planet and that is the one science suggests.

Ignorant nonsense which is part of "an ongoing debate" is irrelevant.

God cannot exist - since he is presumed to be the first cause of the universe - and doesn't have a first cause himself,any account alluding to the bible is wholly irrelevant. Just because some people continue like Flat-Earthers to hold onto dogma they cannot prove is no reason to accommodate them.

NT has just made itself look ridiculous by putting creationist rubbish alongside scientific fact. Such nonsense should have been dispensed with ages ago.

Why do you not also stick signs on all your properties saying "Whilst this stately home is thought to be on a round planet,some people still think the Earth is flat."

I know why - because that would be stupid - it is just as stupid to include the bible in explanations about the stones.

Thank you for your e-mail in relation to interpretation at the new Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre.

We would like to stress that all of the information presented to visitors in relation to how the Giant’s Causeway was formed, and how old it is, clearly reflects the science, i.e. that the Causeway stones are 60 million years old. This is reflected in the visitor centre, the audio trails which visitors use to explore the Causeway stones, and in all the literature provided both before and during the visit.

There is no creationist interpretation and no alternative theories as to the formation of the Causeway are presented.

This is a stunning state of the art interpretation centre with over 50 exhibits and interactive displays and two hours of audio trails. One of the exhibits in the Visitor Centre interpretation tells the story of the part the Giant’s Causeway played in the historical debate which took place about how the earth’s rocks were formed and about the age of the earth. This is an interactive installation in which by pressing buttons visitors can hear a flavour of some of the different debates from historical characters over centuries. In the context of this exhibit listeners hear a statement that for some people this debate continues today and that Creationists have a different understanding from that of science. We do not explain, justify or support that view.

Through our research we established that at various stages over centuries the Causeway became involved in debates about the age of the earth as it was being revealed by science. These debates took place in a context in which the prevailing understanding of the age of the earth was based on a particular interpretation of the Bible. Other religious beliefs do not have a similar historical connection to the Causeway. Science has since conclusively proven that the Causeway is around 60 million years old and this is what we state across all of our interpretation.

We hope that you will have the opportunity to come to the Giant’s Causeway , enjoy the visitor centre and see the interpretation in its entirety. The Centre, which opened on 3rd July, is receiving great feedback from visitors.





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