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(Gen) Scientific Method: Is Intelligent Design a Science?

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:36 am    Post subject: (Gen) Scientific Method: Is Intelligent Design a Science? Reply with quote

Vatican Official Refutes Intelligent Design
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer
Fri Nov 18, 9:09 PM ET

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican's chief astronomer said Friday that "intelligent design" isn't science and doesn't belong in science classrooms, the latest high-ranking Roman Catholic official to enter the evolution debate in the United States.

The Rev. George Coyne, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, said placing intelligent design theory alongside that of evolution in school programs was "wrong" and was akin to mixing apples with oranges.

"Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be," the ANSA news agency quoted Coyne as saying on the sidelines of a conference in Florence. "If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science."

His comments were in line with his previous statements on "intelligent design" — whose supporters hold that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.

Proponents of intelligent design are seeking to get public schools in the United States to teach it as part of the science curriculum. Critics say intelligent design is merely creationism — a literal reading of the Bible's story of creation — camouflaged in scientific language, and they say it does not belong in science curriculum.

In a June article in the British Catholic magazine The Tablet, Coyne reaffirmed God's role in creation, but said science explains the history of the universe.

"If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly."

Rather, he argued, God should be seen more as an encouraging parent.

"God in his infinite freedom continuously creates a world that reflects that freedom at all levels of the evolutionary process to greater and greater complexity," he wrote. "He is not continually intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves."

The Vatican Observatory, which Coyne heads, is one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world. It is based in the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo south of Rome.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI waded indirectly into the evolution debate by saying the universe was made by an "intelligent project" and criticizing those who in the name of science say its creation was without direction or order.

Questions about the Vatican's position on evolution were raised in July by Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn.

In a New York Times column, Schoenborn seemed to back intelligent design and dismissed a 1996 statement by Pope John Paul II that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis." Schoenborn said the late pope's statement was "rather vague and unimportant."


This is, without doubt, an emotionally charged issue. And it continues to be debated. To understand this issue best, one should go back to what the scientific method entails, to what defines science. It is only with the understanding of what science means, could we see its limitation and purpose.

Here is a quote from a biologist, Kenneth Miller:

"We live at a time when this country's scientific preeminence is being challenged all over the world. The last thing that we want to contemplate is anything that would further drive our young people away from science."

Miller is a biologist at Brown University in Rhode Island and also a devout Roman Catholic. He is the author of Finding Darwin's God and believes that evolution and a strong belief in God are not mutually exclusive.

Related Lessons (Elementary Level);DocID=394


Here are questions to further explore this topic:

What is the scientific method?

What is intelligent design?

What is evolution theory?


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 3:29 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 10:31 pm    Post subject: Evolution named 2005's top scientific breakthrough Reply with quote

Evolution named 2005's top scientific breakthrough
By Deborah Zabarenko
Thu Dec 22, 2:05 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two days after a U.S. judge struck down the teaching of intelligent design theory in a Pennsylvania public school, the journal Science on Thursday proclaimed evolution the breakthrough of 2005.

Wide-ranging research published this year, including a study that showed a mere 4 percent difference between human and chimpanzee DNA, built on Charles Darwin's landmark 1859 work "The Origin of Species" and the idea of natural selection, the journal's editors wrote.

"Amid this outpouring of results, 2005 stands out as a banner year for uncovering the intricacies of how evolution actually proceeds," they wrote. "Ironically, also this year, some segments of American society fought to dilute the teaching of even the basic facts of evolution."

The journal's editor in chief, Don Kennedy, acknowledged this was a reference to the rise of the theory of intelligent design, which holds that some aspects of nature are so complex that they must be the work of an unnamed creator rather than the result of random natural selection, as Darwin argued.

Opponents, including many scientists, argue it is a thinly disguised version of creationism -- a belief that the world was created by God as described in the Book of Genesis -- which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled may not be taught in public schools.

"I think what arouses the ire of scientists (about intelligent design) is ... the notion that it belongs in the same universe as scientific analysis," Kennedy said in a telephone interview.

"It's a hypothesis that's not testable, and one of the important recognition factors for science and scientific ideas is the notion of testability, that you can go out and do an experiment and learn from it and change your idea," said Kennedy. "That's just not possible with a notion that's as much a belief in spirituality as intelligent design is."

Intelligent design theory came under review in two U.S. states this year, with a federal judge in Pennsylvania on Tuesday banning the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in the Dover Area School District.

In Kansas, the state Board of Education approved public school standards that cast doubt on evolutionary theory.

Kennedy said Science picked evolution as the year's biggest breakthrough in part because it was a "hot topic," but stressed there was a wealth of research that justified the choice.

Other breakthroughs in the journal's Top 10 include research in planetary exploration, the molecular biology of flowers, the violent ways of neutron stars, the relationship between genetics and abnormal human behavior, the new field of cosmochemistry, a protein that controls the flow of potassium ions to cells, fresh evidence of global warming, an engineering approach to molecular biology and superconductivity.

Areas to watch for in 2006, according to Science, include the avian flu, ultra-high-energy cosmic rays and the possible sighting of the ivory-billed woodpecker, long presumed extinct but rediscovered in 2004.

Journal Cites Evolution Studies in 2005
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
Thu Dec 22, 7:27 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The journal Science's pick for breakthrough of the year in 2005 is "evolution in action," focusing on studies of how evolution works and how it affects lives today.

Several research projects were discussed at meetings to choose the annual breakthrough winner.

"Then we realized they were all connected to evolution," said Colin J. Norman, news editor of Science. "We realized that if we put these together at the molecular level, it's been a banner year for evolutionary research. It shows that evolution underlies all of biology."

Bruce Alberts of the University of California, San Francisco, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said the choice is "very timely. I like it."

On the journal's cover is an illustration of DNA, the blueprint for life that changes in the process of evolution.

Scattered across the DNA molecule are illustrations of people and animals, including a portrait of 19th century natural scientist Charles Darwin whose research drew attention to evolution through the process of natural selection.

It's been nearly 150 years since Darwin's findings were first published, and 2005 was also a major year for debate over his theory, culminating Tuesday with a federal judge's ruling that the religious belief called intelligent design can't be taught in science classes as an alternative to evolution.

There are also battles over teaching evolution underway in Kansas and Georgia, and at one point President Bush supported teaching intelligent design alongside evolution, although he has not commented on the court ruling.

The challenges were not the reason evolution was picked as the science story of the year, Norman said, "we chose this on its merits."

Three areas of research were noted in particular.

• The sequencing of the chimpanzee genome, allowing researchers to compare it with already sequenced human DNA. Only about 4 percent of the coding differs between the two close relatives.

"Somewhere in this catalog of difference lies the genetic blueprint for traits that make us human: sparse body hair, upright gait, the big and creative brain," the editors of Science wrote.

In addition, the journal added, humans are highly susceptible to AIDS, coronary heart disease, chronic viral hepatitis and malignant malarial infections. Chimps aren't, and studying the differences between could help pin down the genetic aspects of many such diseases.

• The human haplotype map, being developed by an international team, catalogues the patterns of genetic variability among people. Researchers are looking for patterns that match with ailments such as diabetes, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.

• Research into the formation of new species as they evolve to differ from others.

In 2005, scientists found a type of warbler known as the European blackcap that was separating into groups with differing migration patterns.

Another study found European cornborers in the same field dividing into two types, one of which sticks to corn while the other eats hops and mugwort. The borers have developed different pheromones, scent chemicals that help them breed with only their own group.

And formerly ocean-living stickleback fish that were left stranded in lakes at the end of the last ice age have evolved into several different species.

That study was done by David Kingsley of Stanford University, who reported in March that 15 isolated populations of freshwater sticklebacks had all lost their bony armor through mutations in the same gene.

While scientists had previously shown evolution in biochemical processes, such as antibiotic resistance, some critics had argued that it would be impossible to evolve large changes in the forms of natural populations.

"That is obviously false," said Kingsley. "Sticklebacks with major changes in skeletal armor and fin structures are thriving in natural environments. And the major differences between forms can now be traced to particular genes."
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 31, 2005 3:43 pm    Post subject: Irreplaceable Perplexity 101 Reply with quote

Science News Online
Week of Dec. 24, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 26/27

Irreplaceable Perplexity 101
Ms. Cleary has designs on teaching evolution
Bruce Bower

Hello class. Settle down please, it's time for today's lesson. Put that iPod away, Wesley, or Ms. Cleary will take it home with her and you won't hear Green Day for a blue moon. Melinda, that chirpy ring tone from your cell phone must stop, or Ms. Cleary will use the infernal device to call her cousin Bernie in Barcelona. Your father will emit his own ring tone when he receives your next phone bill.

Now that your attention is riveted on Ms. Cleary, let's focus on today's special topic. It has come to Ms. Cleary's attention that evolution is in the news. Evolution is really happening, as you kids say.

People with inquiring minds in Kansas and Pennsylvania and, well, all sorts of places now question whether life really evolved on this planet as proposed by Charles Darwin and his scientific followers. They want children like you to learn about intelligent design, an all-purpose evolution substitute.

Ms. Cleary suspects that those few of you who still read newspapers or at least glance at Headline News while channel surfing over to the latest WB teen soap opera have heard about this biological brouhaha. Today, Ms. Cleary will answer your questions about the great evolution debate in her capacity as a humble servant of youth.

You may begin.

What's evolution?

Bless you, you've actually been listening, Wesley. Miracles do occur. Class, be warned that you may hear Hollywood actors say of a director, "Oh, he's so evolved" or speak of an award-winning colleague as "having evolved to a new level." These people don't know evolution from an audition for Scream: Part 8.

Over long periods of time and many generations, animals change their forms. Form changes that serendipitously help animals survive tend to last. However, environments change, too, and by so doing, sometimes wipe out groups of animals that busted their tails to evolve in a previous setting. That's cold. That's evolution.

All the animals now living on this planet trace their ancestries back billions of years through a variety of creatures that no longer exist, including—at the very beginning—one-celled organisms unlike any that you may happen to run across today. This biological unity and diversity go together like The Captain and Tennille, like marble-fudge ice cream and cellulite, like a Quentin Tarantino movie and the sensation of popcorn chunks rising in your throat. That's cool. That's evolution.

Old-school evolution often occurs too slowly for an observer to see. That's inconvenient for those who limit reality to anything that can be captured on their digital video cameras. For those interested in seeing for themselves, ponder artificial evolution. Consider, for example, dog breeding over the past century or Michael Jackson's face over the past 25 years.

What's a missing link?

A missing link, Viola, makes Ms. Cleary's charm bracelet pinch her wrist. Although the intelligent-design people put a lot of stock in missing links, those wacky creatures tell you squat about evolution. So what if we never stumble over the remains of, say, the last common ancestor of apes and people?

Let's consider primates, class. The worldwide collection of fossil skulls from ape and human ancestors shows shape changes that occurred over vast stretches of time among related creatures. Was there ever a half-person, half-chimp? That brings a repulsive and unsanitary image to mind.

Since nobody knows what the common ancestor looked like, scientists in their prickly way may never agree that they've found it. Many questions remain about the ways in which fundamental shape changes arise and foster the evolution of new types of animals. These aren't signs that evolution never happened. They're signs that fascinating turns in evolutionary biology lie ahead for the intellectually curious. By that turn of phrase I mean anyone willing to put down People magazine long enough to read a few books—even paperbacks.

What is intelligent design?

It's the missing link between creationism and religious instruction masquerading as biology. Yes, class, Ms. Cleary sees a place for missing links after all, and it's not pretty.

Creationism takes a literal view of the Bible, so it holds that the Earth and all its creatures were created in one fell, divine swoop 6,000 years ago. Fair enough, but that's a hard sell as must-have information in a sophomore biology course.

Enter intelligent design (ID), an idea that tries to make creationism palatable to adults on school boards who have no scientific training or interests but have the power to tell adults who do have scientific training and interests how to teach science.

Ms. Cleary admits to having a hard time finding anything substantial in the writings of those whom she refers to as IDologues. Much arm waving concerns the concept of "irreducible complexity." Listen closely, class: Biological cells contain protein-making systems for basic functions, such as clotting blood. IDologues assert that such systems are irreducible, consisting of many parts that work together so closely that the whole operation shuts down if a single component goes missing. So, evolution couldn't make adjustments part by part.

IDologues also claim that these biological entities are so complex that they must have been designed from the start to work as they do now rather than having evolved from previous forms. Essential biological systems must therefore reflect a designer's dexterous hidden hand, not evolution. And perhaps nonessential biological facts of life, such as irritable bowel syndrome and male-pattern baldness, reflect the cold, hard slap of a designer's hand.

Ms. Cleary assigns this argument a grade of F for "forget it." As physicist Mark Perakh of California State University, Fullerton has pointed out, if the loss of a single part destroys a system's function, then that system has been poorly designed. Any well-designed system contains features that not only perform their regular roles but can compensate for losses or malfunctions elsewhere. Indeed, scientists are finding that biological systems exhibit just this kind of resiliency and complexity. Biology is messier and more adaptive than IDologues imagine.

Evolution is just a theory, right? Shouldn't we learn about alternatives to it?

A scientific theory is a wonderful thing, Melinda. It's not a wild guess or a poor substitute for facts. It's a framework for making sense of a large number of related observations about the world. Scientists use theories to guide them in designing their experiments. Depending on what the scientists find, a theory can crash and burn or take on unexpected powers of explanation. In other words, theories evolve, and evolutionary theory has gotten stronger over the years.

Don't misunderstand Ms. Cleary. She has great respect for religion, as you all know. Religions evolve and adapt too. But religions answer big questions that nearly everyone asks about our connection to the universe and the meaning of our lives. Science generates novel questions about us and the world that almost nobody would have thought to ask otherwise. Science sifts nuggets of insight out of humanity's irreplaceable perplexity and then subjects that knowledge to continuing scrutiny. Ms. Cleary would refer to irreplaceable perplexity as IP, but that sounds vaguely repellent to her.

By the way, there's plenty of genuine controversy for students of evolution to learn about. Unfortunately, it's not often taught to them, even in the most scientifically tolerant classrooms.

The controversy concerns not whether evolution exists but how it works. As anyone who has attended a meeting of anthropologists can tell you, these scientists engage in epic battles about the nature of evolution. They make Tony Soprano look like a flower child. You'll hear these highly educated people trade streetwise yet erudite barbs such as "Hey fossil breath, people today evolved from a direct ancestor in Africa around 200,000 years ago at most," and "So sorry, matrix for brains, but people evolved simultaneously from populations in Africa, Asia, and Europe over at least the past 1 million years."

Ms. Cleary has tidied up the scientists' actual insults so that impressionable young minds won't be startled.

What is evo devo?

To the best of Ms. Cleary's recollection, that's a cover band inspired by a strange 1980s pop group that wore funky flower pots on their heads and danced like geeky robots, singing "Whip it! Whip it good!"

Isn't evo devo short for evolutionary developmental biology?

Oh yes, thank you, Todd. Ahem. Sometimes Ms. Cleary has flashbacks to her wayward youth.

Evo devo, the study of how changes in genes and individual development contribute to evolution, has advanced greatly in the past 20 years. It's now known that many different animals—from flies to people to elephants—share a set of genes that governs the formation of their bodies and body parts. As scientists are learning how complex animals are constructed from single cells, they're discovering that subtle tweaks to body-building genes promote the descent and modification of animals, no steroids required. Such findings promise to expose the inner workings of evolutionary processes originally proposed by Darwin.

The development of individual organisms out of tiny cells is an amazing thing, class. Physical development is as flexible as one of those charming balloon giraffes that Ms. Cleary buys at the state fair each year. The structures that are built by development may suffer when damaged or when parts of them are removed. But flexible developmental processes, not their end products, may well lie at the heart of evolution.

Let's contemplate the human brain for a moment, class. A child who has half of his or her brain surgically removed to treat severe epilepsy will still grow up to display virtually all the mental and physical faculties of a child with a whole brain. Massive cell reorganization that occurs in the developing half-brain picks up the slack. Brain development is irrepressible, not irreducible.

Did you hear Ms. Cleary, Wesley? Kids with half a brain can succeed. Keep your chin up.

Is it time for lunch yet?

Maintain your focus, Melinda. Goodness knows, it must be hard to think without a wafer-size digital-communications system pressed against your ear.

Ms. Cleary expects that all of you have listened carefully to her little discourse on the evolution wars, although she will not administer a pop quiz next week.

In fact, she will not raise this topic again. After all, this is a Sunday school class. Ms. Cleary simply couldn't resist doing a little evolutionary preaching today. Don't be mad. She's just teaching the controversy.



2005. AGU: President confuses science and belief, puts schoolchildren at risk. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):45.

2005. Harris poll explores beliefs about evolution, creationism, and intelligent design. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):56.

2005. SI on evolution and ID. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):38.

Carroll, S.B. 2005. Endless forms most beautiful. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):48.

Krauss, L.M. 2005. The Pope and I. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):46.

Lerner, L.S. 2005. What should we think about American's belief regarding evolution? Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):59.

Morrison, D. 2005. Only a theory? Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):37.

Perakh, M. 2005. Does irreducible complexity imply intelligent design? Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):32.

Rosenhouse, J. 2005. Why scientists get so angry when dealing with ID proponents. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):42.

Rothchild, I. 2005. The intelligent designer. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):41.

Shneour, E.A. 2005. Obfuscating biological evolution. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):54.


Mark Perakh
California State University, Fullerton
Fullerton, CA 92831
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 8:56 am    Post subject: Science Not to Blame for Non-Religious Scientists Reply with quote

Science Not to Blame for Non-Religious Scientists
By Dave Mosher, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 29 June 2007 03:51 pm ET

Scientists are less religious than the general population, a new study shows, but the reason has little to do with their study of science or academic pressures.

The findings challenge notions that science is responsible for a lack of faith among researchers, indicating that household upbringing carries the biggest weight in determining religiousness.

"Our study data do not strongly support the idea that scientists simply drop their religious identities upon professional training, due to an inherent conflict between science and faith, or to institutional pressure to conform," said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at the University at Buffalo and co-author of the study.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 2:29 pm    Post subject: Survey: 61 Percent Agree with Evolution Reply with quote

Survey: 61 Percent Agree with Evolution
By LiveScience Staff

posted: 02 January 2008 11:57 am ET

Americans would rather hear about evolution from scientists than from judges or celebrities, according to a new survey that finds a majority agree that evolution is at work among living things.

A coalition of 17 organizations reacted today to the survey by calling on the scientific community to become more involved in promoting evolution and other aspects of science education.

The coalition, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Institute of Physics and the National Science Teachers Association, released this statement:

"The introduction of 'non-science,' such as creationism and intelligent design, into science education will undermine the fundamentals of science education. Some of these fundamentals include using the scientific method, understanding how to reach scientific consensus, and distinguishing between scientific and nonscientific explanations of natural phenomena."

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