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Dennis Wagner, editor

Number Fifty-One, January 20, 2006

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What Went Down in Dover?

U.S. District Judge
John E. Jones

On December 21, 2005, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones rendered a court decision on the Dover, PA School District Board resolution requiring a four paragraph letter to be read to students indicating that evolution was only a theory, and that other theories, such as Intelligent Design, existed, and if students were interested in this, they could find a book on the topic in the school library.

I had plenty of time to read the entire 139 page Kitzmiller v. Dover decision while riding the train from Denver to Sacramento over the Christmas holiday, and let me tell you it is a doozy!  ARN Correspondent Kevin Wirth has been working on a detailed analysis of the decision and he sums it up like this:

Many things become evident from a reading of the Kitzmiller opinion, but this much is clear: it is literally laced with scores of innuendos and tainted interpretations about ID and the value of the Dover Board’s disclaimer. The Kitzmiller court also frequently accepts testimony from Defendants' expert witnesses that supports the views of the Plaintiffs in key places, while rejecting or ignoring valid testimony from the Defendants' expert witnesses to create a blended caricature of the ID position which is full of inaccuracies, assumptions, and half-truths. The Court then takes the resulting caricature of ID it has created, holds it up as fully accurate, and uses it to show why it fails the establishment clause tests. I cannot think of a more unfair, unjust, and abusive use of judicial prerogative than this.

When you consider the working definition of intelligent design: “Intelligent causes exist and these causes can be empirically detected (by looking for specified complexity)” and you consider the Dover expert witness testimony of scientists working under this definition like Michael Behe and Scott Minnich, you begin to understand the games Judge Jones had to play to declare ID a religion. Not only that, but Jones went on to provide special protection for the theory of evolution, stating that the Board could not require teachers to denigrate the theory of evolution in any way.  In other words it is beyond criticism.  With all the religious implications that are tied to Darwinian evolution it is ironic that what the court in fact did in Dover was establish religious worldviews attached to evolution in our public schools.  Other Dover expert witness statements of interest to ID proponents are those of Professors John Angus Campbell and Steve William Fuller.

Thanks to our friends at NCSE you can find most of the documents related to the trial available in .pdf format online.  If you are stuck at home in a snowstorm and looking for something to do, you can read through the entire transcripts of the trial. I highly recommend the testimony and cross-examination of Michael Behe, which starts on day 10 and runs for several days.  This might also be a fun assignment for students to read testimonies from experts on both sides and write their own decision.

Detailed analysis of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision is still in process, but those wanting to understand some of the flaws of the decision may want to start with IDers like John West, Kevin Wirth, and William Dembski, or non-IDers Albert Alschuler and Bradley Monton.

I predict that if the Court continues to over-reach its authority in defining religion and science in such a way as to alienate and insult the vast majority of citizens in this country with theistic worldviews, that we will see a rapid privatization of education in the form of vouchers and homeschooling.  While proponents of particular viewpoints may welcome this move, I think it will only hasten the culture wars as we segregate ourselves into like-minded conclaves rather than force ourselves to debate the issues in the public square.  But if the answer continues to be “there will be no debate,” then I say bring on the vouchers and the homeschoolers.

New Book
One Small Speck to Man: the evolution myth
by Vij Sodera

You would be violating the law to require students to read Vij Sodera’s One Small Speck to Man in the Dover County Schools, PA.  Not because it is religious (Sodera never mentions God or the Bible), and not because it promotes creation-science or intelligent design (you won’t find those words anywhere in the book), but because this surgeon from the UK, with a special interest in animal biology, provides a detailed and devastating critique of evolution theory. And in Dover, PA the Federal judge ruled that the school district cannot require students to read anything that denigrates the theory of evolution.

In this encyclopedic book, Dr. Sodera explores the living world from coelacanths to embryology; from dinosaurs to muscle contraction; from whales to human fossils; and shows conclusively that the ‘one small speck to man’ theory of evolution is more imagination than reality. With 464 pages and over 800 color images, this truly outstanding work deals purely with the scientific evidence and provides a highly detailed reference.

Some readers may already be familiar with many of the critiques of Darwin’s theory presented in this book.  However, to have them nicely organized in one volume, with outstanding photos and graphics to illustrate the points, makes this a wonderful high school or college level text, as well as a prized coffee table book that is fun to browse.  Like most full-color coffee-table books, this volume will cost you a chunk of change.  But we think you will find it a worthwhile investment, especially if you are a homeschool teacher looking for a life-sciences textbook that does not assume that Darwinian evolution is the only way to look at the evidence.   The topics covered in individual chapters include animal fossils, time, mass extinctions, variation, DNA and proteins, molecular machines, whales, birds, the eye, human fossils, bipedalism, chromosomes, and intelligence. 

The chapter on Human Fossils was particularly interesting as Dr. Sodera pictorially and analytically compares human-like fossils with modern man.  His conclusion: “So the human-like fossil evidence actually paints a completely different picture from that which is commonly portrayed.  Instead of man evolving from apes via crude-looking ancestors, the evidence points to populations of ancient human beings having passed through some morphological changes (whether from inbreeding and/or disease) before these groups gained the modern human form.”

This is the third major book critiquing evolution to come out of the UK in recent years joining Dawkin’s God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath, and Evolution Under the Microscope: A Scientific Critique of the Theory of Evolution by David Swift.  Perhaps there is a movement brewing in the UK similar to the ID movement in the US.

Order your copy of One Small Speck to Man: the evolution myth.

New Video
The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?
Lecture by W. Ward Gasque

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory and author Dan Brown spun a gem that started a trend of religious-mystery thriller novels with his fictional book The Da Vinci Code.  By the end of 2005 the book had sold over 25 million copies worldwide in just four years, and a major motion picture, based on the book, and directed by Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman, is scheduled to be released by Sony Pictures in May 2006.

I love the opportunity Dan Brown has created with The Da Vinci Code to strike up a conversation with friends, family, and total strangers about religion, art, and history. But just how much of The Da Vinci Code is fact and how much is fiction? In his book review for the Boston Globe, David Mehegan states “On his website and in interviews, Brown has not disavowed any of the history in the book. However, his foreword says, ‘All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate,’ which would seem to mean that everything else is freely invented….Written in standard thriller style, with exotic settings, breathless chases, amazing escapes, and sudden plot reversals, The Da Vinci Code is as much fun as a James Bond movie and about as believable.”

However, an entire tourist industry has sprung up around the European locations described in the book, and tour guides are reporting that visitors frequently insist that everything in the book is 100 percent fact.  If you want to be part of the cultural conversation, that is sure to intensify when the movie is released in May 2006, you need to watch this lecture by noted theologian and author, Dr. W. Ward Gasque.

Just how many of the “facts” in The Da Vinci Code are actually true? Have you been itching to know whether the Priori of Sion has really been a centuries-old closely guarded secret that only Dan Brown has been able to uncover? Or perhaps you are more interested in the accuracy of Dan Brown’s artistic knowledge. Did Leonardo really paint in a woman as the twelfth disciple? If not the art, then perhaps the theology behind the book caught your attention with the mentioning of the Gnostic gospels and Mary Magdalene as the head of the original church. Did Jesus marry and have a child, and are his physical descendants alive in the world today?  Whatever your question may be about the “facts” behind this “fictional” work, this lecture will most likely address it.

Ward Gasque thoroughly covers the historical people, places, and ideas in this lecture, laying out the evidence in a straightforward manner and giving the viewer the final say on how the evidence should be interpreted. For instance, did Leonardo’s journals contain secret codes and messages?  Gasque explains that Leonardo’s journals were written in common Italian, but from right to left, instead of the opposite method employed today. This is logical seeing as Leonardo was left handed. His journals are still on display today and can be read easily with the help of a bathroom mirror, but no secret codes or messages have been uncovered in his journals. Along with the hard evidence, Gasque also appeals to the viewer’s common sense with logical arguments as to why a Catholic conspiracy as offered by Dan Brown would not exist. One such argument is that the Catholic Church was not even prominent in the first few centuries. The Eastern Church was the main focus of the early Christian movement, and therefore would have already possessed any information that the Catholic Church attempted to hide. Even if you haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, this lecture may prove quite fascinating and enlightening for it’s in-depth look at a broad range of historical subjects. The video ends with a short question and answer period by the audience.

I would encourage you to read the book, watch the movie, watch this lecture by Ward Gasque, and then strike up a conversation with those around you about the significance of the story.  Dan Brown has raised the issues.  It’s up to you to continue the conversation.

Order your copy of The Da Vinci Code: Fact or Fiction?

New Book
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science
by Tom Bethel

Science is neutral, right?

Of course it’s reliable, based on fact, unprejudiced, and trustworthy, isn’t it? Well, guess again. A lot of what passes for science these days is pseudo-science, and a lot of scientific fact is hidden from public view because it’s not politically correct.

Science has been politicized—not by the Right, but by the Left, which sees global warming, Darwinism, stem cell research, and innumerable other issues as tools to advance its agenda (and in many cases expand the reach of government).

When liberals trot out scientists with white coats, debate is supposed to be silenced. But many of the high priests of science have something to hide—from blind intolerance of religion to jealous guarding of their federally financed research budgets.

Luckily, science journalist Tom Bethell is here with the necessary and bracing antidote: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science.

Here’s a handy one-volume guide to some of the most contentious issues of our day, including:

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science busts myths, reveals hidden agendas, and lets you in on some of the little-known secrets about what’s really going on in science. If you’re tired of being hoodwinked by liberals who use science to justify all sorts of misbehavior, then order your copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science.

New Book
Beliefs and Values in Science Education
by Michael Poole

Much of the origins debate could be avoided if we would all admit and recognize that science does not take place in a vacuum.  Scientists are human and approach their endeavors with a certain perspective or worldview. This book examines ways in which beliefs and values interact with science and science teaching. It looks at some of the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural contexts within which science has developed and considers how these factors can affect the choice of scientific theory. Various historical sections provide resource material for showing pupils the role of the history of science in the study of science. Interactions between science and religious belief are also analyzed to clarify the nature, strengths and limitations of science, as well as its place in the total curriculum.

Although this book was first published over 10 years ago in the UK, it is one of the best available on the topic and should be considered essential reading by anyone who teaches or works in a science-related field.

About the Author
Michael Poole taught science for 14 years at a South London Comprehensive School. He then undertook some broadcasting work on beliefs and values in science and was for 20 years a Lecturer in Science Education at King's College London, where he is currently a Visiting Research Fellow. His research interest is in the interplay between science and religion with special reference to the educational context.

Order your copy of Beliefs and Values in Science Education.

Pillars of Naturalism T-Shirts and Coffee Mugs

Pillars of NaturalismSigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Charles Darwin are considered the pillars of modern western thought. They differed in many ways, but had one thing in common: they were reductionists who claimed that all higher realms of existence could be explained by lower natural causes. They were the pillars of naturalism.

But their ideas were tested during the twentieth century and found wanting. Freud was the first to fall. Incidents in his career were cited to call into question both his integrity and his scientific competence, and psychiatry seemed to make more progress through medication than through Freudian analysis. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s inflicted a death blow on Marxism, which is now seen as not only failing to deliver its promised utopia but as creating an inhumane tyranny. Darwin is the last man standing, but his theory is rapidly eroding as modern biological science reveals amazing complexity and design that cannot possibly be explained by Darwin’s proposed mechanism of random mutations and natural selection. This led Phillip Johnson to summarize the situation one day with the phrase that appears on this shirt: “Freud is dead, Marx is dead, and Darwin is not feeling very well.”

Order your Pillars of Naturalism T-Shirt or coffee mug today, or check out all eight of our T-shirt designs.


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