Sunday, August 28, 2005

The sporting life (sciences)

OH-MI-GAWD … Now we have a sports columnist weighing in on “intelligent design.” (Just Check the ID, Washington Post, 8/29/2005)

First, columnist Sally Jenkins assures us that ID is NOT simply a sly form of creationism and that it is “unfairly confused with the movement to teach creationism in public schools.”

She concludes that
… science class also teaches us how crucial it is to maintain adventurousness, and surely it's worthwhile to suggest that an athlete in motion conveys an inkling of something marvelous in nature that perhaps isn't explained by mere molecules.

In between are quotes from an assortment of "experts," including Philip Johnson, various athletes and “Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a neuroscientist and research professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine,” who is described as “a believer in ID, or as he prefers to call it, ‘intrinsic intelligence.’”

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Spinning the science standards debate

This week on Panda’s Thumb there's a post by Marshall Berman and Dave Thomas that point by point -- and fact by fact – picks apart the claims by the Discovery Institute that they have been successful in their campaigns to get their “teach the controversy” agenda into science education standards in New Mexico and other states.

Bottom line: When they failed to convince school boards to revise science education standards to their liking, they went into spin mode, framing the results to make it sound as though they had weakened the position of evolution in the curriculum -- and getting the main stream press to repeat the fib.

The responses by state officials to the DI’s claims make it clear they have no intention of backing down when it comes to ensuring students will get a solid education. The lengthy post is not as “entertaining” as the breathless coverage in the popular press, but it sure is an encouraging read.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Wallowing in the furor

Still wallowing in all the words stirred up by the Prez’s seemingly off-hand remark about “intelligent design.” Still determined not to invest a lot of consonants and vowels on an incident that is being covered by so many others.

I’ve spent WAY too much time for over a week reading this column and that response. I’ve gotten frustrated at misleading pleas for balance, like the one by syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker published around the country under various titles. (“There’s room at the table for intelligent design theory” in The Oregonian.). I’ve chuckled at clever repartee on the heavy-duty science weblogs like Panda’s Thumb and Pharyngula, marveled at the passions stirred by this issue, and appreciated the thoughtful responses by the many defenders of science in the blogoshpere and in mainstream publications.

Even if I could, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to reiterate all that I have been absorbing, but I will highlight a couple of items I haven’t yet seen mentioned elsewhere.

I haven’t had a chance to read all the way through it yet, but the Aug 22 issue of The New Republic has a lengthy article, “The Case Against Intelligent Design: The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name” (registration required) by Jerry Coyne, that looks at the evolution of ID from its creationist roots.

While Time magazine came out with a cover story about evolution and religion that tried oh-so-hard to be “balanced,” the Aug 15 issue of Newsweek has a forceful Jonathan Alter column (“Monkey See, Monkey Do”) with the pull-no-punches callout

“Offering ID as an alternative to evolution is a cruel joke. It walks and talks like science but in the lab performs worse than medieval alchemy.”

And finally, some coverage from the UK, where the local religious right is going after the school science curriculum, the Aug 12 Times Online has these words from Mark Henderson (“Dangerous models to create”)

“The best schools do not simply teach a body of knowledge. They teach children how to think, to question, to reach conclusions for themselves based on evidence, not authority or hearsay. Science encourages all these qualities; creationism promotes their antitheses.”

[Note: I’ve registered on Technorati. If you find me from there – or anywhere else – please leave a comment so I will know that I am not just talking to myself.]

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On evolution and Buddhism

In the wake of this week's Bush pronouncement on "intelligent design" as a valid subject for the science classroom, I have wallowed in the endless stream of online articles and blog postings. I didn't plan to add to the noise -- and I won't -- but I happened across an interesting post from a writer in Malaysia that offers some insight on Buddhism's compatibility with evolution.

If someone insists on including ID in the science curriculum, how about including a discussion about the Buddhist philosophy as it relates to nature?