Is there another Guillermo Gonzalez in the making? Not quite, but there are some distressing signals coming out of UVa. This time the controversy surrounds the IDEA chapter and its faculty adviser, Bryce Paschal.
[For those who may not be aware, UVa is Paul Gross’s school. Gross was co-author of Creationism’s Trojan Horse with Barbara Forrest. ]
The IDEA club at UVa had a meeting September 22, 2005 before 100 students (with me as invited speaker). Then, in the summer, an article referencing that meeting and the club’s activities throughout the year were highlighted in an article which I link to here: IDEA UVa adviser, molecular geneticist and biochemist doubts Darwin.
Apparently the UVa IDEA club’s humble activities caused quite a great deal of distress such that several faculty members took it upon themselves to sign a statement condemning intelligent design. This last insult is in addition to the fact Darwinist students have been involved in minor incidents of vandalism and heckling against the UVa IDEA club.
We were distressed by the article “Ultimate Questions,” not because it raised questions about scientific theory and observations, but rather because it failed to properly characterize the religious basis for an increasingly vocal attack on science. The article failed to state that the purpose of the IDEA Club is not merely to debate evolution and religion, but (as stated in their charter) to “promote, as a scientific theory, the idea that life was designed by an intelligent designer.” The argument that has been made is that gaps in scientific knowledge can be used to prove a supernatural and theological explanation for natural phenomenon. This is an attempt to disguise theology as science, and the simple conclusion would be that the less we know, the greater is the support for supernatural explanations. The great advance of the Enlightenment has been the search for natural explanations for natural phenomena.
While the article appears to represent a balanced view of the controversy, arguments from the proponents of intelligent design are presented without rebuttal. It might be assumed by a reader who is not an expert that valid flaws in evolutionary theory have been exposed. For example, a sidebar in the article presents the example of the bacterial flagellum, a seemingly complicated apparatus used for swimming that contains approximately 40 different proteins. According to the proponents of intelligent design, it “could not have started unless an intelligent agent put the right pieces in place, together at the same time. Proponents of intelligent design argue that the likelihood that such complexity, with so many dependent parts, arose randomly is virtually nil.” What the article fails to discuss is that the flagellar assembly is known to be homologous, that is to share common origins, with the bacterial Type Three Secretion System, and thus evolution can explain how a secretory system evolved into one capable of both secretion and motility.
We think that the attention given to ID is due to the lack of understanding about evolution. It is safe to assume that if the IDEA Club was constituted to promote as a scientific theory the notion that earthquakes are caused by God, and not by plate tectonics, it would receive less favorable coverage. Unfortunately, earthquakes are accepted by more people as a natural phenomenon than is biological evolution. According to the Pew Survey, approximately 50 percent of adults in the United States believe that humans first appeared on the earth in their present form within the past 5,000 to 10,000 years. The notion that humans actually evolved from more primitive life forms, supported by vast amounts of data from fields as diverse as paleontology and molecular genetics, is antithetical to those who do not accept evolution. If humans are the product of an intelligent design, should we also conclude that pathogens, such as Salmonella and HIV, responsible for killing millions of children every year, are also intelligently designed?
Why is the concept of evolution so troubling to proponents of ID? Not only does evolution clash with religious dogma, but it undermines the significance that some would like to give to the place of humans in the universe. Most people are unaware of the resistance 400 years ago to the notion that the earth revolves around the sun, a climate that led to GalileoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s public recantation of this notion under the threat of torture. The opposition to a heliocentric theory of the solar system was due to the conflict with religion, and was sustained by the desire to imagine that we occupy a special place in existence. It appeared more comforting to those who opposed Galileo to believe that we were the center of the universe, rather than that the earth is one of many planets that revolves around the sun, which is but one of many stars. It is quite disappointing that 22 percent of U.S. adults recently surveyed by the Washington Post (reported in the March 30 issue) thought that the sun revolves around the earth, rather than vice versa, so while progress has been made since the time of Galileo, it is not as rapid as one might have hoped.
The current conflict between the science of evolution and attempts to teach creationism or ID disguised as science can be seen in the same light as the resistance to a heliocentric theory of the solar system. It may be more comforting to some to imagine that we were created in our present form than that we share common origins with chimpanzees, mice and even bacteria. The article did a disservice to the extensive body of data in support of evolution by placing the religiously motivated remarks of a few on a seemingly equal footing with real observations and experiments. It was stated that “Few peer-reviewed scientific studies [in support of ID] have been published in the major scientific journals,” but a more accurate statement would be that no peer-reviewed scientific studies in support of ID have ever been published in any major scientific journal.
Jefferson recognized that reasoned debate and the free exchange of ideas constituted the very core of democracy in America. However, theories such as ID, that invoke religious themes due to a purported lack of scientific facts, have no credibility or standing in the teaching of science in the United States.
Adler, Paul N. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biology
Auble, David T. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Bauerle, Ronald H. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biology
Beyer, Ann L. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Bradbeer, Clive Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Brautigan, David L. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Brown, Jay C. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Bullock, Timothy N. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Burke, Daniel J. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
DeSimone, Douglas W. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Cell Biology
Dutta, Anindya Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Egelman, Edward H. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Fox, Jay W. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Grigera, Pablo R. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Hamlin, Joyce L. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Hammarskjold, Marie-Louise. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Horwitz, A. Rick Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Cell Biology
Kedes, Dean H. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Khorasanizadeh, Sepideh Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Kupfer, Gary M. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Lannigan, Joanne A. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Ley, Klaus Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biomedical Engineering
Li, Chien Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Pharmacology
Li, Rong Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Lindorfer, Margaret Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Lynch, Kevin Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Pharmacology
Macara, Ian G. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Macdonald, Timothy L. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Chemistry
McDuffie, Marcia J. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Menaker, Michael Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biology
Minor, Wladek Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Moskaluk, Christopher A. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Nakamoto, Robert Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Noramly, Selina Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Osheim, Yvonne Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Rissman, Emilie Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Rivera-Nieves, Jesus Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Internal Medicine
Roberts, Margo R. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Ross, William G. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Internal Medicine
Schwartz, Martin A. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Smith, Michael F. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Microbiology
Stukenberg, P. Todd Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Tamm, Lukas K. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Taylor, Ronald P. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Thompson, Thomas E. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Wertz, Gail W. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Pathology
White, Judith M. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Cell Biology
Wiener, Michael C. Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics
Wotton, David Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Virginia has been a hot bed of pro-ID and pro-creationist activities:
Anti-Darwin rally at Virginia Commonwealth: Textbook Controversy
And Liberty University’s Creation Mega-Conference, 2005.
And let us not forget the venerable Henry Morris was a professor at Virginia Tech. Morris has left a continuing legacy of pro-ID and pro-creation faculty and students at that school.
There are also cells of pro-ID science and biology students and faculty at Virginia’s William and Mary College, Longwood College, and Hampden-Sydney, Northern Virginia Community College, Patrick Henry College, and Medical College of Virginia. I suppose there are more, but those are the one’s I have contact with.
One other thing worth mentioning, Virginia has a high concentration of high-tech jobs. The county I grew up in Fairfax, which had the highest per-capita concentration of scientists and engineers of anywhere in the world. It has been called the “silicon valley” of the East. All this despite the fact Virginia gets a D- in Darwinism according to the Fordham report.
I was the invited speaker in the article in which the letters respond to: IDEA UVa adviser, molecular geneticist and biochemist doubts Darwin.
Here is an example of slanted reporting by the UVA radio station, September 22, 2005:
WTJU News Radio
Controversial speaker comes to U-V-A.
A rising voice in the movement to replace the study of evolution with that of an intelligent designerÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Salvador Cordova Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ spoke to a crowd of about one hundred people last night at the University of Virginia. Cordova was a guest of the UVA chapter of Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Club or I-D-E-A.
The intelligent design movement asserts that certain features of the universe and of living things are too complex to be explained by an undirected process such as natural selectionÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ and therefore must involve an intelligent designer. Although some proponents of intelligent designÃ¢â‚¬Â¦such as CordovaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦claim no interest in bringing the teaching of creationism into public schoolsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦the intelligent design movement has been used by many as a way to present an alternative theory to evolution that may be more palatable than outright creationism. Corodova said in his talk Ã¢â‚¬Å“scientists supporting intelligent design are in a tough position because most of their donors strongly want creationism and intelligent design taught in public schools.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In an hour-long lectureÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Cordova repeatedly stated that the movementÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inability to identify who the intelligent designer is does not detract from movement. He spent the majority of his time reading quotes from many scientists on topics such as evolution and quantum theoryÃ¢â‚¬Â¦with the intent of suggesting that many scientists indirectly support an intelligent designer.
Following the lectureÃ¢â‚¬Â¦there was a question and answer session. StudentsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦facultyÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and members of the publicÃ¢â‚¬Â¦denounced Cordova for his inability to present hard evidence supporting intelligent design. One U-V-A professor criticized Cordova for relying on out-of-context quotes from a few select scientists for his claims.
Even strong believers in intelligent design and fundamental ChristiansÃ¢â‚¬Â¦I.D.E.A. co-founders John CopperÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and Kristine HerefordÃ¢â‚¬Â¦expressed some disappointment in CordovaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s lecture. Copper saysÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬ÂI feel like he could have done a better job. There could have been more numbers and things like that.Ã¢â‚¬Â Hereford says Ã¢â‚¬Å“There wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t much pointed evidence.Ã¢â‚¬Â But both Copper and Hereford were very pleased with the large turnoutÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and the intense discussion that followed the lecture. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We started the club to put the information out thereÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and to generate discussionÃ¢â‚¬Â says HerefordÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬ÂI was glad with the turnoutÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and with the diversity of people representedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦and I find it interesting to see a different perspective.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The lecture was held last night in Gilmer hall.