Monday, February 12, 2007

They didn’t know? Because they did not want to

A little while back some folks were questioning the wisdom of several members of the Dover Area School Board for insisting on adopting a statement to be read to biology students that promoted intelligent design, when they understood neither evolution nor intelligent design (nor even science, for that matter). Apparently, some people thought these ignoramuses should be excused for their lack of knowledge. I disagree. There was opportunity to learn (for crying out loud, there were teachers in the schools); some information was available in the media (although at that time too many reports seemed to attempt more balance than was justified); and some folks tried to tell them intelligent design was bogus.

In early September I sent the following letter to the three Board members who had email addresses listed on the School Board Web page. Those three were Noel Wenrich (who later left the Board for a position elsewhere), Alan Bonsell (I did not realize he was the creationist ringleader), and Heather Geesey. I asked the recipients to share the letter with their colleagues who did not have email addresses posted. Needless to say, my letters had no effect on these people.

Dear (Mr. Wenrich, Mr. Bonsell, and Ms Geesey),

I understand that the Dover Area School Board is considering whether to require “Of Pandas and People” as a supplemental text in the high school biology curriculum. I believe members of the Board should be made aware of the nature of this book and why adopting it would do a grievous disservice to the students. I have attached two critiques of this book written by qualified practitioners in the field of evolutionary biology (more critiques have been written, but they cover much of the same ground). Please share this information with those Board members who do not have email addresses lested on the Board Web page.

In a nutshell, “Intelligent Design Creationism” is a movement having as part of its overall goal, bringing Biblical Creation into the classroom. Although some may deny a religious motivation, when one examines what they say, in their own words, there is no room for doubt. “Pandas” is clearly and undeniably a sectarian religious text, despite its attempts not to refer to “God” or cite passages from the Bible. The U.S. Supreme Court has determined such efforts to introduce religion under stealth violate the Constitution. (I’ll just mention here that, despite Creationists’ execrations to the contrary, many evolutionary scientists are religious people.)

“Pandas” presents many of the standard Creationist arguments and strategies—arguments based on misunderstanding of the science, quotations out of context, distorted explanations, misrepresentations, and even outright falsehoods. If the authors are to be believed, not only is evolutionary science in error, but many aspects of geology and the basic sciences are also wrong. When one considers how well the scientific method has helped us learn about the world around us, it is extreme hubris to say that science has got it all wrong.

I’ll leave specific criticisms of “Pandas” to the attached articles. They contain additional references, and many, many more can be found at www.talkorigins.org, www.talkdesign.org, and other Web sites. Detailed criticisms of Intelligent Design Creationism (and hundreds more references cited) have been presented in

Forrest and Gross, 2004, Creationism’s Trojan horse: Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 401 p.

Pennock, 1999, Tower of Babel: Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 429 p.

Pennock (editor), 2001, Intelligent design creationism and its critics: Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press, 805 p. [includes contributions by a number of leading ID Creationists, and critiques]

Shanks, 2004, God, the devil, and Darwin: Oxford, Oxford Univ. Press, 273 p.

My greatest concern in matters such as this is that we are at a point where America needs to have as well-informed, knowledgeable, critically-thinking citizenry as possible in order to compete in an increasingly technological world. We severely hamper our ability to compete if we impose a seventeenth-century mode of thinking on our new generations.


I thank you for your patience, and I will gladly provide such additional materials as I can that you may find helpful.


Respectfully yours,

Oh--Happy Darwin Day!

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