Tag Archives: science

Intelligent Design moves north to Canada

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In a stunning decision, the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, which funds social science research in Canada, turned down a grant request from Professor Brian Alters on the grounds that he’d failed to provide the panel with ample evidence that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct.

Alters requested Can$40,000 to fund his project titled, “Detrimental effects of popularizing anti-evolution’s intelligent design theory on Canadian students, teachers, parents, administrators and policymakers”. Alters is director of McGill University’s Evolution Education Research Center, in Montreal.

In its decision to deny the grant, the SSHRC panel said Alters had not supplied “adequate justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct.”

Alters said he read the letter at a public lecture last week in Montreal and there were “audible gasps” from the large audience.

“Evolution is not an assumption and intelligent design is pseudo-science,” Alters said.

Janet Halliwell, the SSHRC’s executive vice-president and a chemist by training, acknowledged that the “framing” of the committee’s comments to Alters left the letter “open to misinterpretation.”

Halliwell said confidentiality obligations made it difficult for her to discuss Alters’s case in detail, but she argued that the professor had taken one line in the letter “out of context” and the rejection of his application should not indicate that SSHRC was expressing “doubts about the theory of evolution.”

However, Halliwell added there are phenomena that “may not be easily explained by current theories of evolution” and that the scientific world’s understanding of life “is not static. There’s an evolution in the theory of evolution.”

Prof denied grant over evolution

And in a strange twist, Professor Brian Alters holds teaching positions at McGill and Harvard University, wrote Defending Evolution, AND was a key witness defending Evolution in the Dover, PA trial last year.

*Side Note*

When I visited the article on the Montreal Gazette site to get the quotes used in the post, I found the following block of ads below the article:

How ironic that the ads presented are ones against Evolution – the topic of the article. BTW, I blacked out the addresses because I refuse to give them free business. If you want the links in the ads then go to the article webspage.

Ohio Board of Education does the right thing – finally

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On Tuesday, February 14th, at the monthly meeting of the Ohio Board of Education, it voted 11 to 4 to remove the lesson plan that allowed Intelligent Design to be taught in public schools.

After intense pressure from supporters of real science, which included a letter to Governor Taft signed by 23 members of the advisory committee that was ignored when the plan was adopted in 2004, the OBE made the right decision to remove the plan.

Scientists had assailed the Ohio standards as an attempt to repackage intelligent design and introduce religious principles into science class. Intelligent design holds that life on Earth is so complex that it could have been created only by an “intelligent designer” such as God.

Tuesday’s 11-4 vote rejected a short passage that said students should be able to “describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.”

The board also rejected a model biology lesson that critics said promoted intelligent design. Three board members who voted in January to keep the optional lesson were absent Tuesday, and supporters of the materials said they would force a new vote to get the material back into students’ hands.

Evolution supporters win in Ohio

Of course the issue is not closed. I would be foolish to think so, but it is less likely now that the same lesson plan could be approved again. However since four board member’s terms end at the end of the year, real science supporters need to pay attention and make sure that religious conservatives don’t back door us again.

Deborah Owens Fink, one of the supporters of the now removed plan said in a video report on WBNS-TV that the action was taken to head off a lawsuit. (For video see: Intelligent Design Backers Lose Battle and click on the Video link.)

That’s exactly why those of us against the lesson plan asked for it to be removed.

Science committee members pressure Ohio Board on Intelligent Design Lesson Plan

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The Columbus Dispatch reported on 2/8/2006 that Governor Taft was sent a letter signed by members of an advisory committee that had reviewed the school science standards in 2001. The letter asked the Governor to step in and force the Board to remove the controversial lesson plan adopted in 2004 that would allow the teaching of Intelligent Design.

Twenty-three members of 2001’s Science Content Standards Advisory Committee signed the letter condemning the 2002 standards and the 2004 lesson plan.

They said the 19-person state board, of which the governor appoints eight members, has ignored their concerns.

“Many of us warned then that in singling out this one scientific theory that has historically been opposed by certain religious sects, the board sent the message that it believes there is some problem peculiar to evolution.

“This message was unwarranted scientifically and pedagogically,” the 23 wrote.

The board added the provision to “critically analyze” evolution over objections from many on the advisory committee, a panel assembled by the Ohio Department of Education.

The lesson plan “embodies intelligent design creationism poorly concealed in scientific sounding jargon,” the 23 told Taft.

Evolution wording attacked (subscription req)
Alternative location

State Board President Sue Westendorf said the OBE would likely discuss the issue at their next meeting on February 14th but again it is not on the agenda.

Mayor who supports public display of Nativity scene issues resolution honoring Darwin

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The Humanist Community of Central Ohio, based in Columbus, decided to do something extra to help celebrate Darwin Day on February 12th. Darwin Day honors Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) who wrote the first book about Evolution (On The Origin of Species) in 1859.

HCCO sent letters to the mayors of several Central Ohio cities and asked for a proclamation recognizing February 12th as Darwin Day in their city. Mayors issue proclamations as way to give special recognition to various groups and ideas. It is common practice for a mayor to issue one in recognition of the National Day of Prayer.

One of the responses was a surprise.

Mayor Robert L. McPherson of Reynoldsburg, OH was the first mayor to declare Darwin Day.

Read the Proclamation here

Readers of the blog will remember that McPherson wants to display a donated Nativity scene on the lawn of Reynoldsburg city hall. See: Reynoldsburg, OH Mayor Ignores Law on Holiday Scenes – Again

Now of course one can support the science Darwin wrote about AND believe in God, but I thought it was ironic the mayor would do it. He was the last one I thought would.

Equally surprising was that Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, one time Democratic candidate for Governor, declined to issue a Darwin Day proclamation. He had no problem issuing a proclamation for Rev. Rod Parsley’s Ohio Restoration Project group back in October.

*Update – 2/11/2006 – Mayor Coleman instead issued a proclamation to honor the birthday of inventor Thomas Edison. Coleman’s office worked out the “compromise” with HCCO when the office thought proclaiming a Darwin Day would be too controversial.

Read the Edison proclamation here

Governor Taft thinks there should be a legal review of Ohio Biology lesson plan

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Lame duck Ohio Governor Bob Taft, obviously knowing he has nothing to protect, reversed course and called for a legal review of Ohio’s 10th-grade biology teaching standards in light of the recent Dover, PA ID court decision. He also plans to ask future state board appointees about their views on the issue of Intelligent Design.

In a report in today’s Columbus Dispatch, Taft said:

“There were cases in which I didn’t ask the right questions, in some cases where I supported someone for election or appointment,” Taft said this week when asked about the issue during a meeting with Dispatch editors and reporters.

“I’ll be asking that question now, I can assure you.”

Taft refused to elaborate afterward. But his comments could add fuel to the debate about Ohio’s biology standards, a debate that occupied an entire day at last month’s meeting of the State Board of Education.

Taft spokesman Mark Rickel said that before the governor leaves office early next year, he intends to make appointments for the four board slots coming open Dec. 31.

Taft may re-ignite fuss over intelligent design (Subscription req – sorry)

One of the appointees who term ends at the end of the year is Richard E. Baker, of Hollansburg, who acted like a Junior High Ass by reading a newspaper while discussion of removing the lesson plan took place at the state board of education meeting on January 10th.

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro’s office says they haven’t received a request from Gov Taft for a review yet.

Petro is in a battle to out conservative, conservative Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s Secretary of State, in the upcoming race for the GOP primary to be the next candidate for Governor.

The possible political bias of Petro doing a review in an election year was not lost on Martha Wise, a state board member leading the call to remove the suspect lesson plan.

Wise said it may be difficult to get an objective opinion on such a hot issue during an election year. Taft cannot seek another term. Petro has stressed his conservative credentials while running for governor.

“This is a political year and I would try to watch very carefully that any position the attorney general might take not be tainted by politics,” Wise said.

Terri Schiavo: Revisited

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From the pages of “Duh!” magazine (really an AP article) comes a report where Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who happens to be a medical doctor, admits that the American people thought he was wrong when he called for more examination of Terri Schiavo, the woman who died in March after a long court case. She was brain damaged and kept alive by a feeding tube and her husband wanted to end her life as she had wanted. Terri’s parents sued to prevent the action. In one dubious action, Congress passed a law allowing a Federal court to hear the case. That court sided with the state court who had ruled in favor of the husband.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” [01/29/06], Frist defended his decision to call for more examination of the brain-damaged Florida woman toward the end of a bitter family feud over her treatment.

But Frist says he learned Americans don’t want that kind of involvement in those decisions.

Frist: Schiavo case taught him that people don’t want government involved

Congress’ involvement in what was a state case was unprecedented and stemmed from the influence of religious conservatives. In the Christian religion, ending ones life is considered a sin and religious conservatives went insane when the Schiavo case came up.

Religious conservatives do that a lot. They want to maintain a life at all costs, ignoring reality, and this case ignoring medical professionals. Schiavo wasn’t alive when she died. She was just a breathing bag of goo assisted with a feeding tube.

Microscopic examination revealed extensive damage to nearly all brain regions, including the cerebral cortex, the thalami, the basal ganglia, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the midbrain. The neuropathologic changes in her brain were precisely of the type seen in patients who enter a PVS following cardiac arrest. Throughout the cerebral cortex, the large pyramidal neurons that comprise some 70 percent of cortical cells—critical to the functioning of the cortex—were completely lost. The pattern of damage to the cortex, with injury tending to worsen from the front of the cortex to the back, is also typical. There was marked damage to important relay circuits deep in the brain (the thalami)—another common pathologic hallmark of PVS. The damage was, in the words of Thogmartin, “irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.”

In the case of Terri Schiavo, seven of the eight neurologists who examined her in her last years stated that she met the clinical criteria for PVS; the serial CT scans, EEGs, the one MRI, and finally, the pathologic findings, were consistent with that diagnosis.

Terri Schiavo

Lest you think we seculars don’t “value human life,” we do value human life. We just have a problem with religious conservatives using the government to force their belief of what life is on people. They don’t seem to care about the results of their agenda, only about forcing their agenda on others.

It reminds me of the scene in the Monty Python film “The Meaning Life” where a working man comes home to a house full of children and he has a problem. He lost his job and will have to sell some kids for scientific experiments in order to feed and clothe the rest of the brood. The kids ask why he couldn’t wear a condom, but the man says that to do so would go against their Catholic faith. He then explains, through song, that in the eyes of God, every sperm is sacred and can’t be wasted. If sperm were to be wasted, God would seek revenge.

Although the scene is from a comedy, it highlights that even though the man has too many children to care for, he can’t wear a condom because God would be mad.

Some religious people are against people having the right to make their own end of life decisions because they believe a person’s death is in God’s hands or is God’s will.

There are a couple of problems with that view.

One is that medical technology has expanded so much, even in the last 50 years, that people who would have died without a machine can “live” for many years. If God was so important in the equation, don’t you think such life continuation wouldn’t work.

Second, some religious teachings call for a person to go to heaven. Their goal is to get to the “afterlife” and it is far more important than their current life. Pretty ironic when compared to the reaction the Schiavo case.

There is another view of the case.

Father Frank Pavone had this to say in response to the release of the Terri Schiavo autopsy:

The autopsy goes on to say that Terri’s brain was “profoundly atrophied,” and only half the normal size. Fine. If that’s what the experts tell us, there is no problem believing them. But what does that mean, that she was only half-human, only half a person, or that she had only half the rights that the rest of us have? That is the conclusion that we must never accept. That is a conclusion that does not come from an autopsy, but from a callous disregard for human life.

Atrophy of Compassion

I agree with Father Pavone. We need to protect those less able to protect themselves. Terri Schiavo didn’t die on a whim or because she became a burden to her family. Her husband followed the law in requesting that her wish to die be allowed. A trial with witnesses was held. The court appointed an advocate to represent Terri and the judge considered the evidence presented. That was in 2000. The appeals from her parents went on for several more years. Schiavo’s rights were protected as any able body person is protected.

Father Pavone still calls the death of Schiavo a murder. An unlawful killing is murder. It is also interesting that the document I pulled the quote from is in a section called Euthanasia. Some like Father Pavone equate Euthanasia with murder. They believe any killing done by another is murder.

He ignores the reality of such situations to further is own agenda.