Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fear of Scientists or?

I thought this discussion curious and will search out these two dudes as to what happens if anyone comes to the party and discusses ID in any intelligible way, or better still, has actually proven some aspect or other, but with less of the statistical mumbo jumbo.

 ‘Intelligent design': What do scientists fear?

Let's have a public debate on the merits

USA Today 31 November 2005

Cal Thomas is a conservative columnist. Bob Beckel is a liberal Democratic strategist. But as longtime friends, they can often find common ground on issues that lawmakers in Washington cannot.

Today: Should public schools teach “intelligent design,” the theory that the universe and its life forms are so complex that a higher cause must have been involved in making them?

Bob: Cal, I'm going to stray from the consensus liberal line on the issue of intelligent design. The Dover, Pa., school board had a good reason to allow the teaching of intelligent design as a scientific alternative to Darwinism in the school system's science classes. Despite the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community that evolution is the sole explanation for all living things, these scientists have yet to prove the theory conclusively. Not only are there still gaping holes in the evolutionary chain from single cells to man, the science crowd hasn't come close to explaining why only man among all living things has a conscience, a moral framework and a free will.

Cal: What I find curious about this debate, not only in Pennsylvania, but in Kansas and throughout the country, is that so many scientists and educators are behaving like fundamentalist secularists. Only they will define science. They alone will decide which scientific theories and information will be taught to students. That sounds like mind control to me, Bob. If their science is so strong on the issue of origins, why not let the arguments supporting intelligent design into the classroom where it can be debunked if it can't be defended? You liberals are always accusing us conservatives of censorship. It sounds like your side has picked up the disease on this one.

Bob: One reason is that your side insists on making this debate about religion. I believe there is a good science debate here. Many people believe that the Christian community is using intelligent design as a backdoor for teaching creationism. If not, this issue would not be in the federal courts in a constitutional argument over separation of church and state. But there are a number of serious scientists who believe in intelligent design as a theory of evolution based on scientific argument.

Cal: Exactly right, Bob. And many of them have advanced degrees from the same universities from which the evolutionary scientists have graduated. And what about some of the greatest names in science — men like Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Johannes Kepler and Galileo? Charles Darwin was a devout Christian as a young man, but his religious views — like his scientific ones — “evolved” as he got older. By the time he wrote The Origin of Species, he was as good a practical secularist as any non-believer. Was the later Darwin smarter than the combined wisdom of those scientists who believed the universe did not come into existence by chance but had a creator behind it? Readers can Google “scientists and intelligent design” for the names of many more scientists who believed someone was behind what we see in the sky with our eyes and beyond through a telescopic eye.

Bob: Good, now you're talking science, not theology.

Cal: But I doubt the secular fundamentalists and their judicial friends will ever allow this debate to occur. That's why I support, for this reason and many others, pulling conservative and Christian kids out of public schools and placing them in private or home-school environments where they can get a real and truthful education.

Bob: Cal, if you encourage Christian believers to take their kids out of public schools, then it's likely intelligent design will never get a fair hearing and forever be seen as Biblical creation only. That's not fair to those who want competing theories to Darwin introduced as a scientific debate, not a theological food fight.

Cal: Fair point, Bob, but the primary responsibility of parents is to their children. If they are teaching them one thing at home and in their place of worship, and they are subsidizing with their taxes the teaching of conflicting views — which are taught as truth in the government schools — they are undermining the very things in which they believe. School choice would settle a lot of this, but those politically beholden to the National Education Association aren't about to allow parents the freedom to choose where to educate their kids.

Bob: Some public school systems may well be hostile to Christian dogma, but most are looking at intelligent design as a church-state issue, and until told otherwise by the federal courts will continue to keep the debate out of science classes. You can't blame them. Nearly the entire school board in Dover was defeated over this very issue in the last election. Pulling Christian kids from public schools only helps the “Darwin only” science crowd.

Cal: Scientists have accepted theories in the past that proved to be wrong. Science is supposed to be about openness to competing ideas. But the very people who want to impose evolution as the only scientific explanation for life on the planet violate this basic tenet of science when it comes to intelligent design.

Bob: True, but these scientists will say the overwhelming body of evidence supports evolution, and no other theory comes close. Well, of course it doesn't because no other theory has been studied seriously. This crowd has a vested interest in proving Darwin correct, and anything else is dismissed out of hand. This from the same scientific community that for years believed the universe was shrinking. They have since discovered the Big Bang and now believe the universe is expanding.

Cal: You're making my point, Bob. Science advances by considering all theories and evidence, not by conspiring to teach only one to the exclusion of others. This is Flat Earth Society thinking.

Bob: But if this debate continues to be viewed as an attempt by fundamentalist Christians to get their beliefs into the public schools, then intelligent design will never get a fair hearing, and it deserves one. The scientists who view intelligent design as a science, not a dogma, believe that the smallest building blocks of life are so complex that they couldn't simply evolve from amoebas. That's about as far as I can go in my understanding of all this.

Cal: What has been set up is a false premise: that the Bible and science are in conflict and that nothing in Scripture can be tested scientifically. That is just not true. But when God asks Job — “Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?” — the question should make scientists humble about their certainties concerning the origins of the earth and of human life.

Bob: There you go again mixing science with the Bible. We both want to see intelligent design introduced into the scientific debate. Can't we leave the Bible out of this while we're trying to convince the public that this is a debate about science? It's a means-ends issue, Cal.

Cal: Some Christians are trying to water down what they really believe for the wrong reasons. It would be better for them to exit the government schools so they can teach their beliefs without compromise. For those who remain — like you — and want intelligent design taught alongside evolution, why not have a series of televised debates so the public could make up its own mind?

Bob: That's a start. The scientific community has gone out of its way to depict intelligent design as a religious view. Most people have no idea that serious scientists believe there is a strong case for intelligent design. These scientists have been denied a forum, and a series of public debates would be educational and give the intelligent design researchers a chance to tell their side.

Cal: Surely C-SPAN would carry the debate if the scientists were prominent enough. Anyone opposing the debate would be rightly labeled a censor and anti-academic freedom. That should make the liberals choke. Sound like a good idea to you, Bob (except the part about choking liberals)?

Bob: I'm all for it. I just wonder if the Darwinists will show up.

Cal: Maybe we can offer them some bananas as an incentive. As they eat them, they can contemplate their heritage.

'Intelligent design' about faith, not science

Letters USA Today 6 December 2005


I was disappointed to read the Common Ground commentary by Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel regarding "intelligent design." While I'm sure the authors are excellent evaluators of public policy, it is obvious that they are ignorant of the ways of science ("'Intelligent design': What do scientists fear?" The Forum, Thursday).

They completely misunderstand the issue. I would challenge them to identify a scientist who maintains that evolution and intelligent design shouldn't be debated. Besides, the real issue is not public debate, but whether the teaching of non-science should be mandated in the science classes of public schools.

Scientific theories are potential explanations of observed phenomena that can be subjected to objective tests. Only by subjection to such tests does a theory gain acceptance in the scientific community. Important theories such as continental drift and catastrophic extinction events, for example, were initially rejected by science and became widely accepted only after convincing evidence from multiple sources was presented and reviewed by the scientific community.

Evolution has repeatedly been subjected to such tests, and debate continues on the mechanisms by which it occurs — but its validity is not in question. Even most proponents of intelligent design do not argue about the existence of biological evolution, only the mechanism behind it.

By its very nature, intelligent design cannot be tested, and "evidence" to support it consists largely of claims that certain biological features are "too complicated" to have occurred without an unnamed guiding intelligence. Intelligent design is a matter of faith, not science, and such matters should not be mandated in public school, and certainly not in science classes.

Derek Barkey, Lake Forest, Calif.

Allow critics to be heard

Finally some intelligent discussion regarding intelligent design.

Whatever happened to truth being revealed by its ability to withstand critical discussion in the public arena, instead of being imposed by fiat?

If evolution is correct, and defensible in all aspects, its proponents should not fear critical examination and honest debate. When scrutiny of the evidence validates either position, it will not be necessary to legislate a defense or inhibition of opposing thought.

Douglas Puckering, Lummi Island, Wash.

OK, let's debate topic

Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel propose a public debate on the scientific merits of intelligent design, and Beckel wonders whether "the Darwinists will show up."

You bet we will! In fact, we'll host.

We challenge the top "intelligent-designists" to a debate of the scientific evidence for intelligent design, to be held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland the first week of January.

"Doubting Thomas" Cal's nihilistic suggestion to subject the Bible to scientific analysis is too big a project for this event, but an hour or so sounds like just about how long it should take to dispatch any scientific claims for intelligent design.

The question is, will the designists show? Calls go out every day to present scientific data at scientific conferences. The designists are always busy that decade. Meanwhile, the scientific data supporting evolution continue to pour in on a daily basis and produce spinoff applications that create new medicine, more productive crops, cleaner water and better living for billions of people worldwide.

The Darwinists show up to work every day in thousands of labs around the globe. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Beckel, your guys are the ones who don't show.

January. Cleveland. The "science" of ID. Put up or shut up.

Patricia Princehouse, Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland

Don't censor design theory

Science is always based on observations, almost always on measurements and preferably is based on what can be demonstrated experimentally. The intelligent design theory, which has recently been in the news, does not meet these criteria.

And neither do the theories of the natural origin of life nor the development of more complex forms of life from simpler forms of life. Strictly speaking, they cannot be considered science, but they are possible theories.

Some argue that intelligent design should be restricted to philosophy or history classes, but then so should the other two theories. But that would be wasting a great opportunity to teach science students how science works, and the difference between theories and facts. Censorship of the intelligent design theory would be bad for both science and education.

Dave Nelson, Billings, Mont.

Theory isn't testable

Intelligent design (ID) is dismissed by scientists because it isn't science. It does not meet the definition of science, and the Kansas board of education had to alter its definition of science in order to wedge ID into the curriculum — a point Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel somehow missed. To be a scientific theory, it must be testable and it must be refutable.

ID can't be tested, and because it is a belief and not provable, it can't be refuted.

ID's entire existence is predicated on:

• Claiming there are "holes" in evolutionary theory.

• Claiming that some biological structures are, in the opinion of the observer, so complex that they must have been "designed."

• Declaring that, without proof, ID must be the reason for these first two claims. Proponents put forward not a single testable hypothesis to back this.

There is no point in debating the issue, either, because that is not how scientific theories are established. Darwin and current scientists didn't win a debate contest. Evolution is science backed by more than a century of research and thousands of experiments. Debating ID makes as much sense as having a debate over the validity of astrology vs. astronomy or alchemy vs. chemistry.

Scientists do not "fear" intelligent design. What they do fear are attempts to redefine science to include non-scientific theories and then teaching that to children in science class.

Mark Gottschalk, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Contradictory argument

Cal Thomas completely contradicts himself regarding the teaching of the "theory" of intelligent design in public schools.

On the one hand, he demands that competing theories be taught in public schools, while on the other hand, he insists that conservative Christian parents should take their children out of public schools so that they can indoctrinate them with only one belief regarding the origins of this planet.

I guess Thomas wants one group of children to be sheltered from having to face ideas that conflict with their own, while at the same time insisting that other children be forced to listen to "scientific theories" that cannot be supported with any quantifiable scientific data or observation.

How "intelligent."

Kevin Little, Atlanta

Richard B. Hoppe

Bring on the Chiquitas

Note that the offer is to host a debate on the scientific evidence for intelligent design. Not evolution bashing, not ID of the gaps, but actual affirmative evidence, if any there be, for intelligent design in biology. Wonder if the ID creationists will shake themselves free from the Disco Institute labs in which they’re beavering away at the ID research program and show up.



Monday, December 05, 2005

Intelligent Design and Stubborn Littigants

Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker

Laurie Goodstein's oped is interesting in its summation and has assisted me in quiting some predjudice statements I have made in the past. What were they? Well, simply putting all Christian Fundamentalists in the same club as the ID'ers and Young Earth Creationists. No longer will I do so. Interpretation of the scriptures varies and so to Biblical Literalists and Evangelical Christians. So thankyou Laurie.

It seems clear to me that despite William Dembski's objections, ID has been struck down in more areas of the search for truth than just Biology. With the Dover School Board in Pennsylvania now out of the picture for all practical purposes due to an election changing the board to a pro-science stand, we now await Kamsas and Utah and a host of other places in the US. Even Berkely California (Couple sues operators of UC Berkeley Web site that teaches evolution) is struggling with people that are either ignorant of the issues and definitions or plain stubborn, more likely the latter. All this will achieve is making an income for the Lawyers. Since the Berkely site (Understanding Evolution) is clearly an educational site and bares no resemblance to any religion I know, yes, even natural materialism, or whatever is alledged. I'm sure the University can find more productive uses for its budget than provide funds and time to fight this trivial matter that any educated person with a High School Diploma should be able to resolve.

I am pleased to see that the Science and Theology crowd have ditched ID as a genuine science, it looked a bit dicey at times. The IDer's had a chance to get funded in a research program to establish the basic tenets of ID. Simply put, Dembski's argument is one from ignorance. We don't know how something evolved (it's path) so we can infer Intelligent Design, we of course can do nothing of the kind. It is a glorified "God of the Gaps" argument, on ethat has fallen down on it's basic irrational assumptions and conclusions.

I suppose that all this will eventually blow over untill the next assault or "Wedge Attack" on Evolution.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Teaching Creation and Evolution?

School Districts lead debate on Evolution vs Intelligent Design in the Science Curriculum in the USA

Does Intelligent Design qualify to be included in the High School Science Curriculum?

Is Evolution by Natural selection just a theory, or a fundamental part of science?

Should Intelligent Design be taught in High School Science?

These sort of questions and others apply equally to the Dover Pennsylvania School Board, Topeka Kansas and our Educational institutions here in Victoria. The only difference is, it is not an issue in this part of the world.

The main issues a going on in Dover Pennsylvania and Topeka Kansas, where the school boards are elected with conservative Christians of the Republican Party trying to introduce religious claims to Biological and Paleontology subjects in the Secondary Schools which are covered in say year 9 - 12 equivalent. Creationists are serious and make claims that the Intelligence Design ideas should replace the Evolution Theory that is widely covered in those subjects in the Science fields from first year undergraduates to Phd.'s and professorial employment in the great fields of Science and medical areas. They do this without any theory being reviewed tested by its peers, nontheless it is being touted as a replacement. This is breaking all the rules of science developed over the last 250 years, they have been told again and again, without a dent in their program.

In October 2004 the Dover School Board voted to require school science teachers to teach alternatives to Evolution, including Intelligent Design.1 This started a case where politics and religion were put together with science on the side lines. Arkansas, Florida and Kansas joined the group as the wedge was being applied through out the US. What is the wedge2? It is a policy document of the Discovery Institute with the purpose to bring a creationist view of biology and geology into those subjects as a legitimate alternative theory. The only problem with their plans is intelligent people, science teachers, science practitioners, science apologists, rationalists, etc. So how does such a program want to succeed? It is simple, rely on the ignorance of the general public, and the loyalty of conservative Christians to compel the State School Boards to change the curriculum to include Intelligent Design. Where this group has a majority, it is likely it will pass.

The only problem is that Intelligent Design3, or ID is not a scientific theory, it is a statistical criticism of a scientific theory, which means it shouldn't be in a science class, but where it belongs, in the undergraduate philosophy of science subjects or a theology class, which in the US can not occur in a State School because their constitution forbids the State from making any laws with regard to religion. Therefore legal concerns occur, parents opposed to such actions and concerned citizens, all join the party. This is what happened in Dover Pennsylvania and Topeka Kansas.

The Kansas case was made more interesting because the science community refused to be part of the debate, so it was left to legal arguments,the science community felt it was not required to defend science in a forum dominated by christian conservatives with a clear agenda to introduce Intelligent Design to it's Schools and replace Evolution. The evidence was high farse from all accounts, with no science being disgust it must have been earie to here the oposition to the School Board explaining why it is unconstitional for such a obvious religious subject to be introduced to the curriculum without it going to the Supreme Court, and then everyone else saying how marvelous for our children to hear how some unspecified intelligent being allowed some of the adaptations and speciation to occur, and that an unpublished, uncritiqued by peers of the subject, and simply not science. That's how Daniel Ortega described the going on in better words than me in his article Scopes Snoops.4 Next week, I propose to introduce the discussion of magic in our physics classes and how it explains lightning and storms after a rain dance and why it should be used as an alternative to another theory.

Some of the big wigs of Intelliget Design were rolled out to defend the philosphy, Michael Behe attended a dedication meeting of a Dover Area High School to make“five points why intelligent design — the concept that life is too complex to have been evolved solely through natural selection and must have been created by an intelligent designer — was a better explanation for the biological world’s existence.”5

There is no reason why a belief in Intelligent Design can't be taught, but the maths is far beyond High School and should be taught in some undergraduate subject like philosapy of science, or theology and science. Meanwhile the creationists can teach their children in Sunday School, which will not impose their religious beliefs on anyone except the willing. That is not the plan.

From our perspective in the antipodies this subject is probably a small news subject, but in the US it is larger and covered by the media in the smaller cities where it is happening and as a subject in the Conservative Christian Areas and the debate between Evolution and Creationism that raise its head every now and again in the larger media in the US and as a curiosity here.

The papers I use are the ones available on the York Daily Review6, the talk.origins7,discussion and various other areas on the World Wide Web. It has been an education about the US and the conservative Christians Creationists. The rise of Biblical Literalist within the conservative branches of the Republican Party since George W Bush became president, indeed they assisted in his victory and worked hard on the campains, educateds any organisation how to go about gaining change in their society.

In Dover today, the witnesses for the plaintifs have withdrawn8, which leaves the court to decide on the non specialised events of lawyers and teachers, school board and parents. Since the science specialists boycoted the proceedings of this trial, the outcome will in all probability be in favour of the defendeds. However, in the State Capita, Harrisburg, legisaltors have proposed changes to the States Public School Code inorder to effect the introduction of Intelligent Design into the Science Curricullum9. It is not over yet, and probably, judging by the determination of the Creationist camp, will continue, at least as long as there is a Republican majority and President.

1York Daily Record http://ydr.com/news/doverbiology/
2Discovery Institute (internal document)http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Hangar/2437/wedge.html

3Intelligent Design was rescently made famous by WilliamA. Dembski, The Design Revolution, Answering the Toughest Questions about intelligent Design, Inter Varsity Press, 2004, ISBN 1844740145.

4DanielOrtegs, Scopes Snoops, http://www.pitch.com/issues/2005-03-17/news/strip.html
5Joseph Maldonado, Dover hosts speaker on evolution, Professor defends intelligent design, York Daily Record, Sunday 24th April 2005,http://ydr.com/story/doverbiology/66404/

6York Daily Record, York Pennsylvania, Dover Biology, http://ydr.com/news/doverbiology/, and The Pitch http://www.pitch.com/about/index.html Kansas City, MO

7Talk.Originswebsite ;"for the news:talk.origins

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Future of Space Aliens

Posthuman Blues

I think the author Mack has made an observation that needs to be followed up. Seiously, when he says"

If we are in fact observing an unknown intelligence, it has proven remarkably adept at insinuating itself into the belief-structure of any given era, comfortably skating the razor's edge of plausibility. It implants itself in our collective unconscious, an abiding trickster that entices us with the possibility of catching up at the same time that it morphs into more fashionable disguises. The phenomenon is a constantly moving goal-post -- and we're largely amnesiac of any duplicity.
Whether we think we see an indigenous nonhuman species in our midst, as in the case of the Celtic faerie faith, or the comings and goings of eccentric aeronauts (the "impossible" airship sightings of the 1800s), we always think what we're viewing is genuine. Then, in a now-recognizable pattern, the performance changes. Since we invariably change alongside it, we fail to note that our visitors have merely upgraded their image to match prevailing notions. Thus, the most widely accepted exotic explanation for apparent alien craft in our skies -- the extraterrestrial hypothesis, with its Westernized nuts-and-bolts trappings -- is likely a facade.

Clearly the various manifestations of strange human like creatures and todays greys and aliens of various types indicates a sub-meme that has gone on for years and that these myths are related, yes, aliens and abductions are modern myths, they fullfill all the conditions and none of the evidence to be myths rather than real world things or events.

We need to look as he says at our need for a fear/love relationship with the "other". In the past, perhaps the viiage folk feared a creature in the dark forest no one had seen. Sories from travellers introduced variations to the myth as it developed over the decades, in some cases, innocent people were murder to demonstrate their evil. The classic was in the days of King James and the appointment of a Witch Finder General, whose job success was measured by the number of convictions or admitions were achieved in a given month and the related hangings, burnings and tortures.

Further, we have nuns in cloisters finding themselves prgnet by some visiting priest would make a convincing claim that an incubus had assaulted her, thus presenting her with a bastard child. Sound better than, "Your eminence, you see, it was like this, father John from Red Hill and me had this private case of lust, and I am thus presented with hischild." Where upon, the priest is interviewed and denice such a slander. Beter to blame some poor innocent incubus.

These types of creatures pop up all over the place and indicate a fear of the unkown, a curiosity about the unkown and a relationship desire for the exotic and different. Perhaps those experiences today with alien abductions and visitations is related to the same fears, love, and curiosity transposed to the emodern world where all Gods creatures have been catalogued, filed and studied, the only place to fear and wander is outerspace.(cue the music from "Forbidden Planet" or "The Day The Earth Stood Still".

Saturday, March 26, 2005

'Call to arms' on evolution

USATODAY.com - 'Call to arms' on evolution: "Nearly one-third of science teachers who participated in a national survey say they feel pressured to include creationism-related ideas in the classroom. And an alarmed science establishment is striking back in defense of teaching evolution.
'I write to you now because of a growing threat to the teaching of science,' National Academy of Sciences chief Bruce Alberts says in a letter to colleagues March 4. He calls on academy members 'to confront the increasing challenges to the teaching of evolution in public schools.' The nation's top scientists belong to the congressionally chartered academy." It seems the science community is finally getting up enough steam to deal with the nonsense in York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the great USA with regard to "Intelligent Design" and the topic in Biology which covers Evolution. It would appear from the article which covers a survey of science teachers, gives us a picture of those teachers and the battle ahead, one that is being lead by a minority opinion that is load and unimformed.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

End of Conspiracy Theories? Spacecraft Snoops Apollo Moon Sites

Yahoo! News - End of Conspiracy Theories? Spacecraft Snoops Apollo Moon Sites: "A European spacecraft now orbiting the Moon could turn out to be a time machine of sorts as it photographs old landing sites of Soviet robotic probes and the areas where American Apollo crews set down and explored. New imagery of old Apollo touchdown spots, from the European Space Agency's (ESA) SMART-1 probe, might put to rest conspiratorial thoughts that U.S. astronauts didn't go the distance and scuff up the lunar landscape. NASA (news - web sites) carried out six piloted landings on the Moon in the time period 1969 through 1972. Fringe theorists have said images of the waving flag -- on a Moon with no atmosphere -- and other oddities show that NASA never really went to the Moon. No serious scientist or spaceflight historian doubts the success of the Apollo program, however."
I don't know how many times I have heard the conspiracy that NASA never went to the Moon. I will be very curious about how these pictures affect the theory. To me, along with all the other evidence, it will confirm the obvious. The obvious is the greatest effort to date by any nation on an adventure of epic proportions, to establish that it can be done and bring back samples of this foreign body we see in the night sky. You can't kill a good conspiracy theory, so I wonder what rationalisations and fabrications will appear after this story to support the conspiracy theory?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Evolution, Fact and Theory

Why Creationists don't understand what a Theory means. Rodney Starck's article Fact, Fable and Darwin in Meridian and in The American Enterprise in Sep 2004 issue of One America was an interesting polemic that concluded:
" I believe that one day there will be a plausible theory of the origin of species. But, if and when that occurs, there will be nothing in any such theory that makes it impossible to propose that the principles involved were not part of God's great design any more than such a theory will demonstrate the existence of God. But, while we wait, why not lift the requirement that high school texts enshrine Darwin's failed attempt as an eternal truth? "
He did not once discuss the currant status of Evolutionary Research and the Modern Synthesis, merely briefly mentioning S. J. Gould and Eldridge in their concern about the place of stasis in the geological record (and here he misquoted, seriously misleading the reader). They have both proposed what is called "Punctual Equilibria". This breakthrough in the field of palaeontology had brought together the many fields of Evolutionary Research in Geology and Biology right down to immunology and microbiology. So why leave them out in the discussion, and why insist Darwin has failed, when anyone that deals with the theory seems to disagree? From the essay in Hens Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., p. 258-260 see Evolution as Fact and Theory Gould explains the misunderstandings (politely) of the debate from the author himself, something Stark should have read as part of his preparation for his confused essay. The quote that Stark used is supplied in this paragraph:
"The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism, Stephen Jay Gould has acknowledged."
This has been taken out of context and is an example of what has been called "quote mining". This is where Gould introduces Punctuated Equilibrium:
“The modern theory of evolution does not require gradual change. It in fact, the operation of Darwinian processes should yield exactly what we see in the fossil record. It is gradualism that we must reject, not Darwinism. […] Eldridge and I believe that speciation is responsible for almost all evolutionary change. Moreover, the way in which it occurs virtually guarantees that sudden appearance and stasis shall dominate the fossil record. All major theories of speciation maintain that splitting takes place rapidly in very small populations. The theory of geographic, or allopatric, speciation is preferred by most evolutionists for most situations (allopatric means ‘in another place’). A new species can arise when a small segment of the ancestral population is isolated at the periphery of the ancestral range. Large, stable central populations exert a strong homogenizing influence. New and favorable mutations are diluted by the sheer bulk of the population through which they must spread. They may build slowly in frequency, but changing environments usually cancel their selective value long before they reach fixation. Thus, phyletic transformation in large populations should be very rare—as the fossil record proclaims. But small, peripherally isolated groups are cut off from their parental stock. They live as tiny populations in geographic corners of the ancestral range. Selective pressures are usually intense because peripheries mark the edge of ecological tolerance for ancestral forms. Favorable variations spread quickly. Small peripheral isolates are a laboratory of evolutionary change.
“What should the fossil record include if most evolution occurs by speciation in peripheral isolates? Species should be static through their range because our fossils are the remains of large central populations. In any local area inhabited by ancestors, a descendant species should appear suddenly by migration from the peripheral region in which it evolved. In the peripheral region itself, we might find direct evidence of speciation, but such good fortune would be rare indeed because the event occurs so rapidly in such a small population. Thus, the fossil record is a faithful rendering of what evolutionary theory predicts, not a pitiful vestige of a once bountiful tale.” — "The Episodic Nature of Evolutionary Change," The Panda's Thumb, New York: W. W. Norton, 1980, pp. 182-184.
This more clearly explains what Gould was going on about than what Stark would have you believe. So we can fails to understand the idea of gradualism as part of the theory, and that punctuated equilibria has replaced that now antiquated idea inherited from an earlier debate in what was then the new science of geology. Stark furthers the misunderstanding by not himself knowing what the nature of a theory is and how they get modified over time. There are plenty of intermediate fossil species found these days in the fossil record that Darwin did not have access to, yet he was honest enough to advise us of his concerns about the lack of detail found at his time and place. Are the Creationists of this world, which Starck actually is from his essay, rather than what he says, deliberately misleading, or, morelikely, picking and choosing what fits an argumnet from what they read. What they read are Creationist literature, therefore a self perpetuating error within their group. Those of us outsid ethe group, still find it curious, but someones stateing up front they are not part of the group, but then argue exactly as a member, is a bit difficult to understand?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New Fossils Help Piece Together Human Origins

Will the evidence of Human Origins be true through all human society and religion?

New Fossils Help Piece Together Human Origins

"Fossil fragments of an early species of hominid have been unearthed with rhino, giraffe, monkey, hippo, and antelope remains in Africa. Hominids are upright-walking primates including modern humans and extict and related forms. The new fossils are helping scientists piece together the earliest chapters of human evolution. The fossils were unearthed from the Gona Study Area at As Duma in Ethiopia's Afar region and are dated to between 4.3 and 4.5 million years ago."

What does one think the Creationists might say about the hominids 4.5 million years ago? How would they think the fossil evidence gives us? How wrong are the various dating methods. Was Adam born of a mother?................ I could go on, the evidence is not 100%, but it is slowly filling the gaps with hard evidence that science is establishing, and theories accepting.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Georgia and Science Class

WorldNetDaily: Separation of sticker and state: "Suggesting that evolution is a theory rather than fact endorses religion and causes anguish among impressionable school children in an Atlanta suburb, at least in the opinion of U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper.
On Thursday, the Clinton-appointed district judge dove head first into the evolution versus intelligent design debate by ordering the Cobb County Board of Education to remove a sticker from science textbooks stating that 'evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things.'"
David N. Bass is a 19-year-old Christian homeschool graduate who writes for World Newspaper Publishing and is a regular columnist at AmericanDaily.com, IntellectualConservative.com and RenewAmerica.us. While attending college, he interns at a pro-family public-policy organization. Bass is currently working on his first novel.

I don't know much about David N Bass, but since he is 19, I would advise him, friendly like, to learn a bit more about science, so that he can understand what sets science apart from other endeavours. Then he might understand why ID is not acceptable and calling Evolution "just a theory" is plain, unadulterated ignorance of the wide application in the life sciences of that very theory.

ID has ambitions (if an inanimate objects and ideas can have such a thing) at being science, but hasn't made any progress on the proof side, particuly the falsablity of the theory. We need to know exactly what the intervention of the Intelligence is in Life, and does it restrict it's self to the living world. It is all very well to talk about irreducible complexity (Behe) or specified complexity (Dembski), but to claim some intelligence did it because of the existence of those concepts seems a long stretch and can't be established in a scientific method. To date there has been only one feeble attempt in a book review.

Intelligent Design has, without a doubt been set up by the same group as the Duscovery Institute in Seattle to break into the Science curricullum in US Secondary Schools on a State by State basis, School Board by School Board. In this case a sticker is placed in a science text book in the appropriate section that covers Evolution saying something like Evolution is just a theory and that there are other theories. This implies that the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection is somehow, unspecified, inadequate to the task. Yet biological sciences of one kind or the other consider this theory to be a foundational theory, one which underpins all their work, shouldn't that take priority over a school board opinion. Surely a philosophy of Science class or Comparative Religion class would be more apropriate in an honest world.

Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before atheists began experiencing concern (perhaps we should call it theophobia) that school children might actually seek alternatives to evolution to account for origins of the human species.

This is an insult to many good Christians, to equate defending science with being an atheist is just plain polemics and a narrow field of view for a Christian, the sort of misrepresentation common in dictatorships when referring to any opposition that may occur.

Their rationale for the lawsuit raises some interesting questions. Can a sticker that never mentions the words Creator or creationism be construed to endorse intelligent design? Can stating a fact (namely, that evolution is only theory, a reality conceded by many evolutionists themselves) be somehow tied to religious extremism? Can merely implying that there might be other theories to account for mankind's origins establish a state-sponsored religion?

Indeed is Intellegent Design creationism? It doesn't matter how much they cry and wave etc., ID is Creationism, the sticker was placed by a school board intent on influencing the children to a particular religious view of the world in science class. The State can't be seen condoning one particular religious idea, particularly in a Science class. If science agreed ID was science, it would be a different matter, but that is not the case, and we have a particular branch of Christianity, indeed a twig on a branch we will call Fundamentalist Creationists. They will betray their motives in cross examinations in court, but free to say what they please in public, they blindly parrot the mantr that ID is science. Why then do they have to get the school board stacked to place such idiocy in the text book? Surely if ID was esablished as legitamate science then there would be no problem.

The children need to understand science and introducing debates that are outside the science curricullum is irrational, unfair to the childrens time, and intelligence.

He says further our young erstwhile correspondant

The Judge declares in his ruling that an "informed, reasonable observer would understand the school board to be endorsing the viewpoint of Christian fundamentalists and creationists that evolution is a problematic theory lacking an adequate foundation." How can a sticker that comes nowhere near to specifically backing creationism or debunking evolution accomplish this, one might ask? According to Judge Cooper, it does this by somehow conveying "an impermissible message of endorsement" and by telling "some citizens that they are political outsiders while telling others that they are political insiders."
That's a central theme of Judge Cooper's rationale. To avoid offending the small number of atheistic children in public schools, every possible vestige of God or religion must be wiped away, including any insinuation that there just might be legitimate theories on origin aside from evolution. Forget about the vast majority of Jewish, Christian and Islamic students who believe in alternative origin theories – the all-important goal is to appease atheists.

Now the children are atheistic, perhaps every atheist should be burnt at the stakes? No David, the Judge was not trying to accomodate atheists, he was trying to prevnt creationists putting an irrational message in a SCIENCE text book. It seems to me that David doesn't fit the "informed reasonable observer". The "vast majority of Jewish, Christian and Islamic students who believe in alternative origin theories", now where does he get this data, and how does he know these students agree with him. I know plenty of Jews, Christians and Moslems who would be happy to study sciences as science and discuss Genesis in their seminary classes or Bible classes. Get a grip man, the world is a lot bigger and more diverse than you think, clearly, this isolated school or state district does not represent the world or the nation or Georgia for that matter. It represents the internal dynamics of that community, define your claims otherwise you will sound rediculous in any debate with rationalist, let alone evil atheists.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Dover teachers get "relief" - York Daily Record

The apparent compromise on Thursday suggests a farce in Science Class for the Grade 9's. The lesson will start, the teacher will give the subject for the day "Darwin's Theory of Evolution", and then an administrator will be invited in to read the statement:

"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
"Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.
"Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.
"With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments."

After which the kids in the back row will snicker, the administrator walks out, the teacher walks back in and continues with the lesson, with no reference to the aforementioned administrative statement? I think not. Children are inquisitive creatures and will ask questions, like

  • Why is Evoultion not a fact?
  • Why arn't we being taight ID?
  • My Dad says "Of Pandas and People" is not science, what does he mean?

It's a minefield fro the poor science teacher, and the lesson could end up taking two or more periods.

Dover teachers get "relief" - York Daily Record:

"Dover Area High School science teachers won't have to read a statement informing ninth-grade biology students that there are problems with Darwin's theory of evolution, and that intelligent design is a theory with a differing view of the origin of life.

"And there is a great sense of relief, though there is still no great sense of trust in the district," said Bill Miller, a Dover Area Education Association spokesman.

On Thursday, teachers in the high school's science department sent a letter to the administration requesting they be allowed to "opt out" of reading a four-paragraph statement about intelligent design to students. On Friday, the district, through its attorneys at the Thomas More Law Center in Michigan, released a statement that said administration officials will read the "one minute" passage including intelligent design."

Referring to a religious text in a science class as a refernce and ID as an alternative to Evolution is simply irrational, lying, corrupt ethics, you name it, they are not science and would be better off in a philosophy of science lesson, in where all the theories of life can be considered, and why they didn't make the grade, and why Darwin's Evolution did. I don't know whether the age group would do it, but I, as a science teacher, would recommend for further reading, Dawkins, Gould and Zimmer for starters. In these works they will learn, not only the history of a great theory, but als how it came about and what other ideas fell by the wayside and why. The students would then be better equiped than any others to move on to Senior Biology, rather than reading the nonsense that is Of Panda's and People

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The Scientist :: Darwin Meets Chomsky, Dec.20, 2004

"Charles Darwin spotted it. In The Descent of Man, he wrote: 'The formation of different languages and of distinct species and the proofs that both have developed through a gradual process are clearly the same.' He'd been struck by ideas that William Jones had advanced 50 years earlier, that the similarities between languages as disparate as Sanskrit, Latin, and Old Persian, suggest a common historical ancestry."

Says the first paragraph of an article in The Scientist Magazine for Dec 20th 2004 p 16. What an excellnet introduction to the work being done linking Linguistics with Evolutionary Biology. It shows how one theory can help in explaining another in a synergistic way that enlightens both to the benefit of Science in general, and the understnding of how we aquire language in particular.

I'm no linquist, but I do remember reading Chomsky's book On Language some time ago, and I think I understood the basics, at least that we all seem to be born with some inate basic grammar (Universal Grammar) that allows us to pick up our parents language rather quickly, regardless of where we are born, which culture, etc. This article tells us that liguists are now looking at the biological reasons for this, requiring co-operation between these two previously unrelated field.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Lesson will be brief, attorney says - York Daily Record

Lesson will be brief, attorney says - York Daily Record

The attorney for the Dover Area School District said no one will be teaching intelligent design.

But lawyers for the 11 parents suing the district said they still like to get that on the record from the people who fought to get the concept in the science curriculum."

The entire statement on the subject of intelligent design in next semester's ninth-grade biology class will take about a minute, said Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center, which is representing the district.

And because intelligent design "the concept that life is too complex to have evolved through natural selection, and therefore must have been created by an intelligent designer" is only "mentioned," Thompson said; it's not being 'taught.'

This, of course is nonsense, mentioning a theory that implies that Evolutionary Theory is in error is false teaching. Enquiring minds will want to look at it and, perhaps, be taken down overgrown and confuded paths that yield no understanding of science. Given the allegations that evolution in class represents just one 45min session in teh whole year, I would argue theer is no room to consider non -scientific explanations for the phenomena being discussed.

A news release issued last month by Dover's administration states that intelligent design will not be taught. Instead, teachers are to read a prepared statement and note that students can read "Of Pandas and People," a book about the concept.

The news release goes on to state that Nilsen "has directed that no teacher will teach Intelligent Design, Creationism, or present his or her, or the Board's, religious beliefs."

In the meantime, teachers also say they're still not sure how they're supposed to comply with the board's decision. Bertha Spahr, who heads the district's science department, said last month that a problem could occur after the statement is read to the students. Once this topic is introduced, Miller said, she wonders how many questions will be asked.

Here you have the concern of the teachers as to the efficasy of even mentioning such material. If "The Theory Of Evolution" is just a theory like any other and not an excellent representation of the development of species on this planet, then teh School Board should be establishing the bona fide position of ID in the world of science, not the school board or the law courts. The plaintiff is simply trying to prevent establishing a precedent in the schools their children go to

A Breed Apart, or Creationism Has A Problem

A breed apart - Science - www.theage.com.au:

"'Darwin and Wallace would be pleased,' adds White. 'What better demonstration that humans play by the same evolutionary rules as other mammals?'"

Indeed, and I wander if our Creationist friends are watching this story as it develops. The Flores discovery is being held up at the moment by R.P Soejono of in Jakarta. If we can get better cooperation from Academia in Indonesia and try an allay the fears that we may steal the credit for the discovery or some such, more progress will be made to answer the question.

Were these creatures, a new species or not?

"Russell Ciochon, a paleoanthropologist from the University of Iowa, says: "I suspect that creationists will act very negatively toward this discovery. It shows that humans were not alone. There may be other dwarfed species lurking in the caves of other isolated islands. Each new discovery will subtract some essence from the uniqueness of humans."

Russel Ciochton is hoping to make as most as he can on this issue with creationists.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Creation Museum in Kansas (Where else?)

The news of this momentous event came to me vi athe radio from the BBC over the News Radio ABC station. Although, by itself, it just seems like an odd thing that only happens in Queensland (here in Australia) or Kansas in the USA by analogy, on further thought it appears more dangerous. The reason I say that is simple The Creation Museum is a travesty of any facts. It will teach that Adam walked with the dinosaurs, when he clearly would not have known of their existence, and man did not exist when the dinosaur roamed the Earth. That Noah had dinosaurs in the Ark, if Adam could not possibly have known about them, how could Noah?

I would like to know, where in the scriptures does it tell us dinosaurs existed, and, being in this Great Land of Australia, I would like to know where in teh scriptures does it tell us about kangaroos. Apparently marsupials were not known to Adam or Noah or the scripture.

This would concern me if my children were being taught in this school district where "Evolution is Just a Theory" is stamped or posted in the text book, or where excursions are to this museum. How are they going to understnd Geology, Biology, Paleontology, Micro-Biology, etc, etc.

Are students from the midwest going to fail there subjects on mass. Is the US going to give all the progress in those subjects and others related to China and Europe?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

In the classroom, teachers should stick to science

Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania, is another school district with a group of people on the board who have no idea about what constitutes science and what doesn't. This article below gives an opinion I support as both a Christian and a supporter of Evolutionary Theory based initially on the book "On The Origins Of The Species By Natural Selection" by Charles Darwin.

Today the political right has a group of fundamentalist Christians (Fundies by some people) who are pushing the ID hypothesis into science class before any scientific proof has proven ID or ID has made any verifiable predictions. They all need to wait until all comes about with that hypothesis before putting it on the K12 Science curriculum. Have these Fundies tried to put on the University curriculum I don't know, but it maybe a more difficult task if professors like Richard Alley (below) have anything to do with it.

In the classroom, teachers should stick to science

Penn State Perspectives Posted on Mon, Jan. 03, 2005 Penn State University Centre Daily Newspaper

By Richard Alley

The board of the Dover Area School District this fall mandated the teaching of so-called "intelligent design" alongside Darwinian evolution in science classes, and although a lawsuit has been filed against this decision, similar mandates are at least being considered elsewhere.

As a scientist and a religious person, I hope that school boards will avoid mixing apples and angels in science classes.

Like many scientists, I am fortunate to teach. We know that our students will soon discover things we missed, often correcting our mistakes in the process. Thus, a scientist would be foolish to claim that science gives absolute knowledge of truth.

If I successfully predict the outcome of an experiment, I'm never sure whether my understanding of the world is true, whether I'm pretty close but not quite right, or whether I'm really confused and was just lucky this time.

But our society has agreed to act as if science is at least close to being true about some things, and this makes us very successful doing those things. Carefully crafted bits of silicon really are computers, airplanes designed on those computers using principles of physics really do fly, and medicines from biological laboratories really do cure diseases.

The military has investigated psychics as well as physicists, but it continues to rely on the physicists because they are so much more successful.

The cartoonist Sidney Harris once drew a panel showing two long strings of blackboard equations connected by the phrase "Then a miracle occurs," with one scientific-looking character saying to the other, "I think you should be more explicit here in step two."

For a plane to fly, for a medicine to cure disease, every step must be tested, and everyone else must be able to follow those steps. Science students are welcome to rely on divine inspiration, but they cannot rely on divine intervention in their experiments. Scientists, like athletes, must follow the rules of the game while they're playing.

What, then, are the rules?

First, scientists search for a new idea by talking to people or exploring traditional knowledge or visiting the library or other places. We look for an idea that explains what we see around us but that also disagrees with an old idea by predicting different outcomes of experiments or observations.

Then we test the new idea against the old one by doing the experiments or making the observations. An idea that repeatedly makes better predictions is kept; an idea that repeatedly does more poorly is set aside.

An idea that can't be tested also is set aside; it isn't scientific. Even if I really love an idea, or really believe it is true, but I can't think how to give it a fair test, I have to set it aside for now.

Some people find this limiting and avoid science; others find it exhilarating and are drawn to science. Doing this well gives us good things from good science.

Does science have limits? Will we run out of new ideas? Will we hit problems that we can't solve? Perhaps. But when I come out of a classroom of bright young students, I am convinced that we're nowhere near any limits that might exist and that there is much to discover yet.

So, what about intelligent design, or even young-earth creationism, and teaching them in science class? They're interesting ideas, but some parts we don't know how to test.

Even if they are said by scientists, they aren't science. And the testable parts have been tested and found wanting -- they don't do as well as the "scientific" view in explaining what we see around us, or in predicting what we find as we collect new tree-ring records and ice-core samples, or as we search for oil and valuable minerals, or as we watch dangerous new diseases appear faster than our bodies can respond to them.

The classes I teach spend a few hours discussing the main pieces of evidence: a lifetime isn't enough to cover all the details, but scientists have been working on these questions for centuries and have a pretty good idea of what works. Evolution "in the dark backward and abysm of time" is scientific theory, not truth, but it is very good science.

How does this fit into the bigger picture?

Although some people are happy to view science as merely a tool, others do believe that the remarkable success of science means that we are getting closer to truth. But even these people sometimes disagree about that truth: a mechanistic universe, a benevolent and omnipotent deity, or something else? Fascinating as they are, such questions are for now outside of science.

Many scientists and religious people are thinking about such questions, but no experimenter knows how to guarantee the cooperation of an omnipotent deity.

By all means, students should ask deep questions, think, and discuss and probe. Science does not tell us what we ought to do, and students will have to join us in addressing what ought to be as well as what is. But if we want to face the big questions with better medicines, with computers that function and planes that fly, with clean water and buildings that don't fall down, I believe that we should teach science in science class.

Richard Alley is the Evan Pugh professor of geosciences at Penn State. The opinion of the columnist does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the university.

Evolution/Creationism: Intolerance in Boulder Colorado

There is plenty of debate on the Internet these days about the Origins of the Species (Charles Darwin) and the whole Biological Evolution Theory that has developed since the publication in 1859. In this modern age where science has proven many theories including Evolution, I find it odd that the creationists are now bullying people in school if they accept Evolution to explain the development of the species including us, Homo Sapien Sapien. Why should a young woman in Peak to Peak Charter School in Lafayette Colorado (A suburb of Colorado, USA) K12 be subject to such bullying in the school ground to such an extent she wished to commit suicide.

Where were the teachers, and how did they deal with it. I don't know who that was or the details, but Barrie Hartman below put an article in the Denver Post for Jan 02 2005 that horrified me. Christian Fundamentalists should understand Science, and freedom of religion, there young ones should not conduct any campaign against anyone that disagrees with them on the subjects of Science or Religion.

Such ignorance of basic rights in such a country as the USA is non-defensible.

Apparently, according to the Daily Camera article School district,police investigating charter school by Amy Bounds 10 December 2004, this sort of thing is not uncommon for this school and quite a number of parents have got the police in to investigate.

Louise Benson, one of the parents at that school wrote a letter to the editor published 30.12.04, "Religious discrimination is immoral and illegal" and thus I say those offenders need to be taken to court and charged. This was in response to Amy Bounds original report School Harassment Debated.

New year, new level of tolerance, perhaps?

By barriehartman@aol.com Barrie Hartman Sunday, January 02, 2005 - Here in Boulder land, where the left is always right and the right is always wrong, a debate is raging over whether a public school is really a religious school. Peak to Peak charter school in Lafayette is just a stone's throw from the liberal city of Boulder. Some parents are accusing Peak to Peak of turning into a Christian academy funded by tax dollars. The tension, they say, has caused a few teachers to quit and some parents to pull out their kids. Even worse, a girl attempted suicide last month after complaining she was bullied by students for believing in evolution, not creationism. Peak to Peak and district officials staunchly defend the K-12 school, saying that it is neither plagued by "fundies" (fundamental Christian bullies) nor subservient to an evangelical agenda. Because I know parents who founded Peak to Peak, I'm skeptical about the validity of the accusations. However, if religious education is actually making inroads into the liberal heartland of the state, what, for goodness sakes, is happening elsewhere? It's a serious matter that needs to be watched. Yet, I worry about the growing tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, a category into which the Lafayette situation may well fall. In any case, religious tolerance is being tested like never before, and we liberals can be just as guilty of seeing a conspiracy at the drop of a Bible as the right can be in seeing hatred for Jesus in every religious challenge. Granted, there's good reason for liberals to be wary. The born-agains, with their newfound power, are letting their true feelings hang out, such as judging homosexuality as sinful rather than as a biological roll of the dice. Or teaching children that the Earth is 6,000 years old, as the Bible says, not 4.5 billion-plus, as scientific evidence makes clear. Or not just opposing abortion, but admitting that the ultimate target is contraception.

Or condemning stem-cell research, even though exploration could lead to improving lives for victims of savage diseases like multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's in decades to come. And then there's the Iraq war, which many evangelicals defend as a crusade for Christ. As wrong as I feel Christian rightists are on these issues, there are others that we liberals shouldn't be so reticent about supporting - such as resisting gay marriage. It's clear that the nation isn't ready for that yet. But - hooray! - the right may be willing to accept civil unions as a compromise. Let's go for it. Also, how many of us Christian libs were just as bothered as the right - but said nothing - when the Downtown Denver Partnership barred floats with religious themes from the holiday parade? Or how many of us stood with the right in expressing displeasure as schools and cities went overboard making certain no one was offended by saying "Merry Christmas" or by singing a Christmas song?

My grandson, a fourth-grader, sang in the "winter program" at his school in Thornton. I didn't recognize a single song. Apparently, neither did anyone else. "Good grief," grumped a mom. "Couldn't they at least have sung 'Frosty the Snowman?"' We liberal Christians must be careful not to judge conservatives as being of one mind on everything. We're certainly not. My mail, phone calls and friendships show as many differences among Christian rightists as among any grouping of adults. To place them solidly in the mindset of the Jerry Falwells and James Dobsons is as wrong as labeling liberals as anti-American and morally vapid. Jim Vandel of Cheyenne illustrates the dilemma so many of us experience. "As a conservative, I want to have a balanced budget and a strong national defense," he writes. "As a Methodist, I want to be able to tolerate others' beliefs while they tolerate mine. I want to support the Constitution but don't want it changed in order to protect the flag or deny rights to gays or anybody else not exactly like me. "What I don't understand is why others call themselves conservative and yet support politicians wanting to spend us into bankruptcy, conduct a totally unnecessary and probably counterproductive war and support actions that would stifle freedom in this country. "Bottom line, I have become confused about liberal/conservative." Vandel then goes on to suggest that many of us on the left and right actually belong in "the radical center." The point is most of us are not purely one way or the other. And that means there ought to be ways to break down the walls of arrogant resistance between us. Nothing like a brand new year to get the ball rolling.

As one of the families complaining of religious harassment at Peak to Peak, I have read with interest the responses of other families. Obviously, not all families have experienced what we have, but this does not mean it did not happen to some families, and there is plenty of commentary supporting that it did. But the hysterical critique of Daily Camera journalists Amy Bounds and Aimee Heckel by Peak to Peak founder Raul Campos (Open Forum, Dec. 22) begs for a response. We are not complaining about someone saying "God bless you" or having "In God We Trust" on money. We are talking about persistent, vicious religious harassment by Christian fundamentalists, which has gone unaddressed by the administration, with tragic consequences. The term "witch hunt" was used by Campos, and elsewhere by a teacher. It's pretty obvious that the only witch hunts are occurring in the halls at Peak to Peak. Religious discrimination is immoral and illegal! I don't doubt that Peak to Peak founders designed the curriculum with good intentions. The question is what is happening now at the school, and why, and whether it can be fixed. A little bright light is a good thing: don't kill the messenger.