Thursday, May 31, 2007

Senator Brownback on Evolution

In the first Republican presidential debate, Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) was one of three candidates who said that they did not accept Darwinian evolution. He elaborates on his views in an op-ed piece published today in the New York Times. The piece is very well written and can be found here. I am also posting it below:


What I Think About Evolution

By SAM BROWNBACK

Published: May 31, 2007

Washington

IN our sound-bite political culture, it is unrealistic to expect that every complicated issue will be addressed with the nuance or subtlety it deserves. So I suppose I should not have been surprised earlier this month when, during the first Republican presidential debate, the candidates on stage were asked to raise their hands if they did not “believe” in evolution. As one of those who raised his hand, I think it would be helpful to discuss the issue in a bit more detail and with the seriousness it demands.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.

The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us. At the same time, reason itself cannot answer every question. Faith seeks to purify reason so that we might be able to see more clearly, not less. Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose. More than that, faith — not science — can help us understand the breadth of human suffering or the depth of human love. Faith and science should go together, not be driven apart.

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today. Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.

The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.

Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves. There are aspects of evolutionary biology that reveal a great deal about the nature of the world, like the small changes that take place within a species. Yet I believe, as do many biologists and people of faith, that the process of creation — and indeed life today — is sustained by the hand of God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well. The fundamental question for me is how these theories affect our understanding of the human person.

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.

Sam Brownback is a Republican senator from Kansas.

Chronicle of Higher Education on Gonzalez Tenure Case

The Chronicle of Higher Education has commented on the tenure case at Iowa State University involving Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez. The article is very well written and appropriated titled "Intelligent Design vs. Tenure." The article can be found here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Marcus Ross in the Virginia Pilot

Dr. Marcus Ross of Liberty University, both a proponent of intelligent design and a young-Earth creationist, was recently featured in the Virginia Pilot. The article is decent, though it bears a lame title. It can be found here.

Creation Museum Opens

A young-Earth creationist museum opened on Monday, May 28, 2007 in Petersburg, Kentucky. The $27 million Creation Museum depicts dinosaurs eating with children playing nearby--supporting the young-Earth creationist view that dinosaurs and man lived together.

While I don't have a problem with a museum that rejects Darwinian evolution or even a museum that supports young-Earth creation, I do have a problem with the Creation Museum. The museum was founded by Answers in Genesis, a creationist group that is headed by Ken Ham and is both anti-evolution and anti-intelligent design. It was not enough for Mr. Ham to show his view that the earth is barely 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs were created on the 6th day--a literal 24 hour day. Ham decided to go forward and bash all those who support the idea that the earth is indeed old.

The museum depicts a giant wrecking ball labeled "millions of years" smashing into the ground at the foundation of a church. The cracks reach a home in which videos show moral corruptness. A young lad is seen sitting at his computer viewing, we are told, pornography. All this is the result of believing that the Earth is old.

By doing this, Ham has turned his focus from defeating the scientific materialism of evolution to attacking intelligent design. Intelligent design does not hold that the Earth is merely 6,000 years old. Some ID proponents are also young-Earth creationists (for example, Dr. Marcus Ross of Liberty University) but many are not (for example, Dr. Michael Behe of Lehigh University and Dr. William Dembski of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary).

When Ham turns and begins to bash old-Earth creationists and ID proponents, as he has before and as he does in his museum, he has made a grave mistake of forgetting his mission and attacking potential allies, instead.

I would have been interested in visiting the Creation Museum and I think it is good to have museums that are not entrenched in Darwinian evolution. However, after seeing Ham's vicious attack against intelligent design propnents and even creationists who do not accept a young Earth, I am greatly opposed to his museum.

For the New York Times article on the Creation Museum, go here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Dawkins in Time 100

Every year Time magazine come out with their 100 most influential people of the year. Thinking it would spice up this year's, they asked Dr. Michael J. Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box and the forthcoming The Edge of Evolution, to write the blurb about Dr. Richard Dawkins, author of the recent The God Delusion, among other books.

Though the piece has been edited, it is still a good piece:

Of Richard Dawkins' nine books, none caused as much controversy or sold as well as last year's The God Delusion. The central idea—popular among readers and deeply unsettling among proponents of intelligent design like myself—is that religion is a so-called virus of the mind, a simple artifact of cultural evolution, no more or less meaningful than eye color or height.

It is a measure of the artful way Dawkins, 66, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, tells a tale and the rigor he brings to his thinking that even those of us who profoundly disagree with what he has to say can tip our hats to the way he has invigorated the larger debate.

Dawkins had a mild Anglican youth but at 16 discovered Charles Darwin and believed he'd found a pearl of great price. I believe his new book follows much less from his data than from his premises, and yet I admire his determination. Concerning the big questions, the Bible advises us to be hot or cold but not lukewarm. Whatever the merit of his ideas, Richard Dawkins is not lukewarm.


The article and an accompanying drawing (not drawn by Behe) can be found here.

Friday, May 25, 2007

[Off Topic:] R.I.P. President Herbert H. Reynolds


I just received an email from Baylor University President John M. Lilley informing the Baylor family of the passing of our President Emeritus, Herbert H. Reynolds.

Dr. Reynolds served as an AFROTC instructor before becoming president of Baylor for 14 years (1981-1995). He then served as chancellor until the year 2000. He and his wife poured their lives into the university and brough about many positive changes--including academic and student life initiatives and the George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Reynolds was succeeded by President Robert B. Sloan, Jr.

Though I disagre with many of Reynolds' policies and ideas, he was a president of Baylor University and I pay my respects to him. I thank him for his service to Baylor, both as an instructor and as president, and for his love for the school and the Baylor community. I also send my condolences and well wishes to his family--who also poured much into Baylor.

Thank you Dr. Reynolds for all you have done for Baylor University.

More on the Iowa State Tenure Situation

Dr. William A. Dembski made a very insightful post at his blog Uncommon Descent concerning the recent denial of tenure to Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez by Iowa State University. In his post, Dembski points out that Dr. Hector Avalos, a tenured religion professor at ISU, conducted a witch hunt of Gonzalez in 2005 (see here) but it seems that, if anyone, Avalos is the one who doesn't deserve tenure and is the real witch.

Read Dembski's full post here. It is intriguing and worth reading.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stanley Miller Dies at Age 77

Dr. Stanley Miller, the famed partner in the Miller-Urey experiment of 1953, died on Sunday, May 20, 2007 at a hospital near his National City, California home. Miller was 77 years old.

As a graduate student, Miller partnered with his doctoral advisor, Dr. Harold Urey, and was responsible for the famed Miller-Urey experiment of 1953. The experiment supposedly simulated the early earth's atmosphere and produced organic compounds by sending electricity through the atmosphere. Many, many problems, however, existed concerning the experiment and it has been discredited greatly in recent years.

Miller spent the majority of this scientific career at the University of California at San Diego (which is also where the Intelligent Design Evolution Awareness Center was first founded).

For the New York Times article on Miller, see here.

Acclaimed Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez Denied Tenure

Iowa State University (www.iastate.edu) announced a few weeks ago that they have denied tenure to Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, an assistant professor of astronomy at ISU. Gonzalez, who has been at ISU since 2001, was applying for tenure and a promotion to associate professor.

Similar to when Dr. Francis J. Beckwith was denied tenure at Baylor University, it seems that Gonzalez was more than qualified. For example, ISU's faculty handbook states that tenure is a tough process and hard to obtain. The faculty member applying for tenure must be highly qualified--for example, he or she should have published about 15 articles in peer-reviewed journals. Gonzalez, however, has nearly 70 such peer-reviewed articles--over 350% the requirements of ISU. Not only is Gonzalez well published in refereed journals, he serves as the referee for many of these journals.

In addition, Gonzalez is the author of Observational Astronomy, a college-level textbook published by Cambridge University Press and used in classes at Iowa State. Gonzalez's research has also led to the discovery of two new planets and he is currently building techonology to discover extrasolar planets. He has also served on advisory boards for both NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

So why did Iowa State deny Dr. Gonzalez tenure? Because he accepts intelligent design theory. As World Magazine reported, professors at ISU admitted that Gonzalez's acceptance of intelligent design was a factor in his denial of tenure. This comes though Gonzalez does not teach ID in his classes. The reason for this is his book on ID called The Privileged Planet. This, in political science, is called "viewpoint discrimination" and because Iowa State University is a public school--they can be found guilty according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is greatly upseting, that though Gonzalez had exceeded ISU's own standards for tenure and is considered a leader in astronomical research, he has been denied tenure because of his view on a very controversial issue. As a student, I would think that academia--especially at a public university--would be more open and free than this.

If you would like to write to ISU president Dr. Gregory Geoffroy and express your disappointment with his decision, please write to geoffroy@iastate.edu.

For the World Magazine articlce on Gonzalez, see here.
For the Nature article on Gonzalez, see here.