Tarry for the Nonce

December 20, 2005

Darwin, the Ape-Man

Filed under: News — lmwalker @ 3:08 pm

A judge has determined that an explanation of the definition of intelligent design is a violation of the First Amendment:

[U.S. District Judge John E.] Jones wrote in his 139-page opinion that “the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom” . . .

The case stemmed from the school board’s decision last year to require 9th grade biology teachers to read four paragraphs to students regarding intelligent design at the start of lessons on evolution.

“Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered,” the statement said. “The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence.”

The required statement went on to say, “Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view.” It referred students to the book, “Of Pandas and People,” if they were “interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.”

I don’t have a strong opinion on this topic one way or the other, but I don’t understand the controversy. Even if we concede that intelligent design is “junk science,” it still doesn’t make sense to me that presenting Darwin’s theory of evolution as a bona fide theory causes so many apoplectic fits. It is an evolutionary theory – and, specifically, it’s Darwin’s. Lamarck has his own evolutionary theory, as did Maupertuis.

So what’s the big deal?



  1. I think the difference is that Darwin’s “theory” holds up to scrutiny.

    Comment by Howard — December 20, 2005 @ 6:48 pm

  2. Maupertuis’s theory (such as it is) seems at its core basically equivalent to Darwin’s. You raise an interesting point with Lamarck. Trouble is, the mystical other medium that transfers these “ancestral memories” is yet another luminiferous aether — i.e. a cop-out for the “???” step in the process. Maybe some scientists who are so inclined should be examining that… maybe there’s some phantom force that lets us perpetuate parts of ourselves in ways we don’t understand. But until such time as someone has good evidence, I can’t in good conscience present it to anybody as anything other than speculation.

    From what I’ve heard, Darwin’s theory is always presented as a theory, but since it’s the best one we have, it’s given preference.

    Really, the problem is about ID being taught a) as a viable alternative to Darwin’s theory b) in science class. Cover it in another subject, or touch on it as an alternative that is pure speculation with no actual supporting evidence, and there isn’t a problem anymore.

    Comment by Chrispy — December 20, 2005 @ 8:39 pm

  3. Well, I don’t know much about Lamarck’s theory, but I’ve always been under the impression that, like the short-lived immune system antibodies that are transferred from the mother in the early stages of an infant’s life, memories and experience may, perhaps, be passed on or somehow encoded in our DNA. Afterall, there are a number of traits that are unexplainable that can be seen in humans passed from one generation to another.

    For example, an adopted child, not knowing his birth mother or father, will in fact inherit similar characteristics when it comes to facial expressions and habits that otherwise should not exist from the point of view of environmental influence. Likewise could be said for intellect, reason, and, to an extent, logic. I’m sure there’s research out there on this, but I’m definitely too lazy at the moment to go digging through the mire at this hour.

    Of course, I use this theory as my excuse for explaining away the balderdash of past lives experiences.

    Comment by Andrew P. — December 21, 2005 @ 4:15 am

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