A couple of weeks ago I thought I would see if I could get Santorum on the record clarifying his views about the teaching of evolution. I sent a request through his website. There was an electronic form there that reporters could fill out to request an interview.
He wrote me back the next day, but he seemed to have forgotten the interview. He said wanted money. He’s written every day for the past several weeks. It hasn’t stopped.
I learned something new about intelligent design on Thursday night after listening to one of the movement's most visible proponents. Biochemistry professor Michael Behe was the star witness for the anti-evolution school board in the 2005 Dover trial. He's written several influential books on the idea that life was at least partly cobbled together by a non-human intelligent designer.
The event was held at Villanova University. It started with a screening of the intelligent design documentary, “A Flock of Dodos” and finished with a panel discussion.
Not surprisingly, the audience directed most of the questions toward Behe. Some wanted to know how he and his cohorts could possibly test the principles of ID. Others tried to pin him down on the details of this so-called theory. He wiggled and slipped around the questions, none of the answers quite satisfying. After some 25 minutes of interchange, the audience was still struggling to get a grasp on the man and his strange view of science.
FF: This evening(thursday) I’ll be participating in a panel discussion at Villanova University. The topic is Randy Olson’s film “A Flock of Dodos”, which explores the roots of the intelligent design movement.
Higgs and I watched it together the other night and both gave it high marks for journalistic integrity. But Higgs had one quibble with the film. He felt it perpetuated a prejudice against dodo birds.
Higgs: I enjoyed the film “A Flock of Dodos” very much. The filmmaker did an excellent job of taking ID proponents to task for repeating false information. But I didn’t think the film did enough to dispel one of the most common misconceptions about evolution. Many people wrongly assume that animals go extinct because they are incapable of evolving, or they’re primitive, obsolete or stupid. This is not the case at all: Most of the organisms thriving on the planet don’t even have brains.
The prevailing theory on Amelia Earhart’s 1937 disappearance holds that she plunged into the vastness of the Pacific. There’s a lot of ocean and not much land in the region where she made her last radio transmission.
A couple of weeks ago we ran a very short AP story about a piece of evidence that's surfaced backing a less popular hypothesis - that the famous aviator landed on an uninhabited Pacific island and spent her final days as a castaway.
I had written about the Earhart disappearance a few years ago and so I started making calls. It turns out intelligence experts from the State Department acknowledge that an old photograph just may show a piece of the plane that Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared attempting to circle the globe.
Before it gets too late, I’d like to share a couple more interesting responses I got to last week’s column. A few readers were shocked that anyone as overtly religious as Peter Dodson could function as a real scientist.
“I am always astounded when I read about scientists who are also religious. There is such a huge disconnect between the basic precepts of these two disciplines that I can't imagine a person embracing both. True scientists do not, I repeat, do NOT, exercise blind faith in their scientific beliefs. A scientific fact or law or value must be achieved by the scientific method, a mandatory series of steps. ….(a long description of the scientific method follows)
If the results are confirmed by several other workers, then the idea is accepted as a scientific fact or rule. Belief in a scientific fact, then, comes about as a result of a series of important steps designed to confirm or deny that belief.
This column also appeared on the cover of the Health and Science section of today's Philadelphia Inquirer:
Could intelligent design finally be dead? The term is conspicuously absent from the latest antievolution education bill, which passed the Tennessee legislature in March and awaits action by the governor.
The bill’s language reveals a new tactic on the part of creationists. They seem to have retired intelligent design and replaced it with a concept as sneaky as stealth aircraft.
I’ve been busy this weekend and just barely skimmed this missive from the ID think tank known as the Discovery Institute. Apparently they don’t like Penn paleontologist Peter Dodson or Philadelphia’s Institute for Religion and Science. That the folks at DI don’t like me goes without saying. They take me to task for saying the Pope is okay with evolution, more or less.
"Now Ms. Flam is back with an admiring profile of University of Pennsylvania paleontologist Peter Dodson and his Institute for Religion and Science, or IRS. Nothing wholesome has those initials. We would have called it the Institute for Science and Religion instead.
Professor Dodson takes a couple of shots at intelligent design. Reports Ms. Flam, "On intelligent design theory, he says that an honest appraisal of nature shows both elegance and awkward contrivance." That's a shot? Setting biology to one side, elegance and contrivance are hallmarks of design by human beings. Where's the contradiction in finding the same in natural designs?
I raked in a great haul of reader feedback from last Monday’s Inquirer column profiling a religious scientist. This one was a little baffling:
"By the way, you are too smart and attractive to stoop to this "what kind of designer would put the sewer pipe through the playground." Being old and demented I can think of serveral retorts that my Southern upbringing prevents me from mentioning."