Dear Editor

The good people of Alabama are facing an election year assault on reason and education in the form of “teach the controversy” legislation. The current scene is a proposed “Academic Freedom” act that encourages teachers to teach creationism. Early last month, Dr. Joe Lary (recently retired from a federal government science career) wrote an editorial for the Tuscaloosa News which I debunked between rounds here at Panda’s Thumb. I sent the copy to the Tuscaloosa News, but they never responded. So, since the mountain wouldn’t come to me … I went to the mountain.

In the last few weeks I have had a bit of fun debunking creationists cant in the News’ on-line forum. The following is a typical sample: I put a few “wish I said” and “I meant to say” in italics.

A.E. Carden wrote in a Letter to the Editor:

Can the editor of The Tuscaloosa News demonstrate that Darwinian evolution is "science" and does not contain any philosophical principles that are tenets of their worldview?

I would first note that there is no formulation or definition of “science” that excludes philosophical principles. Indeed, the philosophy of science is an active area of thought and publication. The tenets of evolutionary biology are identical to those in all sciences.

Any system that makes truth claims about the origin of life is metaphysical and not scientific. Darwinianism is based on a philosophical foundation.

It is clear to any student of evolutionary biology that something must be alive in order for biological evolution to occur. This means, of course, that evolutionary theory is little concerned with origin of life research. Evolution happens no matter where life came from.

Not spelled out in most proclamations of evolution being "science" and all other views being "religious" are two philosophical tenets of evolutionism. The first is ontological materialism, which says that nothing exists except the material world. The second is philosophical naturalism, which says that everything in the universe is governed by natural law and nothing ever circumvents that law. These principles are metaphysical and not scientific.

These statements by Carden are more complex errors {than} I can easily discuss here. A notable mistake is that evolution insists (according to Carden) that nothing exists that is not “material.” Behavioral traits are known to be important evolutionary factors. These widely studied non-material traits can be learned and transmitted between populations and generations.

Carden’s remark on philosophical materialism is also wrong, but for interesting reasons. They closely follow Discovery Institute fellow Francis Beckwith and are being discussed right now at The Panda’s Thumb. Perhaps Carden would like to follow this discussion.

At evoution's core is the premise that at the beginning of life on earth, nonliving materials (chemicals) arranged themselves in such a manner that a living, moving, reproducing organism was formed and that this happened only once in all known time and space.

This simply wrong (I can count 4 separate errors of fact and interpretation).If you want to belabor the point, today I can see at least 5 errors.

Too, it cannot be empirically demonstrated by experiment or catalogued under the known "laws of physics, chemistry or biology," and therefore is not science.

There has been more published origin of life research in the last 10 years than in the prior 10 centuries. A good general introduction for non-scientists is Iris Fry, The Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview 2000 Rutgers University Press. Even though it is less than 4 years old, there have already been significant advances made.

Plus, if science is defined to be limited to what we already know, then we might as well all just quit.