Science Friday show on ID/creationism

In a series of events that surprised me almost as much as the people from my hometown, long-lost friends, and distant relatives, I appeared as a guest on NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday today. The show description is here, and the archived show can be heard online here. I have been a fan of Science Friday since high school. I’ve even sent in questions, which have never been read because they get so many questions. Even in the unlikely event that I ever became a famous scientist, I thought it unlikely I would ever be on Science Friday. I mean, people like Richard Dawkins get on Science Friday (he was in the second hour this week, as it turns out). Then, one day, I’m called up and asked to be on the show. It just so happened that I work at the National Center for Science Education, and it just so happened that I have been the guy monitoring the “Intelligent Design” situation in Dover, Pennsylvania, and it just so happened that the issue has exploded in the media over the last several weeks for several reasons, and it just so happens that almost everyone from Dover that might be interviewed is consulting lawyers and so isn’t talking to the media. So, on I go. There were six guests total, so each person got to say only a few things, but I think it ended up being a pretty good show.

Listen to the archived show and say what you think. NPR may be hosting an online discussion over here although I can’t find one for today’s show yet.

Whenver one does this kind of thing, afterwords you think of dozens of things you wish you’d said. So, to get them off my mind, I’ll list them in the rest of this post. Suggest your own!

Things I wish I’d said:

  • If you’re worried about this issue, visit the NCSE website:, and/or call us.
  • If you’re really worried about this issue, become an NCSE member (for only $30, six encouraging/depressing issues of Reports of the National Center for Science Education each year!). Our resources have been stretched very thin lately, what with all of this creationism everywhere, so consider buying something or donating as well. Ponder the fact that creationist organizations have annual budgets of millions of dollars, whereas NCSE operates on just a few hundred thousand dollars a year.
  • And anyone interested in this issue should visit,, of course Panda’s Thumb, and other local and national science groups.
  • Of Pandas and People really is a strange book. The ID folks claim that it’s not creationist, but:
    1. There weren’t any “design proponents” in 1989 and, nor was there an “intelligent design” movement. There were only creationists. Yet Of Pandas and People goes on and on about “intelligent design” (50+ mentions) and “design proponents” (30+ mentions). (You can see this by searching the 1993 edition at The “intelligent design” movement, theoretically based on the revolutionary work of scholars, was actually born in the form of a textbook (even if most ID proponents are not aware of this).
    2. The creationist roots of Pandas are pretty clear: Pandas, 1989, p. 77 wrote:

      ‘Design proponents point to the role of intelligence in shaping clay into living form.’ Pandas, 1989, p. 92 wrote: ‘An additional issue concerns the matter of the earth’s age. While design proponents are in agreement on these [preceding] significant observations about the fossil record, they are divided on the issue of the earth’s age. Some take the view that the earth’s history can be compressed into a framework of thousands of years, while others adhere to the standard old earth chronology.’ Pandas, 1989, p. 154 wrote: A major question debated in our society today – a question for any student of nature to consider – is how to explain the repetition of these similar structures. Are they the products of natural forces acting blindly on a parental lineage going back to one or a few species at the beginning as Darwin suggested? Or is there more than just descent with modification, is ther the common engineering work of an intelligent artisan? These are the opposing explanations of natural or evolutionary descent and intelligent design.

      There is also the view, held by some, that an intellect brought forth all similar structural features by natural means over time. This view is empirically indistinguishable from natural descent, however, and will not be evaluated here, since our consideration will use a clear empirical criterion. We shall consider, then, descent by natural causes and design by intelligent causes as terms for opposing explanations in the debate over origins. We shall also use the less cumbersome and more familiar terms evolution or descent and design. (emphases original)

I’m sure I’ll think of others (and, obviously, some of these would be more-or-less impossible to actually say on the radio). At least I didn’t do what I did in a radio show this summer – claim that Young-Earth Creationists say that the Grand Canyon formed in only a few thousand years! (They actually say that it formed after the flood in 1 year, a few thousand years ago, I think…but somehow I got it mixed up.)

PS: If you liked the show, you might consider dropping Science Friday a nice note:

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