Sunday, October 30, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Former Pastor Found Guilty of Sexual Assault

by Lauren Jenkins

A former pastor has been found guilty of three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Victor Icenogle, known as “Apostle Alex” to his parishioners, now faces up to 99 years behind bars. Sentencing will be at a later date.

During testimony this week, a 10 year old girl took the witness stand to describe where and when the 48 year old man assaulted her. Icenogle reportedly did not look at his victims as they testified.

Icenogle was the self proclaimed pastor of the Promise Land Church here in San Antonio.

Thursday, October 27, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor Arrested for Failing to Register as Sex Offender

A pastor spent 2 hours in jail for failing to register as a sex offender in West Virginia

Story by Kimberly Beary

A man who refers to himself as Bishop faces one to five years in jail, if he is found guilty, for failing to register as a sex offender in West Virginia.

West Virginia State Trooper Brian Morris investigated a tip that Ranson Parris, 63 years old, was living in the former town of Jefferson for the past two months. "He was running a church in Jefferson. He claimed to be a bishop, to be a pillar of the community. He is a sex offender," Morris said. By law, sex offenders must register within thirty days of moving to the Mountain State.

The New Hope Metropolitan Community Church and Christian Center along MacCorkle Avenue posts signs of upcoming fundraisers for the homeless and gospel sings. Parris declined to comment when 13 News asked to speak with him regarding the charges.

Neighbors never saw a Sunday service at the church. Fresh Seafood Company Market and Restaurant owner, Tim Cerullo said he was surprised by the charges. "Someone who was supposed to be a preacher and doing that thing, so apparently the whole thing was just false," he said.

Trooper Morris says Parris was convicted of a sex crime with a minor in California. Parris did register as a sex offender in Florida but gave a Roanoke, Virginia address.The 63 year old man has a long rap sheet that spans several states and includes sixteen aliases, said Morris.

Parris spent two hours in jail before posting five hundred dollars bond. The felony charge of failing to register as a convicted sex offender carries a penalty of one to five years. Parris' preliminary hearing is set for November 4th.

Ex-Bangor pastor arrested in Georgia

The former pastor of one of Bangor’s largest churches was arrested Monday morning in Savannah, Ga., on a warrant issued by Penobscot County Superior Court.

The Rev. Ron Durham, 59, of Savannah, Ga., was indicted earlier this month by the Penobscot County grand jury in the theft of more than $100,000 from Abundant Life Church on Outer Broadway, where he served as pastor for 16 years.

Durham, who is being held at the Chatham County Jail in Savannah, is expected to appear today in Chatham County Superior Court for an extradition hearing.

He is scheduled to be arraigned on the theft charge Thursday in Penobscot County Superior Court in Bangor.

Michael Roberts, the Penobscot County deputy district attorney who is prosecuting the case, said Tuesday that it is unlikely Durham will be returned to Maine in time for arraignment.

If Durham waives extradition, local law enforcement officers would bring him back to Bangor for arraignment in a week to 10 days, Roberts said. If he fights extradition, Durham most likely would not be arraigned until sometime next year.

Roberts said Tuesday that he obtained a warrant for Durham’s arrest shortly after the indictment was handed up on Oct. 3 because Durham now lives out of state. It went out in a national database, and local authorities arrested him about 8:30 a.m. Monday.

Although Durham’s attorney, Marvin Glazier of Bangor, told prosecutors that his client intended to appear in court on Thursday, Roberts said that he "didn’t choose to recall the warrant."

If convicted, Durham faces up to 10 years in prison and could be fined up to $20,000. He also could be ordered to pay restitution to his former congregation.

Durham helped build Abundant Life Church from 22 members in 1987 who met in motel function rooms to a congregation of nearly 800 with a $2.5 million facility on Outer Broadway. He resigned abruptly in November 2003 after announcing that he was taking a leave of absence to undergo treatment for alcoholism.

In a letter to the congregation, the former pastor said that he had "lost the support of the main body of leadership" at the church.

His wife, Lynn Durham, also was active in church ministry. Ron Durham’s son, John "Richie" Durham, 32, who worked as the church bookkeeper, and his wife, Theresa, manager of the church bookstore and a secretary, also resigned.

The families sold their Bangor-area homes and relocated to Georgia, where the former pastor was raised.

Durham allegedly used the church credit card between 2000 and 2003 for travel that included cruises outside the United States, stays at hotels, restaurant meals and bar tabs, Roberts said earlier this month.

In all, the former pastor used more than $100,000 in church funds for personal use, he said.

The alleged theft was uncovered last year after the church had an audit done by a Portland accounting firm.

link

Friday, October 21, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Rev. Davis resigns from church a second time

By Peggy Kreimer
Post staff reporter


Rev. Larry Davis resigned from the First Baptist Church Wednesday for the second time this month, said church member Don Willig. This time, Davis made it clear there will be no vote to accept or reject his resignation - he's gone and the church is moving on, Willig said.

Davis pleaded guilty on Oct. 6 to federal charges that he lied on a loan application and evaded paying taxes. It was part of a plea agreement in which five other charges were dismissed.

According to the plea agreement that Davis signed, he stole $500,000 to $730,000 from 2000 and 2003 from church accounts he controlled.

The investigation and revelations over more than 20 months split the powerful First Baptist Church of Cold Spring, that two years ago had 1,500 members and was acclaimed for helping bring the Billy Graham Crusade to Cincinnati in 2002.

Davis continued as pastor during the investigation, while a large segment of the church membership left and formed another church.

Just before pleading guilty, Davis submitted his resignation to church leaders, who said at the time the church would have to vote on whether to accept it.

Davis did not respond to calls to his home and cell phone this morning. Jeff McCarthy, chairman of the church's board of deacons, would not comment on what happened at Wednesday's service and meeting.

Willig said today that the combined board of trustees and board of deacons met on Oct. 9 and accepted Davis's resignation, but later several of the deacons and trustees met with the church steering committee with second thoughts.

"They decided that it was not in the best interest of the church at that particular time, and decided to extend his time in the church until February (when Davis is scheduled to be sentenced and faces 24 to 30 months in prison)," Willig said.

"Then there was further consideration and a lot of uneasiness," said Willig.

On Wednesday evening, at the usual service and business meeting, Davis presided over the opening songs and prayers in the service, but before the typical Bible study started he announced that he was resigning.

"He immediately turned it over to an acting moderator," said Willig.

In the business meeting, it was explained that Davis' resignation did not need approval and could not be prolonged.

"It was the same as a pastor resigning to go to another church," said Willig.

"There were a number of people who had strong concerns about him staying and about him leaving. Quite a bit of conflict could have developed around that," said Willig. "I think he wanted to relieve the church of that conflict rather than be the cause of it."

An associate pastor and other ministers have been leading services since Davis's plea agreement.

Willig said the church will form a pulpit committee to seek a new pastor.

"If there is a message in this that the community needs to understand, it is that the church is alive and will go on," Willig said.

"It's a painful time, but the church has to go on and achieve its purpose. Rev. Davis has been a very important person to the history and development of the church. I think he would agree the church has to go on. I believe that's why he resigned on Wednesday."

Former pastor, stepson charged with raping Robeson girl

(ST. PAULS) - A former pastor and his stepson were charged in Robeson County with raping a 12-year-old girl after a DNA test showed that the pastor fathered the girl's baby.

Ronald Lee Simpson of Parkton is former pastor of St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church in Rennert. His stepson is 19-year-old Rodregous Wactor.

Both were charged with raping the same girl. Simpson works part-time as a barber and he was arrested Thursday as he cut hair in St. Pauls.

Simpson is also accused of molesting a 14-year-old Red Springs girl at the church in December, while he was still the pastor. He resigned after the allegations surfaced.

The 41-year-old Simpson was charged with first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense of a child, statutory rape of a child, attempted statutory rape of a child and indecent liberties with a child. All five charges are felonies.

He was jailed under a $210,000 bond. He and Wactor remained in the county jail Friday.

link

Wednesday, October 19, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner Calls Intelligent Design A Manufactured Controversy

American Association for the Advancement of Science – Alan I. Leshner

With a landmark evolution trial underway in Harrisburg, Penn., AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner has written in the nearby York Dispatch that scientists and mainstream religious leaders are largely united in their acceptance of the theory of natural selection.

While some news accounts have described the federal court case as "the Scopes Monkey Trial II," Leshner cautioned that it would be a mistake to view the trial as a Super Bowl pitting science against religion.

In fact, he said, evolution should not be seen as an attack on religion. Many scientists are guided by faith, and thousands of religious leaders in all faiths have expressed opposition to efforts by the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement to inject their views into public school science classrooms.

In the commentary published 5 October, Leshner said religion typically does not distort the work of scientists.

But "the leaders of the intelligent design movement reverse the scientific process," he writes. "They begin with their conclusion and manipulate science to suit their purpose. Their 1999 "Wedge Document" makes the true goal clear: 'Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist world view, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.'"

In addition to serving as AAAS's chief executive officer, Leshner is the executive publisher of the journal Science.

The federal court case was filed by eight Dover, Penn., families to challenge a 2004 Dover Area School District policy seen as hostile to the teaching of evolution in public schools. Under the policy, school officials read a statement in biology classes claiming that Charles Darwin's theory is not a fact and that it is undermined by gaps that science has been unable to resolve. The statement offers Intelligent Design—and its belief in a supernatural creator—as an alternative.

In their suit, the eight families charge that the Dover school board policy violates the separation of church and state set out in the U.S. Constitution. The trial began 26 September as is expected to last into November.

The controversy manufactured by the leaders of the ID movement "is social, not scientific, and as such it is more appropriate for discussion in social studies or philosophy classes," Leshner concluded.

"If the ID campaign is successful in court, it will lead the nation down a dangerous, slippery slope. If science classrooms are opened to their teaching, fairness requires that the views of countless other religions and denominations be taught as well. This would make a hash of science education, confusing our students and undermining the process of objective scientific research that has brought so much benefit to so many people."

Find information on AAAS resources on evolution by clicking here.

Visit the website for the National Center for Science Education here.

AAAS Board Resolution on Intelligent Design

AAAS Board Resolution on Intelligent Design Theory

The contemporary theory of biological evolution is one of the most robust products of scientific inquiry. It is the foundation for research in many areas of biology as well as an essential element of science education. To become informed and responsible citizens in our contemporary technological world, students need to study the theories and empirical evidence central to current scientific understanding.

Over the past several years proponents of so-called "intelligent design theory," also known as ID, have challenged the accepted scientific theory of biological evolution. As part of this effort they have sought to introduce the teaching of "intelligent design theory" into the science curricula of the public schools. The movement presents "intelligent design theory" to the public as a theoretical innovation, supported by scientific evidence, that offers a more adequate explanation for the origin of the diversity of living organisms than the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution. In response to this effort, individual scientists and philosophers of science have provided substantive critiques of "intelligent design," demonstrating significant conceptual flaws in its formulation, a lack of credible scientific evidence, and misrepresentations of scientific facts.

Recognizing that the "intelligent design theory" represents a challenge to the quality of science education, the Board of Directors of the AAAS unanimously adopts the following resolution:

Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;

Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;

Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;

Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;

Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS urges citizens across the nation to oppose the establishment of policies that would permit the teaching of "intelligent design theory" as a part of the science curricula of the public schools;

Therefore Be It Further Resolved, that AAAS calls upon its members to assist those engaged in overseeing science education policy to understand the nature of science, the content of contemporary evolutionary theory and the inappropriateness of "intelligent design theory" as subject matter for science education;

Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS encourages its affiliated societies to endorse this resolution and to communicate their support to appropriate parties at the federal, state and local levels of the government.

Approved by the AAAS Board of Directors on 10/18/02

Saturday, October 15, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor gets four years in prison for raping girl

By Journal Times staff

RACINE - The Rev. John A. Oatis was sentenced to four years in prison Friday for raping a 15-year-old girl at his church 11 years ago.

The victim said she went to Oatis for help in October 1994 at the Holy Jerusalem Church of God, formerly at 1330 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. He took her into the basement of the church and sexually assaulted her, according to the criminal complaint.

Police used DNA evidence to tie Oatis, 69, to the assault. He was convicted in August of second-degree sexual assault of a child.

Oatis insisted during his jury trial and at his sentencing that he was innocent.

"Reverend Oatis is not a victim of anything," said Judge Dennis Barry said at the sentencing hearing. "The victim is a 15-year-old girl who came to talk to her pastor ... and was sexually assaulted by a 58-year-old man of the cloth."

Since the crime was committed before the sentencing law changed in 1999, Oatis can petition for parole after serving 25 percent of his prison time and must be released after serving two-thirds of his term.

Barry said during the hearing that several people spoke and wrote on behalf of Oatis and the positive contributions he had made to the community. He added that perhaps he could help young people by ministering to them in prison.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

One side can be wrong

Accepting 'intelligent design' in science classrooms would have disastrous consequences, warn Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne

by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne

It sounds so reasonable, doesn't it? Such a modest proposal. Why not teach "both sides" and let the children decide for themselves? As President Bush said, "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes." At first hearing, everything about the phrase "both sides" warms the hearts of educators like ourselves.

One of us spent years as an Oxford tutor and it was his habit to choose controversial topics for the students' weekly essays. They were required to go to the library, read about both sides of an argument, give a fair account of both, and then come to a balanced judgment in their essay. The call for balance, by the way, was always tempered by the maxim, "When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly half way between. It is possible for one side simply to be wrong."

As teachers, both of us have found that asking our students to analyse controversies is of enormous value to their education. What is wrong, then, with teaching both sides of the alleged controversy between evolution and creationism or "intelligent design" (ID)? And, by the way, don't be fooled by the disingenuous euphemism. There is nothing new about ID. It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name to slip (with some success, thanks to loads of tax-free money and slick public-relations professionals) under the radar of the US Constitution's mandate for separation between church and state.

Why, then, would two lifelong educators and passionate advocates of the "both sides" style of teaching join with essentially all biologists in making an exception of the alleged controversy between creation and evolution? What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of "it is only fair to teach both sides"? The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all. And it is a time-wasting distraction because evolutionary science, perhaps more than any other major science, is bountifully endowed with genuine controversy.

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; "evo-devo"; the "Cambrian Explosion"; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on. The point is that all these controversies, and many more, provide fodder for fascinating and lively argument, not just in essays but for student discussions late at night.

Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for "both theories" would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?

So, why are we so sure that intelligent design is not a real scientific theory, worthy of "both sides" treatment? Isn't that just our personal opinion? It is an opinion shared by the vast majority of professional biologists, but of course science does not proceed by majority vote among scientists. Why isn't creationism (or its incarnation as intelligent design) just another scientific controversy, as worthy of scientific debate as the dozen essay topics we listed above? Here's why.

If ID really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn't happen. It isn't that editors refuse to publish ID research. There simply isn't any ID research to publish. Its advocates bypass normal scientific due process by appealing directly to the non-scientific public and - with great shrewdness - to the government officials they elect.

The argument the ID advocates put, such as it is, is always of the same character. Never do they offer positive evidence in favour of intelligent design. All we ever get is a list of alleged deficiencies in evolution. We are told of "gaps" in the fossil record. Or organs are stated, by fiat and without supporting evidence, to be "irreducibly complex": too complex to have evolved by natural selection.

In all cases there is a hidden (actually they scarcely even bother to hide it) "default" assumption that if Theory A has some difficulty in explaining Phenomenon X, we must automatically prefer Theory B without even asking whether Theory B (creationism in this case) is any better at explaining it. Note how unbalanced this is, and how it gives the lie to the apparent reasonableness of "let's teach both sides". One side is required to produce evidence, every step of the way. The other side is never required to produce one iota of evidence, but is deemed to have won automatically, the moment the first side encounters a difficulty - the sort of difficulty that all sciences encounter every day, and go to work to solve, with relish.

What, after all, is a gap in the fossil record? It is simply the absence of a fossil which would otherwise have documented a particular evolutionary transition. The gap means that we lack a complete cinematic record of every step in the evolutionary process. But how incredibly presumptuous to demand a complete record, given that only a minuscule proportion of deaths result in a fossil anyway.

The equivalent evidential demand of creationism would be a complete cinematic record of God's behaviour on the day that he went to work on, say, the mammalian ear bones or the bacterial flagellum - the small, hair-like organ that propels mobile bacteria. Not even the most ardent advocate of intelligent design claims that any such divine videotape will ever become available.

Biologists, on the other hand, can confidently claim the equivalent "cinematic" sequence of fossils for a very large number of evolutionary transitions. Not all, but very many, including our own descent from the bipedal ape Australopithecus. And - far more telling - not a single authentic fossil has ever been found in the "wrong" place in the evolutionary sequence. Such an anachronistic fossil, if one were ever unearthed, would blow evolution out of the water.

As the great biologist J B S Haldane growled, when asked what might disprove evolution: "Fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian." Evolution, like all good theories, makes itself vulnerable to disproof. Needless to say, it has always come through with flying colours.

Similarly, the claim that something - say the bacterial flagellum - is too complex to have evolved by natural selection is alleged, by a lamentably common but false syllogism, to support the "rival" intelligent design theory by default. This kind of default reasoning leaves completely open the possibility that, if the bacterial flagellum is too complex to have evolved, it might also be too complex to have been created. And indeed, a moment's thought shows that any God capable of creating a bacterial flagellum (to say nothing of a universe) would have to be a far more complex, and therefore statistically improbable, entity than the bacterial flagellum (or universe) itself - even more in need of an explanation than the object he is alleged to have created.

If complex organisms demand an explanation, so does a complex designer. And it's no solution to raise the theologian's plea that God (or the Intelligent Designer) is simply immune to the normal demands of scientific explanation. To do so would be to shoot yourself in the foot. You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs.

In fact, the bacterial flagellum is certainly not too complex to have evolved, nor is any other living structure that has ever been carefully studied. Biologists have located plausible series of intermediates, using ingredients to be found elsewhere in living systems. But even if some particular case were found for which biologists could offer no ready explanation, the important point is that the "default" logic of the creationists remains thoroughly rotten.

There is no evidence in favour of intelligent design: only alleged gaps in the completeness of the evolutionary account, coupled with the "default" fallacy we have identified. And, while it is inevitably true that there are incompletenesses in evolutionary science, the positive evidence for the fact of evolution is truly massive, made up of hundreds of thousands of mutually corroborating observations. These come from areas such as geology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, ethology, biogeography, embryology and - increasingly nowadays - molecular genetics.

The weight of the evidence has become so heavy that opposition to the fact of evolution is laughable to all who are acquainted with even a fraction of the published data. Evolution is a fact: as much a fact as plate tectonics or the heliocentric solar system.

Why, finally, does it matter whether these issues are discussed in science classes? There is a case for saying that it doesn't - that biologists shouldn't get so hot under the collar. Perhaps we should just accept the popular demand that we teach ID as well as evolution in science classes. It would, after all, take only about 10 minutes to exhaust the case for ID, then we could get back to teaching real science and genuine controversy.

Tempting as this is, a serious worry remains. The seductive "let's teach the controversy" language still conveys the false, and highly pernicious, idea that there really are two sides. This would distract students from the genuinely important and interesting controversies that enliven evolutionary discourse. Worse, it would hand creationism the only victory it realistically aspires to. Without needing to make a single good point in any argument, it would have won the right for a form of supernaturalism to be recognised as an authentic part of science. And that would be the end of science education in America.

Arguments worth having ...

The "Cambrian Explosion"

Although the fossil record shows that the first multicellular animals lived about 640m years ago, the diversity of species was low until about 530m years ago. At that time there was a sudden explosion of many diverse marine species, including the first appearance of molluscs, arthropods, echinoderms and vertebrates. "Sudden" here is used in the geological sense; the "explosion" occurred over a period of 10m to 30m years, which is, after all, comparable to the time taken to evolve most of the great radiations of mammals. This rapid diversification raises fascinating questions; explanations include the evolution of organisms with hard parts (which aid fossilisation), the evolutionary "discovery" of eyes, and the development of new genes that allowed parts of organisms to evolve independently.

The evolutionary basis of human behaviour

The field of evolutionary psychology (once called "sociobiology") maintains that many universal traits of human behaviour (especially sexual behaviour), as well as differences between individuals and between ethnic groups, have a genetic basis. These traits and differences are said to have evolved in our ancestors via natural selection. There is much controversy about these claims, largely because it is hard to reconstruct the evolutionary forces that acted on our ancestors, and it is unethical to do genetic experiments on modern humans.

Sexual versus natural selection

Although evolutionists agree that adaptations invariably result from natural selection, there are many traits, such as the elaborate plumage of male birds and size differences between the sexes in many species, that are better explained by "sexual selection": selection based on members of one sex (usually females) preferring to mate with members of the other sex that show certain desirable traits. Evolutionists debate how many features of animals have resulted from sexual as opposed to natural selection; some, like Darwin himself, feel that many physical features differentiating human "races" resulted from sexual selection.

The target of natural selection

Evolutionists agree that natural selection usually acts on genes in organisms - individuals carrying genes that give them a reproductive or survival advantage over others will leave more descendants, gradually changing the genetic composition of a species. This is called "individual selection". But some evolutionists have proposed that selection can act at higher levels as well: on populations (group selection), or even on species themselves (species selection). The relative importance of individual versus these higher order forms of selection is a topic of lively debate.

Natural selection versus genetic drift

Natural selection is a process that leads to the replacement of one gene by another in a predictable way. But there is also a "random" evolutionary process called genetic drift, which is the genetic equivalent of coin-tossing. Genetic drift leads to unpredictable changes in the frequencies of genes that don't make much difference to the adaptation of their carriers, and can cause evolution by changing the genetic composition of populations. Many features of DNA are said to have evolved by genetic drift. Evolutionary geneticists disagree about the importance of selection versus drift in explaining features of organisms and their DNA. All evolutionists agree that genetic drift can't explain adaptive evolution. But not all evolution is adaptive.

Further reading

www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc
User-friendly guide to evolution

www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/jacNR.pdf
Critique of Intelligent Design movement, published in New Republic

Climbing Mount Improbable
Richard Dawkins (illustrations by Lalla Ward), Penguin 1997

Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design
Barbara C Forrest and Paul R Gross, Oxford University Press, 2003

· Richard Dawkins is Charles Simonyi professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University, and Jerry Coyne is a professor in the department of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago.

Intelligent Design 101: Short on science, long on snake oil

The irreducibly complex teeters on the verge of reduction. None of these difficulties were mentioned.
By James Curtsinger

Good morning, class. As you know, the local school board has decided that we must include “Intelligent Design” in high school biology, so let’s start with the work of Dr. Michael Behe, ID’s leading scientist. Dr. Behe, a professor of biochemistry, visited the U last week as a guest of the MacLaurin Institute.
I spoke with him at lunch, attended his public lecture and took notes for today’s class.

Dr. Behe opened his public lecture by showing two images: a mountain range and Mount Rushmore.

One had a designer; the other didn’t. In case anyone was uncertain which was which, Dr. Behe also showed a duck, and emphasized that if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, then it is a duck.

Ergo if something in biology looks designed, it is designed.

He reviewed “irreducible complexity,” the important notion that certain structures with intricately interacting parts cannot function if any part is removed. According to Dr. Behe, such structures could not evolve gradually, as standard Darwinian Theory supposes; they must be the handiwork of a designer.

Well-known examples include mousetraps, the blood-clotting cascade, the vertebrate immune system and the bacterial flagellum. All of this was covered in his 1996 book, “Darwin’s Black Box.” Dr. Behe spent quite a bit of time talking about reviews of his book, and his responses to reviews.

Surprisingly, he had nothing to say about new developments in ID. Surely this revolutionary approach to biology has produced important scientific insights in the last nine years. Let’s use the Web to discover what they are.

Use Google to find “Entrez PubMed,” which will take you to a database of 15 million peer-reviewed publications in the primary scientific literature. The site, maintained by the National Library of Medicine, allows users to enter a search term and retrieve references to relevant publications.

For instance, enter “natural selection” in the search box and click “go”; about 14,000 references will be found. “Mutation” gets 40,000. “Speciation” gets 5,000. “Human origins” gets 22,000. “Behe intelligent design” gets … zero.

Not one publication in PubMed contains the terms “Behe,” “intelligent,” and “design.” The same holds for “Behe irreducible complexity.” A less restrictive search for “intelligent design” finds 400 papers, but many are not relevant because the words are common in other contexts.

To get more useful information, enter “intelligent design” in quotation marks, which searches for the two words together. When I searched last week, this produced 25 references, of which 13 were irrelevant to this discussion, five were news articles, six were critical of ID, and one was a historical review. “Irreducible complexity” in quotes gets five hits, one irrelevant and the others critical of ID.

Exact numbers change daily as new publications are added to the database, but the pattern is clear. Where are the scientific papers supporting ID?

Perhaps Dr. Behe publishes research papers that support intelligent design without using those terms. Searching PubMed for “Behe MJ” and sorting the results by date, you will find 11 publications since 1992, when the good professor converted to his new Ideology. Several are just letters to the editor.

The most recent (Behe and Snoke, 2004 and 2005) suggest that certain events in molecular evolution have low probability of occurrence.

This falls far short of the claim that a designer must have intervened, but what the heck, let’s put all 11 in the ID column.

Under these rather generous assumptions, ID’s leading light has produced fewer than a dozen peer-reviewed papers for the cause, none of which explicitly mentions ID. That number is substantially less than PubMed finds for “voodoo” (78), and pales in comparison with “diaper rash” (475).

Perhaps when the number of supporting publications rises to the level of “horse feces” (929) the professional community will grant ID some respect.

Cynics will suggest that ID is intentionally excluded from the peer-reviewed literature. It’s possible; the system strives for objectivity, but any human endeavor is potentially subject to bias.

This argument fails, however, when we consider that other revolutionary ideas have successfully crashed the party. Plate tectonics, major meteoritic impacts, and the bacterial origin of mitochondria are important ideas that were initially regarded with skepticism but are now accepted by the professional community.

Non-Darwinian molecular evolution, so-called “neutral theory,” was despised when it was first proposed in the late 1960s, but within a decade it became a standard part of the literature.

The historical evidence suggests that scientists can be persuaded to new views, given appropriate evidence. The primary literature is particular, but not rigid.

While you’re at PubMed, try searching for “bacterial flagella secretion.” One of the resulting papers, by SI Aizawa (2001), reports that some nasty bacteria possess a molecular pump, called a type III secretion system, or TTSS, that injects toxins across cell membranes.

Much to Dr. Behe’s distress, the TTSS is a subset of the bacterial flagellum. That’s right, a part of the supposedly irreducible bacterial “outboard motor” has a biological function!

When I asked Dr. Behe about this at lunch he got a bit testy, but acknowledged that the claim is correct (I have witnesses). He added that the bacterial flagellum is still irreducibly complex in the sense that the subset does not function as a flagellum.

His response might seem like a minor concession, but is very significant. The old meaning of irreducible complexity was, “It doesn’t have any function when a part is removed.” Evidently, the new meaning of irreducible complexity is “It doesn’t have the same function when a part is removed.”

The new definition renders irreducible complexity irrelevant to evolution, because complex adaptations are widely thought to have evolved through natural selection co-opting existing structures for new functions, in opportunistic fashion.

The story is incomplete, but it is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis that the bacterial flagellum evolved first as a secretory system, and later was adapted by natural selection for locomotion.

This scenario for gradual evolution of a complex molecular machine is bolstered by recent reports that some bacterial flagella do, in fact, have a secretory function (and now you know how to find those papers).

The irreducibly complex teeters on the verge of reduction. None of these difficulties were mentioned in the public lecture.

It seems that a new image should be added to Dr. Behe’s public presentation, one that represents the scientific status of intelligent design: a duck on its back, feet in the air, wings splayed.

If it looks like a dead duck, and it smells like a dead duck, it is a dead duck.

James Curtsinger is a University professor in the department of ecology, evolution and behavior.

Monday, October 10, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

The dark side of faith

By ROSA BROOKS

IT'S OFFICIAL: Too much religion may be a dangerous thing.

This is the implication of a study reported in the current issue of the Journal of Religion and Society, a publication of Creighton University's Center for the Study of Religion. The study, by evolutionary scientist Gregory S. Paul, looks at the correlation between levels of "popular religiosity" and various "quantifiable societal health" indicators in 18 prosperous democracies, including the United States.

Paul ranked societies based on the percentage of their population expressing absolute belief in God, the frequency of prayer reported by their citizens and their frequency of attendance at religious services. He then correlated this with data on rates of homicide, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy, abortion and child mortality.

He found that the most religious democracies exhibited substantially higher degrees of social dysfunction than societies with larger percentages of atheists and agnostics. Of the nations studied, the U.S. — which has by far the largest percentage of people who take the Bible literally and express absolute belief in God (and the lowest percentage of atheists and agnostics) — also has by far the highest levels of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

This conclusion will come as no surprise to those who have long gnashed their teeth in frustration while listening to right-wing evangelical claims that secular liberals are weak on "values." Paul's study confirms globally what is already evident in the U.S.: When it comes to "values," if you look at facts rather than mere rhetoric, the substantially more secular blue states routinely leave the Bible Belt red states in the dust.

Murder rates? Six of the seven states with the highest 2003 homicide rates were "red" in the 2004 elections (Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina), while the deep blue Northeastern states had murder rates well below the national average. Infant mortality rates? Highest in the South and Southwest; lowest in New England. Divorce rates? Marriages break up far more in red states than in blue. Teen pregnancy rates? The same.

Of course, the red/blue divide is only an imperfect proxy for levels of religiosity. And while Paul's study found that the correlation between high degrees of religiosity and high degrees of social dysfunction appears robust, it could be that high levels of social dysfunction fuel religiosity, rather than the other way around.

Although correlation is not causation, Paul's study offers much food for thought. At a minimum, his findings suggest that contrary to popular belief, lack of religiosity does societies no particular harm. This should offer ammunition to those who maintain that religious belief is a purely private matter and that government should remain neutral, not only among religions but also between religion and lack of religion. It should also give a boost to critics of "faith-based" social services and abstinence-only disease and pregnancy prevention programs.

We shouldn't shy away from the possibility that too much religiosity may be socially dangerous. Secular, rationalist approaches to problem-solving emphasize uncertainty, evidence and perpetual reevaluation. Religious faith is inherently nonrational.

This in itself does not make religion worthless or dangerous. All humans hold nonrational beliefs, and some of these may have both individual and societal value. But historically, societies run into trouble when powerful religions become imperial and absolutist.

The claim that religion can have a dark side should not be news. Does anyone doubt that Islamic extremism is linked to the recent rise in international terrorism? And since the history of Christianity is every bit as blood-drenched as the history of Islam, why should we doubt that extremist forms of modern American Christianity have their own pernicious and measurable effects on national health and well-being?

Arguably, Paul's study invites us to conclude that the most serious threat humanity faces today is religious extremism: nonrational, absolutist belief systems that refuse to tolerate difference and dissent.

My prediction is that right-wing evangelicals will do their best to discredit Paul's substantive findings. But when they fail, they'll just shrug: So what if highly religious societies have more murders and disease than less religious societies? Remember the trials of Job? God likes to test the faithful.

To the truly nonrational, even evidence that on its face undermines your beliefs can be twisted to support them. Absolutism means never having to say you're sorry.

And that, of course, is what makes it so very dangerous.

End times a'coming

In Our Time
Wayne Brown

It was Wordsworth who first delineated the interdependence of religiosity and the infantile ego. In his 'Immortality Ode' (1807), he affirmed famously that we come into the world 'trailing clouds of glory.from God, who is our home,' so that 'Heaven lies about us in our infancy!'

And the necessary loss of the infantile illusion of centrality involved in maturing - a process, as this column remarked last week, marked by a growing grasp of the facts of differentiation and otherness, and a consequent diminution of the infantile ego - was one he lamented:

'Shades of the prison-house begin to close/ upon the growing boy'; until the adult perceives the divine light 'fade into the light of common day.'

Nonetheless, Wordsworth was determined to celebrate not only 'those shadowy recollections' of our participation in the Godhead, but also what might be termed 'life after God':

'Though nothing can bring back the sight/ Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower,/ We will grieve not, rather find/ strength in what remains behind.'

Like that, he arrives at precisely that impersonal reverence for the mystery of life and the wonder of the world which this column proffered last week as the mature expression of a religious sensibility, in contrast to the self-centered infantilism of 'religiosity' - that childish mix of sentimentality and bellicosity which leads the evangelical Christian habitually to invoke the New Testament's caring God as his personal mentor, while hurling the vengeance of the Old Testament's wrathful God against his real or imagined enemies.

The 'Immortality Ode' ends by affirming:
'.the faith that looks through death,
.years that bring the philosophic mind.
.Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.'

'Thoughts,' writes Wordsworth. And he signals their impersonal grandeur by that 'too deep for tears'.

I have gone on about this, because I have long been bewildered by the dismaying floodtide of rightwing Christian evangelism here in the West - till recently a civilisation based on reason, descended from the European Enlightenment, and codified in the US by the likes of Jefferson and Paine (who, in addition to his famous declaration, 'These are the times that try men's souls,' was also quite emphatic: 'I do not believe in the creed professed by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.')

And mine is by no means a purely philosophical dismay. Democracy, and the science-based and rational worldview upon which it depends, cannot long survive the theocratic fervour now rampant in the US - where, as this is being written, another Christian fundamentalist, one of Mr Bush's female cronies, is in the process of being inserted onto the Supreme Court - and here in Jamaica too, for that matter.

The shock troopers of this evangelism are now fully engaged in what may be a decisive political battle. Their enemy is the theory of evolution, the very bedrock of Science's explanation of life. To it they're opposing a 'theory' of Intelligent Design; and that is the legal battle that was joined in a Pennsylvania courthouse a fortnight ago. There, 11 parents are suing a school board for requiring science teachers to teach 'alternatives' to evolution, including Intelligent Design. The case could mark the tipping point of America's plunge into The Dark.

Now, this column is no more prepared to waste time 'debating' Creationism - which holds that the world and everything in it was created by God, a mere 6,000 years ago - than arguing against the 'theory' that the earth is the centre of the universe.

(Although, the way things are going, some unfortunate columnist may well find himself, 50 years from now, having to do just that. History, after all, has repeatedly shown that a regressing civilisation has its own deathward momentum.) But it's worth noting that the psychological payoff of this scientific gibberish is in each case the same: each panders to the infantile ego and its illusion of centrality.

You and I are much more important as God-appointed lords of a brand new universe specifically created by Him as our estate, than if we were merely the highest-evolved (for now) species of a small planet in a peripheral solar system in a dime-a-dozen galaxy in a universe comprising many billions of galaxies many billions of years old. It's not hard to discern infantilism's hyphen linking the Creationist to the sentimental, 'God gave me the victory' religiosity of innumerable athletes, warlords, etc.

This doesn't mean, of course, that Creationism isn't winning. It's certainly rampant - and not only in the USA. A Jamaican friend tells me, eg, that in the Galapagos Islands there's a Jehovah Witness church; and it's situated on (sic) Darwin Avenue.

That's the point of it, of course: to take the fight into the heart of 'enemy' territory. Like GW Bush summoning the cameras into Baghdad to record his imperial legions tearing down the statue of Saddam. (It was in the Galapagos, of course, that Darwin observed the species that led him to formulate the theory of evolution.)

Now, on its face, Intelligent Design (ID) is harder to rebut than Creationism, with its unabashed primitivism. Though essentially nothing more than the prettified face of the latter, the vehicle aboard which Faith's crusaders intend to overwhelm the citadel of science, ID cannily refrains from espousing the 6,000-year-old-universe silliness (in which, I am sorry to report, fully 18 of 24 students in my recent CARIMAC class staunchly professed belief) or explicitly claiming the existence of God.

Instead, its proponents content themselves with insisting that certain features of life and the universe exhibit the characteristics of a designed product, and thus must be the work of a designer and not of an unguided process like natural selection.

ID proponents find gaps within current evolutionary theory and fill them in with speculative beliefs. They argue that while evidence pointing to the existence of an Intelligent Designer may not be observable, the latter's effects on nature can be detected.

This is a surge towards power of Aquinas' 13th Century teleological argument - 'Design' was the fifth of his five 'proofs' for God's existence - which he in turn got from Aristotle, 1,500 years earlier. And it isn't a scientific theory at all, but a faith-based assertion.

The theory of evolution has observable and repeatable facts to support it - countless, scientifically observed examples of mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, adaptation and speciation through natural selection. By contrast, ID is not empirically testable; is unsusceptible to those requirements of science, falsifiability and progressive ongoing adjustment; and it violates Occam's Razor (look it up) as well.

In fact, proponents of ID batten upon the necessary tentativeness of science to say triumphantly, 'Look! You still can't explain this (or that)!' Not 'haven't yet,' notice, but 'can't'. And if they triumph, as - astonishing thought though it is! - they may well do in the United States, they will make sure that 'haven't yet' becomes 'can't' - by banning such things as stem cell research, for example.

Of course, in thinking circles, ID is easily enough parodied. One current satire claims to speak from the perspective of ID. It notes that to date there's no theory of gravity that's mathematically reconcilable with quantum mechanics; takes that to mean that gravity is 'a theory in crisis'; and then affirms its own 'theory'.

This is that things fall not because they're acted upon by a gravitational force, but because there's an Intelligent Designer pushing them down. The satire concludes with the demand that this 'competing theory of gravity' be taught in schools alongside Newtonian mathematics, since - as Mr Bush, supporting the teaching of ID in schools, averred - 'Debate is healthy.'

But The Darkness is too near at hand to be funny. And besides, look at the state of the world in our time! Fantasies of the Apocalypse may have at their root the same infantile illusion of centrality - for of course you must be pretty special, and arguably one of The Chosen, to have the world end in your time! But so much of the news of late has been of disasters of 'biblical' proportions.

9-11. The crashing return of the Christian Crusaders, armed with 'shock and awe', back in the heart of Islam. The Asian tsunami. Those explosions on the London Underground (they were clearly intended to collapse Earth itself on top of the bombers and their victims). This summer's 'biblical' Floods that destroyed New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast.

Try to visualise this scene, from an NYT report of a New Orleans jail where the jailors simply fled, leaving behind them 600 inmates - many incarcerated for minor offences like public drunkenness - in locked and flooding cells.

"As the water began rising, the prisoners on the ground level could be heard calling for help. 'We was calling down to the guys in the cells under us,' one inmate is quoted as saying, 'talking to them every few minutes.

They were crying; they were scared.' Those on the upper level broke windows and either leapt out or set fire to pieces of clothing and held them outside the windows to signal to rescuers. The prisoners inside spent four days without power, food or water, standing in sewage-tainted water up to their chests - or necks.Inmates say they saw bodies floating in the water."

It's vision of Hell worthy of Dante. Surely God - the Old Testament's wrathful God - is terminally angry! Surely the Second Coming is at hand!

Such heraldic alarm may, as I say, be nothing more than that 'exciting' mix of infantilism and religiosity having its 15 minutes in front of the camera, in Earth's serene and stone-blind scheme of things. But in fact, a world may well be ending: Galileo's and Jefferson's lovely world of skeptical inquiry and thought.

And if not your or my children, or even grandchildren, then their grandchildren may well be required to learn by rote at school:
'God made the world in seven days, 6,000 years ago.

And then came the Flood, and Noah's Ark, in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado. The body is God's temple: genetic inquiry is the work of the Devil. Dinosaur 'fossils' were planted in the ground by Hollywood prop men.'

...from the Jamacia Observer

Saturday, October 08, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Witness: 'Design' Replaced 'Creation'

Witness: Book Replaced 'Creation' With 'Intelligent Design' Before Publication
By MARTHA RAFFAELE
The Associated Press


HARRISBURG, Pa. - References to creationism in drafts of a student biology book were replaced with the term "intelligent design" by the time it was published, a witness testified Wednesday in a landmark trial over a school board's decision to include the concept in its curriculum.

Drafts of the textbook, "Of Pandas and People," written in 1987 were revised after the Supreme Court ruled in June of that year that states could not require schools to balance evolution with creationism in the classroom, said Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Forrest reviewed drafts of the textbook as a witness for eight families who are trying to have the intelligent design concept removed from the Dover Area School District's biology curriculum.

The families contend that teaching intelligent design effectively promotes the Bible's view of creation, violating the separation of church and state.

Intelligent design holds that life on Earth is so complex that it must have been the product of some higher force. Opponents of the concept say intelligent design is simply creationism stripped of overt religious references.

Forrest outlined a chart of how many times the term "creation" was mentioned in the early drafts versus how many times the term "design" was mentioned in the published edition.

"They are virtually synonymous," she said.

Under the policy approved by Dover's school board in October 2004, students must hear a brief statement about intelligent design before classes on evolution. The statement says Charles Darwin's theory is "not a fact" and has inexplicable "gaps."

Forrest also said that intelligent-design proponents have freely acknowledged that their cause is a religious one. She cited a document from the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that represents intelligent-design scholars, that says one of its goals is "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."

Under cross-examination by school board lawyer Richard Thompson, Forrest acknowledged that she had no evidence that board members who voted for the curriculum change had either seen or heard of the Discovery Institute document.

The trial began Sept. 26 and is expected to last as long as five weeks.

Thursday, October 06, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

My Visit to the Cabazon Dinosaurs

sent in by Carol

Yesterday, October 5, 2005, I made a field trip to the Cabazon Dinosaurs, which were featured in an article the Webmaster posted on September 11 of this year and was titled "Did T-rex graze in the Garden of Eden?"

The two dinosaurs are a famous landmark on the I-10 freeway in So California, just west of the Palm Springs exit, and just east of Casino Morongo. They have been seen on TV and in movies, most notably a silly PeeWee Herman flick. For many years you couldn't miss them, as they stood out on the flat desert terrain. However, some years ago a controversial Burger King was built right in front of them and largely obscures their view, plus a cement divider on the freeway almost totally blocks them from the sight of east bound traffic.

Anyhow, it somehow got into the news that fundies have purchased the dinos and intend to use them to promote the fairy tale of creationism. So after having lunch at Burger King, with a nice view of the dinos, I wandered around.

The first dinosaur houses the gift shop and has doors and stairs on the right/front side, two port holes in each of the dinos right shoulders, and tables and benches underneath that several people enjoyed while I was there. The second is several yards behind the first and has a stairway and door in it's side, but it is not open to the public.

One enters the gift shop at a bottom door in the dino's tail and proceeds up a stairway with glass fronted displays on either side. The first one is right in your face as you enter. There was a written commentary along side this display titled "Dinosaurs, A Different View" and reads as follows:

"Creation scientists think there is eidence which shows that dinosaurs and man existed at the same time. These scientists point to archeological and anthropological evidence of discriptions of what seems to be dinosaurs in recent history. Creation scientists also think that the best way to explain the fossils of dinosaurs we find is a world wide water castastrophe a few thousand years ago."

The scene that accompanied this deep thought was several 12 inch or so plastic dinos doing battle with.....plastic knights! The knights were costumed as you would see at any renaissance faire or in the movie "A Knight's Tale" and were JOUSTING with the dinos!!

Ok, I proceed up the stairs and I am starting to feel kind of weird and really hoping someone is going to jump out and yell, "You're on candid camera!" The next display is on the right and has some plastic dinos in it and some rock fossils, plants, etc. Nothing too weird about that. However, written beside this display and one photo in particular was this:

"...Orthoceres was a creature similar to squid. This Orthoceres was found in a mass grave. Finding mass graves is a very common occurance and speaks to a catacylsmic flood event such as the flood recorded in the Bible. See Genesis Chapter 7."

So obviously, what they choose to ignore is more glaring than what they actually say, such as the age of the fossils. That was pretty much how it went for the half dozen or so other displays along the stairway: written commentary (rather weak and nonsensical) supporting creationism, without providing the "evidence" that they refer to, while ignoring actual scientific fact.

As I got to the top and entered the rather small gift shop, it looked pretty much like it did when I visited several years ago. Kid oriented with lots of toy dinos, games, and much of the usual gift shop fair. Although a few years ago it had a lot of Native American and south western type of stuff which was now gone. The book rack was front and center and filled with creationist literate. What caught my eye were several copies of a book titled "Darwin on Trial" by Phillip E. Johnson. Hmmmm.

I walked through the little store while a video played of some guy talking about creationism and how evolution is false. One last thing was under the glass check out counter, a Noah's ark minature display that included dinosaurs.

The website is http://www.cabazondinosaurs.com if anyone is interested.

The experience was really kind of surreal and my stomach felt a little queasy as I left. What I had just seen and read was disturbing at many levels. Fortunatly, after a few beers and some gambling at the casino, and being among my fellow sinners, I was as good as new.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Catholic Church no longer swears by truth of the Bible

Sent in by non-conformist: "Hello all! I came accross this article and felt the need to share it with you guys. I would love to know what your thoughts are...I have yet to form an opinion until I found out more about it (I know you Christians don't understand that concept!), but I feel it's important nevertheless."

By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

“We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.

The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.

Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.

But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”.

The document shows how far the Catholic Church has come since the 17th century, when Galileo was condemned as a heretic for flouting a near-universal belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible by advocating the Copernican view of the solar system. Only a century ago, Pope Pius X condemned Modernist Catholic scholars who adapted historical-critical methods of analysing ancient literature to the Bible.

In the document, the bishops acknowledge their debt to biblical scholars. They say the Bible must be approached in the knowledge that it is “God’s word expressed in human language” and that proper acknowledgement should be given both to the word of God and its human dimensions.

They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways “appropriate to changing times, intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries”.

The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.

“Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”

Of the notorious anti-Jewish curse in Matthew 27:25, “His blood be on us and on our children”, a passage used to justify centuries of anti-Semitism, the bishops say these and other words must never be used again as a pretext to treat Jewish people with contempt. Describing this passage as an example of dramatic exaggeration, the bishops say they have had “tragic consequences” in encouraging hatred and persecution. “The attitudes and language of first-century quarrels between Jews and Jewish Christians should never again be emulated in relations between Jews and Christians.”

As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.

Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.

The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”

In their foreword to the teaching document, the two most senior Catholics of the land, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrew’s and Edinburgh, explain its context.

They say people today are searching for what is worthwhile, what has real value, what can be trusted and what is really true.

The new teaching has been issued as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council document explaining the place of Scripture in revelation. In the past 40 years, Catholics have learnt more than ever before to cherish the Bible. “We have rediscovered the Bible as a precious treasure, both ancient and ever new.”

A Christian charity is sending a film about the Christmas story to every primary school in Britain after hearing of a young boy who asked his teacher why Mary and Joseph had named their baby after a swear word. The Breakout Trust raised £200,000 to make the 30-minute animated film, It’s a Boy. Steve Legg, head of the charity, said: “There are over 12 million children in the UK and only 756,000 of them go to church regularly.

That leaves a staggering number who are probably not receiving basic Christian teaching.”

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

UNTRUE

Genesis ii, 21-22

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man

Genesis iii, 16

God said to the woman [after she was beguiled by the serpent]: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”


Matthew xxvii, 25

The words of the crowd: “His blood be on us and on our children.”


Revelation xix,20

And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone.”


TRUE

Exodus iii, 14

God reveals himself to Moses as: “I am who I am.”


Leviticus xxvi,12

“I will be your God, and you shall be my people.”


Exodus xx,1-17

The Ten Commandments

Matthew v,7

The Sermon on the Mount

Mark viii,29

Peter declares Jesus to be the Christ

Luke i

The Virgin Birth

John xx,28

Proof of bodily resurrection

link

Saturday, October 01, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

'Intelligent Design' is not science

from petoskeynews.com

"Intelligent design" is not science and never will be. We don't know how we can make it any plainer than that.

But once again, this tired old subject is making national news.

The Christian model of the creation of the world does not belong in the science classroom, no matter how many Christian legislators or fundamentalist school board members think it does.

Science is science. Religion is religion. By its very nature religion requires faith. Faith is an unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence. But science requires proof. Real proof. Repeatable proof. Testable proof.

The two should not be mixed up in the same classroom, period.

If the subject of "intelligent design" being debated around the nation today were a tenant of Islam or Buddhism, then we would not even be having this national discussion. It is only because this is a Christian doctrine - a fundamentalist doctrine at that- that the nation is even entertaining this argument.

Right now in Pennsylvania, the Scopes Monkey Trial is being replayed, 80 years later. The Dover Area School District is believed to be the first school system in the nation to require students be exposed to the intelligent design concept, under a policy adopted by a 6-3 vote in October 2004. It requires teachers to read a statement that says intelligent design differs from Darwin's view and refers students to an intelligent-design textbook, "Of Pandas and People," for more information. The doctrine says, basically, that life is way too complicated for it to be random, so a higher, smarter power must be behind life, the universe and everything.

Of course, somebody sued - eight families who see it as a farce.

It might as well have been card-carrying liberals from the American Civil Liberties Union, we don't care. Had the board's decision gone the other way, we're sure someone such as the American Association to Preserve God, Apple Pie and the Flag, or the Bush Administration, would have sued as well.

The reality of this controversy is that the scientific community does not debate the theory of evolution. The scientific community is not hotly contesting the intelligent design vs. evolution question at all. The scientific community does not debate whether the world is flat, either.

Any argument on this issue is taking place from the pulpit, both bully and theological. That is because this is a religious matter - religion heavily politicized at that. There is absolutely no science involved. This type of education belongs in a world religions class, not in the science lab.

So let's just call it what it is: Christians pushing a Christian political agenda - Christians who'd be screaming bloody murder if this were some other world religion's concept of the origins of mankind being foisted upon their children.

Let's stop pretending there is anything else involved here. Stop insisting "intelligent design" is anything other that Christian biblical creationism. We're all more intelligent than that.

Pastor accused of sex crimes

By R.J. VILLELLA

A Ravenna area minister was arrested Friday for arranging to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, said Massillon Police Department Det. Bobby Grizzard.

Nelson Lynn Wright, 42, a senior minister at the Lighthouse Community Chapel, 3011 Ohio 59, Ravenna, is facing two counts of importuning, fifth-degree felonies.

Wright, of 763 Highland Ave., Ravenna, was taken by Ravenna officers to their station, Grizzard said, and Massillon police picked him up and transported him to Massillon.

He was booked into Massillon City Jail and bail was set at $100,000. He will remain in jail over the weekend until appearing Monday in Massillon Municipal Court.

Massillon Police acting with the FBI Internet Task Force began the investigation in May, Grizzard said, and an arrest warrant was issued Friday.

That warrant was served by the Ravenna Police Department, he said.

“This is an Internet case,” Grizzard said. “He was arranging to meet a young girl for sex. From what we understand, he was the senior pastor and counseled youth on a variety of issues for a number of years.”

Grizzard said detectives posing as young teens, were contacted on the Internet by Wright, who then asked to meet for sex.

Grizzard said similar charges are pending from another northern Ohio county and those charges could be filed as early as Monday morning.

Steve Hornyak, an elder at Lighthouse Community, was shocked and didn’t want to believe the news when contacted. Hornyak declined comment.

The Rev. Randall Handly, general secretary treasurer with the parent organization Full Gospel Churches International, said he’s never met Wright but has talked to him on the phone several times.

“We mostly help with the federal and state paperwork so they can get tax-exempt status,” he said of the loose network of independent churches.

Handly said Wright, if found guilty of the charges, would be ousted from his role as minister.

“We would revoke his credentials,” he said. “But we would help him through his ordeal from a spiritual standpoint.”

link