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Advocates for the teaching of Biblical creationism as science refuse to give up. Even in the face of their spectacular court loss in Kitsmiller v. Dover (PA) Board of Education, which cost local taxpayers a cool million bucks in legal fees, they forge ahead with their campaign to ignore scientific evidence and insert religion into the biology curriculum of public schools.

To this end the Discovery Institute has produced Exploring Evolution, a textbook that they hope will be adopted by local school boards, in which they claim to use an approach to teaching called inquiry based learning. In a nutshell, this allows them to ignore the established science in favor of allowing students to "discover" scientific principles on their own. This is apparently a response to recent legislation in Louisiana allowing the use of "supplemental" materials challenging the science behind evolution.

There's more below the fold.

The Discovery Institute's broader goal is to eliminate science's focus on natural causes. The group views this focus as the source of society's increasing materialism, as well as it's obvious conflict with the Biblical creation story. Stephen C. Meyer, the lead author of EE, heads the Discovery Institute and is mentioned by name in the wedge document, as is coauthor Paul Nelson.

Rather than attack the totality of the evidence for evolution, the authors use the tactic of divide and conquer. That is, they take the separate threads of evidence for evolution, and try to cast doubt on each individually. Thus they avoid the biggest problem for creationists--the many unrelated lines of evidence that point to the same, inescapable conclusion--that all life developed from a common ancestor.

Darwin's Origin of Species proposed a mechanism by which a selective pressure, acting on inherited variations, could transform a single species or bifurcate it into two distinct species. Reasoning that there was no inherent limitation to this branching process, Darwin's single illustration in the book was a tree, with existent species being derived from a single trunk. Darwin concluded that life had been initially breathed, "into a few forms or into one," and all current species were derived from that event.

Darwin's conclusion has been spectacularly confirmed in the 150 years since. The basic biochemistry of the cell is shared by all known organisms, a fact that supports a common origin, while everything from fossil evidence to modern genomic sequencing has supported the tree-like pattern of common descent within the animal kingdom. There are some scientific debates remaining—some argue that horizontal gene transfer has created a web of life at the microbial level, rather than a tree—but scientists don't debate the general outlines of limited origins and organisms related through descent from a common ancestor.

But EE, in seeking to present a case against evolution, argues that there are viable alternative models of the history of life on earth. It favors what it calls an "orchard model," one in which there are many origins of life. In the orchard, current species are the product of severely restricted variation from an undefined number of origin events. Any time a problem with evolution is discussed, a separate origin is the implicit or explicit alternative, and that undefined number of separate origins appears to be very, very large. If that sounds familiar, it should—it's essentially biblical special creation of kinds.

A full review of this book can be found here.

The article also links to an interesting survey of teachers, suggesting that law and public policy notwithstanding, there are significant variations in the teaching of scientific evolution in the classroom.

Originally posted to happy camper on Sat Sep 27, 2008 at 08:15 AM PDT.

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