Saturday, May 07, 2005

Apes, Angels and Victorians

Greatest hits from Red State Rabble's coverage of this week's Kansas Monkey Trials, clearly part of the Jayhawk State's campaign to upend Florida's reign as most embarrassing state:
As intelligent design witness after witness admitted under questioning that they have not read the majority draft of the science standards, board member Kathy Martin jumped in to save the day.

"I've not read it word for word myself," Martin said as the air went out of the room.


Daniel Ely, a cardiovascular physiologist and author of the science standards [in Ohio], was forced to admit under intense pressure from Science Coalition attorney Pedro Irigongaray, that he believes the earth is "somewhere between 5,000 and 4.5 billion years old. It may be much younger than most people think," he said.


During cross-examination, Science Coalition attorney Pedro Irigonegaray has forced each intelligent design witness to go on record about their opinion on the age of the earth, common descent, and whether human beings have evolved from pre-hominids.

So far, not one witness has said they believe the evidence supports a belief that all living things share a common ancestor or that they believe that human have evolved from pre-hominids.

Professional scientists who are monitoring the hearings commented that this position commits the witnesses to a belief in special creation for each plant and animal species now in existence.

On the first day, all the witnesses said they believe the earth is approximately 4.5 billions years old -- the scientifically accepted age. However, yesterday, cracks began to emerge in that consensus as one witness Bryan Leonard, a high school biology teacher from Ohio, categorically refused to answer, and two others, Daniel Ely and John Sanford said the earth might be less than 10 thousand years old.

"Less than 100 thousand years old," said Sanford. "Conceivably less than 10 thousand years old."


The afternoon was given over to presentations by Jonathan Wells, Bruce Simat, Giuseppe Sermonti, and Ralph Seelke (Red State Rabble was not present for these last two witnesses).

Wells, a disciple of the Rev. Sung Myung Moon, is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and author of "Icons of Evolution."

Wells outlined what he sees as the three chief difficulties faced by what he calls "Darwinian" evolutionary theory: the molecular makeup of DNA does not provide confirmation of common descent, problems with the fossil record associated with the Cambrian explosion, and embryology.

Completely absent from Wells presentation was any discussion of how our growing understanding of genetics has provided convincing evidence of common descent since Darwin wrote "Origin of the Species." When it came time to provide supporting evidence of his claims on the fossil evidence, Wells power point presentation instead offered more of his dubious molecular evidence -- perhaps because Wells has come under intense fire for distorting (quote mining) sources on the so-called problems with the Cambrian explosion in his book. Recent, evidence (since 1950) has filled in the fossil record in this area persuading scientists that the organisms that once seemed to appear suddenly during the Cambrian explosion evolved over time. The problem is not one of evolution, but of plate tectonics destroying much of the fossil record.

The funniest exchange of the day came when Pedro Irigonegary got Wells to admit that his was a minority view.

"Most of them disagree with me," said Wells. "I enjoy being in the minority."

"More than being right?" asked Irigonegary to general laughter.