July 3, 2005 - July 9, 2005 Archives

The Panda’s Thumb weblog is switching servers and software this weekend.

The New York Times has a full story today on Cardinal Schönborn’s op-ed: Leading Cardinal Redefines Church’s View on Evolution. According to the story the op-ed was written with the urging of the Discovery Institute’s Mark Ryland but was not approved by the Vatican.

In a telephone interview from a monastery in Austria, where he was on retreat, the cardinal said that his essay had not been approved by the Vatican, but that two or three weeks before Pope Benedict XVI’s election in April, he spoke with the pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, about the church’s position on evolution. “I said I would like to have a more explicit statement about that, and he encouraged me to go on,” said Cardinal Schönborn.

He said that he had been “angry” for years about writers and theologians, many Catholics, who he said had “misrepresented” the church’s position as endorsing the idea of evolution as a random process.

The involvement of Mark Ryland explains why many of the Discovery Institution’s talking points appeared in the Cardinal op-ed.

I still doubt that the Cardinal’s op-ed offers a change to the Catholic Church’s teaching of evolution or our understanding of their official position on it. It is clear that the Catholic Church doesn’t see evolution as a godless process divorced from Providence. But I don’t think that this was ever in doubt, despite what Cardinal Schönborn says.

One Queen Returns

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Monarch butterflies are among the … um … well, monarchs of the lepidopteran world, at least in North America. Their numbers are declining. The decline is due in part to the loss of over-wintering habitat in Mexico caused by deforestation in the isolated forests in which migrating monarchs spend the winter clustered in trees, and in part due to the loss of milkweeds in North America, their sole breeding host plant, often regarded as a weed plant. As a result, whereas decades ago it was commonplace to see monarchs in roadside milkweed patches, today it is more and more of an ‘event’ to see even one monarch.

More below the fold

Via Chris Mooney, I see that The New Republic has an article (free registration required) in which they ask a number of leading conservative pundits what they think about evolution, intelligent design, and how they think schools should handle them. Some of the answers are good, some are bad, and some are just incoherent. Mooney seems to think that the big picture is “fairly dismal”, but I find it unsurprising, and possibly even encouraging. My quick poll has 7 of them taking the pro-science side (or at least close enough), 5 of them giving a “don’t know” or otherwise wishy-washy answer, and only 3 of them taking the ID position outright. I was also impressed with some of the members of The National Review, given that their magazine has in the past published a number of ID diatribes. Maybe when they were actually forced to read the stuff it became apparent what was wrong with it. Anyway, I highlight a few fun points below the fold, stuff which I find more strange than disagreeable.

The Tulsa Zoo has voted 3-1 to reverse its decision to create a creationism display.

A group called Friends of Religion and Science … collected nearly 2,000 signatures on an online petition asking the park board to reverse its decision.

Previous Post

Today the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about evolution and the Catholic faith: “Finding Design in Nature“. On a quick read the op-ed appears to place the Catholic Church in league with “intelligent design” creationism. (I’m sure you will hear such victory cheers from the neo-Paleyists.) However, this quick read is deceiving, since the author made some mistakes when choosing his words for a US audience.

Before getting upset at what the Archbishop wrote, consider this:

The Archbishop is not writing to align Catholic theology with the anti-evolution movement. Instead he is writing to reaffirm the Catholic faith’s commitment to theistic evolution and to eliminate any confusion that it is committed to atheistic evolution. (I have no idea why he thought that this needed to be done.)

Compare and contrast the Archbishop’s words to “Creationism talk suggests need to revisit Catholic education” in this week’s Catholic Telegraph from Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

In a recent blog entry, William Dembski alleges I am guilty of various and sundry offenses, but avoids once again answering my critiques of his work. I doubt his smokescreen will convince anyone except the usual sycophants, but in case anyone takes his bluster seriously, I’ll make a response.

News, news, news!

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We’re having another one of those media frenzies again. The 80th anniversiary of the Scopes Trial, plus continuing legal and political battles over evolution around the country, have provoked a number of high-quality, in-depth stories this week. NPR’s All Things Considered reviewed the history of the Scopes Trial on Tuesday (see the previous PT post ). I think the various NPR links to various pro-evolution websites related to PT are partially responsible for the slowdowns we had yesterday. The Scientist reported on the Leonard affair at Ohio State University. Ben Feller of the Associated Press wrote a widely redistributed story, “Teachers debate how to handle evolution,” reporting on the dilemmas teachers face and on commentary at the recent National Educators Association meeting. This story is hosted at MSNBC among other places, and MSNBC has set up a whole special website, “The Future of Evolution,” which links to many previous stories, on both science and politics. (For reasons that remain obscure, MSNBC decided to put a Conehead alien, or something, in their banner for that page.)

And, best of all, New Scientist devoted the cover of their July 9, 2005 issue to “The End of Reason: Creationism’s new front in the battle of ideas.” The “Creationism Special” (or was that special creationism?) includes:

That’s another fine mess you’ve made Jonathan!

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It has often been said that it takes two pages of science to correct all the misinformation an anti-evolutionist can pack into one sentence. A recent interview featuring Discovery Institute Fellow Jonathan Wells illustrates this rule of thumb. In a short space he makes numerous errors. For brevity I’d like to focus on two specific areas, but the rest of his pronouncements in this short piece are just as flawed.

Jon Pastor, with whom I?ve been corresponding recently, reports that his public radio affiliate recently aired a 3-part series on intelligent-design creationism. Mr. Pastor is a computer scientist and artificial intelligence researcher by profession, with strong avocational interests in typography, page layout, and Web design. Unaware that the name was about to be co-opted by creationists, he registered the domain ?intelligent-design.net? back in 1998, when it seemed like a felicitous description of both his professional and amateur interests. Here is his essay:

A new article appeared in the education section of CNN.com. For those following the debate, there’s not much new material here. However, as evidenced by this article, the media seems to be getting better and better at filtering through the IDists’ spin. Gone is all pretence that ID is not based on religion, or has anything to do with science.

The National Public Radio website now has a set of articles up giving a historical perspective on trials concerning evolution and creation.

The entry point is “The Scopes Monkey Trial, 80 Years Later”.

The linked articles include “Timeline: Remembering the Scopes Monkey Trial by Noah Adams “, an audio report on “Echoes of Scopes Trial in Maryland by Barbara Bradley Hagerty”, and a report on “Scopes 2: Arkansas’ Creationism Trial by Jeffrey Katz”.

The last article links to the McLean v. Arkansas Documentation Project. There is some news there: a new member of the McLean Project, Jason Wiles, is in Arkansas this summer, and is collecting various of the materials on the Project wish list. The TalkOrigins Foundation is now providing financial support for the Project. Transcription charges don’t come cheap, so if you’d like to help, please use the donation button at the bottom of McLean Project main page.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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