Darwin, nose, spectacles
Kudos to Nina Shapiro for her article about the members of Seattle's "Discovery Institute" ["The new creationists," April 19] whose mission, in true Orwellian fashion, is the opposite of discovery: the suppression of scientific knowledge.
Shapiro quotes from the book Darwin's Black Box by the Institute's high-profile member Michael Behe. This book has been roundly criticized in many places; in the Boston Review, biologist H. Allen Orr sums up, "Behe's chief objection to Darwinism is flat wrong, and, bereft of this, he's got little to say. But when you do look at what else he says, you find a bizarre string of confusions and contradictions."
Also quoted in Shapiro's article is another member of the Discovery Institute, UW staff member Guillermo Gonzalez, who marvels that the universe was obviously designed "for advanced conscious beings to exist." This ancient argument is easily parodied: Voltaire observed that the nose was obviously designed to hold spectacles. Today we know that the universe was not designed to suit us; we have adapted and evolved to suit the universe. Yet the religious conservatives at the Discovery Institute would have it taught in our schools that this view is somehow "controversial" in the scientific community. This is disgraceful.
Nina Shapiro's piece on "The new creationists" [April 19] is a nice summary of the Intelligent Design movement and Phillip Johnson, its intellectual founder. Shapiro quoted Eugenie Scott, an outspoken opponent of Johnson and anything that challenges Darwinian evolution, as saying, "once you say God did it, you stop looking for a natural cause. It's what we call a science stopper."
In the real world, of course, Darwinian blinders are science stoppers. In Scott's case, she long ago abandoned science to advocate Darwinism. Apparently she has not published a scientific research paper since the mid-'80s.
Shapiro's piece may attract letters from other disciples of Darwin who agree with Scott. Yet they and biologists in general may discover creative new insights when they view life as having been designed rather than as the product of random mutations.
Consider, for example, my findings in Brazil concerning how suppressed ultraviolet sunlight caused by severe air pollution from biomass burning is well correlated with increases in airborne bacteria and documented cases of respiratory illnesses. This research, which is aimed at identifying causes of increased respiratory disease during burning season, was conceived under intelligent design assumptions and conducted with conventional funding, methodologies, and instruments.
I am also investigating how solar UV both sterilizes the upper layer of outdoor bodies of water used for consumption in the tropics and affects the breeding patterns of certain disease-transmitting mosquitoes. That these and other projects are based on ID assumptions is nothing new. The same assumptions were once held by most scientists before Scott's "science stopper," the Darwinian paradigm, virtually closed off this fruitful avenue of inspiration. Were I still a follower of Darwin, the underlying design ideas behind some of my research might never have occurred to me.
FORREST M. MIMS III
This is in response to Ms. Shapiro's piece on creationists in Seattle ["The new creationists," April 19]. First to correct some factual errors. These are in fact "bible thumping creationists"; just subscribing to "old earth" creationism as opposed to "young earth" creationism. There is no "controversy" over Darwin's essential ideas, the fact of evolution, and the means of descent through modification by means of natural selection. The only controversy is in the heads of a handful of "biblists," not amongst any reputable biologists. No intellectually honest person can become a geologist and not recognize the antiquity of the earth, and no intellectually honest person can or has become a biologist without recognizing the staggering, overwhelming, and definitive evidence for evolution, and the (same adjectives) evidence for the influences of natural selection. The problem most people have is the "biblists" fight so hard to keep evolution out of textbooks and so strongly influence podunk school boards that textbook publishers do an extraordinarily poor job of explaining the facts and the ideas to people. The folks at the "Discovery Institute," on the other hand, are just intellectually dishonest. Folks like Behe's main argument is argument from ignorance and personal incredulity, an extremely poor argument. Because Mr. Behe can't figure it out in his little bible mind doesn't make it not so. Geesh.
The gist of your article in no way accurately portrayed the almost complete unanimity with which they (the biblists you quoted) are recognized as the frauds they are amongst those who have investigated their claims honestly. Next you'll publish an article about how the "mainstream science funding cartels" are keeping teachings about perpetual motion out of the classrooms unjustly. Evolution is better understood, offers verifiable and falsifiable predictions that have borne out over and over, and has a mechanism we understand—in all those things its level of "science" surpasses our understanding of gravity. When these snake oil biblists take on gravity first, they may claim honest error rather than fraud. Until then, they show their colors, and you show shameful credulity.
If the rest of the monkeys could see us now . . .
I can only speak to one of the issues raised in your story on disbarred lawyer Kimberlee McDonald ["Puzzling justice," April 12], which is whether she has repaid the victims of her thefts. She has not. The Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection of the Washington State Bar Association is maintained by the lawyers of the state of Washington to compensate persons who have been the victims of those few dishonest lawyers who steal client money. The Lawyers' Fund paid a total of $40,254 to at least partially compensate some of McDonald's victims. To date, McDonald has made one payment of $11 (in 1998) to repay the Fund.
The Lawyers' Fund is maintained by the members of the Bar to protect the public. However, when its limited assets are taxed by someone like McDonald, who then fails to meet her responsibility to repay her obligations, the result is that the Fund is limited in its ability to protect the public in the future. I cannot judge whether she is "a reformed sinner or scam artist"—but she has not taken responsibility to pay back the money she stole.
ROBERT D. WELDEN
WASH. STATE BAR ASSOC.
As parents of children at Gatewood Elementary, we were dismayed to see principal Dan Barton unjustly smeared in your April 12 issue [see "Rotten to the core"]. Yes, he's being sued for sexual harassment, but the attack against him is largely from disgruntled teachers he fired or passed over when he reorganized the school four years ago. Yet you played into the hands of the litigant and her allies, breaking your story at the height of the spring school choice rush and costing the school dearly. You also fail to mention that Barton is prevented by a gag order from telling his side of the story. In short, you made the litigant's case for her without mentioning her own vested interest nor Principal Barton's inability to respond.
From what we have seen, Barton and his new staff have transformed Gatewood. It is now a far better school than prior to Barton's housecleaning, with PTA membership and test scores both climbing fast. I suggest anyone with questions about Gatewood or its principal should pay a visit and do some research . . . and that particularly applies to your reporters.
DAVID AND DEANNA CAMP
We neglected to give credit to our colleagues at the West Seattle Herald for the fine portrait of Gatewood elementary principal Dan Barton that ran with "Rotten to the Core," April 12, 2001. We apologize and hope they will forgive us!
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