- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

Darwin, scientific alternatives and censorship

Darwin, scientific alternatives and censorship
Phillip E. Johnson, law professor at the University of California in Berkeley, once told of a Chinese paleontologist who observed: "In China we can criticize [Charles] Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin." Nancy Pearcey's column, "Scopes in reverse" (Commentary, July 24), on the Darwin wars in Kansas is a salubrious effort to thwart this kind of censorship.
Many people, however, think the alternative to teaching evolution would be to replace science with the Bible. What is refreshing about Mrs. Pearcey's column is that she retires this stereotype by pointing to intelligent design as one scientific alternative to Darwinism.
Don't be fooled, however, when "experts," their degrees dragging behind them like vestigial tails, ridicule Mrs. Pearcey as they point to tiny, cyclical changes in the beak sizes of finches on the Galapagos Islands. And then these "experts" will insist that only a fool or religious fanatic would deny that these "changes" are proof of evolution.
But defining evolution so carelessly is an evasion. Of course change occurs, but the genuine issue remains: How do chemicals, even over eons of time, become chimpanzees and copy editors? There is no experimental evidence to show that mutation and natural selection alone can generate such complex genetic transformations.
Regardless, let's hear from others like Mrs. Pearcey who wish to vanquish the censors, especially the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way, who hide behind the flag to destroy free inquiry in our schools.
Fresno, Calif.


Regarding Nancy Pearcey's column "Scopes in Reverse," we, as a society, should ensure that public schools teach Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and teach it well, because:
n It is a scientific fact that all living things have, as an "ancestor," a microscopic, single-cell organism.
n With greater knowledge of the theory of evolution could come greater scientific progress (for example, more discoveries of lifesaving medications).
n Understanding the implications of evolution is an important part of what it is to be human.
Public-school teachers, however, should be permitted to mention that it is possible that God or some kind of supernatural force has helped shape evolution. This philosophical belief is not unreasonable.
Intellectual freedom is important, and teaching this in the public schools would not, by itself, be endorsing a particular religion or promoting religion over nonreligion. But biology teachers should raise this philosophical issue only if they don't give the science short shrift in what is already a crowded academic calendar.
University Park

Kudos to Clinton for giving Middle East talks a try[p]

As someone who has never been a supporter of our current president, I feel that he nonetheless deserves enormous credit for his attempts at mediating negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Those who describe his effort as a "failure" miss the point, which is that these talks were not about President Clinton.
Whether or not Mr. Clinton was motivated by a desire at a shot at the Nobel Peace Prize, or because he wants to erase the memory of Monica Lewinsky, is irrelevant. He was willing to expend significant political capital on a problem that, if not resolved, will threaten not only the lives and well-being of Israelis and Arabs, but the security of the world as well.
Even though he recognized that failure was likely, he took the risk anyway, and it was a gutsy move.
I suspect that Mr. Clinton's frustration is due to the apparent Palestinian inability to understand the negotiation dynamic. Never before have the bordering armies of Egypt and Jordan been simultaneously neutralized, nor has Israel ever been stronger. Yet for the first time the Israelis were willing to discuss shared sovereignty over Jerusalem (along with other previously taboo issues of contention).
Rather than accepting a compromise agreement that, if practicable, would foster the mutual trust necessary for tranquillity (not to mention possible future territorial gains), the Palestinians chose to adopt an all-or-nothing position (this with the apparent backing of key Arab states). This intransigent attitude precluded agreement, and assures that both Arab and Israeli opinion will harden in opposition to compromise.
Such a position is hard to understand, since it probably will lead to war (commentators are fond of saying that "violence" is likely, but this is euphemistic). In the face of this harsh reality, Mr. Clinton was quite right to castigate Mr. Arafat for his inflexibility, even if Mr. Clinton did so in a most diplomatic fashion.
Mr. Clinton will be remembered for many things, some good, some not. I hope he's remembered for his attempt to spare humanity the horror of yet another war in the Middle East.
Brookline, Mass.

Think tank not 'at risk' for advising political candidates[p]

I want to correct the false impression created by the article "Help for Bush puts think tanks at risk" (July 23).
The involvement of American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholars as policy advisers to political candidates and campaigns does not remotely put AEI "at risk" or "on shaky ground," and nothing I said to your reporter suggested this. Nor are such political involvements "dirty little secrets," as Charles Lewis, president of the Center for Public Integrity, is quoted as asserting. These involvements are obviously public, not secret, and far from being dirty, they are highly desirable and a great strength of our political system.
Policy think tanks such as AEI aim to deepen and improve public debate through research, writing and conferences. Much (but by no means all) of our work is concerned with issues that are at the center of political debate, and many of our scholars have served in public offices of one sort or another. As a result, AEI scholars, as well as those from Hoover, Brookings and similar institutions, are asked regularly to advise public officials, both formally (as through congressional testimony and membership on advisory boards) and informally. AEI scholars meet or talk with administration officials and members of Congress every day.
In America, public officials are intermittently candidates (or appointees of candidates) in partisan political campaigns. Where campaigns are concerned, specific, relatively clear legal rules apply to institutions such as AEI and to their employees. Some of them are the same rules that apply to other tax-exempt institutions such as universities; others are the same as apply to all organizations and citizens. For AEI, as for everyone else, the "risk" of violating the rules is addressed by not violating them.
The role of AEI's Lawrence Lindsey in Texas Gov. George W. Bush's campaign is similar to that of Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University in Vice President Al Gore's campaign. I dare say that Princeton is no more "on shaky ground" than AEI. To the contrary, I am confident that Princeton is as delighted as we are that one of its economists has attracted the attention of a national political leader.
The assertion of The Times is like saying that if you drive to the grocery store, you are at risk of becoming a criminal. Sure you are if you violate the traffic or shoplifting laws, but not if you don't; the laws do not make driving or shopping suspicious activities. Mr. Lewis' assertion is even stranger because it assumes that there is something unseemly about private citizens' organizing to study public policy issues and to tell politicians what they think.
In a representative democracy, public policy is forged in the furnaces of electoral and legislative politics. There is a division of labor, both legal and occupational, between practical politics and academic research, but this should not confuse the fact that America's large, vibrant and highly competitive community of policy research institutes is a strength, not a weakness, of our political system.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research



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