- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Movement questions evolutionary theories, not scientific facts

In the March 17 letter to the editor "A not-so-intelligent design," Fred Spilhaus Jr. of the American Geophysical Union criticizes Sen. Rick Santorum's comments on the intelligent-design movement. While I have no desire to promote that particular theory about evolution or any other, it is important for the debate that we have the facts straight and avoid logical errors. Mr. Spilhaus' letter regrettably falls short on both counts.

First, it is the young-earth creationist (YEC) movement, not the intelligent-design movement, that believes that all flora and fauna, either at the level of species or higher, were the result of acts of "special creation" in recent time, on the order of 6,000 to 10,000 years ago.

The intelligent-design movement is not part of the YEC, and most of its adherents do not subscribe to the young-earth theory. Rather, they believe that natural processes, such as those proposed in neo-Darwinian theory, are inadequate by themselves to account for all of the complexity found in nature, though they may account for some of it. This is an empirical issue, subject to legitimate scientific inquiry.

Second, and perhaps more important, Mr. Spilhaus apparently has fallen victim to the most common error in evolution discussions, namely confusion of facts and explanations of those facts. For non-YECs, the facts are that the age of the earth is 4.5 billion years and that the progression of fossils illustrates a change over time. Charles Darwin's original theory and its modern replacement, the neo-Darwinian theory or "new synthesis," are both theories intended to explain the second fact the fossil record. It is the adequacy of these theories to explain observed facts that is in dispute by the intelligent-design movement, not the facts themselves.

Unfortunately, religious overtones inevitably are associated with any theory that disputes the ability of science to explain all facts in a naturalistic way. Coupled with the fact that the Darwinian and neo-Darwinian theories themselves function as surrogate religions for many people, the dispute takes on the dimensions of a religious war. In such wars, both sides seek to use all means, including politics, to advance their position. This is what we are seeing today, and classrooms have become the current focus. Such disputes generate a great deal of heat, but not much light.

The intelligent-design movement needs to make its case in a rigorous scientific manner; if and when that is done, sooner or later, the scientific world will come around despite its current hostility. The neo-Darwinian advocates need to stop whining and trying to suppress all questioning of their theory on the grounds that it represents an intrusion of religion into science. That is irrelevant; either the theory can stand on its own merits or it cannot.

In the age of the Internet, there is no possibility of preventing students from learning about creationism or intelligent design, so the neo-Darwinians might as well meet the challenge head-on.


THOMAS B. FOWLER

Washington

'Axis' invective no way to improve relations with Iran

Your March 17 story "Iran expands ties with many states despite 'axis' tag" demonstrates the implied paradox that while the United States demonizes Iran, America's allies get on with the real world. It is also proof that resorting to rent-a-slogans invented by unnamed speechwriters is not the best way to pursue foreign policy.

Like any country, Iran has a right to defend itself, engage in dialogue with other nations (especially its neighbors) and develop its technological base to improve its economy as well as maintain a credible defense posture.

It shares land borders with seven states twice that if one adds the littoral states of the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf in a region rife with nuclear weapons and varying degrees of instability. It has not invaded any country since before the United States gained independence. Yet, in the last century alone, it has been the victim of aggression by czarist Russia, the Soviet Union and Britain as well as Turkey and, most recently, Saddam Hussein's Iraq. During World War II, the United States joined Soviet and British occupation forces despite Iran's declared neutrality. After the war, Britain and America toppled a popularly elected prime minister and replaced him with an autocratic monarch.

Instead of hurling salvos of fundamentalist invective, perhaps Washington should look closer to home for better relations with Iran.


KEWMARS BOZORGMEHR

London

The gospel according to Al Sharpton

Your March 19 front-page story "Cincinnati boycotters target Billy Graham" reports that the Rev. Al Sharpton has warned the Rev. Billy Graham about preaching in Cincinnati.

I hope Mr. Sharpton is happy to be promoting his gospel of protest politics over the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Millions of Americans, presumably including Mr. Sharpton, share faith in Christ and His message of loving your neighbor regardless of race as yourself. One would think a man of the cloth such as Mr. Sharpton would welcome the healing and saving message of the cross from a respected evangelist such as Mr. Graham.

I guess Mr. Sharpton cannot let the good news of God's love for all mankind get in the way of his long-shot race for president in 2004.


KEN SHEPHERD

College Park

President must make judicial nominees a priority

John Nowacki's March 14 Op-Ed column, "The uncivil war on Pickering," stated the obvious but failed to render a solution. Mr. Nowacki rightly observes that though Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden stated in 1992 that every judicial nominee deserves a floor vote, he rescinded that opinion when the "wrong" type of nominee U.S. District Judge Charles Pickering was being considered. Mr. Nowacki laments the Democrats' obstructionism by comparing numbers of nominees and approvals from past Republican and Democratic administrations, but he fails to admit the obvious: This is the way the game is played. As wrongheaded as the Democrats are, they are as committed to preventing federal appointments for conservative judges as Republicans were to blocking President Clinton's lefties.

President Bush must expend political capital to regain control of the Senate. Getting reasonable judicial nominees, such as Judge Pickering, confirmed is more important to the well-being of this country than anything else in the president's campaign agenda.

Balancing the federal judiciary against the lopsided leftward tilt to which we have been subjected for years must take precedence. The president has ushered through his tax cut and seen the economy recover on his watch, and he will be viewed as a successful wartime president who fought for a just and moral cause.

While it is comforting that the president enjoys his present level of popularity, he also should understand that political capital cannot be banked; it is fleeting. He needs to spend capital, which he'll lose eventually, and get Republicans elected to the Senate in 2002. Time is running short.


BRIAN PENN

Rockville


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