A Darwin Day Scientific Treasury

Reading Darwin's booksAnyone who has followed my writings for awhile knows that I have a thing for men of science. I adored Sir Isaac Newton at an early age, I wrote a screenplay about Chief Chemist Harvey Wiley as a teenage girl (I think it needs a second revision), I’ve dissected Charles Darwin’s mind in college, and I interviewed Professor John Lennox a couple of years ago. I’m actually working on a new script that involves a fictional scientist, but that is a story for another day.

American President Abraham Lincoln and British naturalist Charles Darwin would have both turned 204 today. As of late, I’ve seen more Americans obsessing over Darwin. Some Democrats in Congress wanted to officially designate February 12th, 2013 as “Darwin Day” to recognize “the importance of science in the betterment of humanity.” (Hmmm, as long as science has a moral check and balance, if they had the nerve to specify…)

Since I never want my academic work to go to waste, I’ve recycled some papers that readers might enjoy.

DARWIN: DEFINING THE ORIGINS DEBATE

Written for an English literature class in 2010, this essay of mine dissects the rhetorical strategies of Darwin.

FIT TO SURVIVE: DARWIN’S ACADEMIC LEGACY

Written last year for a history class on Victorian England, this term paper of mine investigates the factors behind the acceptance of Darwinism.

MY VERY OWN CHICKEN GENETICS EXPERIMENT!

“Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism – of much of science, in short – that has been the stage of most Western thought.”
– Douglas Futuyma

Armin Cifuentes/Ronald Martinez (Getty Images)

DARWINOCRACY: THE EVOLUTION QUESTION IN AMERICAN POLITICS

Does Darwin rule the electorate? Why does a stigma surround those who are skeptical of Darwinism, and how should candidates respond?

Jan Ingenhousz

Jan Ingenhousz, Dutch physician (1730-1799)

“We might conceive a little more of the deep designs of the Supreme Wisdom in the different arrangement of sublunary beings. The stubborn atheist would, perhaps, find reason to humiliate himself before that Almighty Being, whose existence he denies because his limited senses represent to him nothing but a confused chaos of miseries and disorders in this world.” – Jan Ingenhousz, in a piece of writing I discovered in the antique book, The Beginnings of Modern Science: Scientific Writings of the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries.

Dissecting ‘Darwinocracy’ UPDATED – 10/30/2011

Armin Cifuentes/Ronald Martinez (Getty Images)

This post is an appendix to my Washington Times Communities article, Darwinocracy: The evolution question in American politics.

Does Darwin rule the electorate? Why does a stigma surround those who are skeptical of Darwinism, and how should candidates respond?

Ah, the evolution question. It’s one of the latest politipop culture quizzes posed to American political candidates (Republican candidates, to be specific).

The stigma surrounding some conservatives’ answers to the question is grounded mostly in confusion about what actually encompasses Darwinian evolution. The two core principles of Darwinian evolution are natural selection and common descent with modification. The Galapagos finches, dogs, chickens and horses are a few organisms in which the power of natural selection and artificial selection is blatantly obvious to even the casual observer (my college textbook for political theory class erroneously states that conservatives want to ban Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection from schools).

Those who are skeptical of evolution are actually skeptical of common descent with modification, because they think there are reasons to believe that natural selection is limited.

Why?

There is evidence that many Darwinian predictions in this area have been inaccurate. To mention a few: The list of vestigial organs in the human body has been reduced to practically nil; there have been out of place fossil discoveries (as well as soft tissue found in dinosaur fossils); there is an immense gap between prokaryotes and eukaryotes; 99% of evidence from molecular biology does not reflect a trend of common descent (if you scrutinize the results of cytochrome C amino acid sequences according to the metabolic needs of an organism, for instance); there is an increasing absence of “junk DNA”; experiments have shown generations of mutating bacteria to not necessarily increase in fitness (biochemist Michael Behe explains that E. coli experiments have shown “Mostly devolution…[t]he lesson of E. coli is that it’s easier for evolution to break things than make things”), and those are experiments on asexually reproducing organisms – the experiments with sexually reproducing organisms are even less thrilling.

Do evolutionists have explanations to avenge all these dead ends of Darwinism?

Of course they do. They generally operate on the circular premise that evolution happened because it must have happened, so the only questions for them involve defining and refining specifically how evolution did it. The possibility of the evidence actually contradicting evolutionary predictions evidently never crosses their minds.

Amusingly, this is similar to what they accuse Biblical creationists of doing – clinging to predictions derived from historical records in the Bible and never daring to consider the possibility that creation didn’t happen.

These rival perspectives run deep in the soul and neither can be dismissed as merely the result of stupidity or ignorance. One difference between the two is that Darwin loyalists have an image advantage thanks to caricaturing media.

In the scant 150 years since the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace were formally presented, the handling of evolution from a public relations stand point has been brilliant (as I explained in a college essay that can be read here).

Essentially, Darwin (and his followers) won the public debate by defining who the debate was between: The scientific and the unscientific.

Thus, before much speculation about the different means and limits of evolution appeared, any potential doubt about them was destined to be labeled “unscientific” by the academic majority that was more afraid of being embarrassed than being wrong.

Yet however much popularity and longevity the theory of evolution has appreciated, if we know anything about the history of science, it is that science is tentative and not governed by majority rule (except when it’s absurdly politicized, of course – which is irrelevant to data).

New data often results in subtle changes in scientific positions that are held for a brief time. For instance, the Davson-Danielli model for cell membranes was “generally accepted” by scientists from 1935 up until the early 1970s, when the Singer-Nicolson model offered a better explanation.

Sometimes new data causes a tremendous upset that age-old politically correct establishments have a difficult time tolerating, such as when Aristotelian natural philosophy dominated for about 900 years until the likes of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton gradually chipped away at the likelihood of it.

For all our nearsighted society knows now, Darwin could be the next Aristotle.

By the way, some Christians and theists – rightly or wrongly – are convinced that evolution is the process that God used to create life on Earth, while others think there is not sufficient scientific or historical evidence for it. This illustrates that believers can, without squeamishness, leverage evidence for and against evolution.

The same cannot be said for most unbelievers, whose leftist obsession with Darwinian evolution is misguided and not so much evidence-based as it is agenda-driven. If Darwinism is shown to not be entirely true, then the very foundations of their ideologies will be uprooted. The slightest amount of evidence to the contrary risks pulling the rug out from under the feet of naturalism and thus they cannot tolerate it.

Q. Do you think evolution should be taught in schools?

This was a question posed to Miss USA contestants earlier this year, and I squirmed the entire time I listened to their bubblegum responses. This isn’t even a difficult question.

Evolution has been so influential in shaping worldviews prevalent in the past century (even affecting Woodrow Wilson’s constitutional philosophy) that you cannot be well-educated without knowing about it.

Furthermore, the most powerful thing you can do for truth is the most devastating thing you can do for error: Thoroughly study it.

Teach the origin of the concept, teach what evolution is observably capable of, and teach what its puzzling limitations are. But to teach that everything about it is settled, unquestionable fact is to undermine and make a mockery of science itself.

Why would any evolutionist be afraid of teaching evolution in its entirety, warts and all?

Well, I’ll admit that most creationists I know have the same story: “I was an evolutionist until I started seriously studying evolution.”

Science is never fully settled. There is data in my college biology textbook that came out just two years before the textbook was published – and new information might one day contradict it (that’s why new editions are constantly being written and published). Those who believe that everything about one principle of one theory of science is “settled fact” appear to be desperately seeking a stable, unwavering substitute for GOD. Science simply cannot offer such a substitute.

LONG OVERDUE UPDATE (10/30/2011):

My “evolution question in politics” column generated many long, thoughtful comments. I was pleasantly surprised by this. I’m glad to see that more and more evolutionists and unbelievers are putting effort into original thought and sharing information in comments – quite an improvement over the short, profane comments I used to get.

Let me begin with posting some of the excellent comments left by the Communities’ very own Politics editor, Jim Picht (I’ll highlight points I find important):

(In response to another commenter)

“”There is no controversy among the science community …” There’s always controversy in the scientific community. That’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength. It’s when people lack the courage of their convictions that they become fundamentalists, whether fundamentalist Christians or fundamentalist secularists. People who have mature confidence don’t mind at all having the weaknesses in their arguments pulled out and examined in minute detail.

Science is as prone to dogmatic thinking as any other facet of human existence. The glory of science is that it has built into the mechanisms for the discovery and elimination of its own dogmas. But in a number of disciplines (climate science and evolutionary biology spring to mind), politicization has created a knee-jerk defensive posture that plays into the hands of people who want to discount science altogether.

Science doesn’t have all the answers, as you observe, and it can’t. It shouldn’t ever pretend to. Yes, admitting to problems and inconsistencies and gaps emboldens critics, and in these fractious times no one ever wants to embolden critics (hence like medieval popes, politicians and scientists today are forced into positions of inerrancy), but whatever the tactical gains, it’s a strategic error not to let it all hang out, warts, ad hoc-ery and all. We don’t know how life began (and evolution isn’t about origins, but about diversity, so what’s the big deal?), we don’t know exactly what the impact is of human activity on climate, and some things that science claims it knows today will be found silly tomorrow. Life goes on, and science is still the best tool we have for figuring out the physical world around us.

There’s no such thing, Chris, as “a true fact based science curriculum.” There’s only tentative truth and facts as we know them. The curriculum can do without dogma, religious or scientific. Science education is a whole lot more fun and a whole lot more positive and powerful a force to create a population of critical and original thinkers when we look at it as a voyage, not a destination. Capital-T Truth may be the destination in principle, but it’s the destination we’ll never achieve. Let’s not mess up young minds and sour them on science by pretending otherwise.” – JWPicht

“…In fact I’m an evolutionary “true believer” through and through. I degreed in life-science and worked in a genetics lab (Howard Hughes Medical Institutes) before wandering off to become an economist. I don’t claim to be an expert in evolution, merely a well-informed layman, but it seems clear to me that Darwin gives us the only scientific game in town for understanding the diversity of life on earth.

Scientists should be very pleased with that, trumpet the successes of the theory, and be excited to grapple with its failures. Instead when they write for the lay public, they defensively act as if they have perfect knowledge of absolute Truth. That’s just silly. Science should upset religious and political beliefs. I have no objection with that. What science should not do is impose its own dogmas. Most scientists are like most economists – they don’t have an agenda, they do try to do good, honest work. But the thought that people like Dawkins (the “village atheist”) don’t have an agenda is laughable, and the defensive posture taken by many scientists is predictably human in the face of the political firestorms they sometimes face. Scientists get paid to be objective, but when they apply for grants, they know that some perspectives are preferred to others.

Scientists usually try to be objective (even when their funding comes from energy companies or the NIH), but they aren’t machines, nor are they monsters of logic. I haven’t argued that scientists politicized evolution. But it has been politicized, and they respond in a knee-jerk defensive way. The fact that you read my comments as blaming the scientists for politicization and saw in them an assumption of dishonesty is indicative to me of that sort of knee-jerk response. All I really said is that a defensive posture that refuses to admit to the outside world the possibility of error is the antithesis of science. More than being paid to be objective (a nonsense proposition in the human world), scientists are paid to think critically. If many of the criticisms leveled at evolutionary biology are trivially rebutted, fine, but there’s a great deal of disagreement within the scientific community about the hows of evolution, there’s incomplete understanding about the process, there are gaps in our understanding. That’s the way it is in science.” – JWPicht

“Amanda, arguments about evolution itself were a predictable response to your article. What has been ignored is the question of whether belief one way or another in evolution is relevant to a person’s qualifications for public office.

As it happens, I’m quite convinced that evolution is the only scientific explanation for the diversity of life on earth. It’s imperfect, but scientific understanding always is. We don’t every know the absolute truth, but only tentative truths. That’s not a defect of scientific models and method, and if we understand the limits of scientific thinking, they also underscore its power.

But I really don’t care what Rick Perry believes about evolution, and I’m puzzled why anyone wants to know his views on the subject. I don’t care about his views on quantum mechanics, either. What I want to know is what he plans to do about the deficit, unemployment, the deployment of American forces abroad, when he thinks it’s appropriate to intervene in the affairs of another country, and so on. Unless we want the White House to set science curricula in American schools (a serious violation of the principles of minimalist federal government that so many conservatives claim to admire), his views on science just aren’t an issue. (If he wants the federal government to start dictating what’s taught in biology classes, then we have an issue.)

Liberals take disbelief in evolution as a symptom of general intellectual laziness or stupidity, hence they see it as disqualifying for high office. As an economist, I might see their inability to understand the destructive effects of minimum wage on unskilled black men under 30 as equally a symptom of stupidity, or perhaps racial malice and moral degeneracy. I prefer to think that they place emphasis on different outcomes than I do on the basis of different values, but it remains the case their views on minimum wage and their economic literacy are much more important qualifications for public office than their views on evolution.

We all think that whatever it is that interests us is what’s really important. I think that it’s terrible that kids don’t study economics more in school, my wife (a professor of Romance languages) is convinced that learning languages is the key to success, and our neighbor (a professor of math) thinks that math is what people really need to know. As it happens, geophysicists can do their jobs just fine without giving a second thought to evolution. My son’s piano teacher need never give a thought to economics, and I don’t care whether the person flying my airplane has ever read Anna Karenina, so long as he’s read his pilot manuals.

The evolution question is just a political shibboleth. It turns a matter of science into just another religious test. It’s not a constructive question, but destructive. It’s not a constructive question, but destructive. The more candidates talk about their views on evolution, the less I like them, whatever their views happen to be. The more we focus on the subject, the less interested we are in serious policy debates and the more interested in making political points. I wish that in response to the question, “do you believe in evolution,” candidates would simply answer, “none of your d*** business.”” – JWPicht

One reason why I wrote the article is because I noticed that no matter how candidates respond to the EQ (evolution question), the media or opposition (which might often be the same thing) still fixate on the issue. For instance, in her debate with Chris Coons, Christine O’Donnell said that her personal view of evolution was irrelevant to the discussion, and that she would allow local school districts to have the freedom to educate their children as they saw fit. Coons insisted that the people of Delaware wanted to know O’Donnell’s personal views on the issue anyway.

(Funny that a candidate’s personal views on abortion aren’t considered relevant as long as they support Roe v. Wade, isn’t it?)

This brings me to the inference of a candidate doubting Darwin in the first place.

“So pardon me for challenging you Amanda and questioning whether it is authority that is being challenged by the Americans. When so many poorly educated people feel free to be dubious about the scientific evidence for evolution when the principal influence on their lives is a pastor who can preach to them that evolution is the work of Satan I can’t help but wonder whether you should reconsider that patriotic claim you make on the behalf of your people.”

– sjbolton77

“As has already been noted, Republican candidates are in thrall to an utterly ignorant Republican electorate. It is therefore an entirely sensible thing for any liberal to do to enquire what the candidate thinks about such things as evolutionary theory. There answers might appeal to the great unwashed Republican masses, but it reveals to everyone else with a vote that these people are unprincipled opportunists. So, they know what to expect if they elect them.”

– Mike Magee

This is point has actually crossed my mind before. I know there are plenty of people (Americans included) who blindly accept the ideas of creation and evolution without seriously questioning the concepts. Many people defer to popular evolutionists without understanding science (I call their activity “Reader’s Digest science” – no offense to RD, but you know…), and many defer to creationists without understanding science. I’ve known Christians who believed both and never even suspected they contradicted each other. Some people just aren’t that interested in science. They’re caught up in the present, and aren’t deep thinkers.

But lo and behold, there are intellectuals all over the map in this debate who do think deeply and do research. There are also some lay people on the sidelines that occasionally take a look at the scrimmaging and find one side to be more convincing than the other. Because of this, it is downright wrong to dismiss an evolutionary unbeliever as an idiot.

What do I think about political candidates’ personal views of Darwinian evolution?

Well, I don’t mind as long as they don’t operate on a consistently naturalistic philosophy. Extracting naturalism from evolutionism can result in many things that I find morally reprehensible (i.e., basing the value of life on evolutionary embryology could be used to make an argument in favor of abortion).

SEE ALSO:

Would You Vote For An Atheist?

John Lennox interview recap – and beginning results of chicken genetics experiments!

My break from college thus far has been quite interesting. In the midst of keeping myself plenty busy with writing projects, some surprises hatched along the way.

On July 5th we put one of our Transylvania Naked Neck/Silkie cross hens in the clutch pen to set. She’s black with some brown in her feathering (Little Black Hen; no settled name for her yet), and our Transylvania Naked Neck/Silkie cross rooster has feathers of slate, reddish brown and gold coloring (I initially called him “Mosaic” because of his variegated feathering…but if he acts disagreeable, I call him “Pharaoh”).

The Little Black Hen seemed broody enough, and laid a new egg in the nest each day. In the past, we have put our Dominique hens in the clutch pen to set on a bunch of eggs taken from the coop, which would jump start the incubation process. But since I wanted to observe the actual genetic outcome of breeding our supposedly heterozygous-dominant Turken/Silkies, I let the Little Black Hen build up a clutch of purely her own eggs.

She acted differently compared to broody Dominique hens we’ve kept in the past, so I was worried she might not be ready to incubate eggs to term. Thus, I was rather surprised when we heard chirping from the nest.

The first result to hatch last week?

Pure white with shank feathers (like the father – a Silkie trait) and five toes on each foot (also a Silkie trait). But the naked neck gene is obvious. Its phenotype is one I expected to be possible, but I didn’t expect it to turn out in the first chick. Another chick that hatched is yellow with the usual four toes, but has black skin (Silkie trait) and less feathering (Turken trait) than the first chick. My sisters Abigail (14) and Mary (12) will post more information on their blog soon.

I later learned that some breeders work to create a Silkie/Turken hybrid breed called the “Showgirl” (maybe that explains what our neighbor and his friends were doing with Turkens and Silkies…I couldn’t figure it out at first). It takes many generations to get the right look. This chick would be a second generation result, because the parents were heterozygous-dominant Transylvania Naked Necks.

I want to know more about the usefulness of chickens with the Naked Neck trait (it’s great for hot weather, but otherwise just weird). I read that the trait is caused by higher levels of the protein BMP-12. Here is a snippet I found about the use of BMP-12 in helping tendon repair: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go​v/pubmed/11781024

As for my latest column at The Washington Times Communities

John Lennox (photo by David Carreon)

One British writer at The Times dubbed him “Christianity’s new poster boy.” Who is this Oxford professor of mathematics who challenges Stephen Hawking’s assertions about God, and what does science have to do with politics?

I finally crafted a story from the interview I did with John Lennox in June.

Amanda Read and John Lennox at Latimer House (photo by Gilbert Lennox)

Fixed Point Foundation featured it on their website, and gave a good summary of what my article is like.

Now I’ll offer responses to a few points brought up by commenters.

  • You can’t claim that atheism is fear of the light if you can’t produce valid evidence for the existence of gods.” – Jim, responding to Lennox’s antithetic one-liner directed at Hawking’s “afraid of the dark” quote.

What would be “valid evidence”? I find this video by Dennis Prager to be particularly thought-provoking:

One of my commenters (“sunburned”) said they’re not interested in watching any of Lennox’s debates if Lennox depends on the “Cosmological Principle”. Sunburned appears to be oversimplifying the whole debate. If you skip the following video to about 00:49, you will see good dialogue between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox regarding the anthropic principle and created gods:

[DEBATE] Deus, Um Delírio: O Debate – Richard Dawkins & John Lennox from Deus em Debate on Vimeo.

  • “So then evolution is correct, right? Or is it that you do actually have a real philosophical implication for what the vast majority of Biology says?” - Info, responding to Lennox’s distinction between aspects of science which have philosophical implications and those which simply explain how natural things function.
  • “And while we’re on the subject of biology, it’s important to note that Biology is itself not biological. Biology has no mouth or tongue and so says nothing. It is biologists who speak. And while it is true that most biologists believe in evolution, most of them do not study it. But I think that Lennox would agree that there are implications for what evolutionary biologists and paleontologists discover.” – David Carreon’s response to the above comment (he’s a medical student at Stanford University and happened to take the header photograph that I used in my article).

I cannot speak for Lennox on the topic of evolution, but I have heard him say that he believes in it so far as Darwin observed it. Lennox devoted an entire chapter to evolution in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, in which he categorizes the different definitions of evolution and offers his criticism of some of them. Lennox also mentions how mathematics and information technology are becoming more and more a part of biology, which is fascinating reading.

Lennox also observed how interesting it is that Darwinian evolution has become a crucial aspect of some worldviews:

“In the contemporary scientific world we thus have the very unusual situation that one of science’s most influential theories, biological macroevolution, stands in such a close relationship to naturalistic philosophy that it can be deduced from it directly – that is, without even needing to consider any evidence, as the ancient arguments of Lucretius plainly show. This circumstance is extraordinary since it is very difficult to think of another scientific theory that is in a similar position.” (Page 98)

He quotes biologist Douglas Futuyma as saying,

“Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism – of much of science, in short – that has been the stage of most Western thought.” (Page 87)

I just completed a biology class in college (which I thoroughly enjoyed), and I see an obvious distinction between the concept of natural selection and the concept of common descent with modification. Evolution is considered a fundamental principle of biology. On some levels, this is absolutely believable. Artificial selection (just look at my chicken genetics experiment) and natural selection are obvious.

But there is reason to be skeptical and practical about the limits of evolution. Some of us just aren’t willing to take the leap of faith necessary to extrapolate that everything evolved from a common, simple ancestor.

Yet anyway, biology isn’t ENTIRELY about evolution. Photosynthesis, mitosis, and other various things (particularly on the molecular level) explain how things work without necessitating homage to Darwinian theory.

~ Amanda

Luke Historians

Luke Historians

Last year, I introduced my original idea for Luke Historians. But after an exciting year of expansive writing opportunities, I decided to modify the LH mission with the huge goal of eventually becoming a publishing and media company that explores the intersection of ideas. While the website is still far from being complete, the vision is there (also follow on Twitter, “like” on Facebook and subscribe on YouTube). I present to you:

www.LukeHistorians.com

To Most Excellent Theophilus, et al

Greetings. Prepare to bask in the irony…

No, this isn’t about Luke Skywalker.

Luke Historians is a project inspired by one of the fascinating anomalies of Scripture: a scientific Greek who wrote two books of the Bible.

Doctor Luke

As a Greek physician living in first century A.D., Luke descended from the famous Hellenic traditions of pursuing truth through human reason, research and observation. The Greeks are credited with playing a key role in the development of the scientific and historic methods. Indeed, the word “history” has its roots in the Greek language, and the method of historical inquiry was first outlined by Thucydides (c. 460-400 B.C.), an exiled general who compiled an account of the Peloponnesian War.

General Thucydides

“In investigating past history, and in forming the conclusions which I have formed, it must be admitted that one cannot rely on every detail which has come down to us by way of tradition. People are inclined to accept all stories of ancient times in an uncritical way – even when these stories concern their own native countries…

…Most people, in fact, will not take trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear…

…And with regard to my factual reporting of the events of the war I have made it a principle not to write down the first story that came my way, and not even to be guided by my own general impressions; either I was present myself at the events which I have described or else I head of them from eye-witnesses whose reports I have checked with as much thoroughness as possible.

Not that even so the truth was easy to discover: different eye-witnesses give different accounts of the same events, speaking out of partiality for one side of the other or else from imperfect memories. And it may well be that my history will seem less easy to read because of the absence in it of a romantic element. It will be enough for me, however, if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will, at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future.

My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but done to last forever.”

– Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War

Notice the style similarities between General Thucydides and Doctor Luke:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

– Luke 1:1-4 (NASB)

Investigate. Eye-witness accounts. No nonsense. Give me the facts, with no sugar on top. Facts with eternal significance.

Marvin Perry’s Sources of the Western Tradition offers the following prologue to the writings of Thucydides:

“The Greeks carefully investigated events – the first people to examine the past with a critical eye. Thucydides examined men’s actions and their motives, explicitly rejected divine explanations for human occurrences, searched for natural causes, and based his conclusions on evidence. In this approach, he was influenced by the empiricism of the Hippocratic physicians.”

It is not an unreasonable leap to conclude that Luke, a Hippocratic physician, was heir to this method of historical inquiry. Furthermore, Luke’s writings address a Greek audience that thought…well, like Greeks.

Among the questions of contemporary readers are these: Why did this man love Jesus and think his fellow Greeks needed to hear about Him? What made a skeptical Greek believe that Jesus was the Son of Yahweh, God of the Hebrews? Why did he believe in Jesus Christ’s resurrection, the core belief of Christianity?

Luke Historians is a website dedicated to trumping convention in two ways:

  1. Our society governs by the doctrine that “the present is the key to the past,” which was originally supposed to apply to only the scientific concept of uniformitarianism. But how often is the past viewed through the lens of the present throughout all culture? We must instead investigate the past to interpret the successes and failures of the present. The Past is the Key to the Present.
  2. The Bible is necessarily respected in academic circles as the single most influential text in Western Civilization. But fundamental misunderstandings about this remarkable book exist because the Greek and Hebrew minds clash. Most residents of the Western World descend from the Greek (or Gentile) heritage of thought and thus have difficulty understanding the historical and prophetic narrative of the Hebrew Bible. That is why Luke is a great starting point for common ground debate, because Luke himself was a Greek taking part in a very Hebrew happening. Luke Historians is intended to be a haven for all the nerdy Christians, Skeptics and any others interested in solving the Bible and its role in history to crawl out of their various gang slums on the internet and meet for intelligent problem-solving. A Meeting of the Greek and Hebrew Minds.

In short:

Combating Biblical, Historical and Scientific Ignorance…

by forcing Skeptics and Bible Believers to research together against their will since 2010!

Video by Theodore Shoebat

Maher’s Monkey Business: Academic Travesty and ‘Religulous’ Obsession with O’Donnell

Bill Maher/Christine O'Donnell, 1998 footage

As science is increasingly politicized in the Delaware senate race, viewers have to wonder – what is a Darwinian skeptic, and is it safe to have one in Congress?

Last week, Bill Maher didn’t unearth an archived youthful indiscretion to make Christine O’Donnell the laughingstock of her critics.  Rather, he insulted not only O’Donnell, but an untold number of people who question the scientific status quo.

“Evolution is a myth, and Darwin himself…” O’Donnell began to explain before being interrupted by Maher in a clip from 1998.

“Evolution is a myth?  Have you ever looked at a monkey?” was Maher’s comic rebuttal.

We can cut him some slack, because he was, after all, the comedian on the stage.  But, otherwise, a creationist might as well attempt to refute an evolutionist by saying, “Creation is a myth?  Have you ever looked at a DNA molecule?”  It would be interesting to see which visual experience makes the more compelling argument.

I would probably be on Maher’s side in this argument if the people who had doubts about evolution were only a bunch of backwoods hicks who had never seen a microscope before.  But that in itself is a myth, because that simply isn’t the case.  There are very serious, highly educated scientists who have realized certain facts in the natural world are not adding up in favor of the Darwinian tradition.  Not all of them are creationists or even religious at all.

Contrary to the average media slant, it actually isn’t religion that is criticizing Darwin.  Many dapper theologians have happily merged their belief in the Bible with belief in evolution, and, however soaring or sappy the result may be, it has earned them the highest approval rating Richard Dawkins can muster for a religion: Harmless.  A serious Darwinian doubter is a different sort of person entirely — a seeker who looks beyond religious and professional boundaries.

Maher enjoys perpetuating the misconception that denial of evolution is directly linked to unintelligence.  It actually has nothing to do with basic intelligence.  My Ivy-League educated father has been disbelieving Darwinian evolution for decades — even while he would regularly take my siblings and me to the American Museum of Natural History and the Bronx Zoo.

It is also a misnomer to automatically label a person as “anti-science” just because he or she disbelieves the Darwinian extrapolation of macroevolution.  All a Darwinian skeptic wants is every last iota of data spread upon the dissection table — no secrets, no cover-ups, no manipulation.  Come to think of it, we could use a good dose of that mindset in Congress!

Even if O’Donnell once confused carbon dating with potassium-argon dating (an unsurprising layperson’s mistake), at least she showed enough interest in the subject to investigate beyond the status quo.  The awareness and consideration of more than one informed opinion is an appealing feature in a senatorial candidate.

O’Donnell said quizzically on Maher’s show, “Then why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?”  However hastily formed that question may be, the “time did it!” sort of answer she was given was just as inadequate.

A common atheist argument I’ve come across claims, “I looked up in the sky today and didn’t see God, and therefore he doesn’t exist.”

That sounds remarkably naïve, in my opinion, but Maher would probably consider it brilliant.  Evolutionists say we can’t directly observe the macroevolution process, and creationists say we can’t directly observe God, yet both say the handiwork of each is evident.  That leaves us fairly even.

An atheist claims to not see enough evidence for God’s existence, and a non-Darwinist claims to not see enough evidence for the Darwinian concept of macroevolution.  For some inhuman reason, the act of not being convinced is upheld as brilliant in the former case, but considered brain-dead in the latter case.  That is an academic tragedy.

History education is rife with reinterpretation of solid artifacts and writings made by people of the past.  Even President Obama twice omitted “creator” within one week when referencing the famous statement inscribed in the Declaration of Independence that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  Ironically, that creator-acknowledging statement was written by Thomas Jefferson, atheists’ favorite and most exploited founding father.

Perpetual attempts to seize the red pen and infuse new controversies into established pages of history and literature is bewildering, but nevertheless welcomed.  Yet the one field that actually thrives most off of new observation and ideas – science – is the one subject where thinking outside of the politically correct box is forbidden.  Why?

Many fail to understand or share my convictions about academic freedom.  This frustrated me deeply until it dawned on me recently: How could they understand when so few have experienced the level of educational independence that I have had?

I come from an academic family.  My grandfather studied botany at Cornell and later became president of the University of Alabama.  He also knows evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson.  I was raised in a household with shelves full of materials by both evolutionists and creationists.  My bedroom and schoolroom were occupied by National Geographic and Scientific American issues way before Answers magazine was in print.  Henry M. Morris’ “The Genesis Record” resides in the family library along with an astronomy book that claims to recite the universe’s first three minutes of existence after the Big Bang.

My high school science textbooks were very committed to the scientific method, offering differing hypotheses and theories next to the currently known data of every major topic.  One of the greatest impressions left on me from that curriculum was the way the text candidly admitted that science is such an expanding field that many things I learned in it might be outdated in a few years.  By the way, those textbooks were written by a scientist who believes the Earth is young not for theological reasons, but solely because he thinks the data we have today shows strong evidence for a young Earth.

When I began taking science classes at a state university, I experienced academic confinement for the first time in my life.  The college textbooks that I was issued said the very same things my high school textbooks said in the beginning — that science can never ultimately prove anything, that the ability to be disproved through test or observation is key to a good scientific theory, and that the textbook would mention disagreements among scientists and where intriguing questions remain in the field.  Though I thoroughly enjoyed the subject I was studying, I was disappointed — yet not surprised — that the college textbook failed to keep its promises.

The increasingly politicized nature of the science debate is highlighted in this Delaware election.  Democratic candidate Chris Coons cast in a negative light O’Donnell’s supposed desire to see public schools teach creationism.  To be honest, this characterization is a rather pointless diversion in the debate over science education.

There is no need for science classes to open with a narrative of the universe being brought into existence, such as what is found in Genesis.  Historical documentation belongs in history class.  Science education should consist of instruction in the scientific method and observation of data.  If schools would even teach Darwinian evolution in its entirety – facts and failures, warts and all — we would possibly see a vastly more independent electorate infused with new enthusiasm for inquiring about the natural world.

Would there not be outrage if every political science and economics class forced students to study the system and predictions of only capitalism or only socialism instead of both?  Would there not be suspicion of an elitist agenda at play if such were the case and no criticism of the predominant theory was allowed?  Why, therefore, is this very thing happening in the field that is supposed to be the most open minded and expansive of all – science?

If you can’t take criticism of your ideas, then you do not need to be working in science or government.  Perhaps there is a comfortable, mindless religion out there that will suit you well instead.

Read more of Amanda’s column Not Your Average Read in the Communities at The Washington Times.