Below is:

'Of Pandas and People'              J H Williams    106
Bergman, AIG and Dawkins       J H Williams    106

ID and Continental Drift              Bob Potter       107
Bloody Nose at Dover                 J H Williams    107


John H Williams

(Investigator 106, 2006 January)


My title refers to a biology textbook, Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, that has been made available to ninth science grade students of Pennsylvania's Dover School District.

The book (2nd edition, 1993) was written by P Davis and D H Kenyon, and published by the Foundation of Thought and Ethics. Eight families (11 people), with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, are currently in litigation (Kitzmiller v Dover School District) because science teachers have been asked to read to students a four paragraph statement, which

"requires students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. Intelligent design (ID) is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view".

Sixty donated copies of Pandas were to be kept in a high school science classroom. Students were encouraged "to keep an open mind". Dover, in October 2004, was the first American school district to mandate ID teaching in the classroom, heralding what has become a highly publicised test case.


In Cobb County, Georgia, science school textbooks recently contained a sticker which reads:

"…because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in theory exist for which there is no evidence…With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind."

After a court hearing, this sticker has been ordered removed. There are "brewing disputes" in California, New Mexico, Kansas and other states.

The Kansas School Board currently has a majority of critics of evolution, and observers say it's only a matter of time before IDeas will affect science teaching throughout the state. The board has presented draft standards, but the National Academy of Science and the National Science Teachers Association have criticized them as unduly emphasizing evolution, and singling it out as a controversial theory, and has announced (27/10/05) that, as a consequence, it's preventing Kansas using the NAS/NSTA-produced key science education materials.

There have been many notable controversies in Bible Belt states over the last 15 years, some relating to earlier versions of the book. The full story, involving a potentially "explosive" publishing bonanza (buyers in 48 states had, by 1994, ordered the book), has, I believe, yet to be told.


ID is a set of ideas which emanated from a conservative think tank called the Discovery Institute of Seattle from 1992 onwards, and it's been promoting a "more secular form of creationism" than Creation Science and Answers in Genesis.

The movement has been using a 'wedge' strategy to criticize and undermine evolutionary ideas, while arguing that an "intelligent being or agent" must have made all life forms, which it asserts couldn't have occurred via Darwin's natural selection. Using, for example, the (false) analogy that inanimate objects like mousetraps didn't 'put themselves together', so how then could complex life forms exist without a purposeful design, thus implying a 'designer'. (See Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box and Dr Bob Potter's critiques of it in The Investigator #95 & #98).


The proponents of ID have lately been 'careful' — and in my opinion dishonest — not to mention the "divine creator" they believe in.

Nor do they give a rationale of how this god was 'created', or how it managed to fashion life, including the 99.9% of all species which the fossil record tells us are now extinct.

Dr Jerry Bergman has been unwilling or unable to tell Investigator readers (see my challenge to him in #93, November 2003) about how "an all-loving and wise Creator deliberately fashioned the universe for rational purposes, and part of this purpose is human beings which also have a purpose in God's scheme of things." (#67, July 1999)

Dr Bergman had given us a massive CV in #64 which didn't tell us that he was a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) who believed it all happened about six thousand years ago. Many YECs, including Dr Bergman, are active in promoting creationist 'science', and believe that "events associated with a supernatural creation can be supported by evidence and modelled through the scientific method" (Wikipedia). Most YECs still believe that Bishop James Ussher's 1650 arithmetic is correct, and that "creation happened at nightfall preceding Sunday 23rd 4004BC in the proleptic Julian calendar".


The effort to keep God and religion out of the debate is due to the 1987 Supreme Court case of Edwards v Aquillard, which found that those espousing creationism in the classroom were "subjectively motivated by religion". It did, however, open a door for creationists by ruling that "alternative theories could be taught".

So, by avoiding any reference to religion, ID hopes to "slip under the radar" of the First Amendment in the American Constitution, a transparent strategy  which has drawn the following ripostes from its critics:

•    "a Trojan horse for bringing creationism into the public school classroom"; "creationism by the back door";
•    "rational thought put under attack" and;
•    "disguised religious dogma".

The former 'God of the gaps' has 'evolved' into the Intelligent Designer.

The movement is intellectually flawed, given that its ethos is dominantly critical of evolutionary ideas, the  equivalent  of  all  three speakers in a debate spending nearly all of their time critiqing the 'opposition'. As regards scientific validity, ID can be discounted as being unrepeatable, unfalsifiable and untestable, thus not subject to the scientific method.

Here's a sample of YEC ex nihilo (out of nothing) writing, which 'evolved' from the first (1986) form of Pandas, called Biology and Creationism to what appears in the current (1993) edition:

"…various forms of life began abruptly, with their distinctive features already intact: fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers and wings, mammals with fur and mammary glands."

One presumes that "abruptly" means what apparently occurred on 23/10/4004BC!


Our Minister of Education, Brendan Nelson, has odd 'bees in his bonnet' regarding education, the latest of which is that he believes it's "reasonable" to teach creationism alongside evolution. This echoes George Bush's "teach both sides", and "You're asking me whether or not people should be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes".

Quite reasonable, one might think, but it's a seductive ploy which uses semantics to convey that there are two sides, just as "teach the controversy" is a devious device to enable ID to make publicity 'noise' in an attempt to enhance its profile.

Is it reasonable too for teachers to present hurricanes as "acts of God", or for our medical students to learn about the effectiveness of miraculous, prayer-driven cures? It took about 50 years for submarine research to elucidate the processes of plate tectonics, thus providing the evidentiary foundations for Alfred Wegener's 1915 theory of continental drift. Should Geology teachers invoke the possibility of angry gods in the interests of teaching "both sides"? Shouldn't Geography teachers show that there's a hurricane-free equatorial zone because, since the spin there is the fastest, there's little or no Coriolis force? "Class, in the interest of balance I'm letting you know that a small minority of people invoke a deity to explain weather". The ID movement, however, is awash with 'spin'!


One can have little respect for a movement which insinuates itself as a worthy 'rival' to evolutionary science, and which operates on the premise that a comprehensive 'cinematic' record of about three billion years of life on Earth ought to be available, and since it isn't it somehow invalidates evolution and by default is 'right', while offering no real evidence other than inference that living things look as if designed by an entity believed to be 'God', and a literal adherence to what's in Genesis.

In the current Dover trial, Dr Michael Behe was on the stand for three days as an 'expert witness'. At one point he was faced with 50 journals of peer-reviewed articles on the evolution of the immune system, and was asked if scientists had produced those articles, a difficult one for him, because in his 1996 book Behe had stated that scientific literature had "no answers" on the origin of the immune system.

 Behe added that he couldn't say if the 'Designer' still existed, and could not name the mechanism of design, "but we do infer design from the purposeful arrangement of parts"!

There we have it: ID infers!


A recent survey shows that about five per cent of American scientists are creationists, many of whom are active in creationist organisations. A 1990 survey of Americans by Professor Herbert Tonne for the humanist journal Free Inquiry found that:

•    19.1% believed that "God created the cosmos about 6000 years ago";
•    46.4% disagreed with the statement that "evolution is the best possible explanation for human existence";
•    90.7 % stated that they had a religion;
•    93.2% believed that the statement "Even today miracles are performed by the power of God",
•    80.3% believed in life after death;
•    Only 8.2% agreed that "God is an invention of the human mind".

New Scientist (9/7/05) carries a graph showing Americans' responses to three questions during 1993-2004. About 45% of interviewees agreed with "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so". Just over 10% agreed with "humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, and God had no part in this process".

Another recent survey found that 44% of Americans believe in the six days creation. It's therefore no accident that the dominant political culture is one of a Right-thinking, anti-modernist body which supports a highly conservative platform that is anti-abortion, anti-communist and anti-evolution. As Phillip Adams puts it, there's "an abundance of belief", which is strongest in rural areas, where the understanding of evolutionary ideas is often literally at the level of "I didn't come from a monkey!"


I haven't read 'Pandas', but am not surprised by the scathing criticisms of reviewers, and I refer readers to Professor Kenneth R Miller's (Biology, Brown University) Brief Critique. He writes that Pandas,

"purports to be an open, objective examination of the pros and cons of evolutionary biology", whereas it's "a collection of half-truths, distortions and outright falsehoods that attempts to misrepresent biology and mislead students."

Miller's chief objections:

•    there is no information on the age of the Earth or on geological periods;
•    the fossil record is misrepresented by stating that key fossils haven't been found, when they have;
•    predictions made about unambiguous transitional fossils are "dramatically incorrect";
•    it misrepresents molecular evidence for evolution.


This textbook is a travesty, though Miller, a Roman Catholic, is careful to acknowledge that he is unable to assess whether the omissions, misrepresentations and skimming-over of details are deliberate, or simply based on ignorance/lack of research and bad science. Whatever, the issue is that Dover's students, and virtually all teachers and parents wouldn't be capable of the well-informed critical analysis done by Miller and others.

Especially children would accept much of what it has to say; it's a well-presented, plausible collection of 'science' in a textbook that's been approved by those smart people on the Board, so it must be OK! In fairness, it appears as if Pandas was to have been used in conjunction with another non-ID textbook in Biology, co-authored by Dr Kenneth Miller, perhaps as an adjunct, and the Dover Board has not mandated that it be used in classrooms.


"Evolution is a fact, as much as plate tectonics or the heliocentric solar system, and the weight of evidence has become so strong that opposition to it is laughable, to those acquainted with even a fraction of the published data." (Richard Dawkins).

ID is about religion, and the perceived affect of religion on values and morals, not science. Books like Pandas and disclaimers in textbook prefaces ought to be kept out of science classrooms unless it's to highlight the difference between real science and pseudoscience: the refrain "teach the controversy" reeks of a hidden and dishonest agenda, hardly good Christian behaviour.

Books like 'Pandas' could lead to an undermining of the status of science, by implying that science is unreliable, and it's likely to mislead its readers by presenting its case unfairly, in carefully selecting out information, such as on mass extinctions, which does not serve its cause. Confusing for students, one would think, and likely to evoke resentment and conflict from many teachers and their professional organisations, as well as from parents who value a religion-free education.


I believe that ID is a superficially plausible facade for creationism, which postulates a supernatural being virtually everyone understands is in fact "God". It uses dishonest means in attempting to infiltrate creationist religion, dressed up as bad, bogus and out-of-date science, into the classroom.

There is no real evidence in favour of ID, only alleged gaps in the completeness of the evolutionary account. If ID wanted to 'disprove' evolution, all it need do is find just one 'out-of-place' fossil, a flowering plant in the Cambrian, a mammal in the Devonian, a hominid in the Cretaceous: such finds haven't been made and never will be. For the promotion of ID's cause, a real debate about real science is unwanted, analogous to a pre-election process in which one party successfully creates doubt and confusion on an important issue without presenting a substantial argument of its own.

 ID's attempts to insinuate its version of religion into American science classrooms is based on its philosophy of being 'anti-materialistic' and, by association, anti-science and anti-evolution. It characterises science/evolution as atheistic (despite the large number of scientists who are devout Christians or members of other faiths) hence a prime cause of society's ills. The debate is not about science at all: it's about what is perceived by some highly conservative creationists and creationist organisations to be the deleterious consequences of an increasingly secular world which rejects supernatural 'explanations' of the origins of life, and of anything else.


Intelligent Design (Wikipedia)

Of Pandas and People (Wikipedia)

Miller Dr K, Brief Critique of Of Pandas and People

Time Magazine's cover story on ID v Evolution, 15/8/2005

Krauthammer C, 'Let's Have No More Monkey Trials' Time Essay 8/8/2005

Henke Dr K R, Young Earth Creationists' Hypocrisy on Discrimination

Williams JH November 2003 'Bergman's Believerism' The Investigator #93 pp18-20

Bergman Dr J Teaching Evolution Through Science Fiction, The Investigator #67, July 1999, p47

Saletan W, The Brontosaurus-Monty Python's Flying Creationism at Slate on

Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Dr Bob Potter A cursory exploration of Darwin's Black Box & Further explorations of Darwin's Black Box, The Investigator #95 and #98 March/September, 2004, pp26-33 and pp 18-19/28-30.

Michael C Dorf, Conflating Uncertainty with Error, Find Law's on 22/10/04  and Why It's Unconstitutional to Teach ID in Public Schools

The York Daily Record of Kitzmiller v Dover ASD,, Oct/Nov 2005, biology/90504

Coyne J and Dawkins R, 'God and Science Don't Mix', The Guardian 11/9/05, reprinted in The Age

Adams, Phillip, 12/4/1997 Faith Heelers, an article in The Weekend Australian.

Kitzmiller v Dover ASD at



(Investigator 106, 2006 January)

My book has been published called Fifty Years of Orienteering in Australia, 1955-2005.

Check out Jerry Bergman's "Who invented it first?" in Answers in Genesis, first published in Creation 7, Oct 1984. All very subtle and clever, but oh so very wrong! Did you realise that he is a Young Earth person?

I also like "How Much Evolution Can A Panda Bear?" in AIG, which refers to the "Bamboozling Panda", and that "Pandas thumb their noses at evolution". All very entertaining stuff.

Have been reading Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale, the antithesis of the nonsense from creationists. Real science, and every page redolent of the creative intricacies of evolutionary processes. I think it would be hard for any creationist to front up to reading this brilliant explanation of life, time and RNA/DNA.

John H Williams



(Investigator 107, 2006 March)

John H Williams' OF PANDAS AND PEOPLE is a useful overview.  The text accompanying the illustration on p 14, "In the interest of balanced teaching: Should geology teachers invoke the possibility of angry gods to explain Continental Drift?" reflects the arguments advanced by many ID theorists more accurately than might be appreciated by readers naïve of details of these debates.

For example, creationists, Frair and Davis (1983), insist on rejecting continental drift because it undermines "recent" chronology, based on theories of Young Earth Creationism:

"If the usual geological time scale is accepted, continental drift would have occurred at a rate of inches per year, which is reasonable.  But if the much shorter chronology consistent with biblical revelation (sic) is accepted, the rate would have had to be many miles per year to produce the present location of the continents." (Wayne Frair and Percival Davis, 1983. "A Case for Creation", 3rd edition, Moody Press, p 74)

Bob Potter



(Investigator 107, 2006 March)

Re the IDebate, the forces of creationism have taken a bloody nose from US Federal Court Judge John Jones III (the grandson of a Welsh orphan forced down the Pennsylvania anthracite mines, from which he rose to become a successful engineer).

The school board in Dover (Pennsylvania) had voted that students be taught ID as a scientific alternative to evolution. A group of parents sued the board and creationists and evolutionists argued their case before Judge Jones. The judge found that ID is a religious belief which should not be taught as science.

Don't worry, they'll (Discovery Institute) put a spin on it, and THAT text-book will lose its "radioactive" title and there'll be other changes for the 3rd edition.

The board was voted out (6 out of 7). Dover itself is in dire straits, as Pat Robertson has told the townsfolk that they've rejected the Big Bloke, so expect plague and pestilence!

The latest sceptic has a great article by a female about how ghastly ID creation is for many women.

John Williams