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The Nonscience Of The Scientific Arguments Against Evolution

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The Discovery Institute (DI) isn't impressed with what I've been writing for The Huffington Post.

On 3 April 2010, DI posted a piece on their website that claimed that "Michael Zimmerman ignores the science that challenges evolution." Written by attorney Casey Luskin, the article was an attack on my essay saying that the evolution/creation controversy was not a battle between religion and science but between various religious perspectives.

Despite there being more fundamentalist ministers than you can shake a stick at who repeatedly claim that people must choose between religion and evolution, Luskin makes the preposterous argument that the "controversy" should be seen solely as a scientific one! Religion, he claims, has nothing to do with the ever-present attacks on evolution.

Let's look at both of his absurd claims, and then let's look a bit more closely at the Discovery Institute itself. You may remember Pat Robertson warning the good people of Dover, Pennsylvania, when they threw out the school board members who required that intelligent design be taught in their schools, "If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city."

Or you may remember Robertson saying that "the evolutionists worship atheism. I mean, that's their religion."

Or perhaps Albert Mohler's comments in Time, will come to mind: "You cannot coherently affirm the Christian-truth claim and the dominant model of evolutionary theory at the same time." In case you don't remember, let me remind you that Mohler is president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I could go on ad nauseam, providing you with similar quotes from high-profile fundamentalist clergy members, but I see no need to do so; clearly these folks regularly claim that they cannot accept evolutionary theory on religious grounds. I have no problem with these people saying what they believe, but I am completely opposed to them implying that all who are religious must agree with them. As I've said so often, the very existence of The Clergy Letter Project and the more than 13,000 clergy members who have affirmed that they are fully comfortable with both their faith and evolution makes a mockery of such ridiculous claims.

Despite what Luskin asserts, those promoting one narrow religious perspective are entirely responsible for the ongoing evolution/creation controversy.

What about his contention that I've ignored "the science that challenges evolution?" I'm sorry to be so blunt, but there's simply no way to be polite about this: his claim is utter garbage. And he must know it because he doesn't direct his readers to a single piece of scientific evidence supporting his charge.

Thousands of peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts extending, testing, and refining evolutionary theory are published each and every year, but there aren't any calling the basic premise of the theory into question. And yet Luskin has the nerve to say that there is "overwhelming evidence" of a "scientific controversy about the importance of evolutionary theory."

Luskin does go out of his way to praise the Texas State Board of Education for their recent stance on evolution, a stance that was in conflict with the recommendations offered by their own experts and which has been widely criticized by scientific and educational groups.

What's going on here? Why is Luskin, on behalf of the Discovery Institute, so eager to publish such absurd statements? Not surprisingly, it all comes down to religion and money. The Discovery Institute and its main supporters, supporters who have pumped millions of dollars into their efforts, want to remake both science and the United States into their religious image.

As both Steve Benen and Max Blumenthal have shown, Howard Ahmanson, Jr., one of DI's biggest donors, has expressed extreme views about the role religion should play in America. And that's putting it mildly, since he's said, "My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives." He's also helped bankroll the Christian Reconstructionism movement, a group that, according to Benen, "seeks to replace American democracy with a harsh fundamentalist theocracy."

As frightening as all of this might be, it is fully consistent with the reason the Discovery Institute gives for attacking evolution and promoting "intelligent design": "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Luskin and his DI colleagues have created a well-funded public relations machine which they use relentlessly to mislead the public about evolution and to encourage school boards and state legislatures to take steps to destroy high-quality science education. They get what seems to be unlimited air time on Fox to promote their dangerous message.

Interestingly, for a group that pretends to be about openness and professes to want to look at all sides of the issue, the pieces they post on their site permit no comments. Instead, they attack me and expect that theirs will be the last words -- as incorrect as they are. But here on The Huffington Post, readers who form a robust community will have the last words. Those words may well demonstrate exactly what the Discovery Institute is all about and how offensive most people find their actions.