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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Why ID Matters

I cite for your reading pleasure a mindless harangue that passes these days as an argument against Intelligent Design. It comes from some guy named Neil Steinberg, who writes a column for the New York Daily News.

An 'intelligent' plan
Save it for Sunday

Once again, President Bush and I are in complete agreement on an issue and, surprisingly, that issue is "intelligent design," the pseudoscientific sham that the Religious Right cooked up to jam their beliefs into public schools, where they don't belong.

Bush told a group of reporters that he feels intelligent design should be discussed in school. So do I.

What the President didn't say was how it should be discussed, and so, in the spirit of public service, I offer my own intelligent design curriculum ...

"Okay, kids, as we now know, life on Earth evolved over billions of years, from one-celled organisms gradually developing into the complex animals we see today. The fossil record and biological evidence clearly support this understanding of our world and most scientists endorse it.

"Except, of course, those whose religious faith overwhelms their reason. They cling to a belief they call 'intelligent design' - basically the notion that, gosh, the world is so darn complex that God had to make it, He just had to. (link)
Talk about clinging to a belief. Neil Steinberg accepts, without question, a theory that is based on a relative handful of bone fragments found over the last hundred years that can be traced to an array of unrelated species.

I don't know whether we evolved from one-celled creatures or not, but there seem to be some contradictions in the theory. And those contradictions are what drive scientists to postulate that the universe is far too complex to have simply evolved from an amoeba.

Here are my issues with the theory of evolution - for what they're worth.

1. I mentioned the fact that the theory is based on the discovery of a relative handful of bone fragments. Many of them are human; some are human-like. So where are those chimp-like skeletal remains that came from creatures that supposedly preceded apes - our "ancestors?" There are massive enough gaps in the bone fragment chain of evolution, that you could ride a Tyrannosaurus Rex through them.

2. Which brings me to my second point. How does an evolutionist explain dinosaurs? The theory goes like this, simply put: modern organisms have evolved through natural selection from older ancestral organisms. Tiny one-celled creatures became amoebas became multi-celled organisms became tadpoles became frogs became fishes became alligators became humans. I probably skipped a few evolutionary periods, but you get the point. A creature's interaction with its environment forces molecular - DNA - changes over time.

Thus, a multi-celled organism becomes ... a 33 ton dinosaur? Not just one either, but a plethora of dinosaur species? Creatures that - even though they supposedly evolved into the behemoths we've come to recognize as mastodons and raptors and the like - suddenly became unable to adapt (or evolve) to earth's environment? All of them? If the planet forces evolutionary change, was there a reversal of the process to bring about extinction of a whole host of dinosaurs? I invite those who are so set in their ways when it comes to the theory of evolution to make the case that a link exists between single-cell organisms and humans but somehow - what? - the process got off-track when it comes to apatosauruses?

3. The theory of evolution makes no attempt to explain life. It only extends to a discussion of how life evolved; not from whence it originally began. How do we explain the beating heart?

4. Then there is the argument put forth by Intelligent Design proponents, as outlined by Michael Behe (here). Essentially he argues that;
"Irreducibly complex systems appear very unlikely to be produced by numerous, successive, slight modifications of prior systems, because any precursor that was missing a crucial part could not function. Natural selection can only choose among systems that are already working, so the existence in nature of irreducibly complex biological systems poses a powerful challenge to Darwinian theory."
Many people view Intelligent Design as a theory in competition with that of evolution when, in fact, it is no such thing. It is not intended to explain the origins of the universe but rather its aim is to ask vital questions about our understanding - and lack thereof - of life itself. It is a growing class of study that simply pokes monumental holes in the theory of evolution. IDers ask questions that evolutionists are unable to answer.

Darwin, when it comes down to it, was probably right. But, unlike Neil Steinberg, who has decided that the theory of evolution is "settled law" (and anyone who disagrees is a moron), I can honestly say I don't know. I still have too many questions that nobody has been able to answer. Uppermost:

What or Who makes my heart beat?

Local Entrepreneur With an Amish Touch

Paula and I decided to do a partial remodel of our house a couple of years ago, a task that required ripping out walls and ceiling, rewiring, and all that. Because it was an involved project requiring craftsmanship and perfection, we called upon an Amish contractor to do the work. We were not disappointed.

My daughter bought the most beautiful hutch not long ago, handcrafted by a local Amish furniture maker. She proudly displays it in her dining room.

These are but two examples of the fine artistry performed by Amish woodworkers and carpenters in Southwest Virginia, exceptionally talented all, with a work ethic to match.

William Kaufman, one of the many Amish craftsmen in the area, and I share Big Walker Mountain. His burgeoning furniture business is highlighted in Blue Ridge Business Journal:
Low tech, high quality
By Becky Hepler

Is it possible to start a business with no lawyer, banker nor business plan? Can you compete in a high-tech arena when your culture has you living the rural lifestyle of 200 years ago? This is the dilemma facing William Kaufman, a furniture maker and member of the Amish settlement near White Gate*, in Giles County.

Kaufman's business, Walker Mountain Furniture, specializes in handmade beds, dressers, tables and chests. While he has some inventory on hand, mostly he works on special orders and custom designs. It generally takes about six to eight weeks to finish an order, but considering that the work is being done by hand, by one person, the time frame is understandable. (link)
Special orders. How unique is that?

If you're going to put in an order, you'll probably need to come down to Giles County to talk to William. He has no phone or mode of transportation beyond the family buggy. But he does have talent. The kind of talent you're not going to find at the local big box retailer.

* White Gate got its name, for those of you who are interested in local history, from a period in time, long long ago when a farmer in the area actually constructed a gate (white in color, naturally) across what is today state highway 42 to keep his cattle from roaming. When giving someone directions, one was told to head up the road to the white gate and ...

Thus the name, White Gate.

Another era to be sure.

Park Ranger Found

If you've been following the story of the Rocky Mountain National Park ranger who had disappeared over a week ago, you'll not want to read how the story ends.

Colorado Ranger's Body Found After 8 Days

ESTES PARK, Colo. (AP) -- A hiker found the body of a missing Rocky Mountain National Park ranger Saturday, eight days after the ranger apparently fell during a routine patrol, park officials said.

Jeff Christensen was found dead near Spectacle Lakes at roughly 13,000 feet, park officials said.

More than 200 searchers, some in helicopters and others with rescue dogs, had been searching the vast and rugged Mummy Range for the 31-year-old ranger for the past week. (link)

It was thought by many that the ranger had met with foul play. I'm not sure this ending to the story is any better. I just hope he didn't lay there suffering for days.

95 Year-Old Woman Whips Copperhead

You learn how to deal with snakes around these parts. Just ask 95 year-old Gladys Shortt of Pound, Virginia. She came upon one residing under her kitchen sink and, after being bitten by it six times, she managed to kill the little critter.

Pound woman wrangles with copperhead
By JODI DEAL, Coalfield.com Staff Writer

POUND - Gladys Shortt reached beneath her sink last month expecting to find a trash bag and garbage ties, but instead took the first of six bites from a 20-inch copperhead snake that was beating the heat in the cool, dark cabinet. After the first bite, Shortt, who is 95, legally blind and walks with the aid of a walker ... covered her hand in a dish towel, reached in to the cabinet, and came back with "a fistful of snake." (
I apologize to Gladys for writing this but the story of her trying to drown the copperhead is hilarious. Read the whole thing.

Never To Be Seen Again

Enjoy a good mystery?

How about one involving a judge who sat on the New York State Supreme Court and who disappeared without a trace?

75 years ago.

Read about the case of Judge Joseph Force Crater, a mystery that's never been solved, here in the New York Daily News.

It's a fascinating story.