"Boomer Buddhism" and "Assault on evolution"

Readers respond to Stephen Prothero's critique of American Buddhists and Larry Arnhart's assessment of intelligent design theory.


Letters to the Editor
March 3, 2001 1:52AM (UTC)

Read the story by Stephen Prothero.

Well, this is one steamed Buddhist. I am appalled by Stephen Prothero's utterly skewed description of American Buddhism. He reveals himself to be woefully out of touch with Buddhist practice in this country -- which is what I would expect from an academic, but I would also hope academics would stick to the subjects they know instead of throwing around the most outrageous stereotypes.

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As one of those "American-born converts" who recently spent several years practicing in a Zen monastery in California, I was surprised to learn of "today's oddly bookish Buddhist vogue," and of a boomer plot to rid Buddhism of its cultural traditions -- nay, its very essence -- according to Prothero. (And perhaps according to James Coleman, whose book is referenced here, but the tirade seems to be Prothero's.) As a 30-year-old who has followed a monastic schedule, sat hours of meditation in 12th-century Japanese-style robes, studied Buddhist texts and taken lay ordination, I fail to see the imminent demise of Buddhism at the hands of American dharma practice. My experience is not the exception to the rule; plenty of people my age and younger are practicing dharma. Even beyond the monastery walls, there is a diverse community of practitioners (those of us not watering everything down refer to it as the "sangha") who earnestly study the precepts and meditate, incorporating a living Buddhist tradition into their lives.

Prothero insults all of them with his pronouncement that "instead of preserving Buddhism, Americans seem intent on co-opting and commercializing it, dissolving a religion deeply suspicious of the self into an engine of self-absorption." I think not. Yes, there is an ongoing and lively debate about the directions that American Buddhist practice should take. Happily there are enough Buddhist traditions, and enough centers representing each tradition in the U.S., that there will be many answers to the same question. Some teachers maintain traditional forms and practices; others have abandoned them.

What Prothero fails to realize, as a woefully uninformed non-Buddhist, is that the dharma is powerful, and resonates just as deeply within American hearts as any others. Only time and practice can tell what forms of Buddhism will most effectively take root in American soil; ivory tower scholars certainly cannot. If some people come to the realization through Buddhism according to Stephen Batchelor, and others to Buddhism according to Robert Thurman, shouldn't we be all the happier that different manifestations of the dharma have reached a wider audience? What utter arrogance for someone to claim they know what dharma is. The most revered teachers in Buddhism never dared as much.

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-- Anne Connolly

Having been born in 1951, I am used to hearing how all the fine old traditions in which I become interested are tainted by my birth cohorts and me.

As Prothero suggests, American Buddhists may, in fact, be totally ruining the 2,500-year-old dharma tradition. Maybe, however, it will survive, as the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh may survive their fame. All I can say is that the practitioners I have encountered in my limited exploration have seemed very sincerely involved not in improving Buddha's way but in becoming it.

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Be that as it may, Prothero does a real disservice to Salon's readers on a couple of important points.

First, he conflates the titles of some books with their contents -- in particular Stephen Batchelor's "Buddhism Without Beliefs" and Sylvia Boorstein's "It's Easier Than You Think." Perhaps Prothero has actually read these books, but the evidence of the article indicates otherwise.

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Those who encounter "Buddhism Without Beliefs" only through Prothero's reference to it may think it's some kind of empty funny-paper Buddhism. Wrong. Batchelor argues for a challenging interpretation of the Buddha's teachings, not as religious doctrines to be believed but as a path to be embraced fully and sternly in our lives.

Similarly, Boorstein's book is a gentle introduction to vipassana meditation. Her goal, as I gathered from actually reading the book, is to introduce Americans to what meditation is like. Then her readers have to actually do the sitting. This is paltry stuff compared to locking oneself away in a monastery for a lifetime, as Prothero suggests. But it's a start, and I, for one, am grateful to have encountered it.

I am less familiar with the work of Lama Surya Das, who comes in for the worst drubbing from Prothero, but hanging the argument on "Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain" (by Ngakpa Traktung Yeshe Dorje and A'dzom Rinpoche) seems like a mistake. It turns out, when one reads it, that they are engaged in a pretty narrow sectarian dispute with another Tibetan Buddhist practitioner who's maybe threatening to cut in on their action.

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As a professor of religious studies, Prothero should have known better.

Surely Prothero is right to fear that introducing Buddhist ideas in language that modern Americans can understand loses a lot of this ancient tradition. On the other hand, it provides a bridge that people can cross to learn more and maybe even dedicate themselves to lives in which they embrace seeing beyond the self and its delusions. Is that so bad?

-- Joel W. Barna

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I read Stephen Prothero's article with interest, but skepticism.

If "New Buddhists" wish to strip down and reform what they see as an overritualized and ornamented religion into something closer to what they believe its founder's intentions were, then surely that's all part of the organic process of schism and change that all world religions continually undergo.

The parallel with the Puritans is apt, but we can surely make of that what we will. It strikes many observers of the elaborate forms of Buddhism practiced in the East that the clarity and simplicity that make the religion so appealing have been submerged. While standing in the Vatican, one might consider the actual teachings of Christ and draw a similar parallel. No one owes any deference to the traditional practitioners of a religion and there is no copyright on timeless ideas.

As for a self-absorption detected in Western adherents of Buddhism, I would say that is typical of most Western approaches to Eastern religions and may be found among robe-wearing, chanting Westerners as well those who "merely" read books.

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-- Simon Turmaine

What the author writes about the "New Buddhism" is quite true in many cases, but also true, I believe, about almost any religion. There will always be those who only partly adhere to the religious package as presented.

Even as a Quaker, I have attended Buddhist "services" and read plenty of books on the subject, from both ends of the spectrum. One of the troubling aspects of those who have gone the traditional route seems to be a fixation with the trappings -- the robe, shaved head and Japanese name. They seem more concerned with becoming "Eastern" than enlightened. What I get from scripture is that the Buddha's purpose was to teach people how to live their lives, not proper bowing technique.

There is a truer purpose to any religion than the evolved rituals in which they all are encased. I doubt if the Buddha would feel any more at home among the distractions of a Buddhist temple or monastery than Christ would in a cathedral. The Buddha knew that the true home of any belief is in the human heart.

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-- Ronald M. Horvath

OK, every religion has its trivial fringe -- the Mahayana path of commercialism. But what's trivial about the art of happiness? Here's a snappy little quote from Albert Einstein:

"Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves." (From the essay "Cosmic Religious Feeling.")

To imply that religious practice should be above these concerns is to exercise an airy virtuecracy. Buddhism's virtue is that it has its feet on the ground.

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-- George Beinhorn

Is the author really a professor of religion? He seems entirely confused by what "Zen" and "Buddhism" are all about. First off, he never distinguishes between the two Dogen, one of the great Japanese Zen masters who says, "Anybody who would regard Zen as a school of Buddhism is the devil." Secondly, both demand not to be any "religious" system or any "system" at all. (Of course, this has been ignored by legions of followers.) Thirdly, and most telling, the author states that Buddhism is about renunciation. Buddhism is about nothing of the kind! It is about denial of the self, not self-denial.

-- Tom Galczynski

It was interesting to read the article on the co-opting of Buddhism by New Age marketing types (or by those looking to sell the teachings and avoid having to get that day job).

I've been a student and practitioner of Tibetan Buddhist teachings since the early '70s. My first contact was indeed through books, but it became very obvious, once I had actually started to practice, that to enter fully one needed a relationship with a teacher.

My complaint with the article is that it only showcased two extremes -- the New Agers on one side and the monastics on the other. There is a very sizable contingent of Buddhists who actively practice traditional forms -- as taught by traditional teachers -- while maintaining a nonmonastic lifestyle. They are not mentioned in the article. This is not "read a book and pretend you're enlightened" by any means. Many people have done a lot of intensive meditation practice. Purely in terms of hours, they spend significantly more time on religious practice than the vast majority of Christians. They take the practices they have been taught very seriously, and they take lineage -- the teacher/student/teacher/student continuum -- very seriously.

And quite a few of them are pissed off at an "American Buddhism" born of New Age clichés and book-selling hucksterism.

-- Michael Sullivan

"Old school" Buddhists should be thankful; just imagine if all the white boomers with guilty consciences abandoned their so-called Native American religions -- with attendant holy men, shamans, gift shops and medicine wheels -- to become Buddhists!

-- Chris La Tray

To be sure, "painless" Buddhism is a bit of a contradiction. But the author expects too much from us. Every Catholic is not a priest; every American Buddhist need not be a monk. But, having said that, every Buddhist should incorporate practice in daily life -- by practicing "right livelihood" and (at least moderate) temperance and sacrifice.

-- Tom Barta

I was all prepared to get really upset by Stephen Prothero's article about the current state of American Buddhism. But I really can't be all that upset because he was correct about so much.

I am a daily-practicing Zen Buddhist who bows, chants, meditates, cleans the temple and is taught by a priest who wears robes and has a shaved head. There are lots of places where Buddhism is practiced in America that are the real deal, as Prothero notes.

Basically what my husband and I have noticed is that Buddhism when watered down offers a comforting message to people going through a midlife crisis. We haven't figured out why this is so, but damn if most of the people we see lapping it up aren't over 40. (We're in our mid-20s by the way.)

However, I think that when pressed most of those people would not call themselves Buddhists. They might say they have incorporated elements of Buddhism into their philosophy or that they are of another faith but find some parts of Buddhism useful. But, and it's just a guess, I think most of them would be reluctant to announce to friends that they are Buddhist and equally hesitant to formally take refuge and make the formal commitment to Buddha, dharma and sangha that marks practicing Buddhists all around the world.

But when I find myself getting worked up to heights of pomposity, I remind myself that there are plenty of devoted practicing Buddhists of all ethnicities in America to tide us over until this fad peters out. If some elements of my faith offer a soothing balm to those who are hurting, I can't be too upset.

-- Cressida Lennox Magaro

Read the story by Larry Arnhart.

While the arguments put forth by Arnhart are compelling, I would like to draw attention to a mistaken conclusion in his article. Arnhart implies that intelligent design theory is merely a cover for conservatives who want to make headway against the separation of church and state.

However, Arnhart himself acknowledges that several serious scientists have come out in favor of IDT, for various reasons. Arnhart disparages those scientists who use their faith as a motivation for support of IDT, and yet later in his own article he tries to put forth a model for bringing religious faith and scientific principles into harmony.

The fact that political conservatives are rallying behind IDT as a way to purge the public schools of Darwinism does not make IDT an invalid theory. Political conservatives have long tried to make religious faith and religious ethics their own personal playground. Their attempts to portray themselves as "true" Christians and everyone who disagrees with them as heathens does not erase the fact that there are a large majority of faithful and devout Christian people (as well as people of other faiths) who see no conflict between faith and reason. Similarly, IDT does not instantly become ridiculous simply because the Religious Wrong has decided to support it.

I think it is possible that the relationship between IDT and Darwinism may be similar to the relationship between general relativity and quantum mechanics. In one frame of reference, one theory works. In another frame of reference, the other theory works. Although they seem to be at odds with each other, I believe that eventually we will find a Grand Unified Theory of our origins that will somehow reconcile or erase these apparent differences.

-- Megan Wiseman

It is unfortunate that after an excellent discussion of the problems with IDT, Larry Arnhart concludes by invoking an equally pseudo-scientific "moral sense" argument derived from sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. If Arnhart's own standards of scientific proof can accommodate arguments that lack mechanisms and persuasive models, then I fail to see how he (and other opponents of the anti-Darwinists) can plausibly defend evolutionary theory against its critics. This is particularly true because so much of the reasoning behind IDT depends on the fallacy that complex systems cannot emerge out of the contingent interplay of features not originally functional to a newly emergent system. The kind of linear, post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking is precisely what characterizes many of the "moral sense" arguments to emerge out of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology.

Moreover, Arnhart's own ultimate argument relies on a kind of "curve fitting." That is, we should also support evolutionary theory because one (minor and controversial) branch of it has been used to support moral sense arguments, and these moral sense arguments are compatible with both Thomist notions of "infused virtues" and other religious claims about morality.

Putting aside for a moment that evolutionary accounts of the emergence of a "moral sense" vitiate the point of Thomist claims about virtue (since it would collapse the distinction between infused and natural virtues), the fact that some people (unsurprisingly) have come up with sociobiological arguments consistent with certain theological and philosophical beliefs provides no persuasive grounds for adopting those beliefs.

And, at the end of the day, it does little to assuage the opponents of evolutionary theory. Although Arnhart is correct about some of the rhetoric deployed by the anti-Darwin crowd, their ultimate motivation is less complex: the fear that scientific knowledge will render irrelevant a particular biblical version of the world that places man and God at its center. If morality can be explained via material (i.e., evolutionary) mechanisms -- as Arnhart argues -- this does little to address such underlying objections to the implications of Darwinian thought.

-- Daniel Nexon

In his article, "Assault on Evolution," Arnhart tips his spin agenda when he refers to people he has never met in clichéd terms like "the religious right."

I am a Christian who believes that the God of the Bible designed and created the world. I respect whatever others believe. I don't consider myself religious, because to me that would mean I try to reach God by obeying rules. I could never reach God with acts of goodness. I believe I am saved by faith in Jesus.

I am also not "the right." That assumes that all Christians are Republicans. I am an independent voter who takes each issue as it comes. On some I fall on the left and on some I fall on the right. On some issues I don't know what I think because I don't have enough information. That's a far cry from the stereotype of the judgmental absolutist that the term "religious right" implies.

And on the issue of alternative theories being presented in school, why should Darwinians be afraid and censor others? If that theory holds so much validity, won't it be apparent? Christians are often accused of trying to censor free expression, but this shoe seems to be on the other foot.

-- Chad Harlan

Arnhart writes: "And although [Michael] Behe is a devout Catholic, he never resorts to theological arguments."

The implication of this statement is that as a Catholic, Behe could not believe in evolution. Please understand that as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the truth is that God did create the universe, but the means by which he did so are to be determined by science.

Indeed, Pope John Paul II has gone so far as to endorse evolution. In 1996, he issued a statement about evolution, the complete text of which can be found here.

A key excerpt: "Humani Generis," he stated, "considered the doctrine of 'evolutionism' as a serious hypothesis, worthy of a more deeply studied investigation and reflection on a par with the opposite hypothesis. ... Today, more than a half century after this encyclical, new knowledge leads us to recognize in the theory of evolution more than a hypothesis ... The convergence, neither sought nor induced, of results of work done independently one from the other, constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory."

So Behe's beliefs about evolution are actually contradictory to what the Catholic Church believes. So please don't drag his religion into this.

-- Annette Mertens

Although I have no problem with people preferring a theory that takes religion into account explicitly, I can't help but think that intelligent design theory is merely wish fulfillment and otherworldly comfort (Nietzsche is currently spinning in his grave, I'm sure.) If IDT proponents wish to take credit for the complexity of the universe, then they must explain (using their creator) things Darwinists explain via a chaotic, impersonal nature.

Unfortunately, taking these things into account makes an impersonal universe ironically more comforting than a God does. God would have had to intelligently design a tendency in males to judge women on appearances, a tendency in females to judge men upon resources except when they are most fertile, when symmetry becomes more important. God would have had to intelligently design why new male mates kill and/or eat the young of their mate when they arrive, why women abort or kill weak fetuses, why men kill each other in their attempts, either direct or indirect, to mate. Either science must take into account all of the psychological and philosophical implications of what it purports its research means.

I don't want to hear the devil excuse, because he certainly was intelligently created like everything else if he does exist. When I meet people who can accept the bad with the good and are willing to give the creator responsibility for genocide as well as fluffy kittens, then I will happily no longer see IDT as a wish-fulfilling pipe dream. Until then, I remain something of a Darwinist, not irreligious, per se, but certainly not pretending to know what the creator thought when he created child molesters and the like.

-- Liz Lyons

Intelligent design is neither good science nor an adequate argument against evolution. The belief in intelligent design boils down to this: The world is so complex, there is no way it could have ended up this way by chance. Therefore, it was designed to be this complex, and if it was designed, there must be a designer. And if there are flaws in the design, the designer did it on purpose, for reasons only the designer knows.

At no step in this argument is a theory being presented that can be tested scientifically! If you present this new "theory" from front to back, it reads exactly like creationism. An intelligent designer created this complex world for reasons known only to the designer. If it doesn't make sense, who are we to question it, because it was designed that way for the designer's purpose. Argh! No amount of reasoning helps this make sense as a theory. It's a belief, and always will be a belief, and shouldn't even be discussed in the same breath as science.

-- Jason Betke

The problem with teaching intelligent design theory in school as an alternative to Darwinism is that (1) it is not an alternative to Darwinism and (2) there is no evidence for it that makes it an alternative worthy of being taught. To say that it is not an alternative to Darwinism is to say that random mutation and natural selection -- the essence of Darwinism -- are not incompatible with directed evolution -- evolution toward a specified design. In fact, mutation and natural selection may be the mechanisms to evolve species toward such an "intelligent" design, if the intelligent design has selection benefits. However, no one knows if the "ultimate" goal of evolution is such an "intelligent" design. It is a matter of belief, and can well be driven by a religious perspective. But as science, there is no basis for teaching it as a theory.

-- Harry Sticker

The so-called theory called intelligent design rests on a nonfalsifiable assumption: The complexity of the cell cannot be explained. This is, of course, utter nonsense. Structures leading to the creation of amino acids and other complex organic structures have been created readily in the laboratory as long as 60 years ago (Urey, University of Chicago).

The scientific illiteracy in this country is bad enough without the help of these yahoos (apologies to the Web site) helping it along.

-- Charles Kelber

Presented with a rather technical scientific debate, Salon has chosen to bring us the deep thoughts of a civics teacher from DeKalb. Surely, then, we must conclude that a dispassionate question of scientific fact is not what is at issue here.

There was, I do concede, one interesting fact in Arnhart's tedious article: At the Waco event sponsored by the Discovery Institute -- nefarious would-be inquisitors -- two sides of a scientific controversy were presented in a collegial debate. Pity that we can't do the same in a public school classroom without Professor Arnhart and his kind getting their knickers in a secular twist.

Surely the First Amendment is intended to protect debate rather than to suffocate it.

-- Kevin D. Williamson

I've read Behe's book on intelligent design and if you consistently apply his reasoning about irreducible complexity, Behe's argument can only lead to the theory of one-time special creationism. Behe cites the clotting of blood as an example of irreducible complexity; but blood needs veins and arteries and a heart and they all need a brain and a nervous system, which needs an animal body, which needs a long-term food supply, etc. Using Behe's own logic you must conclude that everything had to be created at once if there is even one example of irreducible complexity.

Behe's error probably lies in his assumptions that our human intelligence can apprehend whatever the reality is and that the logic of syntax adequately reflects that reality.

-- Steve McKinney

Assume IDIOT (intelligent design is outlandish theory) is an acronym suitable for those who believe the theory. Would refer them, and Larry Arnhart, to "The Blind Watchmaker" by Richard Dawkins (no, not that Richard Dawkins). It is subtitled "Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," published in 1987 by W.W. Norton. It effectively and totally demolishes the entire silly notion of an intelligent creator, or Blind Watchmaker, aka God.

-- Rob Klaus

What if the proponents of IDT turn out to be right and there is an intelligent designer of the universe? First of all, it's unlikely they'll ever be able to prove it, as the theory still lacks any repeatable mechanism by which it can be tested, which makes it no more valid as science than old-style creationism. And even if that fatal flaw could be overcome and the existence of an intelligent designer proven, the conservative Christians behind the movement shouldn't make the leap that the designer is their "personal god," who opposes such things as sin, rock music and Democrats. It seems likely that such a designer would be more like the god of the deists, who put the universe into motion but is not personally involved in its day-to-day workings -- "Nature's god" cited by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. In other words, this particular god probably wouldn't care about sin, rock music or Democrats -- and therefore, it will be a terrible disappointment to those who are so anxious to get theocracy through the back door cloaked in the guise of science.

-- James A. Bartlett

By way of introduction, I am a person who basks in the faith to believe in a loving creator who is so intimately involved with me as a person that he knew me before the foundation of the world, to quote a reputable source.

This was a worthwhile and thought-provoking piece. Still, I'm confused as to its wrap-up assertion that "science" and what the author calls religious traditions are compatible. The author seems to require that we continue to define "science" as evolutionary theory -- when he just got through writing a whole article to suggest that there were alternate scientific theories.

I certainly agree that science, as evidenced in the whole of creation before us, is entirely compatible with faith in the designer. It's no different than the fact that an elaborate birthday cake that my mother would make for me -- with my name and her sentiments for my best written all over it -- is evidence not only her specific design but also of her abundant and intimate love.

I must disagree with the second-to-last paragraph, however, which reads, "Many thinkers have seen no contradiction between biblical theology and Darwinian evolution. God could have chosen to create everything in six days. Or he could have chosen to create a universe governed by natural laws in which life would evolve gradually over millions of years. God could also have chosen to allow a moral sense to evolve in human beings."

Biblical theology asserts that man fell from grace and is in need of a redeemer. Evolutionary philosophy, through the force of the survival of the fittest, asserts that man is getting better and will eventually evolve out of any need he has for a relationship with God to be restored. (Oops! I err -- it actually holds that the relationship if it ever existed was never broken in the first place.) Indeed, as this line of thinking is extended out logically, he will likely evolve out of his need for the God who created him. (Remember that the author is asserting that evolution and God as a creator are compatible.) This is because he will ultimately evolve to perfection, and will be like God. At the end of time, we're brought full circle back to Genesis 3:5.

Here we must question what the author knows about the person he calls God. Is he a big fat cat that bankrolls an enterprise, sets up a bureaucracy and expects it to run like a good business, expanding his power (and ego to boot)? In such a setup, I'm afraid I am still little more than an accident. And such a God still knows nothing more about me than he would know about anybody else. God might as well hold the office of political leader. How dismal. What despair.

The Bible to which Larry Arnhart refers assures him that God is a person, who knows Larry intimately, and who so loved Larry that God poured himself out that he may fellowship with him forever. Not only that, but Larry is assured that this all would've happened even if he was the only person on the face of the earth. As a matter of fact God is so mind-boggling that he's capable of directing the same force of love to everyone else at the same time.

I've privately told each of my two boys at one time or another that I love him the most. Invariably the response has been, "You mean you love me more than my brother?" My answer flowed naturally from my intimate relationship with God: "No, I love your brother the most too!"

Thank you for the excellent article.

-- Diane Hazard

As an avid reader in biology, I am fully aware that the questions of "intelligent design" have been plaguing evolutionary biologists for a century. No matter how hard they've tried, they haven't found intermediate steps that lead directly to the complex biochemistry found in even the simplest forms of life.

That said, it's not necessary to immediately invoke an omnipotent creator. The very latest findings from biology -- including the newly emerging fields of quantum biology and quantum evolution -- clearly demonstrate that highly improbable events (such as the ragtag assembly of just the right amino acids in just the right order) can happen, given the right conditions. Biology, at the atomic level, possesses the same qualities of indeterminacy and multiplicity as the still-being-developed quantum computer; that is, a "multiverse" of options can be explored for a "solution" to a given "problem." (Don't try to take these words too literally, because there's not teleology implied.) The central thesis is as follows: Biology can exploit 10-to-the-500th worlds to find the right chain of events to produce cellular respiration. This is exactly analogous to the technique by which quantum computers will be able to explore those universes in search of "cracking" encryption codes.

There's solid science behind this, as opposed to the speculations of the "intelligent design" crew. The best book (for the layperson) in this field is "Quantum Evolution: The New Science of Life" written by Johnjoe McFadden, and just published in the U.S.

-- Mark Pesce

The real issue is not whether or not evolution, or a particular theory of evolution, is correct. The real issue is whether teachers should be encouraged or, worse, required to mislead elementary and secondary school students about science. There is an issue of fact here. I'm not talking about the fact of evolution, but rather the fact that virtually all scientists working in the life sciences accept evolution. The reality is that the "design" theory is a fringe theory that plays no significant role in modern biological research. The role of teachers of science is not to second-guess the judgment of the people who are actually making the discoveries -- it is to accurately convey to students the content of that research and the theories that drive modern scientific discovery. The evidence that has led biologists to accept evolution is extensive and highly technical, and most of it is far beyond the scope of an introductory course. To give creation/design theory and evolutionary theory equal weight is to grossly misrepresent their status in the biological community, and is fundamentally dishonest.

-- Terrell Gibbs

Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's "Candide" most aptly summarized the counterargument to this point of view. My memory isn't perfect, but the quote goes something like this: "Ah, what a wonderful nose, obviously designed to hold spectacles."

-- Noah Stern


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