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Scientists Explore Origins of Life

'Intelligent design' is focus of gathering Published at Kansas City Star

One Correction to this story from CRSC Fellow Jonathan Wells:
To the Editor of the Kansas City Star:

In her otherwise well-written and accurate article, ‘Scientists explore origins of life’ (The Kansas City Star, July 16, 2000, p. B1), Kate Beem incorrectly attributes to me the statement: ‘Ignorance is a better alternative’ than an incorrect scientific theory. What I actually said was: ‘A CONFESSION of ignorance is a better alternative.’ Knowledge is certainly better than ignorance. But knowledge must be based on truth, and much of the so-called ‘evidence’ that biology textbooks use to teach
Darwinian evolution is false.

Jonathan Wells, Ph.D.
Discovery Institute
Seattle, WA

end correction————————-

Jonathan Wells doesn’t dispute that evolution occurs. He just doesn’t think it explains the whole rich and varied narrative of life.

And throwing out evolution, the theory that living things share common ancestors but have changed over time, doesn’t necessarily require inserting another theory in its place, Wells told about 450 people attending a scientific symposium Saturday at Rockhurst High School.

‘You can dump an obviously incorrect scientific theory without having an alternative,’ said Wells, who holds doctoral degrees in molecular and cell biology and religious studies. ‘Ignorance is a better alternative.’

But Wells was speaking at a national symposium sponsored by the Intelligent Design Network, a local group whose mission is to promote public awareness of ‘intelligent design.’ The theory holds that intelligent causes are responsible for the origin of the universe and life and its diversity.

The conference came a day after a weeklong observance in Kansas of the 75th anniversary of the John Scopes ‘monkey trial.’ Members of the pro-evolution group Kansas Citizens for Science distributed leaflets Saturday morning outside the Rose Theater as the symposium began.

Scopes Week and the intelligent design event had the same origin: the vote in August 1999 by the Kansas Board of Education to remove the age of the earth, the big bang theory and some aspects of evolutionary theory from state science standards.

Intelligent-design supporters hail the board’s decision as a vote for academic freedom. Wells and others say scientists who reject the evidence for evolution in favor of design aren’t taken seriously by the scientific community, which chooses to ignore the flaws in the evolutionary theory first advanced in the mid-1800s by naturalist Charles Darwin.

Take a set of drawings by Ernst Haeckel, Darwin’s contemporary. The drawings depict several species of animals in various embryonic stages.

In the drawings, the embryos are strikingly similar.

The drawings later were shown to be fakes, Wells said, and Haeckel admitted as much before his death. But the drawings are still used in modern biology textbooks, Wells said, which amounts to perpetuating fraud.

Scientists counter that the inaccuracy of Haeckel’s drawings doesn’t justify throwing out a theory the consensus accepts. John Richard Shrock, an Emporia State University professor attending the conference, said Haeckel exaggerated the similarities between embryos, but some features in his drawings were correct.

But scientists continue to use Haeckel’s drawings because they don’t have better evidence, said Joseph Mastropaolo, an emeritus professor of biomechanics and physiology at California State University-Long Beach. Mastropaolo traveled from California to attend the Kansas City conference.

Mastropaolo praised the conference, especially the speakers. On Saturday, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, addressed the symposium.

‘The conference is really the people who present,’ said Mastropaolo, who’s also an adjunct faculty member at the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego. ‘You can’t find anybody better than Behe and Wells.’