Articles

Endangered Salmon

PORTLAND, OREGON–For years the Army Corps of Engineers has been chewing over the best way to bring back endangered populations of salmon and steelhead along the Snake River. The most controversial proposal –embraced by environmentalists and bitterly resisted by many local residents–is to breach four hydropower dams on the Snake River, a tributary of the Columbia River in Idaho and Read More ›

Public needn’t fear budgetary ‘train wreck’ rhetoric

The noise you hear coming from Washington, D.C. is not the screeching prelude to a budgetary “train wreck.” It’s only the noise of a rhetoric wreck. There is nothing at all unusual about the failure of Congress and the President to reach agreement on a budget by the formal deadline, October 1 (this Sunday). And the “crisis” over the debt Read More ›

United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Drinking Water, Fisheries, and Wildlife

United States SenateCommittee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Drinking Water, Fisheries, and Wildlife Hearings on the Reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act July 13, 1995 Comments of Mark L. Plummer, Ph.D. Senior Fellow, Discovery Institute In 1973, when Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, its members believed the goal of banishing extinction was imperative and within quick reach. Read More ›

Tithing tax break offers better reform

Wailing critics in Washington, D.C. would like you to believe that America’s poor are about to be devastated by plans to block grant welfare funds and send them to the states. The House of Representative’s desire to add specific mandates to that approach simply raises the wailing to a higher pitch.But the truth is that 70 of the 80 major Read More ›

Endangered Species and the Profit Motive:

“My own gropings come to a dead end,” the conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote more than forty years ago, “when I try to appraise the profit motive. For a full generation the American conservation movement has been substituting the profit motive for the feat motive, yet it has failed to motivate. We can all see profit in conservation practice, but the Read More ›

Endless campaign a poor way to choose a president

In the recent dog days of summer, over a hundred people showed up at Seattle’s Washington Institute to meet one of the superficially more improbable candidates for President in 1996, the articulate black Republican, Alan Keyes. A former Reagan Administration official, Keyes believes that the decline of the family is the central problem in society, around which almost all other Read More ›

Ecology

For more than 90 years, the national forests and grasslands that cover more than 8% of the United States have effectively been all things to all people. Loggers regarded them as reserves of low-cost timber, easily reached on government-built roads. Vacationers treated them as giant playgrounds, studded with picnic areas and campsites. Environmentalists wanted them to be nature reserves, minimally Read More ›

A Report on the ASA Conference Debate on Pandas and People Textbook

On Sunday, July 23, 1995, at its annual meeting, the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), an organization of Christians in the sciences, sponsored a debate on the supplemental biology textbook Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: Haughton, 1993). This 170 page book, written by the biologists Dean Kenyon and Percival Davis, has engendered controversy since it was first published in 1989. Intended for use in public school classrooms as a constitutionally unobjectionable presentation of the notion of “intelligent design,” Pandas has found opposition wherever it is considered by state textbook adoption panels or school boards.

Pandas raises many issues, among them the scientific soundness of “intelligent design,” the empirical adequacy of neo-Darwinism, and the proper content of science education. Thus, members of the ASA resolved to air these differences in a debate, and invited Michael Behe, an associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, and Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, to take opposing sides, with Behe defending Pandas, and Miller critiquing it.

Paul Nelson attended this meeting. What follows are his observations.

This is my report on the recent (July 23) ASA Behe/Miller debate about the book Of Pandas and People. Actually, I’ll have much more to say about my conversations with Ken Miller than about the debate itself. Like Mike Behe, I’d judge the debate a draw, or, perhaps more accurately, a stalemate. Ken wanted to hear how we (the design guys) explained the fossil record and earth history, and we wanted Ken to explain how complex biological systems evolved. Because neither Mike nor I had much to say about the fossil record, and because Ken pled ignorance about the actual mechanisms of evolution, I think the audience was left in some frustration (or confusion). Pandas took some genuine hits from Ken, but none, I think, that would sink the book. Certainly (as Mike pointed out), Ken’s own textbook Biology (Prentice-Hall) has problems – some of which Ken very honorably offered to fix in the next edition – and I think nearly all the problems Ken mentioned with Pandas are reparable, without affecting the book’s distinctive intelligent design thesis.

That thesis, of course, can’t be “fixed” (removed to accomodate methdological naturalism) without destroying Panda’s very raison d’etre. But I’ll come to that issue later. When Steve Meyer originally approached me about taking his place as “resident philosopher” at the debate, he mentioned that Ken was going to be Mike’s opponent. When I heard that, I couldn’t say no. Ever since I began reading his essays on the creation/evolution debate, in the early 1980s, Ken has struck me as the opponent I’d least like to face in a debate – in other words, as the most effective and articulate spokesman for the received view of evolution. When I heard him speak at the 1993 AAAS meeting in Boston, on intelligent design (and why organisms showed evidence of unintelligent design), I thought, now here’s someone I’d like to talk to, one-on-one, about evolution, because unlike the agnostics I usually talk to at the University of Chicago, who find problems with every evolutionary idea, he sure seems to know how the process works.

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The Wizard of NMFS

The story so far: It is a calm day in the Sound of Puget. Dorothy, our heroine, is washing her sports utility vehicle in the driveway of her 6000 square-foot farmhouse, fresh from applying herbicides to the north-forty acres of lawn. Her pet sea lion, Herschel, frolics in the suds that run down the driveway into the storm sewer. Suddenly, Read More ›

A Look at New Approaches to Conservation

Every month since 1993, about 30 environmentalists, loggers, biologists, union representatives and local government officials have met the library of Quincy–a timber town in northern California that has been the site of a nasty 15-year battle over logging. Out of these monthly meetings has emerged a plan to manage 2.4 million acres of the surrounding national forests. Instead of leaving Read More ›