Revisiting evolution

By TOM HUMPHREY

A Tennessee lawmaker proposes to use the legislative process to get an answer to the question of whether the universe was created by a “Supreme Being.”

Under the measure, introduced by Republican state Sen. Raymond Finney, the answer would come from state Education Commissioner Lana Seivers “in report form” no later than Jan. 15, 2008.

Finney, a retired physician, said Monday that his objective is to formally prod the Department of Education into a dialogue about the teaching of evolution in school science classes without also teaching the alternative of “creationism,” or “intelligent design.”

The move would thus renew a debate that has raged off and on in the Tennessee Legislature since at least 1925, when the 64th General Assembly enacted a law forbidding the teaching of evolution — setting the stage for the famous John Scopes “monkey trial” in Dayton, Tenn., later that year.

Finney said there is no doubt in his own mind that everything in the universe, including human beings, was created by a Supreme Being.

“There has never been any proof offered that Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct,” he said.

“I’m not demanding that she (Seivers) to do anything,” he said, “just asking, ‘Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?’ ”

He said the resolution is “giving her the opportunity to say, ‘You’re wrong. There is no creationism.’ ”

As the resolution is written, if Seivers does answer no to the first question — stating that the universe was not created by a Supreme Being — she would be offered “the General Assembly’s admiration for being able to decide conclusively a question that has long perplexed and occupied the attention of scientists, philosophers, theologians, educators and others.”

But if she answers yes, or states that the answer to the creation of the universe is uncertain, then there is a follow-up question that must also be answered: Why is creationism not being taught in Tennessee schools?

Finney said he suspects that Seivers would answer that the means of creation of the universe is uncertain. Seivers was not available for comment.

But Bruce Opie, legislative liaison for the Department of Education, said state policy has been “over the last several years” that it is appropriate to teach students about creationism in religion or sociology classes, but not in biology classes.

“As far as his (Finney’s) question embedded in this resolution, I am a little bit confused,” said Opie. “It’s awfully interesting that he wants an answer from the person sitting as commissioner.”

The State Board of Education actually decides curriculum for public school courses, he said, and Seivers is basically bound by those board decisions.

As a Senate resolution, the measure needs approval only by the Senate — where Finney and fellow Republicans have a majority of members — to become effective as a formal request to Seivers. The Democrat-dominated House need not take any action.

The 1925 statute banning the teaching of evolution in Tennessee was passed by the General Assembly in March. Teacher Scopes was charged with violating the law and went on trial in July.

He was convicted and fined $100, but the conviction was overturned two years later by the state Supreme Court. The statute was repealed by the Legislature in 1967.

(Contact Tom Humphrey of The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee at www.knoxnews.com.)

25 Responses to "Revisiting evolution"

  1. Ric Carter  February 28, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    Who/what designed/created the designer/creator? What’s the source of that meta-designer/creator? What testable evidence supports the notion of such designers/creators? How many superior entities exist, and how can we count them, if any?

    If humans were designed/created by one or more superior entities, why was such a bad job done on our implementation (eyes, back, tonsils, appendix, etc.)? Did the superior entities intend to design/create Nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, etc, or are those just unintended consequences, and what does their existence say about the competence of designer(s)/creator(s)?

    I think it was Ben Franklin who pointed out that belief in a designer leads to serious questions about such a designer. Are believers willing to face those implications honestly? I doubt it.

  2. Mike  February 28, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    The issue is not exactly about science and the teaching of evolution. I look at this issue as being essentially the same as the manger on the courthouse lawn fight.

    There is nothing keeping churches from teaching creationism or “intelligent design” in their tax-exempt churches and the ACLU would fight to the death to protect a church’s right to display a manger on its own lawn. So why do they fight these other fights?

    Obviously what is going on is something a little different than the surface issue. They want to recruit school children into their death-worshipping cults on public school grounds, they want to subjugate the public forum. That is the heart of evangelism.

    They are dangerous and need to be kept in their pens ( tax-exempt churches ) and out of government.

  3. Sandy Price  February 28, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I have always been a fan of the evolution of mankind. If nothing else it makes me feel important than I managed to survive all the ice ages and global warming cycles and here I am. In the last couple of months, I went on extended cable reception and found the “Science Channel” and spend easily 50% of my time on television learning about the universe and mankind and how we survived for billions of years. Somehow it makes the story of the bible read like a silly television series.

    I believe the humans have the capacity to learn both the creation and evolution without harm to themselves.

    I love the thought that my fat Siamese cat came from some mammouth fanged- tooth monster and my late and great labrador “Kate” came from the wolf pack. I read in Crichton’s latest book that blondes are originally from the light skilled Neanderthal species and are superior in their brain power than just plain old homosapiens. Yeah! I can buy that as I am a natural blonde from birth. Nobody told me I was superior until I read Crichton’s “Next.”

  4. Rob Kezelis  February 28, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    It appears as though evolution works in both ways, and the gentleman from Tennessee is proof positive that humanity has the ability to regress into something less evolved.

  5. Bill Jonke  February 28, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    To Rob Kezelis:

    Oh Yes!

  6. Kent Shaw  March 1, 2007 at 2:44 am

    .

    Ahem… People… FOCUS! Evolution versus intelligent design… PLEASE! People are DYING all over the Middle East because of an illegal neoconservative war.

    .

    Come on…

    .

  7. Carl Nemo  March 1, 2007 at 4:00 am

    Hi Kent…As you well know “all” of the posters concerning this story are highly focused and presumably pro-active too, but occasionally we need some diversion when this type lunacy pops up. I do find it interesting that some fundie republican from Tennessee is causing this fracas. They manage to disrupt and attack all areas of human endeavor. They are perrennial meddlers with actions that are regressive and dark, from evolution to waging bogus wars of aggression in distant lands. We can only hope the republican party becomes vestigial, then “extinct” in terms of this nation’s body politic…!

  8. JimZ  March 1, 2007 at 5:21 am

    GOP – go the way of the Whigs…

  9. Mike  March 1, 2007 at 6:05 am

    Glom

    Of

    Parasites

  10. Matt James  March 1, 2007 at 6:25 am

    “There has never been any proof offered that Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct, “he said.

    Mightn’t that be because if it had been proven it would no longer be referred to as a theory, but, rather, as a fact? A theory, after all, is nothing more than a general set of propositions widely accepted as providing a framework for study by true scholars in any given field.

  11. PonderingItAll  March 1, 2007 at 6:28 am

    In 17th century England Whigs opposed the Tories. The Tories were hereditary nobles and royals with ideas so conservative that we would now consider them sociopathic serial-killers. The Whigs favored reforms that would recognize some rights for all white men, (fewer rights for everybody else of course), and thought that a man’s contribution to society, commerce, science, engineering, etc. should determine his position rather than his lineage. So Whigs were some of the first liberals! They even changed their name to The Liberal Party eventually.

    I think the conflicting ideas behind the Tory/Whig conflict live on today as Republican/Democrat. Of course the party names changed over time, (IE. Abe Lincoln was am American Whig before he joined the Republican Party, but he would certainly be a Democrat if he was alive today.), but the issue of concentrated wealth and power versus greater equality has always been the central issue.

  12. Marilyn Helmer  March 1, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Well, Creation is intelligent. And, there does seem to be an order, a plan to it.

    Could a great Intelligence, or Intelligences have envisioned a plan that evolution serves to manifest? Life forms do progress. Mutation happens.

    Arguing about eiter/or requires the abolishment of one idea or the other. It does not make any sense to abolish fact. And, myths do have truth at their base, though many may not see it.

  13. Jim  March 1, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Fenney is absolutely brilliant. Obviously he knows a lot about the mythology of evolution. Too bad so many out there have been mesmerized into believing in the religion of Darwin.

    If the people who believe (and it IS a belief system) in evolution would do some deep studying in biology, and if they had normal logic capabilities they would cast away their belief in evolution post-haste.

    Here is a way to solve this argument, once and for all. Have the evolutionists build a copy of one of the so-called simple celled ‘creatures’ from SCRATCH, that is, starting at the molecular level. The place where evolutionists say life started by accident. Since the cell is so extremely complex, don’t wait for the scientists to make one, they CAN’T.

    Evoluton is the most clever ruse that has ever been foisted into/onto the ‘intellect’ mankind.

  14. Markus  March 1, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Matt,

    “Mightn’t that be because if it had been proven it would no longer be referred to as a theory, but, rather, as a fact?”

    Theories don’t become facts. Facts are simply data that are stringed together to form theories. Evolution is once such theory that rests on so many facts, like common descent, that it doesn’t have much to worry about from extremist right-wing politicians.

  15. Marilyn Helmer  March 2, 2007 at 1:41 am

    Who said the amoeba came to life by accident?

  16. Desotobul  March 5, 2007 at 6:27 am

    Fans of evolution always cite evidence for their claims, but not one piece of evidence cited has ever been validated.

    Macroevolution by its very nature cannot be tested. Microevolution, without validation of Macroevolution devolves to the genetics of Mendel which does not allow excursions beyond the species level (stasis) and all changes are variations within designated gene pools. Natural selection works to stabilize gene pools, not to disrupt them. Natural selection can only reduce or maintain information. It cannot create new information required for excursions beyond gene pool limits.

  17. Carl Nemo  February 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    “Finney said there is no doubt in his own mind that everything in the universe, including human beings, was created by a Supreme Being.

    “There has never been any proof offered that Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct,” he said.”

    It’s stunning to think that Finney is a physician who supposely made it through medical school which is a science-based curriculum…?! Notice Finney says that everything was created by a Supreme Being and he has no doubt in his “own mind” that it is so! Using an infamous George Bush response to a reporter while he was on his first campaign trail…”who cares what you think Finney”. Tennessee is the home of the infamous Scopes Monkey trial, it’s focus being the outlawing of the teaching of the theory of evolution. He’s putting the education commissioner Lana Seivers on the spot to provide an ultimate answer to a theory?! If she could fill in all the blanks for this questioning M.D. then she’d be right up there with Darwin et. al. My rebuttal to him is, please have your Supreme Being, through one of his “angels” contact me immediately if not sooner with proof that he’s responsible for all that we see from the most distant quasar to etherial quarks and everything in between! Rest assured there will be no response forthcoming. I’ll provide Commissioner Seivers with some links that might help her in her quest for supportive material concerning evolution. I’m also providing a link for Senator Finney-R Tennessee; i.e., a helpful link to help him get past his delusional obsession concerning a Supreme being and other such related “down-home” nonsense. Btw Finney it’s time I broke the news to you, there ain’t no Santa Claus either…!:))

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/evolution7.htm

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/change/deeptime/index.html

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/change/deeptime/paleoz.html

    http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/deeptime/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestigial_organ

    http://godisimaginary.com/

  18. Kaine  February 28, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I don’t understand how “Education Commissioner Lana Seivers” is supposed to know definatly how the universe was created. I guess she has some kind of inside track or is a psychic or something?

    -

    Personally, I want to see proof of a “Supreme Being” before any proof of how the universe happened. I mean, how could the universe have been created by such a supreme being if we have no proof that a supreme being even exists?

    -

    BAH!

  19. Martin Izerman  February 28, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Finney’s argument leads me to question evolution. If he is a duly elected representative of the people of Tennessee and any of his constituants actually understand and accept his logic, then clearly the human race hasn’t evolved nearly as far as I’d thought.

    Is he grandstanding, misquoted or nuts?

  20. Bat  February 28, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Let the churches continue to teach their superstition…it’s the only reason for their existance in the first place. Science can be proven, and we learn more every day about the evolution of the universe to prove more theories every day.

    I have never seen any proof of the supernatural, which is simply a way to explain what people don’t understand yet. I think there is so much to be learned about our own Earth, the people on it, the power of the individual mind, that there should be a law against wasting time on ghost-hunting!

    Natural selection can be proven. Intelligent design cannot, therefore it is not Science and should not be treated as such.

    Of course, since at least three-quarters of the population believes in some sort of ‘Creator’, it’s going to be a tough sell.

    Faith is a very personal thing, apart from Religious rules and regs, and should not be taught as science.

  21. Bill Jonke  February 28, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Apparently, Finney is going to have to “kick it” in order to find his answer.

    To go through legislative channels and ask this question, wasting government time while he does, is just absurd.

  22. JimZ  February 28, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    Are religious-wacko Kansans moving to Tennessee?

    GOOD RIDDANCE!

  23. ron.kay  February 28, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    …when you inbreed with your cousins, you’re bound to be a little slow on the uptake of enlightenment…..intelligent design belongs in a comparative religion class…..not a science class.

    and since we know the hillbillies would never entertain adding such a class to their local school system he should just take his medication….lay off the kool-aid and just wander back to his shack, where he’ll be a lot more comfortable and useful.

  24. Calico_jack  February 28, 2007 at 4:56 pm

    “There has never been any proof offered that Darwin’s theory of evolution is correct,” he said.

    Uh…okay…except for the evidence (Darwin’s finches, antibiotic resistance, DNA polymorphisms, Dinosaurs, all the ape men skeletons…and on and on and on…) that has been offered that Darwin’s theory is correct. Of course we have these conversations a million times: the scienctific community makes a rational argument, then everyone who doesn’t want it to be true sticks their fingers in their ears and goes “bla bla bla bla bla bla bla” until their opponent gives up and they claim victory.

  25. Steve Horn  February 28, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Interesting – how if you listen to those who buy into the fantasy of “intelligent design” you discover that, if it is true, it does not lead to intelligent people.

    Substitution of faith for science has been tried before – anybody recall reading about the “dark ages” ???

    Peace

    Steve

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