The Cowtown Humanist - Part 1
The Official E-Mail Publication of the Humanists of Fort Worth
A chapter of the American Humanist Association,
and allied with the Council for Secular Humanism
March 2003 Volume 4, No. 12
E-mailed March 3, 2003
Ft. Worth Humanists Get
Serious About Darwin
Professor Chambers Talks About Confronting Creation-
ism, Avoiding Social Darwinism, Facing Human "De-
thronement," and Accounting for Transitional Links
meeting of the Humanists of Fort Worth was held at Borders Books, Music and
Cafe in southwest Fort Worth on the 194th anniversary of the births of both
Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin: February 12, 2003. Prof. James Chambers of
TCU addressed the need for free-thinkers to "Take Darwin Seriously."
began by pointing out the circumstances that led to Darwin going public with his
findings when he did.
another Englishman, Alfred Russell Wallace, who did not know of Darwin's work,
came to similar evolutionary conclusions as Darwin while working independently
in Asia and Brazil. When Wallace developed the idea of evolution/natural
selection, Darwin had been researching and refining it for over two decades.
When they learned of each others' discoveries, they scheduled a joint
presentation in London in 1858. The two scholars were honored with equal
credit. However, because of his head start, Darwin was able to quickly publish
his writings, including his book, "On the Origin of Species by Means of
Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for
Life" (1859) or "The Origin of Species" for short. Wallace
wasn't that far along, and the result is that everyone now knows about Darwin,
while nobody remembers Wallace.
then shared his thoughts on the full implications of Darwinism, and the common
failure to face up to them. He sees it as the "duty" of Humanists and
others who believe in the truth of science over religious myth to be more
deliberate in defending the scientific claim of evolution. He offered three
STAND UP TO FALSE THEORIES
(1) We must
more firmly rebut the fallacies of Creationism. Too often we don't take them
seriously, and just ignore them. The problem with that is that so many people
believe their nonsense. The practitioners of Creationism, who claim that all
believers must interpret the Bible literally, do a lot of psychological damage.
An example is
the case of Dr. Michael Dini, a professor of biology at Texas Tech University,
who is currently under an outrageous attack by creationists -- because he
refuses to give a personal recommendation to medical school to any student who
doesn't believe in evolution.
and political-savvy Institute for Creation Research has filed legislative bills
to provide equal school time for their Biblical conclusions. Some of these have
been enacted into law.
these fundamentalists, the earth was created quite recently, in 4004 B.C. They
argue that evolution is but a wild theory, and should not exclude other
theories of origin (even though they exclude all other theories but the
Christian Biblical one). They like to claim that the transitional forms of life
that Darwinism implies have not been found, and that this marvelous, complex
world could not exist without an intelligent (and supernatural) designer.
Creationists have argued that complex organs and functions, like the eye, are
inconceivable without some divine designer to put the components together.
RESPONDING TO QUESTIONS
professor of ancient history I know that many ancient texts, such as the Bible,
were not intended to be read in a literal sense. To read them literally is to
misunderstand them, to impose a modern outlook on pre-modern writers.
Evolution may be
just a theory, but so is the theory of gravity, and there is no debate that
gravity exists. Our concept of a "theory" is a well-tested, refined,
and evolving way of explaining things. And we have found many of the
transitional, so-called "missing" links. The transition from reptiles
to mammals is fairly complete, as is the transition from the large,
land-dwelling mammal that became a whale. There's also the hominid sequence
leading to human development.
that eyes, etc., have evolved from basic, barely light-sensitive receptors, to
receptors that could sense the direction of light sources, to gradually more
complex mechanisms, to the 3-dimensional, color-distinguishing, self-focusing
orbs we are equipped with today.
And evolution is
an ongoing, theory-developing, scientific process.Today, biologists differ
somewhat from Darwin, who believed in a gradual transformation of large
populations of animals. They now acknowledge that stability is the norm, in a
individually and collectively learn all we can about the subject so we can
respond intelligently and confidently to the increasingly well-organized, and
RETAIN HUMANISTIC REASON
Avoid over-extending the Darwinian ideas of natural selection. Some of what is
claimed on behalf of Darwinism is itself dangerous. Social Darwinism is too
rigidly wed to the negative concepts of "survival of the fittest,"
and abandonment of the poor and unfortunate. These horrific concepts fostered
some of the worst excesses of the industrial revolution. Some Socio-biologists
argue that evolution has made wars inevitable, and some even that rape and
other carnal acts are a natural expression of human desire.
humans are cultural animals. Darwin was talking about differential success in
reproduction, which might arise out of cooperation among animals, like a
wolfpack, or a colony of ants.
ACCEPT THE UNPOPULAR PARTS, TOO
(3) We must
accept the full implications of Darwinism. Many educated people embrace the
general idea of evolution, but resist embracing Darwinism fully.
explained this phenomena some years ago when he wrote an article titled,
"Spin-Doctoring Darwin." His mantra was outlined thusly: "Humans
are not the end result of a predictable progress, but rather a fortuitous,
cosmic afterthought; a tiny twig on the enormously arborescent bush of life,
which, if replanted from seed, would almost surely not grow that human twig
again." Life is so random, he says, that if the process were to be run again,
it's most likely that we wouldn't be here. For example, 65 million years ago,
if the meteorite hadn't wiped out most species, including the dinosaurs, and
opened the way for mammals, we and our fellow humans wouldn't be here today.
Many people have trouble facing up to the "dethronement" of humans as
being the focus of the evolutionary picture.
As an example,
Darwin and Wallace reasoned side-by-side for a number of years. But Wallace
eventually insisted on introducing an element of theism into his evolutionary
theory in order to account for humans. Darwin wrote a letter to Wallace saying,
"I hope you have not murdered too completely your own and my child."
The point is,
can we face up to the full implications of the Darwinian idea; the idea that
humans were not created as a super-species, but rather evolved from the
lowliest of life forms?
recapped the three points he made about taking Darwin more seriously:
(1) Stand up to
(2) Avoid some
of the excesses of the socio-biologists, especially the Social Darwinists;
(3) Accept the
full implications of Darwin's theory.
urged checking your newspapers for the story of the embattled Darwinist, Dr.
Michael Dini. This biology professor at Texas Tech is suffering an outrageous
attack by creationists. E-mail him a note of encouragement at
also offered a short list of recommended resources, as follows:
A FEW BOOKS
of Species is clearly written and accessible to us today, despite the
evolution of our language. It is available in many editions, most commonly the
6th edition, the last issued in Darwin's lifetime. Excerpts of the Origin,
along with commentary and essays on it, are offered in a "Norton Critical
Edition" paperback edited by Philip Appelman. The entire text of the Origin
is available on the web at the Gutenberg Project
Gould's splendid essays are collected in several volumes: Ever Since Darwin,
The Panda's Thumb, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, The Flamingo's Smile, An
Urchin in the Storm, Bully for Brontosaurus, Dinosaur in a Haystack, I Have
Landed, and others. See also his thematic books, including The
Mismeasure of Man, Wonderful Life, Full House, The Structure of Evolutionary
Theory. This last book, published shortly before his death last year
(2002), is a somewhat technical, 1400-page capstone to Gould's lifelong career
as an evolutionary theorist and a champion of Darwin.
Clark's The Survival of Charles Darwin (1984) is a good biography that
also deals extensively with Darwin's legacy and influence.
Paul F. Boller,
Jr. American Thought in Transition: The Impact of Evolutionary Naturalism
(1969). A classic exploration of the initial impact of Darwinism on American
thought and culture. Out of print, but widely available in libraries.
Dennett. Darwin's Dangerous Idea (1995). An enthusiastic endorsement of
Darwinism and an examination of its impact and implications, includes
discussion of the theoretical squabbles among evolutionists. Extensive
The Blind Watchmaker (1986), River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of
Life (1995), Climbing Mount Improbable (1997). The Professor of the
Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University is an in-your-face,
uncompromising Darwinist, whose contempt for creationists is almost palpable.
ON THE WEB
A comprehensive, enlightened site with elaborate departments dealing with all
aspects of evolution and links to many pro-evolution sites, as well as those of
Site based on the award-winning Public Broadcast System series on evolution;
copious links to sensible sites and resources.
of the National Center for Science Education, which serves as watchdog against
efforts to undermine the teaching of evolution, includes a "News
Watch" to identify threats as they emerge.
AND A WORD FROM OUR OPPONENTS
note: The following are not from the meeting, but are inserted by yours truly
in case you want to know what the promoters of Creationism are actually saying
and doing. It helps to know your opposition. And the number of
"scientific" sites attests to the size and the organization of the
effort to promote religion over science, and remove the separation between
church and state.
http://www.icr.org/ Institute for
Creation Research: Our world, our church, our schools, our society, need the
truth of creation more than ever. We see the wrong thinking of evolution having
produced devastating results in every realm. Our passion at the Institute for
Creation Research is to see science return to its rightful God-glorifying
position, and see creation recognized as a strength by the body of Christ;
supporting Scripture, answering questions, satisfying doubts and removing road
blocks to the Gospel. The Institute for Creation research Graduate School
exists to train students in scientific research and teaching skills, preparing
effective warriors for the faith.
ICR also offers
an "Origins of Life Equipping Course." The goal of this course is to
help students to recognize information that is used to support the evolution of
life presented in textbooks, classroom discussions, and by the media, and then:
(1) ask, with confidence, scientific questions that help clarify or challenge
the accuracy of information presented to support evolution; and (2) give
relevant information that supports the question or statement through the use of
scientific evidences or facts including statements and quotes by scientists.
Center for Scientific Creation: This site primarily promotes a book, "In
the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood." Part of
the Preface reads as follows:
Where is the
creation-evolution controversy headed? I believe the battle will be won -- not
in courts, legislatures, boards of education, or church councils -- but by
“grass roots” science education. Yes, today evolutionists generally control
higher education, science journals, and the media, but the scientific evidence
overwhelmingly supports creation and a global flood. Throughout the history of
science, controversies have raged. Perhaps none have had the profound social
consequences -- and therefore, the interest and emotion -- of this origins debate.
In the end, the side with the scientific evidence has always prevailed.
Our task, then,
is educating the public, including students. People who are aware of this
evidence will inevitably bring pressure and embarrassment on the entrenched
interests, starting in the classroom. This is already happening. ... As more
people learn, more will want to learn. Increasingly, the public will ask -- or
tell -- educators, publishers, museums, and the media to educate themselves and
stop perpetuating misinformation and bad science.
Here is an offer
for students, parents, and educators who read the entire book. Rather than
place you in the awkward position of debating with science teachers or
professors who are evolutionists, let me suggest an interesting alternative. As
you read this book, identify questions to ask educators. If they object to any
scientific information or conclusion in the book, I will be happy to discuss it
with them by telephone, provided you are part of our three-way conversation. With
their permission, you may record our conversation for the entire class. If
nothing else, this will sharpen everyone’s critical thinking skills, put more
information “on the table,” and move us a little closer to the truth.
Thought-provoking articles about our ancient history and the importance of our
creation in God's own image and fall from grace. Each new false religion of the
post-Flood period has sought to detract from our Creator and from our
responsibilities in this life; evolution's effect is no different and it
(macro-evolution) continues to lack any scientific substance. Please study the
plethora of Biblical and scientific knowledge standing squarely against this
the theory that man, the earth, and the rest of the universe were originally
created rather than randomly exploding from nothingness into chance existence.
We reside on the
surface of a small superbly crafted, autonomous self regulating space vehicle.
Together with survival, conquest and death we bear witness to beauty,
fragrances, love and music. Think about this. Mathematics, philosophy,
springtime, depravity, farming, courtship, quasars, and bubble gum; all came
from nothingness?, formed by chance...…?
Of all the
generations thus far to inhabit the Earth, we have the least excuse for not
recognizing the quiet presence of The Scientific Mathematician who set
everything into motion around us. We should be in awe, not presumptuous and
From this site, you can catch a direct link to many other sites, such as:
Creation Research Society, Christian Answers.Net, Creation Science Movement,
Creation Science Evangelism, Answers in Genesis, Christian Research/Science
Education Foundation, The Revolution Against Evolution, Creation-Evolution
Encyclopedia, The Young Earth Creation Club, The Ark Foundation,
Creation-Science Research Center, Origins, Creation Research, Creation Resource
Foundation, The Creation Resources Trust, Creation Science, Creavit (Spanish),
Creation Illustrated Magazine, Creation Moments, Creationism and the Early
Church, The Creation Science Association for Mid-America, Geoscience Research
Institute, Samizdat/Origines (French), Associates for Biblical Research,
Scientific Evidence for Creation, A Creation Perspective, and two of the sites
mentioned previously (ICR and CS).
CREATIONISTS ON DARWIN DAY
at it, I thought you might enjoy this (condensed) editorial from the ICR
While I didn't find it to be accurate, I did find it to be interesting, and I
hope you do too.
HAPPY DARWIN DAY (BUT DON'T EXPECT ANSWERS)
by Frank Sherwin, M.A. Zoology
© Copyright 2003 Institute for Creation Research.
All Rights Reserved.
religions have their patron saints, and humanism is certainly no different. On
February twelfth (the birth date of Charles Darwin) secular knees reverently
bowed to a man whose only degree was in theology. Darwin Day – as it is called
– celebrates “humanity and science” and is now recognized worldwide.
It would seem it
is not enough to have “evolutionism only” in public education, the arts, much
of Catholic and Protestant faiths and the media. Now February twelfth is set
aside to actively celebrate this strange fish-to-philosopher idea. On the
twelfth, an airplane in Australia towed a banner proclaiming “Evolution Rules”
for two hours, while in Britain there is a call (demand?) by philosophers and
writers for a public holiday celebrating the birth of Mr. Darwin. The mayor of
Ottawa, Canada signed a proclamation recognizing February twelfth as Darwin
Day. What’s next? We have already seen Michael L. Dini, an associate professor
of biology at Texas Tech University require student allegiance to the
philosophy of human evolution if she/he hopes to receive a letter of
infamous book, Origin of Species, will remain second only to the Bible
in addressing where plants, people and animals originated. Macroevolution --
the development of new species, genera, families, orders, etc. -- is at the
heart of this critical origins issue, but was never discussed in Darwin’s book.
While Darwin and
generations of evolutionary biologists since his day continue to ponder their
origins apart from God, the Christian has a supernatural Book that clearly
addresses both the origin and the destiny of the species -- namely, the Bible.
So, Happy Darwin
Day -- but don’t expect answers!
THE MEETING PARTICIPANTS
interested persons who attended the Wednesday meeting at Borders were: Reed
Bilz, Jim Cather, Jim Cheatham, George Cramer, Bev and Jim Fogleman, Mary and
Mike Haney, Wallace Harrison, Robert Hoyle, Pam Hughes, John and Shelly and
Maggie Hattan, John Johnson, Sandra Langley, Jason Martinez, Joy McClellan,
Bettina Pfeiffenberger, Lissette Pharo, Michael Rivera, Jeff Rodriguez, Dolores
and Don Ruhs, Troy Stiles, and Dick Trice.
DARWIN/EVOLUTION BOOK DAY AT BORDERS
Some of our
more involved members represented HoFW at the Darwin/Evolution information
table at Border's Books, Music, and Cafe on Saturday, February 15, 2003 from 10
a.m. to 4 p.m.
this was pretty much a bust. We were to have a prominent spot, and the
bookstore was to highlight books by and about Darwin. In practice, the people
in charge of Borders on that day didn't know we were coming. Not only did they
have a limited selection of books, but we were positioned in the back of the
store in the music section, and had only a couple of visitors all day.
are grateful to those volunteers who manned the table for one- or two-hour
periods during those hours. The participants were: Reed Bilz, Jim Cheatham, Jim
Fogleman, Pam Hughes, Sandra Langley, Don and Dolores Ruhs, and Dick Trice.
Jeff Rodriguez made the initial arrangements, Mike Haney helped get things
underway in the morning, and Wallace Harrison checked in occasionally
throughout the day.
A NON-CONFRONTATIONAL STANCE
speaker, Professor James Chambers, stressed a need to "stand up to
Creationist babble," and to "firmly rebut the fallacies of
To a degree, and
in certain instances, he is correct. Most of us DO need to learn more about
scientific findings, about the evolutionary process, about Darwinism, and even
about the claims of Creationists. And we need to be prepared to rebut the wild
"scientific" claims of Creationists when responding to sincere
inquiries, and when speaking in "mixed" company (where neutral people
can be influenced by a presentation of suedo-facts).
However, I was
greatly influenced by an article in the Winter 2002/2003 issue of Free
Inquiry, published by the Council for Secular Humanism. Heavily condensed
and edited excerpts from that article follow:
WHY I WON'T DEBATE CREATIONISTS
By Richard Dawkins
For good or ill, the late Stephen Jay Gould had a huge
influence on American scientific culture, and on balance, the good came out on
top. His powerful voice will echo on for a long time. Although he and I
disagreed about much, we agreed on much, including a refusal to engage in
public debates with creationists.
These people have distorted the theory of punctuated
equilibrium so that it appeared to support their preposterous (but astonishingly
common) belief that there are no intermediates in the fossil record. Gould's
reply (from "Evolution" in Hen's Teeth and Horses' Toes)
deserves to be widely known:
"Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to
explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists
as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms.
Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are
abundant between larger groups."
Sometime in the 1980s when I was on a visit to the
United States, a television station wanted to stage a debate between me and a
prominent creationist. I telephoned Stephen Gould for advice. He was friendly
and decisive: "Don't do it." The point is not, he said, whether or
not you would "win" the debate. Winning is not what the creationists
realistically aspire to. For them, it is sufficient that the debate happens at
all. To the gullible public that is their natural constituency; it is enough
that their man is seen sharing a platform with a real scientist. "There
must be something in creationism," they will say, "or Dr. So-and-So
would not have agreed to debate it on equal terms." Inevitably; when you
turn down the invitation, you will be accused of cowardice, or of inability to
defend your own beliefs. But that is better than supplying the creationists
with what they crave: the oxygen of respectability in the world of real
It has been proven to me many times over that the
existence of the debate itself is the propaganda victory, not the arguments
deployed, nor the outcome of the debate. Creationists don't need to win debates
with evolutionists, it is sufficient for them that the debate happens at all.
They need the publicity, we don't.
Last August, I was challenged to a debate where
each side would put up $10,000. If I proved that evolution was science and
creationism was religion, I would get the $20,000. If my challenger proved the
reverse, he would take home the full amount. I naively suggested I might
participate if the judging panel consisted of distinguished scientists
nominated by the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, and Nobel
Prize winners. I was then accused of trying to "stack the jury with
evolutionists that will vote you the winner no matter what." Even in this,
he claimed a "victory" by declaring that I was an "intellectual
coward," and had "defaulted out of fear."
I responded, and reminded him that it was he who
refused to submit a scientific question to the judgment of the world's leading
scientists, and I added a further constructive suggestion:
"... science keeps its playing field level by the
rather admirable system of anonymous peer-review: If you have evidence that
evolution is false, you are entirely at liberty to submit a paper to the editor
of Nature, or Science, or the Journal of Theoretical Biology,
or the American Naturalist, or Biological Reviews, or the Quarterly
Review of Biology, or any of hundreds of other reputable journals in which
ordinary working scientists publish their research. Do not fear that editors
will reject it simply because it opposes evolution. On the contrary, the
journal that published a paper which really did discover a fallacy in
evolution, or convincing evidence against it, would have the scoop of the
century in scientific terms. Editors would kill to get their hands on it."
I hope that my recollection of Stephen Gould's wise
words will encourage others to refuse all debating invitations from
pseudoscientists avid for publicity. A plan which I often follow is to
recommend that the case for evolution could easily be entrusted to a local
undergraduate majoring in biology. Alternatively, I plead a prior engagement:
an important forthcoming debate against the Flat Earth Society.
ADVICE TO DARWIN PROMOTERS
Note: Based upon what I personally feel was the good advice in the preceding
article, your vice chairman offered the following suggestions to the HoFW
members who promoted Darwinism at Borders Bookstore last month:
Thank you for
supporting your Humanist organization in our promotion of science as the answer
to the questions that perplex mankind. Thanks for participating in this
exercise at Borders' Book Store to help make the public aware of the findings
of Charles Darwin and the viability of the theory of evolution.
reason teaches us that mankind and his world have evolved over many millions of
years. And while the search for more complete answers is constantly ongoing, we
are convinced that the truth to the genesis of man is not found in any
Remember: We are
not anti-religion, and we are not here to debate anyone's religious beliefs. As
a matter of fact, it has been demonstrated frequently that to engage in debates
with "Creationists" or other religious zealots is self-defeating.
First, since they can never be convinced of anything but their god-based
belief, and we are convinced that science will always provide the more acceptable
answer, such debate is fruitless. Secondly, such an argument immediately
elevates their belief into a position of prominence equal (in their mind, and
possibly in those of bystanders) to scientific explanation.
suggest that if anyone attempts to engage in a debate, we simply say that we
are not here to debate, or to even discuss alternative theories, but simply to
help make people aware of the availability of scientific information on the
questions of the origin and evolution of species.
morning, February 22, a small band of members performed the chore of cleaning
both sides of Old Granbury Rd., between University and Trail Lake Drives. Though
the substantial rains of the previous couple of days had subsided, the street,
the grass, the ground (spelled: m-u-d), and the trash were still quite wet.
Nevertheless, the deed was done, and the good name of "The Cowtown
Humanists" (as it reads on the sign) was preserved. The following folks
took the hit for the organization: Reed Bilz, Jim Cather, Russell Elleven, Mike
and Mary Haney, Wallace Harrison, Pam Hughes, and Jeff Rodriguez.
Editor's Note: Due to its extreme length, this month's edition of the HoFW
E-newsletter is being sent in two parts. Part 1 contains information about past
events. Part 2, dealing with this month's upcoming meeting, will be e-mailed
tomorrow, March 4.