Month: April 2004

Analysis: Evolution is dogma but open to challenge

Theory rose prominently as German theologian exported liberal brand of “higher criticism.”

If readers wondered how they got here and from where, the magazine headline promised an answer: “A Theory Evolves?How evolution really works, and why it matters more than ever.”

The story in the July 29, 2002 issue of U.S. News & World Report is one of many in major news magazines that seems to give the theory Charles Darwin championed in the mid-19th century a journalistic pass. It has taken new forms since Darwin, but unmistakably, macroevolution?the idea life arose from primordial goop into varied, complex species?is dogma the intelligentsia dare not question.

In most academic settings, to believe in a Creator who spoke the universe into existence with divine power and purpose is a rarity, though a growing, vocal and scorned minority of scientists and philosophers is increasingly given a platform to propagate their view that a Designer is behind the universe’s orderly grandeur.

Called the Intelligent Design or ID movement, this corps of crusaders ranges from evangelical Christians to theists of various stripes, all committed to show what they believe is undeserved homage to macroevolution as verifiable fact. Their rumble has been heard in a handful of state houses, including Texas, where textbook errors have been challenged.

Nearly 150 years after Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” no transitional fossils or “missing links” have been found, though some trumped as such have been invalidated.

The U.S. News article admits as much, noting, “paleontologists have searched far and wide for fossil evidence of gradual progress toward these advanced creatures but have come up empty.”

“Paleontologists have the best eyes in the world,” Whitey Hagadorn of Amherst College, told the magazine. “If we can’t find the fossils, sometimes you just have to think that they just weren’t there.”Such conjecture has the ID crowd crying foul while the evolutionists seem unrelenting.

The article’s author, Thomas Hayden, asserts, “By now, scientists say, ‘evolution is no longer ‘just a theory.’ It’s an everyday phenomenon, a fundamental fact of biology as real as hunger and as unavoidable as death.” Of course, Hayden is equating microevolution?change within a species?with macroevolution.

Unwitting readers are to swallow such assertions whole without chewing.

A THEORY IN FLUX ?

Even noted evolutionists such as Stephen Jay Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, admit the fossil record lacks evidence for Darwin’s position of gradual evolution over time. Gould has said a spotty fossil record “persists as the trade secret of paleontology.”

Gould is perhaps the best-known proponent of an macroevolutionary model called “punctuated equilibria”?the idea that “speciation” from one form to another doesn’t occur gradually as Darwinists propose but rather in rare bursts so punctuated the fossil record doesn’t record them clearly. Thus, no clear transitional forms. The U.S. News article noted this as well. “Many creatures still appear quite suddenly in the fossil record, and the growing suspicion is that evolution sometimes leaps, rather than crawls. ?”

Wrote Christian apologists Norm Geisler and Peter Bocchino of Gould’s ideas: “We believe that this view is punctuated, not with scientific reasoning or observational evidence, but instead with implausible attempts to explain away the fossil record. Again, it is merely a rearranging of the facts to save a theory built on unjustified philosophical and scientific assumptions of the naturalistic view of the universe.”

OR A THEORY IN JEOPARDY?

In fact, evolutionists such as Gould have been on the defensive during the last decade as formidable ID theorists such as Philip Johnson, Berkeley law professor and a devout Presbyterian, and Lehigh biochemist Michael Behe, have tenaciously challenged evolution dogma.

Behe’s book “t1:City>Darwin’s Black Box” was Christianity Today’s Book of the Year in 1996. It proposed the cell, the building block of life, is “irreducibly complex”?all components must be in place and working simultaneously or the entire system fails. Thus, a living organism would not survive while macroevolution developed its parts or its supposed ascension to higher forms.

SBTC exhibit qualifications announced

The Committee on Order of Business has approved the following policy regarding exhibit space at the SBTC 2004 Annual Convention:

Entities that are approved for exhibit space at the SBTC 2004 Annual Meeting are (subject to available space): SBTC Ministries, SBC Agencies, entities related to the SBTC by fraternal relationship, affiliated and working relationships, Baptist Associational Ministries and any host church.

Other entities desiring booth space may submit that request in writing prior to July 1, 2004 to the attention of Joe Davis in the SBTC Office.

All exhibitors are to be in agreement with the SBTC Constitution and Bylaws.

Fund raising or sales will not be allowed in the exhibit area.

Group works to correct errors in Texas textbooks

What if a third-grade math book printed this as a correct equation: 2 + 2 = 7? Most would probably just think it was a typographical error and most would know it was incorrect. But in science education, where factual errors are less discernable for parents, students and sometimes teachers, who might rely on information they received in college years ago, the problem is not easily resolved.

Some supporters of intelligent design and creationism are wondering if these sometimes subtle and often little-known errors are being properly addressed in public school science textbooks?if changing definitions, deceptive statements and outright factual errors are misleading students today.

Texans for Better Science Education (TBSE) is one group that would like to see all errors removed from textbooks used in Texas schools. According to the TBSE website (www.strengthsandweaknesses.org), the group would also like to see textbooks teach both the strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory.

In November, the Texas State Board of Education voted 11-4 to adopt, over the next seven years, a series of science textbooks critics said contained inaccuracies about evolution and that the board promised to fix before distributing them in classrooms. TBSE was among the critics, said one of its spokesmen, Ide Trotter, a deacon at First Baptist Church of Dallas and a Princeton-educated chemical engineer, who hopes the corrections will be implemented.

Creationists and evolutionists both claimed victory in the board decision.

Trotter told the TEXAN in November, “We don’t want intelligent design or creation taught. We only want error-free science taught.”

The TBSE website features a review by Mark Ramsey of the biology textbook “Biology, The Dynamics of Life,” published by Glencoe Science. He said many factual errors and misleading statements could be deleted or at least reworded.

According to Ramsey, page 353 of the textbook says, “the DNA from fossils has been analyzed and used to compare extinct species with living species, or even two extinct species with each other.” Ramsey said the statement is bogus.

“True fossils are mineralized and do not contain organic DNA,” Ramsey said in the review. “This sentence should be deleted.”

In another case, Ramsey points to a “Quick Demo” section of the teacher’s edition of the book that suggests a way for teachers to illustrate a point of evolutionary theory.

“Use a photo series of an automobile model that shows how that model has changed over time. Alternatively, show a picture of an early automobile and one of a modern automobile. Have students explain how automobiles are the same and how they have changed over time. Then, point out that organisms also change over time. Ask students to distinguish between the two kinds of evolution. [Answer] The changes in automobiles or a specific automobile model occur faster than changes in organisms.”

Ramsey said this example does nothing to support the theory of evolution.

“For an automobile to change over time, there is intent, direction, intelligence and designers. There are records of the design and each engineering and design transition. There are even records of failed or discarded ‘innovations,'” Ramsey said.

He said changes in automobile designs in the past are “not the result of random processes.”

The TBSE has a petition listed on their website that visitors can sign. The petition asked signers to affirm the following statement: “I agree that both scientific strengths and weaknessesin the theories and hypotheses relating to chemicalandbiological evolution should be taught andthat known errors should be either fully exposedand examined or else be removed from the textbookscompletely.”

Trotter told the TEXAN the changes the state board promised “may or may not happen; I hope it will. ? A significant number of changes have been made. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Things are moving in the right direction and there’s going to be another round down the road.”

Galvan elected SWBTS board chairman

FORT WORTH?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees demonstrated a growing interest in equipping Hispanic ministers as well as increased scrutiny of prospective faculty at the spring trustee meeting held on campus April 5-6.

Trustees also upgraded the master of divinity degree, established the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching, endorsed creation of a School of Evangelism, approved developing an undergraduate college on the Fort Worth campus and designated the Havard Center for Theological Studies in Houston as a school of the seminary.

With the unanimous election of David Galvan as trustee board chairman and Rudolph Gonzales as vice president for student services, the largest of the six Southern Baptist seminaries became the first to select a Hispanic to the top board office and an executive level administrative post.

Virginia trustee Phil Walker praised Galvan’s year as vice chairman and the respect he has gained throughout Texas and beyond. “I know him as a man of integrity, with a sweet, sweet spirit, but first and foremost he is a man fully committed to our Lord and Savior and his kingdom,” Walker said. Galvan is pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland and serves on the board of trustees for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

New York trustee T. Van McClain was elected vice chairman over North Carolina trustee Ted Stone. McClain teaches Old Testament and Hebrew at Mid-America Theological Seminary’s northeast campus. Texas trustee R. E. Smith, a retired psychologist, was re-elected by acclamation to continue as board secretary.

Gonzales has served on the faculty of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and The Criswell College, most recently directing Interfaith Evangelism for the North American Mission Board. He received a Ph.D. from Baylor, Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Div. from Southwestern Seminary and B.A. from The Criswell College.

Student Services Associate Vice President David McQuitty led the department as dean and was promoted to associate vice president of student services last November.

In addition to his administrative post, Gonzales will assist in several projects pertinent to reaching minorities in the Southwest, particularly Hispanics. These include:

?relating to state conventions in Texas to help Hispanics enter into a beneficial educational process. (Gonzales will relate to SBTC through the Hispanic Initiative which identifies and assists key Hispanics with educational pursuits ranging from the GED to a doctorate);

?offering input in developing an M. Div. concentration taught bilingually that addresses ministry by Hispanics with regard for practical, cultural and theological issues; and;

?assisting the provost in formulating an undergraduate program that will be beneficial to Hispanics.

Trustees also promoted Associate Administration Professor Robert Welch to serve as dean of the School of Educational Ministries. Associate Church Music Professor Benjamin Harlan was promoted to professor.

The board also made clear they will continue to carefully examine faculty candidates despite a new president who gained the board’s unanimous support last summer. A little more than a decade ago, trustees battled with Southwestern President Russell Dilday to insist on the right of the board to interview prospective faculty in advance of meetings.

After hearing the testimonies of each candidate, two prospects were summoned back to the Academic Affairs Committee meeting for additional clarification of their views on the tension between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. When the full board began to consider the committee’s recommendations, trustees agreed to move into executive session to evaluate the new personnel. Concern over the Calvinistic views of one of the candidates prompted the closed-door meeting, according to an administrator who remained for the discussion.

At the close of the committee meeting and in plenary session Patterson praised trustees for responsibly exercising their duties with a proper attitude and spirit, stating, “You’re not just rubber stamps.” The entire prospective faculty was elected by trustees who also received a report of appointed faculty who may teach up to two years at the direction of the president.Newly elected faculty include:

?David L. Allen as dean of theology and professor of expository preaching. Allen currently holds the W. A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching and serves as senior pastor of t

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Caring for those who serve you




Last month, several Baptist editors attended a biennial briefing with the Annuity Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Being 10 years closer to retirement, I must admit that those briefings are more interesting to me than when I attended my first one.

One important point of the day was an explanation of ABSBC’s proposed new name. Messengers to this year’s annual convention will vote on a recommendation from the Executive Committee to change the Annuity Board’s name to GuideStone Financial Services of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not sure what an annuity board is but we were told that ABSBC has not been one for years, partly because of the wide range of services they offer. The proposal involves a change in the SBC Constitution (sections where convention entities are named) and must be approved by the messengers twice before being final.

The change will also involve a proposal to broaden the reach of the Board to include other like-minded or compatible Christian ministries. The who and the what of this have not yet been clarified but I gathered from the discussion that parachurch ministries would be more likely to qualify than would denominations (or denomination-like fellowships).

Of course we also discussed health coverage. Regardless of how you or your church are covered, you know the nightmare that health insurance has become. My best understanding of the problem is that opportunistic lawyers, aggressive drug companies, and fat, stressed out preachers add up to horrific health insurance costs. I don’t know what might solve the first two problems but the Annuity Board is trying to address the matter of participant lifestyle. One of the neatest tools is www.baptistwellness.org, a website resource that helps evaluate, track, and plan progress toward a healthier lifestyle. It is currently available to Annuity Board participants only. You go to the site, enter your Social Security number (don’t be squeamish, they already have your number), set a password, and then start surfing. Your login will allow you to access whatever evaluative or strategy work you’ve done on diet, exercise, or other health-related needs.PAN>

And then we talked about retirement, a lot. A bunch of middle to late middle-aged editors sit up straight when the subject is our retirement accounts. The good news is that the trend in fund growth is going the right direction and has made up for the past two year’s losses. ABSBC plans have outperformed industry benchmarks and seem to be safe and well-managed.

Adopt an Annuitant continues to be a great ministry that uplifts nearly 2,000 retired ministers or their widows. The stories of these who went into retirement without any resources are poignant. The testimonies of those who have been helped are heartening. Our own Sagemont Church in Houston is the pacesetter in this great ministry. Sunday School classes, individuals, and the entire church have made Adopt an Annuitant a personal ministry.

Sagemont demonstrates one way to address the needs of underfunded retirees. There is another part to this problem. Currently, about a third of churches in the SBTC participate in a retirement plan through the ABSBC. Some may have other plans but many are making no allowance at all for their pastor’s retirement years. There are several reasons for this.

The most common reason has to do with limited funding. If you give your pastor his entire pay package and leave it to him to find health insurance and invest for retirement it is often because the package is pretty small to begin with. The church is doing all it can and the pastor puts retirement below food and clothing in his own priorities. Retirement planning can wait. The decisions the church and pastor have made are understandable but short-sighted.

For one thing, it doesn’t take much money to make a big difference over time. In the SBTC, all the church or pastor has to do is contribute any amount toward an ABSBC account to qualify for a no cost life insurance policy as high as $100,000. The state convention and Annuity Board work together to provide this. If the church contributes $52.50 per month (a little over $600/year) the SBTC will contribute an additional amount each per month toward a minister’s retirement. This minimal amount can become about $200,000 over the course of a forty year ministry, assuming a moderate growth rate and no increase in the contributions. That is why there is no substitute for starting now.

As you see above, a pastor’s age may be a reason for putting retirement savings on the back burner. Most of us can’t imagine retirement when we are twenty-five or thirty. In fact, most preachers I know aren’t planning to just quit and go fishing. They love ministry and want to continue in some way for as long as they are able. I agree with that view. At this age, though, the idea of doing a different kind of ministry (involving very few staff meetings and very little paperwork) sounds great for my grandfather years. A healthy retirement fund makes that possible. Consider also the possibility that your health will not allow you to continue as long as wish. Again, starting young gives you options as you become less young.

I was blessed as a newly-minted seminary graduate to be surrounded by lay leaders who provided for their ministers in a way similar to what they received in their own vocations. They didn’t offer me the option of just taking the cash, although I really needed it. I look at that church’s name on my list of contributors over the past 23 years with gratitude for the good start they gave my family. It took me several years of ministry to reach a salary comparable to what a minimally-funded church planter makes today. All those years, ten percent of my salary went into a retirement account without much thought on my part. It looks pretty good to me as I think of the next 20 years of ministry.

Many of us remember a day when preachers were not considered people who “work for a living” and should thus not be paid for their service. Mostly, churches have a more biblical attitude towar

Seattle think tank played role

Last November, a debate was waged in Austin about the adoption of a biology textbook that would be appropriate enough for Texas classrooms. The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) voted unanimously to adopt the new biology books for purchase this year under certain conditions.

The issue that faced Texas education was the accuracy of information included in biology textbooks, and whether they conformed to Texas state law. The law requires that they have no factual errors and requires “students to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.”

A similar federal law, the Santorum Amendment, passed in 2001.

Last year, the Texas Board of Education invited members of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based intelligent design think tank, to review and analyze biology textbooks that were up for adoption. The members advocated removing factual errors regarding evolution from textbooks and including both the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution. But, the members of the Discovery Institute left out alternative theories such as intelligent design and creationism.

“In November, the board of education voted unanimously to adopt all the biology textbooks, but on the condition that the factual errors regarding evolution be addressed and corrected,” said Rob Crowther, director of communications for the Discovery Institute.

The institute, arguably the most prominent opponent of macroevolutionary theory, has raised a number of instances in which Texas biology textbooks appear to be inaccurate or misleading. Founded in 1990, the institute is a national policy and research organization that is non-profit, non-partisan, and secular.

Various groups, including the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Discovery Institute, the Mel Gablers/Educational Research Analysts organization, the Texans for Better Science Education (TBSE), Texas A&M University, and numerous others in the months before the vote, identified these errors and testified at two public hearings.

Because Texas is one of the largest buyers of textbooks, second only to California, it sets the standards in what the rest of the nation will put in classrooms. A single textbook developed by publishers, who pay special attention to Texas because of the millions of dollars spent in this development, will impact school districts across the nation.

The biggest debates in the biology textbooks have been the inclusion of the theories of evolution as fact and the alternate theories of creationism and intelligent design. Before the decision to adopt the new text, biology textbooks contained known factual errors such as Haeckel’s faked embryo drawings, the myth about human gill slits, the discredited Miller-Urey experiment, and overstatements about peppered moths’ color adaptations.

Discovery Institute’s President Bruce Chapman said, “We now hope that fake facts like human embryos with ‘gill slits,’ the flat earth myth, and overstatements about peppered moth research will be things of the past as well.”

Intelligent design theory is an effort acknowledged by biologists to detect whether the “design” in nature is the product of an intelligent cause, not simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations as naturalism purports.

Specifically Christian in intent, creationism is focused on the Genesis account, often including a “young earth” view of creation 6,000-10,000 years ago. Unlike creationism, though, intelligent design takes no official stand on who the Designer is. An increasing number of biologists, biochemists, physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers of science at schools, colleges, and universities around the world have adopted the effort to detect design in nature. g

Publishers are still making changes to the text Texas adopted and are correcting the factual mistakes that were addressed in Austin last November. Many of the groups represented in last November’s meeting are in support of including both strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory in conformity with Texas law.

They also support the right of all teachers to teach with academic freedom and without censorship or intimidation from any pressure groups.

A poll taken of Texans by Zogby International last year showed only 16 percent thought the state Board of Education should approve biology textbooks that teach only Darwin’s theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it, while 75 percent thought the board should approve biology textbooks that teach Darwin’s theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it, and 9 percent were unsure.

The constituencies in Texas are largely conservative and religious, so there is an overlapping result in the ideals and outlook of most evolution skeptics.

The Dallas Morning News editorial board published an article last year that stated, “Activists on the other side, including more scientists, say that there are no serious error

In Texas, Christian teachers adhere to

Greatest danger is social results of evolution theory, educator contends.

By Bonnie Pritchett

TEXAN Correspondent

The debate over teaching evolution in public schools did not end with the closing gavel of the famed 1925 Scopes trial. Parents, scientists, and outspoken advocates on both sides of the issue still clamor for their say, even more so lately. Christian educators in the public sector are left to reconcile the presentation of evolutionary theory with their own beliefs on life’s origins.

Although Texas teachers are told what to teach, there is some flexibility within the classroom for how subjects are taught, teachers the TEXAN interviewed said. It is within these parameters that Christian educators are able to present controversial subjects–such as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution–and have a significant influence on the discussion.

Texas public school teachers create lesson plans based on a myriad of criteria. First, and most pressing, is the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) created by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). This list mandates what is taught on each grade level–kindergarten through 12th grade. Each school district may then create guidelines by which these TEKS will be implemented. For some school districts, each campus may vary in how the subjects are addressed, in accordance with the specific educational nuances of each campus.

An examination of the science portion of TEKS does not reveal any overt mandates to teach Darwin’s theory. Children in third grade are introduced to the concept of scientific processes. TEKS states: “The student is expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information…”

Debbie Ratcliffe, TEA communications director, said the addition of the phrase “teaching the strengths and weaknesses” of a theory has gone a long way to quell some of the fervor over the presentation of Darwin’s theory. The most obvious mention of evolution is in the area of eighth-grade and high school biological sciences. The intermediate grade studies include at least 11 different disciplines, one of which is “biological evolution.”

“That’s the most direct one I think you’ll find,” Ratcliffe said. Other disciplines require students to “research and analyze scientific empirical data on the estimated age of the universe; and the historical development of the Big Bang Theory.” In the field of geology students must “research and describe the origin of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas.”

Although TEKS require certain subjects be taught, Ratcliffe said the teachers are not told how to teach the material. So, depending on the predisposition of the teacher, the discussion of evolution in all science disciplines can be as broad or narrow as the teacher allows. Ratcliffe said the agency has had hours of debates over the issue of evolution and the inclusion of the scientific theories surrounding creationism. The TEKS standards are scheduled for a review and update, she said, beginning with math. “Science has not even been calendared.”

When asked about how they address the theory of evolution in the classroom, Christian public school teachers, in general, reported they have a great deal of leeway in how they present the issue. They all teach evolutionary theory because it is required and, some added, because it is the prevailing thought in today’s scientific community and the students need to know it.

High school science teacher Mike Shofner defined the term that has stirred so much debate. Shofner, who teaches integrated physics and chemistry and ninth-grade biology at Clear Brook High School in the Clear Creek Independent School District and anatomy and physiology to freshmen and sophomores at San Jacinto Junior College, said there are two main concepts introduced with the discussion of evolution. “Natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” are phrases most often attributed to Darwin and his studies. Shofner said Darwin’s observations and records emphasized the dynamic nature of living organisms in their natural environment and reinforced the idea of microevolution–a concept already understood by Darwin and his contemporaries. This aspect of evolution, Shofner said, is a study of the changes within a species, or adaptation.

“I don’t see a problem with microevolution,” Shofner said. “Most Christians don’t see a problem with it.” Recent discoveries within this field of study show bacteria changing and becoming more resistant to antibiotics and insects developing resistance to commonly used pesticides. Because the study of microevolution is observable–a primary step in the scientific process–it can be proven.

For Shofner, knowing such intricate details of biology just reinforces his belief that God created everything.  “To me, it adds a lot to the awe.”

Where Darwin went astray, Shofner contends, was when he took the concept of microevolution and expounded upon it to an illogical extreme–to the idea of evolutionary adaptations so profound, over such a long period of time that a creature ultimately changes into a brand new species.  Such a process is called macroevolution.

This is the idea, often referred to as evolution, that many Christians find offensive and contrary to God’s word concerning the origins of man.  Texas educators must teach the theory but many Christian teachers encourage discussion within their classrooms and offer opposing opinions and theories.

“I taught the scientific basis for both systems [evolution and creation] as sources of origin.  The evidence is abundantly clear to anyone who will honestly consider the data on it’s own merit,” said Garrett Starr, an honors biology and biology 1 teacher in the Abilene ISD for 10 years.  He now serves as pastor of discipleship at South Side Baptist Church.

As a student teacher at Marshall High School in the Marshall ISD, Wes Mansfield said he had to teach the concepts of the “Big Bang Theory, primordial soup–life from chemicals, and life began from other solar systems.”  And just for good measure he threw in creationism.

“I explained ideas and theories behind each one,” said Mansfield, who is in his first year as a science teacher at Clute Intermediate, Lake Jackson ISD.  “I told the students up front that there are so many different ideas on this, the only way to truly understand is to look at the facts, what is important to you, and make a judgement for yourself based on what you feel is right.”

“Because of that statement,” he added, “it opened up an opportunity for them to ask me what I believed was right.  And when they did, I had a right to answer.  I told them I believed in creationism, in a higher being–God.  Some schools you can get away with talking about God, but other places you can’t.”

Fifth-grade science teacher Michelle Lee said Darwinian evolution is not specifically addressed in the grade school scope and sequence, but the concept does crop up at times in miscellaneous handouts, science videos, or other texts.  When it does arise, she said her students are quick to pick up on it.  The idea of one species changing into another is foreign and, for literal-minded young people, an absurd concept.

Lee said an example from a recent class handout stated something to the effect that a fish evolved from mud.  When asked by her students about the text, Lee said she responded with a question of her own, “Is mud alive?”  The students replied, “No,” and immediately understood her inference that living things do not come from substances that have no life.  Lee said she is frank with her students about her beliefs.  “I obviously don’t believe [evolution].  I think you can express that in the classroom without crossing legal boundaries.”

 

Lee said she does not introduce her religious ideas into the discussion to make her students believe what she does but to let them know why she thinks the way she does.  Young leaners, she asserted, should not be shielded from controversial ideas such as evolution, but they need to be taught how to think critically for themselves.

 

That classroom strategy is shared by fellow grade school teacher Vicki Ashby.  “I try to keep their minds wondering by presenting all theories, but I answer the questions that I know for sure and help them understand that these are just theories because God created all this.”

 

Ashby, who teaches fifth-grade science at I.W. Evans Elementary, in the Bonham ISD, added, “Our curriculum does present a little bit about the big bang theory. …I try to present many theories to them and help them understand exactly what a theory is-it’s a hypothesis or an educated guess.”

Without being able to create a controlled experiment to test and prove a theory, it remains just that, a theory.  But contends Shofner, evolutionary thought has moved beyond mere theory in scientific circles and presented as fact in scientific writings, textbooks, and the popular media.

 

Though textbooks may teach specifically about the Darwinian theory only briefly, 20-year veteran of the high school science classroom, Make Ashby, said the concept is pervasive throughout the text.  “The books that we had for biology were written with evolutionary trends.  It is believed by most scientists.  The writers believed it, obviously, so it had to be in the text.”

 

But, ultimately it comes down to the teacher and how much he will or will not emphasize the subject.  Ashby recalled fellow students in his college days sold on the idea of evolution and committing to teach solely that theory.  Ashby said he just taught what was required and moved on.

 

For 30 years Shofner has presented the idea of macroevolution at it is, a theory.  He said his concern with the idea of Darwinian evolution is not with the reality that it is taught as fact, that it is contrary to God’s revelation of creation, or even that it is taught at all.  Shofner believes the fundamental underpinnings of the theory–man evolving from basically nothing and evolving into a more intricate and far more superior being–have pervaded social ideals.

 

He said, “A person needs to understand evolution in the same way people understand communism.  Communism had an enormous impact on society.  In the same way, evolution has had a powerful impact on society.  If a person ignores evolution they lose perspective on how we got here.  …The idea of biological evolution has given rise to the idea of societal evolution.”

Shofner noted that Darwin and Karl Marx were contemporaries.  Marx’s ideas about man being able to better himself and society without God were not too far removed from Darwin’s theories on the rise of man, he pointed out.

 

Michelle Lee said children should not be taught in a religious vacuum.  Religious ideas have been the driving force in the creation of societies, laws, and even scientific discoveries.  “You cannot take religion out of teaching.” she said.

 

Each of the teachers either openly or subtly let their students know their personal be beliefs regarding Darwinian evolution and ultimately, the personal faith in God.

 

“I try to be very open with my students and listen to them about their beliefs and let them understand my belief system about the concept of evolution,” said Paula Kinslow, advanced placement biology and anatomy and physiology teacher at Cooper High School in the Abilene ISD.

 

In creating an open forum for discussion within the classroom, the teachers said their students are comfortable asking them personal questions outside of class time.  Mansfield, a newcomer to the teaching profession, said, “If they are interested and they want to know, you can address it.  Anytime a student wants to come up on his or her own time and ask you, you can talk to them.”

 

FBC Katy devoting Easter gifts to Annie Armstrong

ALPHARETTA, Ga.?The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions is a priority for most SBC churches, but a congregation in suburban Houston has taken its commitment to an unprecedented level.

On Easter Sunday morning, First Baptist Church in Katy designated all receipts from its three services through the Annie Armstrong Offering, which funds Southern Baptist missions efforts across the United States and Canada.

“Our church is ready to step up to the plate in partnering with our Southern Baptist family in reaching the world for Christ,” said pastor Randy White, who addressed a chapel service at the North American Mission Board’s offices in Alpharetta, Ga., March 31.

White estimated the offering would be approximately $75,000. First Baptist, Katy, is the third Texas church to make national news with its seasonal missions offering effort in several months. Martindale Baptist near San Marcos and First Baptist, Dallas, made news late last year with special emphases on international missions giving through the Lottie Moon Offering. Martindale gave all its offering receipts in December through Lottie, and First Baptist, Dallas, gave more than $1 million, a record gift.

NAMB President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord said the decision comes at a particularly critical time for NAMB, which currently has 181 missionary positions vacant because of funding shortfalls either with NAMB or its state convention partners. Additionally, about 100 summer missionaries and 100 semester missionaries could not be deployed because of a lack of funds.

“A guy who could easily say, ‘We want to keep this money at home in a burgeoning metropolitan area,’ is instead saying, ‘We want to give this money away because we understand you cannot outgive God,'” Reccord said in expressing appreciation.

One hundred percent of the Annie Armstrong Offering, named for the first leader of Woman’s Missionary Union, goes to support NAMB missionaries who are starting new SBC churches and doing evangelism in the United States, Canada and U.S. territories. Most NAMB missionaries are jointly supported with state Baptist convention partners. The national goal this year is $54 million although the offering has not reached its goal for several years.

White said the idea for encouraging his church to donate its entire Easter morning offering came as he began considering how the United States is currently facing “the best of times, and the worst of times,” borrowing a phrase from Charles Dickens. On one hand, he said, are disturbing trends such as a move to legalize homosexual “marriages,” while at the same time encouraging signs of revival can be seen through such phenomena as the success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” in theaters.

“I just got this strong conviction that America has three roads in front of it,” White said. Either Christ will rapture his church, the nation could continue on its current path of rejecting God and face the consequences, or revival and spiritual awakening could begin to transform the nation.

“I can’t do anything about the first one?that’s the Lord’s timing,” White said. “And with the second one all I can do is scream and holler. I can’t stop America from going that path. But I can go to the Lord to get revived, and I can lead my church in that. And that could spark into something that would change the path America is on.”

The natural avenue for encouraging national revival, he said, was to support the North American Mission Board in its efforts to see that happen.

“It is essential that we join with our denomination, and together, as servants, win the world to Christ,” he said. “I see more and more churches that want to do it on their own, but I don’t think even the largest ones are making a drop in the bucket.”

When he made the radical proposal to his church at a recent business session, the decision was unanimous.

“As we began the discussion there was one older man who stood up with tears in his eyes and said, ‘I’ve been praying for this day,'” White said.

“A retired pastor said, ‘I’ve started churches in Illinois and Oregon, and lived off the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. I’m burdened to win our nation to Christ.’ Another member stood and said, ‘I don’t even know who Annie Armstrong is, but if she’s reaching our nation for Christ I’m all for it.'”

Scopes trial trumped evolution theory

Trial still used by some as valid proof that evolution stands up to critical testing.

By Kay Adkins

TEXAN Correspondent

The Scopes “monkey” trial of 1925 did little to settle a matter of justice, but it did set the stage for what would become the most recognized worldview showdown in U.S. trial history. Between the satirical news coverage of the trial and its mythical stage and screen portrayal in the 1960 movie “Inherit the Wind” (a film still often used as an educational tool in schools), the images of ignorant religious zealots still cloud the minds of many.

How did the misdemeanor charges against a little-known teacher named John Scopes become the focal point of media attention that year? How did his trial become the O.K. Corral between evolutionists and creationists, and Christians and agnostics of the day? What evidences were presented by the defense for the case of evolution, and has that evidence endured?

Setting the Stage

The story begins with a Tennessee law–the Butler Act–which forbade public school teachers to teach “any theory that denies the story of Divine creation of man as taught in the Bible.” Enter the newly-formed American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] to test the law with the intention of having it repealed.

Football coach and math teacher John Scopes had substituted as a biology teacher for two weeks. Through an ACLU newspaper advertisement and the coercion of a prominent Dayton, Tenn., citizen, Scopes was recruited and arrested to become the ACLU pawn. John D. Morris, president of the Institution for Creation Research, states in an online article, “John Scopes, on trial for teaching evolution (contrary to Tennessee law), didn’t actually do so until after the charges had been filed. Then he did so in the back seat of a car, just to be sure he had committed the proper crime.”

Former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, a Christian, accepted an invitation to be part of the prosecution team. Bryan had been known since 1904 as an opponent to the theory that man evolved from an ape-like ancestor. In a published oration, “The Prince of Peace” he stated, “The mind is greater than the body and the soul is greater than the mind, and I object to having man’s pedigree traced on one third of him only–and that the lowest third.”

Bryan feared the social implications of Darwin’s theory. In “On The Origin of Species,” Darwin explained his theory of natural selection as being “the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.” Bryan believed such an understanding would lead to some human races viewing themselves as superior to others. He also feared the spiritual implications, stating, “Because I fear we shall lose the consciousness of God’s presence in our lives.”

Clarence Steward Darrow, an agnostic and one of America’s premier criminal attorneys, volunteered his services to defend Scopes, and to present scientific evidence supporting evolution as well as his own anti-God agenda. After his stringent objections, first to the prayers prior to each day’s proceedings, and then to the court room presence of a Bible with a sign reminding people to read it, Darrow delivered a list of scientists and theologians to testify for the defense. The judge ruled their testimonies to be irrelevant to the charge being tried–that Scopes taught evolution against Tennessee law–but they were allowed to testify outside of the jury’s presence for the benefit of the appellate court.

Evolution Evidence?

Evidences presented at the trial supporting evolution relied heavily on fossils–human or human-like skeletal remains. Kirtley Mather, geology department chair at Harvard, testified:

“There are in truth no missing links in the record that connects man with the other members of the order of primates. Such facts . . . can be explained only by the conclusion that man has been formed through long processes of progressive development, which when traced backward through successively simpler types of life, each living in more remote antiquity, lead unerringly  to a single primordial cell.”

Some of the fossil evidences used in the trial have since been discredited, but others are still important to the evolutionist arguments.  The Piltdown man, discovered in 1912, was hailed in more than 500 dissertations as a missing link until 1953 when suspicions confirmed it a fake.  A human cranium and an orangutan’s jaw had been deliberately joined together.  The teeth of the ape had been filed down to give it a more human appearance.  Java Man, discovered in 1891, consisted of a human femur, an ape-like skullcap, and three teeth.  The skullcap has since been identified as that of an extinct gibbon, and the femur identified as human.  The gibbons and humans likely co-existed in the region of the discovery.

Heidelberg Man, Neanderthal Man, and Rhodesian Man, while typically classified as homo sapiens, or fully human, are still important to the evolutionist debate.  Some scientists still classify Rhodesian Man (the older of the three) in the sub-human homo erectus species.

In his book “Darwin on Trial,” Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson concedes that, “there may also have been an intermediate species (homo erectus) that walked upright and had a brain size intermediate between that of modern men and apes.”  But noting the fact that scientists cannot explain the “mysterious leaps” necessary “to produce the human mind and spirit from animal materials,” he states, “it is reasonable to keep open that the putative hominid species were something other than human ancestors, even if the fossil descriptions are reliable.”

Another fossil-related assertion made by an expert witness in the Scopes Trial was that, “Fossil remains show clearly that birds evolved from flying reptiles.”  Since then the dino-bird theory has taken many blows such as:  bird fossil remains that predate reptiles from which birds were to have evolved, birds with features which their alleged ancestors did not possess, and other stark anatomical differences.

In “Darwin on Trial,” Johnson reports that paleontologists had deemed their main dino-to-bird fossil evidence, that of Archaeopteryx, as a “dead end.”  But, he said, more recently discovered bird fossil specimens have features that seem to be intermediates between Archaeopteryx and some modern birds.  Johnson states, “Possibly birds did somehow develop from dinosaur predecessors, with Archaeopteryx as a way station, but even on this assumption we do not know what mechanism could havd produced all the complex and interrelated changes that were necessary for the transformation.”

Other evidence asserted at the Scopes trial related more to anatomical studies.  Vestigial organs, body organs that appear to have no purpose (such as tonsils, and the appendix), had been considered evidence of a distant ancestor to the human race.  The trial transcripts state that eh human body has at least 180 vestigial structures.  Since then, uses have been noted for almost every one of them.  Also, some organs considered to be vestigial do not even exist in some species alleged to be ancestors of humans–a critical error in logic for this argument.

The “biogenetic law,” stating that embryos develop through past life forms in a mother’s womb, was found to be erroneous.  For example, what scientists thought were gill slits in a human embryo, they now recognize as the early stages of the middle ear and two glands.  What was thought to be a vestigial tail scientists now know to be the tailbone use to support backbones, muscles and our posture.

Drawings used to support the biogenetic law were discovered to be grossly misleading, and unfortunately still turn up in science textbooks.  Johnson states, “That embryos actually recapitulate adult ancestral forms–that humans go through fish and reptile stages, for example–was never borne out by the evidence and embryologists quietly discarded it.  Nonetheless, the concept was so pleasing theoretically that generations of biology students learned it as fact.”

Guilty Verdict–A Victory for the Defense

The Scopes jury did not hear the expert testimony, but the portion of the trial they did hear amounted to an ambush on faith by the defense.  On the seventh day of the trial, Bryan agreed to undergo questioning on the witness stand with the understanding that Darrow would reciprocate.  In an article entitled “Scopes Trial Scoop:  The Trial Gavel Heard Round the World,” Dr. Richard Cornelius of the Bryan College English Department stated, “For about two hours Darrow hammered away at his Christian counterpart with questions ranging over some fifty topics.  Some of Darrow’s questions were impossible to answer:  ‘Do you know about how many people there were on this earth 3,000 years ago?'”

Darrow never had to fulfill his end of the bargain.  Following Darrow’s interrogation of Bryan, the judge struck Bryan’s testimony from the records.  Having no other witness or evidence to present, Darrow conceded his client’s guilt.  The jury was charged to render a guilty verdict.  For the prosecution, a guilty verdict upheld the law and set a precedent for keeping the theory out of the education system.  For the defense, a guilty verdict was the desired opportunity to have the case heard in a higher court.

The Scopes case was taken before the Tennessee Supreme Court, where the conviction was overturned on a technicality, and both sides were asked to not re-file.  The trial itself went away quietly, but it is still noted as media victory for evolutionists.  According to Cornelius, it was also a catalyst for the founding of more than 100 creationist associations.

 

Expanded gambling among options proposeed

Gov. Rick Perry’s plan to raise money for public education could include legalized video slot machines at horse and dog tracks and the use of credit cards to buy lottery tickets, state legislators and media outlets reported.

At the TEXAN’s press time, a special session to deal with education funding was possible as early as April 19.

In a letter sent to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention office, state Rep. Robert E. Talton, R-Pasadena, chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee and a member of the Criminal Jurisprudence and Redistricting committees, said Indian casino-style gambling was among the proposals also, which he said could lead to “wide open casino gambling in Texas.”

“I have always opposed gambling in any form because it is not morally right,” Talton wrote. “Too many people think gambling is the simplest way to raise additional revenues for the State and never consider the social costs ? “

In addition to property tax cuts, other proposals reportedly include state taxes on cigarettes, adult entertainment and business and commercial properties.