Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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"Darwin Day Puts Spotlight on Intelligent Design" Even as Others Point to Celebrations as Deification of Charles Darwin

There is an interesting article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Darwin Day. As the reporter notes, the Discovery Institute marks the same occasion with a lecture and discussion on "Darwin Day and the Deification of Charles Darwin." On Darwin Day we will be broadcasting a short lecture by Dr. John West and Dr. Jonathan Wells about Darwin and his impact on modern science. The 30 minute program will be available at ID The Future and on Youtube. (Check back here on Feb 12 for exact links).

According to the P-I article the films maker, oceanographer Randy Olson, started out really liking the work of Discovery, but only after we didn't want to appear in his film did he resort to motive mongering and distorting our position on evolution. That's one approach to getting interviews. If you don't do this, I'll make you look bad. And he tried to do just that.

One thing that the reporter got wrong is how he defines what intelligent design is and how it differs from Darwinian evolution. (But, maybe he got that from Randy Olson.) Cohen writes:

"Evolution includes the ideas that plants and animals can change from one generation to the next and that different species descend from common ancestors. Discovery's intelligent design proponents concede the first kind of evolution but challenge the second. They say some sort of intelligent designer is a more likely explanation for ordered complexity found in nature."
Not exactly. In fact, the theory of intelligent design doesn't exclude the possibility of common ancestry at all. There are three common, but very different definitions of biological evolution. When speaking with people about the issue it is important to ask them which definition of evolution they are using:
1) Change over time (even billions of years, most leading ID proponents believe the universe is billions of years old)

2) Common ancestry, all forms of life evolved from a single original life form

3) Natural selection acting on random mutation is the primary mechanism by which life forms have evolved.

ID scientists do not have a problem with definition #1. There is some debate over definition #2, but it is not incompatible with ID. Definition #3, commonly referred to as Darwinian Evolution, is a specific part of evolution that ID challenges and is the heart of Darwin's theory.

Randy Olson clearly didn't understand what intelligent design is when he told his story, so it's no surprise if he misrepresented it to Cohen as well.

The main thing that Olson got wrong in his film Flock of Dodos is that he charges biologist Jonathan Wells with being a fraud for claiming that modern biology textbooks still include Ernst Haeckel's faked drawings of embryos as evidence for Darwinian evolution. It's been well-known for a century that Haeckel's drawings are bogus. Olson doesn't contest this. What he does contest is Wells' claim that they are still in use in modern textbooks. It's a silly assertion on Olson's part since it is so easily proven to be wrong. We have shelves full of modern textbooks using the drawings, the sad fact being that the some are still in use in biology classes today. Olson knew this, but persists in making the claim, turning his flock of dodos into a hoax of dodos.

We will be issuing more detailed responses to Olson's film throughout this week, leading up to Darwin Day, Feb. 12 when it is scheduled to be screened in a few small science venues.