Let's start with an observation:

"We Reap What We Sow "

A letter by Behe in Science (281:348, 17 Jul. 1998) and other related articles:

Embryology and Evolution

M. K. Richardson et al., the authors of a study (1) demonstrating fraud (E. Pennisi, Research News, 5 Sept. 1997, p. 1435) by 19th-century embryologist Ernst Haeckel have objected (Letters, 15 May, p. 983) that their work was "used in a nationally televised debate to attack evolutionary theory, and to suggest that evolution cannot explain embryology." As the debate participant who discussed Haeckel, I believe their objections are unwarranted.

Richardson et al. write that "[d]ata from embryology are fully consistent with Darwinian evolution." Unfortunately, that is a negligible standard. The distinguished authors of a prominent textbook have strongly argued (2) that the early stages of embryogenesis should be highly conserved as Haeckel pictured them. That idea, however, has now been shown to be incorrect (1). But if Darwinian theory is "fully consistent" with either conserved or variable embryogenesis, then it is consistent with virtually any scenario and makes no predictions concerning it. Contrary to Richardson et al's statement that "Haeckel was right to show increasing difference between species as they develop," the earliest stages of development are actually quite different across vertebrate species, and become increasingly similar toward the phylotypic stage (3). The "hourglass" pattern of development is a conundrum that is not predicted by Darwinism.

I did not say during the debate, as Richardson et al. write, that "evolution cannot explain embryology." Rather, I said, in effect, that for a century, Darwinism easily embraced a false description of a fundamental process and that the problem of development within evolution remains unsolved.

Michael J. Behe
Department of Biological Sciences,
Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA,


1.     M. K. Richardson et al., Anat. Embryol. 196, 91 (1997).

2.     B. Alberts et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell (Garland, New York, ed. 3, 1994), pp. 32-33.

3.     R. Raff, The Shape of Life (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1996), pp. 192-197.

DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY: Haeckel's Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered,  Science, (5 Sept, 1997) 277:1435.

Elizabeth Pennisi

Generations of biology students may have been misled by a famous set of drawings of embryos published 123 years ago by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel (Fig. 1). They show vertebrate embryos of different animals passing through identical stages of development. But the impression they give, that the embryos are exactly alike, is wrong, says Michael Richardson, an embryologist at St. George's Hospital Medical School in London. He hopes once and for all to discredit Haeckel's work, first found to be flawed more than a century ago.

Richardson had long held doubts about Haeckel's drawings because they didn't square with his understanding of the rates at which fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals develop their distinctive features. So he and his colleagues did their own comparative study, reexamining and photographing embryos roughly matched by species and age with those Haeckel drew (Fig. 2). Lo and behold, the embryos "often looked surprisingly different," Richardson reports in the August issue of Anatomy and Embryology.

One striking deviation from reality, Richardson says, appears in Haeckel's drawings of embryos in the "tail bud" stage, which he depicted as identical for different species. While real embryos do share many features at this stage, such as a tail and identifiable body segments, they also have key differences. Human embryos, for example, have tiny protrusions called limb buds, says Richardson, particularly if they have developed to the point of having as many body segments as Haeckel gives them. But Haeckel did not include limb buds. And in his drawings, the chick embryo eye is blackened, like a mammal's, "but it wouldn't be pigmented this early," Richardson says. He adds that Haeckel has given the bird embryo a curl in the tail that resembles a human's.

Not only did Haeckel add or omit features, Richardson and his colleagues report, but he also fudged the scale to exaggerate similarities among species, even when there were 10-fold differences in size. Haeckel further blurred differences by neglecting to name the species in most cases, as if one representative was accurate for an entire group of animals. In reality, Richardson and his colleagues note, even closely related embryos such as those of fish vary quite a bit in their appearance and developmental pathway. "It looks like it's turning out to be one of the most famous fakes in biology," Richardson concludes.

This news might not have been so shocking to Haeckel's peers in Germany a century ago: They got Haeckel to admit that he relied on memory and used artistic license in preparing his drawings, says Scott Gilbert, a developmental biologist at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. But Haeckel's confession got lost after his drawings were subsequently used in a 1901 book called Darwin and After Darwin and reproduced widely in English-language biology texts.

The flaws in Haeckel's work have resurfaced now in part because recent discoveries showing that many species share developmental genes have renewed interest in comparative developmental biology. And while some researchers--following Haeckel's lead--like to emphasize the similarities among species, Richardson thinks studying the contrasts may be more interesting. Gilbert agrees: "There is more variation [in vertebrate embryos] than had been assumed." For that reason, he adds, “the Richardson paper does a great service to developmental biology.”

Fig. 1. Haeckel's 1874 version of vertebrate embryonic development. The top row shows an early stage common to all groups, the second row shows a middle stage of development, and the bottom row shows a late stage embryo. Groups from left to right are: fish, salamander, turtle, chicken, pig, cow, rabbit, and human. (Adapted from Gilbert, 1997.) (Taken from:

Fig. 2. Vertebrate embryos (not to scale) at three arbitrary stages of development (from up to down and from left to right): 1) Early (tailbud stage), 2) Intermediate (late embryo/early larva), 3) Late (adult form visible). No evolutionary sequence is implied in the way the specimens are arranged. Details of secimens are available from M.K.R. Early human embryo photographs courtesy of R. O'Rahilly (A: lamprey (Petromyzon marinus), B: dogfish (Squatus acanthias), C: gar (Lepisosteus osseus), D: salmon (Salmo salar), E: lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri), F: axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), G: hellbender (Cryptobranchus allegheniensis), H: snake (Natrix natrix), I: chicken (Gallus gallus), J: possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), K: cat (felis catus), L: bat (Rhynchonycteris naso), M: human (Homo sapiens)). (Taken from: Science, 15 May 1998, 280:983-984).

Fragments from the article Haeckel, Embryos, and Evolution, Richardson et al., Science, 280:983-984, in which they explain that they disagree with the TV program that showed their work as a proof against evolution (2):


“…Haeckel's famous drawings (Fig. 1) are a Creationist cause célèbre (3). Early versions show young embryos looking virtually identical in different vertebrate species. On a fundamental level, Haeckel was correct: All vertebrates develop a similar body plan (consisting of notochord, body segments, pharyngeal pouches, and so forth)… It also fits with overwhelming recent evidence that development in different animals is controlled by common genetic mechanisms (4).


Unfortunately, Haeckel was overzealous. When we compared his drawings with real embryos, we found that he showed many details incorrectly. He did not show significant differences between species, even though his theories allowed for embryonic variation. For example, we found variations in embryonic size, external form, and segment number which he did not show (1)…

Haeckel's drawings are used in many modern textbooks, but not always as primary evidence for evolution. In Molecular Biology of the Cell (6), the drawings are used mainly to support hypotheses about the stages of development acted on by natural selection. It is only in this limited context that we have reservations about the implications of the drawings. Thus, certain "phylotypic" embryonic stages, which Haeckel showed as identical, may in fact be significant targets for natural selection.

We are not the first to question the drawings. Haeckel's past accusers included His (Leipzig University), Rütimeyer (Basel University), and Brass (leader of the Keplerbund group of Protestant scientists). However, these critics did not give persuasive evidence in support of their arguments. We therefore show here a more accurate representation of vertebrate embryos at three arbitrary stages, including the approximate stage (Fig. 2, row three), which Haeckel showed to be identical. We suggest that Haeckel was right to show increasing difference between species as they develop (5). He was also right to show strong similarities between his earliest embryos of humans and other eutherian mammals (for example, the cat and the bat; Fig. 2, row three). However, he was wrong to imply that there is virtually no evolutionary change in early embryos in the vertebrates (see variations, Fig. 2).

These conclusions are supported in part by comparisons of developmental timing in different vertebrates (7). This work indicates a strong correlation between embryonic developmental sequences in humans and other eutherian mammals, but weak correlation between humans and some "lower" vertebrates…”

References and Notes:

1.     M. K. Richardson et al., Anat. Embryol. 196, 91 (1997).

2.     "Firing Line with William Buckley," Public Broadcasting System (USA) (13 December 1997).

3.     W.H. Rusch, Creat. Res. Soc. Ann. 6, 27 (1969).

4.     J. M. W. Slack, P. W. H. Holland, C. F. Graham, Nature 361, 490 (1993).

5.     R. Raff, The Shape of Life (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1996).

6.     B. Alberts et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell (Garland, New York, ed. 3, 1994).

7.     M. K. Richardson, Dev. Biol. 172, 412 (1995); and M. Coates, in preparation.

F. Verbeek, J. Bluemink, J. Narraway, and other staff of the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology provided assistance. Supported by the Wellcome Trust.

"Putting Limits on the Diversity of Life"
"Limits in the Natural Biological Variability", page in spanish, references are given in english

The next is a sequence of fragmentary declarations after the article published by Scott in Science, and her own answer:

White, S., W. Meier, et al. (2000). “Educators have hard choices; nationally, not just in Kansas.” Science 289(5481): 869-71.

Editors' Note: We have received many dEbates responses ( to Eugenie C. Scotts's Science and Society Essay on concerns regarding evolution and creationism in science education ("Not (just) in Kansas anymore," 5 May, p. 813). Here are highlights from a representative sample. Dr. Scott's response appears both in this section and in dEbates online.

Anthony White, (12 May 2000), Salesman, Lay Science Reader, E-mail:
Maybe evolution is in such a perceived crisis because evolutionists seem to consistently employ the same tactics used by politicians. In many of the debates, some of which I have witnessed, the anti-evolutionists were not religious fundamentalists thumping the Bible, but scientists with just as many degrees as their opponents. If a survey was taken of young, impressionable minds, one might be surprised at how many felt anti-evolutionists presented a much stronger case than evolutionists.

People are talking about evolution and creationism because none of the other scientific issues is as vulnerable. Gravity, the first and second laws of thermodynamics, or general and special relativity are not constantly on the "hot seat." Maybe the theory of evolution is flawed. It is no closer to being incontrovertibly proven in the hearts and minds of the American public than when it was first introduced. This speaks volumes.

Walt Meier, (response to White, 16 May 2000), Research Scientist, Nat'l Oceanographic and Atmos. Admin, E-mail:

[T]he validity of a scientific theory is not dependent on polls, but on facts...The fact that many Americans do not accept evolution indicates that science education is sorely lacking in America, not that evolution is an invalid scientific theory.

Frank Lovell, (response to White, 24 May 2000), Manager GE Appliances, e-mail:

(A) scientific theory is never properly regarded as "incontrovertibly proven," as White suggests. If evolution is indeed a flawed scientific theory, it will take scientists with evidence to undo it, not rhetoric waged by a public that remains largely ignorant about the facts and theory of evolution.

Anthony White (response to responses), (9 June 2000), Salesman, Lay Science Reader, e-mail:
What arrogance to assume that the American public is unable to grasp a theory that everyone has been instructed in since grade school. Doesn't the American public consist of scientists, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, teachers, and mathematicians, all of whom are college graduates and educated people? I assure you we are not as ignorant of Darwin's theory as you seem to suppose.

There are a host of holes in the theory of evolution.

(1) Many different scientist's calculations demonstrate that the formation of life by accidental processes is mathematically impossible. (a) Sir Fred Hoyle calculated the probability to be 1 in 10 to the 40,000 power. (b) Penrose calculated that, to provide for a universe compatible with the second law of thermodynamics, the precision required to set the universe on its highly ordered course was to an accuracy of 1 in 10 to the 10(123)power. Do the math! That's more than all the protons, neutrons, and every other particle in the known universe. Paul Davies calculated that the matching of the explosive force of the big bang and gravity was one in 10 to the 60 power. (c) When Sir Fred Hoyle calculated the odds against the precise matching required to form a single carbon atom through the triple alpha process, he said the answer dramatically disturbed his atheism. He went on to say that the number calculated from the facts are so overwhelming as to put the conclusion that a superintellect had monkeyed with the physics almost beyond question.

(2) The Miller and Urey line of experiments are laughable, yet it is still in the current college text books as fact. (a) According to Hubert Yockey, in so far as chance plays a role in the probability that even a very short protein, let alone a genome, could emerge from a primeval soup, if ever it existed, even with the help of a "deux ex machina" for 10 to the 9 power light years is so small that it requires the "faith of Job" to believe it. He also called the prebiotic soup a failed paradigm. (b) Fred Hoyle and Wickramasingh concluded that life could not have appeared by Earth-bound random processes even if the whole universe consisted of primeval soup.

(3) What was the method of generating information content into inorganic matter? (a) The second law of thermodynamics states that any spontaneous process in such a system will result in an increase in disorder or entropy. (b) Time's arrow points in the direction of equilibrium, demonstrating that in any spontaneous change the amount of (free energy) decreases and randomness increases. The more time, the greater the entropy . Therefore, life could not develop in such processes. (c) Energy alone is not sufficient to support abiogenisis.

Many in the scientific community are aware of these numbers but their ideological beliefs prevent them from seeing the forest for the trees. It is normally accepted within the scientific community that anything less than one in 10 to the 50 power is a mathematical impossibility. Stop being robots and "let evolution stand on its own two feet."

Norman F. Stanley, (13 June 2000) Retired chemist, E-mail:

(T)o postulate a director or designer at any stage of the theory is to postulate a miracle… isn't it far better to leave unanswered questions provisionally unanswered and continue investigating? This is aside from methodological flaws and factual errors, and they are numerous, as pointed out in published critiques of such theories.

Far from being "laughable," the Miller-Urey experiments were seminal in demonstrating the formation of amino acids under prebiotic conditions. They are easily duplicated in the laboratory with simple apparatus. Prebiotic chemistry has hardly stood still since their time. Syntheses of peptides, lipids, and nucleotides have been demonstrated under conditions similar to those prevailing in the abiotic era. These molecules have been shown to assemble into structures suggestive of proto-cells. Research into self-replicating molecules has developed rapidly during the past decade. Viruses and prions illustrate that the distinction between life and nonlife is fuzzy. Whether viruses or other simple organisms can be synthesized in the foreseeable future is uncertain, but I am inclined to be optimistic. 

Wes McCoy, (18 May 2000) high school science chairman, North Cobb High School, Kennesaw, GA, E-mail:
My genetics students have passed Biology I. They should understand evolution (particularly if I was their teacher). Here is why they usually don't: (i) What they learn about evolution outside the classroom is fundamentally more powerful than what they learn in it... (ii) By and large, students believe that evolution can be equated with atheism. This view comes from the false duality of an "evolution vs. creationism" debate. The most common default position adopted by students is that evolution is “only a theory,” a thought echoed by school boards throughout this country. 

Mehmet Sen, (16 May 2000), Biochemist, E-mail:

The debate about evolution is meaningless because not everything about this subject can be tested. I don't believe in the evolutionary process because I feel God in my heart, and I know that he knows everything, like a leaf falling from a tree or a insect wandering around its home. I will not discuss intermediate fossils or mutations because I can say many things against these proposed ideas. Why doesn't "Science" invite comment from people who are on the creation side, like Kenneth B. Cumming, professor of biology, or Duane T. Gish, professor of biochemistry?

All religions coming from the Messenger of God (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) state that we don't evolve.

If you try to find reality, please think with your own mind.

Philip S. Skell, (27 July 2000), Member of the National Academy of Science; Emeritus, Evan Pugh Prof. Chemistry, The Pennsylvania State University, Univ. Park, Penn., 16801, e-mail:

 Darwinist Enthusiasts, popularizers and researchers alike, have insisted over the past 140 years that his Concepts are the foundation of all biology, some maintaining it undergirds all modern scholarship. Is this a useful perspective? Does it risk creating obstacles to science funding? Evolution Theory is a broadly overarching historical theory that pertains to the developmental history of living organisms over the past 3.5 billion years. It is reasonable to examine its credentials and determine its current utility. Does it have a directive impact in the inductive, or experimental, sciences, such as Physics, Chemistry, and Biology? Despite statements in the literature that make it out to be vitally important in modern Microbiology, Neurobiology, Genetics, Plant Biology, Medicine, Surgery, Pharmaceutics, etc., I believe this assignment to evolutionary theory cannot be justified. Nobel Laureate, Francis Crick wrote: "It might be thought that evolutionary arguments would play a large part in guiding biological research, but this is far from the case." I am mindful of the statement of a professor at a prestigious medical school, that Darwin is not mentioned in the four-year medical program. And, another from a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry, that his company does not have a Division of Darwinian Concepts to help in making more effective their choices for future research. Over A half century ago, during WW II, I was personally associated with an antibiotics research group, engaged in the full range of activities, from finding organisms which inhibited bacterial growth to the isolation and proof of structure of the antibiotics they produced. Since then there has been astounding sophisticated advances in instrumentations and methodologies, but nonetheless persons engaged in current activities make no more use of Darwinian Concepts than in those earlier days; those Concepts do not, and did not, have a determinative impact on the conception and prosecution of the projects. Genomics is currently in the news headlines with the remarkable achievements in detailing the human genome. This technological breakthrough would have occurred regardless of one's beliefs on Darwinism. The question that must be addressed: Is the Theory mainly of overarching historical importance with modest relevance to modern research? Granted, those engaged in exhuming ancient artifacts, fossils, can claim the Concepts are "Absolutely vital" in their field of natural history. Paleontology may, with some justification claim that Evolutionary Theory provides a useful framework. To clarify the discrepancy in perceptions, I suggest that persons working in biological fields, and all other science-oriented Darwinists, enlighten us by responding to: {In your research, is design of new programs dependent upon Darwinian Concepts, in the sense that if you did not agree with its major tenets, your program would be significantly different?}. I have posed this question to 40 persons in scholarly activities, two-thirds in scientific areas, the remainder broadly across other fields, and thus far I have not had a yes response, with justification of a claim of relevance in the modern context for the heuristic importance of Darwinian Concepts. If I have not searched widely enough for relevance, there should be ample opportunity for correction of my assessment: That those overarching historical Concepts play a negligible role in most modern research programs. Can the case be made that without the Concepts there would be no research programs, no progress? To be convincing advocates must give their assessment with reference to specific research programs. The global question, "Is Darwinism important?" invites the arm-waving reply: "Absolutely, vital!!". Vital to one's world view perhaps, but vital to particular research programs? Science may be best served by maintaining a wall-of-separation between its inductive/experimental activities and disputes regarding world-views, a separation from the extremists of both varieties. It is one thing for atheists to use science to support or lend respectability (as Richard Dawkins has put it) to their views. It is another for atheists to advance their views under the banner "Thus Speaks Science!". Illustrative of the current relevance of this matter is the response of the "Science Community" to the recent events in Kansas. Their Board indicated they would not include in their state-wide final exams questions on three subjects: 1. Origin of Life from a primordial soup, 2. Micro-evolution entails Macro-evolution, and 3. Big Bang origin of the Universe. They made no restriction on teaching these matters, nor any requirement or recommendation, as often claimed, that Creationism be taught; the old standards, dating from 1995, had much less about evolution in them than the new standards. Each of these subjects omitted from the state-wide exams is part of ancient natural history, arguably of questionable relevance to the graduating high school senior. One must wonder at the distorted perspectives that provoked the "Science Community" to such disproportionate responses, including remarks in some reputable publications, recommending that Kansas graduates be denied admissions to colleges and universities. Why all this fuss in the science community? Let us recognize that the debate between the extremes on both sides has only marginal relevance to modern scientific activities, and if the debate is continued in the current intemperate manner, they may be putting at risk the future funding of vital activities. The Congress, a microcosm of the "general public", holds the purse strings! While we are all vastly indebted to the science community for the excellence of their scholarly activities, this does not give members of our community the right to breach the Wall-of-Separation and to use, as a pulpit, our public schools for indoctrination with their religious or antireligious views. The political route may be the only means by which the attention of the Enthusiasts can be gained, to encourage them to desist from conflating their metaphysical world-views with the science they do so capably. If that route is taken we will all suffer.

Robert Niichel, (1 June 2000) Student, Monticello High School, E-mail:

Without a God or a higher being, truth becomes relative.

Deborah Hernandez, (31 May 2000) Chemist and Physicist, Christian, E-mail:

 What is to be taught to our future citizens? At present they are taught much information, and science is explained as "fact" when the ideas are constantly being revised. It has been said that science should be taught as the history of science in order to leave it open to changes. In history we clearly see that our nation is based on the freedom to worship God, who made the world… order and life that man himself cannot imitate. So which is easier to believe? Which makes more sense?

Ian Gordon, (22 May 2000) librarian, Brock University, e-mail:

We should give more credit to students and their abilities to think through and debate matters of social, scientific, religious, and philosophical origin than we currently allow. To state that "Allowing creationism a voice within a public school curriculum smacks of religious instruction" puts teachers, students and parents at a disadvantage. It is equally unfair to paint all scientists who believe in evolution with the label of "secular humanist." There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion. We all have our own persepectives.

What we have is a debate where Christians (and other beliefs) have felt that they have been marginalized. In a true democratic environment we should allow for an open debate within the classroom.

I am sure most students and teachers are willing to move forward and debate these issues if religious and civil liberties organizations would join the debate rather than threatening a democratic process.

P.S. This text and any opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect those of my present employer.

Tyler F. Creelan, (18 May 2000), undergraduate student, Oregon State University, E-mail:

There is an old saying: "There is no point in debating with someone who knows they are right."… It is...unclear why a...suggested alternative to teaching evolution, the avoidance of all lessons relating to this matter, is to be preferred over current practice. I would rather learn about something I do not wholly agree with than learn nothing at all.

…"Fighting creationism," therefore, seems a useless action, equivalent to filling in a hole in the sand that weather and time shall eventually fill in anyway. An earnest seeker of the truth shall always come in time to learn of evolution, and determine its falsehood or veracity independently…I think that the effort and energy of the scientific community can be better placed in other, more meaningful goals than fighting what will likely amount to a passing socio-political trend.

Rudolf Brun, (18 May 2000) developmental biologist, faculty TCU, e-mail:
What do we as serious scientists contribute to this debate? I think the dialogue between scientists and theologians needs to improve. By this I mean that theology cannot be reduced to science and vice-versa. Rather, what science learns about nature must become integrated into a world-view in which faith finds its reasonable place. How could this be accomplished?… there is no predeterminism, there is freedom! Freedom is also the prerequisite for Christianity to make sense. This is because human beings must be free to either accept or reject the loving relationship offered by the creator. How about trying to overcome the adversarial positions between science and religion in this way? Wouldn't it be great to energize the debate between creationists and scientists from this point of departure? For an outline of such a dialog see the following:

Robert Mac West, (24 May 2000) paleontologist, Informal Learning Experiences, Inc., E-mail:

In a nation where dollars produce political results--and this is a political discussion as much as it is a scientific and religious one--it is little wonder that the voice of science is not heard as well as the voice of creationism.

Ivan E. Collier, (24 May 2000) molecular biologist, Washington University School of Medicine, E-mail:

The skeptical tradition in science means that all scientific explanation, no matter how well tested, is theory. To present a scientific explanation, whether it be quantum electrodynamics or evolution, without the context of skepticism invites contempt and risks establishing scientific literalism.

Duane T. Gish, (7 July 2000) Executive, Senior Vice President, Institute for Creation Research, P.O. Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021, Web Page:

In her Essay, Scott says "the Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism and creation 'science' are unconstitutional." In a letter published in Nature (1) in 1987, after the Supreme Court decision on the Louisiana equal time legislation, Scott said "the Supreme Court decision says only that the Louisiana law violates the constitutional separation of church and state; it does not say that no one can teach scientific creationism--and unfortunately many individual teachers do." These statements appear to be contradictory. Which one is true? In an article published in 1987 in the New York Times Magazine (2), Stephen Jay Gould says "Creationists claim their law broadened the freedom of teachers by permitting the introduction of controversial material. But no statute exists in any state to bar instruction in 'creation science'. It could be taught before, and it can be taught now." Michael Zimmerman in Bioscience in 1987 says "The Supreme Court ruling did not, in any way, outlaw the teaching of 'creation science' in public school classrooms. Quite simply it ruled that in the form taken by the Louisiana law, it is unconstitutional to demand equal time for this particular subject. 'Creation science' can still be brought into science classrooms if and when teachers and administrators feel it is appropriate."

By Scott's own words, the concurrence of Gould and Zimmerman, and a reading of the Supreme Court's decision concerning the Louisiana law, it seems clear that the decision did not declare that teaching scientific evidence that supports creation in public school classrooms is unconstitutional and thus prohibited. This false notion is incessantly repeated by those who adamantly oppose such educational activities. As Richard Lewontin has rightly stated, evolution and creationism are irreconcilable worldviews. When each is stripped down to the bare bones, each is intrinsically religious. Although they constitute inferences based on circumstantial evidence, the evidence supporting each is by nature scientific and should be made available to students in the tax-supported public schools of our pluralistic democratic society.


1. E. Scott, Nature 329, 282 (1987).

2. S. J. Gould, "The verdict on creationism," New York Times Mag. (19 July 1987), p. 34.

3. M. Zimmerman, Bioscience 37 (no. 9), 635 (1987).

George N. Prince, (10 May 2000), Retired attorney/volunteer mentor/tutor, E-mail: Certain pitfalls in the contemporary teaching of evolution in public schools might be avoided if school systems taught the history of science, rather than particular "theories." The history of science shows a progression of theories that seems to have no end. As time passes, a scientific theory is sometimes disproved. But if a theory is a good one, it will more likely be viewed as valid only within limits and replaced by a theory that explains more phenomena or is simply more "elegant."

As a lay reader of science-media, I have the sense that there is no theory in any branch of science that is not subject to revision in light of new developments. It would be well for schoolchildren to absorb this. The theory of evolution should not be defended by trying to convert it into a dogma.

Thomas C. Adler, (12 May 2000) Electrochemist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, E-mail:

I entirely agree that the claims of the “Young Earth” kind are false. I believe that we should still be receptive to the possibility that there is a greater creative intelligence participating in the evolution of the universe. Science has yet to explain precisely how the universe originated, how life was created from inanimate matter, and how conscious intelligence arose. These are not trivial issues. I think that we should avoid taking a dogmatic posture in favor of strict materialism in these cases. Albert Einstein, for example, kept the dialogue going between religion and science through his personal contacts, letters, and lectures. Rigid scientific dogmatism will merely antagonize potential supporters, and we may win the battle but lose the war.

Henry M. Paynter, (15 May 2000) Emeritus Professor, MIT, E-mail:

After reading Scott's vigorous article, I went back to see what the National Science Education Standards had to say about creationism (in any of its forms). The answer was, simply nothing. This vital issue was ignored completely, at least as best I could see. But, like angle trisection, circle squaring, and the flat Earth, this question must be addressed directly and objectively and not simply dismissed and ignored.

Three cheers to Eugenie Scott and "Science" for providing just such a discussion.

William K. Hartmann, (7 July 2000), senior scientist, Planetary Science Institute, E-mail:

The complaint against the fascinating evidence for a Big Bang event is particularly ironic and illuminating. If any piece of modern astronomy could be welcomed by creationists, it should be the Big Bang theory. The fact that it is under attack is evidence, in my opinion, that fundamentalists are not interested in content or ideas, but are simply against science and scientists.

Thus, much of the current controversy could be reduced by teaching the history and (dare I say?) evolution of the scientific ideas themselves, rather than merely presenting them as "known facts" or even "established theory."

Dr. B. Colbert, (24 May 2000), Mathematican, E-mail:

The big bang theory was initially rejected (by the “scientific community”) because it was perceived to be "religiously based" and theistic. This clearly demonstrates that to claim to be against a religiously based view of the world does not mean that one is objective and free from error.

What is more important is how these theories are taught. Unfortunately, the latest theory, be it evolutionary or creationist, is taught as absolute undeniable fact, in the same way one might teach children that Caesar conquered Gaul or how to whack a cricket ball. When the next year comes, the next theory is taught in the same manner. Instead, the uncertainty and open questions surrounding both theories should be presented.

Scott's essay seems to have the same faults that Scott finds with "fundamentalists." Scott cites several authors to dismiss views that she opposes. How is this different from "fundamentalists" quoting the Bible?

As a postscript, I do not share Scott's rather rosy view of a highly centralized education system. Such centralization was brought into Europe by military dictators and tyrants. It has resulted in the destruction of minority languages and cultures, such as Langue d'Oc, Breton, Welsh, Irish, and many others. In some cases, it was a criminal offense to speak these languages, and children were punished and publicly humiliated in schools for doing so. "Scientific" reasons justified this treatment of children.

William B. Provine, (15 May 2000) Professor, Cornell University, E-mail:

No constitutional barrier, prevents students in biology classes from expressing their views. Most evolutionists prefer to muzzle the free speech of creationists. Since no one likes to be robbed of free speech, it is no wonder creationists wish to influence school boards and teachers. As a long-time teacher of evolutionary biology from grade school through graduate school, I encourage the participation of all students and have always found them excited by this approach. Evolutionists will not convince nonbelievers by preventing them from speaking.

One sentence on evolutionary biology appears in the last paragraph of Scott’s essay: “According to the neutralist principle in biology, a mutation will eventually replace the wild type unless it is opposed by natural selection.” What is this neutralist principle? I am writing a history of the theories of neutral molecular evolution but am unaware of any such principle.

Dennis Hollenberg, (18 May 2000), designer, E-mail:

Darwinian theory is too vague and, therefore, too difficult to grasp (exacerbated by the inevitably poor explication in all literature, examples of which I discuss below)… Richard Dawkins describes God in the idealized mechanics of the largely imaginary concept of the "selfish gene." But no such "gene" concept exists; the molecular genome instead functions as an ecosystem in which heterogeneous groups of molecules, largely proteins, accumulate to perform and "control" the various operations using DNA information and subsequently maintain the coding libraries. Less remote is Roger Penrose's ideas that QM makes us think, but an idea that denigrates the vastly complex systems we call brain cells. Life is the interaction of populations hierarchically arranged, not a witless widget coming out of some academic gargoyle.

Benjamin Jantzen, (18 May 2000), Grad student/research assistant, Cornell University, E-mail:

Scott states that one of the ideas "not already present in creation science ha[s] emerged from IDC: biochemist Michael Behe's 'irreducible complexity'...." However, this concept, essentially stating that certain complex natural systems could not function "without a minimal number of interacting components" and therefore could not have evolved from simpler configurations, is no different from the 19th century argument of the eye. The argument I am referring to is the well-worn creationist argument that an eye (vertebrate), in other than its present form, could not possibly function as an eye. It's sheer complexity of design and optimality of function demand that we acknowledge it's designer, just as if, argued William Paley in 1802 ("Natural Theology"), one were to stumble across a watch in the countryside…(Thomas) Huxley became "Darwin's Bull Dog" long after Paley published his eloquent treatise, he met immediately with the argument of irreducible complexity, the work-horse example of which was the occular organ prized by Paley.

Donn M. Stewart, M.D., (22 May 2000) Clinical Fellow, Metabolism Branch, NCI, NIH, E-mail:

(T)he core idea of evolution, that all living things are related by descent, contradicts the core beliefs of historical Christianity. Can evolutionists accomodate the possibilty of creation events in their world view? Scott mentions the Gallup poll in which 40% of scientists agree that evolution occured, but was guided by God… is evolution the belief that common descent is the only possible explanation for all biological phenomena? A strict insistence that no creation events have ever occurred in the history of Earth is as dogmatic as the most severe creationist position.

Peter M. Webster, (31 May 2000), Physician, University of Toronto, E-mail:

As a scientist and a Christian, I am embroiled in this debate regularly, and I believe there is an important moral issue involved. Christian parents are seeing their children taught promiscuity in the name of science, and, unable to demonstrate the errors in the science, parents feel obligated to undermine its authority. The foundation of sex education in our schools is Kinsey's travesty of science, truly a polemic in the cloak of science. If the scientific community were willing to disown Kinsey and the hierarchy of sex education in favor of scientific information on reproductive behavior, bonding, and the hazardous nature of promiscuity, one might have a chance of getting through to Christians of good will.

I find it personally distressing that what science has discovered of God's creative genius answers one of the deepest mysteries of Christian doctrine -- free will and sovereign power. The question "How can a just judge condemn a creature of His own confection?" is answered by evolution and quantum mechanics. To judge a creature, one needs an arm's length procedure, evolution, and a mechanism guaranteeing freedom -- indeterminacy. If the scientific community could see that science developed as an effort to understand the Creator by studying His handywork and thrived in the culture of mutual trust inspired by the concept that we are each and all made in His Image rather than taking each new discovery as an excuse to deny God, we wouldn't be seeing such bizarre behavior from people who feel strongly and intuitively that the universe is not devoid of meaning.

Stephen Congly, (1 June 2000), Undergraduate student, University of Regina, e-mail:

Darwin's theory cannot disprove creationism; however, scientists typically reject creationism as a theory because it cannot be subject to the rigours of the scientific method unlike the theory of creationism.

Larry Berardinis, (1 June 2000), Engineer/Technical writer, Penton Media, e-mail:

 …I find it ironic that, in expressing her frustration, Scott uses far more words than the surprisingly few verses in the Bible (on creation) over which this whole tempest is about. In fact, the very nature of the creation vs. evolution debate -- a dozen or so passages standing alone against page after page, volume after volume, and course after course -- indicates that this is an unresolvable dilemma. It's like trying to catch an atom with a butterfly net. Let it go. There are better things to chase.

Instead of arguing over whose theory or philosophy is more worthy of being taught, perhaps our public servants should put that aside and focus on teaching basic skills like reading, math, writing, and applied science. If there's any time (and money) left over, maybe we can also try to instill in our future generation such things as self-worth and the value of life.

Bruce Simon, (5 July 2000) Ph.D., E-mail:

The Hindus, Ancient Greeks and Romans, Norse, American Indians, Polynesians, etc. all have their versions of creation that differ significantly from that of the Old Testament. Should they all be taught in a science class along with evolution as possible alternative theories? Of course not… So, why don't we just change the Constitution, make this officially a Christian country, and then the church can determine what will and won't be taught in schools, and most of the population will be happy.

Rudy Bernard, (7 July 2000), Professor, Michigan State University, E-mail:

 I think part of the problem arises from thinking/teaching that science can explain eveything. Science is necessarily materialist in its methodology and in the scope of what is studied (the natural world). It does not necessarily follow that science encompasses all of reality or that science can answer all the questions that humans have about the nature of reality. Science has given us amazing knowledge about the universe, and I am privileged to have spent my life in science, but there are many important things that science is not equipped to deal with. Many writers have used evolutionary theory as an argument against God and religion in general, but this is to take science beyond its realm of competence. It is important not to confuse science with philosophy or theology or to deny the valid role of these areas of thought.

Rafael Harpaz, (13 July 2000), Medical Epidemiologist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, E-mail:

I, myself, have a hard time fathoming how evolution could produce the nuanced, highly complex, yet seemingly modestly adaptive features evident in the biological world, particularly when viewed along side such glaring, highly maladaptive examples in biology as the high maternal and infant mortality in pre-industrial human societies. Although I certainly don't reject evolution on the basis of these examples, as a scientist I recognize that my acceptance is, to a degree, based on "faith," and must properly allow for Divine guidance, at least until such time that I seek and obtain clarifying, scientifically derived proof.

Marvin J. Fritzler, (1 June 2000), PhD MD, cell biologist/university professor University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine E-mail Marvin J. Fritzler PhD MD:

I agree with some of the principles espoused by Scott over the past few months but disagree with the rhetoric in her Essay. The innuendo in this Essay does little to advance discussion, debate, or understanding. "Wild type" and "mutant" metaphors are poorly considered in light of the history of the two lines of thinking. Sweeping statements like "Biologists have rejected irreducible complexity, and philosophers have been similarly unresponsive..." are rhetorical distortions. By this statement and others in her Essay, Scott seems to do science (of which she is a spokesperson) a disservice.

Exactly what are we afraid of? How many biologists or philosophers have openly studied the concept of intelligent design (Demski) or irreducible complexity (Behe)? Personally, I find the concepts fascinating and congruent with my understanding and observations. Indeed, Demski calls for research to prove or disprove the concept of intelligent design. As a cell and molecular biologist, the notion that interacting complex systems 'evolved' through mutation and natural selection leaves me concerned that an overarching concept of evolution does not explain what I see in the lab or in published scientific journals. For scientists that believe there needs to be more political action to protect the higher ground. Shouldn't we be reassured that 'natural selection' will (eventually) triumph? I suppose that the failure to gain a more substantial foothold in the nonscientific American community over the past century suggests that, despite something that can be hardly considered a 'neutralist' approach, we should reflect more deeply than merely calling for more political action and further standardization of biology teaching materials.

Michael J. Behe, (7 July 2000), Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University, E-mail:

[I]ntelligent design in biology is not invisible, it is empirically detectable. The biological literature is replete with statements like David DeRosier's in the journal Cell: "More so than other motors, the flagellum resembles a machine designed by a human."...Exactly why is it a thought-crime to make the case that such observations may be on to something objectively correct?

Charles J. Robinove, (16 May 2000) Geologist Retired, E-mail:

The creationism view is that of one religion, Christianity. Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Shintoism, Hinduism, and many other religions have no trouble reconciling evolution with their religious teachings...The fervor of the creationists to force their views on schools amounts to an attempt to establish a religion (or a portion of it) in the governmental system of the United States. We as scientists must, can, and will stand for the best of science and, as individuals, profess our own religious tenets. But we can certainly use the Constitution and the many legal precedents on freedom of religion stemming from the Constitution as a means to fight against those who believe that their own views of the world are the only views that should be held by anyone. Such legal challenges should be tried when the opportunity arises in individual states and school districts.

(Note: a mistake in the previous declaration can be seen in the next Web pages as examples in which members of the “Judaism” and the “Islam” are presenting their tenets and their beliefs regarding the creation: and Science


David Punshon-Smith, (7 September 2000), Physicist, E-mail:

The concept of laws and experiment being supplanted by corroboration of historical narrative as the new direction of science (Ernst Mayr, Sci. Am., July 2000) needs more careful analysis before it is accepted. No one disputes the difficulty of attempting to scientifically verify theories that apply to historical events

Abstract of the original article that generated all of the declarations, by: Eugenie C. Scott (Science, 5 May, p. 813):

Not (Just) in Kansas Anymore

Antievolutionism in many forms is afflicting science education in the United States today. The particular settlement and religious history of America, respectively characterized by local control and lack of hierarchy, is largely responsible. Although conservative, fundamentalist Protestants are the core of antievolutionists, the sentiment is growing among more moderate Christians, largely through the efforts of the "intelligent design" creationists. Teachers are pressed to introduce biblical creationism or creation "science," to teach "evidence against evolution" and/or to disclaim evolution as "only a theory" (meaning guess or hunch). To avoid further decrease in science literacy, scientists actively need to counteract the antievolution threat.

Eugenie C. Scott is a coauthor of the National Academy of Science's, Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science, and has consulted with the NAS on the revision of its "Science and Creationism" booklet. She is a physical anthropologist, is executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Inc., a not-for-profit membership organization that works to improve the teaching of evolution and of science as a way of knowing. It opposes the teaching of "scientific" creationism and other religiously based views in science classes. NCSE, Inc., 925 Kearney Street, El Cerrito, CA 94530-2810, USA. E-mail:    

Response by: Eugenie C. Scott to the many letters originated after her article:
White is correct to say that evolution is not "in the hearts and minds of the public," but he errs in thinking that evolution is taught from grade school up. A smattering of evolution is taught in high school biology, but by then, as McCoy illustrates, students have already acquired a lot of misinformation. The "big three" antievolution arguments students pick up (also illustrated in these dEbates excerpts) are that (i) evolution is scientifically weak--a "theory in crisis," (ii) evolution is incompatible with religion, and (iii) it is "only fair" to teach "both." These three arguments were also used by William Jennings Bryan during the Scopes trial of 1925, so we haven't gotten very far in 75 years. Scientists and teachers need to counter each of the "big three."

Ultimately, existential issues fuel antievolutionism: people are told that if evolution happened, they can't believe in God and their lives are meaningless. A high percentage of the public believes this, which suggests that the faith community has a major role to play in informing religious people of the many ways in which religion is compatible with evolution (see and But scientists and science teachers need to teach more evolution and teach it better, and "better" includes keeping nonscientific ideas such as creation science, intelligent design, and philosophical materialism out of the science class.

Behe claims that intelligent design is empirically detectable, but gives as an example only a statement asserting the similarity of a natural structure to a designed one. Indeed, a structure that functions to get something done can be said to be "designed" for that purpose, but this casual usage should not imply a designing agent, much less an intelligent one, and still less a supernatural one. Natural selection, a nonrandom but unintelligent mechanism, can also produce structures that function for a purpose, and as a natural mechanism, for scientific purposes, it is preferable over untestable supernatural ones.

I thank all those who took time to comment, and apologize for not responding personally to all. Eugenie C. Scott
Executive Director,
National Center for Science Education, Inc.,
925 Kearney Street,
El Cerrito, CA 94530-2810, USA.

The next link shows just some of the sites dealing with God’s creation:

Study Links:

Tasters of the Word (YouTube), videos recientes: "Astronomía y Nacimiento de Jesucristo: Once de Septiembre Año Tres A.C.", "Estudio sobre Sanidades" (en 20 episodios), "Jesus Christ, Son or God?" and "We’ve Got the Power to Heal!"

Tasters of the Word (the blog, with: "Astronomy and the Birth of Jesus Christ", and in writing, the same as in YouTube):