Science Notes


Issue: "Palau: Renaissance Man," Jan. 24, 1998

Darwin's supervisor

"The diversity of life on Earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, unpredictable and natural process." So read the platform of the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), the influential professional society of high school and college science instructors. But in a surprising move that has scandalized evolutionists and secularists in the education establishment, the NABT has excised the key words "unsupervised" and "impersonal" from its creed, technically allowing for the possibility that a personal, intelligent creator designed life, albeit through the mechanism of evolution. But don't expect evolutionist educators to recant their materialist faith anytime soon. As Phillip Johnson, a leading critic of Darwinism, told WORLD: "I don't think the NABT meant to change its substantive position, which is still that evolution is a completely natural and material process in which God played no role. They merely removed some language that was too explicit in stating their naturalistic philosophy." Indeed, Wayne Carley, executive director of the NABT acknowledged as much, saying the change was made because they wanted "to avoid taking a religious position." That is an admission that demonstrates the truth of what Christian critics have been claiming all along: The association's original platform-like Darwinism itself-exceeds purely scientific conclusions, and embraces distinctly religious ideas. The NABT decision to change its statement is widely seen as a retreat from the secularist worldview of the "scientific" community. "That perception may cause the Darwinists some worry," Mr. Johnson says, "because they cannot afford to look as if they are losing confidence."

Blinded with science

Plagiarism. Faked research data. Forged signatures. Private information about patients revealed without their consent. These are hardly the practices one would associate with the elite and most prestigious scientific and medical journals in the world, but according to a group of editors from some of those periodicals, such are the unethical artifices of a growing number of scientific writers seeking publication. Indeed, the problem has swelled to such an alarming extent that these editors have banded together to protect against scientific misconduct by forming the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). "Cases of [scientific fraud] are still exposed mostly by chance, and we worry about the scale of the problem," said Richard Smith, editor of The British Medical Journal, which, along with The Lancet, The Journal of the American Medical Association, and other leading lights is going on guard through COPE against the trickery of morally challenged scientists. The first step, as Dr. Smith sees it, is to publicize the embarrassing extent of the problem, so COPE will begin annually publishing a list of reported cases of researcher malfeasance to sensitize editors to the problem, as well as to stigmatize offending writers. Dr. Smith and the other editors hope eventually to organize an international body modeled after the Danish government's official national committee on scientific dishonesty.

"I just needed this bed"

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Even as Oregon voters last November were choosing to continue traveling down the perilous path of physician-assisted suicide, some of the destinations along that road were revealed in the Netherlands, where physician-assisted suicide is already widely practiced. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that euthanasia advocates there have taken the next step, and begun arguing that in certain circumstances doctors should neither require nor seek the consent of mentally competent patients before they kill them. One such chilling instance was "a nun whose physician ended her life a few days before she would have died because she was in excruciating pain but her religious convictions did not permit her to ask for death." In another case, a patient with advanced breast cancer who had explicitly said she did not want to be euthanized was dispatched by her physician anyway, because, he said, "It could have taken another week before she died. I just needed this bed."


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