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Buttar’d Up 

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Intelligent design has not conducted one experiment with results challenging mainstream scientific understanding. The theory of evolution, on the other hand, has been found immensely useful in explaining how life on earth has changed over time.



But why take my word for it? U.S. District Judge John E. Jones recently called the Pennsylvania Dover Area School Board’s decision to include intelligent design in its science curriculum, a “breathtaking inanity.” An appointee of President George W. Bush, Jones ruled that intelligent design is just creationism, and therefore religion, in disguise.



If you’ve followed this debate, you know intelligent design is a Trojan horse of the religious right. Its biggest proponents are religious. Michael J. Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, is a devout Roman Catholic. Those who put religion over science fund it. And Judge Jones’ recent decision let slip the true intentions of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, intelligent design’s most prominent think tank. “This galvanizes the Christian community,” said senior fellow William Dembski.



Where were all the biologists and geneticists condemning the judge’s decision and exposing the “deep controversies” surrounding evolution’s “flaws”? They were nowhere, of course. That’s because the number of biologists and geneticists who have problems with the theory of evolution are hen’s-tooth rare. “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution,” said the Russian biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky.



Now enter Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan. This time, however, it’s not about politics and religion. Unlike fundamentalist Evangelicals, Mormons carry surprisingly wide views regarding evolution. Just ask Brigham Young University’s Duane E. Jeffery, a professor of integrative biology, and as staunch a defender of Darwin as they come.



No, the matter concerns Sen. Buttars’ confused mind. Armed with bachelor’s degrees in marketing and economics, he feels qualified to talk about what he calls evolution’s many faults. Too bad his comments reveal little understanding of evolution or even science.



In a Dec. 23 Deseret Morning News article, Buttars lambasted teachers who would say humans “evolved from apes.” That would indeed be troubling, but evolution says nothing about us evolving from apes, only that 6 or 7 million years ago we shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees and gorillas, the animals we are most closely related to.



Buttars also thinks he’s scoring big points by stressing that evolution is “only a theory, not a fact.” Actually, scientific theories are built on the foundation of testable observations and hypothesis. The intelligent design crowd, meanwhile, argues whether the name of their designer is Zeus, Vishnu, Yahweh, Allah or Heavenly Father. That’s a fact.



Buttars also complains about how the scientific community is portrayed to Utah students. They don’t “agree on any one theory,” he warns. Actually, the debate about evolution’s evidence is long over. What’s still debated are theories about the origin of life, but these debates concern the interpretation of empirical evidence, not the revelations of Scripture. Buttars apparently would have all students file into church, where no questions are asked. Disagreement among scientists doesn’t mean we know nothing about these origins, nor is it a sign of crisis.



Buttars is smart on one count. In the wake of the Pennsylvania decision, his proposed bill next legislative session challenging evolution’s teaching in public schools makes no mention of “intelligent design” at all. What, then, shall we call his alternative to evolution? “Melted Buttars” doesn’t sound at all bad.

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