Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Creationism vs Darwinism in American science classes

This site showing pictures from Fallujah has become a cyber hot spot – viewer discretion is advised due to the nature of the photographs. As you scroll down, you will come across an interesting hate mail post.

Apart from issues such as gay rights and abortion, something that many conservatives don’t like is the science taught in public school – i.e. the evolution theory & Darwinism. The Christian Science Monitor reports that one school board in Pennsylvania is changing that after the victory of conservative Christians on Election Day: “By mandating that ninth-grade biology teachers include "intelligent design" in their instruction, board members set a precedent last month. Never before has a school district decided to offer intelligent design, which suggests that only the action of a higher intelligence can explain the complexities of evolution…Near Atlanta, in suburban Cobb County, the local school board demanded that teachers put stickers inside the front cover of middle and high school science books. They read, in part: "Evolution is a theory, not a fact." In rural Wisconsin, the Grantsburg school board voted last month to allow teachers to discuss various theories of creation in their classrooms, opening the door to intelligent design…Since the United States Supreme Court in 1987 outlawed the teaching of creationism in public schools on the grounds of separation of church and state, anti-evolution activists have all but dropped divine creation and instead focused solely on discrediting Darwin…But where most scientists see a series of fits and starts - evolutionary trials and failures - eventually leading to life as we know it, proponents of intelligent design see the guiding hand of some greater wisdom…For example, natural selection is not enough to explain the "eerie perfection" of the genetic code, says John Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network, an advocacy group in Shawnee Mission, Kan. Something so flawlessly "designed" could not be the product of random actions, he says.” My opinion? I think both ideas should be taught simultaneously & the children should be told about the conflicting views about science. I believe in God’s creation, but I understand if someone doesn’t. Just as creationism is an imposition on those who don’t believe in God, Darwinism is an imposition on those who do. That is why both sides of the story should be taught to allow students to make their own minds.

I also want to clear up the controversy about the board members of the Progressive Muslim Union. Apparently, private letters were leaked creating rumors and speculations about the board members. Some of the individuals under attack publicly were NOWHERE tobe found on the official list (Seeme and Malik Hasan, Fareed Zakariya, Nawal El-Saadawi). Others that were mentioned ARE on the list (Muqtedar Khan, Ziad Asali).From an e-mail I received on a statement by Ahmad Nassef, one ofthe founders of the PMU: “The PMU Advisory board features prominent Muslims who have endorsed the organization’s objectives and who have made themselves available for advice and consultation regarding PMU's long-range policies. Advisory Board: Ali Abunimah, a writer and commentator on Middle East and Arab-American affairs, lives in Chicago. He is co-founder of Electronic Intifada and Electronic Iraq; Akbar S. Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies and professor of International Relations at American University in Washington, D.C. Dr. Ahmed is a distinguished anthropologist, writer and filmmaker. He has been actively involved in inter-faith dialogue — and his work to bringunderstanding between Islam and the West has included three appearances on Oprah and a BBC news series called "Living Islam"; Ziad Asali Ziad J. Asali, MD is the President and founder of the American Task Force onPalestine and past-president of the American-Arab Anti-DiscriminationCommittee (ADC), the largest Arab-American grassroots civil rights organization in the United States; Muqtedar Khan is Director of International Studies and Chair, Political Science Department at Adrian College in Michigan. He is also a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC; Scott Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle is Assistant Professor of Religion at Swarthmore College. His research focuses on the intersections between Islamic mysticism (Sufism), Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), and Ethics, including a special focus on gender, sexuality and the importance of bodies in Sufi devotional practices; Tariq Ramadan A Swiss national, Tariq Ramadan is a professor of philosophy at the College of Geneva and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg. In fall 2004 Ramadan was appointed Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Dr. Ramadan has written more than twenty books exploring reinterpretation and reform within Islam itself and between the Islamic world and its neighbors around the globe; Amina Wadud is Islamic studies professor in thedepartment of philosophy and religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is nationally and internationally known for her ground breaking book Qur'an and Women: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman's Perspective, the first interpretive reading of the Qur'an by a woman.”

High level talks between India & Pakistan has also been garnering attention. From the Christian Science Monitor: “Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's first-ever visit to India on Tuesday to meet with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh further advances hopes for peace, reports The Times of India. The ostensible purpose of Mr. Aziz's visit is to discuss mutual economic interests in southwest Asia, such as "plans for a pipeline that will bring natural gas from Iran through Pakistan to energy-hungry India," reports ABC news. Pakistan has "has been keen on the project for years but it has not made much headway because of political tensions." But analysts confide that the real talks between the two ministers will begin and end over Kashmir. Neither side expects major breakthroughs, but given recent developments, both are cautiously probing to see if the peace process can be furthered. In the last month Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf indicated that Kashmir should be de-militarized, and India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that he would unilaterally cut troops in Kashmir…Aziz's visit is even more noteworthy, given that it takes place less than a week after Mr. Singh rejected any redrawing of India's borders or a further division of Kashmir. The statement had the effect of "pouring cold water" over Mr. Musharrat's proposals, says the Times.”

Poverty in Israel from Haaretz: “There were 1,427,000 people living below the poverty line in Israel in 2003 - some 22.4 percent of the population, according to the National Insurance Institute annual report on poverty published Tuesday. “Israel is becoming poorer and poorer," said NII Director General Dr. Yigal Ben Shalom during the presentation of the report. The data also shows that around 652,000 children in Israel can be defined as poor, a total of 30.8 percent of the children in the country. Almost 83,000 of the poor are elderly…Among Arab households the poverty rate reached in 2003 48.4 percent. 27.6 percent of single parent families are below poverty line.” Also from Haaretz: “After four years of intifada, nearly 50 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line, and 16 percent cannot afford even the basic necessities, according to a report to be published Tuesday by the World Bank. Entitled "Four Years - Intifada, Closures, and Palestinian Economic Crisis," the report states that a quarter of the Palestinian workforce is unemployed, and the income of the remainder has dropped by a third compared to the situation before the intifada. The report attributes the economic crisis to Israel's closure policy, which limits the movement of people and merchandise from the territories to Israel and the settlements…The World Bank estimates that immediate removal of the closure will increase GDP by 3.6 percent, but will not affect the poverty and unemployment rates…The crisis could end if Israel opens the Palestinian Authority's borders to foreign trade, which would enable GDP to grow by 9.2 percent by 2006, reducing unemployment by 23 percent and cutting the number of people living below the poverty line from 56 percent today to 46 percent. If donor countries increased their aid to the PA by $1.5 billion, the number could drop further to 37 percent. To encourage a growth-oriented economy, the report says reforms in the Palestinian Authority should increase transparency in the management of finances and include the creation of an independent auditing mechanism, the privatization of public enterprises, and adherence to existing laws on public procurement. There is also a need to improve the infrastructure of the court system and to reduce the wage bill.”

Following up on the report of an Israeli soldier killing a 13-yr old girl – from Ali Abunimah from Electronic Intifada: “this story was first reported, the occupation army claims to have "investigated" the incident, and of course cleared itself and its personnel from any wrong doing, as usual. It appears that only the existence of a tape has forced them to take action. Unfortunately there are no tapes in more than 500 cases of children murdered by the Israeli army in the past four years.” From Haaretz: “An indictment was handed down in the Southern Command's Military Court yesterday against Captain R., a Givati company commander accused of illegally using his weapon to kill 13-year-old Imam al Hamas, a Palestinian girl who was on her way to school near the Girit outpost in southern Gaza. Military prosecutors issued a five-count indictment against the officer, including two counts of illegally using his weapon, and one count each of obstruction of justice, conduct unbecoming an officer, and improper use of authority…The accused officer initially said he came under fire fromPalestinian gunmen at least 300 yards (meters) away as he approached the girl's body and shot at the ground to deter the fire, a military official said. The official could not explain why the officer shot into the ground rather than at the source of the fire.The military prosecutor said the military law does not include "verification of the kill" as a crime, so they decided to charge R. with "illegal use of a weapon." He is not being charged with manslaughter since there is no evidence that R.'s bullets were those that killed the girl. The decision not to charge the other soldiers at the outpost was because they acted on the assumption that the suspicious figure was a terrorist and not a young girl. R. however, is heard in the tape specifically saying he shot "the girl," and had heard on the communications radio that the figure was a young girl.”