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TBR News October 11, 2019

Oct 11 2019

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. October 11, 2019:

“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.

When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.

I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.

He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.

He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.

It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Commentary for October 11: “Minute by minute, the anaconda is tightening its coils around the President and will soon eat him. When Nixon saw what was coming after Watergate, he had the political savvy to resign but Trump never will. There will be more drama as he is removed from the Oval Office, probably by force, and then blessed silence and global relief.”

 

The Table of Contents

  • The Kurdish solution that Trump won’t dare contemplate
  • Abandoning Kurds could cost Trump support of evangelical Christians
  • Trump’s Betrayal of the Kurds May Be the Dumbest Move of His Presidency
  • Giuliani associates charged with illegally funneling cash to pro-Trump group
  • Explainer: How Trump used the U.S. government to chase conspiracy theories
  • U.S. appeals court clears way for House to obtain Trump’s financial records
  • The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversation
  • Encyclopedia of American Loons
  • 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

The Kurdish solution that Trump won’t dare contemplate

October 9, 2019

by Shikha Dalmia

The Week

Kurds have been staunch allies in America’s struggle against ISIS. Without them, America would have paid a far steeper price in blood and treasure to defeat the brutal outfit. That’s why President Trump’s move to pull U.S. troops out of northeastern Syria and let Turkey move in and slaughter the Kurds there is being greeted with widespread revulsion.

Trump has cut a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will hand over control of this region to Turkey so long as Turkey relieves America of the responsibility of taking care of captured ISIS soldiers and their families. However, Trump is trying to reassure everyone that he will “destroy” and “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it treats the Kurds “inhumanely.”

His threats would be more believable if he himself treated the Kurds humanely by opening America’s doors to more of them. Instead he’s been cold-bloodedly deporting those already in the United Sates.

That Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would condemn Trump’s Syria decision was a foregone conclusion. But what is interesting is that with the exception of Kentucky’s Sen. Rand Paul, even Trump’s staunch Republican loyalists are voicing their disgust.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an enthusiastic Trump cheerleader for the last two years, called the Syria decision “unnerving to the core” and a “disaster in the making.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump’s former UN ambassador Nikki Haley have likewise expressed strong opposition. Most surprising, however, is televangelist Pat Robertson. He convinced his vast evangelical following to ignore Trump’s serial adultery and vote for him because he was “God’s man for this job.” Yet he is now warning Trump that he risks “losing the mandate from heaven” if he abandons the Kurds.

America has a long history of betraying the Kurds, who are non-Arab Sunni Muslims. Henry Kissinger notoriously said, as I have pointed out before, “Promise Kurds anything, give them what they get, and f— them if they can’t take a joke.”

So what’s different this time?

Essentially, there is an acute awareness that without Kurdish assistance, many more Americans would have died in the struggle against ISIS. The Kurds offered not only crucial intelligence to guide America’s offensive but also performed the lion’s share of the ground combat.

The upshot is that while America lost 11 soldiers in the last five years in Iraq and Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the American-led alliance against ISIS, lost 11,000, the vast majority Kurds. By contrast, during the Iraq war when America did not have local allies and had to rely on its own soldiers to conduct complex and costly urban military operations, it suffered 700 casualties, including 82 deaths, during just a single battle in Fallujah, points out Iraq war veteran and conservative commentator David French.

Letting Turkey slaughter the Kurds after they put themselves on the line for what was essentially America’s fight is beyond heinous. And slaughter them Turkey will as it begins its offensive, notwithstanding its bogus talk of honoring the “20-mile safe zone” that was created for civilian Kurds after Trump first considered a U.S. pullout in January.

Turkey fears that if Syrian Kurds are allowed to consolidate their hold in northeastern Syria next to the Turkish border, they will join forces with Turkish Kurds that have long wanted to secede from Turkey and form their own separate homeland. In fact, Turkey considers the Syrian Kurds an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades.

Given this backdrop, there is no way Erdogan will leave the Syrian Kurds alone, no matter how many blustery threats Trump issues via Twitter. In the last three years, Turkey has tried twice to purge the Kurds from northeastern Syria. In the last operation — ironically named Operation Olive Branch — Turkish forces slaughtered 1,500 Kurdish militiamen along with 300 civilians in just eight weeks, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, a U.K.-based monitoring group.

There are already signs that this time is going to be no different. Erdogan has baldly declared that he plans to target Kurdish fighters along with ISIS extremists. As far as he is concerned, both groups are terrorists. Reports are filtering in that Turkish warplanes are already pounding civilian Kurdish areas instead of sparing them.

The only way to safeguard the Kurds from Turkey is for America to offer them a quick way out and arrange their evacuation. There are less than 1 million Kurds in SDF-controlled Syria. America alone could absorb them without breaking a sweat.

Of course that will require Trump to lift his “Muslim” travel ban and also revive America’s near-dead refugee program. Syria is among the countries — all of them Muslim except for two — from which potential immigrants have been totally banned for the last two years. Meanwhile, even though Iraq is not on that list, the Trump administration has been deporting many Kurdish Iraqis back to that country to face almost certain death. In fact, one of Trump’s first immigration crackdowns after assuming office was in Nashville, Tennessee’s Little Kurdistan, where many Iraqi Kurds have long lived. It was timed to coincide with the week of Ramadan, the holiest celebration in Islam.

Trump is justifying his Syria pullout by insisting that he doesn’t want America to remain embroiled in “endless war.” That would be a worthy goal if Trump weren’t using allies that have sacrificed so much for America as America’s sacrificial lambs now. The Kurds deserve better.

 

 

Abandoning Kurds could cost Trump support of evangelical Christians

One of the president’s staunchest constituencies has stuck by him through many controversies but Syria may be a policy lurch too far

October 11, 2019

by Tom McCarthy in New York

The Guardian

Evangelical Christian voters have been among Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic and reliable supporters. Trump’s recent rejection of asylum seekers and cuts to domestic food assistance programs have not stopped followers of Christ from flocking to the president.

A great schism, however, may finally be at hand. In drips that have become a gush, evangelical leaders this week have sharply criticized Trump’s decision to stand down US forces in northern Syria, warning that Turkey’s invasion of the region threatens America’s longstanding Kurdish allies and vulnerable Christian communities.

“It is very possible that the American withdrawal from the region will lead to the extinction of Christianity from the region,” Ashty Bahro, former director of the Evangelical Alliance of Kurdistan, told the Christianity Today news outlet.

“An invasion by Turkey into NE Syria would pose a grave threat to the region’s Kurds and Christians, endangering the prospects of true religious freedom in the Middle East,” tweeted the evangelical leader Tony Perkins, a Trump adviser.

The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) founder, Pat Robertson, described even more grave stakes in a broadcast on Monday.

“I believe … the president of the United States is in danger of losing the mandate of heaven if he permits this to happen,” Robertson said.

Despite warnings from domestic and international allies, Trump’s move allowed Turkey to launch a ground and air assault on Wednesday against Syria’s Kurds, who had been a crucial American ally in the fight against the Islamic State.

As Turkish planes bombed towns in north-eastern Syria, angry and terrified civilians fled, unsure of their futures. But another consequence of Trump’s decision is that losing the mandate of heaven could seriously hurt Trump’s re-election chances.

White evangelicals made up 26% of voters in the last presidential election and they voted 81% for Trump, according to Robert P Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and author of The End of White Christian America.

Trump has won the avowed love of evangelicals by appointing conservative judges, opening the way for new abortion restrictions, supporting Christian universities, moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and other measures.

With so much common ground, not all of Trump’s most high-profile evangelical allies have broken with him over Syria. The Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr, who helped Trump seal the deal with evangelical voters as a 2016 campaign adviser, said Trump was “keeping his promise to keep America out of endless wars”.

“The president has got to do what’s best for the country, whether it helps him with this phony impeachment inquiry or not,” Falwell told the Associated Press.

But other extremely loyal Trump allies have split with him, warning that Roman Catholic, Armenian and Syrian Orthodox churches in northern Syrian border cities such as Ras al-Ayn, which is in the crosshairs of the Turkish invasion, are under threat. Thousands of civilians have fled Turkish shelling in the area.

“Today I ask that you join me in praying for the lives affected by the White House decision to pull US troops out of northern Syria,” tweeted one evangelical pastor, Franklin Graham. “Both Democrat & Republican leaders are deeply concerned bc this would be, in essence, abandoning our closest allies there – the Kurdish people.”

“Hey @SpeakerPelosi,” tweeted the evangelical radio host Erick Erickson, “maybe do a vote to initiate impeachment STAT, have the committee get out articles by tonight and over to the Senate, and perhaps we’ll still have time to save some of the Kurds.”

“Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration,” tweeted the Republican senator Lindsey Graham. “This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS.”

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanuyahu, a deeply popular figure in the American evangelical community, joined the chorus.

“Israel strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is prepared to extend humanitarian assistance to the gallant Kurdish people.”

But evangelical Christians are not ready to cast Trump out entirely. Earlier this week CBN News, America’s top Christian-themed media outlet, reported that Trump would be the keynote speaker this weekend at the Value Voters Summit, a huge political convention for evangelical Christians.

“Typically, when President Trump speaks to evangelical audiences, he receives multiple standing ovations,” the report said. “This Saturday will probably be more of the same because, even with the swirl of impeachment surrounding him, evangelicals have stood solidly behind the president so far.”

“So far.” The report went on to note evangelical “concern” about the Syria situation and concluded:

“President Trump will have an opportunity to explain his reasoning in front of this all-important voting block.”

 

Trump’s Betrayal of the Kurds May Be the Dumbest Move of His Presidency

October 11, 2019

by Eric Levitz

New York Magazine

A few long years ago, Donald Trump overcame 16 other Republican candidates — and the unified opposition of the GOP Establishment — to win his party’s nomination. He then overcame the most well-funded presidential candidate in history, and the unified opposition of respectable Beltway elites, to win a lease on the White House.

These events gave a lot of people a strong incentive to view the mogul as a political savant. After all, if Trump were merely who he appeared to be — a pathological narcissist acting on a combination of pure impulse and the banal insight that a lot of GOP primary voters dislike immigrants — what would that say about the competence of those who failed to stop him? Surely, for all his eccentricities and liabilities, the man was a savvier tactician than he let on. The president’s Twitter tantrums may read like the ravings of an emotionally labile Fox News grandpa, but they were actually savvy bids to distract the media from his true malfeasance. And it may look like America’s entire political class was so inept, and its republic so broken, that a senescent sociopath could win the presidency on the strength of partisan polarization, white racism, and the widespread misconception that The Apprentice was a documentary. But Trump was actually a (very unstable) genius playing 12-dimensional Yahtzee.

This theory is much less popular today than it was when Trump took office. For most observers, 33 months of watching the president score own goals has been sufficient to dispel the fiction that he knows exactly what he’s doing. But if any grudging admirers of Trump’s strategic prowess remain, the president’s decision to abet a Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria this week should make them see the inconveniently stupid truth. Naming the single dumbest thing Trump has done as president, in terms of his own political interest, is an intimidating task given the cornucopia of contenders for that title. But his decision to abandon America’s Kurdish allies in Syria this week has to be pretty high up on the list.

To review: Trump entered Sunday enmeshed in a fight over impeachment. To prevent the House’s investigation of his blatantly corrupt dealings with Ukraine from threatening his presidency, the White House aimed to portray the inquiry as a partisan witch hunt. The overriding goal was to maintain low-information swing voters’ aversion to impeachment. To do that, the GOP needed to send a clear message — only far-left Democrats believe Donald Trump has been dangerously misusing the powers of his office or undermining our national security. As long as Republicans maintained a unified front, independents would view the whole inquiry as a partisan food fight and blame the instigators. Meanwhile, the RNC could mine a fundraising bonus from the GOP base’s freshly inflamed siege mentality. With a little message discipline, they could turn this whole episode into a net positive.

Then Trump hopped on the phone with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And without consulting the Pentagon, the State Department, or leaders of his own party, the president gave his Turkish counterpart permission to wage war on America’s Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria.

There are very few things Trump could do to provoke loud criticism from his allies in Congress or on the Christian right. In abandoning the Kurds to their fate, he chose to do one of them. Before Trump took Erdogan’s call, Lindsey Graham was incessantly broadcasting the (insane) message that congressional Democrats were destroying the Constitution by conducting oversight of the executive branch. Since bombs started falling on Kurdish border towns, Graham has been broadcasting the message that Trump is exercising executive authority in a way that brings shame on America and jeopardizes its national security.

And many of Trump’s other Republican allies have echoed Graham’s sentiments, thereby sending the meta-message that this president is misusing power in a manner so severe even staunch conservatives can’t help but speak out.

The Evangelical right has forgiven Trump for a wide variety of deadly sins, but the movement is deeply invested in the fate of Syria’s Christian minority, which could fare worse under the rule of Turkey’s Islamist government than it currently does under the Kurds’ secular leadership. On Monday, televangelist Pat Robertson sorrowfully informed his faithful that if Trump allowed the Turkish invasion to proceed, he would be “in danger of losing the mandate of heaven.” As of this writing, it is unclear whether God is now an undecided voter. But Trump does appear to be at risk of losing the mandate of Franklin Graham.

Meanwhile, the upside for Trump here is difficult to discern. Sure, a large swath of the American public is sick of forever wars. But the president isn’t actually bringing our troops home from Syria; he’s merely relocating 50 U.S. service members. Trump may believe this symbolic gesture is sufficient to convey the impression that he is fulfilling a campaign promise to draw down America’s military commitments, but if he thinks this half-hearted gesture towards paleoconservatism is more politically beneficial than interviews like this are damaging, he is almost certainly mistaken.

The danger for Trump here is not that his betrayal of the Kurds will persuade a critical mass of GOP senators to vote for his removal from office. Lindsey Graham is still interspersing his prayers for the Kurds with demagogic defenses of Trump’s corruption, and there are still nowhere near enough votes in the upper chamber to evict Trump from the White House. But the impeachment push doesn’t need to succeed to damage the president’s reelection hopes. And against all odds, Trump has managed to manufacture one of the few circumstances in which devout Republicans will loudly endorse the broad premise of Nancy Pelosi’s inquiry: that Trump is using presidential power in ways that shock the conscience of patriotic Americans, no matter their partisan allegiance.

Which seems ill advised given that public opinion was already moving in favor of impeachment before this week’s events got underway.

By itself, all this would be more than adequate proof that our president is a lucky idiot who is bad at politics. But Trump’s new Syria policy has an additional dimension of stupidity. It jeopardizes one of his few (putative) nonpartisan accomplishments as president.

Trump may or may not deserve credit for the decline of ISIS over the past three years, but the fact that he presided over that decline was sufficient for him to declare himself a great slayer of terrorists without mainstream fact-checkers complaining. In clearing the way for a war between Turkey and the Kurds, Trump may well have forfeited that right. Kurdish forces have been guarding 1,200 ISIS prisoners. The burgeoning conflict threatens to divert forces from that prison camp and provide the ISIS fighters with a prime opportunity for a jailbreak.

Remarkably, Trump does not deny this. The president’s official position is that his decision to withdraw 50 U.S. service members from one region of Syria does, in fact, come with a significant risk of reviving ISIS, but this is an acceptable risk because he made sure to relocate two of the 1,200 terrorists in advance — and the rest will probably just descend on Europe anyway.

This is not the messaging strategy of a diabolically brilliant manipulator of mass media. It is a collection of irritable mental gestures from a 73-year-old rich kid with a personality disorder who is in way over his head.

 

Giuliani associates charged with illegally funneling cash to pro-Trump group

October 10, 2019

by Aram Roston, Brendan Pierson and Karen Freifeld

Reuters

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two foreign-born Florida businessmen who have helped President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani investigate political rival Joe Biden were arrested in a scheme to illegally funnel money to a pro-Trump election committee and other U.S. political candidates, prosecutors said on Thursday.

The arrest of Ukraine-born Lev Parnas and Belarus-born Igor Fruman at an airport outside Washington carrying one-way tickets to Vienna was the latest dramatic development in a political saga that threatens Trump’s presidency.

Prosecutors said Parnas and Fruman conspired to contribute foreign money including at least $1 million from an unidentified Russian businessman to candidates for federal and state offices to buy influence. Prosecutors separately say they donated $325,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee called America First Action in May 2018, and the money was falsely reported as coming from a purported natural gas company set up to conceal its true source, according to the indictment.

A fast-moving Democratic-led House of Representatives impeachment inquiry is centered on the Republican president’s request in a July phone call for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, the former vice president and a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Democrats have accused Trump of pressuring a vulnerable foreign ally to dig up dirt on a domestic political opponent for his own political benefit.

Giuliani has said Parnas and Fruman helped his efforts in Ukraine to investigate Biden and Biden’s son Hunter. The younger Biden had served as a director of a Ukrainian energy company.

The two men were each charged by federal prosecutors in New York with two counts of conspiracy, one count of false statements and one of falsification of business records. U.S. law prohibits foreign donations in American elections.

Parnas and Fruman were trying to buy political influence to help set up recreational marijuana businesses, prosecutors said. They also said Parnas played a role in a successful effort to have Trump remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.

“Protecting the integrity of our elections, and protecting our elections from unlawful foreign influence, are core functions of our campaign finance laws,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman told reporters in New York. “And as this office has made clear, we will not hesitate to investigate and prosecute those who engage in criminal conduct that draws into question the integrity of our political process”

Berman served on Trump’s transition team after Trump was elected president to prepare for taking office in January 2017.

The indictment said Parnas and Fruman falsely claimed the company, called Global Energy Producers or GEP, which was making the political donations, was “a real business enterprise” and that “its major purpose is energy trading, not political activity.” In fact, the company had no real business, the indictment added.

The two were arrested at Dulles airport in Virginia on Wednesday night, prosecutors said.

John Dowd, the lawyer for Parnas and Fruman, declined to comment on the charges. Dowd previously represented Trump in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign to boost Trump’s candidacy.

Parnas and Fruman made their initial court appearance in Alexandria, Virginia, with another court date set for next Thursday. They were being represented in the court appearance by lawyers for Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is serving prison time after being convicted last year in Mueller’s investigation.

Federal Magistrate Judge Michael Nachmanoff imposed a lengthy, strict set of conditions that Parnas and Fruman must meet to be released including each posting $1 million bond and being placed on GPS monitoring in home detention. The prosecution called the men a flight risk.

Giuliani did not immediately return a request for comment. Last week, he told Reuters: “Parnas and Igor helped me on certain things. They helped me with logistics. They know the Ukraine, they speak Russian. They helped me locate people in a few cases.”

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for the president, told Reuters that “neither the president nor the campaign was aware of their scheme,” referring to the defendants.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and has described the impeachment probe as a partisan smear.

HOUSE SUBPOENAS

Both men were expected to figure in the House impeachment drive and had been asked to produce documents and give testimony. Parnas had been scheduled to take part in a deposition with House lawmakers on Thursday, with Fruman scheduled on Friday. Dowd had called the lawmakers’ demands “unreasonable.” House Democrats on Thursday issued subpoenas for the men to hand over the documents and testify at a later date.

According to the indictment, Parnas also sought the help of a U.S. congressman – identified by a person familiar with the matter as Republican Pete Sessions – to get Trump to remove U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Trump eventually did remove Yovanovitch and called her “bad news” in his July 25 call with Zelenskiy.

Giuliani told Reuters last week he had provided information to both Trump and the State Department about Yovanovitch, who he suggested was biased against Trump. Yovanovitch is scheduled to give testimony in the House impeachment inquiry on Friday.

Sessions lost his House seat from Texas last year to a Democrat. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In another development, House Democrats issued a subpoena for a member of Trump’s Cabinet, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, for documents over any role he may have played in Trump’s effort to get Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Prosecutors said Parnas, Fruman and others also conspired to funnel donations to candidates in Nevada, New York and other states to benefit a planned marijuana business funded by an unnamed Russian businessman.

Two other people were charged in the indictment: David Correia, a U.S. businessman, and Andrey Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born U.S. businessman who was a vice president of a Russian hedge fund before becoming involved in several marijuana-related businesses in California.

Photos from Parnas’ social media accounts show him meeting on various occasions with Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., Sessions, Republican congressman Kevin Brady and former congressman Carlos Curbelo.

In an interview last month, Parnas told Reuters that the FBI was investigating him but that he did not know why, and that he did nothing wrong. “I don’t know what the FBI wants. I’m not going to comment, what they are doing. What they did.”

“I don’t think we know too much” about the investigation, Parnas said, but added that it had to be political. “When you have the heads of the Democratic Party not liking you, it’s very easy to get the FBI involved.”

Parnas said any violations of U.S. Federal Election Commission rules were unwitting and a “clerical thing” because he was not an experienced political donor. Parnas said he was not trying to hide the source of the $325,000 donation.

Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for America First Action Political Action Committee, confirmed the pro-Trump group received the $325,000 contribution mentioned in the indictment. Sadler said the organization “placed that contribution in a segregated bank account,” and it has not been used “for any purpose.”

Federal records show Parnas has donated $25,200 to Republican candidates and political groups since the 2016 election, including $2,700 to Sessions and $2,700 to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Fruman has donated $44,201 over that period to Republicans, including Sessions, the Republican National Committee and Trump’s presidential campaign.

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, called the developments regarding Giuliani’s associates “very troubling.”

“Giuliani’s been involved up to his neck in this entire mess. He has an obligation to testify under oath so he can be asked questions and so this can come to light,” Schumer told reporters.

(This story corrects to remove reference to foreign money in headline and first paragraph)

Reporting by Aram Roston, Brendan Pierson and Karen Freifeld; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Andy Sullivan, Jan Wolfe, Sarah N. Lynch, Ginger Gibson, David Morgan and Patricia Zengerle; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Peter Cooney and Daniel Wallis

 

Explainer: How Trump used the U.S. government to chase conspiracy theories

October 10, 2019

by Brad Heath, Jonathan Landay and Mark Hosenball

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump has enlisted parts of the U.S. government and key allies in the pursuit of unproven or disproven conspiracy theories, some incubated in the dark and anonymous corners of the internet.

Text messages between U.S. diplomats, a whistleblower complaint and a series of public statements by Trump and other officials in recent days offer the clearest view yet of the extent to which the president has used the government to chase accusations that secret forces have been plotting against him.

Much of that evidence has surfaced because of an impeachment inquiry led by Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some of the evidence that has emerged shows that:

– State Department envoys in Europe offered Ukraine’s president a White House visit if he promised to investigate a discredited theory suggesting Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election that put Trump in office. A whistleblower complaint by an intelligence officer suggested Trump also held back nearly $400 million in security aid to Ukraine as additional leverage, which Trump has denied doing.

– The Justice Department is now investigating its own probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow. Attorney General William Barr and another senior department official traveled to Europe in recent months to investigate the theory that the FBI investigation, first launched during the presidential campaign in 2016, was actually a plot to stop Trump from becoming president.

The president’s tendency to say untrue things, particularly on Twitter, has caused headaches for his administration before. Until now, however, the government had largely taken pains to distance itself from such statements.

As recently as last year, the Justice Department argued in a series of court cases that when it came to national security, the president did not necessarily know what he was tweeting about.

Here are the three cases in which Trump has publicly advanced views of uncorroborated conspiracies behind episodes damaging his presidency. The White House declined to comment on the cases:

A CROWDSTRIKE CONSPIRACY

Investigations by U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, Congress and outside researchers have all concluded that Russia’s government was to blame for hacking Democratic Party organizations and leaking stolen emails at politically opportune moments in 2016. Russia has denied involvement, although U.S. investigators even named the Russian officers who were sitting at the keyboard during the breaches.

But another view has taken hold in on some right-wing websites. In that telling, the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which the DNC hired to investigate the hack, falsely accused Russia, and spirited the hacked email servers to Ukraine as part of a coverup. As early as March 2017, an unnamed poster on the fringe website 4chan wrote that “Russia could not have been the source of leaked Democrat emails released by WikiLeaks.” Other posts incorrectly said CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch is Ukrainian (he is a U.S. citizen born in Russia).

Trump referenced that view during a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, mentioning CrowdStrike by name, and saying “The server they say Ukraine has it.” Ahead of that call the U.S. special representative to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, suggested in a text message to a Zelenskiy aide that Zelenskiy might score a White House visit if he promised to “get to the bottom of what happened” in 2016, a reference to the election meddling.

CrowdStrike said in a blog post that its finding of Russian involvement was supported by U.S. intelligence and that it never took possession of the hacked servers.

Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said officials in the administration tried to dissuade Trump. “It’s not only a conspiracy theory. It is completely debunked,” he said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” last month.

A MALTESE PROFESSOR

Russian involvement in the 2016 election produced an investigation like few others in U.S. history, focused on whether Trump’s campaign had colluded with the Kremlin to win.

Another theory, endorsed by Trump, holds that the probe was actually an elaborate effort by U.S. officials and foreign spies to deny him the presidency.

The FBI opened its Russia probe in 2016, after an Australian diplomat reported that a Trump campaign aide named George Papadopoulos had boasted that Russia had obtained email “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent, weeks before the hack of the Democratic National Committee became public. Papadopoulos told the FBI that he learned that from a Maltese academic, Joseph Mifsud.

Papadopoulos has alleged that Mifsud was actually a Western intelligence operative trying to frame him, and by extension, Trump. On Twitter, Trump has hinted at that theory, repeating messages asking why Mifsud was not charged with a crime, and quoting a television interview in which Papadopoulos said the “whole thing was a complete setup.”

Now Barr is investigating how the government opened an investigation – which went on to be led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller – that the president dismissed as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt” from the start. Barr told CBS News that official explanations for the FBI’s investigation “don’t hang together.” He has not elaborated on what he is investigating or why, but told a Senate subcommittee this year that “there is a basis for my concern.”

Barr traveled to Italy seeking information about Mifsud, and to the United Kingdom to meet with its intelligence officials. He has tapped the lead federal prosecutor in Connecticut to lead the review.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

WHISTLEBLOWER ALLEGATIONS

Trump’s efforts to pursue those conspiracies came to light in large part because an unnamed U.S. intelligence officer filed a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy.

Trump has accused Democrats of secretly ghostwriting the whistleblower’s complaint. He described the whistleblower’s sources as “spying on our own president,” and said they deserve “Big Consequences.”

He also said on Wednesday that the Intelligence Committee Inspector General, who first reviewed the complaint and determined that it was credible and urgent, had presided over a “scam.”

Trump also said his administration was “trying to find out” the whistleblower’s identity, and that he wanted to question his unnamed accuser.

When the whistleblower’s lawyers said a second official had also spoken to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Trump said that person too was “coming in from the Deep State,” a phrase that commonly refers to an alleged secret cabal within the U.S. government.

One of the initial whistleblower’s lawyers, Mark Zaid, has said that Congress did not help the whistleblower prepare the nine-page set of allegations that touched off the House impeachment inquiry.

Nonetheless, Trump’s allies in the House and his lawyers have taken up the accusation that the whistleblower worked in secret with the Democratic head of the House committee leading the impeachment inquiry, Adam Schiff.

In a letter Tuesday, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone cited this among the president’s reasons for refusing to cooperate with the impeachment probe. The whistleblower’s party leanings and his contact with Democrats “raises serious questions that must be investigated,” he wrote.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld, Brad Heath, Steve Holland, Mark Hosenball, Jonathan Landay, David Morgan, Andy Sullivan and Heather Timmons and Richard Cowan; Editing by Ross Colvin and Frances Kerry

 

U.S. appeals court clears way for House to obtain Trump’s financial records

October 11, 2019

by Jan Wolfe

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to President Donald Trump’s efforts to block oversight of his business dealings, a U.S. court on Friday backed a House of Representatives request for the Republican’s financial records including tax documents.

The 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit moves House Democrats closer to accessing records that would shed light on Trump’s business interests and how he built his fortune.

The court rejected Trump’s bid to stop his longtime accounting firm Mazars LLP from handing over the documents.

The House Oversight Committee subpoenaed Mazars in April.

“Contrary to the President’s arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply,” Judge David Tatel wrote.

Tatel added: “We conclude that in issuing the challenged subpoena, the Committee was engaged in a ‘legitimate legislative investigation.’” Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed by Trump to the D.C. appeals court, wrote a dissenting opinion.

Trump’s lawyers can appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court before it goes into effect. Will Consovoy, a personal lawyer for Trump, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the ruling was a “fundamental and resounding victory for Congressional oversight, our Constitutional system of checks and balances, and the rule of law.”

The subpoena is part of Democrats’ broader efforts to gather information about the Republican president’s finances.

The committee said it needed the records to determine if Trump — whose business interests have ranged from real estate and golf courses to a reality TV show — complied with laws requiring disclosure of his assets, and to assess whether those laws need to be changed.

While campaigning for the presidency in 2016, Trump broke with a decades-old convention of candidates releasing their tax returns publicly.

Trump sued the House panel in April, arguing that its subpoena exceeded limits on Congress’s investigative power.

Trump said the true motive for the subpoena was to expose private financial information “with the hope that it will turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the President.”

A judge ruled against Trump in May, saying the documents might assist Congress in passing laws and performing other core functions.

The May decision was the first time a federal court waded into the tussle about how far Congress can go in probing Trump and his business affairs, and marked an important victory for House Democrats.

The president is separately trying to prevent New York state prosecutors from obtaining eight years of his tax returns from Mazars. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is seeking the returns as part of a criminal investigation.

Trump has argued in that case that, as a sitting president, he is immune from being criminally investigated. The federal appeals court in Manhattan is expected to hear arguments in the case on Oct. 23.

Trump is also fighting subpoenas by House committees seeking his financial records from Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp, though those records do not include his tax returns. The same Manhattan appeals court has yet to rule in that case.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Susan Heavey; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alistair Bell and Noeleen Walder

 

The CIA Confessions: The Crowley Conversations

October 11, 2019

by Dr. Peter Janney

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal, Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment.

Three months before, on July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and the well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento’s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley’s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files out of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement, secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks. ”

Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago, Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in Military Intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at its inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. In 1996, Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley’s story but only after Crowley’s death. Douglas, for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publication.

Conversation No. 30

Date:  Tuesday, August 6, 1996

Commenced: 11:10 AM CST

Concluded: 11:47 AM CST

GD: Ah, good morning to you, Robert. How is life treating you today?

RTC: Good morning, Gregory. There are good days and bad days. I’m not sure about today.

GD: Certainty is illusion, Robert. I was talking to an old friend of mine last night. He’s down at Norfolk. Was Navy but retired. I went to school with him. King’s Point and then the NSG.

RTC: King’s Point is Merchant Marine.

GD: I know. They have a reserve commission and they can activate it if they want to. He did. Nuclear vessels surface and then the NSG. He was the Naval Attaché in the Dominican Republic. Worked on the Trujillo assassination. But that’s not the issue now. We got to talking about AIDS and since he had quite a bit of sherry, he told me quite a story about how that originated. I thought you might have some input on that. Want me to go on?

RTC: Why not?

GD: Well, according to him, the Navy had an experimental medical station down in Haiti. They were down there because there was a huge pool of very poor locals they could use as subjects in tests. He said that they were developing something that would lower a person’s resistance to the point where a common cold would put them out of action for weeks.

RTC: Go on. What then?

GD: Well, they hit on a virus that does this, experimented with the locals and when they were sure it actually worked, somehow they got this into local whores whom the Cuban government then shipped over to Angola to service their volunteers fighting there.

RTC: I’ve heard stories about that.

GD: But somehow, the virus mutated into something far more serious. The HIV thing. And they didn’t care if all the Cubans died, or the whores either, but it seems that some the younger Haitians got this and when American gays made excursions down there for some cheap black cock, they got it, too, and you can see where that went. Then, my friend said, after they found out what had gone wrong, the Navy shut down its facility, disposed of their volunteer locals by taking them out on boats and dumping them into the water. Anyway, that’s what he said, and I believe him. That’s what I wanted to ask you about.

RTC: There is something to that. Your friend had best be very quiet or he’ll end up taking a one-way boat trip. And I would be careful not to put any of that into one of your books. If you take my drift.

GD: No, it wouldn’t fit in with the Mueller material. It is true, then?

RTC: Basically it is. Take note that it didn’t start out to kill off all the homos, although the Christians thought it was a wonderful thing, but your friend was right when he said it mutated. I was never in that part of the agency but one hears things or talks to colleagues. I mean there was only the intention to interfere with the combat capabilities of enemy troops, not liquidate social outcasts. When we learned about this, the burn bags were used overtime at Langley.

GD: Were your people part of it?

RTC: In a sense. The Navy supplied the tactical, and we supplied the strategic. They produced the weapon and we, the targets. We were planning to use this on the Russians.

GD: Well, I know something about that aspect. You know about General Ishi?

RTC: Oh yes, I do indeed.

GD: His Japanese military units had a BW lab up in Manchuria and they used to develop the plague and God knows what else. Poisoned thousands of Chinese, wanted to loose the plague against their Russian neighbors and used Allied POW’s as lab specimens. Most of them died of plague and other nasty things.

RTC: Ah, the redoubtable Dr. Ishi. After we took over Japan, he was caught along with his staff and they were planning to try him for very ugly war crimes but MacArthur, acting on specific orders from the Pentagon, rescued him, set him with a big lab in Tokyo and back they went to developing the bubonic plague. I guess they were going to use it on the Russians if all else failed.

GD: That I know all about. Not the Japanese but using the plague against the Russians. There was a German Army doctor, a Dr. Walter Schreiber, who was a specialist in communicable diseases. He developed a form of the plague and the military used it to clean out the overcrowded Russian POW cages. Cost too much to feed and guard them. The rationale was that they never used them in the West. Roosevelt, as you might know, was planning to use mustard gas against the Germans in Russia until the Bari raid blew up a boat-full of mustard gas, and when Hitler learned of this, he threatened to let nerve gas loose on London and Washington. Amazing how quickly FDR backed off.

RTC: You do your homework, don’t you?

GD: Oh yes. Schreiber came over to us in Berlin after the war and we vetted him and sent him to San Antonio to set up a lab there to cultivate the plague. Again, we planned to use it against the Russians. I don’t what the Russians did to infuriate our sacred leaders, but I don’t think they would have deserved that. Schreiber got outed and had to be shipped back to Germany.

RTC: Drew Pearson was the man who did that.

GD: Whatever. Well, the Brits practiced BW when they gave the Indians smallpox-laced blankets back in the eighteenth century, but Mueller and I were discussing Schreiber’s project. Mueller was very angry when he heard this and rounded Schreiber up. Had to let him go. Orders from on high. Mueller said that there were no Customs agents at the borders to stop the spread of such filthiness right back from whence it came. But he told me about a CIA plan to ruin the Asian rice crop. That failed but only barely. It would have spread and ruined everyone’s rice crop. He said that creatures that dabbled in such things should be shot out of hand or they would destroy everyone, good or bad. I suppose the definition of good or bad depends on your politics, but the whole thing should be forbidden by law.

RTC: I believe it is, but only in theory.

GD: But they put the story out that AIDS came from monkeys in Africa and other funny stories.

RTC: Well, now it’s raging in Africa and they estimate that in ten years, everyone there will be infected. Of course, there is something to be said about depopulating Africa. They’re a bunch of incompetents who are sitting on very valuable natural resources, such as gold and uranium and when they all die, the treasures are there for the finding.

GD: That’s a bit cynical but true. But what about the American homosexuals?

RTC: The Christians and the far right would be in favor of exterminating them all. However, that having been said, we would lose so many really valuable public servants, not to mention all the florists and interior decorators.

GD: Thank God I’m not a Christian. They’re such filthy bigots. If they ever get into power here, I’ll move to some cleaner place.

RTC: I don’t see that happening, Gregory.

GD: I have no problems with the mainline faiths but the extremists are flat-out nuts and we don’t need that rampant and fanatical bigotry.

RTC: But it could be useful.

GD: But you can’t really control it. I’ve known a few Jesus freaks and, believe me, they are as nutty as they come. Most of them try to hide it from us sane ones but once in a while, it leaks out. It would be entertaining if the head of the Navy’s medical branch caught AIDS from his cousin or how about the DCI?

RTC: Now, now, Gregory, you must realize that accidents happen. Try not to be too judgmental about such things.

GD: It’s bloody difficult not to.

RTC: Look, Africa is full of people who are only a generation or two out of the jungle. They ran out the white people, who set up the business structure, and now they are running around with spears, eating each other. Why be concerned if they pass away and give the civilized part of the world access to their unused natural resources? After all, that’s why we killed off the head of the UN. He was interfering with the uranium business in the Congo so we had a little aircraft accident. We basically shot him out of the air. And that put an end to his meddling in important matters. Uranium, I don’t need to remind you, is vital for our weapons programs. Balance that against one meddling Swede and I don’t think there’s much of a problem.

GD: Well, for him…

RTC: Against the common good? You need to consider the practical priorities, Gregory. Believe me, we had no intention of causing AIDS. Our goal was to render a battlefield enemy incapable of combat, that’s all. These things sometimes happen and there is no reason at all to dwell on unexpected and certainly not planned consequences.

GD: Ah, remember that Lenin once said you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Of course, it didn’t originate with him and I know it won’t end there but you take the point because you articulate it. But I have to agree with Mueller when he tore into such projects. And if you know the Bible, remember that he who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword. Wars once were conducted by gentlemen with a certain amount of civility but those days are gone. Democracy, not kings, now rules and civility is dead.

RTC: You sound like a monarchist, Gregory.

GD: In many ways I am, Robert. I recall my German grandfather saying that democracy was government of the mentally misfit by the mentally mediocre and tempered by the saving grace of snobbery. Grandfather was usually right I remember once at one of his formal family dinners when one of my idiot aunts was going on about her constant attendance at the local Methodist church and her choir practices. My grandfather turned to me and told me, so the whole table could hear, that I ought to take a lesson in piety from my aunt. I recall saying, and I am not being funny here, that it seemed to me that there was considerable madness in aunt’s Methodism.

RTC: Did you actually say that, Gregory?

GD: Yes, and I was only ten, Robert.

RTC: Your family must have loved you.

GD: I don’t actually think so. When Grandfather said at some other occasion that my aunt and uncle were going to Lower Asbury Avenue, I said that they certainly would if they lived there long enough.

RTC: (Laughter) You must have been a most unpleasant child, Gregory.

GD: I do not suffer fools gladly, Robert. Lincoln has been misquoted. He said, or is supposed to have said, that God must love the common people because he made so many of them. What he actually said was that God must love fools because he had made so many of them.

RTC: Now you can see why our organization is so necessary. Imagine leaving state policy in the hands of idiots.

GD: Point of view here, Robert. Whose ox is gored? Destroying the Asian rice crop? Thousands or millions dead of starvation?

GTC: But consider the common good. These are Communists, Gregory, and they want to destroy our system.

GD: Another point of view once more, Robert. Yes, abstract Communism is utopian nonsense, just like abstract Christianity is. No one wants to work to help others, but they will help themselves. But that still does not justify slaughtering millions, does it?

RTC: But that is a very extreme and certainly tainted view, Gregory.

GD: Again, it’s the gored ox. But civilized people can disagree with each other and still remain civilized, Robert. Right?

RTC: I assume so but let’s try to be a bit more objective. You need to view the larger picture.

GD: Mueller said it so well to me once, just before one of my nice French dinners. He said that morals and ethics were excellent norms but hardly effective techniques.

RTC: Those sentiments I can agree with.

GD: A difference without much a distinction. Well, enough moralizing here. I’m glad to see that my naval friend was not just engaging in drunken babble.

RTC: I would strongly urge you not to take this issue any further. I would be concerned about your safety if you did.

GD: A point well taken. As a cross between a social Darwinist and a monarchist, even I can see the perils of contemplating moral issues from a neutral point of view.

RTC: And if you felt like giving me your talkative friend’s name and address, it might be appreciated. He ought to be spoken to.

GD: I doubt that I would want to do that, Robert. After all, I have never discussed our conversations with anyone else.

RTC: Point taken.

 

(Concluded 11:47 AM CST)

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Conversations+with+the+Crow+by+Gregory+Douglas

 

Encyclopedia of American Loons

David Shormann

David Shormann is a Texas-based young-earth creationist, president of the “Dive into Math” program, and homeschooling activist with a PhD in marine chemistry. Though a biblical literalist who “believe a biblical framework provides us with the most rational interpretation of the past,” Shormann is according to himself also “a natural history researcher”, and claims that “science confirms” a literal reading of Genesis. Shormann claims to like science. He doesn’t have the faintest clue what science is or how it works, of course. He doesn’t really like science. According to Shormann, “[t]reating Earth history as just that, history, I can find physical and written testimony that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. And just as most of us have no problem believing Jesus Christ was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago, we should have no problem believing there were about 4,000 years from the Beginning to Christ’s birth. Studying natural history can be an interesting, fun, and adventure-filled pursuit, but it is not real science, and shouldn’t be treated like it is.” Just like history isn’t a science (Shormann explicitly claims that history isn’t science, a standard, utterly delusional talking point pushed by Answers in Genesis; it’s easier for them to assert this as an assumption, since they can then go post-modern relativist and claim that their own preferred creationist narrative is just a “different interpretation”. The idea of testing hypotheses about the past through their predictions about current observables, entirely parallell to how one tests, say, laws of nature, has evidently not crossed his mind – empirical evidence: how the *** does it work?

Shormann’s name was brought to some attention in 2011, when he – despite because of his dislike of science and public schools – was appointed by Barbara Cargill to the science review panel that should evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the Texas Board of Education for use in Texas public schools. In that role, Shormann was given ample opportunity to display his belligerent incompetence. His view of biology textbooks is worth quoting at some length: “Also, in the 21st century, high school and college biology textbooks are becoming bloated monsters. Something has to go to make room for teaching 21st Century advances in biology, including epigenetics and bioinformatics. Many chapters have way too many pages devoted to speculative historical claims about origins, dogmatically asserting only one interpretation (evolutionism). A pro-science person would want to reduce or remove the history to make room for 21st Century science. An anti-science person would reject the 21st Century science in favor of page after page about origins. Ask the atheist which they would choose to include in an already oversized biology textbook, new science or history? If they would rather keep the history, then they are anti-science, which contradicts their claims of being pro-science.”

As for Shormann’s argument that humans and dinosaurs coexisted? “The fossil record shows many things lived at the same time as extinct dinosaurs, including extant (meaning still alive) starfish and coelacanths. Apparently, the so-called freethoughts activists say we’re lying about the human-dino coexistence thing because we have yet to uncover a fossil of a human riding a dinosaur while holding a coelacanth that ate a starfish. Unless this fossil grouping is found, then atheists will claim the Bible is a book of lies and Christians who believe it are liars. Therefore, since freethoughts activists apparently never lie, and possess a perfect understanding of history, we can trust them over God’s word! And if we don’t buy into their belief that freethoughts activists are the source of historical truth instead of God, they will make laws to suppress our skepticism. Of course, I’m joking here, but are the atheists? Unfortunately, I don’t think so.” The fact that there are no species of Mesozoic starfish or coelacanths still extant is not the biggest problem with Shormann’s “reasoning” here. Note also the conflation between scientific biology and atheist activism, a recurring feature of Shormann’s, uh, thought. In 2013, he protested an event held at the Houston Museum of Natural History called “Answers In Science: What On Earth Do We Know?” that criticized creationism. That they criticized creationism means, Shormann declared, that the museum is engaging in bigotry: “Not only are they attacking Christianity, they are attacking one man in particular, Ken Ham. It is un-American to support such religious intolerance and false claims that Christians are ‘anti-science’.” The word “criticism” apparently doesn’t exist in Shormann’s vocabulary.

The screaming bald eagle cover and title of Shormann’s book The Exchange of Truth: Liberating the World from the Lie of Evolution nicely sums up his brand of jingoistic science denial.

Shormann is also a signatory to the Discovery Institute’s silly petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism – without having any expertise on evolution, of course; there is a correlation here.

Diagnosis: Flaming creationist and belligerent anti-scientist – not that he would be able to distinguish science from stream-of-consciousness rant if his life depended on it. But althoughhe is  a crazy fanatic, he is also Texas-based, and being a lunatic denialist is no obstacle to achieving the power to influence science and educational policy in Texas, quite the reverse, it seems.

 

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don’t hold up

by John Rennie

Scientific American

In Brief

Despite definitive legal cases that have established the unconstitutionality of teaching intelligent design or creationist ideology in science class, the theory of evolution remains consistently under attack.

Creationist arguments are notoriously errant or based on a misunderstanding of evolutionary science and evidence.

Hundreds of studies verify the facts of evolution, at both the microevolutionary and macroevolutionary scale—from the origin of new traits and new species to the underpinnings of the complexity we see in life and the statistical probability of such complexity arising.

When Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection 158 years ago, the scientists of the day argued over it fiercely, but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution’s truth beyond reasonable doubt. Today that battle has been won everywhere—except in the public imagination. Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. When this article first went to press in 2002, the Ohio Board of Education was debating whether to mandate such a change. Prominent antievolutionists of the day, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of Darwin on Trial, admitted that they intended for intelligent-design theory to serve as a “wedge” for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

The good news is that in 2005 the landmark legal case Kitzmiller v. Dover in Harrisburg, Pa., set binding precedent that the teaching of intelligent design in U.S. public schools is unconstitutional because the idea is fundamentally religious, not scientific. The bad news is that in response, creationists have reinvented their movement and pressed on. When they lost the ability to claim that creationist ideas are valid science, they switched to arguing that they were only supporting “academic freedom.” Worse, to further obscure the religious roots of their resistance, they now push for “critical analysis” of climate change, cloning research and other scientific endeavors that they paint as culturally oppressive.

Consequently, besieged teachers and others are still likely to find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism, by whatever name. Creationists’ arguments are typically specious and based on misunderstandings of (or outright lies about) evolution. Nevertheless, even if their objections are flimsy, the number and diversity of the objections can put even well-informed people at a disadvantage. The following list recaps and rebuts some of the most common “scientific” arguments raised against evolution. It also directs readers to further sources for information and explains why creation science has no place in the classroom. These answers by themselves probably will not change the minds of those set against evolution. But they may help inform those who are genuinely open to argument, and they can aid anyone who wants to engage constructively in this important struggle for the scientific integrity of our civilization.

  1. Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact or a scientific law.

Many people learned in elementary school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty—above a mere hypothesis but below a law. Scientists do not use the terms that way, however. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution—or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter—they are not expressing reservations about its truth.

In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The NAS defines a fact as “an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as ‘true.’” The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling.

All sciences frequently rely on indirect evidence. Physicists cannot see subatomic particles directly, for instance, so they verify their existence by watching for telltale tracks that the particles leave in cloud chambers. The absence of direct observation does not make physicists’ conclusions less certain.

  1. Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest are those who survive, and those who survive are deemed fittest.

“Survival of the fittest” is a conversational way to describe natural selection, but a more technical description speaks of differential rates of survival and reproduction. That is, rather than labeling species as more or less fit, one can describe how many offspring they are likely to leave under given circumstances. Drop a fast-breeding pair of small-beaked finches and a slower-breeding pair of large-beaked finches onto an island full of food seeds. Within a few generations the fast breeders may control more of the food resources. Yet if large beaks more easily crush seeds, the advantage may tip to the slow breeders. In pioneering studies of finches on the Galpagos Islands, Peter Grant and Rosemary Grant of Princeton University observed these kinds of population shifts in the wild.

The key is that adaptive fitness can be defined without reference to survival: large beaks are better adapted for crushing seeds, irrespective of whether that trait has survival value under the circumstances.

  1. Evolution is unscientific because it is not testable or falsifiable. It makes claims about events that were not observed and can never be re-created.

This blanket dismissal of evolution ignores important distinctions that divide the field into at least two broad areas: microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution looks at changes within species over time—changes that may be preludes to speciation, the origin of new species. Macroevolution studies how taxonomic groups above the level of species change. Its evidence draws frequently from the fossil record and DNA comparisons to reconstruct how various organisms may be related.

These days even most creationists acknowledge that microevolution has been upheld by tests in the laboratory (as in studies of cells, plants and fruit flies) and in the field (as in the Grants’ studies of evolving beak shapes among Galpagos finches). Natural selection and other mechanisms—such as chromosomal changes, symbiosis and hybridization—can drive profound changes in populations over time.

The historical nature of macroevolutionary study involves inference from fossils and DNA rather than direct observation. Yet in the historical sciences (which include astronomy, geology and archaeology, as well as evolutionary biology), hypotheses can still be tested by checking whether they accord with physical evidence and whether they lead to verifiable predictions about future discoveries. For instance, evolution implies that between the earliest known ancestors of humans (roughly five million years old) and the appearance of anatomically modern humans (about 200,000 years ago), one should find a succession of hominin creatures with features progressively less apelike and more modern, which is indeed what the fossil record shows. But one should not—and does not—find modern human fossils embedded in strata from the Jurassic period (65 million years ago). Evolutionary biology routinely makes predictions far more refined and precise than this, and researchers test them constantly.

Evolution could be disproved in other ways, too. If we could document the spontaneous generation of just one complex life-form from inanimate matter, then at least a few creatures seen in the fossil record might have originated this way. If superintelligent aliens appeared and claimed credit for creating life on Earth (or even particular species), the purely evolutionary explanation would be cast in doubt. But no one has yet produced such evidence.

It should be noted that the idea of falsifiability as the defining characteristic of science originated with philosopher Karl Popper in the 1930s. More recent elaborations on his thinking have expanded the narrowest interpretation of his principle precisely because it would eliminate too many branches of clearly scientific endeavor.

  1. Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.

No evidence suggests that evolution is losing adherents. Pick up any issue of a peer-reviewed biological journal, and you will find articles that support and extend evolutionary studies or that embrace evolution as a fundamental concept.

Conversely, serious scientific publications disputing evolution are all but nonexistent. In the mid-1990s George W. Gilchrist, then at the University of Washington, surveyed thousands of journals in the primary literature, seeking articles on intelligent design or creation science. Among those hundreds of thousands of scientific reports, he found none. Surveys done independently by Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University and Lawrence M. Krauss, now at Arizona State University, were similarly fruitless.

Creationists retort that a closed-minded scientific community rejects their evidence. Yet according to the editors of Nature, Science and other leading journals, few antievolution manuscripts are even submitted. Some antievolution authors have published papers in serious journals. Those papers, however, rarely attack evolution directly or advance creationist arguments; at best, they identify certain evolutionary problems as unsolved and difficult (which no one disputes). In short, creationists are not giving the scientific world good reason to take them seriously.

  1. The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.

Evolutionary biologists passionately debate diverse topics: how speciation happens, the rates of evolutionary change, the ancestral relationships of birds and dinosaurs, whether Neandertals were a species apart from modern humans, and much more. These disputes are like those found in all other branches of science. Acceptance of evolution as a factual occurrence and a guiding principle is nonetheless universal in biology.

Unfortunately, dishonest creationists have shown a willingness to take scientists’ comments out of context to exaggerate and distort the disagreements. Anyone acquainted with the works of paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University knows that in addition to co-authoring the punctuated-equilibrium model, Gould was one of the most eloquent defenders and articulators of evolution. (Punctuated equilibrium explains patterns in the fossil record by suggesting that most evolutionary changes occur within geologically brief intervals—which may nonetheless amount to hundreds of generations.) Yet creationists delight in dissecting out phrases from Gould’s voluminous prose to make him sound as though he had doubted evolution, and they present punctuated equilibrium as though it allows new species to materialize overnight or birds to be born from reptile eggs.

When confronted with a quotation from a scientific authority that seems to question evolution, insist on seeing the statement in context. Almost invariably, the attack on evolution will prove illusory.

  1. If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

This surprisingly common argument reflects several levels of ignorance about evolution. The first mistake is that evolution does not teach that humans descended from monkeys; it states that both have a common ancestor.

The deeper error is that this objection is tantamount to asking, “If children descended from adults, why are there still adults?” New species evolve by splintering off from established ones, when populations of organisms become isolated from the main branch of their family and acquire sufficient differences to remain forever distinct. The parent species may survive indefinitely thereafter, or it may become extinct.

  1. Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on Earth.

The origin of life remains very much a mystery, but biochemists have learned about how primitive nucleic acids, amino acids and other building blocks of life could have formed and organized themselves into self-replicating, self-sustaining units, laying the foundation for cellular biochemistry. Astrochemical analyses hint that quantities of these compounds might have originated in space and fallen to Earth in comets, a scenario that may solve the problem of how those constituents arose under the conditions that prevailed when our planet was young.

Creationists sometimes try to invalidate all of evolution by pointing to science’s current inability to explain the origin of life. But even if life on Earth turned out to have a nonevolutionary origin (for instance, if aliens introduced the first cells billions of years ago), evolution since then would be robustly confirmed by countless microevolutionary and macroevolutionary studies.

  1. Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance.

Chance plays a part in evolution (for example, in the random mutations that can give rise to new traits), but evolution does not depend on chance to create organisms, proteins or other entities. Quite the opposite: natural selection, the principal known mechanism of evolution, harnesses nonrandom change by preserving “desirable” (adaptive) features and eliminating “undesirable” (nonadaptive) ones. As long as the forces of selection stay constant, natural selection can push evolution in one direction and produce sophisticated structures in surprisingly short times.

As an analogy, consider the 13-letter sequence “TOBEORNOTTOBE.” A million hypothetical monkeys, each typing out one phrase a second on a keyboard, could take as long as 78,800 years to find it among the 2613 sequences of that length. But in the 1980s Richard Hardison, then at Glendale College, wrote a computer program that generated phrases randomly while preserving the positions of individual letters that happened to be correctly placed (in effect, selecting for phrases more like Hamlet’s). On average, the program re-created the phrase in just 336 iterations, less than 90 seconds. Even more amazing, it could reconstruct Shakespeare’s entire play in just four and a half days.

  1. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that systems must become more disordered over time. Living cells therefore could not have evolved from inanimate chemicals, and multicellular life could not have evolved from protozoa.

This argument derives from a misunderstanding of the Second Law. If it were valid, mineral crystals and snowflakes would also be impossible, because they, too, are complex structures that form spontaneously from disordered parts.

The Second Law actually states that the total entropy of a closed system (one that no energy or matter leaves or enters) cannot decrease. Entropy is a physical concept often casually described as disorder, but it differs significantly from the conversational use of the word.

More important, however, the Second Law permits parts of a system to decrease in entropy as long as other parts experience an offsetting increase. Thus, our planet as a whole can grow more complex because the sun pours heat and light onto it, and the greater entropy associated with the sun’s nuclear fusion more than rebalances the scales. Simple organisms can fuel their rise toward complexity by consuming other forms of life and nonliving materials.

  1. Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features.

On the contrary, biology has catalogued many traits produced by point mutations (changes at precise positions in an organism’s DNA)—bacterial resistance to antibiotics, for example.

Mutations that arise in the homeobox (Hox) family of development-regulating genes in animals can also have complex effects. Hox genes direct where legs, wings, antennae and body segments should grow. In fruit flies, for instance, the mutation called Antennapedia causes legs to sprout where antennae should grow. These abnormal limbs are not functional, but their existence demonstrates that genetic mistakes can produce complex structures, which natural selection can then test for possible uses.

Moreover, molecular biology has discovered mechanisms for genetic change that go beyond point mutations, and these expand the ways in which new traits can appear. Functional modules within genes can be spliced together in novel ways. Whole genes can be accidentally duplicated in an organism’s DNA, and the duplicates are free to mutate into genes for new, complex features. Comparisons of the DNA from a wide variety of organisms indicate that this is how the globin family of blood proteins evolved over millions of years.

  1. Natural selection might explain microevolution, but it cannot explain the origin of new species and higher orders of life.

Evolutionary biologists have written extensively about how natural selection could produce new species. For instance, in the model called allopatry, developed by Ernst Mayr of Harvard University, if a population of organisms were isolated from the rest of its species by geographical boundaries, it might be subjected to different selective pressures. Changes would accumulate in the isolated population. If those changes became so significant that the splinter group could not or routinely would not breed with the original stock, then the splinter group would be reproductively isolated and on its way toward becoming a new species.

Natural selection is the best studied of the evolutionary mechanisms, but biologists are open to other possibilities as well. Biologists are constantly assessing the potential of unusual genetic mechanisms for causing speciation or for producing complex features in organisms. Lynn Margulis of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and others have persuasively argued that some cellular organelles, such as the energy-generating mitochondria, evolved through the symbiotic merger of ancient organisms. Thus, science welcomes the possibility of evolution resulting from forces beyond natural selection. Yet those forces must be natural; they cannot be attributed to the actions of mysterious creative intelligences whose existence, in scientific terms, is unproved.

  1. Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.

Speciation is probably fairly rare and in many cases might take centuries. Furthermore, recognizing a new species during a formative stage can be difficult because biologists sometimes disagree about how best to define a species. The most widely used definition, Mayr’s Biological Species Concept, recognizes a species as a distinct community of reproductively isolated populations—sets of organisms that normally do not or cannot breed outside their community. In practice, this standard can be difficult to apply to organisms isolated by distance or terrain or to plants (and, of course, fossils do not breed). Biologists therefore usually use organisms’ physical and behavioral traits as clues to their species membership.

Nevertheless, the scientific literature does contain reports of apparent speciation events in plants, insects and worms. In most of these experiments, researchers subjected organisms to various types of selection—for anatomical differences, mating behaviors, habitat preferences and other traits—and found that they had created populations of organisms that did not breed with outsiders. For example, William R. Rice of the University of New Mexico and George W. Salt of the University of California, Davis, demonstrated that if they sorted a group of fruit flies by their preference for certain environments and bred those flies separately over 35 generations, the resulting flies would refuse to breed with those from a very different environment.

  1. Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils—creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.

Actually, paleontologists know of many detailed examples of fossils intermediate in form between various taxonomic groups. One of the most famous fossils of all time is Archaeopteryx, which combines feathers and skeletal structures peculiar to birds with features of dinosaurs. A flock’s worth of other feathered fossil species, some more avian and some less, has also been found. A sequence of fossils spans the evolution of modern horses from the tiny Eohippus. An amazing fossil creature from 375 million years ago named Tiktaalik embodies the predicted and long-sought transition of certain fishes to life on land. Whales had four-legged ancestors that walked on land, and creatures known as Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus helped to make that transition. Fossil seashells trace the evolution of various mollusks through millions of years. Perhaps 20 or more hominins (not all of them our ancestors) fill the gap between Lucy the australopithecine and modern humans.

Creationists, though, dismiss these fossil studies. They argue that Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between reptiles and birds—it is just an extinct bird with reptilian features. They want evolutionists to produce a weird, chimeric monster that cannot be classified as belonging to any known group. Even if a creationist does accept a fossil as transitional between two species, he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two. These frustrating requests can proceed ad infinitum and place an unreasonable burden on the always incomplete fossil record.

Nevertheless, evolutionists can cite further supportive evidence from molecular biology. All organisms share most of the same genes, but as evolution predicts, the structures of these genes and their products diverge among species, in keeping with their evolutionary relationships. Geneticists speak of the “molecular clock” that records the passage of time. These molecular data also show how various organisms are transitional within evolution.

  1. Living things have fantastically intricate features—at the anatomical, cellular and molecular levels—that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are the products of intelligent design, not evolution.

This “argument from design” is the backbone of most recent attacks on evolution, but it is also one of the oldest. In 1802 theologian William Paley wrote that if one finds a pocket watch in a field, the most reasonable conclusion is that someone dropped it, not that natural forces created it there. By analogy, Paley argued, the complex structures of living things must be the handiwork of direct, divine invention. Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species as an answer to Paley: he explained how natural forces of selection, acting on inherited features, could gradually shape the evolution of ornate organic structures.

Generations of creationists have tried to counter Darwin by citing the example of the eye as a structure that could not have evolved. The eye’s ability to provide vision depends on the perfect arrangement of its parts, these critics say. Natural selection could thus never favor the transitional forms needed during the eye’s evolution—what good is half an eye? Anticipating this criticism, Darwin suggested that even “incomplete” eyes might confer benefits (such as helping creatures orient toward light) and thereby survive for further evolutionary refinement. Biology has vindicated Darwin: researchers have identified primitive eyes and light-sensing organs throughout the animal kingdom and have even tracked the evolutionary history of eyes through comparative genetics. (It now appears that in various families of organisms, eyes have evolved independently.)

Today’s intelligent-design advocates are more sophisticated than their predecessors, but their arguments and goals are not fundamentally different. They criticize evolution by trying to demonstrate that it could not account for life as we know it and then insist that the only tenable alternative is that life was designed by an unidentified intelligence.

  1. Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.

“Irreducible complexity” is the battle cry of Michael J. Behe of Lehigh University, author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. As a household example of irreducible complexity, Behe chooses the mousetrap—a machine that could not function if any of its pieces were missing and whose pieces have no value except as parts of the whole. What is true of the mousetrap, he says, is even truer of the bacterial flagellum, a whiplike cellular organelle used for propulsion that operates like an outboard motor. The proteins that make up a flagellum are uncannily arranged into motor components, a universal joint and other structures like those that a human engineer might specify. The possibility that this intricate array could have arisen through evolutionary modification is virtually nil, Behe argues, and that bespeaks intelligent design. He makes similar points about the blood’s clotting mechanism and other molecular systems.

Yet evolutionary biologists have answers to these objections. First, there exist flagellae with forms simpler than the one that Behe cites, so it is not necessary for all those components to be present for a flagellum to work. The sophisticated components of this flagellum all have precedents elsewhere in nature, as described by Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University and others. In fact, the entire flagellum assembly is extremely similar to an organelle that Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague bacterium, uses to inject toxins into cells.

The key is that the flagellum’s component structures, which Behe suggests have no value apart from their role in propulsion, can serve multiple functions that would have helped favor their evolution. The final evolution of the flagellum might then have involved only the novel recombination of sophisticated parts that initially evolved for other purposes. Similarly, the blood-clotting system seems to involve the modification and elaboration of proteins that were originally used in digestion, according to studies by Russell F. Doolittle of the University of California, San Diego. So some of the complexity that Behe calls proof of intelligent design is not irreducible at all.

Complexity of a different kind—“specified complexity”—is the cornerstone of the intelligent-design arguments of author William A. Dembski in his books The Design Inference and No Free Lunch. Essentially his argument is that living things are complex in a way that undirected, random processes could never produce. The only logical conclusion, Dembski asserts, in an echo of Paley 200 years ago, is that some superhuman intelligence created and shaped life.

Dembski’s argument contains several holes. It is wrong to insinuate that the field of explanations consists only of random processes or designing intelligences. Researchers into nonlinear systems and cellular automata at the Santa Fe Institute and elsewhere have demonstrated that simple, undirected processes can yield extraordinarily complex patterns. Some of the complexity seen in organisms may therefore emerge through natural phenomena that we as yet barely understand. But that is far different from saying that the complexity could not have arisen naturally.

Misleading Semantics of Creationism

Only methodological naturalism can determine how all life came to be

“Creation science” is a contradiction in terms. A central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism—it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms. Thus, physics describes the atomic nucleus with specific concepts governing matter and energy, and it tests those descriptions experimentally. Physicists introduce new particles, such as quarks, to flesh out their theories only when data show that the previous descriptions cannot adequately explain observed phenomena. The new particles do not have arbitrary properties, moreover—their definitions are tightly constrained, because the new particles must fit within the existing framework of physics.

In contrast, intelligent-design theorists invoke shadowy entities that conveniently have whatever unconstrained abilities are needed to solve the mystery at hand. Rather than expanding scientific inquiry, such answers shut it down. (How does one disprove the existence of omnipotent intelligences?)

Intelligent design offers few answers. For instance, when and how did a designing intelligence intervene in life’s history? By creating the first DNA? The first cell? The first human? Was every species designed, or just a few early ones? Proponents of intelligent-design theory frequently decline to be pinned down on these points. They do not even make real attempts to reconcile their disparate ideas about intelligent design. Instead they pursue argument by exclusion—that is, they belittle evolutionary explanations as far-fetched or incomplete and then imply that only design-based alternatives remain.

Logically, this is misleading: even if one naturalistic explanation is flawed, it does not mean that all are. Moreover, it does not make one intelligent-design theory more reasonable than another. Listeners are essentially left to fill in the blanks for themselves, and some will undoubtedly do so by substituting their religious beliefs for scientific ideas.

Time and again, science has shown that methodological naturalism can push back ignorance, finding increasingly detailed and informative answers to mysteries that once seemed impenetrable: the nature of light, the causes of disease, how the brain works. Evolution is doing the same with the riddle of how the living world took shape. Creationism, by any name, adds nothing of intellectual value to the effort. —J.R.

Other Resources for Defending Evolution

  • How to Debate a Creationist: 25 Creationists’ Arguments and 25 Evolutionists’ Answers. Michael Shermer. Skeptics Society, 1997. This well-researched refutation of creationist claims deals in more depth with many of the same scientific arguments raised here, as well as other philosophical problems.
  • Skeptic magazine routinely covers creation/evolution debates and is a solid, thoughtful source on the subject: www.skeptic.com
  • Defending Evolution in the Classroom: A Guide to the Creation/Evolution Controversy. Brian J. Alters and Sandra M. Alters. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2001. This up-to-date overview of the creation/evolution controversy explores the issues clearly and readably, with a full appreciation of the cultural and religious influences that create resistance to teaching evolution. It, too, uses a question-and-answer format that should be particularly valuable for teachers.
  • Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences. Second edition. National Academy Press, 1999. This concise booklet has the backing of the country’s top scientific authorities. Although its goal of making a clear, brief statement necessarily limits the detail with which it can pursue its arguments, the publication serves as handy proof that the scientific establishment unwaveringly supports evolution. It is also available via www.nap.edu/catalog
  • The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism. Niles Eldredge. W. H. Freeman and Company, 2000. The author, a leading contributor to evolution theory and a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, offers a scathing critique of evolution’s opponents.
  • Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics. Edited by Robert T. Pennock. Bradford Books/MIT Press, 2001. For anyone who wishes to understand the “intelligent design” controversy in detail, this book is a terrific one-volume summary of the scientific, philosophical and theological issues. Philip E. Johnson, Michael J. Behe and William A. Dembski make the case for intelligent design in their chapters and are rebutted by evolutionists, including Pennock, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins.
  • Talk. Origins archive (www.talkorigins.org). This wonderfully thorough online resource compiles useful essays and commentaries that have appeared in Usenet discussions about creationism and evolution. It offers detailed discussions (some of which may be too sophisticated for casual readers) and bibliographies relating to virtually any objection to evolution that creationists might raise.

National Center for Science Education Web site (www.ncseweb.org). The center is the only national organization that specializes in defending the teaching of evolution against creationist attacks. Offering resources for combating misinformation and monitoring antievolution legislation, it is ideal for staying current with the ongoing public debate.

  • PBS Web site for evolution (www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution). Produced as a companion to the seven-part television series Evolution, this site is an enjoyable guide to evolutionary science. It features multimedia tools for teaching evolution. The accompanying book, Evolution, by Carl Zimmer (HarperCollins, 2001), is also useful for explaining evolution to doubters.

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