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147 years later, evolution debate fills forums

A panel of three scientists who doubt Darwin's theory are asked if they have proof of design's role in life.

By MELANIE AVE
Published October 1, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Three scientists held a deep discussion Saturday questioning Charles Darwin and his theories and bolstering their viewpoint that life was created by design, not by accident.

The group was biochemist Michael Behe, one of the nation's most prominent supporters of intelligent design, and author of Darwin's Black Box; research scientist Ralph Seelke; and embryologist Jonathan Wells, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design.

If life evolved from nothing as Darwinists claim, why hasn't anyone ever witnessed or documented such an occurrence, asked Wells, a biologist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. He called the lack of proof as the "ultimate missing link."

The three-hour symposium was sponsored by the Clearwater advocacy group, Physicians and Surgeons for Scientific Integrity. The group believes the origins of life are too complex to attribute to evolution's tenets of natural selection and random mutation.

"Intelligent design does not deny that there is randomness in the world," Behe told about 120 doctors, scientists, parents and students who attended Saturday's three-hour discussion of "Darwin or Design?" at the Radisson Hotel. "It says not everything in biology is a result of chance and accidents."

The event was a followup to another held Saturday night at the University of South Florida Sun Dome in Tampa.

Some of the speakers tried to distinguish intelligent design from creationism, but audience member John Kieffer, 56, of Tampa said he didn't buy their argument.

He said the scientists attributed all the gaps in science as proof of intelligent design, the idea that life was created by some intelligent being.

"They're not saying it's God but that's what they mean," Kieffer said afterward. "They glossed over all scientific support of evolution."

Heated debates over the teaching of evolution have lingered for decades.

Most recently, the intelligent design movement has challenged evolution in some schools nationwide, including those in Kansas and Pennsylvania.

Earlier this year, the Dover, Pa., School Board rescinded its policy of presenting intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in high school biology courses after a federal judge ruled the concept was religious not scientific.

At the Saturday discussion, one man asked the scientists for proof of design's role in life.

In response, panel emcee Tom Woodward, a Trinity College professor and author of Doubts About Darwin, said evolution is inadequate to explain the creation of life.

"We have never yet discovered any occasion in the known history of this universe where unintelligent causes, natural causes ... have produced" complicated life forms, Woodward said. "If there were a known occurrence, the guy would get three Nobel Prizes. It would be a major discovery."

Melanie Ave can be reached at 727 893-8813 or mave@sptimes.com.