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Monday, September 24, 2001

Contact: Mark Edwards 206.292.0401 x107 / medwards{at}discovery.org

SEATTLE--In an ironic greeting to the seven-part public television series "Evolution" that begins tonight, 100 scientists have declared that they "are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." The signers say, "Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based public policy center, compiled the list of statement signers (attached). Among other things, the long list may help to answer the contention of designated spokespeople for the series "Evolution" that "virtually all reputable scientists in the world" support Darwin's theory. Institute officials charge that officials of WGBH/Clear Blue Sky Productions have used that contention to keep any scientific criticism of Darwinism from being acknowledged or examined in the eight-hour series.

"They want people to think that the only criticism of Darwin's theory today is from religious fundamentalists," said Discovery president Bruce Chapman. "They routinely try to stigmatize scientists who question Darwin as 'creationists'."

Chemist and five time Nobel nominee, Henry "Fritz" Schaefer of the University of Georgia, commented on the need to encourage debate on Darwin's theory of evolution. "Some defenders of Darwinism," says Schaefer, "embrace standards of evidence for evolution that as scientists they would never accept in other circumstances." Schaefer was on the roster of signers of the statement, termed "A Scientific Dissent on Darwinism."

Meanwhile, a Zogby Poll released today shows overwhelming public support--81 percent--for the position that "When public broadcasting networks discuss Darwin's theory of evolution, they should present the scientific evidence for it, but also the scientific evidence against it." Only 10 percent support presenting "only the scientific evidence that supports" Darwin's theory. (Less than 10 percent said "Neither" or "Not sure.")

"Public television producers are clearly at odds with overwhelming public sentiment in favor of hearing all scientific sides of the debate," said Chapman, a former Director of the US Census Bureau. "The huge majorities in the poll cross every demographic, regional and political line in America." The national sample of 1,202 adults was conducted by Zogby International from August 25-29. The margin of error is +/-3.0%.

Discovery Institute commissioned the Zogby poll, though the survey itself was designed by the Zogby organization. It also included questions on education and "intelligent design," a theory that some scientific critics of Darwin support. (That theory makes no religious claims, but says that the best natural evidence for life's origins points to design rather than a process of random mutation and natural selection.) Discovery Institute last week also opened a special website (www.reviewevolution.org) to critique the WGBH/Clear Blue Sky series in a scholarly "Viewer's Guide." Discovery officials say that the website analyzes all program segments in the series and has uncovered numerous scientific and historical errors, exaggerations and omissions. Full results of the Zogby poll also are available on the website.

"The numbers of scientists who question Darwinism is a minority, but it is growing fast," said Stephen Meyer, a Cambridge-educated philosopher of science who directs the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. "This is happening in the face of fierce attempts to intimidate and suppress legitimate dissent. Young scientists are threatened with deprivation of tenure. Others have seen a consistent pattern of answering scientific arguments with ad hominem attacks. In particular, the series' attempt to stigmatize all critics--including scientists--as religious 'creationists' is an excellent example of viewpoint discrimination."

Signers of the statement questioning Darwinism came from throughout the US and from several other countries, representing biology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, anthropology and other scientific fields. Professors and researchers at such universities as Princeton, MIT, U Penn, and Yale, as well as smaller colleges and the National Laboratories at Livermore, CA and Los Alamos, N.M., are included. A number of the signers have authored or contributed to books on issues related to evolution, or have books underway.

Despite repeated requests, the series' producers refused to cover scientific objections to Darwinism. Instead, the producers offered only to let scientific dissenters go on camera to tell their "personal faith stories" in the last program of the series, "What About God?"

According to Discovery's Chapman, "This was almost an insult to serious scientists. Some of these dissenting scientists are not even religious. When you watch that last program, you realize they were wise to refuse to take part in it."

Jed Macosko, a young research molecular biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a statement signer, said, "It is time for defenders of Darwin to engage in serious dialogue and debate with their scientific critics. Science can't grow where institutional gatekeepers try to prevent new challengers from being heard."