Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Chris Buttars' "Origins of Life" Bill in Utah.

Well, it looks like Utah State Senator Chris Buttars' Bill on the origins of life (SB96) has passed in the Senate. Ironically (perhaps poetically) Buttars himself was not present to vote on the bill. Apparently, he was ill and spent the day in the hospital. Here's hoping that the House has the good sense to shoot this thing down. Barring that, I have the feeling that Governor Huntsman will veto it, given his previous statements on Intelligent Design (he is against teaching it in public schools).

The Dover ID case made it clear that past statements can and will be taken into account when determining a legislator's intent in crafting a bill. Given his past statements on evolution, I, like others, find it hard to believe that Sen. Buttars is motivated by anything other than religion in introducing this bill. He has been quite up front about his religious objections to evolution. His extremely poor understanding of evolution has also been well documented:

I know of several paleoanthropologists who would disagree completely with this statement. Dr. Ian Tattersall, curator of the American Museum of Natural History has written many books on the subject of human evolution, including The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution, which contains diagrams of all of the major hominid fossils. Additionally, Talk Origins has an excellent page on prominent hominid fossils. To quote from the summary:
"There are a number of clear trends (which were neither continuous nor uniform) from early australopithecines to recent humans: increasing brain size, increasing body size, increasing use of and sophistication in tools, decreasing tooth size, decreasing skeletal robustness. There are no clear dividing lines between some of the later gracile australopithecines and some of the early Homo, between erectus and archaic sapiens, or archaic sapiens and modern sapiens."
The "missing link" argument is simply a straw man. No matter how many intermediate species are found it can always be claimed that there is a link still missing. In fact as more intermediate species are found, a large single gap (with a single missing link) is broken into several smaller gaps, each with their own missing links. And don't even get me started on his "dat" straw man argument.

What's more, Buttars apparently doesn't even understand his own religion's stand on evolution. The reality is that the LDS church has never taken a position on evolution. While individual authorities (Apostles, etc.) have held differing opinions, the only statements ever issued by the First Presidency (the topmost leadership, who alone have the authority to shape church policy) have been to the effect that the church has no official position on evolution. This has been well documented in an excellent article from Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought titled The Mormon Myth of Evil Evolution.

Perhaps his most egregious offense has been labeling anyone who opposes his bill as an atheist. As a devout believer (belonging to the same church as Buttars, even), I am offended that he would question my belief in God. Presenting such a false dilemma only serves to confuse and alienate those who believe that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.

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