An anti-evolution group is getting ready to unveil a new tactic -- with college students as the target.
Living Waters, an evangelical group that argues for the literal truth of the Bible, is planning to distribute 175,000 copies of The Origin of Species on university campuses next month, just in time for the 150th anniversary of its publication. But these won't be ordinary copies. They will feature a "special introduction" to Darwin's classic.
Materials being used in fund raising by the group say that the introduction "gives a timeline of Darwin's life, and his thoughts on the existence of God. It lists the theories of many hoaxes, exposes the unscientific belief that nothing created everything, points to the incredible structure of DNA, and notes the absence of any undisputed transitional forms. To show the dangerous fruit of evolution, it also mentions Hitler's undeniable connections to the theory, Darwin's racism, and his disdain for women. In addition, it counters the claim that creationists are "anti-science" by citing numerous scientists who believed that God created the universe...."
The idea, according to the fund raising materials, is that top universities, which might not be thrilled at their students being given anti-evolution materials, will be unable to block the distribution of Darwin's writings. "Let's see if they try to ban Darwin's Origin of Species," it says.
Living Waters isn't as well known as other anti-evolution groups, but has captured attention in recent weeks because of a supportive video made on its behalf by the actor Kirk Cameron. The video endorses the efforts by Living Waters and denounces university faculties for having too many atheists.
Ray Comfort, the president of Living Waters, said in an interview that organizers plan to give out the books at about 100 universities to start -- aiming for those that are the most prestigious -- and that eventually the group hopes to give out the book to all college students. Comfort said that organizers plan to "just show up" and start giving out copies. If any universities bar the distribution -- as he acknowledged private universities might have the legal right to do -- Living Waters will simply go to a sidewalk "outside the gates" and give out copies there. He predicted that students would take the book, and that they would then reconsider support for evolution.
Comfort said he means no disrespect to Darwin, of whom he said "this man had a tremendous imagination."
Asked for his views on how the earth came to be populated as it is, Comfort said that "I believe God made everything as it is."
He said that universities need his edition of Origin of Species because professors today "are not allowed to mention God. If a professor believes in a creator, they are not allowed to mention it because it's religion." Asked if that was not an exaggeration, given that many professors of various faiths at a range of colleges and universities do talk about their belief in God, Comfort acknowledged that such discussion takes place, but said that it is banned as biology instruction.
Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said that he would never advocate that Living Waters be barred from campuses.
"I believe in free speech, and people have the right to say whatever they want," he said. "But universities also have a right to comment, and if they see this as a distortion of science, they should say something. If I see it as a distortion of science, I will say that."
Leshner said that until he sees a final version of the book, he can't know how he would respond or what approach would make sense to speak out on these issues. But based on what he has read, he said: "Am I concerned? Absolutely."
He said he worried that the basis of evolution would be improperly described. "Our job is to protect the integrity of science and science education, and that's true of universities, too."
Leshner also said he was worried, based on materials used by Living Waters, that the group was trying to imply that scientists don't respect religion. This is unfair to scientists whatever their beliefs, he said. "Many, many scientists are religious and a very large majority of scientists I know are highly respectful of people of faith and understand that science and religion deal with different domains," he said.