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Newsletter News Debate in Charleston, WV
More background Information
by Various Sources

Here is a series of telling behind-the-scenes exchanges leading up to a proposed creation/evolution debate in Charleston WV prior to Dec 16 school board meeting. Dr. Mastropaolo, with help from a gift from OVCEA, has been asked by KCSG to have Dr Mastropaolo be in Charleston WV soon to speak on the recent newspaper and school board debate on teaching evolution. KSCG (Karl Priest secretary) is the Creation Science group in Kanawha County, Charleston, WV. The names of those supporting evolution are deleted, except for newspaper articles.

Subject: Grassroots Report (Mastropaolo and Opponent Debate the Debate) Date: Sunday, December 05, 1999 10:04 PM

Dr. Mastropaolo noticed a small wire service article in his local paper about the situation here in West Virginia so he contacted the editor of the Gazette through an internet reference. He had no idea the editor had the expressed views below. What follows is the Email exchange as they debate the debate. The reader should be able to see why evolutionists don't do public debates. They will lose, based on the facts, when faced with a competent creationist.

(FYI: editorials and article about this proposed debate are at the end of this post.)
Dear Sir:

I am an emeritus professor from California State University, Long Beach presently writing on the issue of design versus evolution. My background is in biological research and publishing the proofs of experiments. I would be glad to come to Charleston to give the scientific proofs for evolution and for design to an open meeting for the press, the school board and the community. I have had 22 years of public school education which included a thorough evolution indoctrination. I recently started reading the primary references for myself and find the design hypothesis compelling. I am willing to debate the issues from the design side. Please let me know if there is any interest in having me come to Charleston in the role of "a friend of the court," speaker, or debater. Sincerely, Joseph Mastropaolo, Ph.D.

Dear Dr. Mastropaolo:

Thanks for your nice note. I pound the "creationists" fiercely in the Gazette - but we never have brought in a speaker for such an issue. Perhaps you'd like to e-mail me some commentary you've prepared on the issue.

Sincerely - (deleted)

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your note. I am not a "creationist" so I am not sure that I am eligible for an automatic pounding. In my view, I am a scientist with bona fide credentials and my study of the issue has caused my open mind to find the vast preponderance of evidence indicating unequivocally that all life forms were deliberately designed and the vast preponderance of evidence indicating unequivocally that the evolution of life, even for one molecule of one protein, was biologically impossible. My impression is that the evidence in hand, not opinions, not Genesis, not "once upon a warm pond" stories, is unassailable. My primary fealty is to the truth. If you have evidence that overwhelms mine, then I shall change my mind. If my evidence overwhelms yours, I hope your mind will change. I hope we have common cause in bringing the truth tested by fire to the community. I also believe that I can objectively speak to both sides of the issue because my 22 years of public school education did include a thorough indoctrination in evolution. I can speak to how that "evidence" has been shrinking in recent years. Might not an objective illumination of this issue of the ages increase circulation and subscribers amongst those interested in balanced, cogent reporting and reasoned editorials? Please let me know if there is any interest in having me come to Charleston in the role of "a friend of the school board," speaker, or debater. My curriculum vitae are available upon request. Sincerely, Joseph Mastropaolo, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, CSULB.

The opponent did not respond to this and several days went by until the debate issue was raised. I have numbered the exchanges to help you keep track.
(1) Mr. Sir:

I expect to be in Charleston the week of December 13-17, 1999. Would you like to debate the evolution issue? Sincerely, Joseph Mastropaolo

(2) Dear Dr. Mastropaolo:

Karl Priest already sent this invitation to me and others. I don't want to get drawn into a public spectacle that could degenerate into sarcasmís and put-downs - even though it's tempting to play Clarence Darrow and retry the Scopes Monkey Trial. I've stated my beliefs repeatedly in Gazette editorials, expressing trust in scientists to find the most accurate, honest explanations of the origin of the planet and life.

However, our newspaper should cover your Charleston attacks on evolution, since this is a public issue before our school board. Do you intend to testify before the board at the invitation of Mr. Priest? Will you address his Creationist group, or a public rally sponsored by his group?

I assume that Creationists have only one goal - to support the Old Testament as a literal record of the origin of Earth and humanity. They challenge every scientific finding that disagrees with the O.T. Therefore, I have some questions for you:

  • Do you think this planet is only 6,000 years old?
  • Do you think that humans originated at the same time as all other animals, thus people lived alongside dinosaurs and the earliest one-celled creatures?
  • Do you think that all fossils were created in Noah's flood?
  • Plate tectonics researchers say the Atlantic Ocean floor has been widening for around 200 million years. Do you think they're off by 199,994,000 years?
  • Geologists say that West Virginia's coal was formed during a long epoch from 400 million to 250 million years ago. Was it really just 6,000 years ago?
  • Geologists say the deepest rock sections in the Grand Canyon originated 4 billion years ago. Are they off by 3,999,994,000 years?

    I'd welcome an opportunity to print your responses in our newspaper.

    Sincerely - (deleted)

  • (3) Dear Sir:

    I do not engage in "sarcasmís and put-downs." However, if you wish to play Clarence Darrow, I'd be glad to represent the other side. I do intend to address affirmatively the Board of Education on the resolution before them. I would be glad to debate anyone on the science of the issues. I have not been asked to address any public rally. Your assumptions about Creationists seem beside the point. In my first communication to you, I represented myself as an open-minded, qualified scientist willing to submit evidence that evolution is not science. If your evidence overwhelms mine, then I am willing to switch back to evolution, the monolithic indoctrination I received during 22 years of public schooling. If my evidence overwhelms yours, then I expressed the hope that you would change your mind. But that was where you stopped communicating. Does that mean that, contrary to your creed, you do not act as science indicates? Does it mean that your mind is closed and no matter the evidence you will be an evolutionist first, last and always? Is your commitment to science or to anti-theistic ranting? Please do print my views. Evolution is non-science and I believe I can prove it beyond any reasonable doubt. If any evolutionist has the science to overwhelm mine, I'll switch. If mine overwhelms, then let the evolutionist have the courage to vow a switch. Is there anyone in Charleston, or Kanawha County, with an open mind, a scintilla of science and the courage to stand up for evolution? Please let me know. Joseph Mastropaolo

    At this point (I think) the Daily Mail article came out. It is included below.
    (4) Dear Sir:

    My offer is to debate science, specifically physics, chemistry and biology. According to my view, evolution is non-science. I shall go so far as to say that with regard to probability that evolution is impossible. If you agree with that view, then there is no need to debate. If you believe evolution is bona fide science, then you need to defend your view or it becomes non-science by default. Which do you prefer, debate or default? Sincerely, Joseph Mastropaolo

    (5) Dear Dr. Mastropaolo:

    We are on different wavelengths. Here's my viewpoint: I trust science as the most honest process of human intelligence. Conscientious researchers endlessly try to find reliable facts. Often, they're mistaken, and new evidence contradicts old evidence. This has occurred with various aspects of evolution, such as Lamarckism - and it may happen with other aspects. But the scientific search is honest, nonetheless, because researchers genuinely want to learn what is true. I'm not a researcher myself, but I read science books and trust the motives behind them.

    In contrast, creationism is dishonest, because it starts with a conclusion - the Old Testament account - and tries to twist facts to match it. Creationists reject all evidence that doesn't fit the Bible story, and exaggerate anything that seems to uphold it. This is a closed-minded process, not honest inquiry. If a debate were held, busloads of such closed-minded people from gospel tabernacles probably would jam the auditorium, and the whole thing would be rather absurd. However, if the debate were conducted at a university before professors and students, it might be mentally honest.

    If we were before such a university audience, I would ask if you think coal was formed only 6,000 years ago, and that all fossils were made by Noah's Flood, and that continental drift has been occurring for just 6,000 years, etc. You didn't answer the first time I asked - would you answer in a university debate?

    Sincerely - (deleted)

    (6) Sir:

    Please pay attention. I am suggesting we debate science, not creationism. Physics, chemistry and biology are science, not creationism. If you trust science, then debate science. On the basis of science, I propose to prove to you that evolution is not science. As a believer in science and evolution, surely you should be willing to use science to defend evolution. The only reason I can imagine for your unwillingness to debate is that you sense evolution is not science and it cannot be defended. You would rather lose by default. You are one of the loudest voices in Charleston for evolution. You are considered evolution's champion. I am calling you out. Debate or default. Sincerely, Joseph Mastropaolo

    (7) Dear Dr. Mastropaolo:

    Actually, I haven't studied this issue intensely, because I always considered creationism (anti-evolutionism) unworthy of much consideration. I thought that the Scopes Monkey Trial and 140 years of world scientific research had pretty well settled the matter. However, I guess I should read more Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, to become better prepared.

    Do you contend that Indian maize didn't evolve into modern corn? Or that Luther Burbank didn't create beneficial new plants through cross-breeding? Or that resistant strains of bacteria don't evolve from survivors of antibiotic treatment (survival of the fittest)? Or that Mendel didn't watch dominant genes prevailing over recessive genes in his flower research?

    I always thought that such examples of evolution are so common and accepted that nobody doubts them.

    Sincerely - (deleted)

    (8) Dear Sir:

    Well done. You do believe you have the science to defend evolution. When shall we meet for the debate? How about Monday 12/13/99? I am glad you decided to debate. It is unseemly for a champion to lose by default. Sincerely, Joseph Mastropaolo

    The editor likely wrote the following editorials.
    Evolve Schools aren't churches Saturday October 9, 1999

    SCIENCE is an honest search for knowledge. It simply examines the reality of nature, without trying to twist findings to match any preconceived viewpoint.

    Geologists, paleontologists and biologists overwhelmingly have concluded that life evolved on this planet over billions of years. These findings upset certain fundamentalists, who try to discredit anything that doesn't match the Bible.

    Oddly, one of the protesters is a longtime Kanawha County teacher, Karl Priest, who leads an anti-evolution group and writes newspaper commentaries calling evolution a "lie" and a "farce."

    Priest has made four trips to the county school board, seeking a rule change that would let teachers expose the "flaws" of evolution. In other words, he wants a right to tell students that evolution is a "lie" - thereby preaching his brand of religion to captive children by implying that the Bible is the only accurate account.

    Instead of scrapping this request as a clear violation of the separation of church and state, the school board circulated Priest's plan to principals, and the board soon will vote on it.

    We hope it's soundly trounced. It's just one more attempt to turn public schools into churches - a struggle that never stops in America.
    Another article

    Evolve Kanawha's creation plan Wednesday October 20, 1999

    BACK in the 1980s, Louisiana's legislature passed a law saying public schools couldn't teach evolution unless they also taught "creation science," a system upholding the Bible's account that the universe was created in six days, just a few thousand years ago.

    Scientists and educated people were horrified, because scientific evidence - geological, biological, archaeological, astronomical - overwhelmingly indicates that the universe, and life, is billions of years old.

    A total of 72 Nobel Prize-winners filed a U.S. Supreme Court brief calling Louisiana's action absurd. One of them, physicist Murray Gell-Mann, who hatched the concept of quarks, said the law arose from "forces of ignorance and superstition."

    On June 19, 1987, the Supreme Court voided the Louisiana statute, calling it a sham designed to make public schools espouse religion, in violation of America's separation of church and state.

    This landmark ruling didn't bother mainline U.S. denominations with college-educated clergy. These churches accept evolution as an honest scientific field that really doesn't contradict the Bible's poetry. But fundamentalists went on the warpath. Ever since, they've tried to sneak "creationism" into public schools by undercutting evolution.

    Now, incredibly, some Kanawha County school board members - and even Gov. Underwood - seem ready to violate the 1987 Supreme Court ruling by letting fundamentalist teachers impose creationism upon pupils.

    The current showdown was provoked by Karl Priest, an Andrew Jackson Middle School teacher who leads a creationist group and writes newspaper columns calling evolution a farce and a lie.

    Priest asked the school board to change its 1987 policy which says "creation science is not to be taught." Priest asked permission to teach children the "flaws" of evolution - presumably so he can tell captive kids that evolution is a lie.

    Member Betty Jarvis had the board's lawyer draft a proposed new policy saying teachers may teach "theories for and against the theory of evolution." This sounds pretty much like the Louisiana law which the U.S. Supreme Court called a sham.

    Member Pete Thaw says he supports the change - but other members seem leery of it. President John Luoni wisely told reporter Eric Eyre: "When in science class, we need to focus on science, not get off on other tangents."

    An Associated Press report distributed nationwide said that Underwood "does not oppose teaching creationism in public schools." Presumably, Underwood was unaware that the Supreme Court outlawed it.

    The Kanawha board is to vote on the proposal in December. We certainly hope the board kills it, and averts another court battle.

    Freedom of religion, as spelled out in the First Amendment of America's Bill of Rights, requires government to keep its hands out of faith. This means that no dominant group can use the power of the state to impose its religion on others.

    Kanawha County has many well-educated, scientific-minded people, who presumably don't want fundamentalist teachers telling their children that evolution is a lie. They probably don't want biology class turned into a theology battleground.

    The board mustn't plunge into such a mess.

    The other city newspaper wrote this article.

    Charleston Daily Mail

    Calif. man wants say in county schools

    Rebecca Catalanello Daily Mail staff

    Tuesday November 30, 1999; 01:15 PM

    A retired professor from California is planning a week-long trip to Charleston to present the Kanawha County school board with what he describes as the "design" theory of creation -- a theory that is built around a refutation of evolution -- and wants to debate area evolution proponents.

    Joseph Mastropaolo, a retired professor of science at California State University at Long Beach, has challenged Charleston Gazette Editor Jim Haught, retired Concord College professor Karl Fezer, and Unitarian Universalist pastor Rev. Terry Jonathan Moore to a debate -- a challenge to which he has gotten a less than enthusiastic response.

    "It's just like debating abortion," Haught said. "It just goes on and on and on."

    Haught, who has written numerous editorials and columns criticizing creationist theories, said he believes any such debate would simply be a "jeering match."

    "I don't want to get into any silly contest of sneering at each other," he said. "It's just basically a waste of time."

    Mastropaolo said he took interest in Kanawha County's recent debate over the teaching of evolution in schools when he ran across a wire story in his local newspaper. He has since contacted board member Betty Jarvis and plans to speak before the board before it takes its Dec. 16 vote on a proposed change to a policy concerning the teaching of controversial subjects.

    "I think they should take the discussion out of the realm of emotion," Mastropaolo said, contacted at his home in Huntington Beach, Calif. Mastropaolo said he hopes to encourage board members to accept the proposed resolution and would be willing to challenge evolution proponents.

    Moore said his parishioners have encouraged him not to participate in any such debate.

    "I mentioned it in my sermon and members afterward advised me: Ďdo not play into this hand. Do not give them this publicity.' "

    Fezer could not be reached for comment.

    The policy change under consideration would specifically give teachers the freedom to show what evolution critics call holes in the evolutionary theory.

    Mastropaolo, 72, said he has never gotten involved in a controversy similar to that in Kanawha County. He did say, however, that he is in the process of writing a book and hoped this experience would help him relate his ideas in print.

    © Copyright 1999 Charleston Daily Mail


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