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More on Conservatives and Evolution:

A week or so ago, I posted on Ben Adler's New Republic story interviewing conservative pundits on various questions related to the theory of evolution, intelligent design theory, and the teaching of both. In that post, I took for granted that Adler had reported the answers accurately, but now I'm not so sure. Mike Rappaport at The Right Coast notes David Frum's objection that Adler's reporting may not have been fully accurate. As Rappaport writes:

I previously posted on the responses that conservatives gave concerning evolution. Now it appears that the New Republic may not have reported the answers fairly. David Frum, one of those interviewed, claims that Ben Adler played fast and loose with some ellipses. I had wondered about those ellipses. Sadly, you can't be too careful these days.

Frum adds:

Then he [Adler] asked me about whether I thought evolution should be taught in public schools. Here's the answer that he quotes in his survey:

"How evolution should be taught in public schools: 'I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle.'"

Two ellipses in three sentences should stand as a warning to the reader that there's funny business going on here. Those are my words all right - but they are not words given in answer to the question in italics. They are answers to questions posed later in the interview, when Adler embarked on a very argumentative and tendentious line of queries about who should decide what gets taught.

I have no idea what proportion of Americans object to the teaching of evolution, but I very much doubt that it's 90% or even 50%. I was responding rather to a question about who should decide on public school curricula: parents or professionals. My sympathies are ever and always with the parents, in the full knowledge of how wrongheaded parents can be. At the same time, as I didn't go on to say, because I was losing patience with the argumentative Adler, I think that one of the great advantages of a system of private higher education is that it enables universities through their admissions criteria to influence the choices that parents make. I'm all for scientific education - achieved via market choice and democratic decision.

To my mind, that is certainly a very substantial difference in the interpretation of Frum's answers, in that he is plainly referring to the political question of who should set education policy, rather than questions of science.

Does anyone know whether other participants in the survey have come forward to object to how they were quoted?

(TZ: Added "have" to this sentence to fix the typo).

gab (mail):
"I'm all for scientific education - achieved via market choice and democratic decision."

The "market" can in no way determine what should or shouldn't be taught. Markets are wrong much of the time. Majorities are wrong much of the time. If we let markets and "democratic decisions" determine what is taught, we'd still be teaching that the planets revolve around the earth.
7.14.2005 1:18pm
Justin Kee (mail):
David Frum closes with, "I think that one of the great advantages of a system of private higher education is that it enables universities through their admissions criteria to influence the choices that parents make. I'm all for scientific education - achieved via market choice and democratic decision."

I have several questions regarding David's final statements. Is he suggesting that the scientific cirricula of local school districts should be decided by democratic decision and the scientific cirricula of private higher education should be decided by market forces, i.e. parents voting with their education dollars? If that is the case, does his distinction really matter? If the question of who selects the education policy is political and ultimately driven by parental choice, does that not impact the science cirricula that is taught? Unfortunately, I fail to see the distinction.
7.14.2005 1:24pm
Princepaul:
OK, Mr. Volokh apparently hasn't opened the Wilson note for comment. I'll comment here. It continues to amaze me how otherwise intelligent people can bend over backwards to spin this issue. I'm not necessarily even talking about whether Wilson was recommended, authorized, suggested, whatever; whether he knew the documents were forged, later found out the documents were forged; or whether Rove was trying to help out a confused and helpless journalist.

Mr. Volokh writes: "It's not even clear (beyond a reasonable doubt, no less) that Rove knew Plame's name, knew that the information that he disclosed identified her, or knew that the US was taking affirmative steps to conceal her relationship to the intelligence community (if it was indeed doing so)." To begin with, Mr. Volokh has cited the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by title and section, so I'll assume he's read it and knows that the "naming" of a covert agent goes unmentioned. Second, how mindblowingly dense does a person need to be to dispute that telling someone that X is Y's wife creates a class of one, and thereby "identifies" X--as is all that is required under Title 50 section 421. It makes absolutely no legal difference, as Mr. Volokh knows, whether Rove was trying to be helpful, or whether he knew and revealed her name. Finally, the independent investigation must have concluded early on that her status as a covert agent was solid enough to continue an investigation that, to this point, has sent a reporter to jail for refusing to identify a source.

Does anyone know whether Rove could have been authorized to have access to the type of confidential information he revealed to Matt Cooper? If not, this is his best bet to skate on perjury. But, it would also mean that someone else provided him with access to that information, and there's even more to consider.
7.14.2005 1:29pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Goodness, PrincePaul, don't blame Volokh for Jim Lindgren's post.

I understood that individual posters decide whether to open up for comments, and Mr. Lindgren has excellent reason not to open his, given his dubious sourcing.

But on the analogy that the VC uses for comments, bursting into Zywicki's thread to complain about Lindgren seems like party-crashing. Tut-tut, good fellow!
7.14.2005 1:38pm
Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
?
7.14.2005 1:40pm
Larry (mail) (www):
The market can and should determine what is taught in schools.

However, I will send my kids to schools that teach evolution and teach them what is necessary to become doctors and lawyers. All of you idiot lay people, who just don't care enough to go to law school and/or make more than $300,000, can call yourselves "conservative" and "Christian" and let your kids learn bible stories instead. Your class is poor for a reason and you will be kept that way.
7.14.2005 1:40pm
Sigivald (mail):
Yeah, Larry, because nobody who's conservative or Christian makes any money.

God knows (pun intended) that being leftist (as today's conservatives are yesterday's Liberals) and an atheist somehow makes you richer, and that evolution theory (which, by the way, I accept wholeheartedly) somehow prepares you for a career in law or medicine.

How the connection between evolution and the practice of law or medicine is made, I'm not quite sure, but you seem so certain it's there, that perhaps you'd like to elaborate?

More relevantly, I would also be very interested to see how much Adler mangled other responses; assuming Frum is truthful, which seems likely to me, the conclusion apparently follows that Adler's goal was not to provide insight to what people actually think on the issue, but to provide convenient straw men for some political purpose.
7.14.2005 1:47pm
scarhill:
Justin Key wrote:
"Is he suggesting that the scientific cirricula of local school districts should be decided by democratic decision and the scientific cirricula of private higher education should be decided by market forces, i.e. parents voting with their education dollars?"

No, I read it as saying the opposite--essentially that if not learning evolution means that your kid won't get into a good college, many parents will use the political process to make sure that evolution gets taught.
7.14.2005 1:51pm
mrkmyr (mail):
Frum does not clarify whether he personally supports teaching evolution, or intelligent design, in schools. Perhaps Adler used the quotes he did because Frum would not answer his question.
7.14.2005 1:53pm
Princepaul:
Excellent point Anderson. I would like to apologize to Mr. Volokh. Back to the party.
7.14.2005 1:53pm
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
More relevant, is this obsession with evolution versus creationism an obsession by "idiot lay people" or intellectuals or both?

If children did not learn about evolution would they then be failures? What does evolution have to do with being a doctor or being lawyer? Schools could teach the sun goes around the earth, and one could still fix a car, perform an operation, or legal analysis. That is not to say they should teach something wrong, but evolution is a theory.

EXACTLY, how much time is spent on schools that teach either? This fight is as if there is an entire year long high school course which would be on evolution or creationism, and thus hangs the Republic.

I am serious, yet I do not intend to insult anyone. It is possible that my experience is different from others. I went to a government operated school with plenty of future lawyers and doctors, and plenty of AP courses.

My school experience with evolution and creationism was approximately 10-15 minutes in chemistry. The high school chemistry teacher told us that there were a number of theories on how the earth was created. One was the big bang theory which he explained. Creationism which he explained. He also told us about 2-3 other theories. Theories which are ignored in the evolution v. creationism saga. (There was no intelligent design discussion). Big deal. So what? How was I harmed? If I was, then maybe I will have to seek help.
7.14.2005 2:00pm
topcat:
There is a word for this -- Dowdification.
7.14.2005 2:01pm
rbj:
Markets do determine what gets taught, at least to a degree. Less than 100 years ago Latin was widely taught (I believe ancient greek was already slipping). Today, not so much, because students aren't electing to take it (where it is an elective) and parents aren't demanding that it be mandatory.
7.14.2005 2:10pm
John Thacker (mail):
Markets are wrong much of the time. Majorities are wrong much of the time. If we let markets and "democratic decisions" determine what is taught, we'd still be teaching that the planets revolve around the earth.


And yet, so are experts and bureaucrats. When the Catholic Church persecuted Galileo, was it operating by the marketplace or through democracy? Was Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union a result of the marketplace or democracy? I think not, in either case.

Back to more local issues, the educational establishment is particularly bad at math and reading education, for example. The teaching schools operate by proclaiming official theories of teaching, regardless of how much the data supports or contradict them. Science does operate by the marketplace of ideas, letting many theories out there and testing them. Data is important.
7.14.2005 2:10pm
A. Greenwood (mail):
In my first year Civ Pro exam I was sweating through a question on personal jurisdiction. I just couldn't find any way to work in my Bible quotes or a little thuggish patriotism. But then I remembered I believed in evolution. Sweet! Viewed through a catastrophistic macro-evolutionary paradigm, International Shoe suddenly made sense.
7.14.2005 2:28pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Why is anyone worried about this? Have you seen students' test scores? It doesn't matter what they're being taught, they're not remembering any of it anyway. However, they do feel very good about themselves.
7.14.2005 2:30pm
Larry (mail):
This is a pretty unfair criticism of the TNR piece. The piece clearly states upfront


A few notes about the interviews: All were conducted via phone except where otherwise noted. The interviews are not presented in a chronological question-and-answer format. Instead, we've grouped each person's thoughts on particular subjects into subcategories, which are identified in italics, splicing these statements together with ellipses where necessary. Those interviewed spoke only for themselves.


Frum's statements are clearly relevant to the topic at hand and present a pretty obvious train of thought, even if he didn't put it into a single sentence in the interview. At a minimum, Frum is implying that if a large majority of the public decided Christian creationist thought should overrule the teaching of evolution it would be proper to do so. That is certainly revealing. If he wanted to indicate he felt evolution should be taught, he certainly could have done so explicitly in the interview. That he didn't (and I don't see where he says he did) is revealing as well.
7.14.2005 2:45pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Gab's claim that:

If we let markets and "democratic decisions" determine what is taught, we'd still be teaching that the planets revolve around the earth.
has already been satisfactorily demolished by Mr. Thacker, pointing out that geocentrism was preserved by that most undemocratic and most unmarket of institutions. I thought I would point out the elitism in the rest of Gab's claim:
Markets are wrong much of the time. Majorities are wrong much of the time.
First, why do we bother with elections if "majorities are wrong much of the time." Oh, that's right, that why we have judges to overturn laws that they don't like! Most of the work for some judges seems to be finding a way to twist the Constitution so that it allows them to find what was a felony when the Constitution was written and makes it into a right.

Secondly, Gab's two statements are in some senses identical, and in some senses contradictory. "Majority rule" means that a majority makes a decision that binds everyone. Market decisions mean that the majority gets what it wants (in that sense, democratic), but it also means that a minority, as long as it isn't too small a minority, can get what it wants, too.

I suspect that Gab's concern is that allowing science education to follow market forces would mean that some schools would teach that the Earth is 10,000 years old; some would teach atheistic Darwinian evolution; most would teach evolution, and acknowledge that there remain unanswered questions, and suggest that there even among scientists, there are a variety of ways of answering deeper cosmic questions than simple blind processes. And so what? As long students learn evolutionary theory, so that they are prepared to take biology classes, what does it matter if they remain skeptical of the theory, or regard it strictly as a tool? Who cares?

Unfortunately, there is a group of fanatics in this country who are just terrified that someone, somewhere, is going to learn that evolution still has some holes in it, some answered questions, and that short of getting time machines, some of those questions will remain unanswered for a very long time.

A little humility goes a long way in the sciences.
7.14.2005 2:54pm
JohnAnnArbor:
from A. Greenwood: "Thuggish patriotism"?

What point were you trying to make?
7.14.2005 3:08pm
Hattio (mail):
A. Greenwood
Why were you trying to work in bible quotes or thuggish patriotism into Civ Pro? Were you not sweating enough already?
and how does International Shoe fit into evolution?
7.14.2005 3:21pm
A. Greenwood (mail):
Please see Larry's comment, posted at 12:40 pm. I wrote in response.
7.14.2005 4:11pm
Chris of MM (mail) (www):
Whatever the merits of the Adler piece, it's the fact that some conservatives in authority positions have created an atmosphere in which people like Ulrich Bonnell Phillips can believe that evolution is not important for medicine that is so frightening, and unfortunate. Perhaps Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, and anyone who agrees with him, should read up on drug-resistant bacteria or recent treatments for the AIDS virus. Try, then, to understand them without understanding evolution.
7.14.2005 4:14pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Speaking of "fast and loose". Frum claims that Christianity is the faith of 90% of "American public". REALLY? 90%? WOW! Last I heard, it was under 70%, and even then, it included quite a few people to whom religion played a minor or secondary role. It doesn't really matter if the answers cited were to the question asked (except to discredit Adler)--Frum agreed that those were his words. Adler might have twisted the question and answers to fit his own agenda, but he still exposed Frum.

The question still remains whether we should allow religion to control teaching of science. And the answer should be unequivocal. If that answer is
"yes" then we might as well invite a scion of the Saudi royal family to take over the presidency. If the answer is "no" then it should not matter what majority of Americans are Christians. The irony is that in countries that are far more predominantly Christian, there is no debate as to how science should be taught in public schools (hint: there is no hindrance to the teaching of evolution). That means that there are three kinds of people who advocate for Christianizations of our public schools: extremists, idiots and those who find the topic to be politically expedient. I'll let you decide where you want to stick Frum.
7.14.2005 4:39pm
Downtown Lad (mail) (www):
"Evolution is a theory"

Yeah - and "Gravity" was a theory last time I checked too. But both are the best darn explanations anyone has come up with, and neither have yet been disproven.

Intelligent Design can never be disproven, which is why it isn't science. It's called Faith.

If you don't want to teach Evolution, then you may as well stop teaching biology too while you're at it, since evolution is fundamental to understanding that science.

If you don't want your kids to learn about evolution, then you should send them to private schools. Don't make the education of other children suffer.
7.14.2005 5:44pm
gab (mail):
What Mr. Creamer suspects is certainly not the case. I only care what schools teach in the hope that students would get a good education with the latest and best information. With so much to learn, why waste time with outdated or wrong information?

And to think the Catholic Church's persecution of Galileo was merely the work of a handful of church leaders is disingenuous. Ask yourself, had democratic processes been in place in 17th century Italy, would schools have taught that the earth revolved around the sun?
7.14.2005 7:17pm
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
Chris of MM: You did not say what was so necessary about evolution only that it was necessary. Why is it so important? Say. I am open to a good argument.

Downtown Lad wrote : "But both [gravity and evolution] are the best darn explanations anyone has come up with, and neither have yet been disproven.

Downtown Lad: Has evolution been proved as you say?



*I recall reading that there are theories of electricity (or something) that are wrong, in that they clash with newer better theories in other areas. Yet, these theories are still used because they work. What I was reading was saying that since they work an electrical engineer uses them because he uses works regardless of whether it is true. Fine by me.

*My mention of ID was not pro nor con only that it was not mentioned. It had not been in the media yet.
7.14.2005 7:57pm
Justin Kee (mail):
In response to Sigivald's post as to the relevence of evolutionary theory to law or medicine, I would certainly view it as a critical biological concept within the field of medicine. The basis of the modern immunological theories of T- and B-cell maturation, in the expression of MHCs (major histimine complexes), of antigen identification and of the development of pathogen resistance in populations, in the development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, etc. In oncology, the patterns of heredity for the expression (or nonexpression) of certain genes (proto-oncogenes) related to tumor development. In every aspect of medicine, from stem cell research to models of influenza infection. A modern medical resident is expected to understand and apply basic biologicial principles, of which evolutionary theory is key, to general practice as well as specialties.

If my physician seriously questioned evolutionary theory, I would find a new doc pronto.
7.14.2005 8:21pm
Easlety (mail):
Downtown Lad:

"Intelligent Design can never be disproven, which is why it isn't science. It's called Faith.

"If you don't want to teach Evolution, then you may as well stop teaching biology too while you're at it, since evolution is fundamental to understanding that science."

Your response reveals you don't know what ID is interested in in the first place. It is not creationism. Here's another example of the same type of approach as your own. ID is interested in promoting more science, not less. I won't stop here long since the smears and misrepresentations dominate this discussion. But here's another source if any are seriously interested in knowing what ID actually is interested in.

People shouldn't be afraid of science.
7.14.2005 8:43pm
Osvaldo Mandias (mail):
Most evolution denying people I've met believed in micro-evolution and evolution for bacteria and stuff. It was only when you started getting into humans and apes that they got emotional about it. Beyond this, I have a really hard time of seeing why disbelieving evolution would disqualify one for medicine (perhaps certain kinds of research?).

I've had several competent physicians and surgeons in the midst of some severe health problems who I believe didn't believe in evolution, at least one of whom I know for sure didn't.

So both in theory and in practice I don't see why disbelieving evolution would prevent one from being an excellent doctor. And for practicing law? Ha.
7.14.2005 8:44pm
John Jenkins (mail):
I too fail to understand why someone who believed that the genetic material of certain animals and humans was close enough that you can test medicines (empirically verifiable) would be disqualified from being a doctor because he or she did not believe that humans were descended from animals. I'm largely agnostic on the question myself (considering how easy it would be to explain that evolution happened the way it did because God ordained it, I can't fathom why *anyone* has a problem with this, but that's the rationalist in me), except that I understand that evolution is the scientific consensus and therefore a well trained scientist ought to understand it, but need not believe it, which are after all different things. Hell, lost of things have been the scientific consensus over the centuries and then ended up being disproven at a later date.
7.14.2005 9:25pm
Ulrich Bonnell Phillips:
Osvaldo Mandias &John Jenkins: Yes, thank you, better minds than me have said the question that I am trying to get to.

Plus, in regards to depth, I think there is a difference between K-12 science and college or PhD science. Maybe we are confusing the expectations of the two. Just as there is a difference to undergraduate law courses and law school law courses. There is a HUGE difference between those two, and they are both college. Never did any case law in my undergraduate law, and boy is case law a tremendous part of the American legal system. But the depth and purpose of the undergraduate courses was different.
7.15.2005 1:01am
Justin Kee (mail):
"Your response reveals you don't know what ID is interested in in the first place. It is not creationism. Here's another example of the same type of approach as your own. ID is interested in promoting more science, not less. I won't stop here long since the smears and misrepresentations dominate this discussion. But here's another source if any are seriously interested in knowing what ID actually is interested in."

ID is an unscientific approach to the scientific process. To state that a biological process is irreducibly complex without evidence supporting the claim is unscientific. ID is a system of faith, plain and simple.

As for being treated by a competent doctor, would you want to be treated by a doctor that refuted the evolutionary pathway between the lesser and greater apes and humankind and thus refused to apply medical research cited in a peer-reviewed journal because said research was performed upon monkeys and monkeys and not evolutionarily related to man?

Then again, faith healers have been popular since before the time of P.T. Barnum.
7.15.2005 2:04am
Easlety (mail):
Justin Kee:
"ID is an unscientific approach to the scientific process. To state that a biological process is irreducibly complex without evidence supporting the claim is unscientific. ID is a system of faith, plain and simple."

Not in the least, it's theoretical and the evidence used in support of the theory is empirical and rational. I see you did not follow the links or reference any specifics but instead relied upon your sermonette. Not exactly scientific, not even remotely scientific.

What is questioned is not the substance of evolutionary theory, or in the case of micro-evolution and some aspects of macro-evolution the empirical findings, to the contrary. What is questioned is the conflation of presumption and ideology with science, the conflation of scientistic presumption in order to help support ideological interests.

Science is actually advanced with ID, the ideologue's finger in the eye is what is objected to. Anyone who more seriously attempts to comprehend what ID is actually advancing will understand that.

There are aspects of evolutionary theory which are non-falsifiable such as the advent of consciousness in man, not to mention purely material/biological aspects of the theory. It is perfectly possible to fully accept micro-evolutionary developments as well as many aspects of macro-evolutionary developments without accepting the totality of evolutionary theory and presumption. That's why you avoided a closely reasoned argument and opted for a sermon instead.
7.15.2005 2:47pm
Jam (mail):
Irrelevant. The real issue is government schooling. Separate the two and the issue goes away.
7.15.2005 3:40pm
Jam (mail):
We home school and my children consistently score several grades above level and that include science. We are creationists. I know astronomers and physicists that are creationists. Evolution has a lot of fatal flaws, to the point that such ideas as "punctuated equilibrium" (helpful monsters, if you will) have been proposed.

The difference between micro and macro evolution is significant. The term micro-evolution refers to mutations within species. Creationists accept this. There is no evidence of trans-mutation, one species mutating into another. Creationists reject macro-evolution. Micro-evolution does imply macro-evolution.
7.15.2005 3:55pm
Ananda (mail):
ID advocates like Easlety are so funny. "Science is actually advanced with ID." Oh really. Name one scientific advancement based on ID. In fact, name one scientific prediction based on ID. In fact, if you could just go ahead and state the theory of ID, briefly, that'd give even more credibility to what you're saying... but somehow, I don't think you will, or can.

And it's pretty rich to hear accusations of "sermonizing" from someone who frequents Bill Dembski's blog... where critical comments are quickly deleted. If you don't believe me, ask Dembski precisely what his definition of "specified complexity" is (in all his books he has never settled on one). See how long the comment stays up.
7.16.2005 2:16am
Michael B (mail):
Ananda, neither you or Justin Kee have said very much other than to dismiss others. It's as if you're writing while chewing gum, blowing your nose and spitting into the wind - while also affecting a pose as if to say you're particularly profound with each and every utterance. In point of fact you're not even provocative. I won't presume to know what, more precisely, Easlety intends, though I will note one or two things that will not contradict what he's indicated to this point and may dovetail with what he's indicating.

I accept a goodly portion of evolutionary theory as a scientifically substantial working hypothesis, theory or heuristic. On the other hand, ecce homo, the advent of man, does not simply or unambiguously - to put it very modestly indeed - derive from the more substantial aspects of evolutionary theory - though it certainly does from many of the more presumptuous and aggrressively ideologically invested forms of evolutionary initiatives.

I'll point now to this post, from Maverick Philosopher. The philosophical and critical problems attendant to ecce homo are not simple by any means, yet the implication and at times the more overt statement made by materialist or naturalist reductionists who are also evolutionary dogmatist to one degree or another, often infer precisely such simplistic resolutions.

It behooves policy makers to adopt programs which reflect more realism and more sober assessments, not more ideological presumption. Science per se can be better advance via a qualitative intellectual humility, not presumption.
7.17.2005 5:39pm
Ananda (mail):
I did not intend to be provocative or profound. It was my intent to find out from Easlety an example of a scientific advancement impelled by ID, or to hear of a testable prediction made by ID, or to see the theory of ID explicitly stated, in particular with details about the process used by the intelligent designer of the complexity held to be designed by the theory of ID. That's all. If that sounds pedestrian to you, I won't claim otherwise. Nonetheless, the silence on those points ought to tell us something about ID, no?

The rest of your post does not seem to be addressed to me, nor indeed to anyone at all in particular, so I'll say nothing about it.
7.17.2005 6:33pm
Michael B (mail):
But the science of man, if that expression might be considered valid in order to echo the softer sciences, is surely not advanced when overly much presumption, often drawing upon evolutionary themes analogously or more directly, is used to misdirect and misrepresent more substantial scientific interests and hypotheses. It is that adumbration of social/political ideological interests onto the scientific which is objected to.

Ecce homo (e.g., the dawn of consciousness in man, of spirit) is very much the issue. Hence the reference to Thomas Nagel's essay in the above link.

That you were not attempting to be provocative, in being entirely dismissive, cannot be taken at face value.
7.19.2005 3:04pm