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Anti-Evolution Teaching as "Academic Freedom":

The WSJ reports that anti-evolution forces have adopted a new stealth strategy to undermine the teaching of evolution in public school science classes: "academic freedom." The story reports on "academic freedom" legislation that would protect high school science teachers who challenge evolutionary theory in their classes.

The academic-freedom bills now in circulation vary in detail. Some require teachers to critique evolution. Others let educators choose their approach -- but guarantee they won't be disciplined should they decide to build a case against Darwin.

The common goal: To expose more students to articles and videos that undercut evolution. Most of this material is produced by advocates of intelligent design or Biblical creationism, the belief that God created man in his present form. . . .

Those promoting the new bills emphasize that academic freedom doesn't mean biology teachers can read aloud from the Book of Genesis. "This doesn't bring religion into the classroom," said Florida state Rep. D. Alan Hays, a Republican.

The bills typically restrict lessons to "scientific" criticism of evolution, or require that critiques be presented "in an objective manner," or approved by a local school board.

Evolution's defenders respond that there are no credible scientific critiques of evolution, any more than there are credible alternatives to the theory of gravity. The fossil record, DNA analysis and observations of natural selection confirm Darwin's hypothesis that all life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor over four billion years.

In the scientific community, while there may be debate about the details, the grand sweep of evolution is unassailable. "There's no controversy," said Jay Labov, a senior adviser for education and communication with the National Academy of Sciences.

Unlike some critics of "Intelligent Design" and other creationist theories, I am not convinced that teaching alternatives to evolution necessarily violates the Establishment Clause. That said, these bills make for horrible public policy, as there is nothing scientific about these "alternatives" to evolution. Encouraging attacks on evolution in high school science classes promotes academic fraud not "academic freedom." If school boards or state legislatures want public school students to be exposed to competing theories about the origins of life -- a question evolutionary theory does not address -- they should do it in a world religion or social studies class and leave science alone.

Happyshooter:
How dare educators expect academic freedom for something as evil as failing to believe in the big bang?

The constitution may give free speech, but it clearly means free speech only for right thinking people.

Those who oppose evolution oppose reality itself. Through their belief and speech they exclude themselves from the constitution and from society itself.

Their belief is a fraud. Their speech is a fraud. They blaspheme darwin. Their lives are hate crimes agaist society.

Death to those who oppose darwin! Death to the christers!
5.2.2008 10:58am
Thatguy (mail):
Creationism is NOT science, and therefore had no place in the science class. Period. End of Story.
It is mythology, if there was ANY observable, or testable hypothesis, or any data whatsoever, MAYBE, but as the "evidence" for creationism consists of a multiply translated oral history from 6,000 years ago, it isn't science.
IMHO, only the truly stupid can believe that nonsense, anyway. I'm all for the individuals right to be an ignorant troglodyte, right up until they insist that their foolish notions are science.
5.2.2008 11:01am
Happyshooter:
Academic freedom and scientific methods mean putting forth theories, discussing them, and running tests (or debates) to see how they hold up.

Then the cycle starts all over.

Somehow the children of the 60s got into power in the academy and decided that no debate was authorised in a handful of theories they love (darwin, global warm or cool of the week, race abilities).

That's not science or the academy, that is a religion.
5.2.2008 11:01am
Brian Mac:

"something as evil as failing to believe in the big bang?"

I get the feeling you'd do well to retake those high school classes on evolutionary theory...
5.2.2008 11:03am
Wugong:
Academic freedom and scientific methods mean putting forth theories, discussing them, and running tests (or debates) to see how they hold up.

Key phrase there being "running tests." Any suggestions for running scientific tests on creationism or intelligent design? We've been waiting for some time and this seems to be one (of many) important area where these ideas have nothing to add to our scientifically based understanding of the world.
5.2.2008 11:08am
Thales (mail) (www):
"Key phrase there being "running tests." Any suggestions for running scientific tests on creationism or intelligent design? We've been waiting for some time and this seems to be one (of many) important area where these ideas have nothing to add to our scientifically based understanding of the world."

You are correct, of course, but your mistake is to engage Happyshooter in the first place. Lost cause.
5.2.2008 11:09am
jvarisco (mail) (www):
Won't they have to find biologists who believe their nonsense? Not many of those out there.
5.2.2008 11:10am
Happyshooter:
I will be honest, I have doubts that the world is 6k years old.

I have real doubts that humans come from one celled life.

The big bang smells like a fantasy.

Also, house cats have wanted to get into jars and cans for well over 100 years, mine try several times per day. I have yet to see a sign of an opposable thumb on their paws.
5.2.2008 11:15am
Jiminy (mail):
Ben Stein makes some really awful points relating to this topic.

"Science leads you to killing people" and relgion does not? Both science and religion were created by man, not by anything else. And man may act in moral or amoral ways. Torquemada and Mengele would respectfully disagree with Stein's foolishness. He is really skilled at basing sound-sounding soundbites on empty nonsense.

The other confusion that people take advantage of is the concept of creation "where/how did existence begin" with evolution concept explaining how life has developed since the beginning of existence.

Newton believed in God, but as the type of being that would create mysteries for us to understand and learn from. He saw the Divine hand in the motion of the heavens, and took up science as a challenge to comprehend the mysteries in front of us. Einstein saw God as an excellent concept and as a common bond between life, but didn't see God as an umpire who made up the rules that you had to live a certain way.

Most of the religious scientists that I know subscribe to the Blind Watchmaker concept of a God and not the evangelical concept of Jesus sitting next to you at lunchtime, reminding you not to eat so many carbs.

Academic Freedom to force confusion and ignorance on children who already score poorly at math and science? Sounds like a great idea. Abstinence also is a great use of forced ignorance on children, and we see how well that has worked.
5.2.2008 11:15am
Allan (mail):
Happy Shooter,

I have yet to see a cat with an opposable thumb, either. But, I bet, if there is a genetic mutation creating one, that mutation will become a dominant feature of cats within 1000 years or so, if it is useful to the cats.

That would be evolution.
5.2.2008 11:23am
Wugong:
Happyshooter-- The complete and total lack of understanding of evolutionary theory you display perhaps qualifies you as a teacher of these "alternative" approaches to biology.
5.2.2008 11:25am
mga (mail):
I hear that the Kansas legislature is proposing to repeal the law of gravity and replace it with intelligent falling.
5.2.2008 11:27am
msimpson (mail) (www):
I've no brief for ID and don't see any particular reason it should be taught in high school science classes, but it does seem to me that the battle over this is less over any particular theory or what-not and more over what we might call "social authority." When something gets called "scientific," it immediately acquires a great deal of cultural authority - that's why all sorts of activist outfits produce "reports" that "demonstrate" such-and-such "finding." And so it might actually be worthwhile to set aside a day or so in a science class and have even high school students reflect on the limits of science, the ways in which this thing we call "science" doesn't just run according to some beautiful, objective mechanism, etc. If the point, in high schools at least, is to help create minimally educated people who can exercise their civic and personal responsibilities reasonably, then such efforts - and they might include at least looking at ID critiques (and the responses) - don't seem entirely out of place.

As for the "academic freedom" claim, I wonder if those folks really want to travel down that path. Think of all the odious things currently plied on undergraduates, allowed and encouraged in some sense by "academic freedom." It doesn't seem to me that's such a bright idea at the high school level.
5.2.2008 11:27am
Christopher M (mail):
The question of the "origins of life" is a perfectly good one for scientific inquiry. See, e.g., here and here. It is certainly true that there is no clear scientific consensus regarding the mechanism of the emergence of life, and very possible that we will never have overwhelming evidence on that question (as we do for the broader framework of evolution). But it's not like science just somehow runs out when you roll the tape back from single cells to no cells at all.
5.2.2008 11:30am
Dan Weber (www):
The big bang smells like a fantasy.

We're not talking about the big bang. We're talking about evolution.
5.2.2008 11:39am
ignorant troglodyte (mail):
Wugong

I didn't know macro evolution had been tested. So you are suggesting we have time machines.

I don't think there is any justification for grouping intelligent design in with a reasonable alternative of teaching the shortcomings of evolutionary theory or the shortcomings of the scientific method for that matter. Incidentally I don't know the real world relevance of teaching evolution in schools. We don't teach statistics, we don't teach economics, we barely teach math, but we teach a well established but largely irrelevant scientific theory that has huge religious implications when taught with bias(by glossing over the shortcomings) to people who lack the analytical reasoning skills to understand the process of reaching conclusions.
5.2.2008 11:47am
Brian Mac:

Incidentally I don't know the real world relevance of teaching evolution in schools.

Erm, doesn't it underpin pretty much all modern biology?
5.2.2008 11:49am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
With all the other unscientific, ahistorical, inumerate, illiterate, garbage they teach in our primary, secondary, and tertiary schools; conflicts in cosmology seem a waste of time.
5.2.2008 11:51am
john w. (mail):
Some random thoughts from someone who considers himself sort of halfway between an agnostic and a Deist -- but definitely *NOT* a Christian Fundamentalist:

1.) Even if Creationism and Intelligent Design are total hogwash, they still ought to be discussed in the schools so that the students can see for themselves that they are hogwash.

2.) There are some aspects of the Theory of Evolution (as commonly presented) that are really non-testable hypotheses, and hence fall outside the realm of Science. For example: The assertion that life on Earth arose solely by random chance. That may well be true, and I personally believe it, but it can't possibly be proven by any kind of reproducible, controlled experiment. Therefore, it is not Science with a capital "S" like, say, Maxwell's Equations or Special Relativity. At best, it is semi-scientific speculation, and at worst it is just another belief system, the same as ID or Creationism. If it were up to me, I'd call it "The Evolution Hypothesis" rather than "The Theory of Evolution."

3.) Whatever harm might come from allowing a few religious wackos to fill a few kids' heads with nonsense is far less than the harm that comes from allowing the Government (especially the Federal government) to define what is or isn't Science, in defiance of the wishes of local, democratically-elected school-boards.

4.) I don't see where there is any logical way to disprove Creationism. If some guy wants to assert that God created the Earth, 6000 years ago, complete with fake fossils and sedimentary rocks, etc., how can you disprove that??

5.) To me, Intelligent Design actually seems easier to attack than Creationism in that I.D. seems to be logically incompatible with conventional Judeo-Christian Theism because their [the I.D. folks] "Designer" keeps making mistakes that S/he has to come back and rectify. Whereas the traditional Judeo-Christian God is omniscient and -- one assumes -- infallible.
5.2.2008 11:52am
Elliot Reed (mail):
Since when did public school teachers have academic freedom? They aren't experts in a subject area who need academic freedom in order to pursue their research in whatever crazy direction it takes them. That's just not their job.

Would academic freedom even protect a biology professor's ability to teach the students "intelligent design" in freshman bio? I don't think it would, since the department has the right to establish some minimum standards for course content and among those is "do not teach the students theories biologists universally recognize as bunk."
Unlike some critics of "Intelligent Design" and other creationist theories, I am not convinced that teaching alternatives to evolution necessarily violates the Establishment Clause.
I agree that it doesn't necessarily violate the Establishment Clause. I could imagine a nonreligious intelligent-design theory (say, that the life-forms on Earth today were designed by aliens) being pursued in a scientific way to the point where it gained sufficient credibility to merit being taught in public-school science classes. (I am not optimistic about this approach, but I think it could happen in principle.)

Back in reality, however, the only version of intelligent design anybody supports is Biblical creationism with a new name. It seems to have been invented for the sole purpose of looking secular enough to meet the Edwards test. Why is there a difference of Constitutional dimension between teaching thinly veiled religious beliefs and teaching the same beliefs outright?
5.2.2008 11:54am
BGates:
The academic-freedom bills now in circulation vary in detail. Some require teachers to critique evolution.
You're not only free to teach what you want, you're also free to teach what the state tells you to. Maybe the solution is to get the government out of the business of giving its blessing to school curricula.
5.2.2008 11:56am
semi-economist:
I have the pleasure of living in the Florida District of the other sponsor of this bill. What a waste of government time and resources. Florida has a horrible budget problem, the insurance and real estate markets are still a mess, and the geniuses in the legislature think this is worth spending time on? Just when you think it only happens in places like Kansas... excuse me while I go cut some holes in a paper bag.
5.2.2008 11:57am
TruePath (mail) (www):
`Academic Freedom,' what a crock. High school teachers have never had academic freedom nor should they (they aren't researchers). But what really underlies the hypocripsy in this bill is the fact that it only provides `academic freedom' for exactly one view. If they really wanted academic freedom for high school teachers why not grant it in all subjects.

That would get interesting. I'd love to see some teacher explain in a world history class (say in response to a question) that our best historical and scientific evidence suggests that no one rose from the dead during that period of time. It could get even more interesting in an actual course on religions. I suspect most of the people supporting this bill wouldn't be very pleased to find a teacher using academic freedom to outline the evidence that the gospels were composed significantly after the fact, contain clear historical inaccuracies (no census like the one claimed was held at that time) and then underwent substantial modifications during the middle ages. These are facts that are accepted even by the vast majority of religious scholars (theologians etc..) but would drive these fundamentalist types mad.

Too bad the bill doesn't actually just grant protections for high school teachers to share scientific evidence in general.
5.2.2008 11:59am
Brian Mac:

There are some aspects of the Theory of Evolution (as commonly presented) that are really non-testable hypotheses, and hence fall outside the realm of Science. For example: The assertion that life on Earth arose solely by random chance.

I'm pretty sure evolutionary theory doesn't assert that. Any other examples?


If some guy wants to assert that God created the Earth, 6000 years ago, complete with fake fossils and sedimentary rocks, etc., how can you disprove that??

Maybe by providing evidence of fossils and sedimentary rocks that are older than 6000 years?
5.2.2008 12:00pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Incidentally I don't know the real world relevance of teaching evolution in schools."

Not only is it the basis of all biology, but also medicine. Furthermore, creationists and other religious cohorts believe that the earth was created only a few thousand years ago, so this also impacts anyone who wants to go into geology, paleontalogy, the study of dinosaurs, plants, ecology, plate tectonics, astromony and a whole host of scientific fields.

But even for those who don't go into those fields, if evolution is not taught, then students will only be taught the religion, which is that the world was created a few thousand years ago.

If you don't teach basic science, which evolution is a part of, then you pretty much concede it to the wingnuts, and that seriously deprives our students of a sound education.
5.2.2008 12:00pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"I have real doubts that humans come from one celled life."

How did you start out?
5.2.2008 12:04pm
Halcyon (mail):

2.) There are some aspects of the Theory of Evolution (as commonly presented) that are really non-testable hypotheses, and hence fall outside the realm of Science. For example: The assertion that life on Earth arose solely by random chance. That may well be true, and I personally believe it, but it can't possibly be proven by any kind of reproducible, controlled experiment. Therefore, it is not Science with a capital "S" like, say, Maxwell's Equations or Special Relativity.


First off, Evolution doesn't say that life arose solely by random chance. Natural Selection which is a major factor in Evolution is anything BUT Random.

As to the second bit about it not being able to be reproducible by a controlled experiment, what isn't reproducible and you do know that by that logic Astronomy isn't Science because we can't make stars in a lab. :p
5.2.2008 12:07pm
Greg Piper (mail):
There's nothing "new" about this supposed "stealth" strategy - I worked at the Discovery Institute from 2001 through 2003 and we were emphasizing academic freedom and "teach the controversy" before there was any legislative record or case law on such latitude for teachers. It was and remains a core of Discovery's mission on science education, not a response or shifting tactic, and we never, ever advocated that schools shouldn't teach evolution (we can't speak for other groups though, which often exasperated us with their proposals). We worked with plenty of teachers who had been harassed by their schools for daring to bring scientific papers to class, in mainstream science journals, that pointed to weaknesses in neo-Darwinian theory. It's no less a challenge to academic freedom than threatening teachers for using Huck Finn or other literature with racist baggage in class.
5.2.2008 12:08pm
Dan Weber (www):
There are some aspects of the Theory of Evolution (as commonly presented) that are really non-testable hypotheses, and hence fall outside the realm of Science. For example: The assertion that life on Earth arose solely by random chance.

As Brian Mac pointed out, that's not part of the Theory of Evolution.

Biologists really don't know where or how life started on Earth, or even what the first life was. They have a bunch of ideas and some evidence for each, but this is still a very unanswered question. Whoever finally pieces it together will probably get a Nobel.
5.2.2008 12:09pm
limaxray:
I really have mixed feelings about this irregardless of the creationism vs evolution debate. My problem is that I am starting to see science become another mindless religion of 'believers' no different than any other organized religion. While I don't agree with Happyshooter's motives, I do agree that there is a problem when theories are presented as facts and any debate is disallowed. (personally I see a much bigger issue here with AGW, but that is really beside the point)

Lets be honest here, Darwin's theory of evolution is just that, a theory. Certainly the evidence supporting micro evolution is very strong, and even macro evolution has a good case for it, but that doesn't negate the fact that it is still only a theory. I see it as a problem when science is preached where the most commonly accepted theory is presented as the one and only fact. That's just not science. Not saying creationism should be taught in school, just that if Darwinism is taught, it needs to be taught as 'we believe this to be the case' and not 'this IS the case.'

For all we know, aliens landed on the planet 10,000 years ago, made woopie with a bunch of monkeys, and that's how man kind was formed. Anyone care to prove that theory wrong? I don't think you can, just as you can't prove Darwin wrong. It's certainly possible, maybe not plausible, but that doesn't make it any less of a valid theory.

You really can't even prove creationism false. It is possible that our entire universe was created by a being or beings outside our very narrow scope of existence and perception. As an example, I found the gravity analogy in the article a poor one at best; we know how to approximate gravity in our scope of existence fairly well, but we don't know what causes it, and we certainly don't understand it outside our perspective. Gravity does some things that we have no clue why; i.e. its effect on time or it inconsistency in the known universe. My point here is that science doesn't understand everything and can't explain everything, because we, as human beings, can not understand or perceive everything in the universe.

So, like I said, I don't advocate teaching creationism or any other religous belief in public schools, but we do have to be careful and not make science into just another religion based on beliefs. As long as teachers are required to present the commonly accepted theory of evolution and the big bang in addition to the less commonly accepted reasonings, I see nothing wrong with it, and it may even be a good thing.
5.2.2008 12:11pm
Archon (mail):
Maybe we should just put the "closed for business" sign on all of public schools and let parents pick where they would like their children to be educated instead of having the state do it.
5.2.2008 12:11pm
hawkins:

Also, house cats have wanted to get into jars and cans for well over 100 years, mine try several times per day. I have yet to see a sign of an opposable thumb on their paws.


Ding ding ding! We have a winner for the stupidest thing I have read in a long time.
5.2.2008 12:12pm
Ubu Walker (mail):
Traditionally, academic freedom is protected with tenure. Academic tenure protects academic freedom by ensuring that teachers can be fired only for causes such as gross professional incompetence or behavior that evokes condemnation from the academic community itself. Intelligent Design and Creationism are not scientifically accepted theories and have no place in a High School science classroom, and teaching them as viable alternatives is a form of professional malpractice, which should be punished by revoking tenure.
5.2.2008 12:14pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
That may well be true, and I personally believe it, but it can't possibly be proven by any kind of reproducible, controlled experiment [and therefore is not science].
A lot of people seem to think that reproducible, controlled experiments are the sine qua non of science, but that's not accurate. A lot of science is about independently existing, non-reproducible systems that you simply can't do controlled, reproducible experiments on. You can't run a hundred identical supernovae or earthquakes under carefully controlled, reproducible conditions: all you can do is observe the ones that happen independently. You could say the same about a lot of work in ecology.

Of course, you can think of other ways of testing hypotheses. Sometimes you can find "natural experiments"; sometimes you can find a way of creating a model of the phenomenon that will work in the lab. But in a lot of scientific fields reproducible, controlled experiments are not the rule.
5.2.2008 12:18pm
Brian Mac:

For all we know, aliens landed on the planet 10,000 years ago, made woopie with a bunch of monkeys, and that's how man kind was formed. Anyone care to prove that theory wrong? I don't think you can

Wow. Just, wow.
5.2.2008 12:19pm
Colin (mail):
Lets be honest here, Darwin's theory of evolution is just that, a theory.

And right there you've demonstrated that you're not familiar with even the basic terminology of this debate. I strongly suggest you do some serious reading on the topic. You might want to start with the definition of "theory." To get you started, I think you'll find that in this context "just a theory" is a meaningless statement.

I see it as a problem when science is preached where the most commonly accepted theory is presented as the one and only fact.

Yeah, just like those damn astronomers preach that stars are burning balls of gas and plasma, and not celestial lamps hung in the sky by ancient dragons. Why do they have to preach the most commonly accepted theory as the one and only fact?

Intelligent design isn't on an equivalent footing with biology because it fails to do the same work as biology. It doesn't produce useful discoveries, it doesn't make accurate predictions, it doesn't investigate its own premises, and it doesn't result in new discoveries. It's just rhetoric.
5.2.2008 12:21pm
Oren:
Incidentally, a large part of the decision in Dover was the conclusion by the judge (a conservative church-goer appointed by George W Bush) that supporters of ID were, at best, dissembling about the extent to which religion motivated their decisions:
We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents. [SNIP] The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
Some commenters at the NRO have opined that the weight of lying about their motivations for so long is starting cause larger lapses in judgment. I certainly hope not.
5.2.2008 12:23pm
semi-economist:
The fun part about this bill is that another Senator tried to attach an amendment that would also allow "academic freedom" in the teaching of sex education. Then, as if by magic, "academic freedom" wasn't so important:

Florida's evolution debate gets sexy

By MARC CAPUTO
Herald Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE -- It's called the "Academic Freedom" bill and it's supposed to give teachers the freedom to teach the "full range of scientific views" about evolution.

But should teachers have the freedom to teach the "full range of scientific views" about sexual education?

Republican Sen. Ronda Storms said that Democratic proposal went too far and had it voted down on the Senate floor Thursday, saying the sex-ed measure not only didn't belong on her evolution bill, it could lead to "prematurely deflowering kindergartners and first- and second-graders."

Sen. Peter Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, countered that the sex-education bill had to be "age appropriate" and that it would help stop sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Adapting Storm's language in previous evolution debates, Deutch said the bill simply gives students "the opportunity to ask about the scientific information."

From there, the debate over the measure, which could be voted out of the chamber by next week, became tense.

After trying to show that Storms, a Christian conservative, is only concerned with academic freedom" when it comes to evolution, they tried to cast doubt on her proposal as a back-door way of teaching intelligent design, the argument that life is too complex to have come about without a designer. A Pennsylvania federal court in 2005 banned intelligent design from science classrooms for being religious in nature.

Proponents of intelligent design say their theory isn't religious, though nearly every adherent says the intelligent designer is God. Storms' language is based on proposed legislation pushed by intelligent design supporters.

So Democrats repeatedly asked: Could teachers teach intelligent design under the Academic Freedom bill? Ronda Storms wouldn't say yes or no.

Her answer, instead, came straight from the text of her bill that Democrats were trying to tear apart as back-door creationism: "You may teach, specifically: scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological evolution.' "

Storms at one point added: "The bottom line is, if it is not scientifically based and if it is not scientifically relevant, the answer is 'no.' If it is, the answer is 'yes.'"

She also pointed out that the bill says "you may not teach religious doctrine."

When pressed about intelligent design by Democratic Sen. Nan Rich of Sunrise, Storms said: "Asked and answered."

But it wasn't, said Democratic leader Steve Geller of Cooper City. When he started to ask her personal view about intelligent design, Republican Senate President Ken Pruitt of Port St. Lucie interrupted: "Senator Storms, you don't have to answer this if you don't want to."

Geller continued: "Do you believe intelligent design meets the criteria in your bill," which says scientific information is "germane current facts, data and peer-reviewed research."

Said Storms: "I absolutely believe that evolution should be taught in public schools. I also believe that we should teach the full range of critical analysis of evolution."

Storms said her bill was designed to counteract the "dogmatic" new state science standards requiring for the first time that evolution to be taught - by name - in science classrooms. She said "people are afraid. Teachers are afraid. And students, by the way, are afraid."

Geller objected, noting her bill says the "Legislature finds that in many instances" teachers and students have feared discipline or been disciplined for teaching the full range of scientific information about evolution.

When Geller asked her for names, Storms didn't have any, but said six educators who planned to talk on the topic recently weren't given the time to address a Senate committee.
5.2.2008 12:26pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
For all we know, aliens landed on the planet 10,000 years ago, made woopie with a bunch of monkeys, and that's how man kind was formed. Anyone care to prove that theory wrong?

We share over 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees (and a little less but still well over 90% with the rest of the great apes). If we were half alien, then only 50% maximum of our DNA would be common with the great apes.

Of course, the absolute impossibility of a fertile alien/ape cross is just ridiculous fantasy--a horse and a donkey don't even produce fertile offspring.

Next "theory"? BTW, you are not using theory in a scientific sense but a legal one (i.e., just a wild assed guess).
5.2.2008 12:29pm
john w. (mail):
" ... by that logic Astronomy isn't Science because we can't make stars in a lab...."

Did you ever hear of some guys named Teller and Sakharov? Ever hear of Eniwetok Atoll, Nov. 1, 1952?

More to the point: The fact is that we can study stars in a reproducible fashion because we can observe billions of them in widely different locations and in different stages of their development; and we can see from those observations that the vast majority of stars follow a few, simple laws of physics which seem to be universally applicable.
5.2.2008 12:31pm
Lior:
I think the real question here is why high-school teachers require "academic freedom".

There was a time, 150 years ago, when world class researchers were teaching high-school. At that point you could (but they didn't) talk about the "academic freedom" of high-school teachers. Today, when many high-school teachers don't know their own subject (no need for math degree to teach math, biology degree to teach biology etc), I don't think such teachers are qualified to have opinions on the curriculum. They are not "academics" (that is, researchers), and we should expect them to teach what they're told. The post-modernist quackery of "everyone's personal opinion is equally valid" does not belong in the science classroom.

High-school teachers should have the freedom to express themselves outside of class as they please. But in class, to a captive audience, they should teach a given curriculum. University professors and students are in a different relationship. The professors are genuine authorities in their field, and the students don't have to be there -- if they don't like what the professor is saying, they are literally free to stand up and leave the classroom.
5.2.2008 12:32pm
oledrunk (mail):
Cats survive nicely with opposable jaws and opposable paws with claws.
5.2.2008 12:40pm
Daderdog (mail):
Robert Heinlein in JOB said that God did make the world 6000 years ago, but he made it very old... If you believe that God is omnipotent, why wouldn't you believe He couldn't leave all sort of fossils and other detritus around to mess with our heads? Or put another way, we only know those things we can see and measure. Those things that fall outside our current set of tools may exist, but we would never even be aware of them.

My big concern with this debate is that of the two positions, Intelligent Design seems more rational and agnostic than the more dogmatic Darwinism. Both require faith beyond the scientific ability to prove something. Only one, Darwinism, says that anyone who disagrees with its precepts is a heretic.

Just sayin...
5.2.2008 12:40pm
Ryan:
I believe in evolution. That said, I am a little disturbed by the way in which opponents of ID have basically set up their defense against ID as a closed loop of "ID cannot be considered science because ID is not science." To be a little more specific, I know that ID advocates have been denied publication in peer-reviewed journals on the basis of "ID isn't science" and then continue to be told that "ID isn't science" because it hasn't been critiqued by peer-reviewed journals.

As someone who believes in evolution, I'm not disturbed by the way ID is being treated, but as someone who values skeptical inquiry, I am disturbed.
5.2.2008 12:40pm
JoDa:
The problem with those who claim that ID should not be taught in school because it cannot be scientifically tested is the fact that this same criticism is not given to the metaphysical , philosophical, and religious claims made in "biology" textbooks our kids read.

I'm all with you if we stick to the theory, the evidence, holes in the evidence - all that "science." The BIG PROBLEM comes when you actually READ the textbooks and realize that the authors almost always make explicitly and implicitly strong statements that evolution somehow does away with the need for a God, or that evolution explains the beginning of life itself. These, my friends, are not scientific claims, and if you're going to trumpet a "science-only in science class!" argument (which is a pretty bad pedagogy to begin with), at least apply it consistently.
5.2.2008 12:40pm
Anon Y. Mous:

If school boards or state legislatures want public school students to be exposed to competing theories about the origins of life -- a question evolutionary theory does not address -- they should do it in a world religion or social studies class and leave science alone.


Now you're just being ridiculous. The theory of evolution was first popularized by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species. Darwin had some very definite ideas about the origins of life:

"It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present, which could ever have been present. But if (and oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, &c., present, that a proteine compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed." written in 1871, published in Darwin, Francis, ed. 1887. The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. London: John Murray. Volume 3. p. 18


Obviously, when the theory of evolution is first presented to students in a classroom, questions arise, like where did all the evolving originate from? And teachers then give answers like the one posited by Darwin.

The origin of life is very much a scientific question, the study of which is called abiogenesis.
5.2.2008 12:43pm
Oren:
JoDa, no Biology textbook that I've ever read (there are at least a half dozen on my shelf) ever said anything remotely like that. For the most part, they don't have time to cover metaphysics because they have too many topics as is.
5.2.2008 12:44pm
wfjag:

That said, these bills make for horrible public policy, as there is nothing scientific about these "alternatives" to evolution.


I believe, Professor, that your statement reflects a confusion between science, which is a method, and dogma (whether religious or secular).

My objection to ID is the same as my objection to AGW. To achieve the numbers the models each generate to support their claims, the underlying math misapplies the 2d Law of Thermodynamics. The 2d Law is applied differently for open and closed systems. For closed systems, eventually all feedbacks become positive feedbacks, which generate impressive looking numbers, based on which it is claimed that such cannot be due to chance or natural variations. The earth and its climate, however, are open systems, meaning that negative feedbacks have to be included in the model.

That ID fails to apply fundamental scientific principles in its analysis, however, does not mean that Darwinian based evolutionary theories should be unquestioned dogma. They also suffer from a fundamental flaw. Darwin published first in 1858. His theory and those based on it are "classical theories". That is, they are based on the idea that there is an underlying mechanism that can be described mathematically to give specific predictions. This was consistent with the thinking of the time. Newton's Laws of Motion are also a classical theory. This lead Darwin to conclude that there is no free will -- since it is essentially akin to a clockwork mechanism, and if you have a powerful enough computer and the right formulas programed, the outcome is pre-determined and will be predicted.

Classical theories are very useful. Using Newton, you can orbit a satellite, get to the Moon, or get to Mars. However, you cannot use the satellites to transmit data or communicate with anyone or thing going to the Moon or Mars because of the relativistic effects due to the differences in speed and gravity, minor although those are.

Darwinian theories work pretty well until you get to about the level of DNA. Among other things, at the size of DNA, quantum effects, like quantum tunneling start becoming significant. You can graft on special case fixes to account for quantum effects and other problems. However, the foundations for those fixes contradict the foundations of Darwinian theories. A similar approach was used in physics before the development of Relativity and Quantum based theories.

Teaching Darwinian theories as "the truth" is dogma, not science. Darwinian theories are the best available for now, and work well in most situations. Still, they have their limits. Teaching those limits and why Darwinian theories cannot explain the situations in which fixes are used is also science, since it is teaching the fundamental scientific principles and process which will lead to a new theory which accounts both for those situations Darwinian theories account for and those it cannot. This also teaches the method for analyzing proposed "alternatives".
5.2.2008 12:45pm
john w. (mail):

If some guy wants to assert that God created the Earth, 6000 years ago, complete with fake fossils and sedimentary rocks, etc., how can you disprove that??


Maybe by providing evidence of fossils and sedimentary rocks that are older than 6000 years?

And when your opponent asserts that God (or maybe the Devil) adjusted the Potassium and Carbon isotope levels in those rocks and fossils , along with the amount of weathering, etc., to make them look as if they were much older than they really are?

My point is that you can't disprove this stuff. You can say -- quite properly -- that it lies outside the realm of Science, but you can't disprove it. And, IMHO, it is vital for school students to learn that LOTS of important things lie outside the realm of Science: Science cannot make aesthetic and/or moral judgments, for example.
5.2.2008 12:46pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
So today, "intelligent design" is science. Just the other day, in the Woods Hole case, it was religion. Remarkably flexible notion.
5.2.2008 12:48pm
Oren:
Alan, I think it's been pretty conclusively shown (Kitzmiller) that ID is and always was religion. Most damning IMO was the revision of "Pandas" in which the word "creation" (and its cognates) was systematically removed to make the book more palatable as non-religious.

Judge Jones thoroughly documented the fraud of claiming ID as anything more than creationism in drag.
5.2.2008 12:52pm
Dan Weber (www):
To be a little more specific, I know that ID advocates have been denied publication in peer-reviewed journals on the basis of "ID isn't science" and then continue to be told that "ID isn't science" because it hasn't been critiqued by peer-reviewed journals.

To be science, ID has to have falsifiable claims. To be useful, it has to have predictive power.

The most science I've seen out of ID is stuff like "the eye couldn't evolve without a designer," except that there's plenty of ways for an eye to evolve without some intelligence pulling the strings.
5.2.2008 12:52pm
Oren:
To achieve the numbers the models each generate to support their claims, the underlying math misapplies the 2d Law of Thermodynamics. The 2d Law is applied differently for open and closed systems. For closed systems, eventually all feedbacks become positive feedbacks, which generate impressive looking numbers, based on which it is claimed that such cannot be due to chance or natural variations. The earth and its climate, however, are open systems, meaning that negative feedbacks have to be included in the model.
I don't know what you are talking about (and I'm a statistical physicist!). The 2nd law of thermodynamics has nothing to do with "feedback", a word that I've never heard used in a scientific context.


Darwinian theories work pretty well until you get to about the level of DNA. Among other things, at the size of DNA, quantum effects, like quantum tunneling start becoming significant. You can graft on special case fixes to account for quantum effects and other problems. However, the foundations for those fixes contradict the foundations of Darwinian theories. A similar approach was used in physics before the development of Relativity and Quantum based theories.
I have no idea where you got the idea that the effects of quantum tunneling on DNA have anything to do with evolution. Evolution doesn't even require DNA at all -- it merely requires that organisms have some store of genetic material (check) that controls their development (check), that this material is passed to their children (check) and that it be subject to random mutation of unknown source (check, DNA-polymerase has a known error rate). How this genetic material works is irrelevant to natural selection. It can be DNA, RNA or a set of gnomes.

Teaching Darwinian theories as "the truth" is dogma, not science.
I suppose you feel the same was about the dogma that the earth is round, not flat?

Darwinian theories are the best available for now, and work well in most situations. Still, they have their limits. Teaching those limits and why Darwinian theories cannot explain the situations in which fixes are used is also science, since it is teaching the fundamental scientific principles and process which will lead to a new theory which accounts both for those situations Darwinian theories account for and those it cannot. This also teaches the method for analyzing proposed "alternatives".
This is a wonderful non-sequitor you have set up. I propose, by analogy, that since there are significant unresolved problems in the field of fluid dynamics (viscoelastic materials come to mind), we should start looking for alternatives to the Navier-Stokes equation.
5.2.2008 12:59pm
Brian Mac:

And when your opponent asserts that God (or maybe the Devil) adjusted the Potassium and Carbon isotope levels in those rocks and fossils , along with the amount of weathering, etc., to make them look as if they were much older than they really are?


If he's going to flat out disbelieve all scientific evidence which refutes his claims, then no, I can't disprove it to his satisfaction.


My point is that you can't disprove this stuff. You can say -- quite properly -- that it lies outside the realm of Science, but you can't disprove it.

The question of whether the Earth is 6,000 years old does not lie outside the realm of science. The demarcation of science and non-science doesn't depend on whether some nut-job wants to flat out disregard scientific evidence.
5.2.2008 1:05pm
Grover Gardner (mail):

For all we know, aliens landed on the planet 10,000 years ago, made woopie with a bunch of monkeys, and that's how man kind was formed. Anyone care to prove that theory wrong?


It's been proven wrong for years. Now, if you think that geology, anthropology, archeology and all other disciplines which employ sophisticated dating techniques are hooey, then nothing will convince you that you're wrong.


To be a little more specific, I know that ID advocates have been denied publication in peer-reviewed journals on the basis of "ID isn't science" and then continue to be told that "ID isn't science" because it hasn't been critiqued by peer-reviewed journals.


That's not very specific. Names, please?


The BIG PROBLEM comes when you actually READ the textbooks and realize that the authors almost always make explicitly and implicitly strong statements that evolution somehow does away with the need for a God, or that evolution explains the beginning of life itself.


Quotes, please.
5.2.2008 1:08pm
HipposGoBerserk (mail):
"For all we know, aliens landed on the planet 10,000 years ago, made woopie with a bunch of monkeys, and that's how man kind was formed. Anyone care to prove that theory wrong?"

What's your standard of proof? That theory is inconsistent with the diversity of DNA we have, which clearly points to homo sapiens sapiens evolving over the past few million years and specifically with the evidence that we evolved from a limited population that lived in Africa some 100,000 to 150,000 years ago.


@ semi-economist: Isn't this at least as important as banning truck nutz and making a Christian license plate available?
5.2.2008 1:15pm
Chimaxx (mail):
All I know is: If these bills pass, the proponents of the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory had better start working on their curriculum materials. They'll be useful in the discussion of alternative theories of evolution.
5.2.2008 1:17pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Let's say I agree that ID is a simplistic and unscientific myth, and that it is promoted by a conspiracy of disreputable folks who conceal their religious beliefs and intentions. Just what are the evolutionists afraid of? As long as evolution is being taught, the students will see that it gives a superior explanation of life on Earth. Real scientists have no need to censor other points of view.
5.2.2008 1:23pm
cjwynes (mail):
What I did or didn't learn about the theory of common descent in high school has had zero impact on my daily life. The subject really isn't that important, but it gets blown out of proportion by these two bitter, hostile, enemy factions in the culture war.

Whereas popular belief in global warming could lead the government to impose costly regulations that would affect my standard of living, popular belief in ID (another theory noticably lacking in testable hypotheses) wouldn't alter my daily life in the slightest. It seems like the ID crowd thinks that if they give an inch to the other side, the whole country is going to turn into hardcore atheists micturating on Bibles. On the other end, Dawkins and friends seem to act like if they admit even a minor flaw or gap in the theory that next thing we know everybody will be handling snakes and speaking in tongues.

This is just not as important as the people on either side seem to think it is.
5.2.2008 1:31pm
john w. (mail):
Real scientists have no need to censor other points of view.

Exactly!!! The hysteria with which evolutionists react when anybody challenges their Theory (or hypothesis, or whatever you want to call it) is unbecoming -- to say the least.

Real scientists don't act like that. If I'm, say, a Thermodynamicist, and somebody comes along and tries to convince me that he has a great idea for a perpetual motion machine, I will try to politely explain to him why it won't work. But if he persists, I won't have a hissy-fit. I'll just tell him "good luck, and show me the working model when you get it built."

But Evolutionists (like Environmentalists, also) react to their critics like "True Believers" confronting Heretics or Infidels.
5.2.2008 1:33pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
As long as evolution is being taught, the students will see that it gives a superior explanation of life on Earth. Real scientists have no need to censor other points of view.

The problem is, as is demonstrated by some of the woefully ignorant posts here, is that evolution is not being taught. Rather than teach evolution, school districts decide to avoid the controversy and avoid teaching anything about it at all. This deprives students of an adequate grounding in fundamental scientific principles and leads to a scientifically ignorant populace who doesn't know the first thing about science, critical thinking, rational thought, or the difference between fact and myth.

Unfortunately the purveyors of creationism and ID have been all too successful over the last 25 years or so. Even though they have unable to get their nonsense taught, they have managed to get evolution deemphasized when it should be the central topic of biology education.
5.2.2008 1:34pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
Mention evolution in schools and people start debating evolution and creationism, and not the question of whether the government should be controlling the flow of information through the schools.
5.2.2008 1:34pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
But if he persists, I won't have a hissy-fit. I'll just tell him "good luck, and show me the working model when you get it built."

But if he gets the local school board to force you to teach that his machine will work, then I bet your tune will change.
5.2.2008 1:36pm
whit:
"Creationism is NOT science, and therefore had no place in the science class. Period. End of Story.
It is mythology"

thank god (no pun intended) that derbyshire et al over on the corner are at least showing some common sense in this discussion. correct. it is NOT science. creationists, or intelligent design peeps or whatever MAY in fact BE right.

so what?

it's still not science. and you can't teach (not-science) as an alternative to a scientific theory. it's too all-encompassing, and it's not... wait for it... science...
5.2.2008 1:36pm
Brian Mac:

Let's say I agree that ID is a simplistic and unscientific myth, and that it is promoted by a conspiracy of disreputable folks who conceal their religious beliefs and intentions. Just what are the evolutionists afraid of?

It's misleading to teach in science class what you so accurately characterise as: "simplistic and unscientific myths promoted by a conspiracy of disreputable folks who conceal their religious beliefs and intentions."

If you want to teach it at all, teach it in philosophy, although then you've got some work to do to justify why it should displace Plato et al.
5.2.2008 1:37pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
With notable exceptions like BGates, of course.
5.2.2008 1:40pm
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
(Ah, new comments - I was responding to my own previous remark.)
5.2.2008 1:41pm
Brian Mac:

The hysteria with which evolutionists react when anybody challenges their Theory (or hypothesis, or whatever you want to call it) is unbecoming -- to say the least.

I'm afraid we'll have to wait until someone does challenge evolutionary theory to judge whether you're right or not.
5.2.2008 1:42pm
whit:
"Let's say I agree that ID is a simplistic and unscientific myth, and that it is promoted by a conspiracy of disreputable folks who conceal their religious beliefs and intentions. Just what are the evolutionists afraid of? "

i think it's less argumentative and more precise to refer to ID as metaphysics. the story of adam and eve is (otoh) myth. ID is more of a philosophical system.

regardless, it's clearly not SCIENCE.

ID isn't really a myth. not that i am saying ID is correct, just that it's not really myth. it's metaphysics.

metaphysics: "a theory of the essence of things"
5.2.2008 1:43pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
and not the question of whether the government should be controlling the flow of information through the schools.

Well as long as tax dollars are spent on education (and as long as I am living and breathing I will fight for universal public education, the absolute best thing this country ever did, no matter how much libertarians and conservatives have tried to destroy and demean it over the last thirty years or so), there is no question that it should. If you want to teach your kids nonsense, by all means do. But realize it doesn't relieve you of the social responsibility of ensuring that all the children in the country have access to a free, adequate, public education where they learn real science, not medieval myths.
5.2.2008 1:44pm
TerrencePhilip:
This, from the WSJ article, is great:

Mr. Cowan's principal said that teachers are not supposed to veer from the approved textbooks. That's why Mr. Cowan would like a legal guarantee he can teach as he sees fit.

"This is America," Mr. Cowan said. "My gosh. Why walk on eggshells?"


That's awesome. Now that we are giving bachelor's degree-educated instructors the "academic freedom" to teach whatever they want in biology class, there is nothing to stop someone from presenting the "evidence" in favor of eugenics, various racist anthropological "theories," et cetera et cetera. Maybe some UFO enthusiast will give his "I want to believe" speech to the class. The fact that it's not in the textbook will not hold back the "academic freedom" of individual teachers. This should end well . . .
5.2.2008 1:48pm
john w. (mail):
But if he gets the local school board to force you to teach that his machine will work, then I bet your tune will change.

Well, in other words, the real root of the problem is the fact that the Government (and, increasingly, the Federal government) has a near-monopoly on education. If most parents had the economic freedom to send their children to schools of their choice, instead of 'one-size-fits-all' the whole debate would evaporate.
5.2.2008 1:48pm
whit:
"no matter how much libertarians and conservatives have tried to destroy and demean it over the last thirty years or so"

you mean liberals. teachers union, overwhelmingly liberal - fighting merit pay, fighting fair competitition (vouchers, etc.), fighting teacher subject competency tests.

liberals: installing outcome based education and other trendy worthless academic theories about learning, discouraging competition among students etc.

not that i want to hop down this tangential bunny trail.
5.2.2008 1:49pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If most parents had the economic freedom to send their children to schools of their choice, instead of 'one-size-fits-all' the whole debate would evaporate.

So instead of some standards, you want no standards. I can really see how that solves the problem.
5.2.2008 1:55pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Wow, lots of pure religious bigotry going on here. You do realize that not everyone's an atheist in this country? America is 80% Christian.
5.2.2008 1:58pm
Brian Mac:

So instead of some standards, you want no standards. I can really see how that solves the problem.

Please. You should know by now that, no matter what's being discussed, the market is the answer!
5.2.2008 1:58pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):

J. F. Thomas (mail):
If most parents had the economic freedom to send their children to schools of their choice, instead of 'one-size-fits-all' the whole debate would evaporate.

So instead of some standards, you want no standards. I can really see how that solves the problem.


So being the little fascist you are, you would force parents to send their little drool-buckets to a government indoctrination center?
5.2.2008 1:59pm
john w. (mail):
The demarcation of science and non-science doesn't depend on whether some nut-job wants to flat out disregard scientific evidence.

That's a fair comment. Is there a generally-recognized, non-circular, definition of the boundary between 'science' and 'non-science'? (That's not just a rhetorical question, BTW; I really don't know if there is one or not.)
5.2.2008 2:02pm
cjwynes (mail):
Responding to J.F.Thomas:

Actually, if the gov't is going to be in the business of education, then they have to provide the education that the people supporting it desire to provide. This is a government of the people, not a government of the smarty-pants elites who know what's best for everybody. Like it or not, if the people of a state are financing a public education system, they should have complete control over how it is run (or at least, like shareholders, complete control over who sits on the board that decides how to run it.) You can call the people stupid for rejecting the wisdom of their betters, but they have every right to drag the system in stupid directions when it is their money funding the system.
5.2.2008 2:04pm
Fub:
Allan wrote at 5.2.2008 10:23am:
I have yet to see a cat with an opposable thumb, either. But, I bet, if there is a genetic mutation creating one, that mutation will become a dominant feature of cats within 1000 years or so, if it is useful to the cats.

That would be evolution.
I, for one, welcome our new furry, purring, arrogant, opposable thumbed overlords.

But I'm still hiding all the can openers.
5.2.2008 2:04pm
Railroad Gin:
There is an element of randomness to Darwinism which posits: 1) Common descent through 2) natural selection, the underlying mechanism of which is 3) random mutation. Until a gene randomly mutates, there is no opportunity for natural selection to work. It is misleading to attack critics of Darwinism for not believing in common descent or natural selection when their real beef is often with random mutation.

There is nothing inherent in ID which requires believing in Adam and Eve, that the Earth is 6000 years old, etc. This is a red herring. Ditto for requiring that the designer was omnipowerful, omnibenevolent, etc. Maybe the designer was an evil moron. Critics of ID would be on much stronger footing if they didn't have to rely on such misleading tactics.

The Law of Gravity is just that, a law; its apples and oranges to compare it with the Theory of Evolution. The Law of Gravity can be proven through experimentation, the evidence for it is not that "every physicist" says so. To often the only argument for evolution is "every biologist" says so. Arguments from authority are not science.

The real problem is that Darwinism may be true but a lot of the "evidence" for it that is taught in public schools is false. The embryo drawings have long been known to be frauds. The peppered moths and finch beaks are examples of variation within a species, not the emergence of a new species and so forth.

The presentation of the subject is too often thinly veiled propaganda for atheism. Most obviously, by its own terms Darwinism explains how species evolved once life came into existence. It does not explain how life arose in the first place. Supporters of Darwinism are too quick to paper over this difference which is crucial. Even if Darwinism is 100% true, it really says nothing one way or the other about any supreme being, aliens or what have you.

I could really care less if my heart surgeon is a bible thumping fundamentalist or total atheist. He could worship Satan for all I care as long as he knows how to fix my heart. It really does not matter what the average person believes on this subject. The time spent on evolution would be better spent making students economically literate or just teaching the three Rs. A subject with marginal value that raises First Amendment problems no matter how it is taught should be taken out of the government schools altogether.
5.2.2008 2:06pm
Brian Mac:
Railroad Gin:

What is this "Darwinism" you speak of?
5.2.2008 2:09pm
A.C.:
We all know that there are people who treat science as dogma or a source of fundamental authority, and this strikes me as just as much of a problem as the people who reject it entirely. They're two sides of the same coin.

I've never seen science in this way -- it's more procedural, in the sense of being a way to learn about things in the world. The results of using the scientific method can acquire authority as evidence accumulates and experiments or observations get reproduced, but that's the result of constantly checking an idea against reality. Reality, not science, is the source of any authority that comes about. (When someone says "trust me, I'm a scientist," we know we are supposed to laugh. That's not how it works.)

Part of this procedural view is that any given time, science may understand a certain portion of reality very well, moderately well, not so well, or not at all. Children should definitely learn this, which is not a flaw in science but merely a sign that our understanding of reality is not complete. And it's not just children, but also many adults, who should learn that the unanswered questions in scientific disciplines are exciting rather than unsettling. People need not go rushing off to supernatural explanations just yet -- but there's another place where that becomes important.

The place religion can come in is when children learn that there are some things that may correspond to current reality (as understood by science), but that we don't like and therefore endeavor to change. Finding a cure for cancer comes to mind... this involves learning a great deal about the reality of cancer, but doing so in a way that will hopefully let us do something about it to serve human goals.

Right about there, we begin to exit science and think in other disciplines. How do we determine what human goals exist, which are good and which are bad, and which of the good ones take precedence? That's not a science question, but kids should definitely learn to ask it and debate possible answers.

Religion is a powerful source of potential answers in this area. Secular philosophy, the lessons of history, and the insights of great artists are also good material to work with. That's why we have the humanities, or at least why we will have them once the sillier current trends are sent where they deserve to go. (If the humanities have lost their social status in recent years and suffer from physics envy as a result, we don't really have to look far to see why.)

The problem with trying to stuff the goals/morals/values debate back into science, where it doesn't belong, is that it wrecks both science and the non-scientific disciplines. (The same applies if you try to do it in reverse, stuffing science into the goals/morals/values debate.) On the one hand you get people claiming to "believe in" science and saying that science should determine our decisions, and on the other you get people who claim (not unreasonably) that this is an invocation of authority no different from quoting the Bible. This sort of thing muddles up both our attempts to get an accurate picture of the world and our debates about what we, as human beings, want to do about that world.

Why do we WANT to cure cancer, anyway? Why do we care about the temperature of the oceans? Science isn't going to provide the answers, no matter how much it lets us understand the problems or work towards our preferred solutions.
5.2.2008 2:09pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
Oren said:

I think it's been pretty conclusively shown (Kitzmiller) that ID is and always was religion. Most damning IMO was the revision of "Pandas" in which the word "creation" (and its cognates) was systematically removed to make the book more palatable as non-religious.

Judge Jones thoroughly documented the fraud of claiming ID as anything more than creationism in drag.

Sure. The ID people claim it's science when they want it taught in the schools, but when they get fired for being bad scientists, they claim it's religion, for which they can't be fired.
5.2.2008 2:12pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"We worked with plenty of teachers who had been harassed by their schools for daring to bring scientific papers to class, in mainstream science journals, that pointed to weaknesses in neo-Darwinian theory."

I'm sure you did such things at the Discovery [sic] Institute. What papers in mainstream (blind peer-refereed, I assume?) science journals would these be?
5.2.2008 2:13pm
Brian Mac:

That's a fair comment. Is there a generally-recognized, non-circular, definition of the boundary between 'science' and 'non-science'? (That's not just a rhetorical question, BTW; I really don't know if there is one or not.)

I think there's pretty widespread agreement that there's work which follows the classical scientific method at one end of the scale (science), and work masquerading as science but violating some core scientific principle, such as testability, at the other (pseudoscience). Inbetween, there's a grey area rather than a sharp boundary, but people disagree on how big it is.
5.2.2008 2:14pm
Dan Weber (www):
Is there a generally-recognized, non-circular, definition of the boundary between 'science' and 'non-science'?

Science involves falsifiable theories. As a bonus, they should provide predictive power.

ID fails at both of these. Evolution gives us a theory of how the eye evolved and how it could happen again. ID says "well, some totally external power did it, and could do it again."

If we have a bunch of black moths and a bunch of white moths, and we paint all the trees white, evolution gives us a falsifiable theory about how the gene pool will change over time.
5.2.2008 2:17pm
Morat20 (mail):
The Law of Gravity is just that, a law; its apples and oranges to compare it with the Theory of Evolution. The Law of Gravity can be proven through experimentation, the evidence for it is not that "every physicist" says so. To often the only argument for evolution is "every biologist" says so. Arguments from authority are not science.

The Law of Gravity is an equation, a terse description of the force exerted by masses on each other, as understood via the Theory of Gravity.

The "law" you quote so lovingly is a bit of math appended in the much larger Theory that you then talk about "proving".

Which just goes to show you don't know what a "Law" is in science, much less a theory. I suspect you think theories get "proven" and become law, don't you?

Theories are -- and always have been -- much broader and more encompassing than laws, which have really fallen out of favor as a term, and which in any case were used to describe universal relationships. Descriptive, but not explanatory.
5.2.2008 2:22pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The embryo drawings have long been known to be frauds.

And pray tell, when was the last time the infamous "embryo drawings" were included in a textbook.

So being the little fascist you are, you would force parents to send their little drool-buckets to a government indoctrination center?

Read what I wrote. You can teach your children however or wherever you want. What you do not have the right to do is expect the government to subsidize it nor do you have the right to get some kind of tax break because you are not sending your little ignorant morons to public school. I don't have any children yet I happily and enthusiastically support public education. My tax burden is actually higher because I don't have children, why should yours be lower because you choose not to take advantage of public education.
5.2.2008 2:22pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Natural science uses the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, experiment, and conclusion.

Natural science observes a phenomenon, proposes a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon, conducts an experiment to test the hypothesis, and evaluates the experimental rsults to determine if the hypothesis has correctly predicted the outcome. Replication of this process leads natural scientists to develop a scientific theory.

ID cannot get past the second step. It observes a phenomenon, and proposes a hypothesis to explain the observation. However, it neither conducts nor proposes any experiment to test the hypothesis. That's why it isn't science.
5.2.2008 2:27pm
genob:
Characterization of "scientists" as pro- or anti- evolution is by itself enough to show that this debate is not about "science." To me, pro- or anti- in science is a bizzare characterization.

Exploring evidence that supports or fails to support Darwin's theory of evolution is simply science...There is no place for pro- or anti-. Those that would reject examination of evidence that contradicts the theory of evolution are not acting as scientists. They are adherents to the religion of Darwinism....Just as those who would reject evidence consistent with the theory are probably adherents to some religious-based Creationism. The "-ism" seems to be an idicator that science isn't really involved anymore.
5.2.2008 2:29pm
Brian Mac:

Those that would reject examination of evidence that contradicts the theory of evolution are not acting as scientists.

Where is this evidence? Anyone?
5.2.2008 2:31pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
Oren: Most damning IMO was the revision of "Pandas" in which the word "creation" (and its cognates) was systematically removed to make the book more palatable as non-religious.
The judge said that this was done in order comply with a Supreme Court decision. Why is it damning to comply with a court decision? Shouldn't everyone try to comply with the law?
5.2.2008 2:32pm
ChrisIowa (mail):

So instead of some standards, you want no standards. I can really see how that solves the problem.


Until very recently, Iowa had no course content standards. Standards were the responsibility of school boards. Worked very well for about 160 years.
5.2.2008 2:32pm
Boynton Cousin:
Wow, lots of pure religious bigotry going on here.

Really, where? When someone says something obviously false and ascribes their view to a religion, and someone else corrects them, is that religious bigotry?

You do realize that not everyone's an atheist in this country? America is 80% Christian.

What does Christianity (or atheism) have to do with evolution? Do you realize the Catholic Church sees no conflict between the two? Why should scientifically illiterate people get to vote on what is and is not science? Do linguistically illiterate people get to vote on what is and is not an English word?
5.2.2008 2:33pm
Railroad Gin:
Brian Mac:

Darwinism is the better term than evolution. I'm assuming that one can reject the evolution of Lammarck or Anaximander on this board without being accused of being some backwoods bumpkin. Evolution and Darwinism are not synonymous.

You are correct in that what I was referring to as Darwinism should actually have been called Neo-Darwinism. Darwin believed in common descent through natural selection but was at a loss how to explain this would occur as he did his reasearch well before the discovery of DNA or even the work of Mendel. That is what provided the missing ingredient of random mutation and thus Neo-Darwinism is the proper term for what biologists believe today. I'm not sure that this distinction matter for the discussion at hand.

It is interesting that people are referring to the big bang. (An idea that is mutually exclusive to how life arose). Much of the original opposition to the big bang (first proposed by a priest) was that it was too similar to genesis in that it believed in a one-time cataclysmic creation event. Thus a lot of scientists from the 30s to the 50s rejected it in part because it seemed too religious. The very term "big bang" was actually coined as a way of ridiculing the theory. Here is a case where athiesm got in the way of science. Yet no one mocks athiests as being anti-science, ignoramuses, etc.
5.2.2008 2:33pm
Nathan_M (mail):

The Law of Gravity is just that, a law; its apples and oranges to compare it with the Theory of Evolution. The Law of Gravity can be proven through experimentation, the evidence for it is not that "every physicist" says so. To often the only argument for evolution is "every biologist" says so. Arguments from authority are not science.

In addition to what Morat20 said, all of which I agree with, it's worth pointing out that the "Law of Gravity" has been proven to be false. Don't get me wrong, it's incredibly useful for making predictions in most circumstances, but it isn't exactly right. (For example, the orbit of Mercury is observably different from what is predicted by the Law of Gravity.) Einstein's general theory of relativity has replaced Newton's Law of Gravity in situations where the added complication is justified for a more accurate answer.

The Law of Gravity doesn't work at quantum distances either.
5.2.2008 2:34pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
I design things for a living. From my perspective, the premise behind ID is bunk. The world is too complex to have been designed.
5.2.2008 2:34pm
Randy R. (mail):
Good grief. How do you argue intelligently with bozos? I've heard this business about evolution is a "theory" and so it isn't true, as opposed to "laws" which are.

Again and again, we point to these bozos such as Railroad Gin what "theory" means in a scientific sense. Again and again, they simply refuse to understand it.

"Maybe the designer was an evil moron. Critics of ID would be on much stronger footing if they didn't have to rely on such misleading tactics. "

Find me ONE supporter of ID who believes that the designer was anyone other than the Christian God and not an evil moran. It is you who set up the red herring.

"The presentation of the subject is too often thinly veiled propaganda for atheism. Most obviously, by its own terms Darwinism explains how species evolved once life came into existence."

So what? Darwinism exists and is a fact, and how it is twisted by others is ireelevent. Perhaps there are proponents of Darwin who are vegans, or believe the moon is made of cheese. It doesn't alter the facts of evolution.

" Even if Darwinism is 100% true, it really says nothing one way or the other about any supreme being, aliens or what have you.

Exactly. So why are you so determined to show that natural selection is something dreamed up by atheists?

Look, the whole business of ID is that you have people who believe in the absolute truth of the Bible. For them, you can't believe in God and religion unless you believe every little statement in the Bible is true. If they Bible said that the sun revolves around the earth, you can bet that they would be doing their damnest to disprove Copernicus. This really at bottom has nothing to do with science or truth, despite their protestations. This in fact has everything to do with proving the Bible 100% correct.

If, on the other hand, they were more like, say the Catholics, who don't view the bible as literally true, then they would be more likely to accept evolution, as Pope John Paul II did. It is the rigidity of a niche religion that has caused all these problems.

Now, of course, someone will retort that science is rigid on this matter. Not at all. Just the opposite. When you come up with scientific evidence that contradicts a current theory, science adjusts. They do that all the time. Theories on comets, big bang, origins of the universe -- these change frequently as new evidence comes in.
5.2.2008 2:35pm
Rock On (www):
And when your opponent asserts that God (or maybe the Devil) adjusted the Potassium and Carbon isotope levels in those rocks and fossils , along with the amount of weathering, etc., to make them look as if they were much older than they really are?


This is truly idiotic. So the benevolent Christian God did this why... to f*ck with us? Is that the God you believe in? Is that the God ANYONE believes in?
5.2.2008 2:38pm
Brian Mac:

This is truly idiotic. So the benevolent Christian God did this why... to f*ck with us? Is that the God you believe in? Is that the God ANYONE believes in?

A quick reading of the Old Testament would suggest that He's done his fair share of mischief over the years...
5.2.2008 2:44pm
Happyshooter:
A quick reading of the Old Testament would suggest that He's done his fair share of mischief over the years...

Yep, after what he did to Job to prove a point to the Devil, I would not classify him as an all loving and good and no bad stuff God. When he did have a reason to be mad he would do even worse stuff.
5.2.2008 2:46pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Ah, the Volokh Conspiracy, where Econ 101 gives us definite, objective rules and predictions we can use to shape pretty much all law and politics, but biology, archeology, and various forms of hard science are all massively suspect -- at least when they conflict with the beliefs of some parts of the Republican Party base.

As to the "why not just mention that some disagree?" folks, I say the following. When I took a science class in high school, my teacher discussed Astrology, but only to show that it had no grounding in science at all and was, basically, hokum. At some point, especially in the lower grades, students have to be told what the correct answers are. What do you want the correct answer to be about whether the earth is 6,000 years old or not?
5.2.2008 2:50pm
c.gray (mail):

Exactly!!! The hysteria with which evolutionists react when anybody challenges their Theory (or hypothesis, or whatever you want to call it) is unbecoming -- to say the least.


If there was a real challenge, they might not be getting so hysterical. ID, at its _very_ best, amounts to pointing at the unexplained phenomena in biology (such as the genesis of life) and shouting "GOD, or possibly the flying pasta monster, or alien space bats, or a time traveling Dr. Orpheus, HAS CLEARLY PERFORMED A MIRACLE!" At least as often, ID proponents just get basic scientific facts wrong (when they talk about the evolution of the eye, or thermodynamics, for example).

The problem with ID isn't that its wrong. To paraphrase Peter Woit (talking about String Theory, not ID) it doesn't even rise to the level of being wrong. Its just a collection of rhetorical spitwads with no explanatory power of its own. It doesn't belong in ANY part of a curriculum, let alone science. Hell, Astrology makes a better case for itself as actual science.

ID belongs in the same intellectual rubbish bin as ebonics and the labor theory of value.
5.2.2008 2:55pm
Brian Mac:

ID belongs in the same intellectual rubbish bin as ebonics and the labor theory of value.

You've done well to string those three things into a coherent sentence.
5.2.2008 2:58pm
Curt Fischer:
If anyone here is interested in the evidence for macro-evolution, please check out this site.

I linked to it in the other thread. It specifically addresses the origin of species, not of intra-species variation. It is written for the educated layperson. It is exhaustive. And it is clearly written.

Before I had read the discussion at this site, I was an tended to believe in evolution, but I did not think it was a falsifiable theory, and as such, I was a little agnostic on the ID vs. evolution debate. Reading this site changed my mind. Common descent is a hypothesis which can be used to make quantitative predictions. No prediction stemming from the common descent hypothesis has yet been falsified, despite rigorous quantitative statistical tests of many of these predictions.

OK, everyone back to opining now.
5.2.2008 3:02pm
HipposGoBerserk (mail):
Railroad Gin -- you should note that no one understands how gravity works. As modified by relativity, it is simply a theory that fits the data we have gathered to date, just like evolution.

As to the hysteria of biologists -- the problem is that these fools actually think education and science are important. Heck, some of them have devoted their lives to it!

All kidding aside, I like the idea that doctors should regularly ask their patients if they believe in evolution before prescribing anti-biotics, explaining that the DR wants to know whether the patient would prefer the most basic anti-biotic or the ones developed to remain successful against the drug-resistant bactieria that have evolved in the years since anti-biotics became widely available. It would be a valuable piece of public education, and I expect it will be much more effective than the brains-on-drugs ads.

HGB
5.2.2008 3:15pm
Railroad Gin:
Why is the burden of proof on those who don't want atheism imposed on their children? Put differently, the purpose of this particular board is discuss what should be taught to public schoolchildren not whether in the absolute sense some particular theory of evolution vs. ID is or is not true.

If it were up to religious people they wouldn't have to send their children to government schools. But through compulsory attendance laws, fighting vouchers, etc. the secularists have longed coerced everyone to go to government schools. Given this reality, religious people would be perfectly happy any perspective about the origin and development of life were kept out of the curriculum. But it is the secularists/atheists who insists that this be taught. Finally, if this is going to be taught, it is the religious people who ask that there be balance either by presenting their beliefs or at a minimum by being allowed to address shortcomings in Neo-Darwinism itself. It is the secularists who insist that it be done their way only.

The punchline is that it's the religious who get accused of "imposing values" when a moment's reflection shows they're the ones having values imposed on them.

Against this backdrop, I think the fairer question is whether Neo-Darwinism is so conclusively established that it is in fact like the Law of Gravity or Maxwell's Equations. If it is, then it probably doesn't run afoul of the First Amendment to teach it against parents' wishes. (I still question whether it is that important that it be taught just from a practical perspective). But if Neo-Darwinism is merely the best theory out there, but far from conclusively established, then I think there are some legitimate problems with teaching it.

The fossil record is consistent with neo-Darwinism. However it is not inconsistent with various approach to ID. Therefore it is not in and of itself proof. Not to mention that paleontoligists themselves keep reordering which fossil supposedly descend from which other fossil. If the laws of aerodynamics were changed as often of scientist rearranged the tree of life, you wouldn't want to get on a plane, trust me. Also, there is the simple fact that we do not know enough about life, such as the workings of the cell, and these limitations themselves undercut our ability to speculate on the origin of life. The mathematical probabilities involved in having the necessary random mutations occur in the necessary timespan are astronomical. And as I said in my previous post, there is has been a lot of hooey with regards to finch beaks and embryo drawings that further muddy the water.

If Neo-Darwinism could be taught, warts and all, without it being a pretext to "prove" that there's no God, then there wouldn't be a problem. But when its taught as being some absolute truth on par with the Pythagorean Theorum, which then gets further abused as a means of smuggling atheism into the curriculum, then there's a problem. I think the best way to avoid this is to get it out of schools altogether. But if its going to be there (as the secularists insist) then there should be some sort of balance.
5.2.2008 3:15pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Yep, after what he did to Job to prove a point to the Devil, I would not classify him as an all loving and good and no bad stuff God. When he did have a reason to be mad he would do even worse stuff."

Indeed. The God we are asked to worship is actually more like the Devil than any other being. He is capricious, insecure, demanding, easily hurt, never satisfied, quick to damn you for all eternity, clear that his laws must be followed but vague as to what those laws are, happy to trip you up on legalisms, and unfair.

But, He loves you. And we must worship him or else. I say, can't we get a better god? One who actually allows us free inquiry into the universe that s/he created? Or is that asking too much?
5.2.2008 3:21pm
genob:
Those that would reject examination of evidence that contradicts the theory of evolution are not acting as scientists.


Where is this evidence? Anyone?


The statistical near-impossibility that multiple simultaneous mutaitions could occur that would be necessary to explain complex organs and organisms. Under the current theory of natural selection, it would imply that the earth must be many billions of years older than anyone thinks it is in order for these overwhelming statistical odds to play out, or there is something other than just natural selection at play.

That doesn't necessarily imply that ID is the explanation. Far from it. But it does imply that commonly accepted natural selection through mutation doesn't explain what we see on the earth today. Darwinists (the "religous" ones) would rather not deal with this. They would rather believe that someone rolled 1,000,000 7's in a row at the craps table.
5.2.2008 3:26pm
Randy R. (mail):
Gin: "Why is the burden of proof on those who don't want atheism imposed on their children?"

Who says evolution has anything to do with atheism? Actually, quite a few evolutionary biologists believe in God.

"If it were up to religious people they wouldn't have to send their children to government schools."

They don't have to. They can home school. They can send the kid's to religious schools. And they can teach whatever myths and religions they would like to on Sunday.

"If Neo-Darwinism could be taught, warts and all, without it being a pretext to "prove" that there's no God, then there wouldn't be a problem. "

Hurray! We can agree on something. It is the ID and creationists who insist that evolution is about atheism, but evolutionists have no issue with that. This is exactly why Catholics and many other mainstream religions have no problem supporting evolution as a fact.

Evoluion is not about how life originally formed eons ago. Rather, it is about how life has evolved SINCE then. And the evidence is far too strong. The fact that we share about 98% of our DNA with apes -- is that a mere coincidence?
5.2.2008 3:28pm
Randy R. (mail):
"The statistical near-impossibility that multiple simultaneous mutaitions could occur that would be necessary to explain complex organs and organisms."

Hardly. Because fruit flies have short lives, you can go through many generations in a fairly short period of time, and genetic mutations are observable, as just one instance.

When evolutionists talk about periods of time where there was fairly rapid evolution, they are talking about incredible lengths of time.

But anyway, please give us some real facts: How much time would you need to create, say, a mutli-celled organized from a single cell? How much time is needed for a mulit-celled to evolve into a bird? And how do you calculate that?
5.2.2008 3:50pm
Boynton Cousin:
Why is the burden of proof on those who don't want atheism imposed on their children?

With whom, exactly, are you arguing? Please explain this connection between atheism and evolution--especially in light of how the Catholic Church has no trouble seeing that there is none.

If Neo-Darwinism could be taught, warts and all, without it being a pretext to "prove" that there's no God, then there wouldn't be a problem.

Since when is learning about the world "a pretext to prove that there's no God"? Where did you get such an idea?
5.2.2008 3:51pm
Railroad Gin:
The Law of Gravity is still the Law of Gravity after Einstein. Its just that now it has to broken into several equations that factor in the speed of light, whether an object is rotating, etc. That doesn't change the fact that there are laws that can be expressed in mathematical form. And of course, quantum theory throws another wrench into all of this.

I don't understand how quibbling over this adds anything to the discussion which I thought was about what should be taught in public schools regarding the development of life on earth. The only possible relevance is that because scientific beliefs change over time we should be hesitant to say that something has been established as an absolute truth.

I certainly don't see what is added by calling me a "bozo." Is that a scientific term? It is always the Neo-Darwinists who are reduced to ad hominems. Or "I suspect you think theories get "proven" and become law, don't you?" Yes -- anyone who dares to question that just maybe evolution as taught in the public schools isn't everything its cracked up to be must be scientifically illiterate.

As for law vs. theory. A law is something that has undergone enough empirical testing that it can be expressed in mathematical form in order to predict future events with certainty. A theory as you say is "broader and more encompassing" than laws in terms of what it attempts to explain. That does not mean the explanation is true.

It would be nice if someone would address some of the points I raised about the evidence for Neo-Darwinism instead of assuming that I an idiot or going off on semantical tangents. Or explain why believing in Neo-Darwinism is akin to learning arithmetic or the significance of 1492. Those are the real issues, not playing stump the dummy about scientific minutiae. (Which would probably be pointless as we all have access to the internet).

As for the Randy R.'s remark that religious people can home school. Thank you for getting back to the subject at hand. But in California, at least, that may not be true and historically homeschoolers have had to fight a battle for this right.
It is true that they can send the kid's to religious schools. And they can teach whatever myths and religions they would like to on Sunday. However, people who think their kids should be taught Darwinism could also do this at home. It seems to me that religious people are treated as second-class citizens if they have to expend extra time and money to teach their beliefs only to have the public schools then undermine those beliefs. This doesn't seem to be a level playing field.
5.2.2008 3:53pm
jasmindad:
As a believer in evolution and a scientist, I agree that scientists should be open to the idea that all our currently accepted scientific accounts -- Relativity, atomic theory, Big Bang, Darwinian evolution, Quantum Physics -- are simply the best accounts based on current evidence and our best attempts to reason with them. In that sense, they are *all* theories, some with more massive supportive evidence and internal coherence, and some scoring less on these criteria. For example, Einstein, when asked about his sense of what theories are least likely to be overturned in the future, chose the Second Law of Thermodynamics, not his own Relativity. On the other hand, he was less certain about at least some aspects of Quantum Mechanics. This gives you an idea of how scientists really think of theories.

There are at least two problems with the proposal to "teach the controversy" in high schools with respect to evolution. One is the nature and limitation of the kind of science that can be taught in high schools. To really understand Einstein's worries about Quantum Theory or the debates within the field of evolutionary biology requires an enormous amount of background. The role of high school science classes is to teach the current major explanatory accounts in various fields of science, especially those that are judged to be useful to enter various fields, such as engineering, medicine, etc., and also those that are judged to be important to be an educated citizen. The bar is pretty high for what controversies should be included in science classes in high schools. A science teacher should not include a challenge to Big Bang as a controversy because Happyshooter cannot get his head around it and so he doesn't believe in it. That is not controversy, just one man being a taco short of a combination Mexican meal.

Do I think the Darwinian Theory is the last word? No. It is entirely conceivable that another theory might supersede it in the future, just as Einsteinian theories superseded Newtonian Mechanics. I agree that high school science courses should give a sense of how science works, how nothing is set in concrete, new evidence changes what scientists believe, etc. But the courses should also give a sense of how evidence has to cohere in order for theories to be accepted, how every kook's arguments against this or that scientific theory doesn't constitute a reason to include them as "controversies."

The second problem in "teaching the controversy," in high schools by teaching ID is that ID has been considered and rejected by knowledgeable people. There is no way in hell a high school student (or even a high school science teacher) with her limited knowledge, background, and time can actually *evaluate* the alternatives. The net result in including it as a controversy is that the kid would go away with, "Some folks think Darwin's theory is right, some folks think ID is right, my preacher thinks the latter, so I guess nobody really knows." Or even, egged on by the born-again teacher, who teaches phys ed in the morning, and biology in the afternoon "crazy folks believe in Darwin."

Some people might say, "Hah! Knowledgeable people? Scientists are just an in-group that tries to keep out people who challenge them." Scientists, as individuals, might behave that way, but as a group, slowly but steadily, new evidence and theories are absorbed, old inadequate theories are jettisoned, and so on. They are not just a bunch of people with a con to get money from the government. Look around you -- the results of scientific breakthroughs in understanding the world are everywhere. The way for challenges to Darwinian Evolution to succeed is not by getting a know-nothing Florida representative to pass a law to include ID by stealth in high school science courses, but by gathering evidence and arguments that together produce changes to theories at the scientific community level. The fact that some times scientists as a group have rejected theories that ultimately proved correct is actually an argument in favor of scientists as a group. We only know that they rejected the correct theory because as a group they eventually accepted the correct theory. Second, the fact that scientists have in the past rejected correct theories for some time is not an argument that every theory they reject should therefore be considered as a serious alternative. There are differences between "Not enough evidence," "interesting, but wrong," "just plain wrong, and "dumb."
5.2.2008 3:54pm
Dave Ruddell (mail):

Also, house cats have wanted to get into jars and cans for well over 100 years, mine try several times per day. I have yet to see a sign of an opposable thumb on their paws.


I would direct your attention to this.
5.2.2008 3:56pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Cats don't need thumbs. Their people have can openers.
5.2.2008 4:02pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
I'm an atheist, and I'm quite sure the theory of evolution does not establish the truth of atheism. It is inconsistent with certain readings of the Book of Genesis, and thus with all religion that are committed to those readings, but it is completely consistent with the existence of God. It's even consistent with the belief that God was the initial creator of life.
ID belongs in the same intellectual rubbish bin as ebonics and the labor theory of value.
"Ebonics" does not belong in an "intellectual rubbish bin." The term "Ebonics" is silly, and the claims made in the city of Oakland's 1996 resolution about it (e.g., that it was "genetic") were completely wrong. But the dialect (or language; there is no scientific distinction between the terms), which linguists typically refer to as African American Vernacular English or Black Vernacular English, is eminently worthy of academic study. The problem with it is that rich and powerful people don't speak it, so you won't be successful in the workforce if it's the only form of English you speak, but there's nothing inherently wrong with it.. If rich and powerful people were speaking AAVE and poor black people were speaking what we now call "standard" English, life would go on pretty much the same: people would teach AAVE in schools and make fun of "standard" English.
5.2.2008 4:10pm
Northeastern2L:
I love the typical creationist apologetics on display here:

"Well, you can't prove god didn't create the world in seven days, and you can't prove god didn't create people out of dust, and you can't prove that there's no god, etc, etc, etc."

One step at a time. How about the proponents of creationism (or ID, or god, for that matter) first prove the veracity of their beliefs before asking the rest of us to disprove them. And stories culled together from Middle Eastern mythology don't count as proof of anything, except the existence of creation myths.
5.2.2008 4:13pm
snoey (mail):
>I could really care less if my heart surgeon is a bible thumping fundamentalist or total atheist.

You should. The surgeon who attempted to transplant a baboon heart into a human infant, "Baby Fae", was a creationist who refused to accept arguments that the experiment was doomed to failure because the relativly distant evolutionary relationship between baboons and humans meant certain and massive rejection.
5.2.2008 4:17pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
But the dialect (or language; there is no scientific distinction between the terms), which linguists typically refer to as African American Vernacular English or Black Vernacular English, is eminently worthy of academic study.
To clarify, I didn't mean in K-12. It would probably be a good idea for teachers to help kids who have grown up speaking AAVE to learn "standard" English by comparison to AAVE rather than just teaching them that AAVE is "wrong." But it wouldn't make any sense to teach kids AAVE.
5.2.2008 4:18pm
Lior:
@Railroad Gin:
... whether in the absolute sense some particular theory of evolution vs. ID is or is not true.

I agree that this was not supposed to be a debate on the merits of science vs. non-science, but this is where it went.

Given that, you should note that there is no meaningful way for ID to be "true" or "not true". Since the statement "the world has property X because god made it so" can fit any data about the world, it contains no information about the world whatsoever. Rather, the statement contains information about the person making it (viz. that he believes in an omnipotent god).

Science and religion are both approaches for understanding the world around us, but they are not comparable: you cannot judge them by the same criteria. Trying to judge religion by the scientific criteria for what is true or not true (as I have done above) will not help you understand religion. Trying to judge science by the religious criteria for what is true or not true is equally silly.

We all understand these distinctions. It is important that public school teach them to children. Children need to know about science (the way the world works). They need to know about religion (which shapes the way many people look at the world). But studying religion in science class is like talking about social justice in math class (another recent US innovation).
5.2.2008 4:19pm
john w. (mail):
Randy R. wrote: " ... Because fruit flies have short lives, you can go through many generations in a fairly short period of time, and genetic mutations are observable, as just one instance...."

OK, I agree that it has been scientifically demonstrated on numerous occasions, under reasonably controlled and reproducible conditions, that the characteristics of a population can change measurably over a few generations in response to external pressures. That is one aspect of what is loosely called "The Theory of Evolution," that has indeed been proven scientifically.

But the Evolutionists make other assertions, such as the idea that two populations from the same parent species, when exposed to differing environmental pressures for thousands of generations, will spontaneously diverge into two brand new daughter species, totally different from each other. Personally, I believe that is true. But I do not believe that it has been proven (in the strict scientific sense) by a series of reproducible, controlled experiments.

Nor would such a controlled series of experiments ever be practical. Therefore, from a practical point of view, it is a non-falsifiable hypothesis. In fact, if you look at the selective breeding of animals, people have been selectively raising dogs for 15,000 years or more, and they have not succeeded in creating a new species; every dog on this planet is still just a sub-species of wolf.

The assertion that Life arose by purely chemical reactions, with no supernatural intervention is even more non-falsifiable. How would you run a controlled experiment? Go get a statistically valid sample of proto-planets, and observe each one for a few billion years to see what percentage of them develop life-forms?

Some aspects of what is loosely called "Evolution" are indeed science, but other aspects lie in that fuzzy grey area where Science, Theology, Cosmology, Metaphysics, Philosophy, etc. all intersect.
5.2.2008 4:22pm
byomtov (mail):
"Well, you can't prove god didn't create the world in seven days, and you can't prove god didn't create people out of dust, and you can't prove that there's no god, etc, etc, etc."

Actually, this sort of argument by creationists is self-defeating. The claim that there is no way this can be refuted is an admission that it's not based on anything but blind belief.
5.2.2008 4:29pm
Oren:
The statistical near-impossibility that multiple simultaneous mutaitions could occur that would be necessary to explain complex organs and organisms.
It has been shown in numerous cases that natural selection co-opts proteins that previously had a separate function. Actually, some very interesting work was done on bacterial flagella precisely because ID proponents flagged it as an example of irreducible complexity. As it turns out, many of the components of the flagella (it's a fairly large macromolecular structure) can be shown to have previous functionality. For instance, one of the main proteins that creates the cell-membrane pore was shown to be borrowed from an excretory system.

The idea that complex "irreducible" organisms or organs cannot evolve by incremental progress completely evaporates once you realize that the various constituents parts can evolve independently to serve their own individual purposes. This motif has been shown a few dozen times over the past few years.
5.2.2008 4:36pm
CJColucci:
Someone hired to teach K-12 science has the academic freedom to use his or her scarce class time to teach K-12 science. Period. Sensible administrators will overlook a teacher's using trivial amounts of time to, say, complain about the ineptitude of the local sports team, but would be well within their rights to tell the teacher to shut up and stick to his or her knitting.
Nobody taking K-12 science, and damn few people teaching it, have the background to evaluate any matters of genuine controversy among actual working scientists. What is taught in K-12 science is, necessarily, the agreed-upon facts and theories relied upon by actual working scientists as a prerequisite for further work -- all of which are tentative and could be overthrown tomorrow. Nobody hired to teach K-12 science has an academic freedom right to waste scarce class time teaching actual scientific controversies the students couldn't possibly (and the teacher probably doesn't) understand; and nobody hired to teach K-12 science has an academic freedom right to waste scarce class time on claims no scientist competent in the relevant field currently takes seriously. There just isn't any genuine scientific controversy about the K-12 level material concerning the theory of evolution. If there were, it would be appropriate to teach it, but there isn't, so it isn't.
5.2.2008 4:37pm
Nathan_M (mail):

As for law vs. theory. A law is something that has undergone enough empirical testing that it can be expressed in mathematical form in order to predict future events with certainty. A theory as you say is "broader and more encompassing" than laws in terms of what it attempts to explain. That does not mean the explanation is true.

I think you go wrong when you say a law can "predict future events with certainty". It can't. A law can make definite predictions, but there's absolutely no certainty about whether those predictions will be true or not. The law is no better than the theory that underlies it, and no scientific theory can ever be proven with certainty.

There's nothing that makes the definitive predictions provided by a mathematical law more valid than the predictions of a theory that cannot be reduced to math. As long as the non-mathematical theory makes predictions that are falsifiable (as evolution does) it is legitimate science.

The fossil record is consistent with neo-Darwinism. However it is not inconsistent with various approach to ID. Therefore it is not in and of itself proof.

That is of course true, but it overlooks an important difference between the theory of evolution and ID. Evolution makes specific predictions about the fossil record, which could have been proven to be wrong. Evolution's predictions still could be proven wrong. ID, on the other hand, makes no predictions. Absolutely any fossil record is consistent with ID. The fossil record will never disprove ID, because ID is not falsifiable.

That's why evolution is science and ID isn't. ID is like the Ptolemaic system in astronomy. It can't be definitively proven to be false, but it's useless for making predictions about things we don't already know about.

You make a big deal about how we don't "know" evolution is true. That's right, of course, but the same could be said for any scientific theory. We don't "know" the theory of gravity is true (indeed, we know the theory of gravity as taught in high school *isn't* true, and we know the current theory of gravity based on general relativity is incomplete). All we know is that gravity, like evolution, makes a great deal of falsifiable predictions, and to a great extent the predictions of the theory have turned out to be correct. That's the best any scientific theory can ever do.
5.2.2008 4:43pm
Henry Schaffer (mail):
genob says:

The statistical near-impossibility that multiple simultaneous mutaitions could occur that would be necessary to explain complex organs and organisms. Under the current theory of natural selection, it would imply that the earth must be many billions of years older than anyone thinks it is in order for these overwhelming statistical odds to play out, or there is something other than just natural selection at play.


Unfortunately "multiple simultaneous mutaitions[sic]" is not what evolutionary theory says must have happened!

Please read up on inheritance, recombination and natural selection to see how evolution doesn't require simultaneity.
5.2.2008 4:46pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
I don't have a problem with discussing ID or creationism in school, any more than I have a problem with a class discussing Greek mythology.

Where I do have a problem is when the teacher attempts to get the students to believe that the sun is actually Apollo's chariot and that he drives it across the sky every day. Or that winter is caused by Persephone spending a few months every year in Hades.

Modern theories of Astronomy &climatology provide much better explanations of these phenomena.
5.2.2008 4:48pm
Jiminy (mail):
Baby Fae, baboon hearts in infants, and a doctor who didn't believe in evolution...oh, and death

"Baby Fae was not the first human to receive a primate xenograft. In a review of xenografts,4 the Council of Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association noted a rapid rejection of all baboon transplants to humans. Nevertheless, Bailey claimed that the problems of rejection could be overcome by the "immature" state of an infant's immune system. After the operation, immunologists from around the world pointed out that the part of the immune system that rejects unmatched transplants is fully mature at birth, Furthermore, there is no way to match baboon hearts to human recipients, because baboons have no antigens in common with human tissue.5 Bailey has always maintained that Baby Fae's death was unrelated to the species of the organ "donor." An editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association called Bailey's claim "wishful thinking."5

Bailey's use of baboons was somewhat surprising, given their relatively distant evolutionary relationship to humans compared to other primates. The reason came to light when the Times of London published an interview between Bailey and an Australian radio crew. The reporters had been forbidden to ask direct questions about the operation, so they queried Bailey on the issue of why he had chosen a baboon in view of the baboon's evolutionary distance from humans. Bailey replied, "Er, I find that difficult to answer. You see, I don't believe in evolution."6 It is shocking that Bailey ignored basic biological concepts in formulating a life-threatening human experiment."
5.2.2008 4:51pm
Nathan_M (mail):

The statistical near-impossibility that multiple simultaneous mutaitions could occur that would be necessary to explain complex organs and organisms. Under the current theory of natural selection, it would imply that the earth must be many billions of years older than anyone thinks it is in order for these overwhelming statistical odds to play out, or there is something other than just natural selection at play.

Your assertion is true, but you misstate the current theory of evolution. The theory of evolution predicts that "multiple simultaneous mutaitions [sic] ... [creating] complex organs and organisms" will not occur. If you could show such mutations occurring in any large number you would disprove the theory of evolution as we currently understand it.
5.2.2008 4:52pm
Tom Hanna (www):
I'm sure that those prosecuting John Scopes were convinced that he was perpetrating a fraud as well. The more speech is unpopular, especially with intellectual elites, the more important it is to protect it.
5.2.2008 4:57pm
Rock On (www):
I was honestly taken aback a bit at some of the reactions to my previous comment about the "tricky God". Then I remembered that there is that whole branch of Christianity who thinks we should ignore the New Testament entirely, and in that light, it makes more sense.
5.2.2008 4:58pm
john w. (mail):

You make a big deal about how we don't "know" evolution is true. That's right, of course, but the same could be said for any scientific theory.



Yeah, but one of the things that is especially annoying about evolutionists is their pig-headed refusal to ever say "We don't know..."

You don't see that characteristic in other scientists. Physicists, for example, (collectively speaking) are perfectly happy to say: We don't know what Quarks are made of." or "We don't know what happened before the Big Bang." "We don't know why the fine structure constant equals 1/137." "We don't know if there are additional solutions to Maxwell's Equations." "We don't know what 'dark matter' is." etc., etc.

Why the Hell can't evolutionists share a little bit of that humility.
5.2.2008 5:07pm
strategichamlet (mail):
How does ID actually solve any problems? To me it just seems to kick it back one generation. Has anyone ever heard a remotely satisfactory answer to the "who designed the designer" question? I suppose if you say an everlasting god that's one thing, but presumably any other answer (like the "evil moron from outer space" mentioned above) needs a creator too.
5.2.2008 5:10pm
c.gray (mail):

But the dialect (or language; there is no scientific distinction between the terms), which linguists typically refer to as African American Vernacular English or Black Vernacular English, is eminently worthy of academic study.


Sure...at a university linguistics department its a great topic. Vernacular dialects deserve the increasing attention they've been getting the last few decades.

But that has nothing to do with what I meant. The Oakland Board of Education resolution that made the term "Ebonics" famous demanded that African American children be taught English as second language by teachers who could demonstrate proficiency in "Nigritian Ebonics". That idea was, and remains, rubbish. And the term "Ebonics" has become heavily associated with that same idea. There is a reason linguists now avoid using the word. Nobody likes being caught in the splash from a bellyflop.
5.2.2008 5:11pm
Railroad Gin:
I love how simply raising questions about evolution transforms one into a "creationist apolegetic." For what its worth, I believe in Neo-Darwinism, although I am aware of its shortcomings. However, my belief in the Constitution is more important to me.

"How about the proponents of creationism (or ID, or god, for that matter) first prove the veracity of their beliefs before asking the rest of us to disprove them."

Well how about you prove the veracity of Darwinism before asking the proponents of ID to disprove it? Again, it is the champions of Darwinism who insist it be part of the curriculum, not the other way around.

Perhaps the answer is not teaching ID, but certainly there needs to be closer montoring of how evolution is taught. But there is definitely a problem with the way its being taught that is both bad science and raises First Amendment issues.

The problem is that every time this arises, the knee-jerk reaction is "there go those fundamentalist wackos again, aren't I so proud to be smug and sophisitcated." Rather than proposing an alternative to deal the problem, or even acknowleding that there is a problem, we get the usual orgy of religion bashing.

As for the baboon heart, there are undoubtedly genetic differences between humans and baboons that may or may not be the result of evolution. Even conceding that it is, this might be an argument for a specialist in experimental medicine to study this. It might even be an argument that all doctors of biology majors learn it. I don't see how it is something that every student needs to known in order to graduate high school.

To me that is the real issue. Couldn't all these problems be avoided by just getting it out of the core curriculum? We don't teach Estruscan pottery in highschool either, though a Professor of Art History should know something about it. I'm just not seeing that Darwinism is in the same category as subject-verb agreement. Society would be a lot better served if students had to learn about the Law of Supply and Demand and its implications.
5.2.2008 5:16pm
Morat20 (mail):
Yeah, but one of the things that is especially annoying about evolutionists is their pig-headed refusal to ever say "We don't know..."

Really? I've seen that all the time in their literature.

Maybe it's because most evolution-based questions popping up from laymen are the biological equivilant of "Why do rocks fall?".

Even the standard ID objections (irreducibly complexity, Dembskis' information objections) boil down to the same sort of really stupid objection.

God, Dembski was a pain to wade through, but once you dig through the layers of obfuscating BS, you find his entire setup is just one glaring flaw after another.
5.2.2008 5:24pm
c.gray (mail):

Yeah, but one of the things that is especially annoying about evolutionists is their pig-headed refusal to ever say "We don't know..."


Biologists are usually very willing to say "we don't know", especially if they do research. It forms the basis of their grant applications.

The objection to teaching ID as "science" is that shouting "MAYBE GOD (or UFOs, or elven wizards) DID IT!" in response to every instance of the phrase "we don't know" does not amount to a scientific theory. And ultimately, thats all ID actually amounts to.
5.2.2008 5:28pm
J.McFaul (mail) (www):
" I am not convinced that teaching alternatives to evolution necessarily violates the Establishment Clause. That said, these bills make for horrible public policy, as there is nothing scientific about these "alternatives" to evolution."

Ther is certainly a differnce betwween a stupid law and an unconstituional law. Teaching ID as any form of science is clarly stupid.

It is unconsititutional if is is a sham for creationism. ID is in fact a sham for creationism.

Here are the trial powerpoint exhibits demonstrating why ID is a sham for creationism.

Which, as an aside, demolishes any claim that ID is consistent with the fossil record.

Then, of course ID has to explain how the word "cdesign proponentsists" came to be.


Here is its evolution from the versions of the ID based biology textbook.

Creation Biology (1983), p. 3-34: "Evolutionists think the former is correct; creationists because of all the evidence discussed in this book, conclude the latter is correct."

Biology and Creation (1986), p. 3-33: "Evolutionists think the former is correct, creationists accept the latter view."

Biology and Origins (1987), p. 3-38: "Evolutionists think the former is correct, creationists accept the latter view."

Of Pandas and People (1987, creationist version), p. 3-40: "Evolutionists think the former is correct, creationists accept the latter view."

Of Pandas and People (1987, "intelligent design" version), p. 3-41: "Evolutionists think the former is correct, cdesign proponentsists accept the latter view."


Res ipsa loquitur.

ID= sham creationism.
5.2.2008 5:30pm
john w. (mail):
Has anyone ever heard a remotely satisfactory answer to the "who designed the designer" question?

Not only that, but the 'Designer' seems like a klutz. He designs these nifty living organisms, but he forgets to give them eyes so they can see where they're going, so he has to come back a few hundred million years later and correct the oversight. Then, all of a sudden he remembers that he has to give them flagellae, so that they can get there, and so he has to come back in another hundred million years to fix that mistake, etc.

The Designer's motto seems to be "Re-work is Job One." That is very different from the God that the nuns taught me about in catechism class.
5.2.2008 5:35pm
HipposGoBerserk (mail):
"Why the Hell can't evolutionists share a little bit of that humility."

The biologists I know would all be willing to acknowledge that they don't know how life started, etc. The more apt comparison would be whether a physicist would say "I don't know if a perpetual motion machine is possible." I doubt very many would.

HGB
5.2.2008 5:37pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Why is the burden of proof on those who don't want atheism imposed on their children? Put differently, the purpose of this particular board is discuss what should be taught to public schoolchildren not whether in the absolute sense some particular theory of evolution vs. ID is or is not true. If it were up to religious people they wouldn't have to send their children to government schools. But through compulsory attendance laws, fighting vouchers, etc. the secularists have longed coerced everyone to go to government schools. Given this reality, religious people would be perfectly happy any perspective about the origin and development of life were kept out of the curriculum. But it is the secularists/atheists who insists that this be taught. Finally, if this is going to be taught, it is the religious people who ask that there be balance either by presenting their beliefs or at a minimum by being allowed to address shortcomings in Neo-Darwinism itself. It is the secularists who insist that it be done their way only. The punchline is that it's the religious who get accused of "imposing values" when a moment's reflection shows they're the ones having values imposed on them.

I found this post the most fascinating of the thread. And it will give me the chance to say something controversial.

In fact, the government has very strong interests in teaching evolution to your kids, even if you don't want it taught because you believe that this might cause your kids to question their belief in God. I do know that most Americans believe strongly in their right to inculcate their children with a religious belief, and in a very broad sense, I have no quarrel with this.

But there's a difference between teaching your children religion and restricting their access to any information, no matter how accurate, that might cause then to question the religious belief.

There are very compelling reasons why the government can require you to ensure your children are educated. An educated populace is necessary for this nation to compete with other countries. An educated populace makes better decisions in a democracy. Basic science education broadens the pool of potential scientists, which results in smarter scientists and eventually a better chance for new discoveries that can help humankind.

Moreover, your children have an interest in hearing accurate information. This is a little dicier, because there is a limit to how much we want the government intervening to protect the interests of children when they are compromised by their parents, but it is in your children's interest to understand Darwin even if you don't want them to. So they can make the best choices. So they can become a biologist if they want to. Etc.

We take the right of parental autonomy pretty seriously in this country, as well we should. But it is not absolute. And every religious parent has to accept that there is a possibility that his or her kid might reject the parent's devoutly held religious beliefs. And it isn't the government's job to ensure that this is less likely to happen, when there are compelling interests on the other side of the ledger.
5.2.2008 5:38pm
whit:
"How does ID actually solve any problems? To me it just seems to kick it back one generation. Has anyone ever heard a remotely satisfactory answer to the "who designed the designer" question? I suppose if you say an everlasting god that's one thing, but presumably any other answer (like the "evil moron from outer space" mentioned above) needs a creator too."

makes my point. those are metaphysical questions, and god is a metaphysical answer fwiw.

nothing wrong with that. but it's not science.

what is not necessary is to criticize theism. theists may be right (to a greater or lesser extent) about all sorts of beliefs and wrong about others.

gr00vy.

ditto for scientists. heck, scientists are frequently wrong. that's why we have revolution of ideas (see for example copernican revolution) as we evolve (no pun intended) scientifically.

the issue is NOT who is right or wrong. we have not PROVED evolution beyond all doubt. so what? it's the best SCIENTIFIC theory there is. ID is not a scientific theory. so, i think science based minds (myself included) are taking the wrong tack when they try to prove evolution. it's not the crux of the issue. the issue is not how much scientific support there is for evolution (there is a LOT fwiw). the issue is that evolution is BASED on science, and ID is not
5.2.2008 5:42pm
c.gray (mail):

I don't see how it[Theory of Evolution] is something that every student needs to known in order to graduate high school.


The issue here is not whether the minority of students with parents who object to the teaching of evolution should be forced to learn it in order to graduate from High School.

The issue is whether public school teachers should be encouraged, or possibly even required, to teach a misleading set of assertions spruced up with some rhetorical finger-wiggling as an example of a scientific theory, even in the face of objections by the local school board.
5.2.2008 5:47pm
Railroad Gin:
I think Dilan raises a valid point, that students should be exposed to different viewpoints both for society's benefit as well as their own. But doesn't this cut both ways? Shouldn't children of atheists be exposed to competing viewpoints? This would benefit society by refuting a lot of negative stereotypes and bigotry about religious people for one thing. (E.g. they mindlessly cling to religion when the economy tanks).

Of course, even if this were valid, it would also be valid to censor certain speech, ban handguns, etc. The problem is there's this pesky thing known as the Bill of Rights.

It might be that the reasons Dilan states trump any First Amendment concerns. But it seems to me that if its some big violation of the Establishment Clause to for a student to hear a valedictorian give a speech which in which she (and not the school) chooses to thank God, that its at least as much of violation to force that same student to spend half a semester being formally taught Darwinism by a school official and being tested and graded on it.

When it literally becomes a Federal case for the football team to say a prayer before a game, but its OK for the biology teacher to say in so many words that what a student is learning in Sunday school is complete bunk, there's a peversion of the First Amendment going on somewhere. I think Christians especially are justified in thinking that the public school system has been hijacked by a left-wing secular agenda. That may be a good thing from a policy perspecitive, but its seems patently unconstitutional.
5.2.2008 5:59pm
byomtov (mail):
Couldn't all these problems be avoided by just getting it out of the core curriculum?

Is biology a required class in many public schools? If not, and you don't want your children to learn about evolution have them take something else. But don't ask biology teachers not to teach evolution, and don't let them teach religion, however disguised.
5.2.2008 6:01pm
Morat20 (mail):
As for why teach evolution in High School -- it's because we teach biology in high school, and evolution is the over-arching concept in biology. Little to nothing makes sense with out it -- it's just a pointless collection of facts.

Evolution explains why mammalian body and organ structure is so similiar, and why it is different. Why squid's eyes are in some ways superior to our own, and why -- among other things -- we get scruvy. :)

Railroad Gin: As long as you persist in equating evolution with atheism, you're going to continue to feel confused. Perhaps if you ask around, a nice Catholic -- I hear those Jesuit fellows are good at it -- might be able to explain it.
5.2.2008 6:02pm
Dennis Todd (mail):

Oren:
Alan, I think it's been pretty conclusively shown (Kitzmiller) that ID is and always was religion. Most damning IMO was the revision of "Pandas" in which the word "creation" (and its cognates) was systematically removed to make the book more palatable as non-religious.

Judge Jones thoroughly documented the fraud of claiming ID as anything more than creationism in drag.


Are you aware most of Jones' opinion was lifted verbatim from the plaintiff's briefs?

Is that common jurisprudence?
5.2.2008 6:02pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"Given this reality, religious people would be perfectly happy any perspective about the origin and development of life were kept out of the curriculum."

I suggest this neatly illustrates the problem. Ignorance is bliss.
5.2.2008 6:08pm
john w. (mail):

There are very compelling reasons why the government can require you to ensure your children are educated. An educated populace is necessary for this nation to compete with other countries. An educated populace makes better decisions in a democracy.


There is a major non-sequitor buried in that statement someplace. If you want your children to get a good education, the *last* thing you would do is to send them to a government-operated school. Why do American children consistently rank near the bottom among major nations in Math and Science skills? HINT: It ain't got nuthin' to do with a few knuckle-dragging creationists in Kansas!

As I mentioned earlier, I'm a soft-core atheist. And yet, I send my kids to Christian schools in spite of the fact that they will be exposed to some creationist/ID nonsense. (not because of it).

But my kids get to learn Latin, Rhetoric, Logic, and Plane Geometry while the public school kids are learning all about Al Gore and how to put condoms on bananas.
5.2.2008 6:12pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


As long as evolution is being taught, the students will see that it gives a superior explanation of life on Earth. Real scientists have no need to censor other points of view.



The problem is, as is demonstrated by some of the woefully ignorant posts here, is that evolution is not being taught. Rather than teach evolution, school districts decide to avoid the controversy and avoid teaching anything about it at all.
Where oh where are schools not teaching evolution? Anywhere?

I don't mind them teaching evolution. I do mind arrogant certainty about a theory that has changed significantly since I learned it in high school. Real science does change as existing theories are found wanting. A lot of what is driving the NCSE's propaganda campaign is a dread fear that if anyone questions the average biology teacher about the theory, he or she will have to admit that science isn't about dogma and Revealed Truth--and that's all that a lot of biology teaching in this country is.
5.2.2008 6:18pm
Morat20 (mail):
But my kids get to learn Latin, Rhetoric, Logic, and Plane Geometry while the public school kids are learning all about Al Gore and how to put condoms on bananas.

If they don't go to public schools, how do you know what public schools kids learn?

I've attended local school board meetings on a number of occasions, and by far the most screaming complaints have come from people whose children DON'T attend the school and never will. In fact, our resident "STOP TEACHING MASTURBATION TO KIDS" and "STOP TEACHING ATHEISTIC EVOLUTION TO KIDS" fellow sent his kids to the religious school he ran. Perhaps he was just drumming up business, but given that his little school had a horrendous reputation -- perhaps he was just crazy.
5.2.2008 6:19pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Who says evolution has anything to do with atheism? Actually, quite a few evolutionary biologists believe in God.
Dawkins, Provine, and quite a few biology teachers who use the teaching of evolution as a tool for promoting atheism. This isn't intrinsic to evolution--but that's part of why this has become a cause celebre for the left.
5.2.2008 6:20pm
Morat20 (mail):
Hey Clayton, what's changed in evolution since you went to school? I mean, at the level High School kids would learn.
5.2.2008 6:21pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

To be science, ID has to have falsifiable claims. To be useful, it has to have predictive power.
From what I am reading, string theory is therefore not science. The few predictions so far tested that were orders of magnitude off. Yet string theory is glamorous--not an embarrassment.

I do agree that the origin of life isn't strictly speaking, evolutionary theory. But evolutionary theory always teaches about the Miller experiment with the implication that these are connected issues. And at least right now, the origin of life isn't science, either. It isn't experimentally verifiable, we have no evidence for how it happened--and increasingly, the time between sterilizing heat (the Late Heavy Bombardment that ends about 4 to 3.8 billion years ago) and the earliest microfossils (about 3.5 billion years ago) is getting so short that it makes you wonder, "How did this happen so quickly in a random process?"
5.2.2008 6:25pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Hey Clayton, what's changed in evolution since you went to school? I mean, at the level High School kids would learn.
The entire horse evolution sequence (with the nice steady progression from Dawn Horse upward) is no recognized as being fundamentally wrong.

Others have mentioned the falsified embryonic development drawings by Haeckel. Or are current high school textbooks still using those?

When I was in high school, evolution was taught as a series of gradual, almost imperceptible changes. I hope that they are acknowledging that there is a serious shortage of these gradual changes. There are perfectly legitimate evolutionary explanations for the lack of intermediate fossils (such as Gould's punctuated equilibrium theory), but those explanations are required. Why? Because of the shortage of the intermediate fossils hasn't been found.
5.2.2008 6:32pm
Railroad Gin:
"Railroad Gin: As long as you persist in equating evolution with atheism, you're going to continue to feel confused. Perhaps if you ask around, a nice Catholic — I hear those Jesuit fellows are good at it — might be able to explain it."

You have been on this Catholic theme for several posts. If I'm understanding you, if the Catholic church says its OK then it doesn't run afoul of the Establishment Clause? A novel approach to the First Amendment. I look forward to the amicus brief.

My argument is not that evolution and atheism are the same. I thought I made this clear and other posters seemed to have picked up on this. It is that Darwinism is often misused to promote atheism.

It is really disingenuous to pretend otherwise. E.g. "No intervening spirit watches lovingly over the affairs of nature...whatever we think of God, his existence is not manifest in the products of nature." - Stephen Jay Gould

"By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous." - Douglas Futuyma

I agree there's a problem with affirmatively teaching ID. But what is wrong with a disclaimer that says "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." How is this promoting non-science or promoting religion.

Or as to what c. gray alluded to, Kansas in fact tried to remove Darwinism from the required state curriculum and leave it up to local school boards. Yet the usual suspects came out and got it reinsitated.

I don't doubt that the majority of people supporting the teaching Darwinism are sincerly interested in truth, science, fairness, etc. But lets not pretend that a lot of the impetus behind it doesn't come from atheists, secularists, etc., trying to impose their own religious beliefs. To point this out is not the same as equating evolution with atheism.
5.2.2008 6:35pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I think Dilan raises a valid point, that students should be exposed to different viewpoints both for society's benefit as well as their own. But doesn't this cut both ways?

Not really. Evolution isn't taught in public schools for the purpose of exposing religious students to contrary views. It is taught because it is a very important part of the biology curriculum. The reason this doesn't violate anyone's rights is because parents don't have the right to prevent their child from ever hearing a view inconsistent with their religious beliefs. But there has to be an independent reason for teaching it.

The same principle applies to exposing atheists to religious instruction. It shouldn't simply be the case that atheists are exposed to religious instruction solely for them to hear alternative views. However, where reference to religious subjects is appropriate to the curriculum, atheists shouldn't get to object to it. For instance, if a school wanted to require a class on comparative religion, or to include discussion of religion's role in American history or world cultures in social science classes, that's absolutely fine.

Finally, the establishment clause only prohibits a school endorsing a religious belief. Telling everyone to bow their heads in prayer, or teaching religion as the equivalent of science, qualifies. But the forms of religious instruction that are actually analogous to teaching a child of religious fundamentalists evolution are not barred by the establishment clause. Schools can-- and I would argue should-- teach students more about the different religions of the world and the relationship between religion and history and culture.

The thing is, conservative Christians tend not to want this, as far as I know. Many of them are just as afraid of the presentation of Christianity alongside, say, Buddhism or Islam as they are about the teaching of evolution.
5.2.2008 6:43pm
Randy R. (mail):
"But doesn't this cut both ways? Shouldn't children of atheists be exposed to competing viewpoints? "

Certainly. In a class devoted to religious studies, but not in a science class.

Clayton: " I do mind arrogant certainty about a theory that has changed significantly since I learned it in high school. Real science does change as existing theories are found wanting."

Okay, so how much of the story of creation changed since you were in high school?
5.2.2008 7:00pm
Oren:
Are you aware most of Jones' opinion was lifted verbatim from the plaintiff's briefs?
As I said earlier, Jones is a W-appointed, god-fearing Christian that (by popular report) goes to Church every Sunday. Your shameful attempt to besmirch his credibility might work if he were a Clinton appointee, since then perhaps I might see bias.

Come to think of it, it was a brilliant stroke of luck that we got a W appointee. It goes to show that it's a plain fact that ID is creationism in drag, nothing more.
5.2.2008 7:03pm
strategichamlet (mail):
Clayton,

"From what I am reading, string theory is therefore not science. The few predictions so far tested that were orders of magnitude off. Yet string theory is glamorous--not an embarrassment."

String theory was thought (and by many still is) to be a promising approach to solve a problem in physics, but has so far failed to deliver. Many do find this embarrassing and you will find that many former string theorists have left this "glamorous" field and are now working in biophysics, condensed matter physics, etc. where actual progress is being made.
Also you will note, no one is trying to put string theory in high school science textbooks, nor should they.

FWIW my high school biology teacher (~15yrs ago) was full of "we don't really know" and "lots of people don't believe this" and "they have no answer for" while teaching evolution.
5.2.2008 7:08pm
Oren:
String theory is in its infancy. No self-respecting string theorist would every claim its maturity (I work with them, believe me, they're working as hard as they can).
5.2.2008 7:10pm
Nathan_M (mail):

I agree there's a problem with affirmatively teaching ID. But what is wrong with a disclaimer that says "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." How is this promoting non-science or promoting religion.

The problem is it singles out evolution for no good scientific reason. I don't see any particular problem with a class on the philosophy of science that would point out the limitations of scientific knowledge. (That's not to say I think it would be useful, or appropriate, given the time constraints and knowledge of high school students.) But there's no scientific reason to single evolution out for this treatment, so I don't think it should be done in a science class.

(I'm not arguing such a warning should be constitutionally impermissible; I have no opinion on that. I just think it's a bad idea.)


My argument is not that evolution and atheism are the same. I thought I made this clear and other posters seemed to have picked up on this. It is that Darwinism is often misused to promote atheism.

The idea that kids shouldn't be taught ideas because some people base arguments, which may or may not be valid, on those ideas is quite striking. ID teaches that the complexity of living organisms means evolution is false, does that mean biology classes shouldn't teach how complex organisms are? It has been argued that the beauty and simplicity of classic physics proves the existence of God, foes that mean physics teachers shouldn't teach the laws of motion?
5.2.2008 7:12pm
john w. (mail):
If they don't go to public schools, how do you know what public schools kids learn?

Duh, maybe I like, you know, read a newspaper once in a while or get on the Internet. Maybe I pay taxes to support the public school racket. Maybe I can compare what my neighbors' kids are learning with what mine are learning?

Just one little true-life anecdote to illustrate the last point: My kids were in 6th and 8th grade last year, while the neighbor's public school kid was in 7th. I distinctly remember one evening when they were all doing their homework at our house, and I looked over their shoulders to see what was going on: My 8th grader was doing symbolic logic (i.e. Truth Tables, DeMorgan's Theorem, etc.). My 6th grader was doing Latin. And the neighbor kid was coloring a poster on AIDS in Africa. The incident stuck in my brain because it sums up so neatly the difference between public school and private school.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


Okay, so how much of the story of creation changed since you were in high school?


Well, I can't speak for Clayton, but I think that the Creation story has changed a little bit since I was in [Roman Catholic] high school in the late 1950's. I'm not 100% certain, but I think that back then they were still teaching pretty much literal Genesis, but now they have gone over to the idea that evolution is God's method for implementing Creation.
5.2.2008 7:15pm
Lior:
I agree there's a problem with affirmatively teaching ID. But what is wrong with a disclaimer that says "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered." How is this promoting non-science or promoting religion.


Here's the problem: that the students are not idiots. As you are well aware, the idea that magnetism and electricity are fundamentally the same phenomenon is a theory, not a fact. Ditto for the existence of atoms and molecules. Yet no-one is calling for textbooks on physics and chemistry to feature disclaimers regarding their contents. The students will clearly understand that the disclaimer you propose is motivated by religious objection to science and not by scientific considerations.

What students need to be taught is: here's a conceptual framework for understanding a certain class of natural phenomna. To convince yourself that it is correct, we will give you several examples, show how all other proposed frameworks have completely failed, and assert (high-school isn't meant to be exhaustive) that all other observations can be understood in this framework.

Regarding your claim that atheists have used evolution -- their message is something every modern human should know and should not require explicit teaching: that over the last 2500 years, we have found mechanistic explanations for more and more natural phenomena, reducing the need for "deus ex machina" explanations.

Clayton: the reconstructed evolutionary path of the horse is not the theory of evolution. It is an application of the theory of evolution to a particular set of fossil data. Today we have better data, so we know that the original reconstruction was wrong. So what? Surely one day we will find experimental evidence that electrons are not fundamental particles. Will the necessary rewriting of elementary-school science textbooks cause you to lose faith in particle physics?
5.2.2008 7:27pm
Railroad Gin:
Fair enough as to the disclaimer. But I think its at least arguable that First Amendment concerns justify singling out evolution as opposed to electromagnetism.

But what about just not teaching it period? The best I've heard is that for the one in 20 million that grows up to transplant baboon hearts, he should learn it. Why does the stundent who grow up to be an auto mechanic or accountant?

does that mean physics teachers shouldn't teach the laws of motion?

Yes if the teacher is using them to "prove" to students that God exists.

Also is the fossil record proof of Darwinsim? Or does Darwinism inform how to interpret the fossil records. There is some circular reasoning going on here.
5.2.2008 7:40pm
Lior:
@Clayton:
From what I am reading, string theory is therefore not science. The few predictions so far tested that were orders of magnitude off. Yet string theory is glamorous--not an embarrassment.

I'm not sure what you are reading, but it's probably not the scientific literature. For example, calculations using ADS-CFT give better predictions for the properties of the quark-gluon plasma at the RHIC experiment than lattice QCD (use Google for the acronyms).

What you might have read is that the standard model prediction for the vacuum energy (a QFT calculation) is 120 orders of magnitude too large. This is, indeed, a problem. But it is probably a problem with our understanding of the underlying physics, not with QFT itself -- a well-established theory scientists use every day in the ranges where it applies, a theory that predicts properties of electrons accurately to 12 decimal digits.

As far as I have seen, theories based on the mechanism of "an intelligent designer has ordered this particular electron to move thataway" have so far proven very weak in predicting any experimental data to any order of accuracy.
5.2.2008 7:46pm
J.McFaul (mail) (www):
"Are you aware most of Jones' opinion was lifted verbatim from the plaintiff's briefs?

Is that common jurisprudence?"

You mean is it common for each side to submit proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law?

And for the judge to accept the winning sides proposed findings and conclusions?

L.R. 52-1 Non-Jury Trial - Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law . In any matter tried to the Court without a jury requiring findings of fact and conclusions of law, counsel for each party shall lodge and serve proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law at least five (5) court days before trial.

Yes, it's common jurispurdence. Next Question.
5.2.2008 7:48pm
R_S (mail):
<blockquote>
From what I am reading, string theory is therefore not science. The few predictions so far tested that were orders of magnitude off. Yet string theory is glamorous--not an embarrassment.
</blockquote>

No, quite the opposite -- string theory is testable, it's just not completely right. It's science, its just not a complete or accurate theory at this time. If it didn't have testable predictions, it wouldn't be science -- but it does. Maybe string theory will yield up accurate predictions one day -- or maybe it won't, and it will be discarded for a theory that does make accurate predictions. But it's the testability that makes it science, not the accuracy. The accuracy is required for it to become a real theory, the testability is what is required for a scientific hypothesis.
5.2.2008 7:49pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
But what about just not teaching it period? The best I've heard is that for the one in 20 million that grows up to transplant baboon hearts, he should learn it. Why does the stundent who grow up to be an auto mechanic or accountant?

Evolution has a very strong claim to the core curriculum, it seems to me. It is a very important part of science, and not just for transplanting baboon hearts. Something as simple as the reason why we can't simply spray pesticides everywhere to eliminate pests follows directly from the theory of evolution. There's just a heck of a lot of things in biology you can't understand without understanding evolution. And understanding biology is important.

Evolution also is important because of its cultural significance. Indeed, the fact that so many people have protested it so much has only increased its salience. The Scopes Monkey Trial should be studied in history class. But how can it be studied if students don't know what all the fuss was about?

Similarly, the relationship between the Enlightenment and the rise of science, on the one hand, and western religious traditions, on the other, is a fascinating story that every citizen should understand. But evolution's actually a key part of that story-- along with heliocentrism, I would say that evolution is one of the two key issues where there was tremendous pushback from the traditional forces against the advance of science.

Look, I think there is great value in a well-rounded education. This is the reason why we don't just all go off to trade schools. And Darwin's ideas are ponderable and important and influential. And they explain a great deal of observable phenomena. And they have a huge cultural impact.

An educated person should understand how evolution works and what it attempts to explain. And we all have an interest in having an educated populace.
5.2.2008 7:52pm
Morat20 (mail):
But what about just not teaching it period? The best I've heard is that for the one in 20 million that grows up to transplant baboon hearts, he should learn it. Why does the stundent who grow up to be an auto mechanic or accountant?

Because we teach biology, and without evolution, biology is simply a random collection of facts. All biology is affected by evolution. How can it be otherwise?

Also is the fossil record proof of Darwinsim? Or does Darwinism inform how to interpret the fossil records. There is some circular reasoning going on here.

I can't even tell from that statement if what your actual objection is, much less what you're calling "circular". Fossils -- since you can tell older from newer by strata, and layer by a variety of dating methods, were a key piece of evidence for evolution as you could -- if you got lucky with the fossil finds -- chart the changes in species over times (or at least their bones and teeth).

Later, of course, biologists studying animals started making predictions as to when (and even where) species should have existed -- and the fossils were later found. I believe there was one rather nice Hippo-precurser find, that was predicted after DNA sequencing indicated Hippo evolution was different than previously thought. Genetic drift can make a very nice clock, and biologists were able to pinpoint a very good time-span and geographical area.

There's hardly anything circular about that. Observed fossil patterns led to a hypothesis, which was tested and verified against other fossil patterns and other lines of evidence, and emerged a very compelling theory. Which, of course, led to a number of predictions about....fossil patterns which could be tested against the fossil record, including stuff that hadn't been found.

With the discovery of DNA, and advances in sequencing and comparisons, it's been a quite busy decade or two for biologists as they've been able to more preciesly pinpoint relationships between current species and when and where they branched.

There's been some nice work done with birds and reptiles, for instance.

Or local public high school teaches cladistics, which helps make a lot more sense out of things.
5.2.2008 7:54pm
Lior:
@Railroad Gin:
Also is the fossil record proof of Darwinsim? Or does Darwinism inform how to interpret the fossil records. There is some circular reasoning going on here.

Ah -- you are beginning to see how science works. The answer is: both assertions are true. Evolution is a framework in which you can view and interpret the fossil record; it is not the only one (Lamarck had a different proposal, for example). The proof of evolution is that viewing many different fossil records through its lens leads to a reasonably simple consistent picture, unlike the other proposed frameworks.

Think about Newton's theory of gravity. Does it inform our view of the solar system, or is it proved by motion of the planets? This theory is so ingrained in our culture today that people who have not studied the history of science or advanced physics cannot view the motions of the heavens in any other way but through it. And the proof of Newton's theory is that with only a few adjustable parameters (the masses of the planets and the sun) it gives a consistent picture of the motions to a high degree of accuracy.

In general, a scientific theory is a way of looking at the world. Its proof is that looking at the world that way is superior to looking at the world in different ways.
5.2.2008 7:57pm
Dennis Todd (mail):

Are you aware most of Jones' opinion was lifted verbatim from the plaintiff's briefs?

As I said earlier, Jones is a W-appointed, god-fearing Christian that (by popular report) goes to Church every Sunday. Your shameful attempt to besmirch his credibility might work if he were a Clinton appointee, since then perhaps I might see bias.

Come to think of it, it was a brilliant stroke of luck that we got a W appointee. It goes to show that it's a plain fact that ID is creationism in drag, nothing more.


Did that answer the question? Who cares who appointed him? Does it matter that some 90% of his opinion was lifted verbatim from plaintiff briefs? Is that common?
5.2.2008 8:03pm
Brett:
I carry no brief for ID. But I find the idea that the state has "compelling interests" in requiring parents to send their children to youth propaganda camps public schools, or in ensuring that students are exposed to "accurate information", positively hilarious.

Giddy little fascists, these educrats, every last one.
5.2.2008 8:08pm
Railroad Gin:
I agree with you 100% Dilan, except I think there is a First Amendment issue with evolution that doesn't exist with a lot of other parts of core curriculum. But that aside, you are correct.

The problem is that a lot of the same people who have a tizzy over what some Florida legislator is proposing are often indifferent or even supportive of kicking a kid off the school bus for reading a Bible, oppose student Christian groups having the same access as other student groups, opposing a state paying for sign language interpreters for deaf students at private schools, etc. than can not plausibly be seen as an Establishment of Religion in any sense. If anything these people want to infringe on the Free Exercise, Free Speech and Equal Protection rights of religious students.

Likewise, if a teacher mentions the aforemtioned problems (probability, questions in interpreting the fossil record, the bogus nature of some of the proferred evidence) he risks getting fired. If the school supports him, it risks getting sued. These are pefectly valid scientific criticisms that have nothing to do with religion, but that doesn't stop the knee-jerk reaction of the "separation of church and state" crowd. This doesn't further a well-rounded citizenry.

Most of the posters criticizing me take the view that everything is hunky-dory with how evolution is taught. The reality is that there are numerous scientific and constituional problems with it that they paper over in the rush to show how much more "enlightened" they are than some Florida legislator.
5.2.2008 8:10pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Railroad Gin:
Or explain why believing in Neo-Darwinism is akin to learning arithmetic or the significance of 1492.


That your just playing games is clear when you reverse the verbs in your sentence: Explain why learning new-Darwinian evolutionary theory as a part of the biology curriculum is different from believing in arithmetic or ascribing special significance to the events of 1492.

Children don't have to "believe" in evolutionary theory. They have to learn it as currently understood, just as they have to learn math and the historical significance of 1492 (also a topic that has changed since I was in school, since the earlier Viking expeditions to the New World weren't known of when I was a tyke).

I don't doubt that the majority of people supporting the teaching Darwinism are sincerly interested in truth, science, fairness, etc. But lets not pretend that a lot of the impetus behind it doesn't come from atheists, secularists, etc., trying to impose their own religious beliefs. To point this out is not the same as equating evolution with atheism.
[emphasis added]

To assert this without any real evidence--especially using squishy words like "a lot of the impetus" (how much is "a lot"?) is just verbal sleight of hand to suggest an equation of evolution with atheism in a plausibly deniable fashion.

Of course atheists will only ever fall on one side of the debate: evolutionary theory doesn't depend on faith to support its hypotheses and ID does. That atheists will only ever be on one side (whereas deeply religious and moderately religious and uncritically religious people will fall on both sides) doesn't prove or even offer significant support to any claim that most or even "a lot" (whatever that means) of the impetus to keep ID out of the science curriculum comes from atheists or secularists, nor that those who do so are trying to impose their religious beliefs.
5.2.2008 8:14pm
JeanE (mail):
I would agree that theories about the origin of life are not the same as evolutionary theory, and that while it is perfectly reasonable for schools to teach evolution in science class, beliefs about the origins of life really belongs elsewhere.

Unfortuntately, the publishers of textbooks merge the two concepts together so that only those students who are paying very close attention will pick up the nuances that separates well accepted theory from unsupported hypothesis.

Let's start with middle school- in Holt's Life Science text, a good textbook intended for 12 year old kids, there are 2 chapters pertaining specifically to evolution. In The Evolution of Living Things the text presents info on Darwin's work and explains natural selection. In The History of Life on Earth it discusses fossil evidence, the basic geologic eras, and human evolution. In this chapter is a short discussion of "How did life began?" which explains that scientists hypothesize the life originated from non-living matter under the conditions present on earth eons ago. Do you really think the average 12 year old is going to latch onto the word "hypothesize" in the middle of a chapter in which everything else is presented as fact?

Moving on to high school, Glencoe's Biology has 4 chapters in the Unit titled Change through Time. In the fist chapter of this unit is a section titled "Origins of Life". The text describes experiments that disproved earlier ideas about spontaneous generation, then goes on to discuss modern theories, including formation of complex molecules, formation of protocells and evolution of cells. Even with the disclaimer "the origin of life may always be a mystery", a student reading this chapter will surely meet the chapter objectives of "analyzing experiments that support the concept of biogenesis, compare and contrast modern theories of the origin of life, and relate hypotheses about the origin of cells to conditions of early Earth." The entire process is presented as one governed by random chance, not by a creator, intelligent or otherwise.

These are both GOOD science texts that are widely used in schools throughout the US. They do a decent job of presenting info about evolutionary theory, but surely most students reading these texts will conflate evolutionary theory with beliefs about the origin of life. It seems that a sizable portion of teens and young adults, who have probably studied evolution from texts like these, have the impression that scientific evidence is at odds with Genesis and other religious texts.

Advocates on both sides of this debate have contributed to the problem, but can we at least acknowledge that parents have a valid concern that whatever kids are learning about evolution in school often conflicts with families' religious beliefs, and that we need not trample over religious beliefs in order to teach basic science?
5.2.2008 8:29pm
Fub:
Clayton E. Cramer wrote at 5.2.2008 5:25pm:
From what I am reading, string theory is therefore not science. The few predictions so far tested that were orders of magnitude off. Yet string theory is glamorous--not an embarrassment.
I think that may be because string theory is mathematics, not necessarily descriptive, but possibly descriptive, of observable physical phenomena.

That's roughly analogous to saying that calculus of variations is mathematics, not physics. Yet CoV is useful to describe and predict some phenomena within the limits of classical mechanics.
5.2.2008 8:31pm
whit:
"If they don't go to public schools, how do you know what public schools kids learn? "

get real. fwiw, i attended both public and private schools. there's no comparison. private schools are, in general, better. more importantly (especially in dense population areas), there is so much CHOICE in private schools that those that suck either learn to get good or lose students and go out of business. needless to say, public schools, with a captive audience, don't have that problem.

private schools i attended (episcopalian and quaker fwiw) were SO much better than public schools it wasn't even funny. the teachers were simply smarter, more motivated, were given more freedom, didn't have to have "teachers certificates" (yet were better educated. i had more than one Phd in private high school. none in my public high school that was more than 5 times the size of the private one). etc. etc.

generally speaking, you gotta provide a lot of extra "product" with your private school to justify a parent paying TWICE (they already pay for public schools) to send their kids there.

look at our current candidates. where did the clintons send chelsea? (sidwell friends iirc). where did barack go to school - punahou. etc. etc. people don't spend all this money on stuff that sux. (insert gratuitous slam on pop culture and starbux coffee here)
5.2.2008 8:39pm
c.gray (mail):

Or as to what c. gray alluded to, Kansas in fact tried to remove Darwinism from the required state curriculum and leave it up to local school boards. Yet the usual suspects came out and got it reinsitated.


By "the usual suspects" you must mean the voters of Kansas, who have promptly thrown out anti-evolution majorities on the Kansas Board of Education twice now.

It might be kind of nice if the board candidates who wish to remove evolution from the state science standards would actually mention that fact _before_ an election. It would spare the voters a lot of trouble and save the State of Kansas a bit of money on pointless show hearings.
5.2.2008 8:42pm
Railroad Gin:
I chose 2 subjects which I assumed most people would agree are part of any core curriculum. If you don't like my examples, then choose two others. It doesn't change the basic nature of the question unless of course one doesn't beleive in a core curriculum period, but most of the posters here appear to. So if we assume that there are some things that are fundamental to being a well-rounded citizen, is Neo-Darwinism one of them?

I'm not sure where reversing the verbs "to learn" and "to believe" gets you. But even running with your argument -- you're saying that a student could say that 2+2=5 on his math final as long as he put a disclaimer that he acknowledges that current understanding is that it equals 4, but he just wants to believe it equals 5? Who is playing games here?

As for the second part of your post, it is readily available to anyone who is moderately informed on this debate that a significant part of of the support for teaching evolution in public schools is motivated by people who wish to advance atheism. Read just about anything by Richard Dawkins for starters. The rest is semantical nonsense. OK, so maybe its not "a lot," maybe its only "some." Whatever. That doesn't change the First Amendment problem.

Or if, as you imply, this does affect the analysis then this cuts both ways. You are implying that there is some threshold below which its OK if a movement is religiously motivated as long as its not too religiously motiviated. So would it be OK to teach ID if only "some" of its proponents were religiously motivated, but not "most" of them? How about "a little." Where is this threshold or are you just playing games?
5.2.2008 8:46pm
john w. (mail):
I'm going to offer a final thought before I shut down the computer for the weekend:

I suspect that most of us, on both sides of this debate, are concerned about the same thing: Preserving the integrity of Science. In a sense, Science is the crown jewel of Western Civilization, it has brought us huge material benefits, and it also serves sort of the same emotional outlet for us that the building of cathedrals or pyramids gave to earlier civilizations.

But there are two very different ways that Science could get corrupted:

A.) Traditional, fundamentalist, old-time religion could raise its irrational head and drive Science out of the marketplace of ideas. Personally, I think that is theoretically possible, but very unlikely in practice.

B.) The other, more subtle, way that Science could get destroyed if if Science itself turns into a "religion" -- especially a State-sponsored religion. And I think threat (B.) is much greater than (A.) That's why I find it so scary when Science and scientists start acting dogmatic and authoritarian, and trying to use the power of the State to suppress unconventional viewpoints, no matter how silly.

I don't see a dime's worth of difference between, say, Richard Dawkins and the Rev. Billy Bob Whazzisname. They are both shrill, authoritarian, irrational, dogmatic fanatics.
5.2.2008 9:02pm
Lior:
@JeanE:
The entire process is presented as one governed by random chance, not by a creator, intelligent or otherwise.


It is axiomatic that any process whatsoever can be "governed by a creator". However, exactly because of this reason, this statement does not belong in science class. It has no meaning. It does not meaninfully qualify the proposed process. Why is it that you don't insist that phsyics classes teach the possibility that the processes of electromagnetism are governed by a creator? that the reactions of inorganic chemistry are each governed by its own special daemon? What's so special about the origin of life? I submit is that we understand it less well than we do electrons, or chemical processes.

The goal of science is to provide a model (a.k.a. mechanism) for the way the world works. As you are surely well aware, no better mechanism than "random chance" (together with selection pressure) has been proposed for this particular process. In science class we teach the students the best model we have come up with so far. It is self-defeating to teach the students that the parts we haven't understood might be unknowable, or to only teach the parts we understand. This leads students to believe that everything worthwhile has been understood, that there is nothing new to discover. Rather, in science class we should also give a glimpse of areas of science where active research is ongoing: where we already have some reasonable ideas (mechanisms) but the situation is not well-understood.

Until we understood thunder and lightining, there was room for the explantion "the God of Thunder made it so". Today we understand these phenomena better, and religion has retracted its earlier attempts to claim to explain them. Your complaint is essentially the following one: "for any scientific issue which is not completely understood, the teacher should put in a disclaimer that perhaps divine intervention is the correct explanation; for issues that are understood this is not needed." This proposal should be discussed in philosophy class, but not in science class.
5.2.2008 9:07pm
Sam Hall (mail):
Try telling an MD that ID did the human body. If he doesn't laugh in your face, he will say that the designer sure wasn't very good.
5.2.2008 9:46pm
Randy R. (mail):
"In this chapter is a short discussion of "How did life began?" which explains that scientists hypothesize the life originated from non-living matter under the conditions present on earth eons ago. Do you really think the average 12 year old is going to latch onto the word "hypothesize" in the middle of a chapter in which everything else is presented as fact?"

Yes, of course. THAT is exactly what a good science teacher will explain -- what a hypothesis is, and what the scientific method is all about.

Lior: "Why is it that you don't insist that phsyics classes teach the possibility that the processes of electromagnetism are governed by a creator? that the reactions of inorganic chemistry are each governed by its own special daemon?"

You can be assured that if the Bible had said anything aobut electromagnetism or inorganic chemistry, we would be having the same battles about that. This isn't about science -- it's about the inerrency of the bible.

John W: "B.) The other, more subtle, way that Science could get destroyed if if Science itself turns into a "religion" -- especially a State-sponsored religion. And I think threat (B.) is much greater than (A.) That's why I find it so scary when Science and scientists start acting dogmatic and authoritarian, and trying to use the power of the State to suppress unconventional viewpoints, no matter how silly. "

Funny, but I don't see you complaining about the dogmatism of any other scientists except biologists who support evolution. Or are you seriously arguing that physists, astronomers, chemists are all filled with dogmatic and authoritarians who are trying to use the power of the State?

Nope. The problem for you is that evolution is pretty solid in its arguments and its evidence, and try as you might, you can't find any real problems with it. That's not science being arrogant; rather it's you who just won't learn the facts and then complain that no one is listening to you. If an idiot keeps arguing with me that 5+5 equals 12, there is a point where I would just have to tell him to shut up and sit down. Is that arrogance? or Dogmatism? I think not.
5.2.2008 9:50pm
J.McFaul (mail) (www):
Did that answer the question? Who cares who appointed him? Does it matter that some 90% of his opinion was lifted verbatim from plaintiff briefs? Is that common?

DENNIS TODD: Can YOU Read?

I answered your question.
5.2.2008 10:12pm
whit:
"Try telling an MD that ID did the human body. If he doesn't laugh in your face, he will say that the designer sure wasn't very good."

not my experience with MD's. plenty of MD's are theists and very many believe that god(s) created life. isn't rick friggin santorum an MD for pete's sake?

the point is not WHO IS RIGHT. frankly, evolution itself says NOTHING about how life first formed, nor is it inconsistent with a creator.

just as there are MD's who are theists and believe in creation, there are also quantum physicists, and all sorts of people who deal with the stuff of life that believe it was created by a god(s).

what is important is that religious beliefs are not taught as science. because they are not scientific questions/theories/or beliefs - they are metaphysical.
5.2.2008 10:17pm
byomtov (mail):
I suspect that most of us, on both sides of this debate, are concerned about the same thing: Preserving the integrity of Science.

I think you are wrong. The ID'ers/creationists don't give a flip about science if it conflicts with their religious views.
5.2.2008 10:24pm
Boynton Cousin:
whit, you're conflating "the origin of life" with "how the human body came about." There certainly is a conflict between basic biology and intelligent design: how does bacteria become resistant to antibiotics over time? Why are some people born with webbed toes if the body was designed? Why do some people have six fingers? Why do some people have malformed cones in their eyes that make them colorblind?

What is the intelligent design explanation for any of these things if organisms were designed a certain way?
5.2.2008 10:40pm
Thoughtful (mail):
John A: "Evolution's defenders respond that there are no credible scientific critiques of evolution, any more than there are credible alternatives to the theory of gravity. "

Clearly Adler doesn't feel the growing belief that "the world sucks" has sufficient scientific validation...

[I got here at 190 posts; my apologies if someone beat me to this...]
5.2.2008 10:52pm
Chimaxx (mail):
John W.
B.) The other, more subtle, way that Science could get destroyed if if Science itself turns into a "religion" -- especially a State-sponsored religion. And I think threat (B.) is much greater than (A.) That's why I find it so scary when Science and scientists start acting dogmatic and authoritarian, and trying to use the power of the State to suppress unconventional viewpoints, no matter how silly.


But correctly labeling them not-science and cllaiming they have no place within a science curriculum can in no way be construed as trying to suppress them. People are free to expound upon these ideas wheresoever else they wish.
5.2.2008 10:58pm
Chimaxx (mail):
The point, Railroad Gin, is that evolutionary theory is no more a system of belief than is mathematics or history.

JeanE
Advocates on both sides of this debate have contributed to the problem, but can we at least acknowledge that parents have a valid concern that whatever kids are learning about evolution in school often conflicts with families' religious beliefs, and that we need not trample over religious beliefs in order to teach basic science?


No, we can't. The scientific method discovers inconvenient things all the time. Those who fervently believe that the Earth is flat--whether based on religious or other reasons--do not have a right to demand that the geology curriculum specify that the notion a spherical planet is just a theory; those who believe in animal spirit guides don't get to have that covered in zoology; Wiccans don't get to "teach the controversy" about magic circles and the four elements in physics class.

If parents see a conflict between evolutionary theory and the creation of life as they understand it, then it is up to them and/or their pastors to explain the difference between scientific understanding and spiritual or religious understanding.
5.2.2008 11:22pm
Arnold Asrelsky (mail):
Dear Mr. Shlafly,

Judge Jones did not say that the editors of 'Pandas' changed every instance of 'creationism' to 'Intelligent Design' in order to 'comply' with a Supreme Court decision. The changes were made to hide the fact that the 'new' 'Pandas' presented the same old Creationist text in a disguise meant to deceive the courts, the school boards and the general public. I hope you were making your comment tongue-in-cheek. Otherwise your comment is as deceptive as the 'Panda' editors' and your motives become as suspect as theirs were.

The wedge document of the Discovery Institute clearly states the its goal is to invalidate materialistic secular science. ID is the chosen term of a massive and well-funded PR campaign to subvert scientific inquiry. No wonder that their chosen battlegrounds are the nation's school boards. The last place they want to be is in the laboratory where they would have nothing to do. Michael Behe admitted to Judge Jones that the kind of 'science' he favored would also allow astrology and other pseudo-sciences a voice in the curriculum. He has also said that a science without Jesus makes no sense. Is it any wonder that Judge Jones found that ID is a religious doctrine through-and-through that claims to be a science in order to insinuate itself into the educational mainstream?
5.3.2008 12:03am
whit:
"There certainly is a conflict between basic biology and intelligent design: how does bacteria become resistant to antibiotics over time? Why are some people born with webbed toes if the body was designed? Why do some people have six fingers? Why do some people have malformed cones in their eyes that make them colorblind? "

i don't see those as inconsistent with intelligent design. and note that i am NOT defending intelligent design. i just recognize that it is not science. it is metaphysics.

i think you are falling for the same fallacy that many "911 truthers" do. the fallacy of the perfect govt. in this case, it's the fallacy of the perfect creator. fwiw, im not aware the intelligent design negates the possibility of intraspecial evolution and adaptation (bacteria example), mutations, etc.

"What is the intelligent design explanation for any of these things if organisms were designed a certain way?"

again, playing devil's (ID ) advocate, the fact that they believe there is a creator does not mean that there cannot be variation, mutation, defect, etc.

of course, they don't have a SCIENTIFIC explanation for these things. and evolution DOES. that's why evolution is a well accepted scientific theory, and ID is metaphysics disguised as science.
5.3.2008 12:04am
Boynton Cousin:
i think you are falling for the same fallacy that many "911 truthers" do. the fallacy of the perfect govt. in this case, it's the fallacy of the perfect creator.

So if the intelligent designer isn't so intelligent, why is it named such? Obviously, true-blue IDers are implying that this designer is God, who would be perfect by definition. I can see the truther parallel, but we aren't talking about dolts like W and Rumsfeld here.

again, playing devil's (ID ) advocate, the fact that they believe there is a creator does not mean that there cannot be variation, mutation, defect, etc.

Then they've just admitted that evolution occurs, haven't they?
5.3.2008 1:30am
Brian K (mail):
What is the intelligent design explanation for any of these things if organisms were designed a certain way?

shoddy workmanship? poor quality control? god got wasted that day?
5.3.2008 2:10am
JeanE (mail):
Lior,

I did not suggest that science teachers SHOULD suggest to their students that a divine creator is responsible for the origins of life. I actually think a better answer to the question would be "we just don't know- there are some interesting hypotheses about conditions on early earth and formation of complex molecules, but at this point, it's all speculation. While we have good evidence to support natural selection and evolutionary change, we just don't have the same kind of evidence to support theories on the origins of life. Maybe someday you'll be the one to figure it our!"

My beef is that textbooks and teachers seem to conflate those elements of evolution that are well supported with hypotheses about origins of life that are little more than speculation- by some mysterious, unexplained process organic molecules that may have been formed in earth's oceans become protocells and then self-replicating prokaryotes. Mysterious and unexplained processes should not be presented as evidence for a hypothesis.

Randy R.
Your're right- a good science teacher will point out the difference between a hypothesis and a theory. In reality, a lot of science teachers don't have a particulary strong background, and are basically just following the text. If the text doesn't make much of a distinction, then some teachers will not pick up on the difference either.
Face it, we've been teaching evolution for decades and many people really and truly believe that in school they learned that evolution explains the origins of life.

Chimaxx

This really is not just a problem for people of faith. I have read that over half of American adults tell pollsters they do not believe in evolution. Almost all of those adults attended public schools and presumably learned about evolution since schools have been teaching it for at least 40 years. Why don't they believe what they learned? I don't know about all of them, but in any church you will meet people who feel that they had to make a choice between science and faith, and science lost. Since Judaism, the Catholic church and most mainline protestant denominations do not have a problem with evolution, I think that some of these people must get the feeling that science has a problem with religion from their biology classes. Surely it must be possible to teach evolution without conveying the impression that scientific evidence refutes the existence of a creator. Science can't prove or disprove the existence of a creator, but an awful lot of people have the impression that you can't accept evolution without tossing God.
5.3.2008 2:22am
whit:
"So if the intelligent designer isn't so intelligent, why is it named such?"

any creation that includes free will is necessarily gonna have warts, d00d. and i didn't say that under ID that god(s) wasn't 'so intelligent'. i said that the fact that creation is not perfect, and more correctly that the umpteenth generation AFTER creation hasn't resulted in a perfect world, is not a refutation that a god COULD exist. your arguments are starting to sound like the average stoned sophomore waxing atheist.

" Obviously, true-blue IDers are implying that this designer is God, who would be perfect by definition."

realizing that ID is (largely) a kludge for religion, you again need to get real. at least in the judeo-christian creation/genesis/exodus myth, if there is one thing that is crystal clear it is that man and creation is flawed. for pete's sake, look at adam and eve. fall from grace. bla bla bla bla.

note also that the ID god has a sense of humor. witness the platypus.

" I can see the truther parallel, but we aren't talking about dolts like W and Rumsfeld here. "

no, but the point stands. your argument is like the argument that there can't be a god because shite stinks and no god would place the anus next to the genitalia.

etc.

just sophistry imo.

" i said: again, playing devil's (ID ) advocate, the fact that they believe there is a creator does not mean that there cannot be variation, mutation, defect, etc.

you said: Then they've just admitted that evolution occurs, haven't they?"

actually, ime many ID'ers accept evolution. the majority may not accept INTERSPECIAL evolution, although even that is not necessarily inconsistent with ID.

again, i am not here to DEFEND ID. i am here to DISTINGUISH ID. for the umpteenth time- it's metaphysics not science. ID'ers may be right. who knows? that's not the point. the point is that it isn't science.
5.3.2008 2:49am
whit:
"Science can't prove or disprove the existence of a creator, but an awful lot of people have the impression that you can't accept evolution without tossing God."

right. reminds me of the story of the soviet cosmonaut (is that redundant) who upon entering the heavens declared words to the effect of there must not be a god, because he was clearly not sitting there just above the troposphere or whatever.
5.3.2008 2:51am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
It’s quite incorrect, as asserted above, to believe that ID, together with its progenitor Creationism, make no predictions. They’re both poverty stricken in the scientific-theory “prediction” department — their general explanation for most everything being “God did it!” — but they do make at least one quite specific, implicit prediction: which is that transitional fossils linking disparate living groups (those that are supposedly independently designed or created) do not exist — yet exist they do.

In a particularly delightful irony, which occurred around a decade and a half ago, no sooner had Intelligent Design guru Michael Behe published a supposedly penetrating inquiry on how the lack of known fossils of the precursors to whales (legless sea mammals) was powerful indication of “Intelligent Design” being afoot, so to speak — than mere months afterwards, the first of what are now several known fossils of early whales — whales with legs! — turned up in the fossil record. *

Similar fossil evidence has been found in recent years almost exactly transitioning between lobe-finned lungfish and tetrapods (four-legged land animals, e.g., amphibians and us).

Thus, the predictions of ID (and Creationism, for that matter) are not satisfied, and they thereby fail as scientific theories.

*It’s almost as dazzling a philosophic comeuppance as the historical episode which took place around the turn of the 19th century, when philosopher G.W.F. Hegel pompously “proved” philosophically (or so he thought) that the number of planets (regardless of how the concept of planet had changed over the years) can never be different than seven — arriving in print with this philosophic wonderpiece nearly simultaneous with the discovery, by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801, of the eighth planet Ceres. Ceres is today regarded technically as a “dwarf planet,” but that’s mere latter-day definitional handwaving — it’s a world, forged out of the old solar nebula, in orbit about the Sun. Since then, of course — to Hegel’s further chagrin — other, much more sizable, undoubted planets (such as Uranus and Neptune) have also been discovered.
5.3.2008 2:57am
Grover Gardner (mail):

I have read that over half of American adults tell pollsters they do not believe in evolution.


A 2002 poll found that 72% of Americans think the government is hiding information about UFOs.


Almost all of those adults attended public schools and presumably learned about evolution since schools have been teaching it for at least 40 years.


No, Jean, in fact I strongly suspect that many schools have not been teaching it and still don't teach it. My school never taught it, that I can remember, and it was one of those wonderful, fancy private schools which are supposed to be so much better than public ones. In fact, my 10th grade biology teacher once announced to his students that no one was going to tell him he "came from a goddam monkey." So, no, he didn't tell us much about evolution. I'd be willing to bet a fair amount of money that there are dozens, possibly hundreds of school districts today where, due to pressure from parents and/or administrators, the subject of evolution is either discouraged or avoided, even though it is perfectly legal to teach it. My sister-in-law teaches school in the rural areas around Chapel Hill, NC, and she says that evolution there is a no-no. You just don't go there.


I think that some of these people must get the feeling that science has a problem with religion from their biology classes.


I think it's the other way around. By the time many people get to a certain level in school, they have a problem with anything that conflicts with their deeply-inculcated religious beliefs.

Evolution has been controversial since the notion began being floated in scientific and philosophical circles. It's not just about belief in God, either. People see it as a threat to the idea that man was specially created by God for a specific purpose. It suggests that perhaps we are not the center of the universe, that everything wasn't created solely for our benefit.


Surely it must be possible to teach evolution without conveying the impression that scientific evidence refutes the existence of a creator.


Again, it's not that evolution denies a creator. It doesn't. It does pose a serious challenge to the widely-cherished creation stories of the Bible, and for many Americans that is enough to render it a serious threat. I don't know any way around that. Perhaps you do.
5.3.2008 3:21am
Grover Gardner (mail):
"I don't see a dime's worth of difference between, say, Richard Dawkins and the Rev. Billy Bob Whazzisname."

Except that Dawkins is possibly one of the most brilliant and articulate scientists alive today. The God Delusion has sold over 1.5 million copies and enjoys a #72 sales rank on Amazon.com. He may be a shrill fanatic on the subject of religion, but there's no question about his contributions to evolutionary biology. Your Reverend Billy Bob Whazzisname is just what his name implies, a forgettable caricature.
5.3.2008 3:41am
whit:
"Thus, the predictions of ID (and Creationism, for that matter) are not satisfied, and they thereby fail as scientific theories. "

except as repeatedly noted ID ... to say that ID fails as a scientific theory is like saying a fish fails as a refrigerator. ID is NOT science, it is not scientific theory, etc.

it has as much place in a science curriculum as art history.
5.3.2008 5:07am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
again, playing devil's (ID ) advocate, the fact that they believe there is a creator does not mean that there cannot be variation, mutation, defect, etc.

Then they've just admitted that evolution occurs, haven't they?
That would certainly reflect Michael Behe's stance; he is an evolutionist, but believes that there are many biological systems whose existence cannot be explained by natural selection.

One of these days I'm gonna get around to the "Why Johnny Can't Evangelize" post that's been forming in my head, and this topic will be one of the chief exhibits. (In this context "evangelism" refers to all ideological debate, not just the religious sort.)

One of the problems with this subject is that debates tend to go into more directions than the Cambrian Explosion. The conversation turns into message overload, and, more importantly, the conversation is distracted from focusing on the core issues.

Some people act as if establishing ID as a philosophy and not science is sufficient to support the claim that evolutionary theory is science and good science. (Behe himself appears to be stating in the linked article that ID is a philosophy.) Discrediting Hypothesis A does not necessarily credit Hypothesis B; the latter has to be assessed on its own merits.

So what is the core issue regarding evolutionary theory? The most critical the claim that there exists a mechanism by which organisms can generate new complex systems. Skeptics state that this claim is philosophical, not scientific. Many evolutionists tend to (consciously or unconsciously) treat this basic assumption as if it were already established as science, and as good science, and that the other sides of the debate are aware of this. Creationists and origins agnostics also tend to stray from the foundational issue.

There are other assumptions that influence evolutionists and creationists, but a sinus headache is keeping me from pursuing that line of thought. Later.
5.3.2008 5:51am
LM (mail):

As for the second part of your post, it is readily available to anyone who is moderately informed on this debate that a significant part of of the support for teaching evolution in public schools is motivated by people who wish to advance atheism.

... which must be galling to all those whose attacks on Galileo Darwin are motivated only by the pursuit of scientific truth.
5.3.2008 7:06am
Randy R. (mail):
Jean: "In reality, a lot of science teachers don't have a particulary strong background, and are basically just following the text. If the text doesn't make much of a distinction, then some teachers will not pick up on the difference either.
Face it, we've been teaching evolution for decades and many people really and truly believe that in school they learned that evolution explains the origins of life. "

Sadly, your statement is probably true in too many instances.
5.3.2008 9:18am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
whit:
except as repeatedly noted ID ... to say that ID fails as a scientific theory is like saying a fish fails as a refrigerator. ID is NOT science, it is not scientific theory, etc. it has as much place in a science curriculum as art history.

Saying ID isn't science doesn't explain why it isn't science -- which it definitely pretends to be. Treating it as if it were a science, and then looking to see if its predictions as a science are satisfied (they aren't), demonstrates the point.
5.3.2008 10:19am
Randy R. (mail):
What I don't get is why the anti-evolutionists are so worked up about all this. If they don't think evolution is correct, that's fine. But why do they have to spoil an education for the rest of us or our children? Why can't they just leave it to Sunday school?

Why is this so important to the Discovery Institute that they have to devote so much time and energy to this? Don't we have enough problems?

And I'm am particularly disturbed by Ben Stein, who I used to respect. But now he has gone on the anti-evolutino bandwagon, and has been quoted that science always leads to people killing people.
5.3.2008 10:33am
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Why? Because this is cultural warfare as they see it.
5.3.2008 11:00am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Grover Gardner. Ref UFOs.
About ten years ago, the Air Force announced they had cleared "96%" of the solid unknown sightings by matching them to U2 and SR71 flights. So if 72% think the government is hiding UFO info, 28% haven't been paying attention.

Yeah. This is a proxy for the culture wars. Some time back, Buckley hosted a debate between the scientific creationists and evolutionists. The former were scientists, and could have taught at least a beginning course in evolution if they'd felt like it. On the evolutioin side, in addition to the scientists, were the then head of the ACLU and the head of Americans United for The Separation of Church and State--who are more extreme than the ACLU. The former is a lawyer and the latter a clergyman. But they knew that more than a scientific theory was up for grabs here.

Going on 25 yrs ago, a science writer named G.R. Taylor wrote on evolution's mysteries. He did not promote creationism, nor require a creator of any sort. But he pointed at holes in the theory and postulated, among other things, "the masking effect" to explain certain lacunae.

Strikes me that this could be as annoying to evolutionists as creationism, being apostate and all, without talking about a divinity.
5.3.2008 12:14pm
Northeastern2L:
What I don't get is why the anti-evolutionists are so worked up about all this. If they don't think evolution is correct, that's fine. But why do they have to spoil an education for the rest of us or our children? Why can't they just leave it to Sunday school?

Because Christian conservatives will attack anything that threatens their moral authority and ability to proselytize. And they hold to the belief that any theory which does not explicitly acknowledge the god of their creation myths to be atheistic.
5.3.2008 1:20pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"A lot of what is driving the NCSE's propaganda campaign is a dread fear that if anyone questions the average biology teacher about the theory, he or she will have to admit that science isn't about dogma and Revealed Truth--and that's all that a lot of biology teaching in this country is."

The average biology teacher or scientist will readily admit science isn't about dogma and Revealed Truth. Just ask them. Dogma and revealed truth are the realm of religion.

They would also probably readily agree that the number of changes in any branch of science since one left high school is simply a function of when one finished high school.
5.3.2008 1:30pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Is it reasonable to suggest the starting point for a natural science approach to ID is to establish through the scientific method that the intelligent designer exists?

Can anyone tell us about any experiment which confirms the existence of the intelligent designer? Who designed the experiment? When was it performed? What were the results? Has it been repilcated? Is it falsifiable?
5.3.2008 1:35pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
[Arnold Asrelsky] Judge Jones did not say that the editors of 'Pandas' changed every instance of 'creationism' to 'Intelligent Design' in order to 'comply' with a Supreme Court decision.
Here is what Judge Jones said:
The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from "creation" to "intelligent design" occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court's important Edwards decision.
You say my motives are suspect. You can read my blog for more on the subject.
5.3.2008 2:04pm
Boynton Cousin:
Um, thanks, whit, for the over-the-top condemnations (I always aspire to being a stoned sophomore), but where the heck are you getting this generic Christian Bible story/free will stuff from ID? I was using God in the most generic sense, and there doesn't have to be any human free will or even bodily imperfection in ID. Imperfection cuts directly against ID: it proves the design was not intelligent at all, unless the design is simply unknowable, and what is the point of studying anything at all if we cannot know it?

Which brings me to my next point. You say you're here to "distinguish" ID from natural selection/evolution, but there's nothing to distinguish: ID isn't metaphysics either, it's an argument from ignorance. It says "we don't know why there is X, therefore X was designed." With nonsense definitions of "irreducible complexity" that amount to Stewart's definition of pornography (see Behe's testimony), it doesn't offer anything of value at all. This is even more obvious in light of how as you say many IDers accept evolution anyway. ID is obviously only a cudgel with which to beat "secularists" in a culture war, not some kind of serious philosophical proposition.
5.3.2008 4:40pm
whit:
"Imperfection cuts directly against ID: it proves the design was not intelligent at all, unless the design is simply unknowable, and what is the point of studying anything at all if we cannot know it? "

no... it doesn't. again, you are doing the same thing that the 911 truthers do. and i am put in the unenvious position of defending ID, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

look, id is metaphysics. it is not science. you want to set up this strawman - that intelligent design = a creation that is perfect. and of course that's absurd, and yes it IS sophomoric stoned arguing 101.

LOTs of stuff in philosophy/metaphysics, is unknowable. so WHAT? have you read any philosophy? and of course philosophy can ASK questions that have scientific consequences. heck, there is an entire branch of philosophy called the philosophy of science.

you are not offering an intelligent (pun intended) critique of ID because you keep misrepresenting ID, so you can easily shoot it down.

what *i* am shooting down is the very idea that ID and Science (in this case evolution) are even in the same ballpark. they aren't.

but for the *th time, the fact that free will (appears to) exists, that there is imperfection in the world, etc. etc. does NOT "disprove" ID. only if we accept your false conception of what ID necessarily entails.

look, there either IS or IS NOT a creator(s) out there. that much is about as certain as we can get.

"ID isn't metaphysics either,"

only if you want to redefine what metaphysics means. since that seems to be your tactic - redefine words and change concepts to mean what you want them to mean so you can shoot them down.

" it's an argument from ignorance."

assuming that's true, it STILL doesn't make your point that ID is not metaphysics. because those are not mutually exclusive. try again.

it's metaphysics because of the QUESTION addressed. is that so hard to understand?

" It says "we don't know why there is X, therefore X was designed." With nonsense definitions of "irreducible complexity" that amount to Stewart's definition of pornography (see Behe's testimony), it doesn't offer anything of value at all."


again, totally irrelevant.

whether or not it offers anything of value is 100% irrelevant to whether or not it is metaphysics. it's a value judgement you made, but not relevant to my point.

" This is even more obvious in light of how as you say many IDers accept evolution anyway."

i don't SAY this. i know it. but since in your initial argument you failed to make the distinction between intra and interspecial evolution, your argument again fails.

" ID is obviously only a cudgel with which to beat "secularists" in a culture war, not some kind of serious philosophical proposition."

again, totally irrelevant. you keep changing the goalposts because you have no argument. "Serious philosophical proposition". that's a subjective value judgment and not relevant.

i didn't ID was some kind of GREAT or supersweet or serious "philosophical proposition"

i said it was (for the *th time) METAPHYSICS ***not*** science.

nothing you have said disputes that. you just keep changing the argument. for example, arguing that it is not a "serious philosophical proposition" says exactly ZERO about whether it is metaphysics (as opposed to science.).

i think you need to consult a dictionary and learn what

1) metaphysics
2) science
3) evolution (distinguish between intra and interspecial of same)

MEAN.

all you have done is construct strawmen and demonstrate you don't understand the underlying arguments.

most telling was when you thought that the fact that some ID'ers accept evolution (intraspecial) somehow means that ID has been disproved. if you even had a cursory knowledge of ID you would have understood that many many ID'ers totally accept intraspecial evolution. their argument is that the scientific theory of evolution fails on many fronts (such as so called "irreducible complexity"), and they attempt to SUBSTITUTE A METAPHYSICAL CONCEPT ***NOT A SCIENTIFIC THEORY OR HYPOTHESIS*** to fill the perceived hole in evolutionary theory.

that is where, to paraphrase yoda... they fail.

many scientists successfully bridged the science/philosophy bridge... carl sagan comes to mind. even though he did not spend tons of time on evolution, his concept of emergent complexity is a much better argument ... since it's a SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENT than ID can be - since it is not science.
5.3.2008 6:30pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Jonathan Adler said (original post),
That said, these bills make for horrible public policy, as there is nothing scientific about these "alternatives" to evolution.

Wrong. My theorem of co-evolution -- a criticism of evolution theory -- is completely scientific and has never been refuted! My blog has several articles about co-evolution under the post label "Non-ID criticisms of evolution". I also discuss co-evolution under a Gradebook blog article on Tampabay.com. Buzz pollination is an especially good illustration of my theorem of co-evolution, which is basically stated as follows:

Fundamental Theorem of Co-evolution of Total Co-dependence of Two Organisms (e.g., bees and flowers):

In co-evolution of a co-dependent trait -- unlike in evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., land, water, and air -- there may be nothing to adapt to because the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism is likely to be locally absent.

First Corollary:

Co-evolution by means of random mutation is virtually impossible where the co-dependent traits in both organisms are fatal in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent trait in the other organism.

Second Corollary:

Even a co-dependent trait that is not fatal or harmful in the absence of the corresponding co-dependent trait provides no benefit in natural selection when the corresponding co-dependent trait is absent.
5.3.2008 10:29pm
LM (mail):
whit,

Would you please define Intelligent Design as you understand it? It sounds like you see it potentially requiring as little as a single primordial act of creation (creating the universe and the material laws that govern it), subsequent to which everything could follow materialistically, without necessarily imputing else to the specific intentions of the creator, including, for example, human form. Certainly, even prominent Darwinists like Ken Miller would go along with that (and more than that even -- if I recall, he's a practicing Catholic), but they'd never call it Intelligent Design.

As I understand the term, it implies at least come degree of intentionality beyond the initial creation, which is impossible to replace with evolution alone. For example, from the American Heritage Dictionary:

intelligent design
n. The assertion or belief that physical and biological systems observed in the universe result from purposeful design by an intelligent being rather than from chance or undirected natural processes.

(my emphasis)

The very point of Intelligent Design, going back to Paley and Thomas Aquinas, i.e., the impossibility of arriving at certain kinds of biological complexity by natural processes alone, is by definition incompatible with evolution.

I've only skimmed most of the comments, so if you addressed this already, I apologize. Just link me to the comment.
5.4.2008 12:12am
LM (mail):
imputing anything else

(Why do comments seem so much easier to proofread in final form than in Preview?)
5.4.2008 12:16am
LM (mail):
Larry Fafarman,

I'm no expert, but your argument seems to overlook the following:

1. Many mutations that are neither competitively advantageous nor dis-advantageous survive to become part of the variation within a species. Such variations can provide the environmental feature to which a co-evolutionary species first adapts; and

2. A mutation that is competitively advantageous for independent reasons can provide the environmental feature to which a co-evolutionary species first adapts.

What am I missing?
5.4.2008 12:32am
Randy R. (mail):
Sorry, Larry, but you are wrong. Here's why:

"Insects have been around for at least 300 million years, while flowering plants have only been around since the early Cretaceous, about 140 million years ago. So it is clear that many insects could get by without needing flowering plants. On the other hand, bees may have evolved about 10 million years after the first simple flowers, so flowers did not need bees at first. We don't know for sure; the first Cretaceous bee fossil was found only in 1988. The bennettitaleans (a class of plants that may have been the origin of modern flowering plants), for example, may have been pollinated by beetles.

Once there were both bees and flowers, both evolved in response to the other. Bees found flowers a food source, while flowers hit on the strategy of using bees to pollinate themselves. Eventually these strategies replaced previous strategies, resulting in a system that appears "in harmony".

In contrast to the bogus claims of creationists such as Michael Behe, such complex interacting systems can easily evolve, and in fact we see precisely this sort of co-evolution in computer simulations. Furthermore, it is discussed in any good textbook on evolutionary biology."
5.4.2008 1:10am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
LM says,
I'm no expert, but your argument seems to overlook the following:

1. Many mutations that are neither competitively advantageous nor dis-advantageous survive to become part of the variation within a species. Such variations can provide the environmental feature to which a co-evolutionary species first adapts

Some of these variations -- if they exist at all -- cannot survive in the absence of corresponding variations in other species. For example, in flowers that depend on "buzz" pollination, the pollen is contained inside tubes and is inaccessible to pollinators that do not "buzz" the flowers, i.e., vibrate the flowers with their wings. This pollen's feature of being contained inside tubes is something that cannot develop gradually -- it's either all or nothing. The pollinating insects themselves are highly specialized -- when buzzing the flowers, the wings are vibrated in a special way that may involve special muscles.

A mutation that is competitively advantageous for independent reasons can provide the environmental feature to which a co-evolutionary species first adapts.

The pollen's containment inside tubes is not competitively advantageous in independent situations -- it is fatal when independent of buzz-pollinating insects.

Even when changes in both species can be gradual in the development of mutualism (the changes can't be gradual in buzz pollination, as I showed above), there is no competitive advantage unless those gradual changes in both organisms exist at the same time and place, and that is unlikely if both gradual changes are rare.
5.4.2008 1:19am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Randy R. said,
Once there were both bees and flowers, both evolved in response to the other. Bees found flowers a food source, while flowers hit on the strategy of using bees to pollinate themselves. Eventually these strategies replaced previous strategies, resulting in a system that appears "in harmony".

I know that that's the theory -- my question is, exactly how did the insects and flowers co-evolve? When I look at co-evolution's details -- which I describe above and in the webpages that I linked to -- none of it makes any sense.

In contrast to the bogus claims of creationists such as Michael Behe, such complex interacting systems can easily evolve, and in fact we see precisely this sort of co-evolution in computer simulations.

Michael Behe is not a creationist -- he believes in an old earth and common descent, and his approach to Intelligent Design and Irreducible Complexity is completely scientific. And his work does not concern the co-evolution of two different kinds of organisms -- he only studies ID and IC within single organisms. Also, computer simulations of evolution are very crude and unreliable.

Furthermore, it is discussed in any good textbook on evolutionary biology.

This is known as "bibliography bluffing." So far as I know, most textbooks on evolutionary biology do not discuss criticisms of evolution.
5.4.2008 1:50am
LM (mail):
Larry,

Why couldn't the containment tube evolve after bees are already pollinating this type of flower?
5.4.2008 2:02am
LM (mail):
whit and Larry Fafarman,

Would you two please decide between yourselves whether intelligent design is science or metaphysics, because from a skeptic's point of view it looks an awful lot like those goalposts are on wheels?
5.4.2008 2:06am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
LM said,
Why couldn't the containment tube evolve after bees are already pollinating this type of flower?

I don't understand what you are saying here. By "type of flower," I presume you mean the type of flower using buzz pollination, i.e., a flower where the pollen is contained in tubes. So how could something that already exists -- the containment tubes -- evolve afterwards?

Here is how buzz pollination works: the insect grabs the flower and the insect then vibrates its wings in a special way -- perhaps involving special muscles (I don't know) -- and the vibrations shake the pollen loose from the tube. The characteristics of both the flower and the insect are very closely coordinated and these characteristics cannot evolve gradually -- they are all or nothing. And as I pointed out, even if the co-dependent characteristics could evolve by gradual changes, the gradual changes would provide a benefit only if those gradual changes co-exist in both organisms at the same time and place, and that is unlikely if the gradual changes are rare.

whit and Larry Fafarman,

Would you two please decide between yourselves whether intelligent design is science or metaphysics, because from a skeptic's point of view it looks an awful lot like those goalposts are on wheels?

My ideas about co-evolution here have nothing to do with intelligent design! Co-evolution concerns the evolution of interspecies relationships whereas ID concerns evolution within a single species. My arguments about co-evolution assume that the principle of intelligent design is not a barrier to mutations within a single species.
5.4.2008 3:27am
LM (mail):
Larry,

I was referring to your apparent belief that ID is science, while whit believes it is not science, but metaphysics.

As for the buzz pollination, I may be missing something, but I don't understand why the containment tube couldn't evolve gradually, the flower having previously had a more common structure that also allowed pollination by the same bee (and possibly by other insects, wind, etc).
5.4.2008 4:32am
Alan K. Henderson (mail) (www):
My sinuses are better now.

Theologian Francis Scaeffer introduced a principle of Christian evangelism that applies to the art of persuasion in general. The conventional wisdom says to lead with your gospel, to make it as logical and appealing as possible, in hopes that the audience will accept it. But there's one problem; people are not open to competing worldviews unless they first find significant fault with their own.

To state the obvious, persuasion assumes that the idea you're selling is right and the competing ones are at least partially wrong. Living at odds with reality ultimately brings humans into conflict with their own self-interest. Thus the art of persuasion must begin with the other person's worldview, to identify the point(s) at which that worldview comes into greatest conflict with that person's self-interest.

This isn't possible unless one can first establish some common ground on what defines reality. All factions in the origins debate want to make sense of the world, but they have different perceptions as to what is sensible. Creationists and many evolution skeptics in general can't find the sense in the basic evolutionary mechanism I described earlier: "a mechanism by which organisms can generate new complex systems." Behe and other skeptics can make sense of it in some cases but not in others. Atheist evolutionists can't make sense of the notion that phenomena external to the physical universe even exist, much less had any influence over the origins of species; everything that is real has a scientific explanation. Many evolutionists perceive evidence of evolution in our lifetimes, which reinforces their belief that it happened back then. Common ground is pretty scarce, and people who debate this topic who can find any of that common ground are even scarcer.

One also has to know what the other side actually believes if one is to address the opposing worldview. Treating all objections to evolution as religious in nature ignores the nonreligious ones and thus fails to accomplish this task. (Hey, for some people it's evolution skepticism that influences religion and not the other way around - and some treat the two as separate issues.)
5.4.2008 5:18am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
LM said,
I was referring to your apparent belief that ID is science, while whit believes it is not science, but metaphysics.

I never said in this comment thread that I believe that ID is science, but since you raised this issue, I will respond. Yes, I think that ID is science. It uses scientific observations and scientific analysis, and it does not reference religious sources. It is merely an effort to determine the probability that particular mutations could occur by what we know to be natural means. The intelligent designer is not identified. The name "intelligent design" is unfortunate because it implies the existence of an intelligent designer -- then people start asking who the intelligent designer is, what does the intelligent designer look like, etc..

As for the buzz pollination, I may be missing something, but I don't understand why the containment tube couldn't evolve gradually, the flower having previously had a more common structure that also allowed pollination by the same bee (and possibly by other insects, wind, etc).

The pollen-containing tube cannot evolve gradually -- it is an all-or-nothing structure. Something that could evolve gradually would be the strength of adherence of the pollen to the flower.

One way in which co-evolutionary development of buzz pollination might occur would be as follows -- a flower that has regular external pollen could develop the tube-contained pollen while retaining the regular external pollen and then lose regular external pollen after buzz-pollinating insects appear. But that would be assuming that random mutations followed a very complex evolutionary pathway -- unlikely.

Another problem is this, as I pointed out: to produce a benefit, corresponding mutations in both kinds of organisms must co-exist in the same place at the same time, and such co-existence is unlikely when the mutations are rare, which mutations usually are. As I said, there is a big difference between (1) the co-evolution of total co-dependence between two organisms and (2) evolutionary adaptation to widespread fixed physical features of the environment, e.g., air, land in its different forms, and water in its different forms. A pig born with wings anywhere in the world can always fly immediately.
5.4.2008 6:44am
Kurmudge (mail):
I see a lot of inconsistency here, and also some pure ignorance. For example, Hipposgoberserk, exactly what, based on your peerless knowledge of biology, has occurred to create a new species? Are you asserting that because MRSA is, of course, due to the well-known and universally accepted phenomenon of microevolution, the staph in MRSA is no longer staph, even though the pathogenic categorization pretty clearly says that it is? Staph or E-coli evolving from one form of Staph or E-coli to another, so that it is now secreting a variation in its proteins, doesn't make it a new species any more than you having dark hair and greater secretion of melanin makes you less susceptible to skin cancers than me having brown hair and fair skin suffices to turn one of us into something that is not a human.

The point I wonder about above, which surely impressed its expositor when writing it was that the fact that the Dover ID enthusiasts modified some book about Pandas(?) to remove religious overtones, but the book should be banned from any school because its proponents "secretly" (right, all over the newspapers, great secret) wanted to push religion. That is like saying that the SCOTUS must uphold the Parker gun ban because one guy who filed an amicus brief is a militiaman who wants to overthrow the government of the US, or another guy is a handgun importer who wants to sell a truckload on the streets of LA to gang members. Last time I looked, at Volokh, the motives of the proponents were not supposed to matter if the actual, you know, law was on their side.

By this "logic" presented here with great censoring enthusiasm because their hearts are pure, we are supposed to ignore any science that Sam Harris doesn't like. We could prepare an exhausitvely documented lecture featuring arguments only by Steve J. Gould, Richard Dawkins, Stuart Kauffman, Colin Patterson, and Frederick Hoyle, explaining, respectively, problems with pure natural selection and the NDS, punctuated equilibria, random positive mutation, cladistic criticism of inter-species descent "tree", and multiple concurrent steeams of consecutive dependent probabilities over time, and that lecture would be considered "religion" even though every person quoted was an avowed atheist or agnostic.

Gentlemen, remind me not to engage any of you as either scientists, philosophers, or my lawyer.
5.4.2008 10:29am
Randy R. (mail):
Sorry Larry. Any person who claims ID is a science is basicallly lying. You haven't produced any evidence in favor of it; rather, you merely rehash old arguments against evolution and then proclaim -- see! evolution doesn't work, therefore the only remaining possibility is ID. Which is just another word for creationism.

Well, we can both play that game. As many others have pointed out, our bodies and those of other species are deeply flawed. Therefore, the creator didn't do a very good job. We have appendixes that serve no purpose, for instance. We have blood vessels in front of our lens instead of in back, which any competent designer would have done. So therefore, because ID has flaws, evolution must be the correct theory.
5.4.2008 10:30am
whit:
"Would you two please decide between yourselves whether intelligent design is science or metaphysics, because from a skeptic's point of view it looks an awful lot like those goalposts are on wheels?"

LM. it's metaphysics. it REFERENCES and even incorporates some scientific schtuff, but so does LOTS of philosophy.
5.4.2008 2:30pm
LM (mail):
whit,

I don't see how the dictionary definition I quoted above doesn't purport to be science.
5.4.2008 4:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
Any real scientific theory needs evidence to support it. With ID or creationism, which every you choose, you need evidence -- actual evidence -- that a creator created the various species.

Aside from a book written thousands of years ago, where is that evidence? Any film of God creating something? Any records left of actually showing how God created a mouse, or a bacteria? Fossils of God's footprints as he or she walked around the earth? Eyewitness accounts?

I'd settle for even the tiniest bit of real evidence to support the theory. But all you have is one book. And it that's all you need, then evolution still beats anything else.
5.4.2008 4:14pm
LM (mail):
Randy R,

I don't know if your comment was directed at me, but I agree that ID is not good science. But as many of its proponents define it, it claims to be science. I think whit is right insofar as there's something you could call intelligent design that would be strictly metaphysical, but I don't believe that's how the term is actually defined by most who promote it (e.g., see Farfarman, above), as the dictionary definition confirms.
5.4.2008 4:55pm
Chimaxx (mail):
On a related note:

Hallelujah. Rationality returns. A religious group has been rejected in its bid to offer a Master of Science degree. The Institute for Creation Research, which backs a literal interpretation of the Bible, including the creation of Earth in six days, seeks a certificate to grant online degrees in science education in Texas, reports Nature. But the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board voted unanimously last week not to pass the request, following the recommendation of Raymund Paredes, the state's commissioner of higher education. "Religious belief is not science," Paredes said…
5.5.2008 7:42pm