pageok
pageok
pageok
Palin on Creationism.

About nine days ago, shortly after Sarah Palin was announced as the VP candidate, I mentioned in passing what I termed Palin's "ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism." At the time, I had seen only left-wing attacks on her statement that both should be taught in public schools. Not surprisingly, I was immediately attacked in comments as being unfair to Palin.

While I consider Palin's initial statement on the issue to be "ridiculous and embarrassing," I admit that I was unfair to call that statement her "approach" to creationism for two reasons.

First, almost immediately after the debate, Palin backed off her initial statement, so the statement I had seen quoted by the anti-Palin folks did not represent her public views beyond the debate itself. In other words, she quickly reconsidered and changed her approach, so it was unfair of me to call it her approach.

Second, Palin promised not to push creationism into the schools or appoint people who would do so -- and she apparently kept that promise as Governor. So her actual public policy approach to creationism is not to add it to the curriculum.

So what remains of her personal or policy views? Unlike McCain, who says he believes in evolution, Palin has never clearly addressed the truth or falsity of evolution.

In 2006, Palin did say that, if a student brings up creationism, it should be discussed in class. I guess I warily agree that discussion — ie, free inquiry — should not be prohibited, so long as creationism is presented as a religious belief that is not supported by prevailing science. I would certainly hope for a clearer statement of support for evolution from Palin (or any other national candidate who was asked for an opinion).

Further, both evolution and the Big Bang Theory refer to how worlds or organisms changed over time and do not necessarily tell us how these worlds came into being in the first place. For example, it would be contrary to prevailing views of modern science to believe that evolution did not occur; it would not be contrary to modern science to believe that God started the Big Bang, though that belief would not usually be thought of as based on science.

A sort of middle ground would be occupied by the large numbers of Americans who believe that evolution occurred, but that God guided it.

John McCain's comments supporting evolution were followed by this ambiguous statement hinting that he believed that either God started it all or that God guided the process:

At a GOP presidential debate in May 2007 in Simi Valley, Calif., McCain said he believed in evolution.

"But," he added, "I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also."

In this AP story a few days ago, Palin's expressed views on teaching evolution in the schools were explored:

Palin has not pushed creation science as governor.

As a candidate for governor, Sarah Palin called for teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools. But after Alaska voters elected her, Palin, now Republican John McCain's presidential running mate, kept her campaign pledge to not push the idea in the schools.

As for her personal views on evolution, Palin has said, "I believe we have a creator." But she has not made clear whether her belief also allowed her to accept the theory of evolution as fact.

"I'm not going to pretend I know how all this came to be," she has been quoted as saying. . . .

When asked during a televised debate in 2006 about evolution and creationism, Palin said, according to the Anchorage Daily News: "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

In a subsequent interview with the Daily News, Palin said discussion of alternative views on the origins of life should be allowed in Alaska classrooms. "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum," she said.

"It's OK to let kids know that there are theories out there. They gain information just by being in a discussion." . . .

Palin said during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign that if she were elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum, or look for creationism advocates when she appointed board members. . . .

Palin's children attend public schools and Palin has made no push to have creationism taught in them.

Neither have Palin's socially conservative personal views on issues like abortion and gay marriage been translated into policies during her 20 months as Alaska's chief executive. It reflects a hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion by most Alaskans.

"She has basically ignored social issues, period," said Gregg Erickson, an economist and columnist for the Alaska Budget Report.

Sam H (mail):
I agree that the theory of evolution is our best understanding of how things work. If God had a hand in it is unknown and probably always will be. It doesn't bother me if someone thinks that God caused the Big Bang, just don't tell me that the earth is 7,000 years old.
9.7.2008 6:29pm
TerrencePhilip:
Thanks for this post which was very informative, I missed the AP story and was unaware of these interesting facts. I think the early media coverage of Palin was poorly done and may have created some degree of backlash in her favor, though that's just a guess.

I note your phrase saying McCain "says he believes in evolution"- this is a standard way to describe this idea, but linguistically interesting.
9.7.2008 6:30pm
Splunge:
I termed Palin's "ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism."

Well, not only did you jump to conclusions, but -- unless you're hiding a biochemistry PhD somewhere -- you're utterly unqualified to issue a judgment on the question. Most likely, like many others, you're just accepting an argument from authority, that "scientists" somewhere have suggested that there's no big mystery, except possibly a few details, about the evolution of life from nonlife.

Not only is that wrong -- the origin of life, as opposed to the differentiation of species, is still an enormous puzzle that is nowhere near solved -- but it is hardly what I'd call a skeptical, empirical viewpoint. It certainly doesn't entitle one to beat someone else over the head with your more "scientific" point of view.

That is to say, you're entitled to blindly accept arguments from authority, just as much as J. Random Creationist is to reject them. But both are responses to social cues and fads. Neither can pretend to be an empirical viewpoint. The only empirically sound viewpoint for someone who is grossly ignorant of the data is agnosticism and tolerance of the different conclusions of others.

And I say that as someone who is intimately familiar with the biochemistry, who does have a PhD in the relevant areas, and who does think that life arose from nonlife through the mechanisms of mutation and natural selection.

Frankly, I'm a little nauseated by the fanaticism and arrogant contempt with which folks from both sides of the "creationism/evolution" debate who have approximately zero actual understanding of the known facts hurl accusation and argument at each other. Would y'all exhibit the same utter confidence in your point of view if you were arguing for or against the various theories of dark matter, or whether Sag A* is a black hole, or whether the LHC will find the Higgs boson? I think not. A sense of the limitations of your personal expertise would lend your words caution and suggest a modest respect for differing points of view. And yet, your ignorance on the issues surrounding the origin of life is hardly less than on the subject of quantum chromodynamics. Feh. A pox on both your houses.
9.7.2008 6:34pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Splunge: I don't see why a person would need a PhD in biochemistry to accept the validity of evolution any more than he needs a PhD in physics to accept the validity of gravity.
9.7.2008 6:41pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

It doesn't bother me if someone thinks that God caused the Big Bang, just don't tell me that the earth is 7,000 years old.
Don't confuse Young Earth craziness with Intelligent Design. Even 19th century opponents of Darwin's theory considered Bishop Ussher's chronology silly and unbiblical.
9.7.2008 6:42pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Splunge: I don't see why a person would need a PhD in biochemistry to accept the validity of evolution any more than he needs a PhD in physics to accept the validity of gravity.
I can go outside and conduct an experiment to verify that gravity happens. Indeed, in high school physics, we actually did such experiments to verify x=1/2at^2. Evolution is somewhat more subtle of a problem to prove.
9.7.2008 6:44pm
FlimFlamSam:

I guess I warily agree that discussion — ie, free inquiry — should not be prohibited


Wow, good thing you're not a professor or something. Oh wait...
9.7.2008 6:54pm
Stukinirak:
Syd- Why do you say that? Is evolution as obvious to you as gravity is?
9.7.2008 6:54pm
Annonymous Coward (mail):
There is a let's define the terms issue here - one does benefit from a good education when it comes to accepting or rejecting the rubber sheet theory of gravity associated with Einstein. Newtonian gravitation takes less education and understanding - and allows for easier experiments Galileo Tower of Pisa style - and so it goes.

Similary I was smartass enough in one college class to contradict an instructor who made the casual remark: You might as well not believe in Darwin's Theory of Evolution. I promptly said that given a choice of Darwin's Theory and Creationism I would be forced to choose Creationism an unrefuted - and unrefutable - notion whereas Darwin's had been refuted. - and Social Darwinism just as much or more so - Of course in context that simply means refined and extended but it is still true that Darwin is refutable - as all true science is - and refuted. Mendel cooked his data and Ben Franklin lied in his lab reports too. That said to repeat myself it ranks right up there with saying all of David Hilbert's conjectures were true just as all his proofs needed to be refined and extended. Minor subsequent issues don't take away the genius of the concept. What folks mean by evolution when they say they believe in evolution in any detail is frequently falsifiable and also false.
9.7.2008 6:55pm
FlimFlamSam:
I don't know how many other people posting here have science degrees, but I have several, and I don't have any objection whatsoever to the "teach the controversy" approach. I guess I get my libertarian back up a bit when I hear that certain facts should be withheld from students.
9.7.2008 6:58pm
Dan M.:
I think that if she expresses her personal views but promises that she understands the difference between personal beliefs and public policy, I think that's sufficient.

By the way, there is an entire site that debunks most of the smears against her:

http://explorations.chasrmartin.com/2008/09/06/palin-rumors/
9.7.2008 7:05pm
Hoosier:
Clayton E. Cramer --On gravity: what I'd like to know is what percentage of people who compare gravity to evolution actually know how gravity works. Your point is interesting. I'd just add that Newton wrote of his theory of inversal gravitation that anyone who believed it would have to be nuts, since there's no mechanism that could make it work. It's just that the math always turned out right. Darwin was to evolution what Einstein was to gravity: He figured out the mechanism that made the force function in the natural world. Now it is easy to say that both mechanisms are obvious. But in fact they never were, and to this day are hard to teach.

Flim Flam Sam

I admire your open-mindedness, and your confidence in the marketplace of ideas. But what concerns me about teaching ID is that it simply is not science. It might be a correct description of how things work in the natural world. But it is not a scientific theory.

There doesn't seem to be any good parallel. But I imagine someone telling my high school Latin teachers that Proust is just as valid as Horace, and we must read him. The question isn't whether Proust is as good as Roman Lyric. Perhaps it is, and there's no way to settle that one. But one thing Proust certainly isn't is Latin.
9.7.2008 7:09pm
Hoosier:
"universal gravitation"

[Write. Send. Proofread.] What's wrong with my formula?
9.7.2008 7:11pm
FlimFlamSam:
And by the way, the philosophy of science issues relating to the creationism/evolution controversy are deep and present a very teachable moment. What is wrong with students thinking about how science should deal with evidence of supernaturalism and pseudoscientific claims?

Science has limitations and most of it rests on some unprovable assumptions. For instance, science assumes causality and also assumes that under identical conditions, the same results will occur (these are really the same thing if carefully considered). But how do we know the world works that way? How do we know that gravity isn't an r^2 force only under observation but is an r^3 force under all other circumstances?

There are deep and interesting debates that can be had regarding creationism, evolution, scientific philosphy, falsification, etc. I think it is a shame that the scientific and liberal establishment views this discussion as "dangerous knowledge."

I don't agree with the right wing's view that we should teach only abstinence in sex ed, but at least I understand the religious motivation behind it. I really don't understand the scientific and liberal objection to a teach-the-controversy approach, but I have a deep suspicion it's motivated by hostility towards religion more than anything else.
9.7.2008 7:13pm
JimT (mail):
I belong to a fundamentalist church. When I joined, many years ago, my local pastor was a PhD biochemist in his weekday job. He is now retired from his position as a professor at a major university in the West, where he supervised on-campus research. He told me that no real biologist questioned the the fact that organisms did evolve, do evolve, and will evolve in the future.

My own understanding of the matter is quite simple: God, being God, is considerably smarter than his critics. He is perfectly capable of taking thought, and having thought, of devising a system of quarks (or whatever the latest theory requires), packing a great deal of mass-energy into a very small space, and letting go, knowing in advance everything physical that would happen as a consequence.

All that was required from that point forward was to sit quietly for a few billion years, until animals capable of seeing Him in His works appeared, and for the two major groups of fools to appear among them: those who think they comprehend Him, and those who think they don't need Him.

Just be thankful He is the forgiving sort.
9.7.2008 7:15pm
J. Aldridge:
Probability mathematics refutes the theory of evolutionary development but no one has said probability should not be taught in schools.
9.7.2008 7:16pm
JB:
THe problem with creationism is not its rejection of evolution. As Clayton Cramer notes, evolution is hardly easy to experimentally verify.

The problem is creationism's rejection of the scientific method. Creationists reject evolution for lack of proof, and substitute something with even less proof behind it. There is evidence for evolution, and there could possibly be facts that disprove it*--that is science. There is neither evidence for or against creationism, nor could there be.

It's that rejection, and uncomprehension of the value of experimental evidence, that is so dangerous and wrong.


*Evolution here means natural selection leading to speciation. We know natural selection works, within a species--it's another step to say that it can lead to more dramatic changes.
9.7.2008 7:17pm
Rhonil (mail):
It's time for us to progress as a society. I propose a constitutional amendment requiring a test of sorts for candidates: if you cannot explain intelligently - and defend against specious attacks- basic tenets of modern science (natural selection in biology, comparative advantage in economics, both classical and quantum mechanics in physics) you are disqualified from leading. We need to have leaders with both the intelligence and knowledge to push us where we need to go.

Pallin lacks both intelligence and knowledge. She represents the worst "redneck" elements of society. Even if she doesn't want to "force" creationism on pupils, the fact that she even considers it worthy of discussion reveals that she is simply too stupid to lead. We cannot expect such a person to make wise public policy - or trust them with nuclear weapons. This creationism thing is just one aspect of her utter stupidity.
9.7.2008 7:27pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
A lot of students are at least curious about Creationism and Intelligent Design. Why not teach students what the creationists say and compare and contrast to evolution? To do otherwise is to risk making Creationism into a forbidden fruit and we all know how young people take to that.

Some ID advocates accept micro-evolution, but not macro-evolution. They can accept that natural selection along with random mutations will modify existing life, but they reject this mechanism an an explanation for how new species come into being. They also believe that if God guided evolution it would not be random. In other words, the idea of random mutations as the driving force is incompatible with the notion of a guidance by a supreme being.

In any case I don't see why this is a federal issue. The federal government should stay out of education and let the states run it as they see fit. There is no reason I can see for having Washington involved in our school systems.
9.7.2008 7:27pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Considering all the well-documented problems with evolution/Darwinism - which are not taught in our schools, of course - The argument for intelligent design or guided evolution makes a lot of sense.

But "intelligent design" is not "creationism," if one understands "creationism" to mean taking the Biblical creation story literally - seven days and all that.

So one would ask, what was Sarah Palin talking about back in 2006 when the term "creationism" was being bandied about?
9.7.2008 7:28pm
FlimFlamSam:
JB,

I'm not sure that creationism as a whole can be said to reject the scientific method. If you're dealing with the branch of creationism that, no matter what the evidence, ALWAYS says "Well yeah, but God is still behind it," then you are indeed dealing with a non-scientific idea.

But if you are dealing with intelligent design, which says that certain adaptations could not have arisen without some sort of outside intervention, then you are dealing with a falsifiable idea. Show me macroevolution in a laboratory occurring at a sufficient rate without outside help and you will have falsified intelligent design.
9.7.2008 7:29pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Clayton E. Cramer:

I can go outside and conduct an experiment to verify that gravity happens. Indeed, in high school physics, we actually did such experiments to verify x=1/2at^2. Evolution is somewhat more subtle of a problem to prove.

Selective breeders have been proving that intelligent design guides evolution for millennia. ;^)
9.7.2008 7:29pm
David Warner:
JB,

"The problem is creationism's rejection of the scientific method. Creationists reject evolution for lack of proof, and substitute something with even less proof behind it. There is evidence for evolution, and there could possibly be facts that disprove it*--that is science. There is neither evidence for or against creationism, nor could there be.

It's that rejection, and uncomprehension of the value of experimental evidence, that is so dangerous and wrong."

That's compelling - never heard it put that way. Dealing with such a difficult question, evolution then is barely a theory, but its all we have that can claim to be scientific. I'd think that approach would be much appealing than the current dogma handed down from on high and not to be questioned.

Palin seems to have taken an "above my pay grade" approach to evolution, which, while true (pace Popper, its above all our pay grades), dodges the question as much as Obama did on abortion. Here, actions, or the lack thereof, speak louder than words.
9.7.2008 7:30pm
Sam H (mail):
"All that was required from that point forward was to sit quietly for a few billion years, until animals capable of seeing Him in His works appeared, and for the two major groups of fools to appear among them: those who think they comprehend Him, and those who think they don't need Him. "

I like that, consider it stolen.
9.7.2008 7:31pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Probability mathematics refutes the theory of evolutionary development..."

How is that? I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you; I genuinely curious. I trust probability more than Darwin's theory.
9.7.2008 7:31pm
FlimFlamSam:

if you cannot explain intelligently - and defend against specious attacks- basic tenets of modern science (natural selection in biology, comparative advantage in economics, both classical and quantum mechanics in physics) you are disqualified from leading. We need to have leaders with both the intelligence and knowledge to push us where we need to go. Pallin lacks both intelligence and knowledge.


Well it's a good thing you don't require proper spelling!

As someone who understands all the things you have mentioned, I really don't think they have a whole lot to do with being a good political leader, expect perhaps the business about economics.
9.7.2008 7:32pm
egrim (mail):
As an adult who never outgrew his boyhood obsession with dinosaurs, and is perfectly comfortable with evolution, I am also perfectly comfortable with Palin's "hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion."

JimT: good post.

FlimFlamSam: I understand that children do not begin to develop the ability to reason until they are in their teens, as their brains grow and develop. Do you have an opinion on how controversy can be used as a teaching tool for younger students, or did you have older students in mind when you wrote your remarks?
9.7.2008 7:33pm
Malvolio:
The problems with "teaching the controversy" are:

1. Every disagreement is at least theoretically a controversy. Flat-earth, young-earth, second-gunman, anything. By what criteria is creationism worth the time of students and students who are otherwise uninterested?

2. Creationism isn't much of a controversy. It posits that life is the result of the actions of an omnipotent and incomprehensible deity. If you believe that, what fact or logic could possibly dissuade you (or even reinforce your belief)? If you don't believe it, what useful thing might you learn from a course about it?
9.7.2008 7:33pm
metro1 (mail) (www):
Governor Sarah Palin is not sit down for an interview with Charles Gibson of ABC in one week in Alaska.

Via Yahoo News.
9.7.2008 7:36pm
FlimFlamSam:

How is that? I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you; I genuinely curious. I trust probability more than Darwin's theory.


The theory goes that the mechanism by which evolution is proposed to occur, genetic mutation, does not result in successful mutations at a quick enough rate to have made human beings out of amino acids in 3-5 billion years. I don't know enough about the experimental data to know whether it is a supportable criticism or not, but I will say this. The evolutionary record contains "explosions" and time of relative lull. If evolution is a purely probabalistic process, i.e. an "unguided" process, then explosions and lulls would seem very unlikely, unless the rate of genetic mutation changed for a (natural) reason we don't really understand.
9.7.2008 7:36pm
Dan M.:
Sarah Palin gubernatorial debate on C-Span right now.
9.7.2008 7:39pm
Malvolio:
Considering all the well-documented problems with evolution/Darwinism - which are not taught in our schools, of course - The argument for intelligent design or guided evolution makes a lot of sense.
What? No, it doesn't.

Evolution, like all scientific theories, is a way to compress the infinitely complicated web of causality into a (relatively) small set of expressible laws. Of course there are imperfections and our understanding will asymptotically improve.

What is foolish, and what some people seem to be proposing, is to throw up our hands and exclaim, "Ack, it's too complicated. It must be some powerful invisible intelligence that doesn't want us to know!"
9.7.2008 7:41pm
FlimFlamSam:

By what criteria is creationism worth the time of students and students who are otherwise uninterested?


Matters of public concern would seem to be worth the time. Most Americans believe that God created everything, and the controversy relating to intelligent design certainly seem to be a matter of public concern. The same can't be said for flat earth theories or "it's turtles all the way down" type of arguments.


Creationism isn't much of a controversy. It posits that life is the result of the actions of an omnipotent and incomprehensible deity. If you believe that, what fact or logic could possibly dissuade you (or even reinforce your belief)?


If it's as simple as you say, then it's not going to take a lot of time to address in science class, now is it? But as I described above, intelligent design is a species of creationism that is falsifiable; if evolution could be experimentally demonstrated in a feasible way (and maybe it can), then intelligent design will have been falsified, at least in the sense that it is an Arthur-Conan-Doyle-"Whatever remains must be the truth" kind of way.
9.7.2008 7:41pm
Hoosier:
Pallin lacks both intelligence and knowledge.

And you lack the latter, at the very least.
9.7.2008 7:46pm
FlimFlamSam:
egrim,

You asked:

FlimFlamSam: I understand that children do not begin to develop the ability to reason until they are in their teens, as their brains grow and develop. Do you have an opinion on how controversy can be used as a teaching tool for younger students, or did you have older students in mind when you wrote your remarks?


My experience together with my gut tells me that the best time to teach evolution and the creationism/evolution controversy is ninth grade or so. You pretty much have to know where babies come from and have a rudimentary understanding of genetics to get much out of a class discussion of evolution anyway.
9.7.2008 7:48pm
Pal2Pal (mail) (www):
You can believe in both a creator and evolution and be entirely Biblical, in my view.

One of the tenets we find explained about God's creation of man was the right to chose. Now, most interpret that as a choice between good and evil, i.e. the Adam/Eve/apple story. But, it is far greater than that. It means the right to chose our path, some choices leading to failure, some to success. It also means choosing our mate for reproduction, i.e., natural selection, the survival of the fittest.

A reading of the Genesis story could be interpreted to mean God took from the dust/the primordial ooze of chemicals, injected those proteins and amino acids with what, his power, a jolt of atomic power, lightening, whatever, then left the result to go forth and multiply using the one criteria, choice. Low and behold evolution results.

At some point, the evolutionists need to explain why the evolutionary process needed to develop what we call conscience, because unless we are sociopaths, we all have a conscience.

Since I believe that Genesis actually contains the story of creation and re-creation, two distinct stories, I'm left to wonder if it wasn't the re-creation where God breathed into man His Spirit, or could that be conscience? Questions, always questions.
9.7.2008 7:52pm
FlimFlamSam:
And for all the "that's not science!!!!" huffing and puffing, it's important to consider that evolutionary biology and origins astrophyics get close to not being science themselves in a very important sense. A narrow but acceptable view of science is proving all that is provable about the natural world. The statement "X happened in the past" is not technically provable through hypothesis, experimentation, adaptation of the original hypothesis, etc. A good case can be made that science should be limited to making claims along the lines of "in this experimental situation, X happens."

Now, I don't believe science should be so limited, and I don't object to astrophysicists thinking about the Big Bang or evolutionary biologists thinking about evolution. But it is critically important to understand that evolution can only be PROVED possible. Science can never PROVE--in the experimental sense--that evolution is what caused the life that is here now to be here. That is, the statement "All life now is a result of evolution" is not falsifiable until and unless time travel is possible.
9.7.2008 7:55pm
frankcross (mail):
Clayton, in high school I did experiments showing evolution in fruit flies.

And Pal, there is plenty of explanation for why the evolutionary process developed the conscience, it's generally called altruism in the research if you want to google for it. But you otherwise have nicely explained the plausible combination of creation and evolution.
9.7.2008 7:59pm
Just Me (mail):
Personally I think evolution as a completely natural process is wrong-I believe pretty strongly in a God guided and God designed creation.

I don't think this has to be taught in a science class. I would however like to see older high school students and college students provided with more information as to where the controversies are, and where the problem areas are. I am not so sure this belongs in intro courses.

When I was in college I took a class titled "Science and Society" that explored the issue of scientific ethics and controversies as they related to society and beliefs. I think a course like this might be the perfect kind of course to explore the controversy of evolution/creationism/intelligent design. This course could easily be an advanced high school course.

In the end I do not think Palin's positions are unreasonable, and I think demanding somehow that politicians can't believe in a creator or a God designed and God guided creation is wrong.

One of the things that bothers me about this whole debate is that many on the evolution side seem just as determined if not more so to silence those who believe God was involved. I am not sure silencing either side or excluding either side from topics of discussion is a good idea.
9.7.2008 8:05pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
What precisely is the alternative to Palin's 'teach the controversy' attitude? Suppose you're teaching high school or middle school science and a student (Christian, Muslim, whatever) says "My grandma told me that God the Father made all the different animals out of mud when He created the world in 4004 B.C." What do you say? "Sit down and shut up, stupid. Here are the scientific facts that your ignorant grandma doesn't know."? That's not likely to go over very well with students or parents.

I don't teach science, but I once had to break the news to a 10-year-old in 6th-grade Geography (she'd skipped a grade) that Ireland never had any snakes for St. Patrick to kick out.
9.7.2008 8:05pm
EH (mail):
If nothing else has been accomplished in the past week, we at least have "anti-Palin" added to the English language. Karl Rove thanks everyone who has helped to accentuate the worst aspects of the American political system.
9.7.2008 8:07pm
Annonymous Coward (mail):

Probability mathematics refutes the theory of evolutionary development but no one has said probability should not be taught in schools.


No it doesn't. Further the language by rights ought to be a theory not the theory.

Having observed what I call the evolutionary record, I will in the best Bayesian fashion assign probabilities with after the fact knowledge. Folks who believe in sampling theory as a philosophical underpinning of probability should of course be cast into the outer darkness in favor of Bayesians. (smiley)

To the best of my knowledge and belief Darwin neither predicts nor accounts for the Siabon (granted such crosses mostly mule out) - almost certainly a new species as compared to either parent given inter alia the different numbers of chromosome pairs.
9.7.2008 8:07pm
BCrago77 (mail):
It's also worth noting that the Federal Government has much less power over what is taught in schools than State and Municipal governments. The former only has the power of the purse, i.e., to attach conditions to federal monies - to the less than 10% extent that local schools accept federal funds. And does anyone really think that the Federal Government would condition funds on the teaching of creationism? And of course, even with regard to that unlikely scenario, the Vice President's opinion would not really control here.

So this is really more of a symbolic / cultural issue. The idea, among her detractors, is: If this hick gives any credence to creationism, then I don't want her anywhere near the White House (even though, practically speaking, her view would have zero effect on local curricula.)
9.7.2008 8:15pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
dan:

By the way, there is an entire site that debunks most of the smears against her


Maybe there needs to be an entire site devoted to debunking the nonsense on the site you cited. I wonder if you noticed this:

Yes, it seems unlikely that she's going to be in hiding for the next two weeks seeing as she's been in rallies twice in the last two days. Or at least it's going to be real rough, given that she has three media interviews scheduled today (6 September) alone.


Today is 9/7. Let us know if you can find any sign that she did "three media interviews" yesterday. Or today. Or any number other than zero. As metro pointed out above, she's not expected to do her first interview until later this week.

And then there's this distortion:

yes, she did fire the public safety guy — but he said in the Anchorage paper that, for the record, she never, and no one else in her administration ever, tried to make him fire her ex-brother-in-law


What Monegan actually said is this:

For the record, no one ever said fire Wooten. Not the governor. Not Todd. Not any of the other staff … What they said directly was more along the lines of "This isn't a person that we would want to be representing our state troopers."


In other words, he feels he was pressured to fire Wooten, although Palin never "said" this directly. So "no one … tried to make him fire" is not an honest paraphrase of what Monegan actually said.

yes, the state trooper (her sister's ex-husband) she was worried about did: tase her 10 year old nephew


The Taser incident happened in 2003. No one complained about this until 2005, when a messy divorce was happening. That's when the Palins finally decided to report this event to the police. A police investigator asked Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol why they were finally reporting it two years later, after being silent for so long. She said "because of the divorce." Kids say the darndest things!

drive his state patrol car while drinking or drunk


There was no finding that he was drunk. And the only witnesses did not exactly claim they saw him drinking while driving. They only claimed they saw him carry an open beer into the patrol car. What is never mentioned is that these two witnesses have a long, close relationship with Sarah Palin's father.

As far as I know, Mike Wooten has never been arrested for drunk driving. Unlike Todd Palin, George Bush and Dick Cheney.

did threaten to "bring her down"


Sarah admitted years ago that this alleged threat ("bring Sarah Palin down"), supported only via hearsay from Molly, was a political threat, rather than a physical threat. In a police interview in 2005, Sarah said Molly had explained the alleged threat as follows (pdf):

I'm gonna take your sister down … I'm gonna ruin your family … I know people in all the right places, in high places. I know judges. I know attorney's. I have relationships with these guys. You guys are all going down.


This is also documented elsewhere (pdf):

Sarah Palin and Molly McCann both stated that Investigator Wooten made threats that he would "bring down" Sarah and her family. Sarah Palin had no first hand knowledge of the threats. Molly McCann stated that Investigator Wooten made this threat to her several times and that she understood him to mean that he could use his position as a trooper to make life difficult for Sarah.


Molly and Sarah both understood that "bring down" was a political threat, not a threat of violence. They both admitted that to police. But now Sarah is hoping no one will remember that, because she is very interested in selling the notion that she had to warn people that Wooten was a physical threat to her and her family. Even though he wasn't.

did threaten to murder her father and sister


The Palins never alleged that there was a death threat against the sister. They alleged that there was a death threat against the father. No one outside the family heard this threat. Sarah didn't report this to the father until a month later, and it wasn't reported to the police until two months later. If the threat was considered serious, why wasn't it reported sooner? Sarah was asked that question. She said it was because "Wooten had no reason to shoot her father." In other words, she admitted she never took the threat seriously.

the state trooper was suspended when he was put under a court protective order


A DVPO (Domestic Violence Protective Order) was issued because of certain allegations Molly made. A judge quickly dissolved the order because he found the allegations to be unsubstantiated.

On 5/9/05, a court hearing was held regarding the DVPO. "As a result of the hearing the DVPO was quashed. … McCann's counsel was unable to produce any acts of physical or implied violence." This is confirmed in another document (pdf): "during the DVPO hearing, the judge found that there was no basis for issuance of a long-term DVPO."

Despite this, Palin and her defenders are using the existence of the DVPO as proof that Wooten was abusive. Trouble is, the DVPO only proved that Molly was willing to make allegations she couldn't substantiate.

By the way, the site you cited says nothing to address the central issue of Troopergate: Palin lied.

The stellar character reference that Sarah Palin wrote for Mike Wooten is here (pdf). Notice that it was unethical for her to fail to mention that Wooten was her sister's boyfriend (at the time Palin wrote the letter).

Back to your regularly scheduled science programming.
9.7.2008 8:25pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"In any case I don't see why this is a federal issue. The federal government should stay out of education and let the states run it as they see fit. There is no reason I can see for having Washington involved in our school systems.
"

Usually, but not when the state educational policies violate the establishment clause of the first amendment as incorporated through the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution--there I see plenty of a role for federal courts if the plaintiff chooses to sue in that forum.
9.7.2008 8:28pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
oh, the evolution/intelligent design thing... well science can tell me how, but not, ultimately (yet) why- and it's the why the scientists want, isn't it?

and-

I guess I warily agree that discussion — ie, free inquiry — should not be prohibited


so, there are circumstances where it should be prohibited... ya know, you skate some thinnnnnnnnn ice at times.
9.7.2008 8:31pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Flimflamsam:
And by the way, the philosophy of science issues relating to the creationism/evolution controversy are deep and present a very teachable moment. What is wrong with students thinking about how science should deal with evidence of supernaturalism and pseudoscientific claims?


So, are you advocating that creationism/ID be taught specifically as an example of non-science in a Philosophy of Science class to teach the students about falsifiability? That's obviously a valid idea, but it's not what ID proponents are after. Rather, they're after the teaching of ID in Biology class as a valid scientific concept - which it isn't. Meantimes, I'm not sure I'd trust the average high school to get a Philosophy of Science class right - I certainly wouldn't trust MY high school to do so, since it's batting about .300 on good science teachers as is.

But if you are dealing with intelligent design, which says that certain adaptations could not have arisen without some sort of outside intervention, then you are dealing with a falsifiable idea. Show me macroevolution in a laboratory occurring at a sufficient rate without outside help and you will have falsified intelligent design.


The way you've phrased your definition of intelligent design, even observed macroevolution would not falsify it. You've failed to even categorize the types of adaptation that are supposed to be impossible. As written, you're asking evolution to prove the negative - to show that NO adaptation "could not have arisen without...outside intervention" - in order to falsify ID. Such a definition is not only unscientific (as proving the negative is impossible), but also meaningless, as the definition relegates ID to "all the remaining holes in evolution." This definition of ID is more a God of the Gaps argument than a positive contribution to science.
9.7.2008 8:40pm
Nels Nelson (mail):
What do the Grand Canyon and the Big Bang have to do with evolution? Nothing.
9.7.2008 8:40pm
Bill McGonigle (www):
I'm not sure what the big deal is about Creation in a science class. When I took high school science, we reviewed spontaneous generation, Lamarkian evolution, phlogiston theory, the bit about circular and linear motion being incompatible, etc. In each case we constructed tests for those theories.

FlimFlamSam, the mutation spikes are considered a solved problem, IIRC. They coincide almost exactly with our solar system's cycles above and below the plane of the Milky Way, upon which Earth gets pummeled with a high dose of cosmic rays.

Jim - science does have a problem with God starting the big bang - I forget the math, but time loops back on itself as it approaches zero, so there was no 'before the big bang'. See 'A Brief History of Time' by Hawking, he covers it approachably.

The Simulation Argument does provide some interesting science-based reasoning for a creator, though.
9.7.2008 8:51pm
SG:
I don't know how you can teach evolution to believers without talking about creationism. I don't believe in creationism, but it's a real objection that a lot of people have. If you refuse to discuss it when a student mentions it, it seriously undercuts the teacher's credibility on the topic.
9.7.2008 8:54pm
Michael B (mail):
"It's time for us to progress as a society."

That quote has a familiar ring to it.
9.7.2008 8:58pm
ofidiofile (mail):
wow. just...wow. please, say it ain't so! this is my first post at VC, so i won't start it out by attacking either one of the (ridiculous) views defending christian creationism above; but there are so many worn-out canards in the comments, i'd barely know where to begin anyway....

honestly, you don't need an advanced degree to have a reasoned belief in evolution by natural selection, just a good grasp of basic logical principles and the scientific method. i personally don't care if you say "god did it" or not; but wherever you stand on that, it's not an idea that can be tested, so it can never be a scientific thesis. (take a look at the chromosomes of the african apes -- if god actually did create us out of whole cloth, that cloth was an old world primate.)

c'mon, folks! it's time to join the rest of the Real World on this one. our country gets far too much undeserved flack from abroad on legitimate disagreements. but here we really are backwards! you might as well believe hurricanes are sent to punish us for gay people (and if you do believe that, you're patently unreasonable and we have nothing to talk about).
9.7.2008 9:06pm
David Warner:
Bill,

Would Hawking consider it possible that a previous universe (or a previous instantiation of this one) created this universe, and that perhaps intelligent life in this universe would manage to create the next one (thus avoiding heat death)?

Such a scenario would be consistent with some sort of Intelligent Design, although there is a huge leap to be made from that to any sort of God. As I recall the original proposed research project of Demski was to statistically analyze genetic mutation data for signs of intelligence, similar to the work SETI does, but his Center was shut down by Baylor faculty already embarrassed to be working for the "Baptist Notre Dame". I happened to be in Waco at this time.

And no, I was three years too late for Janet's welcoming party.
9.7.2008 9:11pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
As a practical matter, does anyone doubt that under Palin's approach, YEC, ID etc. WILL come up in the high school classroom?

Where none of them belongs until some sort of non-moonbat research program presents some reproducible, refutable evidence that any of the proposals of those ideas has any empirical underpinning.
9.7.2008 9:12pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
frankcross:
Clayton, in high school I did experiments showing evolution in fruit flies.


I know that experiment, I did it for my AP Bio class in sophomore year. It shows genetic inheritance according to expected algorithms, not evolution. The experiment that shows evidence for evolution is the traditional "bacteria-in-a-dish" experiment with antibiotics and plasmids with the resistance to the antibiotics. And it still only shows evidence for the differential survival of variations once developed, not the initial development of variation. So it's not quite as simple as "this experiment demonstrates evolution."

FlimFlamSam again:
And for all the "that's not science!!!!" huffing and puffing, it's important to consider that evolutionary biology and origins astrophyics get close to not being science themselves in a very important sense. A narrow but acceptable view of science is proving all that is provable about the natural world. The statement "X happened in the past" is not technically provable through hypothesis, experimentation, adaptation of the original hypothesis, etc. A good case can be made that science should be limited to making claims along the lines of "in this experimental situation, X happens."


And a good case can be made that the word "proof" has no place in science, as no experiment can be repeated an infinite number of times to confirm that yes, you WILL get the same result from the same experiment under the same conditions. You can DISPROVE a hypothesis in science, but never PROVE it. Science is deductive, not inductive; we work with theories, not theorems. One rules out the impossible and takes the best of what's left - and scientists can never be absolutely sure of what's true, because there's no way to narrow down to only one explanation. And that's why creationism, and ID, are deemed unscientific under this definition - there's no way to rule them out, to eliminate them from the list of possibilities.

So I accept your premise that large-scale evolution cannot be demonstrated via observation, but question the relevance pf the remark when we have other ways to look back through time, such as by studying endogenous retroviral DNA and the (admittedly incomplete) fossil record.

Now, I don't believe science should be so limited, and I don't object to astrophysicists thinking about the Big Bang or evolutionary biologists thinking about evolution. But it is critically important to understand that evolution can only be PROVED possible. Science can never PROVE--in the experimental sense--that evolution is what caused the life that is here now to be here. That is, the statement "All life now is a result of evolution" is not falsifiable until and unless time travel is possible.


I don't understand your rewording. It's not possible to "prove" evolution through observation, therefore it's not possible to falsify evolution? Much of evolutionary theory would be falsified by the discovery of fossilized bunnies from the Precambrian.

Glenn Bowen:
so, there are circumstances where it should be prohibited... ya know, you skate some thinnnnnnnnn ice at times.


You parsed his sentence incorrectly. Dr. Lindgren "warily agrees" that "free discussion" should not be prohibited. He's not only saying that this particular free discussion should not be prohibited.
9.7.2008 9:13pm
David Warner:
Ironically, I think its Palin's progressive ideas on education (which I share) which got her in trouble. Instead of seeing education as the "Sage on the Stage", progressives believe that students should be provided with information (and increasingly with the tools to find their own) in order to "construct" their own concepts and theories and then to test them. This approach is called "Constructivism"*.

As her own father was a science teacher and constructivism is now regnant in Ed Schools (with some recent modifications to integrate it with some rigorous practice with the constructed concepts) and goes back to Dewey, it is not unlikely that the "more info is good" and "let them discuss it" frame is her natural one for education issues.

That she was less familiar with the philosophy of science implications is not surprising and hardly disqualifying.
9.7.2008 9:20pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Bill McGonicle:
FlimFlamSam, the mutation spikes are considered a solved problem, IIRC. They coincide almost exactly with our solar system's cycles above and below the plane of the Milky Way, upon which Earth gets pummeled with a high dose of cosmic rays.


Link? I've been Googling around and can't get a thing, and I want to see this as it sounds interesting. I HAVE found an article that links the frequency of cancer to the frequency of cosmic waves hitting the earth, but the site's down at the moment:
http://www.astronomycast.com/astronomy/ep-72-cosmic-rays/
9.7.2008 9:22pm
Curt Fischer:
On matters of controversy, like evolution, I think its best that teachers retreat to the data and avoid imposing the currently most popular interpretations of the data on their students.

What if a teacher were really to go through all the various data in biology, from the genetic code being universal from even bacteria and primates, to the concordance of physiological phylogenies to genetic phylogenies, to the fossil record, to the experimental results on in-lab microevolution, and just stop there? He could end by saying "Well, that's all we know for sure....it's a lot to remember, this jumble of facts, does anyone think of a way we can make sense of all this?"

I would honestly be interested in i) whether high school students could be drawn into a legitmate and honest conversation on the topic, and ii) if so, what they would say. Too often the ID vs. evolution debate devolves into arguing what we should make kids think. But high school kids aren't too dumb--they can think for themselves about a lot of complex topics already.

BTW, the blog I mentioned in the other thread has, somewhat unusually, a post about evolution and intelligent design today that I found highly interesting.
9.7.2008 9:24pm
erp:
Wow. The arrogance of academe is out in all its glory. Evolution and gravity equally provable forces of nature! So glad to have that cleared up.
9.7.2008 9:24pm
PC:
I think we should teach the controversy and introduce an alchemy curriculum into our chemistry classrooms.
9.7.2008 9:24pm
David Warner:
"As a practical matter, does anyone doubt that under Palin's approach, YEC, ID etc. WILL come up in the high school classroom?"

You don't think it does already? Is the chilling effect the best policy? Perhaps it is, but that is non-obvious.

If anything, it would likely be a bad thing for Creationism (as opposed to ID) if it did and the teacher was prepared for it.
9.7.2008 9:26pm
Mike S.:
I will leave the politics to others. However, a couple of scientific points.


If you want to argue about whether there is enough time for the breadth of successful mutations we see through the fossil record, you need some way to know what the liklihood of a given mutation being adaptive in some environment. As yet, we haven't a clue how to do so, especially for life forms and environments we only understand partially. Fossils tell us something about the structure of ancient life forms, but very little about their biochemistry, and, so far, nothing about their immunology. Thus, those sorts of arguments, from either side, must be dismissed as incomplete at best.

2) The big bang represents (at least for classical gravity) a true singularity--physics cannot go past it, at least without a (so far lacking) theory of quantum gravity. Speculations, such as Hawking's, about whether certain initial conditions were required remain speculative; as does the claim God initiated the big bang.

3) As a practicing scientist, I am not sure I'd trust a bunch of philosphers of science to get it right. Nor would I trust a bunch of practicing scientists. Nevermind a bunch of school kids being taught by an education major.

4) One ought to take care to distinguish, in talking about 'controversies' regarding evoulution, between controversies among scientists, which tend to revolve around technical details within the framework of evolution, and controversies betwen scientists and those who reject the conclusions of science in favor of what they believe to be Divine Revelation. Much of the politics seems to use the existence of the former as an argument for including the latter in the science classroom.
9.7.2008 9:27pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I don't know how many other people posting here have science degrees, but I have several, and I don't have any objection whatsoever to the "teach the controversy" approach. I guess I get my libertarian back up a bit when I hear that certain facts should be withheld from students.
Agreed -- but what "facts" are there in Creationism?
9.7.2008 9:29pm
Hoosier:
Flim Flam:

"The statement "X happened in the past" is not technically provable through hypothesis, experimentation, adaptation of the original hypothesis, etc."

I'm just not sure that this is correct, again keeping in mind that we are using "provable" in the sense meant by scientists. Not by Derrida.

Prior to the discovery of the Silurian rock layer, advocates of evolutionary theory made some predictions about what life would have been like *prior to* the life forms found in the oldest geological era then known. When miners in Wales hit upon that next layer, the predictions about what they'd find and where it would be were proved accurate.

Natural history can be explained only by evolution, most likely through natural selection. Biblical creatinism lacks an explanation of natural history. It can't be taught as a science for that reason alone, since it presents a "theory" that cannot explain most of the important, empirically-verifiable information.

Hoos the Magnificent has Spoken!
9.7.2008 9:39pm
Katl L (mail):
I learn evolution theory in a catholic school and from a priest, no least.We never were taught of creationism
9.7.2008 9:40pm
Hoosier:
Math-Mage:

"So, are you advocating that creationism/ID be taught specifically as an example of non-science in a Philosophy of Science class to teach the students about falsifiability? That's obviously a valid idea, but it's not what ID proponents are after. "

That's actually similar to how I would oike to use it. Though what concerns me most is that so many people don't understand that "theory" in science is not the same as "theory" among the rest of us. ID is not a scientific theory. But it is a theory. So ID advocates use this ignorance of terminology to make an appeal to Americans' sense of fair play: ID is a theory. But so is natural selection. So why not teach both? Isn't that fair?

Teach high school kids WHY this argument is not valid, and you have done a great thing for our ed system. And our kids.
9.7.2008 9:43pm
Michael B (mail):
In a cosmological sense - broadly conceived - virtually every grade-A theist is a "creationist". Hence the first thing we need to do if we're to truly progress is eliminate or at least radically marginalize most all theists from any and all social/political discourse that might impinge upon policy. Separating the wheat from the chaff is basic.
9.7.2008 9:49pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
Hey folks
Didn't we have an opinion by a federal judge in Pennsylvania which went into painstaking detail in coming to the conclusion that creationism wasn't science because none of it was verifiable through the scientific method.
Best,
Ben
9.7.2008 9:51pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
How can creationism be taught in science class when the method/goal of "scientific" creationism (i.e., to use bits of "scientific" information to prove a fixed conclusion) is completely at odd with the scientific method?

By definition, only controversies involving application of the scientific method should be taught in science class. I'm pretty much a Libertarian, and open to the free exchange of ideas, but I don't think Spanish should be taught in English class.
9.7.2008 9:51pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
Math_Mage, excellent comments! I am dismayed that there is so much utter nonsense being spouted by people who should know better. At least nobody, hopefully, is arguing that we should teach creationism in a science class. However we do have a number of people who think that ID is a valid subject for a science class. ID is not science for many reasons. With ID your start out with the answer and then go about attempting to refute evolution. The basic approach with ID is to attempt to show that some aspect of the theory of evolution is wrong or at least improbable and use that result to argue that if that is the case then ID is true. Yes a common technique in mathematical proof is to show that if an assumption leads to a contradiction then the opposite is true. The obviously fallacy is that there are not only two possibilities, ID and the theory of evolution. Even if you do show that there are problems with some aspect of the theory of evolution that says nothing about the truth of ID.
9.7.2008 10:00pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Michael B:
In a cosmological sense - broadly conceived - virtually every grade-A theist is a "creationist". Hence the first thing we need to do if we're to truly progress is eliminate or at least radically marginalize most all theists from any and all social/political discourse that might impinge upon policy. Separating the wheat from the chaff is basic.


Don't even joke about that, you scared the h*ck out of me. (feel free to read "heck," "hick" or "Huck," but no pun was intended.) Even as a small-a atheist that scared me.
9.7.2008 10:00pm
NRWO:
I agree with Math_Mage:

Macroevolution can be tested using a variety of methods:

1. If you claim humans evolved from apes but not from lizards, then you should be able to show, through genetic analysis, that genetic overlap is greater for humans and apes than for humans and lizards.

2. If you claim that birds evolved from lizards, you should be able to show, through radiocarbon dating, that lizard fossils are older than bird fossils.

3. If you claim that humans were made by an all-powerful deity, then you should be able to show that humans were made by an all-powerful deity.

One of the above is not a scientific claim; the others are, and provide clues about how humans (and other animals) evolved.

Note: I'm Catholic and have never felt theologically uncomfortable with evolution. Although the laity hold diverse views on the subject, the Holy See has been supportive:

"Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory." -- John Paul II
9.7.2008 10:01pm
MQuinn:
Ben,

The case you refer to is probably Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Dist. (M.D. Pa.). Interesting case, too!
9.7.2008 10:06pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
lindgren:

almost immediately after the debate, Palin backed off her initial statement, so the statement I had seen quoted by the anti-Palin folks did not represent her public views beyond the debate itself. In other words, she quickly reconsidered and changed her approach, so it was unfair of me to call it her approach.


I think it's fair to conclude that her "initial statement" is the more authentic expression of her personal beliefs.

Palin has not pushed creation science as governor.


I find small comfort in the fact that she has not yet imposed her beliefs on the Alaska schools. She's new. Rome wasn't built in a day. Likewise for Jesusland.
9.7.2008 10:16pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
richard nieporent:

At least nobody, hopefully, is arguing that we should teach creationism in a science class.


Maybe nobody but Palin. "Teach creationism in a science class" seems to be the plain meaning of her initial statement:

Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both [evolution and creationism]. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."
9.7.2008 10:16pm
Michael B (mail):
Math_Mage,

I'm not 100% certain I catch your intent, though I suspect (and trust) I do. Otoh it wasn't merely a "joke" since there are some unexplored themes that inhere to the broader set of discussions (e.g., the difference between a philosophical/metaphysical materialism vs. more simply a methodological materialism as applied in the lab) - though in that sense it certainly was wholly intended ironically.
9.7.2008 10:36pm
Richard Nieporent (mail):
At least nobody, hopefully, is arguing that we should teach creationism in a science class.

Maybe nobody but Palin.

jukeboxgrad, as you well know, I was referring to the people posting on this site. I would be concerned about Palin's views on Creationism if she was being considered for Secretary of Education. However, she is running for VP. If we could survive Gore as VP, I guess we don 't have to worry about lack of scientific knowledge in a VP.
9.7.2008 10:47pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Michael B:
I was merely expressing the hope that your statement (that no theists should play a role in social/political discourse) was not intended literally. "Joke" fails to capture the more serious (but not literal) possibilities like irony/sarcasm, so my bad there.

jukeboxgrad, one would assume that the Romans at least made a step or two of progress in building Rome over 2 years. Palin's had at least that much time to advocate creationism (and possibly another decade as mayor, but I don't know how much control the mayor has over education policy), and she hasn't except for that one statement. One would conclude that even if she wishes in her heart of hearts that creationism were taught alongside evolution, that she has enough sense to keep it out of her political life.
9.7.2008 10:48pm
Smokey:
Actually, ID isn't a theory, it's a hypothesis. So is Al Gore's globaloney warming hypothesis. But AGW/global warming is taught in the classrooms of government schools nationwide. What's sauce for the goose, etc.
9.7.2008 10:49pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
It seems to me that the place high-school science teachers (and not only they) are most likely to get stuck is when students ask about the origin of life. Natural selection is a powerful idea and an easily grasped one. But you need genetic descent and some variation in the descendents for it to build anything. At least some students are going to wonder how self-replicating organisms of any kind came to exist in the first place. Natural selection can't have built self-replication, can it? You need there already to be self-replication before it can operate.

I wish I could now remember how my own high school biology text dealt with this. I do remember its account of the experiments whereby fairly simple organic molecules were built by passing massive electrical currents through a slurry of more primitive compounds. The idea we were left with was that some sludge, boiled off from the primordial soup, washed up on the shore of an oceanic volcano, where lightning happened to strike it, and . . .

The text must certainly have begun with "We have no idea how life originated," and then proceeded with the above as the most promising scientific speculation. But what I retained was the zapped-sludge hypothesis, not the surely more important point that we didn't know (and still don't, so far as I know) how there came to be self-replicating organisms for natural selection to select among.

Questions to the bioscientists here: Are we any further along on this question? Are experiments at making, say, component molecules of RNA from inorganic molecules by means of heat, voltage, and the like really "science" in Popper's sense (I mean, is there a hypothesis that can be falsified this way)? And what would you say to the kid who wants "science's answer" to the question of how life originated?
9.7.2008 10:53pm
Randy R. (mail):
If our next VP believed in astrology, or tarot cards, I think that would be of interest to the voters. Her belief in creationism is along those lines. We should consider whether she is the type of person we want as a nation based on the sum total of her as a person, which includes her experience and beliefs.

So -- does she really believe in Creationism? Personally, I would like a prez or vp who is a bit better educated than that.

But that's just me.
9.7.2008 10:55pm
ofidiofile:
@Michelle Dulak Thomson

there is a particularly helpful page on abiogenesis at the Talk.Origins archive, entitled Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Probability of Abiogenesis Calculations. the rest of the site makes great browsing for anyone curious about evolutionary biology.
9.7.2008 11:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
Okay. So now we know that everything we knew about Sarah Palin is incorrect. She doesn't *really* believe in creationism, and in any case certainly doesn't want to force it on schools.

We now know that Sarah isn't really just about abstinence, but is in favor of contraception as well.

She isn't really against gays, since she has gay friends.

And this is what energizes the religious wingnut base? Seems to me that they would be distancing themselves from her, yet they flock to her. Why, if she isn't going to push any of their pet issues?
9.7.2008 11:04pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
As scary as it may be, in most polling in the United States, belief in creationism/ID is on par with belief in Darwinian evolution through natural selection. I suspect that creationism would be a big winner among the delegates of the Republican convention. So it may be good politics to reject scientific knowledge.
9.7.2008 11:08pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
To expand on my last e-mail about the politics, I would bet that there are more Evolutionists for McCain than Creationists for Obama. I'm thinking the creationists probably tend to vote as a block, but I could be wrong.
9.7.2008 11:11pm
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
What jukeboxgrad calls "the plain meaning of her initial statement" is not plain to me. What was the question she was attempting to answer? The newspaper story carefully omits that.

To judge from her clarification the next day, it may well have been "What should a science teacher say if a student asks about creationism?" In which case we're back to my question of 7:05pm: do you prefer that a teacher politely and carefully discuss the differences between creationism and evolutionary theory, or just tell the student to shut up and listen to what he has to say about evolution?

Too many evolutionists seem to think that Darwin proved the truth of Lucretianism, i.e. atheistic hedonist materialism. He did nothing of the sort. The Pope has no trouble reconciling theism with evolution and natural selection, and science teachers ought to be able to admit the limits of evolutionary theory, pointing out that it contradicts young-earth creationism but tells us nothing one way or the other about e.g. the existence of God, the origins of life, or the possibility of life after death.
9.7.2008 11:19pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Smokey:
Whatever you may think of AGW, it's scientific. ID isn't scientific, so doesn't deserve the label of "hypothesis."

Michelle Dulak Thomson:
The experiment you're thinking of is the Miller-Urey experiment, which spontaneously produced certain amino acids (as well as lots of other unimportant compounds) from conditions like those postulated to have existed on early Earth.

I don't know what the latest is in abiogenesis, but it couldn't hurt to do some Google Scholar searches for "ribozyme", "abiogenesis", "spontaneously forming", and follow links. Wikipedia is a good place to find search keywords on the subject, but the subject is controversial enough that I wouldn't trust it to be fully objective.

And...falsifiable? Well, not really; all we can really do with abiogenesis is determine if it is possible for life to spontaneously form over REALLY long periods of time, not if that's what actually happened. Unlike with evolutionary theory, there's very little in the way of historical data for abiogenetecists (?) to work with; the best researchers can do is plug in known factors about early-Earth conditions and go from there. So abiogenesis isn't really scientific, just like most other origin-of-life stories.
9.7.2008 11:24pm
Lyle (mail):
Thanks for correcting your previous mischaracterization of Palin's views on creationism.
9.7.2008 11:28pm
Alligator:

Actually, ID isn't a theory, it's a hypothesis. So is Al Gore's globaloney warming hypothesis. But AGW/global warming is taught in the classrooms of government schools nationwide. What's sauce for the goose, etc.


Except global warming has more to support it than a mere argument from authority. Students can actually examine data and learn how to assess its significance.

Also, global warming doesn't raise any Establishment Clause issues.
9.7.2008 11:37pm
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Oops, forgot to note one thing: there's a big gap between "is there a spontaneous path from non-life to life?" and "did life develop spontaneously from non-life 4-5 billion years ago?" The former is pretty obviously true, but likelihoods are totally unknown; the latter is not even scientific. However, if we can observe the former taking place (or at least do so piecemeal as seems to be the current strategy), it transforms from "theoretically possible" to "practically achievable," which makes the latter a lot more plausible.
9.7.2008 11:54pm
Smokey:
Math_Mage:

I specifically referred to Al Gore's AGW/globaloney warming hypothesis, which is completely unfalsifiable [and even if it weren't, keep in mind that Gore first stated that the planet would face "climate catastrophe within ten years" in 1994]. We're still waiting.

Reading comprehension: -1.
9.8.2008 12:04am
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Sorry, Smokey, I'm not in the habit of distinguishing between five hundred varieties of an idea I don't pay much attention to anyway. What in Al Gore's AGW theory is different from others and uniquely unfalsifiable?
9.8.2008 12:17am
Pal2Pal (mail) (www):
What we believe privately as a matter of faith does not have to coincide at all with what we think should be taught in the school. As far as I can tell, it is only the evolutionists who insist their way is the only way to the exclusion of all others. Those who believe in a Creator can easily adapt the evolutionary theory into their doctrine. It's easy since God has no limits, unlike man. And God has little interest in the physical, He/She is all about the Spiritual anyway.

And I laugh at how adamant some on this board are about the insistence of teaching evolution as the only way, with no room for the "evolution" of science itself.

When I was in 7th grade, my science teacher told us that going to the moon was impossible because there wasn't a plane big enough to carry the food and fuel necessary for such a trip and no human could live long enough anyway. That was still in the days of propeller flight as the norm. He also told us that no colonization of space was possible because girls couldn't travel while on their menstrual periods. My science teach had advanced degrees in science and chemistry and taught the prevailing thinking of the day.

Who predicted a decade or two ago that mapping the human genome and tracking DNA around the world would lead to the single ancestor theory, the Adam and Eve? How'd those guys so many thousands of years ago get that one right? I find the entire subject fascinating from a Biblical point of view. The Mormons have a saying over the Temple that says, "The Glory of God is Intelligence." They and many others believe that God reveals as we are ready to accept the revelations, whether they be spiritual, scientific, or physical, etc. I know that I don't know if or what God is, but I do know that if there is a God, He is capable of ordering the universe and life any damn way He wants.
9.8.2008 12:19am
Hoosier:
Loophole1998:
To expand on my last e-mail about the politics, I would bet that there are more Evolutionists for McCain than Creationists for Obama. I'm thinking the creationists probably tend to vote as a block, but I could be wrong.

As to raw numbers, you are probaly right. But voting as a block? I can assure that this is not true. Obama has roughly 90% of the black vote. A significant number of African Americans belong to denominations that take a literalist approach to the Bible.
9.8.2008 12:25am
FlimFlamSam:
My point earlier, which was apparently misunderstood by a few, was that proving evolution could have caused life on earth is not the same as proving that it did. The statement "evolution caused life on earth" is not falsifiable without time travel. The statement "the process of evolution could have caused life on earth" is falsifiable without time travel, though it might take an experiment designed to last millennia.

The statement "X happened in the past" is not technically falsifiable.
9.8.2008 12:26am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
ofidiofile,

Thanks for the link. I wasn't looking for arguments against arguments against abiogenesis, exactly, so much as arguments for it. (And some of the assumptions seem generous — if amino acids are to be generated the Miller-Urey way, which requires a hell of a lot of energy, I don't see how the entire volume of water constituting the oceans is supposed to contain them at those concentrations. "A dilute soap solution" sounds easy, but a planet-girdling ocean's worth of it? Never mind.)

If wanting something to be true and then rooting around for supporting evidence is poor science, then I think abiogenesis and ID are in the same boat. The trouble is that it's hard to introduce a class of high schoolers to evolutionary theory without "but how did life start?" coming up at least occasionally. So what do you say? The honest answer is "We don't know," but I suspect that leaves too wide a crack for the theological to slip in for some people's taste.

I should add that, as the child of two biochemists, I've always taken abiogenesis on authority. Or faith, if you prefer.
9.8.2008 12:27am
Hoosier:
"Randy R. :
If our next VP believed in astrology, or tarot cards, I think that would be of interest to the voters. Her belief in creationism is along those lines. We should consider whether she is the type of person we want as a nation based on the sum total of her as a person, which includes her experience and beliefs.

So -- does she really believe in Creationism? Personally, I would like a prez or vp who is a bit better educated than that. "

Randy--What is Obama's take on creationism? Does he say that evolution through natural slection is the way that our current species came to be? When has he said what his position on this is?
9.8.2008 12:29am
Hoosier:
"The statement "X happened in the past" is not technically falsifiable."

That depends on "X". Example:

X="A plague that killed all canines"
9.8.2008 12:32am
FlimFlamSam:
Hoosier,

The statement "X happened in the past" is not falsifiable by experimentation, which is what I meant. I apologize for not being more specific.
9.8.2008 12:45am
FlimFlamSam:
Michelle Dulak Thomson,

Great post!
9.8.2008 12:47am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
as you well know, I was referring to the people posting on this site


I didn't know. I was reading you literally. But I'm happy to be corrected. My mistake.

However, she is running for VP. If we could survive Gore as VP, I guess we don't have to worry about lack of scientific knowledge in a VP.


I would be very much more inclined to agree with you if McCain wasn't 72.

And it's not just "lack of scientific knowledge." I see it as something more fundamental: fundamentalism. In other words, I think her remark ("teach both") tells me something about her attitude toward the very idea of science.
9.8.2008 1:06am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
One would conclude that even if she wishes in her heart of hearts that creationism were taught alongside evolution, that she has enough sense to keep it out of her political life.


I see your point. I agree that Palin is sensitive to how far she can go, at any particular moment. When she fired the librarian (after the librarian took a position against book-banning), Palin backtracked in response to the public uproar. I think something similar happened when she quickly backpedaled from her original creationist remark. But I take little comfort in this. I see her having a strong personal agenda, and I see her as someone who will be relentless in enacting that agenda. Sooner or later, one way or another. They don't call her Barracuda for nothing.
9.8.2008 1:06am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
What jukeboxgrad calls "the plain meaning of her initial statement" is not plain to me. What was the question she was attempting to answer? The newspaper story carefully omits that.


I agree with you that it would nice to know the exact question. I wish I could find it, but I can't. However, at the bottom of the article I already cited, they provided a more complete version of the statement she made:

Next, Carey asked about teaching alternatives to evolution - such as creationism and intelligent design - in public schools. [...] Palin: "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And, you know, I say this, too, as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject - creationism and evolution. It's been a healthy foundation for me. But don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides."


(Emphasis added.) I think that's sufficiently unambiguous.

To judge from her clarification the next day, it may well have been "What should a science teacher say if a student asks about creationism?"


I think it's very hard to read her entire answer and imagine that it's an answer to the question you're imagining. It seems to me that the question was something like this: 'should public schools teach creationism, or only teach evolution?'
9.8.2008 1:06am
Alligator:

The trouble is that it's hard to introduce a class of high schoolers to evolutionary theory without "but how did life start?" coming up at least occasionally. So what do you say? The honest answer is "We don't know," but I suspect that leaves too wide a crack for the theological to slip in for some people's taste.


Your dilemma incorrectly assumes that evolution tries to explain (or is presented as an explanation of) how life started. Stated roughly, evolution is concerned with life forms, not the the origin of life itself.
9.8.2008 1:07am
FlimFlamSam:
Alligator,

I think it is a little uncharitable to suggest that evolution is ONLY concerned with how Life Form A becomes Life Form B and is unconcerned with how the first life form(s) came to be. I think most scientists and lay people would say that the term "evolution" broadly encompasses both fields of inquiry.
9.8.2008 1:15am
Hoosier:
Alligator--Well. that's precisely it. Just as universal gravitation is not a theory about /why/ there are masses, but focuses on explaining why they aren't flying away from each other all the time.

Natural history is not ontology. That isn't a /weakness/ in natural history.
9.8.2008 1:16am
ofidiofile:
@Michelle Dulak Thomson

"I wasn't looking for arguments against arguments against abiogenesis, exactly, so much as arguments for it."

not sure what this statement means.

"rooting around"? despite what someone else mentioned previously, science is inductive, not deductive (that's logic/math), in the same way that a forensic investigation of crime is inductive; that is, you have an overarching hypothesis (X did Y at Z), take a look at the myriad pieces of evidence and what they tell you about XYZ, and if what the body of evidence suggests isn't explained by your thesis, you toss the old one out and keep looking till you get a best-fit. "science" -- no? ID is not science because it doesn't generate more, testable hypotheses; it's re-hashed creationism, where we say "I can't think of any way this could have come about by natural selection, therefore it was Intelligently Designed."

i just don't see abiogenesis being as problematic as you think, seeing as how even today we have (strictly speaking) no-living particles that pass heritable characteristics, i.e., viruses, viroids, and prions; no, there's not the huge body evidence that we have for evolution, but still....

anyway, i won't go out on a limb on the issue -- i know biology, but i'm no biochemist. regardless: here's a more general page, with links to all articles on abiogenesis on the site.

ta
9.8.2008 1:18am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
I think it's worth mentioning something that's mentioned in the article I already cited a couple of times:

The Republican Party of Alaska platform says, in its section on education: "We support giving Creation Science equal representation with other theories of the origin of life. If evolution is taught, it should be presented as only a theory."
9.8.2008 1:39am
Alligator:
FlimFlamSam:


I think it is a little uncharitable to suggest that evolution is ONLY concerned with how Life Form A becomes Life Form B and is unconcerned with how the first life form(s) came to be.


Regardless of whether it's charitable, it's true.


I think most scientists and lay people would say that the term "evolution" broadly encompasses both fields of inquiry.


According to Google, "evolution" has many definitions (define:evolution) including a 2001 comedy sci-fi movie directed by Ivan Reitman, the 20th single released by Ayumi Hamasaki, an advertising campaign launched by Unilever in 2006, and an album by Brazilian heavy metal band Viper.

Humor aside, why do you think that most scientists and lay people define evolution that way? Here's ">just one definition that does not encompass the origin of life.
9.8.2008 1:40am
TDPerkins (mail):

Next, Carey asked about teaching alternatives to evolution - such as creationism and intelligent design - in public schools. [...] Palin: "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And, you know, I say this, too, as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject - creationism and evolution. It's been a healthy foundation for me. But don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides."


And there is nothing here to worry about is there then? In fact, there is still nothing here contradictory of the idea she was speaking in reaction to the question, "What should a science teacher say if a student asks about creationism?"

In fact, jukeboxgrad, you are ignoring almost the entirety of her response to focus on the few words which themselves lend small credence to your attack. Small beer, really.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
9.8.2008 1:43am
Alligator:
Sorry, text links are not my strong suit. The aforementioned definition

More evolution eduction resources (so no one accuses me of cherry-picking).
9.8.2008 1:52am
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Pal2Pal:
What we believe privately as a matter of faith does not have to coincide at all with what we think should be taught in the school. As far as I can tell, it is only the evolutionists who insist their way is the only way to the exclusion of all others. Those who believe in a Creator can easily adapt the evolutionary theory into their doctrine. It's easy since God has no limits, unlike man. And God has little interest in the physical, He/She is all about the Spiritual anyway.


From your post, I gather that the gist of your argument is "evolutionists insist their way is the only way!"

This is categorically incorrect. "Evolutionists" do not deny that creationism is POSSIBLE. What "evolutionists" deny is that creationism is SCIENTIFIC. Because creationism is unscientific, "evolutionists" do not want it taught IN SCIENCE CLASSROOMS. Teach it anywhere else you please, but don't force scientists to teach non-science. It'd be like forcing math students to have a discussion of segregation in the South pre-Brown. That the math students don't want to discuss that doesn't mean that they don't think segregation existed in the South, or that they want to bury their heads in the sand; it merely means that they want to stick to math in math class.

FlimFlamSam:
My point earlier, which was apparently misunderstood by a few, was that proving evolution could have caused life on earth is not the same as proving that it did. The statement "evolution caused life on earth" is not falsifiable without time travel. The statement "the process of evolution could have caused life on earth" is falsifiable without time travel, though it might take an experiment designed to last millennia.

The statement "X happened in the past" is not technically falsifiable.


Try millions of years. And nobody claimed evolution caused life on earth, though a favorite tool of creationists is to claim "evolutionists" do so, debunk the statement, and say evolution is false/unsupported.

Once again, you make the claim that an unprovable/unobservable claim (your example is "evolution caused life on earth") is therefore unfalsifiable. THIS. IS. NOT. TRUE. I've already mentioned that evolutionary theory would, in large part, be falsified by fossil bunnies from before there were animals; yet evolution is not provable, and the statement "evolution caused life on earth" is not observable.

As for your comment about how a past event is unfalsifiable while the possibility of that event occurring is falsifiable, that's bad logic. If something is impossible, it didn't happen; ergo, if you acknowledge that the statement "evolution could have caused life on earth" is false, then "evolution did cause life on earth" is necessarily false as well; ergo, if the first statement is falsifiable, the second is as well.
9.8.2008 2:12am
David Warner:
Mike S.

"Much of the politics seems to use the existence of the former as an argument for including the latter in the science classroom."

Agreed, but do you see any attempt to do so making it past any of the current or plausible future Supremes?
9.8.2008 2:12am
David Warner:
Randy R.,

"So -- does she really believe in Creationism? Personally, I would like a prez or vp who is a bit better educated than that."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Guess Jefferson is right out, then. Creationism instead of evolution is extreme and unscientific. Creationism integrated with evolution, allowing evolution to do the heavy lifting on the scientific bits, is not, whether one likes it or not.
9.8.2008 2:23am
David Friedman (mail) (www):
"I guess I warily agree that discussion — ie, free inquiry — should not be prohibited, so long as creationism is presented as a religious belief that is not supported by prevailing science."

Presented by whom? If a student believes that creationism is supported by the evidence, he should surely be free to argue for that position. A good teacher should encourage him to do so--and encourage students with the opposite view to argue their side.

As best I can tell, a large fraction, probably a majority, of people who say they believe in the theory of evolution have only a vague idea of what the theory actually is, let alone the reasons to believe it. They believe in evolution for essentially the same reason that most creationists believe in creation--because it is the view of the people they trust and respect. And quite a lot of them are unwilling to take seriously the implications of evolution when it leads to conclusions they don't like, a point I discussed recently on my blog.

On the whole, I think a lively classroom argument between serious supporters of the two sides would produce more education than a presentation that amounts to "scientists believe in evolution, so you should too."
9.8.2008 2:33am
Careless:
No one can find gravitons! teach the controversy!
9.8.2008 2:43am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
you are ignoring almost the entirety of her response


The "ignoring" is all yours. "The entirety of her response" indicates that she sees creationism and evolution as deserving equal emphasis in a science curriculum. She indicates that her father, a science teacher, taught her both. Twice she uses the phrase "teach [or teaching] both." Twice she uses the phrase "both sides," as if creationism and evolution are two equal sides of the same coin, and are equally valid, and equally scientific. That's the plain meaning of what she said. Although the next say she said something else.

there is still nothing here contradictory of the idea she was speaking in reaction to the question, "What should a science teacher say if a student asks about creationism?"


I found a slightly more detailed account of the debate, here. The reporter gives us the paraphrase of the question that we've already seen:

Carey asked about teaching alternatives to evolution - such as creationism and intelligent design - in public schools.


The reporter also gives us this paraphrase of the question:

should public schools teach alternatives to evolution (such as creationism and intelligent design?


You're twisting yourself into knots attempting to imagine that the question asked was something other than what was actually asked. And that her answer means something other than the plain meaning of her answer. You're obviously free to agree with her statement. You're just not free to pretend that she didn't say what she said.
9.8.2008 2:56am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Oops, typo alert. I said

Although the next say she said something else.


and obviously meant

Although the next day she said something else.
9.8.2008 2:58am
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
FlimFlamSam:
I think it is a little uncharitable to suggest that evolution is ONLY concerned with how Life Form A becomes Life Form B and is unconcerned with how the first life form(s) came to be. I think most scientists and lay people would say that the term "evolution" broadly encompasses both fields of inquiry.


Science is not concerned with charity. Evolution has nothing to do with the origins of life. And no, "scientists" would not say that the term "evolution" encompasses both fields of inquiry.

ofidiofile:
"rooting around"? despite what someone else mentioned previously, science is inductive, not deductive (that's logic/math), in the same way that a forensic investigation of crime is inductive;


Ack, yes, you're right. I was using the words incorrectly, to make the point that "proofs" are not science; but as inductive reasoning only proves anything in mathematics, the point is still made.
9.8.2008 3:13am
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Careless:
No one can find gravitons! teach the controversy!


Except that efforts to "quantumize" gravity are hardly settled science. There is significant controversy in that area - more than can be said for the whole evolution vs. creationism debate. Now, debates within evolutionary theory are widespread, but that's a different story.
9.8.2008 3:22am
Michael B (mail):
"I think it is a little uncharitable to suggest that evolution is ONLY concerned with how Life Form A becomes Life Form B and is unconcerned with how the first life form(s) came to be. I think most scientists and lay people would say that the term "evolution" broadly encompasses both fields of inquiry." FlimFlamSam

"i just don't see abiogenesis being as problematic as you think, seeing as how even today we have (strictly speaking) no-living particles that pass heritable characteristics, i.e., viruses, viroids, and prions; no, there's not the huge body evidence that we have for evolution, but still...." ofidiofile

Telling, these musings, and they are not infrequently forwarded.

So, if I follow this, we can clearly see how any intelligently guided design - no matter how broadly conceived - is rather silly? And we likewise can clearly see how abiogenesis is not so problematic?

N.B., "No matter how broadly conceived" might suggest, for example, the role of various numerical constants carried out to infinitesimal degrees. Or it might invoke the age old ontological argument. Etc. The point being that, contrary to being silly or merely dismissed, such observations and arguments, while most certainly not reflecting positive proofs, do reflect appeals to the mind, to rational inquiry and reflection, which is to say intelligence and intelligible inquiry.

Hence, the broader conceptual basis for ID styled hypotheses and musings - for now foregoing its scientific pretensions as such and narrow definitions of the term - in fact is viable along lines that appeal to the mind, that appeal to rational inquiry.
9.8.2008 3:33am
Math_Mage (mail) (www):
Erm, Michael, you use a lot of fancy language, but I'm totally unable to parse what you're saying. Are you saying that ID is reasonable, though unscientific? What was the point of bringing the abiogenesis debate quotes into your post? If there was a meaning to what you wrote, it got lost in the obfuscating language.
9.8.2008 3:53am
Kevin P. (mail):
jukeboxgrad, in defending Palin's scummy brother-in-law, please note that you are defending a man who drank on duty, tasered a minor too young to know better, threatened his father in law with a bullet and engaged in other behavior that is not becoming of any peace officer who carries a gun. The real story here is why he is still employed. Perhaps it is about how public sector bureaucracies make it impossible to fire anyone.

But please! Don't let me stop you! Keep attacking Palin and let everybody hear you defending an abusive man who should not be employed in any position of authority.
9.8.2008 4:25am
Kevin P. (mail):

jukeboxgrad:
And the only witnesses did not exactly claim they saw him drinking while driving. They only claimed they saw him carry an open beer into the patrol car.


This is hilarious. The secret truth is that he had a potted plant in his patrol car, and he just wanted to water it with the open beer can. If you really believe that he was carrying an open beer to not drink it, you should start writing for Andrew Sullivan, as you are gifted with the same vivid imagination as he is.
9.8.2008 4:27am
David M. Nieporent (www):
And this is what energizes the religious wingnut base? Seems to me that they would be distancing themselves from her, yet they flock to her. Why, if she isn't going to push any of their pet issues?
Probably because when she hears about and talks about them, she doesn't think of them as "religious wingnuts."
9.8.2008 4:46am
Michael B (mail):
Math_Mage, you're speaking for who? In fact, there are a wide variety of things being presented from a pov that is more self-consciously philosophical and problematic. I don't believe any fancy language or two-bit words were used, but I'm fine with you taking a pass on it if you don't feel it's worth your time.

But in asking: "Are you saying that ID is reasonable, though unscientific?", are you suggesting, inherent in the question, that science and reason are synonymous, that science ≡ reason, at least essentially so? Do you regard yourself as a scientific positivist, a philosophical materialist, or something in that vein? If so, do you regard that as relevant to the present discussion?
9.8.2008 6:12am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
you are defending a man who drank on duty


Uh, not exactly. During this incident, he was in civilian attire. As a member of the state SERT (SWAT) team, he had the privilege of using a marked patrol car for personal use. He was not "on duty." And no one saw him drinking in the car. He was seen carrying an open beer into the car. Then he drove a mile to his house.

The only witnesses to this event are a couple who are very close friends with Palin's father. Therefore the original police investigation considered this allegation to be unfounded. A higher officer decided to overturn that finding, and made this charge part of Wooten's suspension.

tasered a minor too young to know better


If the family thought this was a serious problem, why were they silent about it for two years? And why did Molly not go downstairs to intervene, even though she knew what was happening?

threatened his father in law with a bullet


If Palin thought this was a serious threat, why did it take two months to report it to the police?

By the way, it's interesting to look at Wooten's letter of suspension (pdf). It's four pages long and quite detailed. Notice how many times that "threat" is mentioned: zero. That's because Sarah Palin's statements to the police proved that she never took the threat seriously. And no one outside the family witnessed the threat. Therefore the allegation was considered questionable.

The real story here is why he is still employed.


Wooten was investigated and punished. This happened before Palin ran for office. If she felt there was good reason to question the adequacy of Wooten's punishment, then she needed to find some other legitimate authority to carry that ball, and she needed to hand off her concerns in an open, transparent manner. In other words, she needed to recuse herself, because of her personal connection to the matter. That connection made it impossible for her to ever be seen as objective.

But Palin knew she had no legitimate basis to get him fired, because all of the family's allegations against him had already been thoroughly investigated (roughly fifteen witnesses were interviewed), and most were determined to be unfounded. But this didn't stop her. She used her office to conduct a personal vendetta. She showed very poor judgment, and she lied. It's not the crime, it's the coverup.

Perhaps it is about how public sector bureaucracies make it impossible to fire anyone.


No. It's about how Palin decided that it was OK to subject Wooten to double jeopardy. There were no new facts. He had already been punished, in connection with the facts that had emerged in 2005. But Palin decided that punishment wasn't good enough, and he needed to be punished some more. This was an abuse of power on her part.

an abusive man


It's relevant to pay attention to something Molly told police on 4/11/05: "he [Wooten] has never physically abused her" (pdf). Chuck Heath (father of Molly and Sarah) told police the same thing: "Heath stated that … Wooten had not physically assaulted his daughter" (pdf). So you should try to be careful about your facts, even though Palin has made many statements that are incongruent with the facts.

If you really believe that he was carrying an open beer to not drink it


It's not a question of what I "really believe." It's a question of paying attention to what the witnesses actually said. No one saw him "drive his state patrol car while drinking or drunk." That's the claim I was responding to. It's acknowledged that he was in civilian clothes, and driving a mile to his house. He carried an open beer into the car. Maybe he intended to finish it when he got home.

This is hardly the most important feature of the story, but it's a perfectly good example of how Palin's defenders routinely inflate the facts.

In 2000, Palin wrote a letter of recommendation where she apparently exaggerated Wooten's positive qualities. Wooten was his sister's boyfriend, so Palin was probably doing her a favor. She didn't mention this personal connection in the letter. That was unethical on her part.

Five years later, Palin did the opposite. She again decided to do her sister a favor, but this time it involved exaggerating Wooten's problems. This whole narrative vividly illustrates poor judgment and a lack of integrity on Palin's part.
9.8.2008 6:26am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Suppose Palin's wrong about the itshouldbediscussed thing if it's brought up.
And a kid brings it up.
You can't discuss it.
Duct tape the kid's mouth?
Send him to the principal's office?
Point at him and start yelling "Four legs good, two legs bad." and insist the other kids join in yelling?
Say that's not a fit subject for discussion and if he mentions it again, or asks why, the teacher flunks him?
Have the biker club take him out back and break his legs?
9.8.2008 7:41am
Angus:

Suppose Palin's wrong about the itshouldbediscussed thing if it's brought up.
And a kid brings it up.
How about: "This is a science class, and questions should be about science."
9.8.2008 8:58am
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Alligator,

Your dilemma incorrectly assumes that evolution tries to explain (or is presented as an explanation of) how life started. Stated roughly, evolution is concerned with life forms, not the the origin of life itself.

Yes, I'm aware of that, and I "incorrectly assumed" no such thing. What I said was that if you are teaching a bunch of kids about evolution of modern life forms from earlier ones, they are going to ask you how there came to be any life, and you have to have some response. Will "We don't know" work? Will "That's not a scientific question" work? Will "Hey, this is the unit on evolution, and that question is outside the scope of the unit"? How about "That's above my pay grade"?

As I wrote, I remember my own high school biology text describing the Miller-Urey experiments somewhere in the chapter devoted to the history of life on earth, most of which (of course) was devoted to Darwinian evolution. It's all very well to say that these are two scientifically unrelated topics, but if you can't see why a text would so juxtapose them, or why one might turn up in class discussion focused on the other, I don't really know what to say to you.
9.8.2008 9:07am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Angus.
And the kid says "why isn't that science?" He might be referring to literal creationism, or he might be referring to ID, which is the same as far as evolutionists' views on suitability for polite company.
And both literal creationism and ID conflict with science. Hard to have a coin--discussion--without two sides.
When you say, unambiguously, that a particular interpretation is a fact you are saying that a bunch of others aren't. Which others???
And off you go.
It's hard to imagine any teacher responding with "shut up, he explained".
9.8.2008 9:25am
Mister Snitch (mail) (www):
"the origin of life, as opposed to the differentiation of species, is still an enormous puzzle that is nowhere near solved"

Quite right! The latest information says that certain building blocks of life (I believe amino acids and folded proteins were mentioned in the report I saw) COULD NOT have formed in a "primordial soup" on Earth as we have long been taught. Current thinking says they needed the extraordinary conditions found in, for example, comets, and had to have been brought to Earth in some way (a comet crashing, for instance).

The complexity and magnitude of the conditions that created life evidently far exceed the blind-chance "oops" theory of creation we were once taught in schools. Most creationist-bashers have no idea that their own knowledge of the subject is, itself, out of date and out of touch.
9.8.2008 10:03am
Mister Snitch (mail) (www):
"This is hardly the most important feature of the story, but it's a perfectly good example of how Palin's defenders routinely inflate the facts."

Palin's been the nominee for five minutes. How "routine" could anything about her "defenders" be?
9.8.2008 10:08am
p. rich (mail) (www):
As schools should be all about how to think as opposed to what to think (broadly and non-liberally speaking), that there are multiple theories about how the universe came to be what it is, and the basics of those theories, is simply a set of facts and not the advocacy of a belief system. It will be clear upon elaboration the theories vary considerably with regard to scientific underpinnings. And the problem with this approach is what, exactly?

The theories aren't the major problem. It's the teachers who can't or won't inform clearly and objectively on conflicting views and regularly express personal opinions on every topic as though their opinions were part of the subject matter.
9.8.2008 10:35am
Barry Kirk (mail) (www):
I don't have any problems with Creationism and/or Evolution being taught and/or debated in public schools.

Having said that, I would say that the whole creationism in public schools debate is just a symptom of a more fundamental issue.

Not everyone agrees on just what the scientific method is.

My belief is that the scientific method is a method of trying to make sense of the world around us. It is a tool that can be used to make predications about how systems will react in various circumstances.

Most if not all modern techology owes it's existance to theories developed by the scientific method so in that sense it has an excellent track record.

I could talk to 10 respected professional scientists and get 10 different definitions of the scientific method.

There would be certain commonalities and certain differences in the definitions, and scientists in the same field would have more in common than those in different fields.

So, I have no problem with people debating these issues in a public school. It gets them thinking about looking at a subject from all angles and gets them asking questions.

I'd rather children learn to ask questions and debate their assumptions rather than be taught to repeat "known" facts.

It is the debating of "known" facts that can start people examining their assumptions. People who are taught in that way have really learned something of value.
9.8.2008 11:31am
Hoosier:
Angus:

Suppose Palin's wrong about the itshouldbediscussed thing if it's brought up.
And a kid brings it up.

How about: "This is a science class, and questions should be about science."


I'd be more gentle in my wording. But, yeah, that's the right answer.

On the Wooten topic: I pray that the Democrats are now turning this guy into the left's new Alger Hiss. Literally pray. And I'm agnostic. Which tells you something.
9.8.2008 11:39am
Hoosier:
Barry Kirk: You are fundamentally right in that scientists not only disagree about many things, but also reverse themselves over the course of time.

Having said that, a couple points:

If you surveyed those 10 scientists about the scientific method, would even one of them give a description which accomodates ID theory?

Related to that: Wouldn't all of them--presuming we are talking about competent, working scientists--describe a methodology that presupposed material causes of natural phenomena? (Not that the scientists would all be philosophical materialists. But they would all, presumably, consider material casusation as a basic assumption of any research in science.)
9.8.2008 11:44am
don johnson (mail):
The earth could of been seeded with engineered single cell life 3 billion years ago. The evidence still may be found on mars.

So wouldn't this be creationism and evolution?
9.8.2008 11:49am
Federal Dog:
"It's the teachers who can't or won't inform clearly and objectively on conflicting views and regularly express personal opinions on every topic as though their opinions were part of the subject matter."

This is definitely a problem that they share with many so-called "journalists."
9.8.2008 12:27pm
ofidiofile:
"Not everyone agrees on just what the scientific method is."

but the vast majority of scientists, i think, would agree on what it isn't.
9.8.2008 1:02pm
Alligator:
Michelle, I agree that a discussion of evolution could easily lead to asking about the origin of life. I was simply pointing out that evolution's failure to explain the origin of life is not a flaw in evolutionary theory. I apologize if I misunderstood what you meant by "leaves too wide a crack for the theological to slip in" -- it sounded like you were criticizing the theory of evolution (and science in general) for not explaining how life began.

Mister Snitch:

The complexity and magnitude of the conditions that created life evidently far exceed the blind-chance "oops" theory of creation we were once taught in schools.


Are you suggesting that "blind-chance 'oops' theory" is wrong because it's improbable? Probability does not speak to validity.

Barry Kirk:

I could talk to 10 respected professional scientists and get 10 different definitions of the scientific method.


Maybe, but they'd all agree that the scientific method requires (at least) a falsifiable hypothesis. Neither creationism nor intelligent design are falsifiable, therefore they cannot be tested by the scientific method.
9.8.2008 1:28pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The only witnesses to this event are a couple who are very close friends with Palin's father. Therefore the original police investigation considered this allegation to be unfounded. A higher officer decided to overturn that finding, and made this charge part of Wooten's suspension.
Why does it matter to us who the witnesses are, or what the original police investigation considered, given the ultimate outcome? The official finding was that they were credible and that it happened. Of course, they could be lying and the official findings could be mistaken, but we have no basis for such a conclusion.

If the family thought this was a serious problem, why were they silent about it for two years?
I know you're very young, but do you know anything about families? Normal people don't do things to sabotage their spouses' jobs while they're still married.
And why did Molly not go downstairs to intervene, even though she knew what was happening?
Perhaps because she was giving her children a bath, and you don't leave young children alone in the bath for anything.

(And what difference does it make whether the family "thought" it was a serious problem, anyway? It was a serious problem, professionally speaking. It is never appropriate to use one's department-issue Taser for fun.)


If Palin thought this was a serious threat, why did it take two months to report it to the police?
Perhaps because, as the ultimate investigation showed, cops cover for other cops so she thought reporting it would be futile, particularly given that the threat was a conditional one: if your father gets you a lawyer, I'll kill him. But when she decided to go forward, she reported it.

By the way, it's interesting to look at Wooten's letter of suspension (pdf). It's four pages long and quite detailed. Notice how many times that "threat" is mentioned: zero. That's because
cops cover for other cops, and had they mentioned this one, they probably would have had to do something more serious than a slap on the wrist. As the letter notes, "It is nearly certain that a civilian investigated under similar circumstances would have received criminal sanctions." But cops cover for other cops.

This is hardly the most important feature of the story, but it's a perfectly good example of how Palin's defenders routinely inflate the facts.
No more than Wooten defenders such as yourself. For instance, you claim that the Lanes are "very close friends" with Palin's father, but there's nothing to substantiate that. The finding was that they were "long time friends," "good friends," and "close friends," but not "very close friends." This is hardly important, but it's the kind of idiotic distinction you love to jump on.

In 2000, Palin wrote a letter of recommendation where she apparently exaggerated Wooten's positive qualities. Wooten was his sister's boyfriend, so Palin was probably doing her a favor. She didn't mention this personal connection in the letter. That was unethical on her part.
No, it wasn't. This is just partisan hackery on your part.
9.8.2008 1:42pm
CB55 (mail):
What those that believe in Darwin do not get is that those who believe in the Genesis or Intelligent Design take their Faith under the table, and unlike Darwin, faith can never be placed on the table and be subject to the same rigor of logic and reason. Religion can not and will not play by the same rules but those that believe always pretend they do. They always want Darwinist to prove evolution - if you try you get into a circle argument about the theory of proof and evidence. Creationist have no problem building an belief system with out a ground of a logical system.
9.8.2008 1:58pm
Neely:
jukeboxgrad: What's with all the partisan gasbaggery anyway?

You can't believe that "troopergate" has a thing to do with her VP race. The DPS Commissioner served at her pleasure, period. It strains credulity to imagine that any court will find that the legislature has the jurisdiction to conduct any investigation and certainly not in the absence of an unambiguous complaint!

There is also the matter of Hollis French, the ramrod of the "independent" investigation, who is a Democrat and Barack Obama's man in the Alaska Senate. http://my.barackobama.com/page/community/post [ignore this break] /emilybokar/gGxsmH

Oh, and Trooper Wooten was on CNN the other day and disclosed that the BO campaign had contacted the head of his union. What next? The union filed a complaint against Palin. (But the Obama campaign "resents" the implication that they have anything to do with "troopergate.")

Sorry about this rant, but I spent 30 years as a prosecutor, and I am sick of politicians and their supporters abusing the investigative process. This issue wouldn't be on the map but for the investigation.
9.8.2008 3:25pm
A. Dawson (mail) (www):
It's not about whether or not Creationism (or Evolution for that matter) is true. It's not about what Palin believes or not.

The real issue is about how our governments are supposed to function. Did anyone bother to ask the question: At what level of government (federal, state, municipal, or district) it is decided which theories are taught in school????

I have no problem with sub-constituencies deciding to round PI or teaching that the world is flat. Natural selection is a cruel b*tch. Let these people select themselves... soon or later they will see the advantage of keeping an open mind toward scientific data. I'd rather have a free society that rounds PI to 3.14 than a totalitarian one that uses the metric system and knows what a Higg's boson is.
9.8.2008 4:10pm
byomtov (mail):
I have no problem with sub-constituencies deciding to round PI or teaching that the world is flat. Natural selection is a cruel b*tch. Let these people select themselves.

I do, and with creationism and ID as well. These people aren't "selecting themselves." They're handicapping their children and other people's children by teaching them nonsense. And let's be clear, even the idea that ID is a scientific notion worthy of discussion in a science class is nonsense.
9.8.2008 4:33pm
Alligator:

It's not about whether or not Creationism (or Evolution for that matter) is true.


That's right. It's about whether creationism and/or evolution belong in a public school science class.


It's not about what Palin believes or not.


Palin's personally beliefs are of marginal relevance. But what she believes should be taught in science classes is a very important issue because decisions made on the federal level do influence school curricula (see below).


The real issue is about how our governments are supposed to function. Did anyone bother to ask the question: At what level of government (federal, state, municipal, or district) it is decided which theories are taught in school????


Decisions regarding, influencing or otherwise affecting school curricula are made on all levels of government. For example, public school teachers will tell you that the tests mandated by No Child Left Behind (a federal act) dictate the curriculum. State legislatures typically authorize state boards of education to promulgate curriculum standards. And so on.
9.8.2008 4:38pm
Michael B (mail):
And so on. Alligator

"What those that believe in Darwin do not get is that those who believe in the Genesis [sic] or Intelligent Design take their Faith under the table, and unlike Darwin, faith can never be placed on the table and be subject to the same rigor of logic and reason." CV55

I'm not a creationist in any pseudo-scientific sense (cf. here, directly upthread) and do not believe ID should be taught within science curricula strictly and properly understood. (Likewise, I do not believe a philosophical materialism should be taught within science curricula, neither overtly nor tacitly nor surreptitiously.)

But as to the "rigor of logic and reason" and "the Genesis," etc., the myriads of resources one might recommend are precisely that: endless, as they serve to catalog a goodly portion of the western canon and the historical canon as a whole. However, one recent and relevant touchstone can be found in the aptly titled The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. Roger Kimball's brief overview of the book:
"A thoughtful and theologically sophisticated sally into the ranks of the New Atheism. Feser has written a lively and well informed polemic against the latest crop of Village Atheists - Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, &Co. - who have provided the public with so much entertainment and so little enlightenment these past few years. This is a serious and passionately engaged challenge to the latest effort to impose a dehumanizing orthodoxy by religious illiterates."
The notion - and it is a notion only, rather than a coherent or very intelligible thought - that the sole concern that is invoked in all this is science qua science, or science strictly and purely and rigorously understood, is patently risible.

A variety of critical and less critical issues are implicated, are invoked by virtue of this discussion. Science, strictly and properly conceived, is obviously one of them and it's certainly among the more important set of issues that are rightly considered. But other concerns include: broader philosophical and weltanschauung issues, unspoken agendas (on both or all sides), public policy concerns and how they need to be addressed at local and federal levels, the transparent explication of ideology and philosophy posing as Truth or Fact, academic and media and other elites serving as epistemic and moral/ethical gatekeepers.

And so on.

From another angle still, there are also storied histories of Darwinism as applied in the real world that are too often elided, occluded and variously denied altogether that should be more transparently acknowledged. E.g., the critical role Darwinism (and the philosophical materialism it was explicitly allied with) played in Chinese intellectual circles and China at large during the three decades immediately prior to Mao's rise in the 1920's within the Communist Party of China and then as "Great Leader" two decades later.

And so on.

And no, none of that is intended to be the final or the definitive word on the varied and sundry topics invoked - to the contrary and decidedly to the contrary. But it does serve to openly, to transparently acknowledge aspects of the broader set of discussions that are inherently and necessarily and irreducibly invoked by the subject matter in question.
9.8.2008 6:04pm
Barry Kirk (mail) (www):
I don't have a problem with using creationism in a science class in the following context.

Students can debate whether or not creationism conforms to the scientific method or not. In that way, they would leave with a better understanding of what the scientific method is and what it is not.

They would also have a better understanding of what creationism is and what it is not.

And to clear up things, my personal belief is that creationism is NOT science.

But I also believe that many scientists treat science like a religion. They take it on faith and fail to question the root assumptions.
9.8.2008 6:08pm