Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Santorum Hits the Talking Points

Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) tells us what he thinks about evolution and ID in this essay for The Morning Call, a newspaper published out of Allentown, PA. Let's consider a few excerpts:


Why is there such a controversy as to how science education policy should require students to learn about evolution? For one, biological evolution, the theory that all living things are modified descendants of a common ancestor, relies heavily on the sensitive philosophical belief that evolutionary change can give rise to new species, and can explain the origin of all living things. Furthermore, evolution is a theory that deals with ancient and unrepeatable events. This should warn us to teach Darwinian evolution or any theory of origins with proper modesty and humility, since we'll never really be certain about the cause of many events in the history of life.


The delicate, philosophical belief that evolutionary change can give rise to new species? Ahem. There's nothing philosophical about it. It is a simple, observable fact that known genetic mechanisms can lead to the production of new species. Even Phillip Johnson concedes that much.

And, actually, evolution has very little to say about specific events in the distant past. Having confidence in the assertion that any pair of modern species have a common ancestor does not require that you be able to say exactly when and where that ancestor lived. Nor does it require you to be able to specify the precise, genetic events that caused the ancestral species to evolve into its modern descendants. You need only follow the circumstantial evidence left to us by the fossil record, modern studies in anatomy and genetics, the findings of molecular biology, and all the other branches of science that contribute to our picture of natural history.

I'm sure Mr. Santorum is perfectly happy to send people to death row based on circumstantial evidence. Think he'd be sympathetic to the idea that if no one saw suspect X commit the crime, we should approach the question of his guilt with proper modesty and humility?


Charles Darwin wrote about his theory of evolution at a time when evidence was weak. In recent years, evidence of the complex circuits, miniature machines, sophisticated feedback loops, and digital information inside the cell has enabled scientists to poke holes in the principle evidence used to support evolution and therefore, more and more respected biologists are entering the debate as to the plausibility of evolution.


Pure nonsense, of course. What is especially galling about this is that you just know that Santorum, for all his talk about modesty and humility, hasn't really made any effort to research the current state of scientific understanding regarding the formation of complex systems. He objects to evolution for religious reasons, and that is enough. Having come to that conclusion, everything else is just rhetoric and talking points. As Stephen Jay Gould once noted, the truth is only one weapon, seldom the best, in a debater's arsenal.


For these reasons, Darwin's theory of evolution should not be taught as absolute fact in the science classroom. Instead, it should be taught as the leading and dominant scientific theory explaining the origin of species, but also as a theory subject to significant limitations, failed predictions and important criticisms. We should encourage schools to teach better science and to teach more about evolution, including the gaps and controversies surrounding evolution. We should not be afraid to teach children what we know and what we have not yet discovered in science, and we should certainly not deny our children the truth about controversies surrounding science. By teaching the controversy, we remain true to science and yet sensitive to the ideas and interests of parents and children.


Hard to disagree with that, except that there are no good arguments against the major assertions of evolutionary theory.

Santorum blathers on in this manner for many more paragraphs. It's the standard martyr pose ID folks are so fond of. As long as people are determined to remain ignorant of the basic facts of science, it will be an effective rhetorical tool.

1 Comments:

At 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave S.

The only "sensitive philosophical belief" I can see here is the idea that somehow there is a complexity barrier to evolution.

 

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