Wednesday, September 28, 2005

But This is About Science, Right?

From today's New York Times:


Science teachers at the high school in Dover repeatedly resisted the school board's efforts to force them to teach creationism on equal footing with evolution in biology class, according to a former teacher who is among those challenging the board in a landmark trial.

The conflict in Dover grew so heated that in public meetings board members called opponents “atheists,” threatened to fire the science teachers and invoked Jesus' crucifixion as a reason to change the curriculum, two witnesses testified on Tuesday.


And later:


“We are not teaching intelligent design,” Mr. Bonsell said. “I've said that a million times and the news media just doesn't get it. I challenge everybody to read the statement and show me what was religious in the statement.”

But Aralene Callahan, a former board member, testified that Mr. Bonsell, the chairman of the curriculum committee, said at a school board retreat in 2003 that he did not believe in evolution and wanted “50-50” treatment in biology class for creationism and evolution.

The board wanted the science teachers to use a textbook that promotes intelligent design, “Of Pandas and People,” but the teachers balked at that too, Mr. Rehm said.

For about a year, Mrs. Callahan said, the school board refused to order new biology textbooks. Mrs. Callahan said that when she protested the delay at a meeting, another board member, Bill Buckingham, responded that the biology textbook was “laced with Darwinism.”


Golly! Throwing around the A word. That is heated.

A few posts back I was asked by a commenter why I get so angry with ID proponents. This article provides a good explanation of why I react that way.

Introducing ID into science classes is purely a device for using the public schools to promote religious propaganda. Everyone knows that. In their unguarded moments, the Dover School Board makes that explicit. The lawyers on both sides of the case know it, all of the witnesses know it, the judge knows it. Every blogger commenting on this case, from either side, knows it.

The legal issue being adjudicated here is whether the crazy people have managed to be sufficiently dishonest about their religious motivations. That is all. Have they buried their brain-dead religious twaddle under enough balderdash to sneak past a constitutional challenge?

The only mystery I see is this: How did a school district that managed to elect an anti-science majority to their school board manage to attract such a stellar group of science teachers?

14 Comments:

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Mark said...

At NCSE's area devoted to K v. D, they've posted profiles and comments from the plaintiffs. In contrast with remarks made by some members of the school board and their supporters (which make Dover residents appear to be benighted troglodytes), these people offer hope that at least some denizens of Dover are bright, intelligent, and remarkable people.

 
At 12:10 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"Introducing ID into science classes is purely a device for using the public schools to promote religious propaganda"

That's a subjective statement. I can also argue that promoting evolution promotes a religion as it is filled with inexplainable holes regarding the origins of life. Are you to believe in evolution in spite of these holes? You may if you have enough "faith" in evolution. And if you do then you can certainly construe it as being just another religious movement.

ID is no way religious. It may be liked by those religous, but that's hardly the same as it promoting a religious view. ID simply proposes that some "intelligent creator" created life. Whether that intelligent creator be something that religious institutions use to their benefit or not is not the fault of the theory of ID itself, but rather of the subjective religious believer.

"Everyone knows that. In their unguarded moments, the Dover School Board makes that explicit. The lawyers on both sides of the case know it, all of the witnesses know it, the judge knows it. Every blogger commenting on this case, from either side, knows it."

Very nice argument - because we "all" "know" it, it must be "true"! LOL!

"The legal issue being adjudicated here is whether the crazy people have managed to be sufficiently dishonest about their religious motivations. That is all. Have they buried their brain-dead religious twaddle under enough balderdash to sneak past a constitutional challenge?"

If the movement by the school board were truely religiously motivated then it would NOT be ID they'd be promoting here but rather Creationism. Creationism is more in line with religious views as it's primarily based on the bible's book of Genesis. ID makes absolutely no references to the bible in its theory. ID simply exposes the scientific flaws in macroevolution and proposes an alternative to the origins of life: an intelligent creator. There may be some religious motivation on the part of the school board; but it's irrelevent as no religion is involved in ID and, therefore, students are not subject to a religiously-based theory such as Creationism.

"The only mystery I see is this: How did a school district that managed to elect an anti-science majority to their school board manage to attract such a stellar group of science teachers?"

The reason why you have such a "stellar" group of science teachers is because ID makes sense; especially when you compare it to the flawed macroevolutionary theory. The only "anti-science majority" is from those that believe macroevolution occurred by "chance"! ID is a science-based theory; therefore, how can it possibly be "anti-science"? macroevolition on the other hand ignores science - macroevolution is largely an unscientific theory.

I think it's clear here that your bias is a conviction and no matter what the evidence presented to you in favor of ID may be you will still undoubtedly believe in the flawed science of macroevolution!

The day evolutionary theory can explain, scientifically, how a single-celled organism can, all by "chance" as evolutionary theory requires, be formed from complex DNA strands is the day I will start believing in macroevolution. Until then, macroevolution just another religion!

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Ian H Spedding said...

Mike said...

That's a subjective statement. I can also argue that promoting evolution promotes a religion as it is filled with inexplainable holes regarding the origins of life. Are you to believe in evolution in spite of these holes? You may if you have enough "faith" in evolution. And if you do then you can certainly construe it as being just another religious movement.

ID is no way religious. It may be liked by those religous, but that's hardly the same as it promoting a religious view. ID simply proposes that some "intelligent creator" created life. Whether that intelligent creator be something that religious institutions use to their benefit or not is not the fault of the theory of ID itself, but rather of the subjective religious believer.


You do realise you have just undermined your own argument?

If your definition of "religion" is so broad as to encompass scientific theories such as evolution then it must also include the "theory" of Intelligent Design. In other words, if teaching the theory of evolution is promoting a religion then so would teaching Intelligent Design.

 
At 3:28 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"In other words, if teaching the theory of evolution is promoting a religion then so would teaching Intelligent Design."

Good point. In other words, it's all subjective! We use our biases to enforce our reference convictions. Just as macroevolution can't prove the origins of life, neither can Intelligent Design or Creationism prove the who the "creator" is. This may change in the future. Maybe one day evolutionists will be able to prove the origins of life and maybe one day IDists and Creationists will be able to prove who the "creator" is but, until then, it's all debateable and it's all theory and it's all subjective!

The point is that evolution is no more of a theory about origins of life than ID is. So why not teach both in the class room and let the subjective thinker make up his or her own mind? There's nothing wrong with that. To restrict only evolution in the class room is to restrict a subjective opinion of life's origins.

A major point here is that ID discloses the gaps in macroevolution while macroevolution ignores them altogether!

 
At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Mike -

What is the scientific theory of ID and how can it be tested empirically?


How does one measure how much of something is "designed" and how much is "micro-evolved"?

What is the metric for determining the limits of "microevolution"?

Name one example of some observed structure, function, or whatever, that is better explained by ID than by evolution. Or name one example of where ID provides an explanation for an observed phenomenon where evolution cannot.

If the Designer is not a super-advanced corporeal alien (welcome to Crackpot-Ville) or a deity (religion), then what the hell is he/she/it? To paraphrase Jon Stewart, ID doesn't "necessarily" require God as the designer, just someone with the basic skill set to create an entire universe.

The floor is all yours......

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous DarthWilliam said...

ID isn't a scientific theory. It doesn't belong in science class. In my public high school, we did a unit on 'creation myths' which included a bunch of em. This was in English class I think, junior year. ID is better off discussed there, along with the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory!

 
At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Mike -

Evolutionary theory deals with the descent of life - not the origin of life. However evolutionary theory would still be applicable no matter how life got started - whether by a bolt of lightning in the primordial ooze or by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

One thing to keep in mind: origin of life research may be an emerging science, but that is no excuse to insert "gaps arguments".

There was a time when gravity was not very well understood either. Where would physics be if Newton had claimed that angels are holding everything down and left it at that?

 
At 3:52 PM, Anonymous DarthWilliam said...

Also mike, we KNOW the ID proponents are really promoting religion because their own internal document ("wedge" document) says so. They admit it! They aren't pushing creationism (which they would like to) because they KNOW it wouldn't pass the court (and has been rejected numerous times). So yes, everyone KNOWS these things. They are facts. Just like the fact that organisms are descended from a common ancestor.

 
At 3:57 PM, Anonymous darthwilliam said...

To me religion boils down to people wanting answers to 2 unanswerable questions: why am i here and what happens after death. Religious people are so afraid of the answers being (respectively) "no reason" and "nothing" that they hate atheists (or "materialists") for even suggesting anything that might even hint at those scary answers. My own belief is that question 1 can be answered by each individual (you choose what your purpose is) and question 2 means you'd better live this life like its your only one, which to me means "do a helluva lot of good things while i'm here". I don't think morality is in jeopardy w/o the concept of a 'God', at least mine isn't.

 
At 3:16 AM, Anonymous Davis said...

Pope Zach 64 said: There was a time when gravity was not very well understood either. Where would physics be if Newton had claimed that angels are holding everything down and left it at that?

It could be argued that gravity is still not that well understood. There are gaps -- it's still unclear how to reconcile gravity with quantum theory (at least, it's unclear which if any of the current ideas is correct).

If we follow the "gap" logic of the ID-crew, then perhaps we should be teaching our students about the "gravity controversy" in physics, and that the angels-holding-things-down theory is a competing idea (sorry, not angels, but intelligent non-corporeal entities -- this isn't religion, after all).

 
At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Davis -

Excellent point. By all means, teach the controversy!

 
At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Ian H Spedding said...

Mike posted:

Good point. In other words, it's all subjective! We use our biases to enforce our reference convictions. Just as macroevolution can't prove the origins of life, neither can Intelligent Design or Creationism prove the who the "creator" is. This may change in the future. Maybe one day evolutionists will be able to prove the origins of life and maybe one day IDists and Creationists will be able to prove who the "creator" is but, until then, it's all debateable and it's all theory and it's all subjective!

Not exactly. While you can argue that we are each trapped in our own little, subjective, viewpoint worlds, we mostly act on the assumption that there is an objective reality out there which will bite us in the ass if we try to pretend it doesn't exist. That objective reality can be studied, described and explained by anyone who chooses to do so. This will lead to a number of explanations but, given that there is an objective reality out there, some of those explanations are going to be more accurate than others and testing will show which is the best fit of all those available. Once testing has shown one explanation to be the best available - in other words, a sound theory - what's the point of teaching anything else?

The point is that evolution is no more of a theory about origins of life than ID is. So why not teach both in the class room and let the subjective thinker make up his or her own mind? There's nothing wrong with that. To restrict only evolution in the class room is to restrict a subjective opinion of life's origins.

Quite right, the theory of evolution is not about the origins of life but about how life changed and diversified after it appeared. It's the best theory we have for that and that's why it should be taught. All ID has to offer is an exclamation of disbelief: "I can't imagine how that could have happened!"

A major point here is that ID discloses the gaps in macroevolution while macroevolution ignores them altogether!

No, what IDeologues do is to point to alleged gaps in the theory of evolution while quietly ignoring the gaping black hole where a theory of Intelligent Design should be.

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger LiberPaul said...

Materialism has served us so well, that I can not believe people out there want to deny it. Supernaturalism was tried for over 1000 years in Western Civilization and we called those the "Dark Ages" because people didn't know shit about how the world operated. Let them have their Dark Age crackpot theories and let them teach it at their religious schools and home schools....but not in public schools.

 
At 2:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only point of Mike's not addressed was that of chance.

The question, how could this have evolved by chance? seems fairly legitimate until one thinks more carefully about probability.

Whenever you calculate the liklihood of DNA spontaneously appearing, or flagellae evolving by chance, you are demanding a specific outcome. This results from a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution and natural selection. DNA as we know it did not have to form (remember, there are more than 10 million known organic compounds, and many more unknown ones), there could be many other molecules that could have fulfilled its purpose, and the flagellum is not the only solution to bacterial movement.

Demanding a specific solution to a problem and calculating the probability is different to accepting any functional outcome. It's like finding the probability of drawing two aces in poker and claiming that that's the probability of getting a pair, when in fact there are many ways to get a pair.

Now if IDers would stop worrying about evolution's questions and start to create some of their own, perhaps we could start calculating the probability of the existence of an invisible, immaterial, ultra-intelligent and benevolent agent who decided to cook up some primordial soup.

 

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