Just about every media outlet and the entire blogosphere is weighing in on the big Dover decision. I am currently working on a Cliff's Notes version of the entire thing for my next CSICOP column, and I hope to finish that tonight. In the meantime, though, here's a round-up of things that particularly caught my eye:
- Pride of place must surely go to to this article from The New York Times. They assembled a truly stellar, first-rate panel of experts to provide quotes for the pro-evolution side:
Mainstream scientists who have maintained that no controversy exists in the scientific community over evolution were elated by Judge Jones's ruling.
“Jubilation,” said Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University who has actively sparred with intelligent design proponents and testified in the Dover case. “I think the judge nailed it.”
Dr. Miller said he was glad that the judge did not just rule narrowly.
Jason D. Rosenhouse, a professor of mathematics at James Madison University in Virginia and a fervent pro-evolution blogger said: “I was laughing as I read it because I don't think a scientist could explain it any better. His logic is flawless, and he hit all of the points that scientists have been making for years.”
Heh heh heh.
Also interesting from the Times article was William Dembski's reaction:
William A. Dembski, a mathematician who argues that mathematics can show the presence of design in the development of life, predicted that intelligent design would become much stronger within 5 to 10 years.
Both Dr. Behe and Dr. Dembski are fellows with the Discovery Institute, a leading proponent of intelligent design.
“I think the big lesson is, let's go to work and really develop this theory and not try to win this in the court of public opinion,” Dr. Dembski said. “The burden is on us to produce.”
Indeed it is. So far all they've produced is a lot of very bad arguments.
- Salon has this interesting article on the subject:
Intelligent design did not spread through culture on its scientific merits. It got a big push from religious and political advocates. Funded by millions of dollars from some of the same religious supporters that helped put President Bush in the White House (conservatives like Philip F. Anschutz, Richard Mellon Scaife, and Howard and Roberta Ahmanson), the Discovery Institute has pushed a fringe academic movement onto virtually all the front pages and TV sets in the country. The New York Times has reported that the institute has granted $3.6 million in fellowships to 50 researchers since 1996. Those investments produced 50 books on intelligent design, innumerable articles, and two I.D. documentaries that were broadcast on public television.
Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins has said that Darwin's theory of evolution made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist. Intelligent design, it seems, has made it possible for many fundamentalists to be intellectually satisfied creationists. Wesley Elsberry, a biologist at the National Center for Science Education, says millions of evangelical Christians craved a more science-like, sophisticated yet Bible-friendly theory to explain the diversity of life on earth.
- P.Z. Myers' commentary on the Salon article is more important than the article itself.
The Salon article mentions a series of public presentations, one on science, one on creationism, and one on ID. The science talk was given by Wesley Elsberry, mentioned above. The article's conclusion is that the creationism talks were more engaging than the science talks. Myers nails the important points:
It's true: we aren't trained to be showmen. We are very good at talking to other scientists—I'm sure Wesley's talk would have been a pleasure for me to listen to, and I would have learned much and been appreciative of the substance—but most of it would have whooshed over the heads of a lay audience. I wrestle with this in my public talks, too. There's always this stuff that I am very excited about and that I know my peers think is really nifty and that gets right down to the heart of the joy and wonder of biology, but it's so far from the perspective of the audience that it is well nigh impossible to communicate. And I know that when I try, I usually fail.
Another problem is that we're used to giving lectures that people are required to attend in order to absorb the raw information they need to do well on a test. I don't think my students show up for the visceral joy of hearing me talk.
The two creationists in the series, on the other hand, are simple and clear (and the young earth creationist has the advantage of being entertainingly insane). They don't have any complex data to explain, so they aren't tempted to try, and they put everything in terms everyone can follow. An absence of evidence can be an advantage in a talk, because then everything rests on well-honed rhetoric; the scientist's reliance on actual information means we often skimp on the presentation.
That's exactly right. I've attended enough creationist conferences to know that their speakers operate unencumbered by any sense of shame or conscience. This allows them to speak freely and enthusiastically on subjects they know nothing about.
Any mathematician who has ever tried to explain the Monty Hall problem to a lay audience knows the frustration Myers is describing. It reminds me of something a professor told me in preparation for the first math class I ever taught. It was a low-level introduction to calculus for students with weak math backgrounds. The professor said something like, “Prepare yourself for a certain amount of frustration when you're teaching. There will be times when you think you are being so clear and explaining things in such simple terms that there is no way anyone could misunderstand you. Then you'll be hit by question straight from Mars.”
- Anyway, moving on with the round-up, Ed Brayton has some favorable reactions from legal scholars on the decision. Of course, The Panda's Thumb has quite a few posts up on the subject as well.
- And if that's still not enough, Tony Galucci gathers some more links here, as does Mike Dunford here.