Question: Kansas School Board Vs Rational thought - What is the state of play?

I know this is mentioned in other topics but I would really like to establish a point where we can just get updates on where we are with the Evolution Debate in Public Schools.

I’ve read as much as I can from other topics here on this forum, from news sites, from various blogs and opinion columns but I still cannot figure out what, currently, is the state of play in the ongoing attempts by the Christian Right to ride roughshod over the American education system.

Are the attempts to install Intelligent Design BS into official public school curriculums still going on or are we done?

I heard that one all-Republican anti-evolution school board was fired and replaced with a board of all Democrats and pro-Darwinian ppl. I’m not sure where that was though – was that in Kansas?

I’m lost I have to confess.

I’m guessing that someone here is savvy enough to know the big picture of whats going on.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can clear this subject up for me.

Deoxy.

262 thoughts on “Question: Kansas School Board Vs Rational thought - What is the state of play?

  1. As for Kansas, the Kansas Board of Education by a 6-4 vote, chose to redefine science so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

    Interestingly enough, ID has been justified thusly:

    The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

    In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection—how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.

    ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.

    Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

    Intelligent Design is an intellectual movement that includes a scientific research program for investigating intelligent causes and that challenges naturalistic explanations of origins which currently drive science education and research.

    http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/

    Of course it’s just another way to say humans were specially planned and are uniquely relevant: God did it and he did it all for us.

    Dover citizens chose an entirely new school board by replacing all eight Intelligent Design proponents with Dover Cares Campaign contenders. It was a clean sweep. However, winners received an average of 51% of the vote, the losers 49%, so the issue was dangerously close to being decided differently.

    It should be noted that the incoming board members from the Dover CARES campaign have a platform plank saying that “intelligent design

  2. I suppose the big picture is bleak.

    On the one hand, you have a stunningly large percentage of the population that believes in a more or less literal interpretation of Genesis and religious fundamentalists trying and succeeding to wreck science education where it contradicts their accepted dogma.

    Then you have an administration that more or less overtly meddles with the free pursuit of science, depending on whether scientific results are ideologically correct or not.

    I will leave it as an exercise to the reader what the likely longterm results will be…

  3. The one with the school board sweep was Dover, PA, I think. Rep’s were the only ones to vote in favor of ID (although there were a few that voted against it), and it came back to bite them in the ass.

  4. Unfortunately, I have to agree with elwed that the prospects are bleak.  True, ID suffered a setback in Dover, but its backers are not going to take that sitting down.  Unfortunately, the inherent absurdity of ID posing as “science” is not apparent to most Americans (here in Europe the issue basically does not exist- yet).

    Why is this?  My hypotheses:
    a) evolution is harder to understand (even Darwin said it was “a real stretcher”) than “some very intelligent being designed the complicated stuff”.
    b) ID fits more comfortably with religion (for most Americans) than evolution.
    c) Americans are ahead of everyone else in the world in relying on celebrities to tell them what to think (don’t worry, the rest of the world is catching up!), and ID has very good PR.

    For instance, the Discovery Institute has been able to convince many people that the flapdoodle about ID is a controversy among scientists, when in reality there is no scientific controversy.  But to understand that, you need to go deeper into it than a ten-second sound bite from a newscaster who probably doesn’t understand the issue at all, and who can be bothered nowadays?

    A depressing example of this was the little blogspat last week or so between Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, and PZ Meyers, the crusading biologist of Pharyngula (you will have to scroll down a bit to find the posts and counterposts, but wade in at your own risk- there are well over a thousand comments).  Adams basically repeated a bunch of creationist canards (without explicitly endorsing them), and said he didn’t know whom to trust in the debate between (as he put it) “darwinists and ID”.  When PZ jumped on him (supported by his laser-armed death squid minions), and obliged with info, Adams replied that none of the sources were credible, because they all made money and/or careers from peddling their opinions.

    This was annoying enough, coming from someone who probably wields a fair amount of influence in the ideosphere.  But the truly appalling part was the number of comments from dismally uninformed readers, who were obviously yearning for some authority or celebrity to tell them what to think, and not interested at all in checking out the many sources (on both sides of the issue) and sorting it out for themselves.  Grrr.

  5. Then you have an administration that more or less overtly meddles with the free pursuit of science, depending on whether scientific results are ideologically correct or not.

    Then Intelligent Design is basically Intelligent Philosophy and has nothing whatsoever to do with science.

    “Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods” – Dictionary.com

    Human nature is such that we will always search for cause and reason but we do ourselves disservice by accepting easy answers. As the human knowledge base grows, we become more aware that if organisms are anything remotely akin to being intelligently designed, they are intelligently (in order to survive and reproduce) designing themselves.

  6. Zilch: It doesn’t require a towering intellect to understand the principles behind evolution. The way I see it, faith trumps fact for most Americans, which isn’t a cheerful thought. For that matter, it remains to be shown that faith is indeed the virtue it’s made out to be.

    Brock: ID hardly qualifies as a topic of philosophical discourse – it’s an answer begging the question and not a very intersting one at that. As somebody on Slate (I believe) put it: Intelligently designed organisms are intelligently designed by an intelligent designer. That’s pretty much all there is to ID…

  7. I’m a college student in KS so I’ve gotten a front row seat here. Here’s an outline.

    1999-
    School board decides to downplay evolution and subject it to heavy critisism.

    2000-
    Conservatives lose majority on school board. Evolution restored to rightful status.

    2005-
    KS school board once again decides its time to critisize evolution. Begin talking of new standards. National Academy of Sciences and one other group deny KS the right to use their preprepared standards. Thus school board has to rewrite standards from scratch.

    New standards come up for vote in November but have not yet been written. Regardless, they’re approved.

    KS approves a new director (Bob Corkins) for the school system that has absolutely no experience in teaching or organizational skills. Pushes ID and attempts to strong arm in a “voucher system” that would allow parents that didn’t want their kids going to public school to recieve funding to send them elsewhere.

    The university of Kansas prepares a class on Intelligent Design teaching it in the religion department as mythology. Professor teaching the class sends an Email to the KU atheist group (SOMA) saying this will be a “slap in their big fat faces”. A spy in the discussion group forwards it to fundies and news outlets across the state demonstrating how Christians are being “persectued”.

    2006-
    4 of the 5 school board members that voted to revise the standards come up for reelection. Several candidates have stept up to oppose them (majorily from the republican moderate side) and it looks to be a repeat of the 2000 reversal and similar to the sweep of Dover’s school board.

  8. Professor teaching the class sends an Email to the KU atheist group (SOMA) saying this will be a “slap in their big fat faces

  9. Consiquliere, I’d agree that people acting like arrogant asses don’t help the situation. However, the email in which his comment was made was a private communication that was only intended to reach the people int he SOMA group.

    The big difference here is that it was private, unlike the Christians who openly mock anyone disagreeing with them making up terms such as “evilutionists”.

  10. Consi,

    did you succumb to the rationalistic fallacy? If so, I’ll put you on notice that you just invaded moonbat turf. Watch out or we’ll fling guano…

    The principles behind evolution can be understood by people with a less than towering intellect, which leads me to suspect that either the American population is plain stupid or there is another reason for the controversy about evolution in this country.

    Personally, I doubt that any amount of explaining, small words, cute graphs, or whatnot will convince creationists, who seem invariably willfully ignorant.

    For what it’s worth, I disagree with the professor. Even if your motives are transparent, it’s not prudent to voice them where they may be overheard. He should have done the course and kept his cards close to his chest; a closed mouth gathers no foot, eh.

    Regarding PZ Myers, it is up to him to explain what objectives he pursues with his site.

    The way I see it, it’s not a question of piercing the veil of ignorance, but two firmly entrenched camps facing off with no possibility of either side yielding an inch – a majority of people that reject evolution because it contradicts religious dogma and/or questions that Homo Sapiens Sapiens is the crown of creation on one side, and those that can reconcile with their religious beliefs, if any, and to whom the science simply makes sense.

    What you have looks like trench warfare to me; instead of HE and incendiary shells each side lobbs more or less carefully crafted mockery at the other.

    Quite frankly, what’s your estimate of the percentage of creationists that are sincerely open to abandoning their position when confronted with Evolution 101 course work?

  11. Hi All,

    Two big thank you’s to sandyw1952 and Matt for the links – I’ll cut my way through those soon.

    Another tip of the hat and a thank you to Brock for comments and a summary of the recent arguments being used by the Kansas School board – That really helped me catch up and understand the meat of the debate from the Creationists perspective.

    Thank you to elwedriddsche (Wow, that’s quite a name!) for comments on the issue although I think that you might be being a little pessimistic – I don’t think that it is the majority of Christians that are fans of this ID stuff.

    Pope John Paul did recognize Darwinian Evolution and the “Big Bang” theory and accept both as fact conceding that the stories of “Genesis” are metaphoric fables representing the spiritual occurances within the physical truth of the “Big Bang”.

    Most Churches officially reject the strict literalist interpretations of the bible and the offshoots that have given rise to the ID movement and prefer to leave the science class well alone and instead simply add the more unassuming stance that God triggered the big bang and Darwinian Evolution. 

    I Don’t think it’s quite as bleak as some might believe although it is singularly depressing that we are in 2005 and yet still there is not a universal consistent agreement in the 1st world to accept science.

    Thank you to arc_legion for clearing up the issue of the school board sweep – thanks for you clear, concise summary of that issue.

    Thank you to Zilch too – it’s sad that Scott Adams is misled by Creationists, I’ve always been such a Dilbert fan being a software engineer myself. Thanks for your comments, Zilch.

    Thank you to VoijaRisa for your summary of the timeline of events in the evolution Vs ID debate in Kansas.

    Finally, thankyou to Consigliere for comments. There is an old saying you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, If only the evolutionists were a little more humble sometimes and realized that a little kindness and understanding will win over sarcasm, mockery and arrogance every time when you are trying to get people to accept your side of an argument maybe this wouldnt be happening.

    I personally believe that many scientists are arrogant, impatient and unkind even to people like myself, a lifelong atheist, supporter of scientific causes and arguments,  and someone who has a scientific degree under his belt too.

    Many seem to think they are too good to stoop down and explain to someone they consider a “lesser mind” to give them the time of day needed to give people enough of an understanding of evolution that one can believe in it’s concept.

    This is a really bad thing for the scientific community. 

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Regards,

    Deoxy.

  12. Okay, here’s the deal. I’m a born again Christian, and I happen to believe the Biblical version of creation. “Why,” you may ask? Because the Bible claims that this is the true story.

    Now, if it can be shown that this account is not true, then one has no choice but to discount the authority of the Bible as unreliable. It would then be difficult to believe ANY of it.

    The thing is, I’m not threatened by scoffers who claim that the biblical account isn’t true. After all, biblical salvation is a matter of FAITH. People disbelieved in Christ’s own lifetime, EVEN THOUGH many of them saw miracles that he performed.

    At any rate, most evolutionist that I’ve talked with ultimately admit that if it could be shown to them that the biblical account of creation were in fact true, they still wouldn’t be interested in a religious faith.

    The one thing that consistently bothers me about evolutionists is the pompous condescension with which they regard those of faith. And the ironic part of it is the fact that the theory of evolution is every bit as much a decision of faith as is ID.

    Here’s the thing, species evolving within their own species is NOT the argument. Where evolution completely breaks down is in trying to prove that there has been evolution from lower life forms to higher life forms. This specious argument is completely unsupported in the fossil record. But I don’t even have to enter into an argument like this, since there real issue isn’t even evolutiion, its the origin of species. Science is completely bankrupt on this element.

    The desparate hope that water can be found on Mars, with the idea that some how amino acids arrived from somewhere else in the solar system is absurd. Whom of us didn’t see the space shuttle explode a couple of years ago upon reentry? Granted, there were highly combustible rocket fuels involved, but anyone who is old enough to remember the Apollo flights, (as I am,) remembers how hot the unpowered lunar module became upon reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. I don’t have to be a scientist to be able to know that it would be very difficult for amino acids to survive those temperatures.

    And not only that, but these amino acids have to find their way into the cosmic pool of sludge and swim around and find each other in order to attach themselves in just the proper order billions of times in order to magically turn into DNA.

    Oh yeah, that’s right, we’re supposed to add the element of time to the mix, and that solves everything, right? But, I guess I didn’t realize those amino acids could survive the millions of years it takes for this miracle to happen. Stooopud me!

    Hey, I almost forgot that pesky third law of thermodynamics. Crap, that blows everything, the fact that everything in the known universe DEVOLVES into a random state of chaos, and for evolution to work completely violates that principle.

    And the scientific community accuses Christians of having faith? I’d like to see the Vegas oddsmakers calculate the odds of a “Big Bang,” or whatever other current theories exist on the origin of species.

  13. Incidentally, I forgot to include this in my previous diatribe, but as a conservative Christian, I DO NOT expect nor do I want the public schools teaching my kids about creationism. That’s my job as a parent.

    I do think, though, that science ought to be honest enough to admit that the current crop of theories about the origin of species are just that— theories.

  14. Hey Ragman:

    “I’ve read some Greek mythology.  Does that mean Mt Olympus is real, and the Greek gods are just as real as yours? “

    I’m not an expert on Greek mythology, but that’s not the point. My argument is based on the fact that the Bible CLAIMS to not only be a canon that shows a way for humankind to be reconciled to God, it also purports to be a historical record of the origin of species. Not only is the claim made, but it is backed up by the actual historical record.

    This is not to say that Greek mythology, and for that matter other world religions don’t make the same claim. It’s just that I happen to believe the Judeo Christian record, for a variety of reasons that are beyond the scope of this discussion. I can just say the arguments are quite compelling.
    ====================================

    “Now, if it can be shown that this account is not true…
    We’re not the ones making that claim.  The burden of proof lies with you.”

    Perhaps there is some truth to this statement, however, for the scientific explanations of origin to be true requires that ID or creationism must be vanquished. They cannot both be true in their current form, which, again, requires that science at least to handle the basic arguments from the other side. 
    ====================================

    “I do think, though, that science ought to be honest enough to admit that the current crop of theories about the origin of species are just that— theories.

    You apparantly don’t understand what a scientific theory is.  And they DO admit theories are theories – why do you think they are called theories?  They are constantly being tested, but you won’t hear much about it unless something contradictory comes up and can be proven as such.”

    No, I DO precisely understand scientific theory. The trouble is that science today arrogantly posits ALL scientific theory as fact, in other words seeking to employ a “blanket stamp of approval,” and that any thing based on faith to be rejected out of hand. Unfortunately, this violates the principle of scientific theory or the scientific method. In the absence of empirical evidence for these so-called scientific theories, the scientific community should at least CONSIDER faith-based assertions, at which and until they can be discounted. My point is that the scientific community is not able to RULE OUT creationist theories with anything other that outright dismissal because they sound preposterous. Well, this is in direct contradiction to how science approaches evolution or big bang, by giving the benefit of the doubt. Consider this: not much more than a century ago, the thought that a 747 jet airliner would be able to get off the ground would probably have been met with derision by the scientific community as there was no empirical evidence that this could happen, other than the fact that birds could fly. However, now with the study of physics and aerodynamics and other applied sciences, we don’t even question the the principle of flight. Again, science should be honest enough to admit that what we know today makes creationism seem like a longshot, however this is not to say that its not true.
    ====================================

    “Deoxy: to give people enough of an understanding of evolution that one can believe in it’s concept.
    Understand, not believe.  For a number of people, if you can’t put it in a simpler term than “God did it

  15. Incidentally, I forgot to include this in my previous diatribe, but as a conservative Christian, I DO NOT expect nor do I want the public schools teaching my kids about creationism. That’s my job as a parent.

    If that’s true, FabulousRog, you should agree with us that ID has no place in public school science classes, and that’s the topic of this thread, and the main concern of us naturals (to use PZ Meyers’ term, embracing both atheists and believers who accept natural explanations for the findings of science).  What you believe, and teach your kids, is another topic. 
    If you doubt the identification of ID with creationism, read the Wedge Document, an outline for the use of ID as a “wedge” to introduce fundamentalist Christian thought into public school curricula.

    If you want a debate about your understanding of evolution, you can have that here too, but I frankly don’t have time to point out all your misconceptions.  I’ll just settle for one:  you say

    Hey, I almost forgot that pesky third law of thermodynamics. Crap, that blows everything, the fact that everything in the known universe DEVOLVES into a random state of chaos, and for evolution to work completely violates that principle.

    Hint: do a modicum of research before you quote fundy canards about physics.  One: the Third Law of Thermodynamics states that “if all the thermal motion of molecules (kinetic energy) could be removed, a state called absolute zero would occur. Absolute zero results in a temperature of 0 Kelvin or -273.15° Celsius”.  I don’t believe this is what you mean.

    More likely, you are referring to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “the total entropy of any isolated thermodynamic system tends to increase over time, approaching a maximum value.”  For “entropy” we can read (for the purposes of this discussion) “disorder”.  This means that the total amount of order in the Universe can only decrease with time.  No scientist disagrees with this.

    Fundamentalists such as yourself interpret this, over and over and over and over and over, to mean that biogenesis and evolution cannot occur, because they represent (truly enough) increases in order.  But what fundamentalists strangely, or conveniently enough, overlook, is the qualification “isolated” in the Second Law.  The Universe as a whole is indeed an isolated system by definition, and as a whole, its entropy must increase.  But the Earth, and bacteria, and redwoods, and Pat Robertson, are not isolated systems.  They are open systems, which can utilize energy (ultimately from the Sun) to locally increase information, by increasing entropy elsewhere.  Why creationists continue to misunderstand this is a riddle.

  16. Mocking somebody who is ignorant only serves to ensure that the person now has a personal motive to ensconce themselves in their ignorance.

    Well, Consi, everyone has their own style and audience, and ultimately all you can say is “suum cuique”.  Sure, PZ is pretty sarcastic, and probably turns off some people.  But I think there’s a time and a place for all approaches, from the gentlest persuasion to the harshest mocking.  I look at PZ’s cynicism as a foil to the odious “wedge strategy” of the IDers, the attempt to insert their parochial brand of fundamentalist belief into American public schools.  These people will not be persuaded by soft words, and richly deserve the skewering they get at Pharyngula.

    And we mustn’t forget that Professor Meyers is a fallible human, much like some others I could mention, and has only so much patience dealing with nonsense before he gets angry, and summons his dread laser-armed death squids.  At least he’s funny, unlike, say, William Dembski or Scott Adams.

    Ultimately, who can say which approach is more persuasive, and for whom?  It is a legitimate question, Consi, and Deoxy may be generally right in saying that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.  But there’s a place for vinegar too.

    Speaking of flies- I feel one should either do some research before regurgitating nonsense, or heed the Mexican aphorism: “en boca cerrada no entran moscas” (“no flies enter a closed mouth”).  That is, unless it’s entertaining (to leave the last word to Mose Allison- not referring to you, Consi):

    If you must keep talking, please try to make it rhyme
    Because your mind is on vacation, and your mouth is working overtime

  17. Deoxy:

    Thank you to elwedriddsche (Wow, that’s quite a name!) for comments on the issue although I think that you might be being a little pessimistic – I don’t think that it is the majority of Christians that are fans of this ID stuff.

    In Europe, it’s a non-issue except for the rare individual that overdosed on religion. In the U.S., a recent study showed that more than half of the population are creationists (or at least reject evolution).

    Whether I’m pessimistic or not is open to debate. I have long had the impression that Americans have grown indifferent to the pursuit of science, but in recent years I increasingly observe a climate of outright anti-intellectualism. Simply put, rational thought leads away from god, atheists lack the proper patriotic spirit, therefore intellectuals are bad citizens.

    The problem isn’t what point of view the majority subscribes to, but what the religious extremist fringe can get away with. I don’t believe that complacency is called for…

  18. Zilch, you rock.  Your comments are full of “keepers”.

    Deoxy: “I personally believe that many scientists are arrogant, impatient and unkind “(~even though I am on their side)

    Not limited to scientists.  Many mechanics, evangelists, dentists, economists, mothers, and candlestick makers are the same way.  Cussedness is common.  That is why a thick skin is an asset to discourse.

    FabulousRog: “The one thing that consistently bothers me about evolutionists is the pompous condescension with which they regard those of faith. And the ironic part of it is the fact that the theory of evolution is every bit as much a decision of faith as is ID.”

    Once again, FR, find out what the difference is between an hypothesis and a theory.  Then ask yourself, how patient would you be with the 500th person to come along and say; “It’s just a theory!  So there!”  After a while you just get tired of explaining.

    Creationists often show up here and spout the same tired old crap, and then – invariably – resort to whining that we’re impatient with them.  Suppose we came onto a Christian blog and said; “Well, what about when St. Paul brought the 12 Commandments down from Mount Ararrat, huh?!  That disproves YOUR understanding of the gospel!” You might patiently explain to the first ten or so, that we had a number of Bible stories all mixed up. 

    Then suppose hundreds of us did that, one after another, using the SAME tired misunderstandings of Christianity, for years on end?  After a while, you’d find some nice, Christian way to say; “Get lost, dipshit.”

  19. I’m so glad you guys got to FabulousRog’s comments before I did or I’d likely be demonstrating that PZ Myers isn’t the only condescending and sarcastic blogger on the net.

    There’s not much I can add other than he really needs to get a basic grasp of science and the scientific method, let alone Evolutionary theory, before it’s even worth trying to address anything he said. I’ll just add his name to my list of nut case Christians and keep moving along.

  20. Gosh, thanks for the compliment, DoF.  You rock too.
    But didn’t St. Paul actually bring the 12 Golden Hemorrhoids for the Philistines to put in the Ark of the Covenant?
    And Deoxy- “elwedriddsche” is cognate with “eldritch”.  Our elwed is indeed a bit otherworldly…

  21. Elwed: a closed mouth gathers no foot, eh.

    I think I need to paste this one on my mirror so that I see it every morning.

    Elwed: Quite frankly, what’s your estimate of the percentage of creationists that are sincerely open to abandoning their position when confronted with Evolution 101 course work?

    Don’t know.  I had thought that most people here were confronted with evolution during high school, but have been surprised to find that it is not the case.  These folks are prime candidates for the fundies because with only bits and pieces of knowledge the get sucked in by the fundies false science. 

    I agree with you about the trench warfare analogy.  This is problematic for science.  Because the fundies have widened the debate.  Evolutionists are being painted as arrogant asses who are anti-God, anti-country, anti-mom, and anti-apple pie.  If scientists want to educate the populance they will cut the bullshit that feeds into the widening of the argument.  Scientists need to narrow the argument to what it should be about-the facts.

  22. Consi writes…

    I agree with you about the trench warfare analogy.  This is problematic for science.  Because the fundies have widened the debate.  Evolutionists are being painted as arrogant asses who are anti-God, anti-country, anti-mom, and anti-apple pie.  If scientists want to educate the populance they will cut the bullshit that feeds into the widening of the argument.  Scientists need to narrow the argument to what it should be about-the facts.

    The problem with that is most of the anti-Evolution crowd isn’t interested in facts and will dismiss any you provide them with out of hand.

    Scott Adams, though he claims otherwise, is kind of a good example of this very thing. His blog entry that started the big flare up between him and PZ Myers was basically a long essay about how he doesn’t know enough about either Evolution or Intelligent Design theory to be able to decide which one is correct AND that there were no credible people on either side of the debate that he could trust to give him correct answers because everyone on both sides had their own agendas and biases.

    In short, his argument was that he didn’t know and both sides had vested interests other than pursuit of “The Truth” that automatically made them non-credible sources of information as far as Scott is concerned. Myers jumped all over Adams because Adams appeared to be claiming that the claims of the Intelligent Design crowd were just as valid as the claims of the Evolutionist crowd and Adams responded back with: “See? This is exactly what I was talking about.”

    In this situation Adams will discount any facts that Myers may present simply because Myers has “an agenda” as actual working scientist and university professor. Whether what Myers presents is factual or not doesn’t enter into the equation as far as Adams is concerned because Adams doesn’t trust Myers to be truthful with him because of his status as a scientist.

    Now as much as I enjoy reading Dilbert, I have to wonder how Adams gets through life at all if he’s going to discount evidence provided by professionals because they have a vested interest (e.g. making a living) in doing what they do? I wonder if he goes to his doctor with a head cold and then tells the doctor that he has no credibility in determining what Adams’ illness is because the doctor actually makes money from being a doctor? Or how about his car mechanic? Does he discount what the mechanic has to say because the guy is charging him to fix his car?

    Adams isn’t, as far as I can tell, part of the anti-Evolution crowd (he even admits that, if pressured, he’d side with the Evolutionists), but he still makes a great example of how people can just write off the facts because they don’t want to accept the people who are presenting them as any kind of an authority.

    So simple presenting the facts alone isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind. If you don’t show these people why they’re being idiotic they’re going to think they’ve got more than a couple of brain cells to rub around. You’re not likely to convince them, but you are more likely to convince the others who have a few more brain cells to spare.

  23. FR,

    It’s simple really.  Science says to test your hypothesis.  That’s all.  If you think something might be true, then gather some data, interpret it using sound, cogent reasoning, and let others independently test for the results.  That is really all that science demands.

    This isn’t a popularity contest.  I don’t care whether the women and men in white lab coats are surly and can’t hold a proper cocktail party conversation.  I care that you can show me, independently and whether I can repeat it, assuming I follow your steps exactly.

    As for whether a theory is true or not, gravity is a common example.  Clearly, I can’t see gravity per se.  All I can do is ask the question “why do things fall?”  I might come up with Sir Newton’s theories, but for me, for my personal decision whether to believe in gravity, I’m left with my own personal observations and evaluating how well someone else’s explanation holds up in explaining those observations. 

    Science doesn’t predict as much as it attempts to explain.  A point once made to me in 8th grade science class by my patient teacher was that as a scientist he could never guarantee that the pencil he held would not fall when he dropped it.  That is, science is empirical.  I’m from Missouri, says science, show me.

    So, with regard to evolution, it is only a theory.  Theories are just explanations of observations,  the facts themselves.  Evolution does not guarantee that the next species must evolve from what we have; evoluation can only examine data from the past.  We can extrapolate and attempt to predict where it might go, but then such predictions are only as valuable as later confirmation of the evidence shows it to be.  To paraphrase from Hume, you don’t know fire will burn you until you try it.

    Yet, I’m not a biologist, and FR you make a reasonable point.  Is science a kind of faith?  Well, to anyone, with a science background or not, to accept the conclusion of anyone else, without having done the groundwork of education, of examining details myself, from reviewing all other research in the area, is the same as accepting a premise on faith. Surely, an astronomer or physicist with Ph.D. is in the same boat as I when it comes to biology. 

    The difference is that which marks whether I accept the reasoning of any other individual:  could they prove it if I asked them to show me?  Can they trace their reasoning from data gathered to their end conclusion?  Have they tested it?  Do I have a reasonable basis on which I could expect to independently repeat their work and reach the same conclusions?  Even so, I can’t really count on science to guarantee the results as predictive, just as an explanation of what was previously seen.

    So FR, it’s simple.  We can quote academically reviewed articles on various experiments that confirm various evolutionary results, within and among species.  Can you, will you, provide us with articles that demonstrate from specific, independently gathered data how ID is supported by confirmable or repeatable observations?

    If my only argument is that some Dr. Smith said it and so it’s true, then you’re right.  This isn’t science, it’s faith.  My acceptance of his answer is based on whether I trust Dr. Smith could show me if I was willing to invest the time and energy to follow his 8 years of post-secondary education and years in a research lab.

    If your only argument is fundmentally that “the Bible says it, so I believe it”, and you point to Genesis, then this isn’t science, it’s faith. 

    You’re left with somehow convincing us to leave Missouri and accept you at your word.  Please, FR, why should we?

  24. It seems to me that FabulousRog is intelligent and stepped into the lion’s den in good spirit.  As with most sweeping social debates, we can’t expect some immediate resolution; instead, it comes down to educating people one at a time.  Personally, I don’t mind if Creationists want to believe what they wish.  Still, science should be about empirical evidence.  They can take or leave the evidence, but it should remain intact and free from religion in the class rooms.  It kind of parrallels the whole “Give unto Caesar” deal.

    One of the fundamental arguments behind the debate is the claim that agreeing with evolution requires faith, too.  And, yeah.  It does, ultimately.  Unfortunately, that’s an older philosophical debate that has no resolution.  Ultimately, with all knowledge there has to be a starting point based on assumptions.  All of knowledge and all of science is ultimately undefendable if reduced far enough.  Those arguing with the Creationists often pull out the sledge hammer and attack the Creationists for a lack of understanding of scientific theory.  When the “just a theory!” cry goes up, that’s code for “all knowledge is ultimately based on assumption and/or faith.”  Rather than gamely addressing this claim, most evolution defenders ignore it simply because Creationists often do not share the same ideological memes to express it this way.

    The concept of evolution is easy, but, to be fair, it takes a huge amount of study to have an understanding of scientific principals behind evolution.  Understanding the base principals that allow age dating techniques ultimately requires relatively advanced knowledge of physics, math, geology, chemistry, botany, at atmospheric studies.  The great majority of people arguing for evolution don’t even come close to having that knowledge.  Where the IDers are saying God told me so, the vast majority of evolution supports are essentially saying “12 (or 50) sceintists tell me this is so.”  That’s faith in my book.

    What if the 10 smartest methmeticians/physicists in the world were the only ones with minds prepared to truly understand a new deduction from string theory..?  Play along.  Someone on a modern day level like Einstine pops out a very solid deduction from String theory (or your physics/math of choice) that unquestionably shows the existence of a God.  Of all the scientific community, only nine others have the smarts, knowledge, and imagination to really visualize the concept in their minds’ eyes.  These are nine of the most respected cornerstone of our scientific community.  And now they say string theory proves god’s existence.  Would you devote your life to advanced study in the hope that you have the makeup to someday see the formula at work for yourself in your own mind’s eye?  Or would you just believe what the ten told you?  Or would you call them quacks and be another group like the IDers that rejects good solid science?

  25. The concept of evolution is easy, but, to be fair, it takes a huge amount of study to have an understanding of scientific principals behind evolution.

    Well, CitizenX, it depends on what you mean by “understanding”.  Of course, to understand evolution in any detail takes a huge amount of study.  But to understand enough to see that it provides a better fit to the evidence than, say, Young Earth Creationism, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist.

    And “faith” is a loaded word.  If my belief in evolution is “faith”, so is my belief that the Sun will rise tomorrow morning.

    Also- I don’t understand string theory, but I have “faith” that God cannot be hiding there, because that would be illogical, no matter what string theory says.

  26. RDNewman has the better reply. 

    FabRog: My argument is based on the fact that the Bible CLAIMS to not only be a canon that shows a way for humankind to be reconciled to God, it also purports to be a historical record of the origin of species. Not only is the claim made, but it is backed up by the actual historical record.

    You do realize the only fact you mention is a claim.  Your argument is just as valid for Greek, Roman, Norse, etc, mythologies.  They have the same historical backing.  Just b/c a story is based in a real setting, does not make the story factual.  It’s like claiming Joss Whedon’s “Angel” is all real b/c it’s based in Los Angeles.

    Perhaps there is some truth to this statement, however, for the scientific explanations of origin to be true requires that ID or creationism must be vanquished.

      No, it doesn’t.  Only changed, if dogma can change.  A theory is changed as the FACTS change.  Theories conform to facts, dogma discards facts to fit the theory.

    While the “God said it, I believe it

  27. zilch, technically, your conviction that the sun will rise tomorrow is faith.  Exactly.  Any bookie would round the odds up to 100% based on past observations.  The fact that evidence is so overwhelming doesn’t change the underlying faith issue.

    Actually, Ragman, the centuries devoted to an unsuccessful search for provable first knowledge leaves all of science technically in the realm of faith, even for those scientists you are talking about having faith in.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not arguing that science is an equal leap of faith.  I’m just saying that, logically, the ID argument about both stances requiring faith is legitimate though rarely addressed due to IDers often failing to make the point clearly.

    I’ll put $10K on the sunrise for tomorrow.

  28. Consi,

    Don’t know.  I had thought that most people here were confronted with evolution during high school, but have been surprised to find that it is not the case.  These folks are prime candidates for the fundies because with only bits and pieces of knowledge the get sucked in by the fundies false science.

    Which leads to the next question: What are kids taught in high school anyway? I have never attended an American one; my sister did for a while and I can’t begin to tell you how upset she was about the “academic standard” compared to the schools back home.

    I agree with you about the trench warfare analogy.  This is problematic for science.  Because the fundies have widened the debate.  Evolutionists are being painted as arrogant asses who are anti-God, anti-country, anti-mom, and anti-apple pie.  If scientists want to educate the populance they will cut the bullshit that feeds into the widening of the argument.  Scientists need to narrow the argument to what it should be about-the facts.

    Which leads to another question – since the creationist’s objections to evolution are of a religious and not a scientific nature, shouldn’t it be up to the calmer religious minds instead of scientists to educate their own? This is a start: An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science.

    Perhaps the proper way to deal with creationists is to refer them to the nearest member of the clergy that’s compatible with their beliefs…

  29. zilch, technically, your conviction that the sun will rise tomorrow is faith.  Exactly.  Any bookie would round the odds up to 100% based on past observations.  The fact that evidence is so overwhelming doesn’t change the underlying faith issue.

    You’re equivocating on the meaning of faith.

    Try to see it from another angle. What changes if you develop cracks in religious ‘faith’, as opposed to ‘faith’ in empiricist methods?

  30. You’re equivocating on the meaning of faith.

    Try to see it from another angle. What changes if you develop cracks in religious ‘faith’, as opposed to ‘faith’ in empiricist methods?

    This line of thinking essentially becomes an argument over which type of faith is less or more rigid.  The fundamentalists will argue that certainty is better.

    On another note, I feel we as a scientifically enlightened culture are reaping what we sewed.  Evolution is not compatible with a literal view of Genesis, buy no area of science is contrary to the existence of God.  However, our liberal media and many professors have blatantly attempted to marginalize the faithful of our country.  Surprise, they are coming out fighting.  Yes, the U.S. is founded on principles of religious freedom; yet it is foolish to marginalize the majority.  ID probably wouldn’t be an issue if the religious majority had not felt attacked at every corner.  It’s far too often that children from religious backgrounds find ridicule in higher education in areas far outside of debate on evolution or the big bang.

    I don’t believe what the fundamentalists believe, but I do believe in the right to take a stand for what you believe in.  I’m not at all surprised to see the fundamentalists regrouping and counter attacking.  Were I responsibe for leading that group, I’d be looking to take the conflict to my oponent’s home turf, too.  Tit for tat, perhaps.  “You want to pull our Ten Commandments off the wall after decades of display?  You want to take our prayer from the schools?  You want take away our charitable tax status?  Let’s see how you like it.”

  31. It’s far too often that children from religious backgrounds find ridicule in higher education in areas far outside of debate on evolution or the big bang

    I sympathize with people who are ridiculed in the arena of higher education.

    On the other hand, if you’ve been taught for your entire life to -not- question, and to -not- exercise critical thinking skills, it’s not really that surprising if you don’t excel in an environment that privileges those skills.
      If you turn in a paper, in a humanities class, that uses “God said so” as the support for your argument, yeah, people are going to laugh at you. 

    Tit for tat, perhaps.  “You want to pull our Ten Commandments off the wall after decades of display?  You want to take our prayer from the schools?  You want take away our charitable tax status?  Let’s see how you like it.

  32. Unabashedly triple-dipping…

    Where the IDers are saying God told me so, the vast majority of evolution supports are essentially saying “12 (or 50) sceintists tell me this is so.

  33. This line of thinking essentially becomes an argument over which type of faith is less or more rigid.

    Once you admit that there are different types of faith, that particular debate is over.

    Were I responsibe for leading that group, I’d be looking to take the conflict to my oponent’s home turf, too.  Tit for tat, perhaps.  “You want to pull our Ten Commandments off the wall after decades of display?  You want to take our prayer from the schools?  You want take away our charitable tax status?  Let’s see how you like it.

  34. Were I responsibe for leading that group, I’d be looking to take the conflict to my oponent’s home turf, too.  Tit for tat, perhaps.  “You want to pull our Ten Commandments off the wall after decades of display?  You want to take our prayer from the schools?  You want take away our charitable tax status?  Let’s see how you like it.

  35. Scott Adams, though he claims otherwise, is kind of a good example of this very thing. His blog entry that started the big flare up between him and PZ Myers was basically a long essay about how he doesn’t know enough about either Evolution or Intelligent Design theory to be able to decide which one is correct…

    Myers jumped all over Adams because Adams appeared to be claiming that the claims of the Intelligent Design crowd were just as valid as the claims of the Evolutionist crowd and Adams responded back with: “See? This is exactly what I was talking about.

  36. Either the scientists get in touch with the art of persuasion or they will find their future research assistants spouting off about the geological evidence for Noah’s flood.  I see it as a matter of self-interest, as well as a public duty to children across the land.  Lawyers aren’t the only profession that should have to do a bit of pro bono work.  It’s good for the soul.

    I don’t believe you fully understand the ramifications of the religious fundamentalists winning. Or perhaps you do and you are indeed a victim of the rationalistic fallacy.

    Evolution is not a specialty field of study in biology, but something that pervades almost all hard science. It won’t happen overnight, but once science education in America is subverted and acceptance of evolution is an outcome of a popularity contest, it is just a matter of time until an exodus of scientists and foreign students to greener pastures sets in. Arguably, the fallout from 9/11 has already set this in motion.

    This inevitable brain drain will be detrimental to the American national interest; science in America will become second-rate and the next generation of scientists-to-be will fight for research assistant jobs in the U.K., continental Europe, and everywhere else where science isn’t held bondage by the religious. What scientists remain will favor foreign students for research assistant jobs that don’t have to unlearn as much and these students will know better than to stay once they’ve learned what there is to learn.

    I personally believe that there is a lot more at stake than the watering down of the American science curriculum. It is indeed a matter of self-interest for sciencists to get their point across. However, it’s not as simple as putting in some pro bono work. I doubt there are many people sitting on the fence that can be won over by explaining things just the right way; before scientists can even go there they have to fight an uphill battle against the results of the neglected and underfunded American school system. By and large, scientists have to fight a vicious circle that works against them.

    Perhaps the battle is already lost anyway:

    Slacking Off in Science

  37. zilch, technically, your conviction that the sun will rise tomorrow is faith.

    Granted, the varieties of knowledge we have, or believe we have, about the world, is a large and slipslidy topic, CitizenX.  That said, I beg to differ.  Some people may use the word “faith” in the way you describe, but it’s not the way I use it.  My usage is closer to the definition in Wikepedia:

    The word faith has various uses; its central meaning is similar to “belief”, “trust” or “confidence”, but unlike these terms, “faith” tends to imply a transpersonal rather than interpersonal relationship – with God or a higher power. The object of faith can be a person (or even an inanimate object or state of affairs) or a proposition (or body of propositions, such as a religious credo). In each case, however, the faithful subject’s faith is in an aspect of the object that cannot be rationally proven or objectively known.{my italics}

    If anything can be said to be “rationally proven”, it’s the rising of the sun tomorrow.  Broadening the definition of “faith” to include all possible knowledge of future events makes “faith”, in this context, indistinguishable in meaning from “knowledge”, or “prediction”.  For me, and perhaps for most people and dictionaries, “faith” implies trust that is not based on material evidence, and “knowledge” implies trust based on material evidence- a rather large difference in meaning, and one that is often ignored by fundamentalists, to whom belief in God and belief in evolution are both “faiths”.

    Of course, you can rationally believe in the Bible, or parts thereof- i.e. not take it on “faith”, but believe that it describes historical events and personages: the Flood, Herod, etc.  These beliefs can be investigated scientifically, and some of them can be substantiated or disproven to a reasonable degree of confidence, without faith entering into the picture at all.  But as soon as invisible superior beings enter the picture, faith comes too.  That’s fine for those so inclined, but it has no place in public school science classes.

  38. When little Suzy gets bashed by the teacher when she answers a question with “God did it”, then Suzy is probably going to end up one of the adults that is out trying to overthrow evolution in the public school system.  Our teachers need to be open minded enough to give kind explanations and to leave students’ beliefs in God alone.  For instance, when Suzy explains the orbital path of Pluto by saying God made it that way, her answer isn’t provably wrong.  The teacher should respect that.  Profs should have the sense to br respectful and offer some mind-expanding information.  The prof might approach it like this:  “Well, Suzy.  There are many educated Christians that believe the truth in Genisis is alagorical, God’s way of explaining the nature of humanity.  The previous Pope felt this way for instance.  Einstine belived in a God.  For these Christians, they see God’s power and mystery at work in the mechanical laws of the Universe.  In science, we study these laws in isolation without consideration for who put them there or for what reason.  It is perfectly natural for you to have your own beliefs about religion.  Now, Suzy, what mechanical systems do you think might explain Pluto’s orbit?”

    See?  Rather than teachers leading religious students to feel there is some conflict, as though God is the wrong answer, they should teach them to separate scientific knowledge from faith.  If the prof bashes Suzy’s belief, then she is likely going to reject education and science as the enemy of her faith.  If she is handled wisely, fairly, and without the prof. making sweeping and unprovable assertions about God being the wrong answer, she won’t be forced to find the two systems at odds.  She might even go on to help others in her religious community to see that good unbiased science is just another wonder of God’s Universe.

    That jerk prof. with the ID class may have found a way to piss off a bunch of IDers, but he is also doing a wonderful job of creating more of them.  I think the professors and scientists that alienate the faithful for no good reason are a very large part of the problem.

  39. That’s an excellent point CitizenX, and well-explained. Just to drag out a bit on some material that was previously covered, and I could be wrong, but part of the testing of many kinds of phenomena (including the physics of stellar bodies like Pluto) beg the prediction of the following result. Unfortunately, doing that is becoming very very tedious, and relies on principles not made easily intuitive to the current generation of students. However, it’s still a common problem, and one that “God did it” will never address, since “God works in mysterious ways”. Einstein, if I remember correctly, thought of coming closer to God by discovering the Universe’s mysteries. Using that example is a more intuitive way to help people make place for science in their world.

  40. If Little Suzy answers goddidit in a science class, she’s already a lost cause. She education system has failed her miserably and it’s much more likely that she’ll join the ranks of evolution opponents than turn into a goodwill ambassador for science.

    I agree that people skills shouldn’t be neglected, but I also invite you to examine the hidden assumptions in your post.

  41. “When little Suzy gets bashed by the teacher…”

    We should not require a teacher to be deferential to nonsense.

    We need to start teaching our kids to ask the right question.  If the teacher says something upsetting, the question is not “Is the teacher being mean to me?” but “Is the teacher right?  What do I need to know in order to decide?” 

    Niceness is overrated.  We hurt our children by letting them pout and refuse to learn because someone wasn’t nice to them.  Not just for science class, either; in literature, history, English, math, etc.  Yes, some people are jerks, including some teachers. Dealing with jerks is an extremely valuable skill.  You probably can’t change the jerk, but you can try to get as much value as possible from the transaction.

    I taught my kids; “You do not have to like your teacher, or even respect him/her.  Just learn as much as you can, and don’t disrupt the class.”

    And let’s reserve the term; “bashing” for something you do with a club.  It has become just another way of whining that someone was mean to you, by which we mean they disagreed and were not sufficiently deferential.  (Bush-bashing, Kerry-bashing, evolution-bashing, religion-bashing, etc.)

  42. Well CitizenX, I myself can not solve complicated calculus problems or work out the physics necessary to put a probe on Mars and could, if I had no self respect, claim that while I do not understand them God does. How would it make you feel if I launched a multi-million, or possibly billion, dollar probe into the ether wasting all that taxpayer money because I BELIEVED God would guide it to Mars? Would you encourage NASA to put me in charge of another mission? Would you encourage the taxpayers to fund another faith-based space project?

    I believe you should encourage children in many persuits, but there is a place for religious encouragement and it is in the churches and the homes of those who want such things. I want to encourage critical thinking and acedemic excellence, religious indoctrination has no place in public schools. Any child who can not learn the material that is taught, whether they choose to believe it or not, should not be coddled when they choose to use metaphysical mumbo jumbo as a cop out. The last thing America needs more of are people pretending to be scientists who have no understanding of scientific principle.

  43. I don’t expect I will be in support of any God probes into empty space.  I don’t call for educators to support religious thinking in schools.  You miss my point.  The teacher has absolutely no evidence to say God didn’t do it.  The point is to accomodate both sides and then focus on exclusive empirical thinking.  No matter what science goes into a space probe, the teacher can’t say God isn’t behind it.  God really isn’t an issue, but the educator is wrong to alienate anyone for thinking God is involved.  The teacher should diplomatically show that the science doesn’t prove or disprove God and should definitely not attack the faithful or even show disdain.  What the educator should do is to say that, even if God is or isn’t behind the wheel, there are these nifty physical laws that are amazing, intricate, and predictable.  Let’s study them, class.

    You know, those who handily write off the kids that come in with a God solution are as much of the problem as any fanatic literalist preachers.  We are talking about half the damn nation coming from this background.  We’ll just write off half the population—no, half the kids—because they were raised in a religious home?  That kind of thinking will sink our country just as fast as all our scientists fleeing to other countries.  That’s the big problem.  Two sides in their trenches and both don’t have the sense to look after the greater good.

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