The Questionable Authority

First, the Discovery Institute didn’t seem to know about the anti-evolution bill introduced in Florida last week. Now, they don’t seem to actually understand what the bill does. Both of these things are quite strange, considering that the Discovery Institute folks actually wrote all of the substantive parts of the bill.

Rob Crowther just devoted most of an article over at the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Blog to scolding the media for their coverage of the Florida legislation. Apparently, most of the news coverage made the outrageous claim that the “Academic Freedom Act” would actually permit the teaching of “alternative theories” to evolution. Crowther is outraged, claiming that the bill does no such thing. He thinks that the various media outlets have “been fed some ‘smelly crap’” by pro-evolution groups such as Florida Citizens for science. I think it’s because the various media outlets have actually read the bill.

Here’s Crowther’s perspective:

Nowhere does this bill call for allowing any alternative theories to be introduced into the classroom. Neither does it say that teachers should be protected in order to safely be able to present alternatives. Articles stating otherwise are flatly false.

Here’s the introduction to the bill, which he cites in support of his argument:

An act relating to teaching chemical and biological evolution; providing a short title; providing legislative intent; providing public school teachers with a right to present scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins; prohibiting a teacher from being discriminated against for presenting such information; prohibiting students from being penalized for subscribing to a particular position on evolution; clarifying that the act does not require any change in state curriculum standards or promote any religious position; providing an effective date.

If the Discovery Institute wishes to claim that Intelligent Design is not “scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins,” I would certainly be the last to argue. However, they’ve been claiming just the opposite for years now. They’ve told us, again and again and again that Intelligent Design is scientific, and that Intelligent Design is a better explanation for the diversity of life than evolution. Intelligent Design, Creation Science, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and any other sort of nonsense that a teacher might claim as “scientific information relevant to the full range of views on biological and chemical origins” would be allowed to be taught if the Discovery Institute’s bill passes.

Either Rob Crowther is dishonestly trying to deceive people about the potential effects of this bill, or he and the other Discovery Institute folks were so incompetent that they didn’t understand what this bill – which they largely wrote – actually would do. I’m not sure which it is, but it’s definitely one or the other.

Comments

  1. #1 Matt Penfold
    March 6, 2008

    I vote for dishonest AND incompetent.

  2. #2 Cuttlefish
    March 6, 2008

    Oh, they understood, all right. They just speak a different language.

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2008/03/translating-from-creationist-to-english.html

    (a guide to translation)

  3. #3 Pete Dunkelberg
    March 6, 2008

    Gee you missed the full bull of it.

    Nowhere does this bill call for allowing any alternative theories to be introduced into the classroom.

    The words “call for” aren’t in there!

    Neither does it say that teachers should be protected in order to safely be able to present alternatives. Articles stating otherwise are flatly false.

    The word “alternative” isn’t in it.

    What could it all mean?

    Students need to learn more about evolution, not less. When evolution is presented in the classroom, of course teachers should present the scientific evidence that supports the theory. But if a teacher also presents some of the scientific evidence that challenges the theory, they should not be reprimanded. Teachers and students both need the academic freedom to be able to learn and discuss both the strengths and weaknesses of any theory, including evolution. This is much different from teaching alternatives to evolution.

    Funny, those words aren’t in it either. You’re not supposed to remember that all those different words from “creation scienc” to “ID” to “alternative theories” to “strengths and weaknesses” are different euphemisms for the same designedly false and misleading arguments against science.

    Of course normal people will see that the bill, containing none of those exact words, clearly invites all of them. The very articles DisCo makes the fake complaint against show this.

    DisCo’s problem is that too many people realize they are in the anti-science propaganda business.

  4. #4 J-Dog
    March 6, 2008

    I second Matt Penfold’s comment – easily dishonest AND incompetent. It’s how they roll. They have an indefensible position, they know it, so they resort to Lying For Jesus to fool the rubes.

    Someone could and should get a PhD out of the how and the why of the “True Believer’s(TM) operating with this disconnect.

    But only if they can have access to Full Metal Jacket HazMat suits – being close enough to a Crowther, Wells or Luskin to interview them would necessitate this.

  5. #5 Flint
    March 6, 2008

    I confess I’m not quite sure what this bill is intended to do either. Let’s say, hypothetically, that there are creationists teaching science in Florida public schools (that’s sarcasm, by the way. This unfortunate situation is very common). What could these teachers do if this bill becomes law, that they can’t do today? Hell, they are *already* preaching creationism with impunity.

  6. #6 waldteufel
    March 6, 2008

    The DI is certainly dishonest, but they’re not incompetent.

    They are nothing more than a propaganda mill for the religious right, including J. Wells’ Moonies. They themselves are not incompetent, but they rely on their target audience to be incompetent and ignorant.

  7. #7 JBusse
    March 6, 2008

    So what is “chemical evolution?” This is the first I’ve heard of it.

  8. #8 Pete Dunkelberg
    March 6, 2008

    Chemical evolution is another broad vague phrase to cover things they don’t like, including origin of life from anything but clay and magic.

  9. #9 Torbj´┐Żrn Larsson, OM
    March 6, 2008

    Chemical evolution? Hmm, yes, IIRC it used to be a term for abiogenesis theories. When I googled, Wikipedia reminded me that it has also been used instead of the more descriptive nucleosynthesis.

    Anyhow, the newly approved state standards puts abiogenesis in with evolution in biology. But the bill takes the opportunity to conflate these two subjects as much as possible:

    Every public school teacher in the state’s K-12 school system shall have the affirmative right and freedom to objectively present scientific information relevant to the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution in connection with teaching any prescribed curriculum regarding chemical or biological origins. [My emphasis.]

    So if biological evolution explains origin of species, what is “biological origins” if not abiogenesis (“chemical evolution”)?

    And WTF is “chemical origins”; ‘origins of origin of the first population of replicators’ or simply origins of the first biochemicals i.e. early abiogenesis? Or is the bill trying to separate the science theory (evolution) respectively hypotheses (abiogenesis) from religious “origins”, as if the former are common language “theories” and the later biblical “facts”? I’m sorry, but the later makes more sense to me.

    So it is (surprise, surprise) a religious bill.

  10. #10 raven
    March 6, 2008

    This bill is so narrowly written as to be both useless and unconstitutional.

    If they are going to teach Xian creationism in whatever of 97 different flavors, they would have to teach or permit the FSM, Coyote, Xenu the Galactic Overlord, Vishnu and any other creation myths floating around.

    OTOH, the issue is moot and the bill is completely unnecessary. There is no enforcement of teaching standards or probably even any mechanism to enforce them. So in states like Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, etc. they either completely ignore evolution, skip over it, or mention it in passing while teaching creo nonsense.

    Word has gotten out years ago that the state capital is far away and the parents and school board are close and no one can or will enforce any curriculum standards.

  11. #11 Stacy S.
    March 6, 2008

    @ Raven – ” OTOH, the issue is moot and the bill is completely unnecessary. There is no enforcement of teaching standards or probably even any mechanism to enforce them. So in states like Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, etc. they either completely ignore evolution, skip over it, or mention it in passing while teaching creo nonsense.

    Word has gotten out years ago that the state capital is far away and the parents and school board are close and no one can or will enforce any curriculum standards. ”

    … Unless a they think this bill will protect them from a parent (like me) who will sue them if they find out about it.

  12. #12 Craig T
    March 6, 2008

    Any Texas district ignoring the standards on evolution risk lowering their NCLB test scores. The 2006 exit level science test asked a question about speciation through geographic isolation and another about evolving resistance.

    The standards do help. That’s why I’m so glad the conservative running for state school board in Dallas was defeated.

  13. #13 raven
    March 6, 2008

    Any Texas district ignoring the standards on evolution risk lowering their NCLB test scores. The 2006 exit level science test asked a question about speciation through geographic isolation and another about evolving resistance.

    The standards do help. That’s why I’m so glad the conservative running for state school board in Dallas was defeated.

    Sure they risk lowering their test scores. Do you think creo school districts care one bit? The creo districts already score low in science and most likely are proud of it. What is more important to them, test scores or being morons?

    The standards do help though. It took 400 years for Helicentrism to reach its startling level of acceptance of 74% of the fundie population. In another 4 centuries evolution will be right up there with the sun centered solar system. LOL

    Stacey, not a bad idea. School admins are like reeds. They bend with the wind. Rule #1 is to avoid angry parents and controversy like the plague. Letting them know that not everyone buys into their fundie religious ideas that are really science is a good idea.

  14. #14 Christopher Letzelter
    March 6, 2008

    “If they are going to teach Xian creationism in whatever of 97 different flavors, they would have to teach or permit the FSM, Coyote, Xenu the Galactic Overlord, Vishnu and any other creation myths floating around.”
    I guess the intelligent designer of the human eye was Wile E. Coyote…

  15. #15 Frank J
    March 6, 2008

    The question is ambiguous. They are of course incompetent at winning court cases (so far) to get their pseudoscience (be it ID or just the design-free phony “critical analysis” of evolution) taught in public schools. But they are very competent at keeping ~70% of the public (including ~20% that claims to accept evolution) thinking that it’s fair to “teach the controversy.”

    As for “dishonest,” where to begin? The “don’t ask, don’t tell what the designer did, when or how,” the recycling of long refuted arguments against evolution, defining terms to suit their argument, baiting and switching concepts (e.g. evolution vs. abiogenesis), quote mining…

  16. #16 Stuart Weinstein
    March 6, 2008

    “The DI is certainly dishonest, but they’re not incompetent.”

    Indeed, they are exceptionally competent at being dishonest.

  17. #17 Ian H Spedding FCD
    March 7, 2008

    As in previous such cases, the authors of this bill should be asked to explain why biology is being singled out for this extraordinary regulation. They should be required to provide irrefutable evidence that there is an injury being done for which legislation is the only effective remedy.

    They need to list cases from around the country of scientists with otherwise impeccable reputations whose careers have been damaged beyond repair by their rejection of the theory of evolution. This mean more than Sternberg. It means a list so long that any fair-minded observer has no choice but to conclude that there is a widespread campaign to suppress any dissent from “Darwinism”.

    They also need to provide many examples of students who have been “penalized” for expressing objections to evolution based on their religious beliefs – as distinct from the teachers who have been so intimidated by students and parents that they dare not even mention the word ‘evolution’ in biology classes.

    They would be unwise to rely on the Discovery Institute or ID luminaries like Dembski for support when the crunch comes, however.

  18. #18 Jerry McLaughlin
    March 26, 2008

    Evolutionists may be dismayed that their favorite “Big Bang”
    just got a torpedo in it’s mid-section, and has been “SUNK”
    as a “Scientific Theory!” According to an Associated Press
    article by Seth Borenstein, Aug 24, 2007–”Astronomers
    Discover Immense Hole in the Universe”- He explains, “It is
    1 BILLION LIGHT-YEARS across of NOTHING–…an expanse of
    nearly 6 billion trillion miles of EMPTINESS!!” (Those who
    understand the effects of a ‘Explosion in a Vacuum’-whereas,
    it is like a balloon with equal-pressure radii, at all points on the inside surface of the balloon.) Which now, we
    need to point out- “If you have a bucket, with no bottom in
    it-’It will NEVER HOLD WATER!” Likewise, with a immense
    HOLE on one side of the Universe-that size,you can NOT HOPE
    to satisfy the scientific LAWS of equal-pressure GASES,
    using your pressures equally to ALL sides in the Vacuum of
    Space! The “BIG BANG” Theory cannot Hold neither ‘WATER’,
    Nor ‘GAS’–(The “TIRE” just had a “Big BLOW-OUT!”) Good Bye
    to the Big-Bang Theory–(If it had been ‘Only’ a “Billion-
    Miles”, IT might have ‘had a chance’-!)

  19. #19 MartinM
    March 31, 2008

    That’s got to be one of the most idiotic comments in recent history. Not only are clusters and voids consistent with the Big Bang, they’re expected. A homogenous matter distribution is unstable under gravity; under-dense regions will have weaker gravity and thus will lose matter to their surroundings, while over-dense regions will attract more matter from their surroundings. Either way, density perturbations tend to grow over time, leading to large-scale structure. There are some open questions as to how exactly the largest such structures form in the available time, but the idea that this is in any way going to overturn one of the most successful theories in physics is simply arrant nonsense.