Dispatches from the Creation Wars

TMLC Prepares for Dover Trial

I got this amusing email last night from someone named John Schroeder, suggesting that the TMLC attorneys in the Dover case are getting a bit desperate. The email says:

Testimony in the trial should get really interesting by the middle of next week.
At the request of Ms Sherry Doran of the Thomas More Law Center, I have mailed to Richard Thompson on this date a copy of my recently published book, Darwinism:Sorcery in the Classroom. If he employs the scientific data it contains in his defense of the school board decision, the ACLU may have to eat some evolved crow.

Schroeder is the founder of Creation Science Seminars, a little creationist group so obscure that they don’t even have their own webpage. I’ve not seen the book, but I’m sure it’s full of standard-issue creationist boilerplate. If this is the kind of research the TMLC is doing, there’s little wonder why they’re getting beaten so badly in the courtroom.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan
    October 22, 2005

    I thought the quote was a joke until I read the rest of the post.

    But you have to admit, he sounds eminently qualified to be an expert for TMLC. I’ll bet his book has even been peer-reviewed…using the same rigorous process used for Behe’s book.

    Who’s next…Dr. Bombay to testify as an expert geneticist?

  2. #2 Troy Britain
    October 22, 2005

    Who’s next…Dr. Bombay to testify as an expert geneticist?

    I’m sure he can “…come right away”.

  3. #3 Meta-jester
    October 22, 2005

    The irony is that when you look at Darwinism closely, it doesn’t actually say anything about anything to do with religion–in fact it doesn’t say much of anything…in particular anything touching on the concrete realities of human life. “Random mutation” is an empty concept: a non-explanation.

    Both side have made this controversy out to be much more than it really is. In case you’re interested, I’ve explained how it’s a tempest in teapot here: Providence and Chance

    I’m currently working on a follow-up to be posted soon.

    MJ

  4. #4 Ed
    October 23, 2005

    To whatever extent Darwinian theories explain things (are you paying attention,MJ?), intelligent design explains things a thousand times less.

    It’s not a tempest in a teapot at all. Darwinian theory has give us diagnoses and treatments for diabetes, the green revolution, and explanations for the spots on the wings of butterflies, among other things.

    ID is not randomly sterile as science: ID is sterile across the board.

    Even a bad theory is better than a worthless theory. Evolution, however, is a well-tested, very good and noble theory, one of the greatest ideas of western civilization. Pomos, like MJ, like to denigrate the history of western civilization, sometimes bizarrely by claiming it somehow as “anti-Christian,” or at least “atheist friendly.”

    Good heavens! Is MJ saying Christianity is hostile to thought and reason? Yes, he is.

  5. #5 spyder
    October 23, 2005

    Does the ID movement have anything left to go on but its own superego??? (pun intended)

  6. #6 Ed
    October 23, 2005

    Is it a hoax?
    Is there a Ms. Doran with TMLC?

  7. #7 spyder
    October 23, 2005

    totally different topic.. well not necessarily in the sense that certain conservatives have a very twisted sense of right and wrong>>

    On Meet the Press, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson picks up where Bill Kristol left off:

    I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars.

    Oh my. A perjury technicality? Is this a new view of freedom of speech???

  8. #8 Meta-jester
    October 23, 2005

    Ed,

    Please: I’m not advocating ID, or saying many of the things you attribute to me. It is remarkable how you extrapolate what I believe in such an imaginative and (dare I say it) paranoid way.

    To react so violently indicates that someone must have hurt you in the past and I’m very sorry that you were hurt. But please realize that I am not that person and that you should not take out your anger and frustration on me.

    I suggest taking a deep, relaxing breath, setting aside your prejudices, and reading what I’ve actually written.

    MJ

    P.S. My latest post on the cultural (not technological) irrelevance of Darwinian evolution:

    Intelligence Transcends Science

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    October 23, 2005

    I think meta-jester is making far too much of the notion of “random mutation”. He writes:

    So my basic point is that the “random” mutations that Darwinians use to “explain” the genetic novelty that natural selection works on is no explanation at all, but really just a way of saying “we can’t explain the particular events that caused adaptive mutations.”

    I don’t think this statement really means anything. The word “random” here just means that we can’t predict where a mutation is going to occur. He’s surely correct that we can’t explain the particular events that cause mutations, at least not down to the quantum level, but so what? Do we really need to understand them? For the purposes of evolutionary theory, all we need to know is that mutations occur and they’re a source of variation. Those things are observed to be true, of course, and only someone truly delusional would doubt them. So what’s the point of saying that we can’t predict exactly how they are caused by quantum events? Of what possible relevance is it for the validity of evolutionary theory?

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    October 23, 2005

    By the way, the person posting comments as “Ed” is not me, the author of this blog. “Ed” is Ed Darrell. We have been confused for each other in the past, but it’s a bit bizarre to have it happen on my own blog.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    October 23, 2005

    Meta-Jester:

    I also have to respond to this statement of yours on your webpage. You write:

    Darwinian friends, let’s be reasonable here. If this sort of evangelizing atheistic Darwinists–the kind that superciliously affix “Darwin” amphibian logos to their cars– misrepresent Darwinism, then why aren’t “scientific” proponents of Darwinism evangelizing just as sincerely against these people’s misconception that Darwinism supports atheism as they are for teaching Darwinism in schools? And if not, how can anyone seriously believe that teaching Darwinism in public schools is non-sectarian?

    I find it odd that you’re grouping Gould and Dawkins together here. In fact, they disagreed greatly on this subject. Both are (were, in Gould’s case) atheists, of course, but Dawkins is the one who is anti-theist. You cite Gould’s NOMA idea, yet you still group him with Dawkins. Dawkins was of course highly critical of Gould’s use of that concept and thought it was ceding far too much ground to religion. So citing them as allies in pushing “evolutionary atheism” is simply false.

    More importantly, I don’t know where you got the idea that other supporters of evolution aren’t critical of Dawkins for this. I’ve been highly critical of Dawkins for (among other things, including his egomania and dishonesty) tying evolution to atheism without bothering to make a distinction between science and the anti-theological inferences he draws from it. Gould was also critical of him for that. So are many other prominent advocates of evolution and enemies of creationism, including Ken Miller, Genie Scott, Howard Van Till, Wesley Elsberry, and many more. And if someone wanted to teach his “evolutionary atheism” in science classes, I would be just as opposed to that as I am to creationism and intelligent design. “Evolution shows that there is no need for God” is every bit as unwelcome in a science class as “evolution can’t explain everything, so there must be a God.”

  12. #12 raj
    October 24, 2005

    Ed, I pretty much agree with you. But it could be cut a bit shorter.

    I’ll admit that my background is physics, but…

    For the IDers the questions are, one what are the theories that they are proposing, and

    two, what is the evidence for the theories that (they have not heretofore) proposed?

    It really is as simple as that.

    I did advanced biology in HS.

    I aced AP Chem.

    I graduated from college in 4 years with a masters degree in physics.

    I know what theories are. Where are the IDer’s theories? And where is their evidence for the theories that they don’t have? At some point, this becomes ludicrous. And it should be dismissed for what it is–ludicrous. Go attack their funding sources–who are funding these organizations?

    In some ways, you are fighting a rear guard action by attacking their arguments–which are unlikely to end. Who are funding them and why? (NB? DI is just a front-person for the effort, they aren’t the funding source–they are the recipients of the funding.) That question is the lawyer in me–who and why. It may be possible to dry up their funding sources if that question can be resolved.

  13. #13 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    October 24, 2005

    Well, Rev. Moon is definitely one of the major funding sources, and I suspect it’d be hard to convince him to stop.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    October 24, 2005

    Much attention has been paid to the funding sources for ID. A large portion of funding for the Discovery Institute comes from Howard Ahmanson, a wealthy Christian reconstructionist. Some on my side have used that to argue that ID is really just a front for theocracy, but I think that overstates the case quite a bit. While I’m sure that there are some, and Ahmanson is probably one of them, who view ID as useful toward their theocratic goals, I don’t think that tells us anything about either the validity of ID itself or about the goals of those who advocate it. I don’t believe for a moment that Michael Behe or Paul Nelson, for example, are theocrats who want to impose Biblical law as the law of the land. So it seems to me that to tar them with the goals of someone who happens to support their work for other reasons combines an ad hominem with guilt by association.

  15. #15 Ed
    October 24, 2005

    The Other Ed (the one who is the real authority here – Brayton) said:

    So it seems to me that to tar them with the goals of someone who happens to support their work for other reasons combines an ad hominem with guilt by association.

    Still, at some point it may be that to do noble work with ignoble money is counter productive. I worked for Orrin Hatch for years. He was my state’s senator, and I was able to work on good stuff like trying to get compensation for downwind victims of U.S. atom-bomb testing, orphan drugs, organ transplants, and even wilderness in Utah. But at some point it became clear that as we worked to build his clout in healthcare, it also built his clout on several health-related issues where I disagreed with him immensely, not to mention his clout on Judiciary Committee matters. As we built his clout as a nearly-reasonable guy on wilderness, it also built his clout as a reasonable guy who could swat down a wilderness designation that offended one of his conservative patrons. When scorpions screw up their mating dance, there is the danger that one will trigger the other’s sting, instead of the swapping of genetic packets. So they retreat.

    Behe, to pick the most hopeful example, gets visibly uncomfortable sitting behind fundie zealots who pronounce a 6-day creation as gospel truth; surely his hanging with Ahmanson and other fundies strokes his ego. But it also damages his science. I don’t think Behe wants to promote the causes of the Reconstructionists. So why is he in their camp, carrying their water? He has a choice to make.

    I made my choice, and Hatch and I parted on friendly terms. Nothing I do or say for him promotes the causes of his that work against me, however — not anymore. Scientists who ally themselves with ignoble causes do so at great risk. I don’t think they should do that, generally.

    Sorry about the confusion, Mr. Brayton. It’s almost always flattering for me to be confused with you, and I’m sure it’s not so good for you the other way. I’m not sure why the computer imps decided to truncate my name, leaving off the surname. I’ll see if I can fix it.

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    October 24, 2005

    Ed Darrell wrote:

    Sorry about the confusion, Mr. Brayton. It’s almost always flattering for me to be confused with you, and I’m sure it’s not so good for you the other way. I’m not sure why the computer imps decided to truncate my name, leaving off the surname. I’ll see if I can fix it.

    Oh heck, I don’t mind being confused for you as a matter of principle. I respect you greatly. It just can be confusing to know who is speaking to whom here. If you go into your Typekey settings, you can designate how you want your name to appear on blogs. It’s under “nickname”, just put your full name in there and it should appear that way.

  17. #17 Meta-jester
    October 25, 2005

    And if someone wanted to teach his “evolutionary atheism” in science classes, I would be just as opposed to that as I am to creationism and intelligent design.

    Great! I’m truly pleased to hear it. As I said in my post, I just wish that proponents of evolution (present company excepted?) would devote as much energy to dispelling the myth of the connection as they do to promoting Darwinism in the classroom.

    If proponents of Darwinism would make an concerted effort to show the very limited implications that the theory has for human culture at large, it would go a great distance to dispell the distrust among so many Evangelical Christians.

    Yes, it seems awkward to you that I group Dawkins and Gould together. What you don’t seem to appreciate if that Gould’s attitude is also offensive to religious faith. As I alluded in my post, while he grants religion a certain territory, it is always with the understanding that science, with its supposed mastery of the really real, visible world, is inherently superior.

    So while Dawkins is overtly hostile to religion, Gould’s attitude of condescension is just as bad, and in some ways worse.

    In this light let me underscore an easily missed part of my previous point: when I say that proponents of Darwinism need to emphasize its lack of cultural implications, it needs to be understood that this means showing the limits of Darwinism (and science in general), not the limits of religion. The condescension implicit in the latter approach will necessarily (and I think justifiably) only make the situation worse. Whether or not you actually believe science to be superior, that rhetoric isn’t going to win anyone to your side.

    MJ

  18. #18 Meta-jester
    October 25, 2005

    And if someone wanted to teach his “evolutionary atheism” in science classes, I would be just as opposed to that as I am to creationism and intelligent design.

    Great! I’m truly pleased to hear it. As I said in my post, I just wish that proponents of evolution (present company excepted?) would devote as much energy to dispelling the myth of the connection as they do to promoting Darwinism in the classroom.

    If proponents of Darwinism would make an concerted effort to show the very limited implications that the theory has for human culture at large, it would go a great distance to dispell the distrust among so many Evangelical Christians.

    Yes, it seems awkward to you that I group Dawkins and Gould together. What you don’t seem to appreciate if that Gould’s attitude is also offensive to religious faith. As I alluded in my post, while he grants religion a certain territory, it is always with the understanding that science, with its supposed mastery of the really real, visible world, is inherently superior.

    So while Dawkins is overtly hostile to religion, Gould’s attitude of condescension is just as bad, and in some ways worse.

    In this light let me underscore an easily missed part of my previous point: when I say that proponents of Darwinism need to emphasize its lack of cultural implications, it needs to be understood that this means showing the limits of Darwinism (and science in general), not the limits of religion. The condescension implicit in the latter approach will necessarily (and I think justifiably) only make the situation worse. Whether or not you actually believe science to be superior, that rhetoric isn’t going to win anyone to your side.

    MJ

  19. #19 Meta-jester
    October 25, 2005

    And if someone wanted to teach his “evolutionary atheism” in science classes, I would be just as opposed to that as I am to creationism and intelligent design.

    Great! I’m truly pleased to hear it. As I said in my post, I just wish that proponents of evolution (present company excepted?) would devote as much energy to dispelling the myth of the connection as they do to promoting Darwinism in the classroom.

    If proponents of Darwinism would make an concerted effort to show the very limited implications that the theory has for human culture at large, it would go a great distance to dispell the distrust among so many Evangelical Christians.

    Yes, it seems awkward to you that I group Dawkins and Gould together. What you don’t seem to appreciate if that Gould’s attitude is also offensive to religious faith. As I alluded in my post, while he grants religion a certain territory, it is always with the understanding that science, with its supposed mastery of the really real, visible world, is inherently superior.

    So while Dawkins is overtly hostile to religion, Gould’s attitude of condescension is just as bad, and in some ways worse.

    In this light let me underscore an easily missed part of my previous point: when I say that proponents of Darwinism need to emphasize its lack of cultural implications, it needs to be understood that this means showing the limits of Darwinism (and science in general), not the limits of religion. The condescension implicit in the latter approach will necessarily (and I think justifiably) only make the situation worse. Whether or not you actually believe science to be superior, that rhetoric isn’t going to win anyone to your side.

    MJ

  20. #20 Ed Brayton
    October 26, 2005

    Meta-Jester wrote:

    As I said in my post, I just wish that proponents of evolution (present company excepted?) would devote as much energy to dispelling the myth of the connection as they do to promoting Darwinism in the classroom.

    Perhaps if there was an aggressive and well-funded nationwide effort to put the atheistic interpretation of evolution into science classrooms, you would see such energy expended. But right now, the threat is from the other side and we’re fighting to many battles we barely have time to breathe. The moment a school board or legislature tries to make a rule that science teachers must conclude their biology lessons with “and therefore there is no God like Richard Dawkins says”, I assure you that I and virtually everyone I work with against creationism will be just as opposed to that.

  21. #21 Ginger Yellow
    October 26, 2005

    Science is inherently better than religion at what it claims to do, which is creating accurate and useful models of how the physical universe operates. This has been demonstrated time and time again. Religion is better at what it claims to do, which is metaphysics, because science doesn’t even address metaphysics. That said, a large proportion of religion has to be wrong about metaphysics, by definition. Roman Catholicism and Buddhism can’t both be right.

  22. #22 Meta-jester
    October 26, 2005

    Perhaps if there was an aggressive and well-funded nationwide effort to put the atheistic interpretation of evolution into science classrooms, you would see such energy expended.

    Ed,

    The cultural reality is the prevalence of the myth that Darwinism feeds into atheism. There doesn’t have to be any “aggressive and well-funded nationwide effort,” just as an army unit sitting in a bunker doesn’t have to outlay resources for the whole structure: it’s already built.

    If anyone’s going to believe in the peaceful intentions (i.e., cultural neutrality) of evolution, the army unit’s going to have to disassemble the bunker itself.

    The cultural assumptions are already in place. And as I mentioned in my post, the iconography of the Darwinian amphibian replacing the Christian fish-symbol doesn’t exactly challenge that assumption. To extent the metaphor, it’s lobbing hand-grenades across the front.

    Ginger Yellow, that’s exactly the kind of rheotoric that keeps this educational controversy from being resolved intelligently and reasonably.

    You’ve got to realize the psychology of the “other side”. These people are largely Christian Evangelical Protestants: the very basis of their religion is “protesting,” which means a strong contrarian impulse. Your effectively sending religion off to the “kiddie table” of “metaphysics” (the modern use of this word is so much feebler the classical!) is the right thing to say only if you’re calculating your remarks to energize the opposition.

    MJ

    P.S. The system is telling me that my post on the other thread is being held. (Thanks, btw, for taking the trouble to put through the one on this thread.)

  23. #23 Ed Brayton
    October 26, 2005

    Meta-Jester writes:

    The cultural reality is the prevalence of the myth that Darwinism feeds into atheism. There doesn’t have to be any “aggressive and well-funded nationwide effort,” just as an army unit sitting in a bunker doesn’t have to outlay resources for the whole structure: it’s already built.

    I think there is a distinction between the notion that evolution “feeds into” atheism and the equation of evolution with atheism. I don’t have a problem with Richard Dawkins arguing that evolution supports his atheistic views, I just wish he would make a clear distinction between science and the philosophical inferences he draws from science. But there are many others, like Ken Miller and Howard Van Till, who take the opposite position, that evolution strengthens their religious faith and provides the possibility of genuine free will. Again, I don’t have a problem with them drawing whatever inferences they wish to draw, but at least with Miller and Van Till they are careful to distinguish between science and the philosophical inferences that they draw from science. The same is true of many scientific theories. William Lane Craig says that big bang cosmology supports Christian theism; Quentin Smith says that big bang cosmology supports atheism. That has nothing to do with the validity of big bang cosmology, just like Dawkins’ atheism and Miller’s theism has nothing to do with the validity of evolution.

    There are many of us who do make this argument consistently, but frankly it doesn’t get through and the fault for that lies primarily with religious leaders who constantly reinforce the evolution = atheism myth because, like Dawkins himself, they don’t bother to make those distinctions. Put the blame where it lies. I am constantly telling people that evolution doesn’t = atheism, but for the average person in the pews they really do believe that it does because it’s been drilled into their heads. They really do think that evolutionary theory ends with “and therefore, there is no God.” This myth is most dominant on the other side, not on my side.

  24. #24 Meta-jester
    October 26, 2005

    There are many of us who do make this argument consistently…

    Dear Ed,

    Thank you for your very reasonable response. I’m very happy to hear it.

    I’ll grant you that religious leaders share the fault. Biblical literalism is a recalcitrant problem; and exacerbated by the lack of a central authority among most Christians in this country: without an authority or there’s only an unambiguous (supposedly) interpretation of Scripture to keep your children from abrogating the traditionally understood moral precepts of the religion.

    It’s noteworthy that the crisis of faith provoked by Darwinism played a major role in the evangelicals’ split from the mainline denominations. Not to mention the role of the permissive lifestyles justified in the name of the theory.

    So I don’t think that the religious response is all that unreasonable after atheists pounded the equivalence into the culture for over a century.

    Darwin himself didn’t help matters. Of course his fall from faith (after having been trained as an Anglican clergyman) had more to do with his tragic personal situation than with the theory. But you can still find his testament of belief online, in which he justifies his loss of faith based on the science.

    This is not to mention Huxley, H.G. Wells, Karl Marx, and so many others who hijacked the science to be “intellectually fulfilled atheists” (as Dawkins aptly summarizes the common line of reasoning). (I’m trying to keep this friendly, so I’ll omit more inflamatory names, as I don’t want to imply that all atheists are Marxists, etc.)

    I do think most atheists believe the equivalence, which is why they “evangelize” their belief with those amphibian icons that pointedly respond to the fish. Or at least you never hear any atheists publicly denouncing the practice.

    I don’t have a problem with Richard Dawkins arguing that evolution supports his atheistic views…

    I see your point. I agree on the need to clarify the boundary before the philosophical extrapolation of science. But I also think that the people defending evolution in the schools need to make the distinction more explicitly and without relegating religious believers to intellectual inferiority–thus implicitly insulting the dearly held beliefs of those on “the other side.”

    The religious-friendly apologies we hear are always of the sort that treat Christianity as an inferior worldview: confined to pontificating on the “metaphysics” reservation but utterly inappropriate elsewhere (as I explained about Gould). Even the more prominent pro-evolution Christians succumb to this pitfall: so pervasive is the cultural assumption of empiricism (the belief that only the measureable is real–which denies reality to any belief system, but by some logic empiricism escapes).

    So I’m not blaming anyone for this mistake: the cultural assumptions are difficult to see past. I’m just advocating for an increased deference to religion (even palpable respect) from those advocating the teaching of evolution.

    I highly value your willingness to dialogue on this sensitive matter and I hope that the amicable tone can continue in future discussions.

    Best regards,

    MJ

  25. #25 KeithB
    October 26, 2005

    “Darwin himself didn’t help matters. Of course his fall from faith (after having been trained as an Anglican clergyman) had more to do with his tragic personal situation than with the theory. But you can still find his testament of belief online, in which he justifies his loss of faith based on the science.”

    What “tragic personal situation”? I don’t see that his life was any more tragic than any other upper-middle class Victorian family. And his “fall” was clearly more of a wander. According to Desmond and Morris, Darwin would have been much more vocal about his agnosticism except that he knew it would hurt his dearly-loved wife.