Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Victory in Ohio

The Ohio State School Board today voted 11-4 to remove the “critical analysis of evolution” lesson plan that was advocated so forcefully by the Discovery Institute and other ID advocates in 2002. Cue screams of outrage about “dogmatic Darwinists” (or “Stalinists” or the “Darwinian priesthood” or whatever today’s favorite hyperbole is) from John West and Casey Luskin in 5…4…3….2…

Update: Well that only took about 4 hours, here’s the DI’s response. I’m kind of disappointed, to be honest. Bullies? That’s the best they can do is call us bullies? I was really hoping for Atilla the Hun or Nazis or something fun like that. Hat tip to fellow bully Troy Britain for sending the link.

Comments

  1. #1 Anuminous
    February 14, 2006

    Hallelujah, and well done Ohio State School Board. For all that it seems obvious that any other choice would only put them in a (lawsuit) losing position, it is still good that they made the right call.

    May I just take a moment and point out how annoying I find the term “Darwinist”? It would seem to mean “a follower of Darwin” as though no other work was ever done in evolution research. I am a scientist (philosophically speaking, rather than professional). I believe that the scientific method is the best tool we have available to explain the world around us. Darwin did excellent work in this field, and others have followed with more and more…

    I guess it lines up a reverse appeal to authority: set Darwin up as “the man” then when you find (or invent) details about him to disparage you can knock the whole thing. Sigh.

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    February 14, 2006

    Anuminous:

    I’m with you. I hate the term “Darwinist”. If Darwin had never existed, we would still have the theory of evolution today and it would be just as compelling an explanation. I think we should start calling the IDers “Paleyists”.

  3. #3 Matthew
    February 14, 2006

    That’s done intentionally, to make it seem like you are following a person rather than an idea ala confucianist, jeffersonian, leninist.

  4. #4 Skemono
    February 14, 2006

    Hurrah for Ohio.

    And, more off-topic, have you seen this series of articles, Mr. Brayton? They’re written by a professor of the philosophy of science (or at least, that’s what his doctorate is in) discussing the history of the philosophical discussion of what constitutes “science”, culminating in making the argument that it’s impossible to dismiss intelligent design as not being science because, according to him, there isn’t any way to demarcate what is “science” and what is “pseudoscience”. He thus quotes approvingly, “Let’s abandon this struggle to demarcate and instead let’s liberally apply the label ‘science’ to any collection of assertions about the workings of the natural world. Fine, intelligent design is a science then – as is astrology, as is parapsychology.”

    I don’t recall seeing that set of arguments before, though I can’t say I really go hunting for advocations of teaching intelligent design.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    February 14, 2006

    Skemono-

    That’s actually a very common argument and there are prominent philosophers of science who take that position, most famously Larry Laudan at the University of Texas, with whom I had an interesting email exchange on this subject last year. There are two problems with that argument, in my view. First, even if there is no set of conditions that is both necessary and sufficent to demarcate science from non-science, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a set of conditions that are at least necessary, even if not sufficent by themselves, that allows us to rule out what is clearly non-science. Second, even without a perfect demarcation line, we must still have some means of demarcation or it is pointless to even have the term “science”. It must distinguish some set of ideas or it’s a useless term. At the very least, it must be able to distinguish between a scientific idea and, say, a musical one or a literary one. Everything can’t be science or why have the term? By way of analogy, we can’t draw a perfect line between the beach and the ocean because it moves around, but we can still know that the Kansas prairie isn’t the ocean.

  6. #6 skipevans
    February 14, 2006

    Good going for Ohio!

    It’s pretty obvious that the Dover decision is having its impact, as it rightly should, all over the country.

    The DI can whine and pout all they what, but what was bound to happen happened: the courts opened up a king size can of whip ass on them for being the deceitful politicos they’ve been from the start.

    This is certainly not the end of the anti-evolution movement. As long as there are people who feel an existential threat from science, especially evolutionary biology, we’ll have people like the DI to contend with.

    But to quote Flounder from Animal House, watching them get pounded with defeat after defeat, “Oh boy, is this great!”

  7. #7 Jim Lippard
    February 14, 2006

    Ed:

    I like your approach to the demarcation problem, which is to point out that even if it’s fuzzy on the edges, there are still clear cases of things that are *not it*. Even if science is a concept that is defined not by necessary and sufficient conditions but by prototypical examples and family resemblance, there are still things that are sufficiently far off to not count as science.

    Another approach is that advocated by Philip Kitcher in his book _The Advancement of Science_, which is to say that the distinction between science and pseudoscience isn’t in the subject matter but by the motives and methods used–the scientists are the ones participating in the scientific institutions, using the practices of science. A particular theory or subject area can be science in one era, and pseudoscience in a later era. I put up a lengthy quote from this book on this subject on talk.origins on Jan. 27, 1994 under the subject “Kitcher quote” which can be found in Google Groups. If this URL isn’t ephemeral, you may find it here: http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/browse_thread/thread/915e1022db89ed5/47b28d7dd3818d49

  8. #8 TrekJunkie
    February 14, 2006

    Darwinist bullies ;)

  9. #9 Jeff Hebert
    February 14, 2006

    I was involved in a morality discussion with my YEC boss today at lunch and he kept saying “As a Darwinist would you” and “Most Darwinists would say”. I finally called him on it, telling him that “Darwinist” is a creationist-invented word that attempts to conflate atheism and someone who understands and accepts a natural method of evolution and creation. I asked if he should also be calling me a “Newtonist” because I don’t believe angels push the planets around the sun or a “Copernican” because I believe in heliocentrism. I made the point that the term serves no other purpose than to try to tie a philisophical or religious viewpoint to a scientific theory, when in fact no such congruence exists.

    I think he felt I was just playing word games, but I think it’s an important point to make. If you concede the term “Darwinist” you’re basically agreeing that understanding the mechanics of how life evolves necessarily means that you’re an atheist. And the two have nothing to do with each other.

  10. #10 Roman Werpachowski
    February 14, 2006

    Heh. I expected this to happen. I am amazed how you people cry over the “war on science” when in all practical situation science is ruling the field (11 to 4!). I’m with you guys and gals in this “battle”, but isn’t your rhetoric of the kind “how dare you think different than me?!” aimed at those poor ID imbeciles ?

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    February 14, 2006

    Roman wrote:

    I am amazed how you people cry over the “war on science” when in all practical situation science is ruling the field (11 to 4!). I’m with you guys and gals in this “battle”, but isn’t your rhetoric of the kind “how dare you think different than me?!” aimed at those poor ID imbeciles ?

    *yawn* This kind of rhetoric is so tiresome. It has nothing to do with anyone thinking differently. You want to not accept evolution? Fine by me. Knock yourself out. But when you try to take over public school science classrooms to push your dishonest agenda (and I think I’ve documented that agenda to be dishonest in exhausting and thorough detail over the last 3 years), we say no. This is not an isolated incident, and the fact that the vote was 11-4 was quite a surprise to us. Just a few weeks ago, the same board voted 9-8 on this issue and in 2002 they put this lesson plan in to the standards. The fact is that the ID advocates are very well funded, very well organized and very aggressive. We are dealing with these kinds of attempts all over the nation, with new ones cropping up so fast that we can hardly keep up. This has nothing to do with people daring to think differently, it has to do with a very aggressive campaign to undermine quality science education all around the country and it’s about a larger agenda, spelled out quite bluntly by the other side, to “reclaim America” for a narrow sectarian religious viewpoint. And the only one calling them imbeciles here is you. I don’t consider any of the leading ID advocates to be stupid at all.

  12. #12 tacitus
    February 14, 2006

    I love the way the DI spins this loss as “censoring evolution”. The word “Rovian” springs to mind.

  13. #13 RBH
    February 14, 2006

    Ed wrote

    Just a few weeks ago, the same board voted 9-8 on this issue and in 2002 they put this lesson plan in to the standards.

    The delicious irony is that had the creatonists given us the lesson plan last month they’d have kept the benchmark and indicator, and could have played more games. By defeating the motion last month to delete just the lesson plan, they set themselves up for today when we went after it all after a month of hard lobbying. And got it all!

  14. #14 wheatdogg
    February 14, 2006

    I live in Kentucky, home of William Dembski and a pro-ID governor. A fellow blogger suggests here that the Bluegrass State could be the next ID battleground. We have all the right conditions.

    If you’re curious, check out Dembski’s syllabi for the courses he teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary here in Louisville. He’s training the next generation of IDists.

  15. #15 Gerry L
    February 15, 2006

    Great news. Now, Ed, the attention will be turning to Michigan. What is it, Gull Lake? After Dover and Ohio, will they be chastened, or will they be super cranky? We can’t be complacent.

  16. #16 raj
    February 15, 2006

    Skemono | February 14, 2006 06:04 PM

    He (the professor of the philosophy of science) thus quotes approvingly, “Let’s abandon this struggle to demarcate and instead let’s liberally apply the label ‘science’ to any collection of assertions about the workings of the natural world. Fine, intelligent design is a science then – as is astrology, as is parapsychology.”

    In my view, this is way too broad a characterization, at least in the modern view of what characterizes science. In order for something to be considered “science” the “assertions about the workings of the natural world” need to be backed up by evidence, and evidence is what is sorely lacking in astrology, parapsychology, alchemy–and “Intelligent Design.”

  17. #17 Dave S.
    February 15, 2006

    Ed said:

    I’m with you. I hate the term “Darwinist”. If Darwin had never existed, we would still have the theory of evolution today and it would be just as compelling an explanation. I think we should start calling the IDers “Paleyists”.

    Some are doing just that already. Although I suspect it does discredit to Paley. I think Paley at least honestly made it clear that he was refering to God as the Designer.

  18. #18 bourgeois_rage
    February 15, 2006

    I don’t think this is over in Ohio, yet. But it is a huge step in the right direction. Cooler, more rational heads prevail.

  19. #19 Dexceus
    February 15, 2006

    I techinaccly just moved out of Ohio (across the river to Northern Kentucky), but I was still embarrased by my home state because of all of this. I have to say, as I Buckeye, this makes me proud.

  20. #20 Ed Brayton
    February 15, 2006

    Gerry L wrote:

    Great news. Now, Ed, the attention will be turning to Michigan. What is it, Gull Lake? After Dover and Ohio, will they be chastened, or will they be super cranky? We can’t be complacent.

    I don’t know if the Thomas More Law Center will file a suit in Gull Lake or not. They’ve said they’re going to several times, but they haven’t done so. It’s a case they have virtually no chance of winning, even less chance than they had in Dover. In Michigan, our bigger concern at the moment is HB5606 in the legislature.

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