Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Taylor on Cobb County Settlement

Larry Taylor, one of the loonier of the parents pushing for the evolution disclaimers in Cobb County, has an op-ed piece in the AJC complaining bitterly about the school board settling the case. The nonsense starts from the very first sentence:

Once again, the potent combination of a liberal judge and the deep pockets of the American Civil Liberties Union have proved too much to overcome.

This whole notion that the ACLU is this well-funded machine is quite absurd. The ACLU spent very little money in this case. Like almost all ACLU cases, it was handled pro bono, first by Michael Manely and then by Eric Rothschild and the Pepper Hamilton law firm. If they do not win the case, they have to eat the full cost of the trial without compensation; if they do win the case, they get maybe 1/3 of their costs recouped. None of this has anything to do with the ACLU’s budget or how much money they have. Besides which, the Cobb County school district is quite large and very well funded as well.

The Cobb County Board of Education showed great courage in its attempt to introduce reason and compromise into the heated evolution debate, but the forces of intolerance have once again emerged victorious in their quest to stifle all dissent of Darwinian orthodoxy.

And of course, the first person we should listen to when it comes to reason and tolerance is the guy who just the other day called the ACLU a “terrorist organization.” That’s well reasoned and very tolerant, isn’t it? If they disagree with you, they’re terrorists. Well done, Larry, well done.

This case was never about questioning evolution.

Keep this line in mind, because one paragraph later…

Students will continue to be taught that the fossil record shows a gradual and continuous curve of life evolving from a single common ancestor, even though the evidence shows new species appearing in the fossil record suddenly, without precursors, and that most remain remarkably unchanged during their tenure on earth before becoming extinct.

Nah, this is not about questioning evolution. What ever gave you that idea? Of course, this is rhetoric taken straight from creationist pamphlets and it’s quite silly. There are of course many places where the fossil record shows new species appearing with lots and lots of precursors, in a perfect series showing the gradual evolution of multiple traits that distinguish one species from another. There are some places where we of course have gaps in our knowledge, obviously because we only have the fossilized remains of a small portion of all the species that have ever existed.

But here’s the thing: only evolutionary theory is capable of explaining the fossil data that we have. The success of evolution as a predictive model, specifically in regard to the kinds of fossil series Larry wants to see, is incredible. Time and time again, paleontologists have predicted what an intermediate species must have looked like and the age and type of sediments it should be found in and then went out and found exactly what they predicted.

Most recently, it happened with Tiktaalik roseae, an intermediate form between lobe-finned fish and tetrapods. It’s happened in many other areas as well, including the transitions between theropod dinosaurs and birds, between tetrapods and whales, between therapsid reptiles and mammals, and even between Miocene primates and human beings. No form of creationism can explain such patterns; at best, they can only attempt to explain them away.

Students will not be taught to distinguish between “micro” and “macro” evolution, nor will they hear the dissenting voices of well-known and highly regarded scientists such as biologist Michael Behe or mathematician William Dembski and hundreds more who have publicly challenged the basic tenets of Darwinism, including many in our own state universities.

Imagine that. They also won’t hear the “dissenting voices” with credentials as compelling as Behe and Dembski in other areas either. They won’t hear the voice of Gerardus Buow, an astrophysicist who “dissents” from “Copernicanism” and believes the Earth is the center of the universe. They won’t hear the voice of those physicists who deny the theory of relativity, or those doctors who dissent from the germ theory of disease. The reason is simple: the existence of a small group of dissenters has nothing to do with the validity of any scientific theory.

There is no scientific explanation that does not have some dissenters, even ones with credentials. If they could actually produce a theory that explained the data better and they did the research necessary to confirm that theory, then they could make a case for inclusion in the science textbooks. The mere fact that there are dissenters is simply of no relevance; there are always dissenters, even from gravitational theory. Sometimes those dissenters are even proven right.

But here’s the thing: the only way they are ever proven right is by actually doing the difficult and painstaking work necessary to establish their ideas as valid. When George Gamow and the others who came up with the big bang theory, they were dissenters from the dominant cosmological theory of the day, steady state theory. Their ideas were initially rejected by other cosmologists. They didn’t go out and hire a PR firm and demand equal time in science classrooms, nor did they engage in political lobbying to get school boards to “teach the controversy.” They simply got to work, refining their model, making predictions and testing them. Lo and behold, the predictions they made were accurate, the theory was verified, and the scientific consensus was rapidly changed as a result.

The same is true of Alfred Wegener and his theory of continental drift. it was universally rejected by his fellow scientists because no one could imagine a mechanism that would allow it to happen. Wegener didn’t whine and cry about how persecuted he was. He didn’t try to get disclaimer stickers in earth science books to sow doubt about the ideas he rejected. He simply kept working, kept refining his models and compiling evidence. Eventually, his work and that of his students convinced the entire scientific world. That’s how science operates, not with PR campaigns and claims of persecution, but with hard work. If and when that work is done, if it proves successful, then and only then will ID be taken seriously.

Comments

  1. #1 Doug
    December 23, 2006

    God, I wish I hadn’t read that this morning in the AJC. It made my head hurt.

  2. #2 Greg
    December 23, 2006

    So what did the “liberal judge” have to do in all this? Does he mean the judge who rendered the first virdict or is it just part of the catchphrases “liberal (i.e., activist) judges” and the “[insert appropriate catchphrase adjective, such as Stalinist, Communist, American haters, Muslim lovers, etc] ACLU”?

  3. #3 dogmeatIB
    December 23, 2006

    Liberal-Activist [insert additional adjectives here] Judge: noun- Any judge who renders a decision that doesn’t violate constitutional law to force the public to conform to and confirm my specific Young Earth Creationist, Fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

  4. #4 Keanus
    December 23, 2006

    Taylor is willfully ignorant: ignorant of the ACLU, its goals, function, and finances; ignorant of biology and evolution; and ignorant of judicial responsibility. One would think he’d be embarrassed to display it so publicly in so many ways.

  5. #5 waldteufel
    December 23, 2006

    Excellent post, Ed. Thanks.

  6. #6 chris
    December 23, 2006

    Taylor is willfully ignorant:…One would think he’d be embarrassed to display it so publicly in so many ways.

    I don’t think he is being ignorant. He is doing the Lord’s work and anything that gets in his way is inherently wrong and must be defeated, even if it defies all logic and reason.

    Oh, and ID isn’t about religion.

  7. #7 Poly
    December 23, 2006

    ED:

    One small correction.

    Although George Gamow did indeed support the Big Bang theory in opposition to steady-state cosmologies, and also developed some of its implications, he wasn’t really one of those who “came up with” it.

    The experimental and theoretical underpinnings had been around for a long time before Gamow picked it up. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity led to the Friedmann-LemaĆ®tre-Robertson-Walker equations in 1927. The solution to those equations is what we eventually came to call the Big Bang. Hubble’s discovery of the red-shift in 1929 provided an observational basis.

  8. #8 Mark C
    December 23, 2006

    “…highly regarded scientists such as biologist Michael Behe or mathematician William Dembski…”

    I couldn’t finish the rest of the article because I was laughing too much.

  9. #9 waldteufel
    December 24, 2006

    Penn and Teller’s “Bullhit” series has a segment on “Creationism”, and they interview some of the Christian wackos in Cobb County. It’s really scary to look at them while they are mindlessly prattling about their creator god. To steal a phrase from chris: “Oh, and ID isn’t about religion.”