Pharyngula

Ben Domenech: creationist

Let us continue our Ben Domenech bashing. He’s got this somewhat high profile gig at the Washington Post, and one has to wonder what his qualifications are. I think we can rule out “intelligence.”

GWW made an interesting discovery: he’s a creationist. I don’t understand why the Right is constantly elevating these ignoramuses; there must still be a few conservatives who read this site (I can’t possibly have driven you all away)…aren’t you embarrassed by this kind of thing?

For instance, here’s some dumb-as-a-post reasoning:

I personally don’t have a problem with evolution being taught in public schools. I occasionally have a problem with the way it is taught – as a final, solid, unquestioned truth, as opposed to a still-changing theoretical approach that many scientists think best explains the way things came to be.

Yglesias speaks about Darwinistic evolution as if it was a solid, undebatable fact, like 2+2=4. But the whole thing’s a lot more complicated than that. An academic survey a couple of years ago found that nearly a third of hard scientists believed in theories other than the typical evolutionary construct – either something involving genetic mutation, or intelligent design, or something inspired by Stephen Jay Gould, or the like.

Where to begin? We teach the facts and the evidence, and the phenomenon of evolution is a fact. And at the same time, there are missing bits and pieces of the whole story, and we teach those as well. I suspect that Mr Domenech has never actually taken a biology course, and doesn’t have the slightest idea what he’s talking about. That second paragraph confirms it.

What exactly does he think the “typical evolutionary construct” might be? He seems to think that genetic mutation isn’t part of it, which is bizarre. He thinks SJ Gould wasn’t part of the evolution mainstream, which is an odd thing to say about a Harvard paleontologist. And to toss intelligent design in there—it’s true that it isn’t part of the “typical evolutionary construct” (he got one thing right!), but no, very few scientists believe in that. This whole thing is a crazy distortion of what biologists actually do.

All right, we could just assume he’s uninformed, and doesn’t know what he’s talking about…but he goes beyond that to egregious dishonesty, with a fraudulent quote-mine.

Will Saletan is normally at least evenhanded. But his offhand dismissal of the reasons for teaching Intelligent Design in public schools is full of holes. He can’t just dismiss intelligent design as “empy” or “full of lies or dogma,” when no less prominent an evolutionist than Stephen Jay Gould has lent weight to the theories of Michael Behe and his brethren. This is not to say that one should accept the doctrine of intelligent design–but biological evolution in the macro remains a theory, by definition. It is not true that, as one W&M prof frequently remarks, “evolution is as real as Cincinnati.” One can drive to see Cincinnati. One cannot drive to see the billions of years required by biological evolutionary theory.

Simply because Saletan disagrees with ID theory does not mean that the theory fails to meet the threshold required to be mentioned in a public school course. If that were true, half of what we teach in high school social studies class would be out. If public school curricula were determined by majority opinion, Saletan would be red in the face: only 10% of Americans agree with Saletan’s view of evolution.

Wow. You read that, and it sounds as if Gould had endorsed Intelligent Design creationism—Mr Domenech is slinging around Gould’s credibility and authority to rebut Saletan’s dismissal of ID. Follow that link, though, and you won’t find Gould saying supportive things about Behe or the work of the Discovery Institute: instead, it’s a diatribe by one Robert Wright, against Gould, accusing him of doing such poor science that he is providing aid and comfort to creationists. Wright’s article is a rather hacky hit piece, but it’s clear that he has nothing but contempt for creationists, and there’s nothing there to suggest that Gould had anything good to say about them, either. Domenech is blatantly misrepresenting the story.

The rest—the implication that evolution is weak because it “remains a theory“, that you cannot see the evidence for evolution, and that ID somehow meets a standard sufficient to be taught in public schools—is just traditional creationist stupidity. Falling back on the argument from popularity is a theme common to this guy.

Like here, where he also confesses to being a creationist:

Nearly twice as many Americans believe in creationism as in evolution (the theory which Derb subscribes to — in my opinion, that positive belief is actually worse than the negative belief on creation). It’s been that way for more than a decade. I don’t necessarily subscribe to all Creationist theories, but I do take Genesis literally. And I believe the commonly taught theory of evolution is a total crock.

I’m not surprised to learn that he is the product of home schooling, which in its worst instances can foster an unfortunately narrow point of view, and usually means the kid is instructed by someone with absolutely no training in education. It seems to be only on the right wing that a frothing idiot like this guy can fall upward into a mass media job—where the first thing he does is chew out the mass media for being too liberal.


A must-read: Firedoglake summarizes all the joy and laughter we expect to get from little Ben’s appointment.

Comments

  1. #1 Adam Ierymenko
    March 21, 2006

    I’m not sure what makes me more depressed– how bad the public school system is, or the fact that a large percentage of homeschoolers seem to do so out of a desire to give their children a *worse* education than the one provided by the already awful public schools.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/41879

  2. #2 Sean Foley
    March 21, 2006

    …nearly a third of hard scientists believed in theories other than the typical evolutionary construct – either something involving genetic mutation, or intelligent design, or something inspired by Stephen Jay Gould…

    Hmm. OK. Ben, I’ve been thinking about how to phrase this at a level you’ll understand, and I think I’ve got it. Play the tape:

    One of these things is not like the others,
    One of these things just doesn’t belong…

  3. #3 coturnix
    March 21, 2006

    Of course, this post will get you the wreath of homeschoolers who actually do provide better education than the public schools (including many recent immigrants appaled that the stuff they learned in fourth grade is here taught in 8th or not at all). But I know WHICH homeschoolers you are talking about – the Fundamentalist Christians.

    OT, I used the jigsaw-puzzle exercise teaching in lab last week and I wrote about my experience. This time around I think I have no closet Creationist in class (unlike last time), so I am more open than usual about evolution.

  4. #4 Christian
    March 21, 2006

    PZ, this might brighten your day a bit. I am a fiscal conservative, with somewhat liberal social leanings. So, this means that the Feds/States/Muni’s should balance their books. Their function is mainly to provide a stable infrastructure for the people. On the liberal side, I don’t care if Howard Stern is uncensored on the regular radio. If you don’t like, change the damend channel. Nor do I care if abortion is legally available. That is a tough choice for most women to make, and damned if some religious nut has a right to impose his rather warped sense of morality on her choice. However, given that I am in TN, and think that the public school system here sucks, and I went to parochial schools here, I think that is the best form of education available in my state. Hell, they didn’t force belief in a religion down anyone’s throat, but they did require everyone to at least take some sort of overview of religion to give them an idea of what the fuss was about.

    So, I guess that makes me a confusing person to pigeonhole. I used to like the conservatives because they used to be more economically responsible, but now they have been hijacked by the evangelicals who appear to be running amok in society today. (Dammit folks, keep your religion to yourselves. Philosophically, no one can prove God doesn’t exist, but by the same reasoning, you can’t prove he does either. Get off the Bible soapbox. The damned thing wasn’t finalized until the fourth century, so there was plenty of time to “rewrite” the actual history of Jesus.)

    So, that leaves me with the option of voting for fiscally irresponsible democrats, who will burn through present and future cash flows, but who will at least leave most of my nasty habits alone. Of course, reviewing the news about the TN Waltz sting is facinating as well. But, of course, in the burning through money respect, Bush is an excellent democrat these days.

    So, in closing, keep up the good work PZ, this “conservative” supports you.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

  5. #5 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    March 21, 2006

    Of course, this post will get you the wreath of homeschoolers who actually do provide better education than the public schools

    All six of them!

  6. #6 John
    March 21, 2006

    Wow. The Post picked a real winner here. Why do they go out of their way to come up with extreme conservatives for their opinion pages? Krauthammer, Will, and now this guy… it is becoming harder to visit the site without running into some kind of idiocy on the front page. (And I hate seeing Krauthammer’s ugly mug plastered there.)

  7. #7 Pete K
    March 21, 2006

    Rick: LOL!

  8. #8 CL
    March 21, 2006

    John: these are the opinion pages we’re talking about. If the views like Krauthammer’s and Will’s were excluded solely because they’re “extreme conservative . . . idiocy,” I’d be worried, even though I strenuously disagree with them.

  9. #9 Linkmeister
    March 21, 2006

    I hold no brief for Krauthammer and Will, but at least they’ve got some credentials, unlike this former Bush appointee hack.

  10. #10 Delicious Pundit
    March 22, 2006

    So, that leaves me with the option of voting for fiscally irresponsible democrats, who will burn through present and future cash flows,

    Like who?

  11. #11 Damien
    March 22, 2006

    Christian: the Republicans talk about fiscal responsibility, but which party has seen massive expansion of the debt, since 1980? “Tax and spend” (or ideally, “Tax and invest”) Democrats seem to beat “borrow and spend” Republicans, at least nationally. Maybe state GOPs are better, though part of Howard Dean’s appeal for me was his providing health coverage in Vermont while balancing the budget.

    > All six of them!

    Uh, whatever.
    http://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0053.html
    Table 5 notes religious reasons as a minority reason for homeschooling.

  12. #12 coturnix
    March 22, 2006

    Since when are democrats fiscally irresponsible – they build up surpluses just to see them vanish whenever GOP is in power?! Only in RushLimbaughLand….

  13. #13 Ronald Brak
    March 22, 2006

    Christian, speaking as an outsider in another country, over the past 30 yeas the U.S. seems to go deeper into debt when Republicans are in power. There is a graph at http://zfacts.com/p/318.html which displays this. I force myself to pay close attention to economic infomation like this because when the American economy sneezes, Australia gets covered in mucous.

  14. #14 garth
    March 22, 2006

    i read the “genetic mutation” bit and fell over laughing. what a titanic, unbearable, ridiculous, douchenozzle this guy is. i mean…words fail….

  15. #15 Josh Trevino
    March 22, 2006

    I can’t possibly have driven you all away

    Nope.

    …aren’t you embarrassed by this kind of thing?

    By sneering derision directed against someone who doesn’t really deserve it? Nah. It’s up to you to feel embarrassment. My reaction isn’t embarrassment — it’s contempt.

    Heck, and I’m on your side on the evolution thing.

  16. #16 Michael "Sotek" Ralston
    March 22, 2006

    So, that leaves me with the option of voting for fiscally irresponsible democrats, who will burn through present and future cash flows, but who will at least leave most of my nasty habits alone.

    Like … um… hmm.

    Clinton?

    I mean … compare Clinton and Bush or Reagan.

    One had a surplus … two increased the debt.

    I’m seeing the fiscal irresponsibility here, and it’s not Clinton.

  17. #17 Dustin
    March 22, 2006

    Yeah, I’m a little tired of this “tax-and-spend Democrat” riff. Not only is there absolutely no evidence suggesting that’s the case, but the paper trail suggests quite the opposite is true. I’d ask anyone here to compare the budgetary status of some of the blue states in the north east to the red states in the south. The Clinton vs. Reagan vs. Bush thing speaks volumes too.

    I’m sure the notion endures because, yes, we do like to tax people. What nerve we have, wanting to have such luxuries as roads and schools and public research. Of course, the difference between a Democrat’s spending and a Republican’s is that 1) the money spent in the public sector is on things that could be considered infrastructure and services (where there is no investment potential), not on bolstering the military industrial complex (thereby crowding out private investement) and 2) we don’t rack up a monster deficit to do it. Guess who’s less likely to cause inflation?

    That said, I’m not sure who to hold in higher esteem (economically): Reagan or Clinton. Say what you will about him, but Reagan did reign in the stagflationary period of the early 80’s, and that wasn’t going to correct itself. Granted, his fiscal policy and the monitary policy of the fed at the time would have been more effective, by yards and miles, if Reagan didn’t spend like a maniac on the military — that would have translated to a quicker recovery, and fewer lost jobs in the correction (and before anyone tries to defend Reagan’s spendthrift attitude as being responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union — that’s horseshit. The changes in the Soviet Union were due to Gorbachev and Yakovlev, and it’s typical American arrogance to assume otherwise).

    Clinton, on the other hand, despite being very pro-education, pro-technology, and pro-not-starting-a-war-and-killing-everyone-while-making-his-buddies-rich-because-of-it, still messed up with this free trade agreement with China. We kept hearing that it was going to open new markets to American products, when anyone could have seen that American products come at such a high price that there was no market for them in China. FTA with China is for cheap labor, and it’s finally starting to hurt us, and it’s going to besmirch Clinton’s legacy for a long time.

    What I am absolutely certain of, though, is that George W. Bush is, on every possible level, one of the worst presidents in the history of the union.

  18. #18 george cauldron
    March 22, 2006

    So, that leaves me with the option of voting for fiscally irresponsible democrats, who will burn through present and future cash flows

    “Fiscally irresponsible’?? What the fuck? This is a ridiculous myth. Compare the economy the way Clinton left it and compare that with what Bush has done to it. The GOP deserves no credit whatsofuckingever for sound economic policy. As we’ll still be paying off BUSH’S deficit in 2040, you’ll have plenty of time to ponder this for the rest of your life. Wake the hell up.

  19. #19 Dustin
    March 22, 2006

    That’s what I’m saying, george. You know what really burns me? I hate it when conservatives go on these diatribes against Keynes and then, in the same breath try to defend Bush’s spending and tax cuts as “economic stimulus”.

    Orwell had a word for that.

  20. #20 Rick
    March 22, 2006

    “An academic survey a couple of years ago found that nearly a third of hard scientists believed in theories other than the typical evolutionary construct – either something involving genetic mutation, or intelligent design, or something inspired by Stephen Jay Gould, or the like.”
    ROTFL

    I have to admit Gould is a bit dry for my tastes, but I excuse myself because I’m really just a mathematician in a biologist’s clothing. But I hadn’t thought that all the work done here at UCL studying genetic mutation was in some way a variant from the “typical evolutionary construct”.

    It seems strange to me that being breathtakingly stupid is now an essential feature to getting a well-paid job in the right circles. I think it’s time to impose the estate tax in a fairly severe way, to try to steer the US away from encroaching aristocratic principles and back towards something resembling meritocracy.

  21. #21 Francis
    March 22, 2006

    I am a fiscal conservative, with somewhat liberal social leanings.

    You mean you’re a mainstream Democrat?

  22. #22 Mike
    March 22, 2006

    Dustin wrote: Say what you will about him, but Reagan did reign in the stagflationary period of the early 80’s, and that wasn’t going to correct itself.

    Actually, Paul Volcker, the Fed chair fixed that. He tells the story of going to Carter and telling him of his plan. “You know this will cost you the election.” Carter told him to do it anyway.

  23. #23 SHanley
    March 22, 2006

    Just to pile on: Republicans as “fiscally responsible” has been untrue since at least 1980. Which means something close to half of all voters have never, in their entire voting careers, had even the opportunity to vote for a GOP Presidential cadidate who was fiscally responsible.

  24. #24 Unstable Isotope
    March 22, 2006

    Stephen Jay Gould must be rolling over in his grave a lot, with the way anti-evolutionists seem to come up with his name to support their anti-science views.

    For Mr. Trevino, why doesn’t Mr. Domenech deserve ridicule? He works for the Washington Post. Is he immune from criticism because he’s conservative? If someone writes things that are just plain wrong, they deserve to be corrected.

    Also, I would like to see an example of a fiscally responsible Republican. All they seem to do is run up deficits and cause recessions. The only president to actually balance the budget was Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

  25. #25 Chris
    March 22, 2006

    Deficit spending is kind of like cocaine for the economy: it might “stimulate” you and feel good for a while, but when you come down from it, you’re even worse off. And then the dealer comes around wanting his money.

    And then you discover you’re addicted, and any time when you’re not deficit spending starts to feel like a slump…

    Analogies shouldn’t be overstressed, of course.

    To a point, the “tax and spend” label is correct; Republicans just don’t mention that their alternative is “don’t tax, but spend just as much or more anyway”. The media doesn’t call them on it, of course.

  26. #26 rrt
    March 22, 2006

    A minor defense for our dear Ben:

    When he mentioned not being able to see billions of years of evolution, I think he was referring to our inability to actually witness historical events in evolution.

    Now, Ben needs to understand this is not necessary to demonstrate that evolution, including “macro,” occurs, and PZ pointed that out. But I would point out that when this argument is made, it’s also quite valuable to point out the capabilities of the fossil record, genetics, and possibly age-of-the-earth evidence as he sounds somewhat young-Earthy. It sounds to me like he has the common Creationist lack of understanding and dismissal of the value of this evidence.

    I wouldn’t expect him to actually accept, or perhaps even grasp, the information, but it’s worth mention.

  27. #27 Fernando
    March 22, 2006

    Reading Ben Domenech´s bits of BS written here, I remembered something that I´ve seen before, and I see all the time coming from stupid people… they seen to believe that school should be a place where you learn just what you want to. I think that anyone with a 10% functioning brain understands that you go to school to know things you HAVE to, NOT things you want to… can´t they understand how dumb this idea is? I see it all the time from this kind of people, like when they claim “teach ID along with evolution, it´s fair to have both sides”… both sides of what? ID is a denial the other stuff, they also don´t understand you can´t prove A by disproving B. It´s always the same BS coming from them, over and over. And it´s funny to see the ID people all the time mixing evolution theory with origin of life. In fact , they say SO MANY BS that I think it´s amusing they don´t die of shame from their stupidity… And another… they confuse their own blind faith in fairy tales with science. They think we “believe” in gravity, we “believe” in atoms, this kind of stuff… maybe it´s because they can´t get smarter, their brains are stuck on pre-historic times… I really despise this people, they make me sick.
    Thanks for reading my rant. :-)

  28. #28 WatchfulBabbler
    March 22, 2006

    So, does he think that two-thirds of scientists don’t believe in genetic mutation?

    Okay, so let’s get this straight: WaPo decides to hire a conservative blogger to “balance” Dan Froomkin, who some people see as being tilted to the left.

    Froomkin writes a summary of daily news. Domenech writes his personal opinion.

    Froomkin is the previous politics producer for washingtonpost.com and served as its editor for three years. He worked as a beat reporter for ten years, has taught at American University and the Poynter Institute, is a former Knight-Wallace fellow at University of Michigan, and is a deputy editor for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

    Domenech is a twentysomething political hack.

    Look, I’m as conservative as the next neo-Hegelian with a Straussian background (though old Leo did vote for Adlai Stevenson, so take that as you will), but these guys are totally alien to me.

  29. #29 Miracle Max
    March 22, 2006

    Gives a new meaning to one million monkeys typing.

  30. #30 Jonathan Badger
    March 22, 2006

    I realize that the majority of homeschoolers (and homeschoolees) are religious idiots, but the smartest guy I’ve ever had the pleasure to know, Erik Demaine (http://theory.lcs.mit.edu/~edemaine/) was homeschooled by his father. (I was a postdoc in the department where Erik was working on his doctorate as a teenager).

    Erik joined the MIT faculty at the ripe old age of 22 (the guy *has* grad students of his own at an age when I wasn’t even a grad student!), and was a recipient of a MacArthur ‘genius grant’ in 2005. But it helps that his father wasn’t such a bad mathematician in his own right. Maybe we should simply require homeschooling parents to be licensed and simply make the requirements hard enough to exclude the yucky YECs.

  31. #31 SaltyC
    March 22, 2006

    Stephen Jay Gould was a diehard atheist. Once a woman asked him if the fact that he overcame cancer (of course this was before it came back and killed him) made him re-think his stance and become more spiritual, he said no, he knew it wasn’t anything metaphysical that made him better, he may have died, or not, what did that have to do with god?

    Also, he testified in one of those nutty “scopes”-type trials in the late 80’s, I believe. Against teaching “Scientific Creation” (ID for the 80’s)

    Just found this site today. I love it!

    I feel so inspired by fellow free-thinkers. Maybe that’s the “Oceanic feeling” Freud was talking about (the one he never experienced)

  32. #32 Katrina Refugee
    March 22, 2006

    Dear Dr. Myers,
    Due to the unforeseen events of Katrina, my family and I ended up staying with relatives in South Carolina, and my children (for the year) are going to a small Christian school with their cousins (the public schools in this area are quite horrendous and we were trying to ease the transition as best as possible). They will be back in public school next year, but in the meantime have been exposed to some really silly creationist crap in the science classroom.

    Can you recommend some reading material for the summer to “wash away” all the stuff they have been exposed to this year? We have diligently discussed all the fallacies of what they are being taught, but I am not a scientist and I would feel much better if they had some appropriate books to read over the summer.

    They are aged 15 and 14.

    This is a serious request, and I would greatly appreciate any advice you may have.

    Thank you.

  33. #33 Matt O.
    March 22, 2006

    Saying you are for “fiscal responsibility” is like saying you are “for education.” No one is going to say “I am for fiscal irresponsibility.”

    What separates us is that Democrats want to be fiscally responsible but also provide programs for citizens. Republicans used to be for fiscal responsibility but cut off the tax payers from social programs with cuts.

  34. #34 demoman
    March 22, 2006

    How snarky. Anytime I need to think that the L. Left has calmed down a bit, I simply need come over here for another dose of cranky unreality.

    And the echo chamber that passes for commentary here!!! No wonder the minds are all snapped shut. Everyone simply pats everyone else on the back and proclaims what a wonderful job you all are doing.

    Homeschooling poorer than public schools? Check the test scores, Sherlock. You’re all at sea here.

    For what it is worth though, I have to agree with you on the irony of seeing the Republicans in this administration as fiscal concervatives.

  35. #35 cfw
    March 22, 2006

    I just finished a book by Larson about the history of the theory (or theories) of evolution.

    One nagging question not covered: If evolution is a fact, why do we have no details about new species that are appearaing now (or that have appeared in the last 200 years)?

    I would expect as species become extinct, there should be new species appearing. We hear about mass extinctions, and mutations. Why nothing published (that I know of) about all the new species appearing? Are new species that hard to detect? That rare, given all the species now out there?

    Darwin’s book talks about the origin of species – any books or articles out there about documented new species since 1859?

    This does not convince me that one should teach creationism except in a history or religion class. Just that the evolution theories are still works in progress.

  36. #36 Dept. of vertebrate paleontology
    March 22, 2006

    I suggest benny boy hop in his car and dive to 77th and central park west here in NYC.
    I will personally show him the “billions of years of evidence required by biological evolutionary theory”.
    Some how I doubt he will be enlightened though. You can lead a wingnut to facts but….

  37. #37 Molly, NYC
    March 22, 2006

    An academic survey a couple of years ago found that nearly a third of hard scientists believed in theories other than the typical evolutionary construct . . .

    Uh, Ben, honey, can you give the cite for this survey? An investigator, an institution, a journal, a date, anything?

    Thought not. (The Discovery Institute, possibly?)

    Incidently–exactly how are you defining “hard scientists”? You’re aware that programmers and engineers don’t make the cut?

  38. #38 Troutnut
    March 22, 2006

    The world is my Onion.

  39. #39 Will E.
    March 22, 2006

    “By definition”–whenever you see that phrase, you can be sure that the person stating it has no fucking clue what the definition actually is.

  40. #40 Carlie
    March 22, 2006

    “I would expect as species become extinct, there should be new species appearing. We hear about mass extinctions, and mutations. Why nothing published (that I know of) about all the new species appearing?”

    The short answer is that there is a hell of a lot published about it, so you’re just not looking in the right places.
    Yeah, part of the problem is that the general news media don’t find the latest example of speciation in X to be newsworthy, but the more spectacular ones do find their way into the news now and then; I’m thinking in particular of a pygmy elephant that appears to be a recent derivative of African elephants was just discovered awhile back and made the NYTimes. There are lots of examples of species that had to evolve fairly recently: bacteria that eat only synthetic polymers, parasites that live only on clothing (if you accept the premise that early humans didn’t have clothes), fungi that live only in refined gasoline. Oh, and don’t forget all the germs! Why do you think that you have to get a new flu shot every year?

  41. #41 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    March 22, 2006

    Table 5 notes religious reasons as a minority reason for homeschooling.

    Not so fast. Let’s look a little closer.

    http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/homeschool/

    (Table 4, specifically). While only 30% choose religious or moral reasons as the *most* important reason to homeschool, 72% pick religious or moral reasons as *one* reason they homeschool. So a majority of homeschoolers do so for at least partially religious reasons.

  42. #42 dave
    March 22, 2006

    cfw> I’m pretty sure if you google specification (i think that’s spelled right) you find examples. I think the site that has the scientific articles is called talkorigins.

  43. #43 PZ Myers
    March 22, 2006

    If evolution is a fact, why do we have no details about new species that are appearaing now

    New species have been observed.

    There are a couple of confounding problems, of course. We’re in the middle of a major wave of extinctions, so we don’t expect species losses to be balanced by new species appearing.

    Another is that we only know a small fraction of the species present. About 10,000 new species are described every year…how would we know the difference between a recent speciation and merely recent discovery?

    Speciation events will be subtle and gradual (usually…get some E&E people together, you could start a good fight over that). What do you expect to see? It could be as unobvious as a fruit fly population with a chromosomal rearrangement relative to another population.

  44. #44 f*cker Karlson
    March 22, 2006

    “exactly how are you defining “hard scientists”? ”

    You sure you really want to now this? Does this eliminate female scientists in the survey?

  45. #45 rrt
    March 22, 2006

    CFW:

    I apologize for the brief and sparse response, I’m away from home and unable to do thorough research and linking at present. However, try going to Talk.origins and run a search in their search engine for “Observed Instance of Speciation.” That should help you a bit. Keep in mind that these are just a SAMPLING of the published data, and that there is plenty more in the literature. Also note that you are somewhat correct in thinking that the pace and scale of evolution plays a role here. You shouldn’t expect to see a radically different species of beetle diverge in lab or field studies, but rather a very slightly different one. Over a long time (in human scales), that new species (and the old one) may diverge quite radically, of course.

    Katrina Refugee: See my above limitations, but one possible fun book (not at all comprehensive!) is, if you think they’re old enough for it (I highly recommend you review it first) is Olivia Judson’s “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation.” It’s a great book on the reproductive habits of the animal kingdom from an evolutionary perspective, written as if the author is a Dr. Ruth-style advice columnist. Also, much of Talk.origins in general is a great read, especially (if you want to shoot down misconceptions and falsehoods they were fed) the Index to Creationist Claims. TO has the advantage of being free and on the web.

  46. #46 Kristine
    March 22, 2006

    Ben Domen-wretch: “Many scientists believed their dating of the Big Bang (another theory) to be dead-on – but new discoveries imply [imply means what it implies that it means, Domenech, you dingleberry] they were off by millions of years.” Ooooh! Whoo-hoo! And my computer clock is off by…minutes! Ooh! Science is a lie! Trash the atomic clock! Bring back the sundials!

    So how many millions in a billion, again? Duh, Duh-menech. Americans also believed in bleeding people to cure fevers longer than anyone else on earth, too. Why don’t we bring that back, as well?

  47. #47 darukaru
    March 22, 2006

    Poor Steve Gould. I guess the creationists love to quote-mine him so much because he’s no longer in a position to tell them that they’re full of shit.

  48. #48 jimvj
    March 22, 2006

    Funny how the people who believe that they have the ear of an omnipotent God, Yahweh, are the same ones who seem to be terrified of letting their children and themselves be exposed to secular ideas and people. You’d think they would go out of their way to interact with the “ungodly” – to witness to them as their God-son supposedly commanded.

  49. #49 Damien
    March 22, 2006

    > Not so fast

    Interesting. But I note that the numbers in that table differ substantially from those in my link. Rapid change from 1999 to 2003, or poor replicability due to sampling difficulties?

  50. #50 The Green Knight
    March 22, 2006

    Oh for pity’s sake, this Domenech guy is a moron.

    Evolution is a fact. The exact details of the way evolution happens, like most physical phenomena, is still being studied and argued over by the experts. That’s all.

    Even I get that, and I’m a humanities guy.

  51. #51 yagwara
    March 22, 2006

    Katrina refugee:

    See Dr. Myers’ reading list.

    He has listed a variety of things for all ages.

  52. #52 yagwara
    March 22, 2006

    Oops, my comment crossed paths with PZ’s new post.

  53. #53 Dan Isaacs
    March 22, 2006

    I should note as well that “2+2=4″ is not really that simple. If you doubt this, then do me a favor and go through the exercise of PROVING that 2+2=4. It’s actually quite complicated.

  54. #54 Kristine
    March 22, 2006

    “Funny how the people who believe that they have the ear of an omnipotent God, Yahweh, are the same ones who seem to be terrified of letting their children and themselves be exposed to secular ideas and people.”

    What is also funny is how these same people (especially a U.S. President and his minions) believe in an omnipotent God, but still think that they can keep information from the public, for example, that Katrina video, or Cheney thinking that his best friend was a bird rather than a bird brain. So, plugged those leaks yet, Fearless Leader? Who’s the Leaker, George W.? Maybe Domenech should write a column about the consequences of God going into the Federal Witness Protection program.

  55. #55 Dennis
    March 22, 2006

    “… they also don’t understand you can’t prove A by disproving B.”

    Actually, you can prove A by disproving B. It’s called reductio ad absurdum (RAA or proof by contradiction for short.) If A and B are the only possible alternatives and you show that B contradicts another theorem in the logical system, then A must be true.

    RAA proofs can be a little tricky, because you have to be sure you’ve found a real contradiction. For example, you can use RAA to prove that Root(2) is irrational by supposing it to be rational. That leads you to the contradiction that 2 is both even and odd. Saccheri tried to use RAA to prove Euclid’s parallel postulate, and came within epsilon of discovering noneuclidean geometries in the 17th Century. Unfortunately, Saccheri convinced himself he had a contradiction and didn’t discover hyperbolic geometry after all.

    Books for teens on evolution. I recommend Gould’s collected essays from Natural History. Wonderful Life (Gould’s history of the discovery of the Burgess Shale fossils) is simultaneously a great social history of paleontology and a good explication of the basics of evolution.

    The real irony about ID-ers quoting Gould out of context is that he’s the author of The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, which is the most comprehensive technical review of evolution written to date. (Not for high schoolers, though!)

    Dennis

  56. #56 Unstable Isotope
    March 22, 2006

    I also highly recommend “Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice for All Creatures,” Katrina refugee. I’m not a biologist, but I certainly learned a lot about evolutionary strategies in that book. It is very readable for laypeople.

  57. #57 Gods From Outer Space
    March 22, 2006

    “One can drive to see Cincinnati. One cannot drive to see the billions of years required by biological evolutionary theory.”

    You’d only see part of Cincinnati. Never enough to prove a sweeping hypothesis.

    If hordes of people drove to Cincinnati over the course of centuries, and documented what they saw according to established principles, then critiqued each other’s work — then we could talk about seeing Cincinnati. Maybe that’s what Domenech means.

  58. #58 Roy Stogner
    March 22, 2006

    I should note as well that “2+2=4″ is not really that simple. If you doubt this, then do me a favor and go through the exercise of PROVING that 2+2=4. It’s actually quite complicated.

    I don’t think most people would know how to start at something like this – and of those who would know how to start, many would disagree about where to start, since there are multiple consistent ways of formulating axioms which lead to arithmetic.

    There’s a great example of such a proof (and many, many others) on the web, though, at the Metamath Proof Explorer. Much of the complication when you dig down deep into this proof is just formalism necessary to make the result comprehensible to a computer, but the top level steps (associativity of addition, transitivity of equality, etc.) really are necessary.

  59. #59 Fernando
    March 22, 2006

    Hello Dennis… about “Actually, you can prove A by disproving B. It’s called reductio ad absurdum (RAA or proof by contradiction for short.) If A and B are the only possible alternatives and you show that B contradicts another theorem in the logical system, then A must be true.”, woops, I got a little carried away. But I was thinking that ID is not even close to a possible alternative, so I completely forgot about proofs of contradiction… sorry, my mistake. :-)

  60. #60 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    March 22, 2006

    Rapid change from 1999 to 2003, or poor replicability due to sampling difficulties?

    Homeschooling has apparently increased by a significant amount since 1999. (The 2003 study cites a 29% increase in number of students or a percentage increase from 1.7 to 2.2 percent of the overall student popuulation.) Perhaps either more religious people are getting into it. Another thought – perhaps more people have gotten serious about their religion since 1999.

    But on the basis of the current data, I think it’s incorrect to say that for most homeschoolers religion is not an issue.

  61. #61 hamletta
    March 22, 2006

    They think we “believe” in gravity, we “believe” in atoms, this kind of stuff…

    I never thought of it that way, but you’re right. It’s a false equivalency. The only way the IDers could get something that really could stand up to evolution would be to go back to the evidence, starting with Darwin’s notes, and come up with completely different conclusions consistent with known science and have them withstand peer review, etc. In short, re-tracing the scientific process from the beginning. Right?

    I’m not a scientist, either, but it seems like they just kind of nibble around the edges and use the resultant fraying to offset the whole idea of evolution. Are they too lazy to do the work, or are they ignorant of the scientific process and its checks and balances?

  62. #62 Bruce Webb
    March 22, 2006

    You dig into any wingnut drivel deep enough and usually you will find an acorn. Which they triumphally produce as “proof”.

    Punctured equilibrium was not immediately embraced by paleontologists any more than the Alvarezs’ theory that mass extinctions were precipitated by large meteor strikes. I was in Berkeley in the eighties and saw some pretty strong language first hand. Both theories smacked too much of Catastrophism to gain immediate acceptance. But then neither did Einstein.

    But I’ll bet good money this ass clown has some quote where another paleontologist is critising SJ Gould in pretty strong terms while defending more incremental models of evolution. Which just goes to show he doesn’t understand that science, like evolution, sometimes advances with messy lurches, and not everybody survives.

  63. #63 mathpants
    March 22, 2006

    hamletta:

    for some of them, the anwer is both.

    for others, i suspect the answer is neither. They know full well what they’re doing and they have another, shall we say, agenda.

    Myself, I’m too lazy to do any work.

  64. #64 Mighty Pen
    March 22, 2006

    The Post can hire whoever they want, I suppose, but this guy’s a nutter. Bad move, WaPo.

    However, with that said, I want to point out that I think the blogger AND most of you readers are parsing Ben Domenech’s words incorrectly. The actual meaning makes much more sense, but is MORE troubling than the meaning you’ve all assumed.

    BD is quoted as saying:

    “An academic survey a couple of years ago found that nearly a third of hard scientists believed in theories other than the typical evolutionary construct – either something involving genetic mutation, or intelligent design, or something inspired by Stephen Jay Gould, or the like.”

    So far, everyone seems to think his list at the end of this sentence is supposed to represent “theories other than the typical evolutionary construct.” I read it just the opposite — these are things that he’s trying to assign to “the typical evolutionary construct.” And he’s throwing Intelligent design in the mix, right there with genetic mutation and Stephen Jay Gould. So no, I don’t think he’s trying to co-opt Gould as one of his own.

    Now, I consider the ID theory unknowable, as it’s religious faith and not remotely science. But as I.D. tries to pretend it’s science, as it does allow for speciation and genetic mutation as the method of God’s handiwork. So I suppose it could be read, in broad terms, as “the typical evolutionary construct.” Things outside that construct — Genesis creationism, indigenous creation myths, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — don’t bother with science.

    That said, if BD has this much trouble with sentence structure, perhaps he shouldn’t be writing for the venerable Washington Post.

  65. #65 DJ
    March 22, 2006

    “Actually, you can prove A by disproving B. It’s called reductio ad absurdum (RAA or proof by contradiction for short.) If A and B are the only possible alternatives….” (emphasis added by me)

    Biggest “IF” ever.

  66. #66 Hamilton Lovecraft
    March 22, 2006

    nearly a third of hard scientists believed in theories other than the typical evolutionary construct – either something involving genetic mutation, or intelligent design, or something inspired by Stephen Jay Gould, or the like.

    Almost all zoologists believe in mammals other than the typical barnyard sort — either mammals with scales such as the pangolin, or unicorns, or egg-laying mammals like the platypus.

  67. #67 lt.kizhe
    March 22, 2006

    Stephen Jay Gould was a diehard atheist

    From my reading (see Rocks of Ages, among other places): an agnostic, leaning to the atheist side (not that it makes a lot of difference). And he is on record as protesting the way his ideas were mis-represented by Creationists.

  68. #68 rrt
    March 22, 2006

    Not disagreeing with you outright, Mighty Pen, but how familiar are you with the common Creationist penchant for claiming Gould challenged/disproved evolution with Punctuated Equilibrium? Seems to me Ben’s statement most easily falls into line with that. Although your version might help explain why he listed “genetic mutation.”

  69. #69 MDtoMN
    March 22, 2006

    Genesis literally? What exactly does he mean? There are two accounts of creation in genesis, which differ significantly in their specifics. Belief that both are true “literally” would require believing two contradictory things.

    I am a Christian, and I believe God created existence, but anytime someone says they believe in biblical stories in this way – Literally – I wonder if they’ve read them? This was a debate that was hashed out in the 1800s (this is actually true – biblical scholarship has long since covered most of what’s debated by pundits). C’mon people. Also, it’s particularly frustrating when it’s clear the person talking hasn’t managed to read the first fricking book of the Bible. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read EVERY letter, and Judges was a blur, but it’s GENESIS! And he’s citing it as EVIDENCE! Maybe he could, you know, read it!

  70. #70 Marcus
    March 22, 2006

    Dennis: RAA doesn’t hold in intuitionist logic due to the removal of the law of the excluded middle. Just being snarky, though :-)

  71. #71 Bruce Webb
    March 22, 2006

    “Not disagreeing with you outright, Mighty Pen, but how familiar are you with the common Creationist penchant for claiming Gould challenged/disproved evolution with Punctuated Equilibrium?”

    Well I am pretty much the Puny Pen in this debate, and learned what I know about “punctured equilibrium” from a college friend when I was a lot more concerned about political marriages in 9th century Wales (sue me). But as I understand it SJG suggested that periodic exterminations opened opportunities for surviving species to explode into new evolutionary niches. Which pretty much dovetailed into Darwin’s original work in the Galapagos. Finches which had relatively little ecological spread ending up filling all ecological niches. Somebody has to eat the flying insects, somebody has to eat the borrowing insects, from the little I know Finches filled all those niches in the Galapagos. Because there were no other species to fill the gaps. Biologists feel free to school me on this one.

  72. #72 Cardinal Fang
    March 22, 2006

    About those two homeschooling surveys: The US Census one gave statistics by percentage of families that homeschool. The NCES one gave statistics by percentage of children who homeschool. It is entirely possible that 33% of families who homeschool do it for religious reasons, but 50% (or whatever the number was) of children are homeschooled for religious reasons. That’s because religious homeschooling families tend to have a lot of kids.

    Regardless of their exact number, please be aware that there are a lot of homeschooling families who believe in evolution and in good science education. In my area, homeschooled highschoolers tend to do their lab science courses at local community colleges, probably taking better courses than they would have had in high school.

  73. #73 Molly
    March 22, 2006

    Re: homeschooling–there are those of us who are doing it because we want to give our kids a sensible intellectual structure on which to build and to encourage their love of learning, not to force them to memorize unconnected facts and be “taught to the test.”

    Which is why my 7YO and 5YO and I have embarked on a year-long study of evolution and prehistoric animals. It both grabs their attention (hey, dinosaurs! And things weirder than dinosaurs, such as Megatherium!) and gives them a framework for all of their future study of biology.

    Do you think they’d be getting that in public school (in a fairly conservative area)? Hell-freakin’-no. Nor would they be studying ancient Mesopotamia, horror movie special effects, Lego robotics, novel writing or any of the other things that they are now free to explore and learn and do.

    Sure, there are those wackos who homeschool because they don’t want their precious little darlings exposed to the indignities of the outside world. But there are also a LOT of us (see the atheist-homeschoolers Yahoo group for a few) who homeschool because learning and kids are just so damn cool and we don’t want to miss out on any of it. (And some of us don’t want our darlings exposed to the consumerist, anti-intellectual, pro-religion, superficial culture of public schools either. Hee hee.)

  74. #74 vandalhooch
    March 22, 2006

    2 + 2 = 4

    Really? 2 liters of water + 2 liters of ethylene glycol does not equal 4 liters of mixture!!

    Yeah, yeah. I know chemistry teachers are such weirdos! It’s only because chemistry is so weird.

    Vandalhooch

  75. #75 rrt
    March 22, 2006

    I’m not exactly an expert on PE either, though I think that isn’t quite the theory. Anyway, you’re right that it was very much a scientific, evolutionary theory that did nothing to discredit evolution in general. It was also pretty revolutionary, and stirred much scientific controversy in the biological community.

    The point I was making is that creationists often don’t understand what PE is at ALL, and think that it is a complete and fundamental reinvention of evolution from the ground up, or is otherwise a challenge to the very concept that creatures evolve. The creationist argument related to Gould is rather like arguing that the discovery of quarks means that atoms don’t exist. You also get the occasional asinine attack along the lines of “hey, you changed your minds here with this revolutionary new theory, so your theory CLEARLY is worthless because it’s subject to such change!” Which overstates the degree of change PE introduced, and betrays the silliness of creationist thinking in asserting that science’s inherent willingness to change and incorporate new data is a bad thing.

    MANY creationists have a hard time grasping the fact that vigorous, even angry, debate can be held over HOW evolution occurs without weakening the fact that it DOES occur. Evolutionary Biology is such a great field precisely because there is so much of the “how” to explore right now, and for the foreseeable future.

    So that’s the idea I think Ben is buying into. But your version would explain his listing of mutation better, I think.

  76. #76 Torbjorn Larsson
    March 22, 2006

    Wow, coturnix puzzle analogy is brilliant, especially to look at the innards of a theory. I recently went on record here about theory as a map analogy as brilliant (but on hindsight old), but this is nice too.

    Domenech: “many scientists believed their dating of the Big Bang (another theory) to be dead-on – but new discoveries imply they were off by millions of years.”

    As Kristine says, this is terrible off on reasons of scale. Millions of years doesn’t compare much to tens of thousands of millions. Domenech shows himself as less knowledgeable here.

    But more appropriately his analysis is really confirming what a moron Domenech is. Bigbang age is firmly measured within a couple of hundreds of millions of years – even more so with the new WMAP data release last week. This too shows Domenech as less aware, since this is far more variation than his idea of current knowledge.

    What the article he refers to say is that the current models for galaxy formation doesn’t explain new observations of early galaxies. That is a different matter altogether. Which is what shows Domenech as an analysis challenged person.

  77. #77 MDtoMN
    March 22, 2006

    Just a comment, and not meant as an attack on any particular home schooling family, but I think one of the major benefits to attending schools is learning social & life lessons that parents may be unable to teach you – particularly good parents.

    When you go to school, you have the teacher who maybe isn’t that bright, and you learn to work with it. You learn about the mores of other kids in your generation. You might get treated horribly for years, but it helps you learn how to interact with others. The biggest objection I have to home schooling had less to do with the quality of knowledge gained and more to do with students having trouble engaging others.

    Also, as a Liberal Kid born of very Conservative Parents, it was definitely helpful to be exposed to numerous adults, with a breadth of political views (extremely conservative to extremely liberal). One nice thing about Teachers is that they display a breadth of opinion far greater than one will hear at work or in the public sphere in this country.

  78. #78 Dustin
    March 22, 2006

    Dustin wrote: Say what you will about him, but Reagan did reign in the stagflationary period of the early 80’s, and that wasn’t going to correct itself.

    Actually, Paul Volcker, the Fed chair fixed that. He tells the story of going to Carter and telling him of his plan. “You know this will cost you the election.” Carter told him to do it anyway.

    I did some checking, and you are right. I stand corrected. I should have known that information was suspect — it came from an economics professor who has a pretty long record of dispensing things that aren’t true.

  79. #79 Moody
    March 22, 2006

    Re Gould:

    “`Creation science` has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage�good teaching�than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?”
    –“Verdict on Creationism,” The Skeptical Inquirer, 1988, 12 (2): 186.

  80. #80 coturnix
    March 22, 2006

    Wow – the power of blogwhoring! I have to do this even more often. I posted a link in the third comment up there, and since then got 200 extra hits, a couple of nice comments, and a person who immediatelly used my lesson to teach her own lesson this morning in 10th grade physics! And I see it spreading around the LiveJournals. Kewl! Who says Hedwig is the biggest blogwhore – I’ve been at it for two months longer than her LOL!

  81. #81 gramsci411
    March 22, 2006

    Evolution is conservative.

    Its rational. Its scientific. Those that study it and theorize on it are cautious to submit new theories and even new data. Its fundemental to advancment of science. In a global soceity, its safer to learn evolution than creationism. Its modern, in a modernity sense.

    To be anti-evolution is radical, reactionary, and anti-modernity. Why do they hate our freedoms?

  82. #82 Malcolm Kirkpatrick
    March 23, 2006

    Four comments:

    1. Richard Dawkins criticized S. J. Gould for giving aid and comfort to creationists, so it’s no misrepresentation of Gould to paint him as a critic of standard evolutionary theory. Gould was a Marxist. The marxist preoccupation with equality is incompatible with standard evolutionary theory (see Konner, “The Tangled Wing”).

    2. School is an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. It does not take 12 years to teach kids to read and compute. The US “public” school system originated in anti-Catholic bigotry and survives on dedicated lobbying of current recipents of the taxpayers’ $400 billion+/year revenue stream.

    3. I was for ten years a HS math teacher. Currently I tutor. One of my (homeschooled) pupils started work on his Masters (math) this semester. He turned 17 on January 31.

    4. School is bad socialization. In Hawaii juvenile arrests for assault, drug possession, and drug promotion fall in summer, when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall in summer. Reported burglaries fall in summer.

    [Roland Meighan, “Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications”, __Educational Review__, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.]
    “The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of
    schooled children of such poor quality?”

    “The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school.” …p. 277

    “12. So-called ‘school phobia’ is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem”….p.281

    http://www.rru.com/~meo/hs.minski.html (One page. Marvin Minsky comment on school. Please read this.)

  83. #83 Malcolm Kirkpatrick
    March 23, 2006

    Four comments:

    1. Richard Dawkins criticized S. J. Gould for giving aid and comfort to creationists, so it’s no misrepresentation of Gould to paint him as a critic of standard evolutionary theory. Gould was a Marxist. The marxist preoccupation with equality is incompatible with standard evolutionary theory (see Konner, “The Tangled Wing”).

    2. School is an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. It does not take 12 years to teach kids to read and compute. The US “public” school system originated in anti-Catholic bigotry and survives on dedicated lobbying of current recipents of the taxpayers’ $400 billion+/year revenue stream.

    3. I was for ten years a HS math teacher. Currently I tutor. One of my (homeschooled) pupils started work on his Masters (math) this semester. He turned 17 on January 31.

    4. School is bad socialization. In Hawaii juvenile arrests for assault, drug possession, and drug promotion fall in summer, when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall in summer. Reported burglaries fall in summer.

    [Roland Meighan, “Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications”, __Educational Review__, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.]
    “The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of
    schooled children of such poor quality?”

    “The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school.” …p. 277

    “12. So-called ‘school phobia’ is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem”….p.281

    http://www.rru.com/~meo/hs.minski.html (One page. Marvin Minsky comment on school. Please read this.)

  84. #84 Malcolm Kirkpatrick
    March 23, 2006

    Four comments:

    1. Richard Dawkins criticized S. J. Gould for giving aid and comfort to creationists, so it’s no misrepresentation of Gould to paint him as a critic of standard evolutionary theory. Gould was a Marxist. The marxist preoccupation with equality is incompatible with standard evolutionary theory (see Konner, “The Tangled Wing”).

    2. School is an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. It does not take 12 years to teach kids to read and compute. The US “public” school system originated in anti-Catholic bigotry and survives on dedicated lobbying of current recipents of the taxpayers’ $400 billion+/year revenue stream.

    3. I was for ten years a HS math teacher. Currently I tutor. One of my (homeschooled) pupils started work on his Masters (math) this semester. He turned 17 on January 31.

    4. School is bad socialization. In Hawaii juvenile arrests for assault, drug possession, and drug promotion fall in summer, when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall in summer. Reported burglaries fall in summer.

    [Roland Meighan, “Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications”, __Educational Review__, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.]
    “The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of
    schooled children of such poor quality?”

    “The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school.” …p. 277

    “12. So-called ‘school phobia’ is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem”….p.281

    http://www.rru.com/~meo/hs.minski.html (One page. Marvin Minsky comment on school. Please read this.)

  85. #85 Malcolm Kirkpatrick
    March 23, 2006

    Four comments:

    1. Richard Dawkins criticized S. J. Gould for giving aid and comfort to creationists, so it’s no misrepresentation of Gould to paint him as a critic of standard evolutionary theory. Gould was a Marxist. The marxist preoccupation with equality is incompatible with standard evolutionary theory (see Konner, “The Tangled Wing”).

    2. School is an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. It does not take 12 years to teach kids to read and compute. The US “public” school system originated in anti-Catholic bigotry and survives on dedicated lobbying of current recipents of the taxpayers’ $400 billion+/year revenue stream.

    3. I was for ten years a HS math teacher. Currently I tutor. One of my (homeschooled) pupils started work on his Masters (math) this semester. He turned 17 on January 31.

    4. School is bad socialization. In Hawaii juvenile arrests for assault, drug possession, and drug promotion fall in summer, when school is not in session. Juvenile hospitalizations for human-induced trauma fall in summer. Reported burglaries fall in summer.

    [Roland Meighan, “Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications”, __Educational Review__, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.]
    “The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of
    schooled children of such poor quality?”

    “The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school.” …p. 277

    “12. So-called ‘school phobia’ is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem”….p.281

    http://www.rru.com/~meo/hs.minski.html (One page. Marvin Minsky comment on school. Please read this.)

  86. #86 Graculus
    March 23, 2006

    Gould was a Marxist. The marxist preoccupation with equality is incompatible with standard evolutionary theory

    Marxism (political) is no more incompatible with standard evolutionary theory than capitalism. See: Gould, non-overlapping magisteria.

    However in the academic sense, Marxism is very much compatible with evolutionary theory (and science in general). How does dialectic materialism contradict standard evolutionary theory?

    “The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-worldliness of his thinking in practice.” –Karl Marx

  87. #87 Jonathan Badger
    March 23, 2006

    Gould was a Marxist

    No, he wasn’t. You’re confusing him with Richard Lewontin. Or maybe John Maynard Smith. Or J.B.S. Haldane. Of course, while Wilson and Dawkins love to play the McCarthyist strategy against Lewontin (and Gould by association), they don’t seem to have a problem with Maynard Smith or Haldane, who were not only Marxist, but even card carrying members of the Communist Party.

  88. #88 Molly
    March 23, 2006

    MDtoMN wrote:”…you have the teacher who maybe isn’t that bright, and you learn to work with it. You learn about the mores of other kids in your generation. You might get treated horribly for years, but it helps you learn how to interact with others. The biggest objection I have to home schooling had less to do with the quality of knowledge gained and more to do with students having trouble engaging others.”

    To just about anyone who remembers his/her public school experience, it should be readily apparent how very little school resembles “real life.”

    In real life, you are under no compunction to put up with an incompetent professor, supervisor or other authority figure. You can move to another section of a class, find a new job or vote the bastards out (or at least find fellow-travelers to snark with about what bastards those bastards are).

    In real life, you are not obligated to share living space with those whose mores you find reprehensible. And if someone persists in harassing, insulting or physically assaulting you, you can call the police and have that person dealt with appropriately–try doing *that* in any public school, especially when the general consensus is that putting up with bullying helps you “learn to interact with others.”

    In real life, you work side-by-side with others of all different backgrounds and ages… not in a hothouse environment where everyone is within four years of your own age, and the adults in the system automatically possess authority not earned by any special merit. “Homeschooling” is perhaps a misnomer, considering how much time many homeschoolers spend outside of the home learning in all kinds of environments–working in soup kitchens or at wildlife refuges, helping to build houses or shelve library books, apprenticing with veterinarians or programmers or mixed-media artists.

    In real life, you are responsible for your own choices and the consequences of those choices. You determine what you will learn, when/where/what you will eat, when you will go to the bathroom, what interests you will eagerly pursue and which you will give up after a brief infatuation. You learn, in short, to think for yourself. Doesn’t it stand to reason that children would be better served by learning self-determination as early as possible in life, rather than being cast unprepared into the “real world” when they graduate from an artificial thirteen-year course on conformity?

  89. #89 Dennis
    March 23, 2006

    Re: RAA proofs

    Fernando,

    ‘sall right. The comment itself was a little snarky. RAA proofs really don’t have much place in historical sciences like geology, biology and paleontology, because you usually can’t get a denumerable group of potential explanations to disprove.

    No one is going to prove evolution (or gravity, for that matter) with an RAA proof. Knowing the appropriate scope of logical tools is pretty important. Otherwise you could (metaphorically) find yourself driving a screw with a hammer.

    DJ,
    I’m not quite sure what your comment means. If you’re trying to say that RAA requires two disjoint alternatives, that’s simply incorrect.
    RAA works just fine as long as you have a countable collection of hypotheses to disprove. Of course, you also have to agree to play by the rules of conventional logical inference. For example, Saccheri had to consider three possibilities in his attempt to prove the parallel postulate. A: there are no lines parallel to a given through a point not on the line (Riemann geometry); B: There is exactly one line parallel to a given line through a point not on the line (Euclidean geometry); and C: There are at least two distinct lines parallel to a given line through a point not on the line (Hyperbolic geometry). RAA would work just fine with three possibilities, if you could find a contradiction. (Actually, you can with Riemann geometry, because in Riemann geometry all lines have finite length. But no contradiction is possible with hyperbolic geometry.)

    Dennis

  90. #90 Nylund
    March 23, 2006

    I like how how they keep pointing out that its only called a theory (& therefore not fact), not realizing how the term is used by actual scientists. Its the “theory of relativity”, “quantum theory”, etc. etc.

    I think the Onion hit the nail on the head with their spoof against the theory of Gravity:

    “Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory”

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39512

    “A scientific theory is an established and experimentally verified fact or collection of facts about the world. Unlike the everyday use of the word theory, it is not an unproved idea, or just some theoretical speculation. The latter meaning of a ‘theory’ in science is called a hypothesis”

    “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena”

    “An extremely well-substantiated explanation of some aspects of the natural world that incorporates facts, laws, predictions, and tested hypotheses.”

    Maybe mom didn’t have a dictionary at home…

  91. #91 bmurray
    March 23, 2006

    Looks like this nutbar is also a plagiarist. The moral high ground of the staunchly religious never fails to impress me.

  92. #92 MDtoMN
    March 23, 2006

    Molly, you have had a very different set of experiences in the workplace than I have had. Now, I have managed to gain some control over my life, but still – (1) work is often routine and boring; (2) people are often rude and inconsiderate; (3) I rarely control when I can eat or where I can go; (4) I have less control over my apparel than in school; (5) I am more likely to be subtly punished for my opinions and statements; (6) I cannot easily transfer supervisors, sections, or jobs without serious sacrifices; (7) my supervisors have been much more difficult than my teachers; (8) I have had to listen to wife beating jokes at work, which is probably as repulsive as much of what I heard in school.

    I have a graduate degree, a fair amount of job flexibility, and am able to get a new job with relative ease. Yet, I still find real life to be quite difficult in numerous ways. Now, the two ways it is significantly different than elementary school – less physical intimidation (though I actually get that in the neighborhood I currently live in and was also physically intimidated in the neighborhood growing up) and broader age ranges which does make life easier (and harder).

    Home schooling can be better than school, but I think it is easy to underestimate the values of schooling, particularly given how unpleasant employment often is. Also, two of the worst adjusted kids I met at college were home schooled. Now, there were probably some well adjusted kids I knew who were also home schooled. However, those two students stuck out as being poorly adjusted in ways that seemed to make perfect sense given the limitations of home schooling.

    My point? If you’re going to home school, spend a lot of time thinking about how you’re going to prepare them for the less than pleasant nature of working. Many home schoolers probably succeed – others don’t – just like schools sometimes fail and sometimes succeed.

  93. #93 mark
    March 24, 2006

    I like Vandalhooch’s comment. I came at “2+2″ from a mathematics angle. In the finite field GF(3), 2+2=1.

    My conclusion is that young Ben is at the vanguard of a new Era of Inadequacy, along with folks like George Deutsch, and the Uber Doofus, George W. Bush.

  94. #94 Susie
    March 24, 2006

    MDtoMN: But you can quit if you must. You are not constrained to stay in the same place of employment or even the same field of work. You live in a country wide-open with opportunities. You’re not powerless, not a victim. Molly’s points still stand.

    Kids are subject to authority figures and have NO choice about what happens to them at school.

    What’s better: to be subject to an authority figure who may or may not care about their future (most likely not), or to have teachers who are fully invested in a successful outcome for him (namely, his parents)?

    What’s better: to be trained the proper way to work out conflict (humbling oneself, offering and receiving forgiveness, confronting an offender with courage) with one’s siblings and friends under adult supervision? Or to be thrown into a Lord of the Flies scenario at the tender age of five or six, with practically zero life experience to help you through it?

    When you hear wife beating jokes, how do you respond? Do you keep silent, go along? Or, do you gently express your unwillingness to participate in some way? Years in the public education system tend to condition you to go along, to suppress your thoughts for fear of intimidation and ridicule, or even simple disapproval, from your peers (with very few tuned-in, mature adults around to mitigate, that’s what happens).

    As a homeschooling mom, I’m not impressed by the tone employed here by some ritics of this fellow. Distorting his name into an epithet? Calling him a moron? Questioning his intellect because of his faith? This only confirms our decision to opt out of what has obviously become government school culture. Intellect minus basic human decency and kindness is worth zip. If reason and faith really were mutually exclusive (they aren’t), I would prefer for my children to possess the latter.

    What kind of society do we want? Is it good for society that the majority of its children spend most of their waking hours in a place where other children are mocked or even physically assaulted because of things over which they have no control (family income, physical disability, appearance)? I don’t want that kind of society. I want my children (and yes, everybody’s children! but I’m only responsible for my own) to be a positive, light-bearing force in the world. That means, exposing them to the world on *my* terms. Teaching them by example how to interact with their neighbors and *even their enemies.* Giving them a solid foundation of healthy relationships on which to build their lives. Because, in the end, life is not about your accomplishments or your career or your income or your status. It’s about your relationships.

    Possessing the culturally accepted body of knowledge *is* important. (Ask yourself how many schools accomplish that, and for how many of their students?) Becoming a fully developed human being is far more important.

  95. #95 Jim Lippard
    March 24, 2006

    Lots more evidence of Domenech plagiarism.

  96. #96 jre
    March 24, 2006

    On the plus side, at least he didn’t last long.

  97. #97 PZ Myers
    March 24, 2006

    Yep, he’s gone. Who’s next?

    Of course, the Right will now be screaming that he was attacked for being conservative, when it was more like he was attacked for being an unqualified, dishonest incompetent.

    Although more and more lately, “Right” is becoming synonymous with “unqualified, dishonest incompetent”.

  98. #98 Uber
    March 24, 2006

    If reason and faith really were mutually exclusive (they aren’t), I would prefer for my children to possess the latter.

    As long as one accepts one can have faith in anything and the fact you’d rather have your children be faithful than reasonable is quite, well, unimpressive.

    Is it good for society that the majority of its children spend most of their waking hours in a place where other children are mocked or even physically assaulted because of things over which they have no control

    You live in a rich fantasy zone, I teach in a PS. Kids are as a whole kids and the benefit from interacting with those from a myriad point of view is nothing but beneficial. We have virtually no physical assaults.

    You option, keep them at home so they can be insulated from the real world. Then as adults they can be mocked and ridiculed for the bizarre, irrational, and unfounded beliefs they spout.

    That means, exposing them to the world on *my* terms.

    I support your right to do this if you wish. But by pretending that PS children aren’t getting that and alot more is rather backward. Your painting with to broad a brush. It’s the parents that matter most.

  99. #99 GH
    March 24, 2006

    adults in the system automatically possess authority not earned by any special merit.

    How about being granted degrees by accreditted institutions? That is better than 80% of the populace and MUCH better than the average home schooled teacher(mom)

    “Homeschooling” is perhaps a misnomer, considering how much time many homeschoolers spend outside of the home learning in all kinds of environments–working in soup kitchens or at wildlife refuges, helping to build houses or shelve library books, apprenticing with veterinarians or programmers or mixed-media artists.

    What utter bullshit! In our area when a student arrives from a homeschool into our institution we see the cumulative results of this ‘education’. For every well educated HS’er we see 5 ignorant, under-educated individuals. Many of whom went the HS route because they couldn’t keep up with PS kids or were discipline problems.

  100. #100 MDtoMN
    March 24, 2006

    First, I’m not a victim, but honestly, most kids who get a rough time in school aren’t either. I have much more power (and much more responsibility) than they do. Kids deserve greater protection, and they get it. But I don’t think it’s good to shelter them too much. Also, I’m not at all convinced that schools are the worst influences in a child’s life.

    Kids aren’t NEARLY as powerless at school as they are at home. We basically let parents own their kids, control their kids, shape their experiences, limit their options, deny them medical care, shape their diet, and force them to say and do anything, etc. We place very few restrictions on what parents can do. Compare the limitations of School power over parently power (particularly since involved parents GREATLY reduce school power). Every year, a different set of teachers. Almost no ability to touch the child. Restrictions on what you can make them say or do.

    I don’t deny there are problems with schools (public & private) – I just think we should keep in perspective that these problems are everywhere – in employment, in neighborhoods, in communities, in churches, etc.

    I think we tend to be overly critical of schools and insufficiently critical of all our other institutions. Perhaps the institution that we are least critical of IS the family unit – we tend to idealize it, and people become very uncomfortable discussing it accurately.

    My parents are great people, I love them, but they were by no means perfect. IF they had tried home schooling (and it was an option for them), they would have done a worse job than the schools I was sent to. And I often hated school. Yet, my parents are probably better candidates then many others.

    I want to emphasize – some parents can handle home schooling. In some circumstances, it’s better. However, I think we need to try to balance our view of school, which tends to be overly negative.

    Also, I’m a big fan of minimizing power centers in government, society, and life. A fully Government run economy would be bad. Accumulation of corporate and business power is bad. In personal matters, having all the power in a child’s life reside in the family may be bad, may be worse than having to share that power with schools, with numerous teachers, with peers.

    There were times when I thought I couldn’t bear school. Going home was such a relief. Other times, going home was dreadful, and school was a refuge. I think I’m a better person for that mix of experiences. We often hear about the homosexual student or religious student who is mistreated at school. How often do we hear about the student who was miserable at home and only found solace and their identity in the mish-mash of friends and mentors they found at school? We keep family/home more private, and most people restrict what they say about it. So we think it’s much better than it is.

    Also, to answer your question – I know how to stand up and be a human being. I’m not perfect. 3 times at my last job I took stands which hurt my career but were right. The wife beating joke was not one of those times. However, I refused to follow my supervisor’s instructions about complaining about another co-worker (his criticism, I suspect, was motived by racism on his part), in the process I helped save her job, and I got much worse assignments for 4 months from that supervisor. I think I was better prepared to handle that because of my school education. Maybe I’m wrong.

  101. #101 Theo Bromine
    March 25, 2006

    MDtoMN said
    I think I was better prepared to handle [doing the right thing despite negative consequences] because of my school education. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I have a deep cynicism about group-schooling. I think in many cases, people learn to do the right thing *in spite of* rather than *because of* school experiences. In school, kids are likely to learn that kowtowing to tyrants results in safety, and that defending the downtrodden is ridiculed at best, and punished at worst. (For the record, one of my sons was homeschooled for most of highschool, having a learning style that was incompatible with conventional highschool, and the other was homeschooled for his last 1/2 year of highschool for course selection/scheduling reasons. They are both currently doing very well in college/university.)

  102. #102 JC
    March 26, 2006

    As an Englishman and teacher who stumbled across this thread, I would like to add a couple of comments:

    We tend to feel that home schooling rarely seems to produce individuals who are educated fully, as the parents are unlikely to have expertise in the entire curriculum, and the more important social skills which are so vital to developing children are generally poorly developed. The only children I have seen go to home schooling have been rather odd to start with, and the few products of it that I have met have been socially awkward and frequently arrogant, narrow minded and out of touch. Not always the case, obviously, but bound to happen in most cases.

    The English tend to see the Americans as insular and naive, harsh though this may be to the vast majority. However, there is no popular organised Creationist movement over here (such people are dismissed as harmless lunatics, like the Flat Earth Society) and the whole idea that there could be is frankly bizarre. We read of places in the US where there are arguments about Creationism being taught as opposed to Darwinian Evolution in schools with dumstruck horror and disbelief. It seems very odd that academics are having to waste their valuable time trying to counter such nonsense.

    It’s a bit like your TV evangelists (and, dare I say it, G W Bush). Surely nobody could take them seriously.

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