Pharyngula

Darksyde takes on the teaching of creationism in Missouri…let’s see if readers here are clever enough to see the dishonesty in this quote.

[Mike] Riddle had been invited to Potosi High and John A. Evans Middle School by Randy Davis, superintendent of the Potosi-RIII school district, and his board to discuss science with science students. During an hour-long presentation, Riddle … prodded the students to question established scientific principals and theories and encouraged them to think about a career in science.

Questioning scientific principles and theories is a good thing, and it’s also good to encourage students to study more science, so what’s the problem? The problem is that the speaker is a representative from Answers in Genesis, the young earth creationist organization, and he’s using the language differently than scientists do. When we say we should teach good science, we mean that there should be an emphasis on evidence and rational interpretation of the work. When AiG says “good science,” they mean a kind of Christian apologetics that cherry-picks data to arrive at a predetermined conclusion, that the Earth is 6000 years old. He isn’t urging students to do science, he wants them to get out there and corrupt a process that contradicts his theology.

This is the new way of creationism: embrace the trappings and the language, which have favorable associations to most people, and use them to advance ideas contrary to good science. It’s creationism in a lab coat.

A reader from Kansas sent in another slogan, prominently displayed on a billboard:

TEACH DARWIN HONESTLY!

They’ve got a website, too, titled “Teach Darwin honestly. It’s supported by the Intelligent Design Network, Inc.—so you can guess what they mean by “honestly”: it means peddle the unsupported nonsense of Intelligent Design and cast false doubt on basic biology.

Read the introduction to their organization. Doesn’t it sound just like Mike Riddle?

Evolutionary theory is important to modern science.

But it also impacts non-scientific issues. Any explanation of origins – where we come from – unavoidably impacts religion, ethics, morals and, even politics.

Given this importance, origins should be a subject of public education. However, it is a discussion with impressionable young minds that needs to be conducted without bias. It needs to be taught honestly and objectively, not dogmatically.

It’s a nice example of framing—dishonest framing. In one stroke, they imply that modern biology is dogmatic and dishonest, while piously declaiming that they’re just trying to be objective on a matter of great importance. They claim to be on the side of teaching evolution without a bias, but what they actually want to do is bias teaching to cast doubt where there should be none, and promote pseudoscience that lacks evidentiary support. Their goal is to emphasize a void, rather than any positive results in science, because that void of ignorance is the only place they can find room for their god.

Jack Krebs has already analyzed the Kansas standards proposed by this group; it’s more negativity, a denial of substance in science to favor the deficiencies of their own ideas.

The Kansas standards are remarkably candid about this: ID is merely the disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory, and of science in general, that we can seek, and are succeeding at finding, natural explanations for the complexities of life.

The ID argument is what Judge Jones in the Dover decision called a “contrived dualism.” There is no scientific theory of ID or creationism: no proposed mechanism, no testable hypotheses, no research.

However, the ID argument is that if evolution is false, ID must be true. Teaching the so-called weaknesses of evolutionary theory is teaching Intelligent Design, because that is all there is to ID: The only proposed evidence for ID is evidence against evolution.

Reading through their FAQ is a painful experience. The words are carefully crafted to put up a front of such earnest sincerity, yet hidden beneath them all is ignorance, error, and dishonesty. Here are a few examples.

Q: Why is the teaching of origins so controversial?

A: It is scientifically controversial because it is an historical science, and therefore very subjective. It is religiously controversial because it addresses the question: “Where do we come from?” This is a question that some claim is inseparably linked with the question: “Where do we go?”

The fact that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old is historical; does that mean it is “very subjective”? Of course not. What we have is whole interlocking sets of evidence from physics, astronomy, and geology that establish the age of the earth. There’s nothing subjective about it. Claiming that because something occurred in the past we can not draw any solid conclusions about it is the absurd kind of ignorance we see from old school creationists like Ken Ham, who think a reasonable rebuttal to physical evidence is to chant, “Were you there?”.

Here’s an example of an outright lie. The IDists set up a minority panel to revise the standards defined by a credible and respectable group of scientists and educators, and rewrote the definition of science. In their FAQ, they now try to claim that their definition is canonical—it is not. In fact, it has a serious problem.

Q: How do the 2001 and 2005 definitions of science differ?

A: The 2005 definition replaces a novel definition of science (not found in other state standards or the national standards) with this traditional definition:

“Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.” [The definition continues for two more paragraphs that increase, rather than decrease the scientific rigor of this concept.]

You need to see the original standards to catch their sleight of hand. The standards written by competent scientists and educators defined science as “the human activity of seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us. These explanations are based on observations, experiments, and logical arguments that adhere to strict empirical standards and a healthy skeptical perspective.” What’s wrong with that? Why did the minority panel feel compelled to change it?

It wasn’t to increase the scientific rigor. It’s a familiar complaint, one that we can trace right back to that silly old fool, Phillip E. Johnson. The objection is to the phrase “natural explanations”, which they have replaced with “more adequate explanations”. The IDists object to the principle of methodological naturalism, the heart of science, and they want to rip it out to allow supernatural explanations. Ken Miller’s analysis of the revised standards makes this clear: essentially, every change the creationists proposed is in reaction to the scientific assumption of natural explanations. Of course, they can’t come right out and say that they are in favor of more supernatural explanations in biology classes, because that would make their idiocy obvious…so instead they have formulated a fundamentally dishonest strategy of attacking the core principle of good science, all in the name of their version of “good” science.

Science should teach natural explanations of natural phenomena. Save the unnatural explanations of the supernatural for Sunday school.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike
    May 14, 2006

    Teach ID honestly? A minute of silence should suffice to cover the positive evidence.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that IDCers are all either liars, lunatics or dupes and that many fall into more than one category.

  2. #2 Dayv
    May 14, 2006

    Claiming that because something occurred in the past we can not draw any solid conclusions about it is the absurd kind of ignorance we see from old school creationists like Ken Ham, who think a reasonable rebuttal to physical evidence is to chant, “Were you there?”.

    This is also a remarkably similar line of reasoning to that used by some holocaust deniers. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lot of ID proponents in the holocaust denial camp, and vice versa.

  3. #3 George Cauldron
    May 14, 2006

    This is also a remarkably similar line of reasoning to that used by some holocaust deniers. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to find a lot of ID proponents in the holocaust denial camp, and vice versa.

    Larry Fafarman is an example who comes to mind right away:

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/

  4. #4 Dr. Dave
    May 14, 2006

    How’s this for the flipside of ID-ers being invited to give talks in publich schools. My brother’s pricipal has apparently given him permission to invite me to speak to the science class at the private Bible School he teaches at.

    I’m reluctant only because I’d hate to get him fired.

  5. #5 Diogenes
    May 14, 2006

    I really do think the main problem of alot of these people is the complete inability to notice the irony in their own statements. Take this one for example.

    Any explanation of origins – where we come from – unavoidably impacts religion, ethics, morals and, even politics.

    Given this importance, origins should be a subject of public education. However, it is a discussion with impressionable young minds that needs to be conducted without bias. It needs to be taught honestly and objectively, not dogmatically.

    Now here is a group of religious people worried about careful discussions with impressionable minds that have no probelm taking their children to church 3 times a week since birth. They talk about bias, but I don’t remember any comparative religion studies at my church growing up. They call science dogmatic, but don’t flinch in telling their children that a self conflicting book cobbled togther from differing copies from a large number of authors over the span of 1000′s of years is the innerrant word of god. It would be hillarious if these people didn’t have control of the government.

  6. #6 Ed Darrell
    May 14, 2006

    I keep waiting for somebody to sue the Kansas Klowns under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB requires that teachers use pedagogically sound methods, methods that are backed by research, to teach kids.

    There is no research to suggest that teaching things wrong helps kids get it right. Teaching ID in any way is a violation of the NCLB. I wonder whether the Bushies will act to remove federal funding (pittance that it is) when someone makes the showing?

  7. #7 Unstable Isotope
    May 14, 2006

    Dr. Dave -

    I think you have a great opportunity. You could emphasize how science and religion aren’t incompatible. It’s also an opportunity to explain how science works, since I’ve realized that IDers are able to take advantage of this to advance their agenda. They’ve convinced many people that scientists are mean and don’t want to hear different ideas. You can set them straight. It’s the IDers who want to go around the scientific method and get their ideas in textbooks by legislation.

  8. #8 Torbjörn Larsson
    May 14, 2006

    I’m frankly appalled that ID has been invited to preach in schools.

    Any discussion of science in school should be science curricula by definition. These invited presentations seems to me to break the separation between church and state. Furthermore science and religion is incompatible, so any religiously motivated speculations are encroaching on the science to be taught. Furthermore ID is well known to be pseudoscience, which is both dangerous and immoral to promote in a school.

    In the article a creationist claims: “”Public school science classes don’t have to cover evolution, just as English classes don’t have to cover Shakespeare,” said Larson. “Constitutional problems come if they teach something else instead.” It is a large problem for schools if the claim that biology doesn’t have to cover the main subject of evolution can be made.

    Ken Ham is preposterous: “”All scientists start with presuppositions,” he said. “If you’re starting point is `we can explain the origin of the universe without the supernatural,’ that’s a bias.””

    All that methodological naturalism, the methods of science, claims is that it concerns itself with observational phenomena and that accordingly its theories should be testable observationally. The method has itself been tested by countless applications. There was never any presuppositions made, to say so is a sHam (TM).

    Didn’t these people hear of the Dover case, at all?

  9. #9 Carlie
    May 14, 2006

    “They talk about bias, but I don’t remember any comparative religion studies at my church growing up.”

    If not for the fact that it would overload our already maxed-out schools, I’d advocate for a mandatory comparative religions class in all high schools, let’s say at 10th grade (old enough to pay attention, young enough to not be entirely warped). And, I’d say to do it before the mandatory civics class. Perhaps they’d get a little more balance about legislation, not to mention noticing that most of the world doesn’t have the same religious beliefs they do, nor any less “evidence” to stand on about it.

  10. #10 Dave M.
    May 14, 2006

    The FAQ at that page are maddening. Most are predictable (“Q: What is the scientific basis for the changes? A: Most of the changes reflect common sense and all have a solid scientific basis. [followed by a list of credentials of the Writing Committee]“), but this one was interesting. What the new standards do, the fifth bullet point informs us, is: “Urge teachers to reinforce normative parental and legal expectations about health issues.” Rather than saying, I suppose, that since we’re all monkeys anyway, there’s no morality, so you might as well go ahead and be gay (which is what they say now, right?).

  11. #11 Caledonian
    May 14, 2006

    You could emphasize how science and religion aren’t incompatible.

    Two minor problems with that strategy: first, science and religion aren’t compatible, and second, science and religion aren’t compatible.

    Now, I realize that’s technically only one problem, but it’s such a big one I thought it should be mentioned twice.

  12. #12 G. Tingey
    May 15, 2006

    “Any explanation of origins – where we come from – unavoidably impacts religion, ethics, morals and, even politics.”

    Well, that’s straight wrong for a start.

    How (and why?) does a discussion of origins impact morals or politics?

    Origin in the short-term – two people had sex, and one of them got pregnant.
    Statement of fact. No morals or religion involved, assuming sex act was consenual.
    Which is a separate issue.

    Origin in the long-term …..
    Evolution of species, including us, by natural selection.
    No morals involved at all.
    If you are a believer, religion is only involved if and only if you are stupid rnough to believe your holy book(s) are literally, rather than meatphysically true.
    If the stories in the bible/koran/bhagavad gita etc are myths/parables/analogies, there still isn’t a problem.

    But, of course, some people are determined to make it so, contra to the evidence.

  13. #13 Paul Prefect
    May 15, 2006

    I saw that billboard driving home from Lawrence, yesterday. I think it made me throw up a little in my mouth to see that. After spending the day learning of the interesting history of the state at the Kansas History Museum, seeing that billboard coming home was a real kick in the teeth.

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