Pharyngula

i-e98f21365e668f1eccef3a34d464557b-onion1.jpg

Richard Gallagher is one of those guys I’m not ever going to like much. He’s the editor of The Scientist, yet he wrote an editorial encouraging us to embrace Intelligent Design in the classroom, in the perverse hope that by giving ID that much attention, students will naturally disregard it. That was crazy stupid enough, but where he lost my respect completely was in a published rebuttal to my criticisms where he maliciously distorted my point from one advocating the teaching of science as a process based on evidence (which is why ID fails in the classroom) to a false claim that I want to shield kids from critical thinking. Lies and misrepresentation to get ID into the classroom? The Discovery Institute loved it and republished his article.

Now he has published another editorial, one in which he finally realizes the danger of letting pseudoscience into the classroom, and finally he gets it right…but I’m going to be much less charitable than Tara. What finally motivates him to speak out for good science teaching based on reason and evidence is a perceived threat from “New Agers” and the “spiritual Left” with their wacky “mother earth sensibility.”

Now it’s time to apply our collective energy to counter the rise in mysticism and fall of skeptical inquiry. The first step: Find out how many in your circle of acquaintances, including your students, are already operating in this mindset. As a second step you could do worse than to proffer copies of Silver’s book. Once the core weakness of the spiritual-left mindset is exposed, a more rational viewpoint might ensue.

This affects us all: We need to be zealots in hunting out this contagious and pernicious viewpoint, labeling it as such, and addressing it wherever and whenever it is encountered.

Where is this zealotry when it’s the Discovery Institute peddling their pernicious and well-funded viewpoint, Mr Gallagher? It is quite correct that woo-woo nonsense from the right or the left has no place in the classroom, but Gallagher is selective in his choice of targets, and has revealed himself to be a hypocritical ideologue. He even claims that “The threat to science from … the spiritual left may already have overtaken the threat from the religious right,” which is simply absurd. We don’t have a problem with teachers across the country pushing homeopathy on their students, nor do they hesitate to teach anatomy for fear of angry citizens descending on the school board and PTA and complaining that it violates the revealed truth of chiropractic…but we do have teachers across the country cowed and afraid to mention the “E” word because of the pervasive anti-scientific creationist nonsense Gallagher has defended.

i-8ceaece9dbf99055991d80c8fd264dea-onion2.jpg

For an example of the kind of vilely comic absurdity that gets lots of media air time, that is spread far and wide in books and print, and that is unquestioned by the airheads that are the public face of journalism, take a look at this interview with Ann Coulter on CBN (that link is to the main page; the interview link may vanish). She spouts a non-stop stream of astounding lies. Just to pluck out a few, she claims that in the Cambrian, “all of the animal phyla appeared in the blink of an eye” and that we “can’t mention the Cambrian explosion in the classroom.” It’s a performance that is shocking in the boldness of her dishonesty, an outright attack on good science that is built entirely on a framework of unmistakably false misrepresentations of the evidence. Tens of millions of years is an awfully slow blink, and if teachers can’t mention the Cambrian, it’s because discussing an event that occurred half a billion years ago rouses the ire of creationists, not scientists.

I’m all for criticizing the advocates of bogus ‘alternative’ medicines and ‘spiritual’ bunkum, and I don’t mind applying the pressure there…but I think it’s the churches and popular media that are the greater promulgators of airy-fairy BS, not the schools, and it’s the danger to public school education that is the greater threat. When there’s an herbal medicine think-tank with a multi-million dollar budget lobbying to get their crank medicines placed in the high school biology curriculum, then it’ll be time to fulminate against the New Age corruption of science education. It’s just not happening.

What I’d like to see now is an editorial from Richard Gallagher making the same uncompromising criticisms of the Discovery Institute and Ann Coulter that he so bravely issued against the unnamed, nebulous threat of the ‘spiritual Left.’ I don’t expect to ever see it; he’s just a shill for the Right whose interest is not in advancing science, but in playing ideological games.

(Thanks to the Power Liberal for the pointer to the Onion headlines!)

Comments

  1. #1 G. Tingey
    July 22, 2006

    Cui bono?

    And, for that matter, who is paying him (Gallagher) ????

  2. #2 ConcernedJoe
    July 22, 2006

    Here is is plain and simple:

    ID or any form of it it is NOT science. It is a DEAD-END! It is a way of NOT asking the next question as to mechanism and means born of nature. Aagin – this is NOT science. So why any bloody “scientist” would even entertain the notion of teaching it along side science is ONLY comprehensible if:

    (1) not a true scientist
    (2) on the take
    (3) has a mental defect
    (4) has no notion of the danger and is much too “liberal”
    (5) all or any combo of above

    Gosh … so so obvious — so so obvious. Makes you want to scream.

  3. #3 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    July 22, 2006

    “The threat to science from … the spiritual left may already have overtaken the threat from the religious right,” which is simply absurd.

    Agreed.

    I’d like for Gallagher to name me simply ONE state or federal initiative to put astrology into the astronomy classroom. Or to put magic life-energy-releasing crystals into chemistry class. Or …. , well, you get the idea.

  4. #4 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    July 22, 2006

    Whoops – forgot to close the blockquote tag before “Agreed”.

    Oh, and can’t we just get this guy back to smashing watermelons?

    (What do you mean “it’s not that Gallagher”?)

  5. #5 George
    July 22, 2006

    He’s got the right-wing contempt and smug condescension nailed down pretty well. Have a big asinine thought, make sure it insults a whole class of people, and don’t back it up with any evidence.

    Voila, a jackass!

  6. #6 lo
    July 22, 2006

    cut him and other`s such slack. This whole ID movement is rather novel, and the fact is that supression or omission of popular pseudoscience (can and most likely will) yield an even worse outcome.

    I am sure you two are great scientists. Though none of you or me are actually proficient with psychology on a scientific level, hence your views will differ quite a lot, but i am sure it takes way more work than just philosphy to get a decent result (meaning working through tons of statistics et al).

    Can you actually claim 100% that teaching pseudo science in such a complex environment as an industrial state will actually yield mass manipulation. Be aware that we are NOT talking about Tv media here but a class room environment. Manipulating the mass via Tv is a completely different story. A rational thinking person surely will get bored to death with that stupidity and grow some aversion towards that stuff. But hey that`s just my POV, which itself is the point i am trying to make.

  7. #7 Scott Hatfield
    July 22, 2006

    Io:

    Nuts. I’m sorry, but you don’t know what you are talking about. I’m a high school science teacher and I happen to hold fairly orthodox Christian views privately, but I assure you that PZ is 100 percent correct. Students already come to us in the high schools partially indoctrinated with pseudoscience from the churches and organs of popular culture. The only opportunity many of them will ever have to be exposed to critical thinking is through a science class. Critical thinking means exactly that, that we criticize ideas. In science, we are supposed to reject ideas that don’t pass muster, which they fail to do in science when they appeal to things that can’t be tested. My Christian beliefs do NOT belong in the classroom; neither does New Age mysticism, crystals and (DEFINITELY) ‘creationism’ in any of its guises, including ID.

    So such items as listed above, if they come up, only make it into my curricula long enough for me to certify them as ‘non-science’.

    Scott

  8. #8 Caledonian
    July 22, 2006

    Incoherent and highly nonsensical statements, rambling style… yep, lo is a kook.

  9. #9 Interrobang
    July 22, 2006

    When the “spiritual left” (whatever that is) has as much power and money as the Religious Right, then I’ll start worrying about them.

    Have you ever noticed that there are an awful lot of right-wing stupid people who are Christian creationists and believe in all sorts of hooey like astrology and crystals and things? I’ve met an awful lot of them, and I like to call them “Flying Saucer Christians,” myself. I don’t think there’s a clear left-right divide between who believes in what supernatural hokum, anyway. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous at best.

  10. #10 j
    July 22, 2006

    “This whole ID movement is rather novel, and the fact is that supression or omission of popular pseudoscience (can and most likely will) yield an even worse outcome.”

    “A rational thinking person surely will get bored to death with that stupidity and grow some aversion towards that stuff.”

    Okay, I have to disagree with you here. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that if ID is taught ad nauseam in public schools, then rational students will get tired and bored of it.

    Yes, you are correct that students will get tired of ID. In my city’s school district, Lewis and Clark is all that elementary- and middle-school students discuss in social studies classes every single year for six years straight. It’s the only remarkable thing about our state, after all. By the end of it all, both students and parents are thoroughly sick of the same old projects and museum trips, and everyone is glad to move on to world history in junior high.

    However, does all of this mean that students disregard Lewis and Clark or that they believe Lewis and Clark is false? No. It’s really illogical to think that students’ perception of the truth value of a certain subject is inversely proportional to their exposure to the subject.

    You also make an assumption that all students have enough logical reasoning capacity to realize that ID is false. I don’t think so. As Scott Hatfield has already mentioned, there is indoctrination going on in many other areas of kids’ lives; adding more indoctrination in public schools can only exacerbate the matter.

  11. #11 Julie Stahlhut
    July 22, 2006

    I have one of those gazillion free subscriptions to The Scientist, which I at first mistook for a news magazine (although never for a peer-reviewed journal). As far as I can tell, it’s primarily a trade paper for the biotech industry. I don’t have any problem with the industry’s right to advertise — as a sometime bench researcher, I’m a consumer of its products — but readers of The Scientist can give up on expecting any broad perspectives on biological research to turn up in its pages.

    They pretty much lost me some months back when they published, without comment, Phil Skell’s astonishingly ignorant rant against evolutionary theory, a rant that could have been refuted by an undergraduate given fifteen minutes of online library access time. As a letter from an opinionated reader, it would have been fine, but as a guest editorial in a biotech magazine? (Would a petroleum-industry trade paper give Kent Hovind a guest column and let him blather that models of an old earth had yielded nothing helpful to geological research? Well, maybe if he happened to be a major stockholder in one of the supporting corporations, I guess. But if I owned oil-company stocks and read something like that in a trade paper, I’d be tempted to dump my shares and invest in an industry that had adult supervision.)

    As for the allegedly pernicious effects of the “spiritual left” on science: When I see evidence that a consortium of macrobiotic cafes and crystal shops from Sedona might wield enough financial clout to rig the next set of presidential primaries, I’ll be happy to join the bipartisan backlash.

  12. #12 Aero
    July 22, 2006

    PZ, Did you really mean to say “false misrepresentations”? 😉

  13. #13 Keith Douglas
    July 22, 2006

    Interrobang: I got the impression that sort of person makes up a large proportion of the “Art Bell” crowd.

  14. #14 Agent of Golstein
    July 22, 2006

    If your evidence is so “overwhelming” why are you running so SCARED SHITLESS of ID?

    Oh, I know, you are afraid “innoncent minds” will be deceived.

    Yes, deceived in the sense that they don’t automatically fall into line with whatever crap you want to present that particular group.

    Your bitchy hysteria over this is because you want to be free to use your view of mainstream science to promote you anti religous atheist agenda.

    You cry about the motives of the ID people.

    What about your motives. PZ makes it clear everyday…he HATES religion and gets hysterical over criticism.

    Like at KCFS in Kansas these days where the atheists are crapping their pants over the election.

    Concerned about the kids?

    BS, drugs and broken homes and all the perversion kids are exposed to in the media is the real problem, not some ID twaddle.

    You wimps!

  15. #15 Agent of Golstein
    July 22, 2006

    If your evidence is so “overwhelming” why are you running so SCARED SHITLESS of ID?

    Oh, I know, you are afraid “innoncent minds” will be deceived.

    Yes, deceived in the sense that they don’t automatically fall into line with whatever crap you want to present that particular group.

    Your bitchy hysteria over this is because you want to be free to use your view of mainstream science to promote your anti religous atheist agenda.

    You cry about the motives of the ID people.

    What about your motives? PZ makes it clear everyday…he HATES religion and gets hysterical over criticism.

    Like at KCFS in Kansas these days where the atheists are crapping their pants over the election.

    Concerned about the kids?

    BS, drugs and broken homes and all the perversion kids are exposed to in the media is the real problem, not some ID twaddle.

    You wimps!

  16. #16 cp
    July 22, 2006

    @interrobang

    Those are simply religious people that fear the unknown and are fond of tradition. They are christians because of their birth place. They could belong to any other religion if they were born elsewhere and still believe in everything you mentionned. It doesn’t have to do with christianity, it has to do with uncertainty. From what I know about religions, they never manage to completely erase or simulate past beliefs, no matter how hard they try.

  17. #17 j
    July 22, 2006

    To feed or not to feed the troll, that is the question.

  18. #18 quitter
    July 22, 2006

    I don’t know. The crazy left hasn’t made itself a big anti-science pain in the ass yet. I really hate the hippy earthmother shit too, but it’s pretty innocuous. But as much a pain in the ass creationists and anti-ES cell rightwingers are, you know what has me really scared for science? Animal rights loonies.

    Creationists are only a pain in the ass in kind of an abstract way, they don’t directly interfere with research like the anti-ES cell people, and those people only screw with one field (my field, but still, it could be worse). When we start getting animal rights loonies like they have in England then we’re really screwed. Vandalism, arson, death threats, destruction of labs, threats to family members are much more serious to me than creationists, and I think the anti-ES cell people aren’t going to last much longer, until the next election at most. But the animal rights crazies have the chance to really impair research and represent a physical threat to actual scientists.

    So, don’t dismiss the threat from the left yet. I don’t think we’ve seen the full brunt of it. And yes, research in biology is impossible without animals so I see it as a threat not just to my field, but all of biological science.

  19. #19 Orac
    July 22, 2006

    We don’t have a problem with teachers across the country pushing homeopathy on their students, nor do they hesitate to teach anatomy for fear of angry citizens descending on the school board and PTA and complaining that it violates the revealed truth of chiropractic…but we do have teachers across the country cowed and afraid to mention the “E” word because of the pervasive anti-scientific creationist nonsense Gallagher has defended.

    I wouldn’t be quite so dogmatic about it a that. I agree that altie woo and New Age nonsense is not nearly as big a problem now as intelligent design, but that does not mean it’s not a problem. Fortunatetly, it’s just not a big problem (yet). Indeed, on a mailing list I’m on, there have been discussions of how approving portrayals of naturopathy and other altie woo have been found in a middle school textbook and its promotional material. Yes, it’s not a lot yet, but, given the antiscientific tendencies our nation is moving towards when it comes to teaching science in public schools (to which arguably the door was opened by “intelligent design”), I see it as a worrisome harbinger of things to come.

  20. #20 Millimeter Wave
    July 22, 2006

    Creationists are only a pain in the ass in kind of an abstract way, they don’t directly interfere with research…

    Although I do agree with much of what you’re saying, I have to disagree with this point.

    Creationists are interfering with research in a very direct, albeit non-immediate way, by robbing it of many potential future researchers whose heads are instead being stuffed with antiscientific horseshit.

  21. #21 GH
    July 22, 2006

    Scott Hatfield,

    I appreciate your stance on thsi issue but what does this mean exactly?

    hold fairly orthodox Christian views privately

    So does that mean you don’t agree with evolution but yet teach science?

    Or are you untrue to yourself and teach somethign you don’t think is true?

    And exactly what are ‘fairly othrodox Christian views’?

  22. #22 unknown
    July 22, 2006

    The entire ID versus ED episode reminds me of Brahmins versus Non-Barhmins in India http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Brahmanism

  23. #23 cp
    July 22, 2006

    @GH

    You can teach medieval folklore and not believe in fairies. You can also teach it AND believe in fairies.
    As long as you don’t try to impose your views, of course.

  24. #24 Biggoober
    July 22, 2006

    Agent of Goldstein = clueless individual.

    Hard to really state how many ideas and premises he gets wrong in that post.

  25. #25 guthrie
    July 22, 2006

    quitter- the animal rights extremists in the UK have always been small in number and easily dealt with. Indeed, the gvt didnt really need to enact more restrictive legislation to help reign them in, but they did so, and it seems to be helping. THey have had, as far as I can see, little effect upon the great mass of the public, which is what they would have to do in order to really get things changed how they want it.

    As for what Orac calls “alties”, there are indeed many that can be described as lefties. There are also a huge number that could be called “righties”. THe infamous newspaper the DAily Mail, and other similar conservative minded newspapers, are daily hotbeds of alternative medicine promotion.
    See here for details:
    http://www.badscience.net/?cat=15

  26. #26 poke
    July 22, 2006

    I think the alties are already a bigger problem than the creationists. Both the US and the UK fund “research” into alternative medicine. In terms of money lost they’re easily the bigger issue. Every dollar or pound spent on altie nonsense is money taken away from genuine medical research.

  27. #27 George
    July 22, 2006

    Is advocating for more humane treatment of animals wrong?

    We treat the animals we share the planet with like shit, by and large. I admire the animal rights activists who want to change that. Many of them are not “crazies or “loonies.” They are decent people upset by the cruelty so many animals are often needlessly subjected to so that somebody can make money selling products people don’t need.

  28. I agree that altie woo and New Age nonsense is not nearly as big a problem now as intelligent design, but that does not mean it’s not a problem. Fortunatetly, it’s just not a big problem (yet).

    Yes, but worrying a whole lot about New Age stuff getting into the curriculum and ignoring creationism is a bit like worrying whether the shade of yellow you’re painting your house is just right while ignoring the tornado that’s about to turn it into a 747-producing junkyard.

    (Anyone else want to mix in some more metaphors? Be my guest.)

    And exactly how much political power does the New Age crowd have, anyway? I’ve never had, for example, anyone tell me to stop criticizing homeopathy in my chemistry classes because it might offend someone.

  29. #29 j
    July 22, 2006

    “Yes, but worrying a whole lot about New Age stuff getting into the curriculum and ignoring creationism is a bit like worrying whether the shade of yellow you’re painting your house is just right while ignoring the tornado that’s about to turn it into a 747-producing junkyard.”

    That was a truly…unique…analogy. Wow.

  30. #30 Corkscrew
    July 22, 2006

    Can you actually claim 100% that teaching pseudo science in such a complex environment as an industrial state will actually yield mass manipulation.

    Actually, I personally think it could even be beneficial. But only if done right.

    A good approach: sit the class in front of computers. Provide them with the URLs of crank.net and a few popular science sites. Ask them to look at several articles linked to from each source and to attempt to spot any indicative differences between the writings of cranks and those of scientists. Give each student two logical-fallacy bingo boards, one for crank.net and one for the science site, and ask them to see which gets filled first.

    A bad approach: tell the kids that, since many people have many different points of view on the subject of origins, we’re going to spend some time looking at alternative paradigms. Discuss the major claims of several, and provide so many rebuttals and counter-rebuttals that the kids don’t know what to think. Leave them with a copy of “Of Pandas And People”.

    (Can anyone suggest any improvements to the “good” approach? I have limited teaching experience)

  31. #31 DocAmazing
    July 22, 2006

    I realize that I’m only a dumb old physician and not a really smart scientist like any of you, but I think your take on the “alties” is wide of the mark. I’m a pragmatist: if my patient got better due to Flexeril and physical therapy or due to acupuncture is irrelevant to me; my patient got better, end transmission. I’m all for funding research into such approaches: if anecdotal evidence suggests efficacy, then fire up the statistical analysis–and constant repetition of “placebo effect” is no more scientific than chanting “Jesus did it”.

    Regarding the animal-rights extremist faction: I’d remind you that anti-abortion terrorist Eric Rudolph single-handedly killed more people than ELF, ALF, Earth First!, the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy combined. I’d also remind you that more research was stilled due to Li’l George Bush’s veto on stem-cell research than by all the lab-trashings of the 1990s.

  32. #32 Caledonian
    July 22, 2006

    I’m a pragmatist: if my patient got better due to Flexeril and physical therapy or due to acupuncture is irrelevant to me; my patient got better, end transmission.

    You’re taking for granted that you can know why your patient got better. It is virtually impossible to identify what’s responsible for improvement in most cases, most particularly when only a single patient is involved.

    I can’t speak about ‘old’, but you are a dumb physician.

  33. #33 DocAmazing
    July 22, 2006

    P.S.:

    That medical research that “Alties” are stealing dollars and pounds from is far more likely (in the US) to be aimed at producing the boner drugs or hair restorers, or needlessly extending the patent on a pointlessly expensive medicine. In other words, diversion of research funding from profiteering and useless avenues to woo-woo is not necessarily a loss. At least the woo-woo is less likely to have harmful side efeects (cf. Fen-Phen, COX-2 inhibitors).

  34. #34 DocAmazing
    July 22, 2006

    You’re absolutely right, Caledonian. No reason we should even treat our patients, since we don’t know why they’re getting better. Why use all these silly “medicines” and “surgical procedures”, anyway? We have no idea if they work!

    Tell you what, Cal: next time you’re feeling ill, call a statistician.

  35. #35 Caledonian
    July 22, 2006

    No reason we should even treat our patients, since we don’t know why they’re getting better.

    Fool. Many therapies have thoroughly studied, and their effectiveness (and their drawbacks) are clearly understood. It’s the people who don’t care about what treatments are attempted that perpetuate the unscientific aspects of medicine — but hey, as long as the patient gets better, we don’t need to know if the expensive and possibly dangerous therapies we ordered actually did anything, or do anything in any of the case we apply them do.

  36. #36 DocAmazing
    July 22, 2006

    Try to keep up, Cal:

    I’m advocating studying various tharapies to assess their effectiveness and their drawbacks. My patients come to me after having visited any number of “alternative” practitioners–and I can’t really comment on the effectiveness or drawbacks of the treatments they’ve received (and apparently benefitted from) if the research hasn’t been done.

    If all you have to offer is verbal abuse, by all means carry on. If you’re actually interested in helping patients with their illness, stay out of the way while actual researchers look into “alternative” therapies and elucidate those effectivenesses and drawbacks.

  37. #37 Jonathan Badger
    July 22, 2006

    Altie nonsense like “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About” has sold over 3 million copies and been on the New York Times bestseller list, just like Coulter’s crap. Alties are a real problem — they aren’t just some obscure group of loonies; granted as an evolutionary biologist I’m more concerned about Creationism, but it is truly hard to say who is worse for science as a whole.

  38. #38 Scott Hatfield
    July 22, 2006

    GH:

    I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to talk about my private religious views here. Could be mistaken for proselytization, which is exactly the reason I avoid any direct discussion of my views as a public school teacher. Not only would such conduct subject me to legal challenge, but it would lend the impression that when I speak of evolution I am some how talking about an article of faith, rather than a fact about the natural world, and I am keen to tell students otherwise.

    I might add that your brief as to whether or not I ‘agree’ with evolution reinforces the former false perception. I don’t ‘believe’ in evolution; I accept that evolution is a fact. No faith required. As a scientist, I’m not in the ‘faith’ business: I’m in the model-designing and testing business, and any credible model for any significant chunk of biology is going to have to accept as a given the overwhelming evidence for evolution as such.

    Further, the reality of evolution is not affected in the slightest by whether I agree with it, or no—but my ability to offer quality science education is profoundly affected by whether I accept the reality of evolution

    I agree with cp’s comment as to the spectrum of possibilities as to what is taught versus what is privately held, but I did not mean to imply that in my case there was any dissembling on my part. I’m not a creationist, so I don’t have that problem.

    Peace….Scott

  39. #39 goddogtired
    July 22, 2006

    I tell ya, the new troll is the whining and stupid Xian we dubbed “Legion” (on Red State Rabble), where his uselessness and name-changing asshole-ishness actually got him permanently and very, very deservedly banned from a site that, like never bans nobody.

  40. #40 GH
    July 22, 2006

    Scott Hatfield-

    No problem and I intentionally chose my words. I never said you believe in evolution just that I wondered how that was working for you seeing how evolution is a continuum and there is no indication whatsoever we are the end of said continuum.

    I appreciate your stance but find your logic rather odd. I guess you belong to the camp that allows for evolution as a means to and end(us) except we aren’t said end. Doesn’t this view just create far more problems than just being a creationist. It is actually a more flawed view from a theological standpoint IMHO espescially considering the subjective nature of species. It is also logically flawed. If nothing else the creationist view is logically coherent within itself. The blenders of evolution and whatever simply aren’t so.

    And my question stands to some degree, if your teaching science how does that wash with your other leanings? I don’t mean to be pesky I am just curious. For many reasons.

    Oh and I think is simply a cop-out:

    I don’t ‘believe’ in evolution; I accept that evolution is a fact. No faith required. As a scientist, I’m not in the ‘faith’ business I’m in the model-designing and testing business

    Then what possible value could any faith have other another? This just leaves one credulously open to a whole host of bunk with no way to discern anything.

  41. #41 A. Granville Fonda
    July 22, 2006

    Teach ID in the classroom? YES, provided you teach the whole thing – – the entire controversy, warts and all. In particular, as recently discussed at The Panda’s Thumb, by me in Comments ##111498 and #113842, the “intelligent” actor which does “Intelligent Design” is taken by its proponents to refer by definition to a miraculaous, uncaused phenomenon. The causal explanation for the Cambrian Explosion, or irreducible complexity, is explicitly NOT a causal process! The act of Intelligent Design was not caused; it just happened, mirabile dictu, like all mental processes. This is the pre-scientific understanding of the mind, as a First Cause (like God), not the internally experienced workings of a causal process. So ID is by definition a miraculous event; not merely a mystery (and they abound in science) but mystical; not, ultimately, an effect of anything at all. And, as definde by its contradiction of Newton, not science.

    So, I say, if you teach anything about ID, teach ALL that.

  42. #42 ConcernedJoe
    July 22, 2006

    Well – and I repeat: You canNOT teach ID or any form of it in a science class because because because because … drum roll please … IT DOES NOT PASS ANY LEGIT TEST THAT WOULD ALLOW IT TO BE DEFINED AS SCIENCE.

    As` A. Granville Fonda above said “[ID] is the pre-scientific understanding of the mind, as a First Cause (like God), not the internally experienced workings of a causal process.” And as I said: “It is a DEAD-END! It is a way of NOT asking the next question as to mechanism and means born of nature [….] this is NOT science”

    SO OBVIOUSLY IT IS NOT SCIENCE. It is so obviously religion, and even at that it is BAD religion because “good” religion tries not to cast a modern god in absurd ridiculous manmade poses.

    To me this is the end of argument. But don’t ask me .. read the Dover ruling – the judge NAILED IT!

    And “Agent of Golstein” I hate (I really do seriously hate) to get personal but you are very delusional. I hope you are just baiting.. because if you really believe your line … you need some serious mental help.

  43. #43 Caledonian
    July 22, 2006

    If you’re actually interested in helping patients with their illness, stay out of the way while actual researchers look into “alternative” therapies and elucidate those effectivenesses and drawbacks.

    ‘Alternative’ therapies are classified as such usually because medicine has already looked into them and found them to be without merit, but sufficiently harmless that there’s no reason to bother preventing patients from using them. I suppose there is at least a placebo effect, which much of medicine is based upon, so there may even be a minor positive effect.

    But by and large, the research has already been done. It just doesn’t support your biases.

  44. #44 Azkyroth
    July 23, 2006

    Agent of Golstein:

    When I was about 13, I was in an argument with my father, who had made some parenting judgement call that I didn’t agree with. I accused him of power-tripping; I believe my exact words were “You’re fucking sick!” He responded in an authoritative manner, and I compared my position to that of Socrates, who was persecuted for criticizing prevailing orthodoxy. He replied by pointing out that Socrates raised polite, well-reasoned questions and criticisms, not the ancient-Greek equivalent of “You’re fucking sick!” That shut me up. I don’t remember what the object of contention was, but I doubt his position was unreasonable in addition to being personally distasteful. I exploded like a child, ignored his reasons for his decision, let my emotions dictate my reaction, and wound up making an idiot of myself.

    Do you see where I’m going with this?

  45. #45 DocAmazing
    July 23, 2006

    Actually, Cal, I have no biases in this. That’s why I’m calling for research. ‘Cuz I don’t know (and don’t pretend to know) all that there is to know about all available therapies. I’d like to, of course.

    And, actually, you’re quite wrong, though I suppose that’s not surprising; the latest thing in pediatric gastroenterology is peppermint tea, now well-studied and found quite efficacious (as well as cheap and fairly free of side-effects). No one’s much impressed with echinacea or ear reflexology anymore (and no one in the medical community spent much time on crystals–though prayer got an inordinate amount of attention), but acupuncture is lately undergoing really rigorous analysis outside China (the research done in the US and much of western Europe in the ’70s was fairly superficial).

    “Alternative” therapies are so worthless that US pharmaceutical firms are trying to patent ancient Ayurvedic therapeutic modalities. “Alternative” therapies are so worthless that outfits that try to provide the maximum amount of health care for the minimum amount of money (like Kaiser) are opening departments to supply them.

    “Alternative” just means that it hasn’t been made part of the standard pharmacopoeia. Some things never will be; other things have yet to be. Surely, Cal, you are not so arrogant as to posit that the drugs and therapies now accepted are all the drugs and therapies that will ever be accepted? Your cant is amusing; fortunately, serious medical practitioners are busy assessing safety and efficacy without regard to your preconceptions.

  46. #46 Loren Petrich
    July 23, 2006

    There’s a pseudoscientific theory that many practitioners of “alternative medicine” are fond of: vitalism, the belief that living things are alive because they have some special “vital force”.

    However, they never demand equal time in molecular-biology classes for vitalism, and mainstream biologists give their views very little attention.

    And much the same can be said of astrologers — when has any astrologer demanded equal time for astrology in astronomy classes?

    So why are creationists so political and vitalists and astrologers not?

    BTW, I think that vitalism would be something interesting for our host to blog on; it’s been hard for me to find any good discussions of the downfall of vitalism over the last few centuries, though I gather that it was a rather gradual process.

    Our host might especially be interested in Hans Driesch’s vitalism, because that was derived from an embryological mystery. If you cut a sea-urchin embryo in half after its fitst cell divisions, what results will not be two halves of a sea-urchin larvae, but two complete but smaller ones. He evidently thought that a mechanistic view of development required that cell fates be fixed even in the first embryonic cell divisions.

  47. #47 Azkyroth
    July 23, 2006

    Quitter and George:

    I think you’re talking past each other. It’s important to differentiate between animal experimentation for testing, say, cosmetics (which I oppose, and it sounds like George does as well) and similar things, and animal experimentation for explorative biological research and sound medical research (which I support, and assume George would as well). People who want to see animal experimentation limited to those areas where it’s necessary, and to ensure that it’s performed under rigorous and well-enforced ethical guidelines, and who work through peaceable means to achieve this, fall under the category of “animal rights activists,” but they aren’t the problem, and its important to differentiate between them and people who feel that animals should never be used for any experiments ever. Not every “animal rights activist” is a PETA-style nutjob, just like not every “feminist” believes that all sex is rape.

  48. #48 Scott Hatfield
    July 23, 2006

    GH:

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments and don’t want to cop out on honest curiousity when you solicity my personal religious views. However, I still worry that this is not only off-topic, but inappropriate for this forum. If you’re sincerely interested, we can continue this discussion by e-mail.

    At the risk of inviting abuse and spam, my e-mail is:

    epigene13@hotmail.com

    Peace—Scott

  49. #49 Keith Douglas
    July 23, 2006

    Although there is of course need to focus on specific cases of irrationality, unsupported beliefs etc. the general issue I think has to be addressed. Subsquently, I have taken it up and am slowly putting together some work on this with a colleague of sorts, but it is difficult to do. Most of the specific cases are symptoms of educational lacks. Unfortunately, articulating precisely what I and others who are relatively free of bogosity learned is difficult – it is very tacit. Places like this one are good for getting data on it, though, and I’ve concluded that bootstrapping a new educational system will be extremely difficult. So to speak to both “alternative medicine” and creationism, both are affected by various tacit views people hold about mind-body dualism and other antiscientific viewpoints. Neuroscience for 6 year olds!

  50. #50 George
    July 23, 2006

    Azkyroth, yes, I agree with most of your comment, but not with the “PETA-syle nutjob” characterization. PETA does a lot of good fighting for better treatment of animals.

  51. #51 quitter
    July 23, 2006

    PETA are crazy george. Sorry. Creating a display in San Francisco showing animal corpses with the tagline “to animals all people are Nazis”? Everyone who eats meat is now a Nazi or Nazi enabler? Or how about their stupid nekkid-girl protests. Not that I object to unclothed ladies but anyone who thinks this is a methods to change the world is delusional. Besides, when the president says they are interested in “total animal liberation” then I worry they’re not just worried whether or not we’re humane, they want us to stop using animals period. This is a huge threat to research. Or how about when Ingrid Newkirk said “even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS, we would be against it.” (I hate to link dirty libertarians, but here it is.)

    I don’t mistreat animals as a scientist, but animal rights nutjobs think we shouldn’t use animals for research, period. I’ve had idiots tell me we should just do all our science on computers, and there is no need for animal research. A statement so stupid it parallels some of the worst idiocy of creationists. I’ve had them tell me that lab animals, like my mice and rats, should have equal rights as humans. Mice and Rats! Their bullshit “Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine” has been called a bunch of quacks by the AMA, probably because they suggest that we should be more worried about a rat’s feelings than curing human disease.

    We’re not intentionally cruel to these animals, but they are essential for biological research, and sorry, but that means that sometimes we have to kill cute litte animals. I don’t enjoy doing it but there it is, there is no other way to do science. When the nutjobs start telling me a I should use a computer to model processes we can’t even begin to understand, I worry, especially because in some countries, they’re presenting a physical threat to scientists. They’re just as irrational and crazy as the creationists, but more violent and even give money to groups like ALF and ELF, who are essentially terrorists.

    If you care about animals and want to help them, give your money to the Humane Society, not PETA.

  52. #52 quitter
    July 23, 2006

    Oh won’t somebody please think of the rats?

    Sorry, thought you might some link sourcing on my crazy PCRM claim. They are nuts! Just read their papers.

  53. #53 George
    July 23, 2006

    Guitter, yes PETA is much more confrontational than the Humane Society and Newkirk is an extremist, but look at some of the things they have done:

    http://www.peta.org/about/victories.asp

    “After PETA exposes cruelty at a lab that tests products for Benetton, the company announces that it will end tests and go cruelty-free. Avon and Revlon follow suit a year later.”

    “General Motors ends the use of live pigs and baboons in crash tests after PETA’s hard-hitting campaign.”

    “A North Carolina grand jury hands down the first-ever felony cruelty indictments against pig-farm workers after an undercover PETA investigator videotaped the workers who were beating lame pigs with wrenches and skinning and dismembering a conscious pig.”

    Someone has to expose these types of cruelty and it often takes a super-committed activist with the courage to go undercover with a video camera to expose them. That’s what PETA does.

  54. #54 A. Granville Fonda
    July 23, 2006

    Andrew Lee says

    I think there’s a meaningful difference between intelligent and unintelligent design, even though they’re both species of the same genus. But as long as both involve imparting information about design space, why not call them both instances of ‘design’?

    They are both instances of design if you mean “seeming” design; seeming to be informative (to the observer), or giving (to the observer)the impression of intent on the part of the actor. But only ID claims that there has been “actual” design, premeditated and intentional, in the inferred mind of an inferred intelligent designer.

    Both present the same process, namely variation winnowed by selection; but, was the variation random, or was it planned? Were the molecules which normally match the parent A, C, G, and T locations in the parent strands of DNA mislocated in the daughter strands by chance interference, or by intentional interference? Selection thereafter was by failure of the inferior (e.g. slow or awkward) variations; but were the gene-splitting variations accidental, or intended?

    If the latter, how were the necessary forces applied to the free-floating A, C, G, and T molecules; what was the physical mechanism of actuation? According to Newton, only matter affects matter; so the means if any was material. Which reasoning applies on up the causal chain, such that nothing not-natural ever has the opportunity to be involved. So it never happened, other than by material means.

    And even if material, how did the material actor get to be so smart? By prior evolution? An earlier emergence of intelligent life? Perhaps; but statistically outrageous; out of the frying pan of Darwinian evolution into the fire! Technically possible, but far less likely than the proposition it undertakes to replace. And, ultimately just as mindless and just as bottom-up.

    That is how I unpack Lurker’s suggestion that

    ID requires mental dualism, otherwise it would be properly classified as another materialist/reductionist theory. [But] the mind is unsatisfactory because it requires the presence of a material host.

  55. #55 quitter
    July 24, 2006

    George, you’re a really “glass is half full” type of guy. I’ve gotta say.

  56. #56 Eric Paulsen
    July 25, 2006

    What finally motivates him to speak out for good science teaching based on reason and evidence is a perceived threat from “New Agers” and the “spiritual Left” with their wacky “mother earth sensibility.”

    Like Mother Earth is any MORE ridiculous than God? At least I can see the trees and feel the earth under my feet… where’s God hiding? Just for the record I am an atheist and find all supernatural mysticism silly, but if one group decides their invisible super powered father figure is somehow LESS silly than another groups flower picking tree hugging mother figure I try to inject a little reality into the argument.

    Hell, next I be hearing that Superman could win in a fight with Mighty Mouse.

  57. #57 M Petersen
    July 25, 2006

    ConcernedJoe:

    I think Stephen Meyer does a pretty good job of explaining how ID is not creationism or religion in disguise.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/01/28/do2803.xml

  58. #58 Steve_C
    July 25, 2006

    Uhg. There they go again quoting dawkins out of context.

    Ummm… he’s a fellow at the non existent Discovery Institute.

    Enough said.

    There is no evidence for ID! Irriducible Complexity is not evidence.
    If the human mind can come up with a rotary engine how is it so complex
    that it had to be design by some higher form? It makes no sense.

    The wing of a bat is a pretty amazing mechanism for flight. Doesn’t mean a bat was designed.

    The whole theory is stupid. There have been no experiments or tests done in the
    study of ID. There are no peer reviewed papers. It’s completely pointless and a useless waste of time.

  59. #59 M Petersen
    July 26, 2006

    Steve_C:

    Irriducible complexity may not be solid evidence, but it certainly lends itself to at least look into the possibility that something was designed.

    The human mind coming up with a rotary engine is HARDLY so simple either. They’re talking about finding a rotary engine in the basic building block of life.

    Here are the peer-reviewed papers you claim don’t exist:
    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2640

    You may want to look into the actual facts before making claims about ID.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.