Pharyngula

That guy, Larry Moran…he seems to have been the final straw to tip a whole lot of people into twitterpated consternation. In particular, Ed Brayton, that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre, has declared Moran (and all those who dare to profess their atheism without compromise) to be anathema, and John Lynch, Pat Hayes, and Nick Matzke have drawn up sides to put themselves clearly against wicked “evangelical atheists” like Dawkins and Moran and even PZ Maiieghrs.

What could have prompted such vociferous contempt? What awful thing could Moran have said, on top of the usual pile of criminal sins of overt atheists so numerous they don’t need explanation, that would justify calling us “disturbing and dangerous” and “appalling and vile”? You will be shocked. UCSD is requiring their biology majors to take a course in evolution to remediate the failings of their freshmen, and is making all of their incoming freshmen attend an anti-ID lecture. This infuriated the usual gang of IDists. Larry took it a step further.

I agree with the Dembski sycophants that UCSD should not have required their uneducated students to attend remedial classes. Instead, they should never have admitted them in the first place. Having made that mistake, it’s hopeless to expect that a single lecture—even one by a distinguished scholar like Robert Pennock—will have any effect. The University should just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.

This led to charges of “authoritarian dogmatism” and the hysterical responses from the evolutionist side that this was the work of those evil atheists who are dooming our chances of improving science education. To which I can only say, “Are you nuts?”

Almost all universities have these little things called “admission requirements” and “standards”. For instance, we expect you to have graduated from high school before we let you in, or to have demonstrated equivalent competence. We look at your grades, and we may reject you if you don’t have a record of discipline and competence. We evaluate standardized test scores, which is a far crueler and more arbitrary mechanism for filtering our admissions. We have application essays, and at the more prestigious universities, admission interviews. I am not surprised that a clueless non-academic would be unaware that we already have many intellectual barriers (often, barriers that are too low) in place, but what is wrong with those academics who are aghast at Moran’s proposal?

I think it is entirely reasonable for a university to say, for instance, that you need to be able to read with a certain level of competency, or know the basics of algebra, before you will be admitted to the university. In fact, I think we should enforce higher standards across the board, because what happens all the time is that unqualified students come in, fork over tuition money for a year or two, and slowly discover that they are paying a lot of money to be handed a lot of work that they are incapable of doing, and they fail. Expecting incoming students to have some minimal understanding, of the kind that is mandated by most state high school science standards, is not onerous. Expecting biology majors at UCSD to know the basics of evolution, or flunking them out, is no more dogmatic or vile than expecting math majors to know what the binomial theorem is, and kicking them out of the program if they can’t do algebra.

In response to this demand for rigor, we get Ed Brayton dividing the world of the anti-creationists into two camps, one of which is “fighting to prevent ID creationism from weakening science education”…and after expressing horror at the idea of requiring better education in biology for incoming college students, places himself in that camp!

Are we on Bizarro Earth or something?

The other camp, the one he opposes, is fighting “to eliminate all religious belief of any kind” and believes that “religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.” This is Brayton’s rationalization for placing Moran in opposition to improving science education: because Brayton has erected this astonishingly black-and-white fantasy where there is this totalitarian group of atheists seeking world domination, and anyone he imagines being in this group is corrupting his attempts to improve science education by encouraging greater tolerance for stupid ideas.

Please note: Moran did not say that all Baptists should be flunked or refused admission. This was not a comment about religion, directly. It was a statement that the ignorant “40% of the freshman class [who] reject Darwinism” did not deserve admission. I suspect, though, that even Ed Brayton realized that the reason these 40% oppose basic evolutionary biology was almost certainly and entirely due to their religious upbringing, and that a policy like that would be a de facto barrier to practitioners of certain extremist religious sects. This religion, however, has to be treated delicately, with respect and love, so his side that wants to improve science education is going to do so by pandering to those who most devoutly oppose science education.

Don’t ask me to explain that logic. I’m not on “their team”.

Yes, the conflict has gotten that stark: according to Pat Hayes, We’re on Ed’s Team or we’re not.

Those, like Moran, who want to divide the movement to defend science education—and in the process hand ultra-right fundamentalists an undeserved victory—”simply are not on the same team and are not working [toward, RSR] the same goal,” says Brayton.

Parse that carefully, if you will. It’s not hard. He’s saying that those “who want to divide the movement” are handing victory to the fundamentalists in a post where he and Ed are explicitly dividing the movement into two opposing “teams”. It’s a single sentence, Pat, and you are plainly committing the sin you damn Moran for! And “damn” is a mild term for the scorn Ed and Pat pour onto those who are less sanguine about the destructive influence of religion on our culture.

I pointed out the hypocrisy of his statement in a comment, and now Pat has replied with a longer post compounding his error, and accusing us of being “Darwinian fundamentalists”, a term I’ve only heard from creationists before. As I’ve come to expect, we get to hear a lot of false motives assigned to us, more dogma and damnation, much of it coming straight from the weird brain of Ed Brayton.

If you are honest PZ—and I will not accuse you of being a hypocrite as you have accused me—you will admit that you too are willing to sacrifice the battle over teaching evolution in order to win your larger war against religion.

Uh-oh, I must be dishonest then, because I must honestly express my opinion that that is not true (is this like those logic puzzles with Cretans?). There are two problems with Pat’s claim. First, I want better science teaching in the schools, and that is the mechanism I propose to defeat religion. Educated people tend to shed religious beliefs more readily, or adopt religious beliefs that do not conflict with reality. I really do not understand how someone can suggest that I would advocate letting people become more ignorant about the real world as part of my strategy for winning my “war on religion”.

Second, I’d really like to know how I’m supposed to be fighting this “war on religion”. Are there guns involved? Because I don’t like violence. Am I supposed to be pushing to legislate what people are allowed to believe? Because I don’t think that’s possible, and if it were, I’d oppose it even more strongly than violence. As near as I can tell, the way I’ve been fighting this “war” is to express my opinions as loudly and clearly as possible, and encourage other like-minded people to openly state their positions as well. I also insist that beliefs about religion should not be a litmus test used to discriminate against people (there is, of course, a great deal of self-interest there, since non-Christian beliefs are the ones discriminated against most). When people declare that they oppose my strategy in the “war against religion”, that’s what I hear them opposing.

Seriously. Tattoos and concentration camps and guillotines are not part of the plan. Quit acting like they are.

The difference between us is not what we think about God, miracles, or the after life. On all those issues we are in complete agreement. Our difference is this: I don’t believe theistic evolutionists — however much I might disagree with their religious beliefs — are eroding science education.

Yes, I agree that this is a difference between us, in part. One other difference: I’m right, you’re wrong.

One case in point, a familiar one to all of us now: Ken Miller. I agree entirely that he has been a net gain to the fight against creationism, he’s effective, he’s rhetorically powerful. Read his book, and it sails along strongly, making a solid case and building beautifully…and then wham, he introduces his religion, and it sails off the cliff into insipidity and chaos. Does religion erode science education? You bet it does, and that book demonstrates it vividly.

However, that doesn’t mean I make the blanket assumption that theistic evolutionists are bad for science education. Theistic evolution, yes, is a ghastly piece of work, little better than outright creationism, but the theistic evolutionists keep that out of the classroom, so it’s OK; however, you still need us shrill, strident atheistical evolutionists to point and make our alien scream if some well-meaning theistic evolutionist starts assuming that silence and the tacit support of Ed’s Team means he gets to start babbling about god lurking in quantum indeterminacy to his class.

(Oh, and in case you’re worried: that doesn’t mean we start preaching atheism in the classroom, either. I don’t, and would also point and scream at someone trying to do so.)

Defeating the religious right requires a winning strategy. PZ, as much as I admire your writing and your other important contributions to the movement to defend science, I believe the strategy you advocate will lead us to certain defeat.

Yes! We need a winning strategy! Now, what is this winning strategy that Ed’s Team is pushing? It seems to be more of the same, the stuff that we’ve been doing for 80 years, accommodating the watering down of science teaching to avoid conflict with religious superstition…the strategy that has led to a United States where a slim majority opposes the idea of evolution, and we’re left with nothing but a struggle in the courts to maintain the status quo.

I don’t know why this is so hard to understand. We are not winning. We are clinging to tactics that rely on legal fiat to keep nonsense out of the science classroom, while a rising tide of uninformed, idiotic anti-science opinion, tugged upwards by fundamentalist religious fervor, cripples science education. Treading water is not a winning strategy. I’m glad we’re not sinking, and I applaud the deserving legal efforts that have kept us afloat, but come on, people, this isn’t winning.

Since Pat is convinced my strategy is one that will lead to certain defeat, he must have a pretty good idea of what that strategy is. Nick Matzke thinks our goal is “to convert other academics to be evangelical atheists, so that eventually everyone in the U.S. will become evangelical atheists.” Really? I mean, it would certainly be nice if we were all atheists, I suppose, but wouldn’t the “evangelical” part be unnecessary then? I think we can safely say that Nick is Not On Our Team, and his knowledge of our goals dismissed.

Pat doesn’t seem to have any better understanding.

Your strategy is a loser because it isolates nonbelievers like ourselves. When you say that our religious allies in the fight to defend science education and preserve the separation of church and state are no different than the fundamentalists, you hand the religious right the very weapon they most desire to use against us.

So I take it that the Ed’s Team strategy is to simply blend in with the believers? I think we’ve found another difference.

My strategy is to stand up unashamed for rational ideas, to be proud to be an atheist, and to encourage others to join me. That doesn’t isolate us in the least. What does isolate us is religious bigotry and the need by even some infidels to wall off those who speak their mind, putting them on another “team” at which they can safely throw mud. That ignorant condemnation of other atheists and the false accusations (theistic evolutionists are no different than fundamentalists? Where have I said that? It does seem that some are ready to say that atheists are no different than religious fundamentalists though…another item for the irony file) are no doubt helpful camouflage in their attempts to blend in.

Oh, and it shouldn’t need saying, but apparently it does: being a proud atheist is not synonymous with planning to line church-going grandmas up against the wall to be shot. That’s just part of the unthinking prejudices of Ed’s Team.

I’m glad I’m not on it.

Comments

  1. #1 Steve_C
    November 23, 2006

    As Dawkins said during the Beyond Belief conference… we’re not interested in finding stories in the bible that support science and evolution… what’s the point? Teach the science, if they can’t accept that, fuck em. Pass the class and they have nothing to worry about. These students have to start learning that there’s reasons why the truth doesn’t fit into their belief system.

  2. #2 SEF
    November 23, 2006

    Are we on Bizarro Earth or something?

    Surely, PZ, you can’t only just have noticed that. It’s been part of the problem all along (as you frequently detail and do yet again in this blog entry).

  3. #3 G. Tingey
    November 23, 2006

    There also seems to be this scream (having also read Moran’s post) about “Darwinists”. Erm, Darwin founded evolutionary biology, but it isn’t “Darwinism” it is evo & evo-devo. In the same way that physics isn’t “Newtonianism” …
    I agree PZ, what’s with these people?
    I suspect they are scared of the believrs

  4. #4 Martin Wagner
    November 23, 2006

    Bravo, PZ. I’ve been following this myself, and commenting on Dispatches and RSR where I just couldn’t take it any more. It appears that the Neville Chamberlain School of Evolutionists have gone all reactionary, and adopted the creationist party line that any criticism of creationist beliefs and their bad science is tantamout to an all-out war on religion that we can’t win, so the best way to “preserve” science education is not to hurt anybody’s feelings. Okay, so Ken Miller has done good science and been an excellent ally in the war on creationism in the schools…fine. But I still want to hear his scientific arguments justifying his theism, and if he hasn’t any, then excuse the hell out of me for taking him less seriously overall as a scientist than Dawkins, who, while he may be “strident” and “rude,” at least is arguing a consistent position.

    I’ve been kind of sickened by all this, and when someone who supports the accomodationist way of thinking can post a comment this dippy (from RSR)…

    Human beings need belief systems. It is a major trait of our species as a whole and has been ever sense we were gifted with the capacity to imagine and conceptualize. We all believe something, and we always will. Atheism is a belief system. Agnosticism is a belief system. Humanism is a belief system. Christianity is a belief system. University of Tennessee football is a belief system.

    …I just want to retch.

  5. #5 Stephen Erickson
    November 23, 2006

    PZ’s cute when he’s angry.

  6. #6 Great White Wonder
    November 23, 2006

    According to Ed “Failed Comedian” Brayton, Larry’s suggestion that one’s understanding of biology be relevant to determining admissibility to college is “dangerous” “disturbing” “appalling” and (my favorite) “vile.”

    Poor Ed. It looks like Karl Rove got to him good. So when is the Christian “backlash” against us atheists going to occur Ed? In 2008?

    Watch closely in the future when any and all political victories of fundies are attributed by Ed Brayton and Co. to atheists and their big mouths. That’s the script.

  7. #7 SteveF
    November 23, 2006

    PZ

    “First, I want better science teaching in the schools, and that is the mechanism I propose to defeat religion.”

    Do you honestly believe that this is realistic?

  8. #8 Ichthyic
    November 23, 2006

    Do you honestly believe that this is realistic?

    compared to which other approach(es)?

  9. #9 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    Does it seem to anyone else that Brayton and his ilk are fairly sophisticated concern trolls? “We support science, but any attempt to assert science against religious nonsense is horrible, horrible, and we have to avoid conflict with the believers at all costs!”

  10. #10 SteveF
    November 23, 2006

    Practical (in view of the continuing assault on science education) might be a better word than realistic.

  11. #11 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Yes. Teach people to think, and let ‘em make up their own minds. I’m confident that more, if we strip away the lies and propaganda of religion, will make a sensible decision. And if they don’t, well, there isn’t anything more I can do. We’ll just have to chalk it up to people’s inherent irrationality.

    Unfortunately, some people think we can let religious indoctrination continue to go on unchecked by any representation by the freethinkers in our culture, and think we shouldn’t ever, in any venue, criticize theists. It’s getting ridiculous.

  12. #12 Ichthyic
    November 23, 2006

    actually, it was Matzke’s response to all this that surprised me the most.

    does anybody here think that Matzke’s nomination of Tyson as “the next Sagan” was a bit odd?

    did anybody watch the Tyson clip?

    this whole thing seems to be totally reactionary, imo.

    while some seem fond of saying PZ is the hotheaded one, it’s these reactionaries that aren’t thinking things through at this point.

  13. #13 Miguelito
    November 23, 2006

    In defence of Ed:

    Frankly, using whether a student believes in evolution or not as a criteria for their admission into university is a bad idea. If they’ve got the grades to get in in everything but biology to keep their average high enough, they can get in. Being discriminatory over one subject is wrong. Then you have to start asking questions about whether the student believes in the holocaust, UFOs, immaculate conception, etc…

    I personally have little sympathy for creationists and I am not a theistic evolutionist but a die-hard atheist. But universities are about education, not about combating ignorance, as odd as that sounds, because somebody freely chooses to attend university yet can remain ignorant if they want. Take them and fail them if they take a biology course, but, if they enter theology, then that’s their little bonus.

    And alot of us don’t want to be using science as a tool to attack religion not because we think it’s wrong, but because it’s short sighted. We need to use science to teach kids how to think, then down the road they will be more likely to question and reject the arguments of their religious mentors. Absolutely linking science to atheism right now is likely to drive religious moderates away, people we need to help drive science policy like greenhouse-gas emissions and science education, but will also lessen the impact of scientists as authority figures.

  14. #14 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Oh, practical. Yes, it’s practical. Fight to keep creationism out of the classroom, like NCSE does, fight to support good biology teaching, like KCFS and MnCSE do, get more activists working to get citizens aware of good science, and for dog’s sake, quit treating the most reliable proponents of science, the atheists and agnostics, like pariahs. The way to get people to stop using the rebuke that evolution is godless science, as if that were a strike against it, is to end this idea that godlessness is evil…an idea that Brayton seems determined to perpetuate, keeping that handy canard armed and live in the hands of the creationists.

  15. #15 Mike Haubrich
    November 23, 2006

    What I find amazing is the amount of free education that people expect for our students who are not willing to do the hard work of getting the basics taken care of before they enter college. Each year, the papers carry stories about how expensive college is, how many new applicants there are, and the way that the increase in admissions is driving up tuition costs. It also shrinks the amount of financial aid available to the students who have the capacity to gain from college in a real way; the students who have earned their way to college by doing the work in high school.

    I am all in favor of Moran’s idea. If we send the kids back when they can’t demonstrate that they were learning in high school biology instead of text-messaging the details of Friday night’s party, then there will be more room for the ones that have shown they deserve it.

    There are plenty of “universities” that cater to creationists; places like Patrick Henry University (give me death) where instead of learning about real science they learn the finer points of debating.

    I see no reason for atheists to concede an inch when it comes to science. Religion and spirituality are interesting, but their testability has not grown past the argument over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin and to concede that we should demand strict application of reason in science would be a step backwards.

    I fear for a country in which even our atheists are afraid of religion.

  16. #16 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Frankly, using whether a student believes in evolution or not as a criteria for their admission into university is a bad idea.

    That is not a defense of Ed, since it is parroting a mistruth spread by Ed. Moran did not say we should reject students who don’t believe in evolution—in fact, one thing I tell my students is that I don’t care whether they “believe” in evolution or not, I just want to see scientific evidence—but that we should fail students who actively reject evolution.

    We don’t filter out students for being ignorant (our enrollments would be at 0 if we did that), but we can filter out students for being perniciously and sanctimoniously stupid.

  17. #17 Bryson Brown
    November 23, 2006

    There is something unsettling about this massive overkill in response to Larry’s comment. I’ve taught a second-year, introductory course on the history and philosophy of geology and biology for nearly 20 years now. I tell the students that they’re entitled to their own opinions on the issues (age of the earth, the history of life, etc.), but they will be graded on their awareness of the evidence and the arguments. I’ve had to mark many down for spouting simple creationist arguments that had been thoroughly eviscerated in class without recognizing or responding to the points made against them. I’ve had very few complaints, and I’ve even persuaded a few who began as young-earth creationists that they needed to adopt more sophisticated theological views. Of course, some have failed and some have withdrawn from the class. But I don’t see why there’s anything wrong (or ‘evangelical’) about this, and I don’t see why what Larry proposed was any different: If you want to get a degree in biology, you are going to have to learn about biology. This will require giving up the grotesque posturing and propaganda of the creationist-ID crowd; if you can’t do this, biology is and will remain beyond you. Evolutionary theism, on the other hand, is not so disabling, since it doesn’t require that you ignore important evidence or waste your time playing pointless, selectively skeptical games.

    As to the general over-reaction against atheists, I’m struck by its asymmetry- proselytizing for religion is seen as just fine, but open and clear advocacy for atheism is seen as offensive. I can’t see any good reason for this, but it’s a pretty widespread pattern. Last week a CBC religion show highlighted a letter complaining about the weakness of faith shown by a scholar who had become an agnostic after studying the bible & its textual history. The letter was absolutely contemptuous about the scholar’s response. This juxtaposed nicely with several other letters complaining about the ‘offensive’ comments of Sam Harris on the previous week. The attitude seems to be that contempt for the non-religious is fine, but any criticism of the religious is offensive. I say, tough noogies.

  18. #18 SteveF
    November 23, 2006

    I’m not in favour of treating atheists as pariahs. I’m an atheist myself. Listing the various activities of the NCSE and the MnCSE is not overly relevant. The question is whether or not the overt atheism practiced by you and Larry is practical in the fight for science education (in view of the overwhelmingly theistic flavour of US society). I’d suggest not. I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise.

    As an aside, I think its interesting that you mention the NCSE and the MnCSE. Last time I checked the sites of these organisations, they contained evidence of the more concliatory approach favoured by Ed:

    http://www.mnscience.org/index.php?id=120

    Should this be removed from the site?

  19. #19 Ed Darrell
    November 23, 2006

    Weirdness abounds. Must I pick sides? This seems like a no-brainer. We stick to high academic standards. Kids who don’t know the stuff they are required to know, are not passed to the next level — that is the philosophy of the Bush Administration.

    I’m sure that the Bushies thought they’d catch only differently-skinned or differently-languaged people, but if we stick to tough academics, we’re going to catch people who carry religious nuttiness past acceptable bounds.

    If a kid can’t explain evolution and why it’s important, he’s no better suited to being a citizen than one who can’t distinguish why a republican democracy is considered usually superior to despotic totalitarian regimes.

    If they can’t do the work, flunk ‘em. If they refuse to do the work, flunk ‘em.

    Moran makes the case a bit more caustically than I might like — but he’s got the right views. If kids don’t study the stuff, if they don’t learn it and can’t pass the tests, write the essays and otherwise demonstrate mental facility on the topic, don’t give them the merit badge, don’t give them a passing grade, let some other kid have the opportunity. It’s not like we have a shortage of kids who need to go to college and learn . . .

    I do wish there would be some emphasis on the common ground here. PZ and Brayton don’t disagree on whether kids need to know evolution. The disagreement is on how much remediation we are willing to allow, especially on government money.

    The bottom line is good academics. ID advocates are opposed to high academic standards.

    Moran has pointed out that another poobah is wearing no clothes. He’s not a pervert for pointing out that nudity.

  20. #20 Sastra
    November 23, 2006

    While I may agree with PZ’s basic argument that promoting “theistic evolution” as itself a legitimate scientific viewpoint (as opposed to a legitimate religious viewpoint) is mistaken, I disagree on this particular issue. The creationist students who come into college science classes disagreeing with evolution are not “ignorant” and unqualified in exactly the same way freshmen without basic backgrounds in algebra are ignorant, and thus unqualified to enter college level math programs.

    The lack of belief may or may not indicate a total lack of knowledge. They may have a reasonable understanding of evolutionary theory — or at least no worse than incoming freshmen in general. When it comes to undergraduate programs, it doesn’t really matter whether students believe or agree with a subject, as long as they are capable of learning and doing the work. There are also important social factors to consider regarding WHY there is this ignorance of basic theory. There is a large cultural subgroup (perhaps even a majority) which promotes and sanctions rejecting evolution. We can’t ignore this and hope it goes away.

    If black kids routinely grew up in communities which taught them that doing algebra was “a White Man’s thing” and somehow a “betrayal of your race” — and yet many wanted to take math and even become mathematicians — then I would expect colleges to recognize the special problem here, provide remedial algebra classes, and assume that such students would then go on to either figure out that algebra fits into everything else and is not inherently anti-African-American OR learn the information and be able to do algebra problems correctly, whatever they secretly believed. Or drop out or flunk out.

    Keeping information from the ignorant as a kind of “self-corrective punishment” to the establishment that deliberately made them ignorant seems not only unlikely to work, but wrong. These are kids who need to be exposed to new ideas the right way. College challenges old prejudices. “Sink or swim” shouldn’t come before that, not in this particular matter.

  21. #21 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Should this be removed from the site?

    Speaking of asymmetry, you don’t see the anti-Ed Team saying theistic evolutionists are not allowed to state their opinions because it hurts the cause. You do see the Ed Team damning the eyes of the atheists because they’re going to make the creationists angry, and because they dare to criticize their theistic evolutionist heroes.

    So no, they shouldn’t remove it. Especially not since they’ve also linked to an essay by a member of the Evil Atheist Team.

  22. #22 Sastra
    November 23, 2006

    PZ wrote:

    The way to get people to stop using the rebuke that evolution is godless science, as if that were a strike against it, is to end this idea that godlessness is evil…an idea that Brayton seems determined to perpetuate, keeping that handy canard armed and live in the hands of the creationists.

    This is not true. He recently posted a very long argument that we need to end the idea that godlessness equals immorality. You are being unfair here.

    I love you both. Stop fighting or Santa will see you.

  23. #23 Ed Darrell
    November 23, 2006

    We don’t filter out students for being ignorant (our enrollments would be at 0 if we did that), but we can filter out students for being perniciously and sanctimoniously stupid.

    Oh, yeah — and let’s be clear that what the wags at DI and UD want is to make it safe to be perniciously and sanctimoniously stupid, at the expense of innocent children and other citizens everywhere. That’s the where the line ought to be drawn.

    The difference between crank science and good science is that in good science the advocate can explain why it is that honest people might have different views, without resort to imagined conspiracies and calumny. Moran is taking the position that favors thought and knowledge; his opponents are manning the ramparts in defense of stupidity.

    One may be excused for avoiding the crossfire, but there should be no question about which side one favors.

  24. #24 Andy Groves
    November 23, 2006

    Given that almost 30% of the freshmen entering UCLA for the past ten years have “significant” deficiencies in reading and writing (I don’t know the figures for UCSD, but I suspect that they’ll be a bit better), it seems a little unfair to flunk the ones who don’t accept evolution.

    Since it’s very hard to even get evolutionary biology taught in schools in many parts of the US, Larry’s suggestion might be a bit more realistic (and less of a rhetorical pose) if the US first got its pre-college educational house in order. How many of the UCSD freshmen who “reject” evolution have actually taken classes it it in school, as opposed to being told how bad it is by authority figures in their lives.

    I’ve said my piece on PZ’s priorities (evolution versus atheism) before and nothing I say on that subejct is going to make the slightest difference.

  25. #25 BC
    November 23, 2006

    The idea of rejecting IDists or creationists seems rather dumb. On issues like evolution/ID/creationism, a high school graduate believes what he believes mainly because people around him told him what to believe. I’m sure if you took a poll, you’d find that a lot of people went into college as creationists, realized how wrong they were, and came to accept evolution. Heck, a lot of high schools don’t even teach evolution because they’re afraid of offending the parents. That means that the only source of information they get about evolution is from their parents, youth ministers, and pastors. A lot of them know next to nothing about evolution except the charicatured versions versions told to them. The best thing to do to undermine creationism is education in college. Rejecting them because they accept creationism or ID means missing out on a huge opportunity.

  26. #26 argystokes
    November 23, 2006

    The University should just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.

    After reading this quote from Moran several times, I’ve come to believe that it just doesn’t make any sense. How are we to figure out who these 40% are that reject evolution? Brayton seems to think Moran is suggesting a some sort of question on the college application, while PZ interprets it as “Expecting biology majors at UCSD to know the basics of evolution, or flunking them out.” Of course I agree with PZ that biology majors ought to have a working understanding of evolutionary theory before receiving their degree, but when Moran says, “If UCSD is accepting such a large number of students who don’t understand one of the basic tenets of science then maybe it’s time to re-examine their admissions policy?” it begins to sound like Ed is interpreting Moran’s statement correctly.

    But then…

    Given a choice of students to admit into university science programs, I would choose the ones who show some understanding of science over those who reject one the fundamental facts of biology.

    So Moran really needs to become explicitely clear in who should be rejected and to what (University, entry into bio major, satisfaction of degree standards). Otherwise, it looks like a million people railing against straw men all week.

  27. #27 Sho
    November 23, 2006

    I first read “shameless goddess” and was wondering who she is… I’d choose her too ^^

  28. #28 Blake Stacey
    November 23, 2006

    PZ Myers wrote:

    Almost all universities have these little things called “admission requirements” and “standards”. For instance, we expect you to have graduated from high school before we let you in, or to have demonstrated equivalent competence. We look at your grades, and we may reject you if you don’t have a record of discipline and competence. We evaluate standardized test scores, which is a far crueler and more arbitrary mechanism for filtering our admissions. We have application essays, and at the more prestigious universities, admission interviews.

    A practice which originated, if I am not grossly mistaken, to keep Jews out of the Ivy League. There was a day when admission forms included questions like, “Has your father’s last name changed?” to sniff out the Markowitzes who had become Markowes.

    For the size of the furor it has provoked, Moran’s remark is a remarkably trivial thing. Little more than a bitter jest, to my eye (untutored as I am in the art of playing shrill notes on the Blogotubes). I think Moran is mistaken in claiming that most incoming college students who profess creationism do so out of an active choice, rather than being misinformed by a rotten school system. Furthermore, I don’t think prejudicing the admissions process against people who are simply ill-informed is a good idea, and we can’t expect high-school seniors to be well-informed until we get much better science education than we have today.

    To paraphrase a well-known maxim, I’m much more likely to assume incompetence instead of malice when it comes to college freshmen.

    However, to test the limits of this reasoning, let’s try a thought experiment. Imagine you’re a college professor who has input on hiring or tenure-track decisions. Would you object to excluding an applicant whose CV is full of papers on specified complexity, claiming “the flagellum couldn’t evolve” and published in non-peer-reviewed journals?

    Now, imagine you’re on a committee reviewing prospective graduate students. One applicant writes an essay about wanting to explore and understand the natural world, a second applicant admits to feeling a Saganesque wonder when contemplating old fossils or distant quasars, and a third discusses nothing but “gaps in the Darwinian theory” and quotes Answers in Genesis talking points. Which of these three prospective students would you not admit to your graduate biology program?

    What, even if the middle one might be a (hush) theistic evolutionist, at least at Christmastime?

    When we hire a faculty member or give a faculty member a position of higher standing, we do so on merit, which largely translates to asking how well they have done real science. To an extent, the same is true of admissions into the uppermost levels of education. Graduate school, postdoctorate work and faculty positions are all about competence and getting real work done. By contrast, getting into college has much more to do with potential and finding opportunities for personal growth. (The more enlightened college admissions folks take this into account. At least if you trust their protestations, they don’t prejudice themselves against high-schoolers who didn’t take advanced calculus, for example, if their school didn’t offer the class.) I agree with Ed Brayton that applying an “ideological litmus test” to deny such opportunities to honest young’uns is not a morally defensible position — but it’s pretty damn clear that’s not really the issue here!

    I feel like I wandered into the middle of a shouting match among astronomers and amateur telescope enthusiasts. One lot is saying they all need to compromise with the astrologers in order to keep astrophysics in the curriculum, and the others have all lost patience. (Replace religion with astrology or God with Osiris, and you might get an interesting perspective on this sound-and-fury.)

    Back on the grade-school recess yard, I was always picked last for teams. If you ever get around to me this time, sign me to PZ’s side. At the very least, it requires erecting fewer walls in my consciousness to quarantine my reason and integrity.

  29. #29 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Yes, Andy, and you also know that is an ongoing debate in the higher ed community: how much remedial instruction should a university give? Can we afford to turn away marginally unqualified students? What is the obligation of state-sponsored universities to educate anyone?

    These are fairly ordinary arguments with people standing all over the spectrum on them — we don’t usually call the ones who demand higher standards than we’ve got now “appalling” and “vile”.

  30. #30 mcmillan
    November 23, 2006
    Frankly, using whether a student believes in evolution or not as a criteria for their admission into university is a bad idea.

    That is not a defense of Ed, since it is parroting a mistruth spread by Ed.

    Personally the initial post came through to me as saying exactly that, and it did seem ridiculous to think we shouldn’t even allow people to be in college where they can be exposed to better education. Later comments have been more nuanced and closer to what PZ is saying now, but that was after a lot of this flaming seemed to have started.

    As for the general ideas being expressed, I think there are seperate groups involved in the pro-evolution side of this debate, where some people just really don’t care about the atheism issue. However stuff like this is just distracting from the fact that even if our longterm views are different, the shortterm goal of defeating creationism is the same, and it will probably need tactics from both sides of the atheism issues.

  31. #31 mgjsslt
    November 23, 2006

    I left highschool in the top ten of my graduating class. I received my bachelor’s degree, with honours, in biology. I took courses in Evolutionary Biology (one of my favourite topics, by the way), and have gone on to study yeast genetics and DNA repair systems. I have three publications under my belt, and a fourth on the way. I am currently working towards my PhD and am getting straight A’s in all courses required.

    But in High School, my biology teacher (in a public school) took part of a class to state he doesn’t believe in evolution, and that macroevolution was unsupported. I was 16 at the time, and here was a teacher, a professional in the public education system whom I trusted, telling us evolution was wrong. And to my shame, I believed him at the time.

    Since then, I’ve learned a lot. I check panda’s thumb every day, and I’ve read at least half the Talk-Origins index. I’ve challenged creationists when they set up a gathering not far from campus, I’ve checked with every single religious club on campus to determine who was creationism-supporters, and have challenged each and every one on the science of evolution. I’ve read books on evolution, attended classes, even gave a seminar on DNA methylation and its evolutionary history and roles for a graduate course.

    But if we adopt the position that Moran suggested, and that you, PZ, support, I would have been flunked out. I would not have been admitted to university in the first place.

    So tell me, PZ, that my education was a waste. Tell me directly that the seven years I’ve spent learning about evolution was wasted on a dumb kid, when one of the smart kids should have gotten the spot instead.

    Tell me, that since I was lied to at the age of 16, that I don’t deserve this education, or that my degree and publications are meaningless. Because that is what you are supporting.

    Tell me that the fact I trusted a teacher means I should have been kicked out of university years ago, and should never have had the slightest chance of growing to the level where I could challenge these liars whenever they show up.

    I respect you a great deal, Mr Myers. You oppose creationist dishonesty and dogmatism, and I admire that. But in this case, the policy you are advocating would have denied me any hope of becoming the person I am now, would have made me one of the creationists, forever a dupe of their, if you’ll excuse the profanity, bullshit. Please don’t ask me to accept that my education should never have been allowed in teh first place.

    At the end of the day, our enemy is ignorance. University is a place people go to learn. Don’t hold teenage children accountable for not being able to see through every lie they’re told, that’s why they go to university in the first place.

    We can look at a person’s potential without banishing everyone who’s been lied to on an issue like this.

  32. #32 Jeff
    November 23, 2006

    I enjoy reading Ed and Pat and the others. Ed supports positions that resonate deeply with me and I appreciate his voice. I disagree with him on this point though, but at the same time I’m sad to see some personal attacks in the above comments.

    I see PZ’s position, and I see what people regard as PZ’s position but is actually a straw man version of it. The problem with this whole line of argument is this religion thing. The straw man version is “ban religion” and “ban ID” and such. PZ doesn’t want them banned completely, but they need to stay out of science. ID contributes nothing to science.

    Evolution is a keystone of modern biology. Arguably, people that can ignore 150 years of good evidence and at the same time believe something that is empty of evidence are not going to be good scientists. Obviously there are people that can straddle the line and be great scientists, but conclusions without evidence go against everything science actually is.

    Addressing Moran’s point more directly, we wouldn’t be surprised if students that support positions that lack evidence and are contrary to their field get flunked in their university classes. I say this generally – every field has an accepted base students must know. If a computer science student insisted that there’s no such thing as a CPU, they’d be ridiculed and flunked in their computer architecture course. Why should biology be viewed any different, just because a particular anti-science viewpoint is so tightly wrapped up with religion?

    I can see how it is easy to see PZ’s and Moran’s point of view as extreme, which we all have a knee jerk reaction against, but the more I read, the more I think, the more I realize PZ has it right. Take out the emotional aspect of “must always respect religion, no matter what” and realize that it is science we’re concerned about here.

  33. #33 Pat Hayes
    November 23, 2006

    In Salon, Steve Paulson asked Richard Dawkins this question: They say this [allowing people like him to make the equation between Darwinism and atheism] hurts the cause of teaching evolution. It just gives fire to the creationists.

    Dawkins: Exactly right. And they could be right, in a political sense. It depends on whether you think the real war is over the teaching of evolution, as they do, or whether, as I do, think the real war is between supernaturalism and naturalism, between science and religion. If you think the war is between supernaturalism and naturalism, then the war over the teaching of evolution is just one skirmish, just one battle, in the war. So what the scientists you’ve been talking to are asking me to do is to shut my mouth. Because for the sake of what I see as the war, I’m in danger of losing this particular battle. And that’s a worthwhile political point for them to make.

    Dawkins said much the same thing when he spoke at the Lied Center in Kansas. The difference between myself and Dawkins — and I believe PZ, Larry Moran and others — is that he/you are perfectly willing to sacrifice victory in the very real war over evolution in order to fight some quixotic battle against religious belief.

    I am not.

    Salon link: http://www.salon.com/books/int/2006/10/13/dawkins/index2.html

  34. #34 Blake Stacey
    November 23, 2006

    Speaking now as a language-lover, I have to note Larry Moran’s choice of words:

    The University should just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.

    Flunk is a verb I expect to be used with regard to students currently enrolled in classes, not those waiting for admission. And really, it’s easy to sympathize with a professor who gives a bad mark to a student whose exam booklet contains only the words, “GOD DID IT! How else do you explain PYGMIES + DWARFS!!” Deciding what to do with these students is a matter of policy, not ideology. It’s not the sort of thing one could easily sustain a passionate fuss over. Confusing this statement with “the University should never have admitted them in the first place” muddles the issue incredibly.

  35. #35 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Did you even bother to read what I wrote, Pat? Your complaint is addressed directly, and you are wrong.

  36. #36 bernarda
    November 23, 2006

    Nothing new.

    I graduated from UCSD a couple of decades ago and nothing was different at the time. I often got invited to prayer groups by guys from various xian sects. I thought at the time, where are these nutcases coming from?

    For me it was, how in the hell could you be in a university like UCSD and come up with this crap?

    These evangelists assholes made a particular effort to contact foreign students. For some reason they thought they would be susceptible.

    I am sure the douchebags are doing the same thing.

  37. #37 Jonathan Badger
    November 23, 2006

    If we’re choosing teams now, I want to be with the shamelessly godless

    Well, I’d prefer to be on the team of people who are active evolutionary researchers, godless or no, because it is defending my research against the creationists that brought me to this fight in the first place, not some quixotic quest to fight for universal atheism, which seems to me to be as naive and unlikely to be convincing beyond a tiny audience as are quests for world peace.

    Perhaps in the end the “shamelessly godless” team will also be the researcher team, but right now, the only active evolutionary researcher in the debate seems to be John Lynch, and he’s on the other side.

  38. #38 Milo Johnson
    November 23, 2006

    I’ve been reading blogs for a couple of years now, and Red State Rabble was one of the ones that has been a daily stop for me (as well as Pharyngula, of course) and during that time I have watched Pat slide into woo-woo fringe issues with dismay. When I read his post yesterday, I deleted my bookmark for Red State Rabble. Anyone that thinks doing what is “fair” is better than doing what is “right” does not deserve blog patrons. Good luck, Pat, you’ve lost one dedicated reader.

  39. #39 SteveF
    November 23, 2006

    PZ,

    “Especially not since they’ve also linked to an essay by a member of the Evil Atheist Team”

    Yes they have. However, it is a link to your due reverance essay (which I love BTW). This essay is clearly from an atheistic position and is anti-religious. However, it isn’t a link to one of your more aggressively anti-religious essays; these are the ones that I would argue are less helpful (from a practical POV).

    Of course, the vast majority of theists will recognise that atheists accept the evolutionary explanation of life on earth. They will also recognise that as an atheist you do not agree with their theology. Fine. It is the aggresively anti-religious posts that I think are the ‘problem’ (from the standpoint of promoting science education).

    So, I’d argue that the MnSCE site isn’t promoting the firebrand flavour of atheism that you prefer. It is taking a more concilatory, Ed-style, approach. Yet you still support it.

  40. #40 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Errm, I think you missed the first word: “if”. It’s not me that is arguing we have to distinguish two “teams” on the side of evolution, that’s Brayton’s game. It seems to me that I’ve been working with theistic evolutionists all this time, but now certain people want to declare me and others to be an enemy.

  41. #41 dorkafork
    November 23, 2006

    Flunk is a verb I expect to be used with regard to students currently enrolled in classes, not those waiting for admission.

    It’s about students already enrolled who are attending a remedial lecture. “Instead, they should never have admitted them in the first place. Having made that mistake,” yada yada yada…

  42. #42 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Yet you still support it.

    What is the matter with you people? Stop listening to the lies of people like Ed Brayton. I have not ever so much as suggested that the theistic evolutionists must be silenced. I have my opinions about religion, and I have consistently and cheerfully worked with those religious people — and I’ve also felt free to criticize them as I will. You are not understanding the point.

    I’m not the one who has decided that there are two teams, and condemned one of them. If you want to complain about someone who is incapable of cooperating with one of these two “teams”, you’re at the wrong place.

    Or are you confusing argument and dissent with an inability to work together? Are you looking for ideological purity?

  43. #43 Mark UK
    November 23, 2006

    I think belief in creationism or ID should be a reason for fast track university access if anything… The only way to defeat this ignorant, ill educated, superstitious lot is to educate the hell out of ‘m. Pun intended.

    Education is the key weapon in keeping this rubbish out of our schools and institutions. Yes, it’s practical and yes it’s much needed. Just sitting back and picking our nails ain’t gonna do the job.

  44. #44 SteveF
    November 23, 2006

    PZ,

    I must not be making myself clear. Earlier you mentioned the good work of NCSE and MnCSE; I suggested that their approach more closely approximates Eds and not yours. Yet you still support them. This is the point I have been making.

    I absolutely recognise that you have not argued for the silencing of theistic evolutionists. I have never made this argument. I also fully support your right to criticise religion, I frequently do so myself. My opinion is simply that overt attacks on religion do not aid the fight for science education. Thats it.

  45. #45 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    There’s nothing wrong with ideological purity… as long as you first work to ensure that the ideology is correct.

    Brayton is not only demanding ideological purity among those who group with him, he wants to silence and effectively destroy any other group, particularly those groups somewhat similar to his own but differing on an important particular.

    That kind of thinking leads to goosestepping knee boots and invading the Sudetenland.

  46. #46 Milo Johnson
    November 23, 2006

    “My opinion is simply that overt attacks on religion do not aid the fight for science education.”

    That’s quite an assertion. Now support it, please.

  47. #47 Blake Stacey
    November 23, 2006

    I posted this a few threads ago at Dispatches, but except for one approving reply Sastra, it didn’t get any attention.

    CITOKATE: criticism is the only known antidote to error.

    Forgive me if I am incapable of seeing this quarrel over attitudes and tactics as a “front” in a “two-front war”, something comparable to invading Russia in wintertime while simultaneously driving tanks into France. Perhaps one is right to indulge the puerile fantasies of the reptile brain by applying the congratulatory word warfare to the quest for good science education; maybe this is the moral equivalent of war we need to tell ourselves we’re fighting until our civilization needs war no longer.

    But this schism — to use a theological turn of phrase — between Dawkinsites and Millerians — let’s make it sound really like dogmatism! — is not a war. It’s keeping each other honest. We are in the business of being our brothers’ keepers.

    When anybody claims that the existence of morality in humans, say, is evidence for Almighty Jove, PZ Myers is there to call them out. If Myers or Dawkins ever sounds callous or forgetful of the human frailties which lead our fellow humans to seek solace in belief, well, Brayton will lead a host of bloggers to point out the sin and let it stand in the historical record.

    “If men were angels,” said James Madison, “no government would be necessary.” We have learned at some cost that no single human should be trusted to rule (an Enlightenment discovery summarized perfectly by Douglas Adams, bless his memory). Instead of asking “Who should rule the state?”, as they did in the ages of kings, we ask what combination of agencies can minimize the evil of those seeking power — what groupings of individuals can allow for reasonably efficient action while still preventing the rise of factions? Democratic government is an exercise in emergent properties: we seek to create a corpus more honest than its component cells can be.

    The same holds true for science. Frauds, hoaxes and ordinary human sloppiness are weeded out through perpetual cross-criticism. Drives of ego and vanity — “What will you do to win the Nobel Prize?”, asks the admissions interviewer — are harnessed to benefit the scientific community and the species at large. The body has more wisdom and integrity than its component cells can display.

    If science behaves in this way, it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise about science education. Don’t tell me that this is a war. It’s error correction. We are witnessing the price of vitality. These are not battles among men; they are the growing pains of a community. Think about it: if we scientists and humanists and skeptics were in truly dire straits, if the creationist cannons were outside our walls and all were almost lost, could we even take the time to argue? Nobel laureates who might quarrel volubly at scientific conferences formed a legion of Roman solidarity when Edwards v. Aguillard reached the Supreme Court.

    Skepticism is a new thing! Thinkers have voiced ideas like ours all the way back to Democritus of Abdera and before, but how old is the notion of skepticism as a movement, with its own conferences, heroes and history? It is an interesting age when defenders of science, even those who are professional scientists themselves, are more famous for their educational work than any science they have done! (We know Einstein as a physicist but Sagan as a popularizer, with Dawkins and Gould perhaps somewhere in the middle.) Because we haven’t done this for very long, we are still figuring out how. We are learning from mistakes like the astronomers’ response to Velikovsky, and thanks to the Internet, we are slowly teaching ourselves the art of “flexible response”, replying to threats without making pseudoscience seem more credible by dignifying it with excessive attention.

    We are learning! This process takes integrity and a willingness to swallow bitter medicine, neither of which are ever in copious supply, but nor are they completely absent. The Enlightenment is not a nation of clones. We’re all going to take our lumps ere we shuffle off this mortal coil, but at least we can take them like members of a civilization.

    If scientists were angels, we would have no need for peer review, and if bloggers were angels, we would have no need for comments.

    If we were angels, we would have no need for each other.

  48. #48 bernardam
    November 23, 2006

    Here is a documentary on politics at UCSD in the long ago past. Too bad today more students don’t have some political sense.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5311625903124176509&hl=en

  49. #49 AJ Milne
    November 23, 2006

    Moran a ‘Darwinian fundamentalist’?

    Heh. Dat dere, that’s a good one. That’s right up there in terms of double-take inducing with “the Ba’ath party ‘n the Islamists are in bed together…”

    I really like Moran. He drinks bad takeout coffee, knows his biochemistry, and slags creationist frauds with gleeful abandon. Nothing wrong with any of that. I’ve been reading his FAQs for years, his blog since it was pointed out, here…

    But I creep about that blog carefully, cautious not to say anything that might sound too ‘adaptationist’. That, I’d imagine, could get ugly.

    So tell dear Rabble if he’s gonna call people names, he needs a much better term. That one, it doesn’t quite work so good, here.

    I’ll take ‘empiricist’, methinks, if it’s going.

    Yes, I know, that doesn’t really sound like an insult. But then, by my lights, it’s all the folk getting so bashed here have really earned.

  50. #50 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    Mr. Stacey, you are awesome. PZ should be sampling those posts of yours for Pharyngula’s random quote window.

  51. #51 Blake Stacey
    November 23, 2006

    Thanks, Caledonian. :-)

  52. #52 mark
    November 23, 2006

    I don’t see that there is much of a problem. If a high-schooler (barely more than a kid) has a desire to enrol on a biology degree programme, let them (as long as they are literate and numerate). They may well have some strange beliefs, but it’s up to the lecturers to show *why* they are wrong. If they are resistant to reason, they don’t deserve to graduate, and they probably wont, science being a test of reason. If they realise that their beliefs were wrong, and that they were lied to, they will probably become very strong advocates of reason.

    I realise that explaining why creationism is wrong can be frustrating, but we must try. If the student has a seed of interest in biology, it is up to us (educators) to ensure that it germinates.

  53. #53 Phil
    November 23, 2006

    No offense to Agnostics as a whole, but this isn’t new to me. I’ve heard Agnostics go on about how Agnosticism is open minded to the existance of God, while Atheism is, naturally, not. Thus they regarded Atheism as “evil” as Evangelicalism. Offensive if you ask me.

  54. #54 Milo Johnson
    November 23, 2006

    Sorry, Mark, but that is utterly backwards. It is not “up to the lecturers to show *why* they are wrong.” This is college we are talking about, not remedial education. The students should already have the necessary primer background to take the classes they wish to take. It is not my business to spend valuable class time explaining why astrology is unscientific to my astronomy students. It is not incumbent on the university system to overcome ignorance, the purpose of universities is to enhance and to expound on the already-learned basics. If a student has that great of a “seed of interest” in a topic, it is their business to be properly prepared for that deeper educational experience and that means they should probably have paid more attention in their earlier scholastic lives.

  55. #55 mtraven
    November 23, 2006

    Jeeze, this reminds me of something, what could it be:

    Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?
    Reg: Fuck off!
    Brian: Excuse me?
    Reg: Judean People’s Front. We’re the People’s Front of Judea! Judean People’s Front. Cawk.
    Francis: Wankers.
    Brian: Can I… join your group?
    Reg: No, piss off.
    Brian: I don’t want to sell this stuff, it’s only a job. I hate the Romans as much as anybody.
    Judith: Are you sure?
    Brian: Oh, dead sure. I hate the Romans alrighty.
    Reg: Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you’d have to really hate the Romans.
    Brian: I do!
    Reg: Oh, yeah? How much?
    Brian: A lot!
    Reg: Right. You’re in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front.
    Stan: Yeah, the Judean People’s Front.
    Reg: Yeah. Splitters.
    Stan: And the Popular Front of Judea.
    Reg: Yeah. Splitters.
    Stan: And the People’s Front of Judea.
    Reg: Yea… what?
    Stan: The People’s Front of Judea. Splitters.
    Reg: We’re the People’s Front of Judea!
    Stan: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
    Reg: People’s Front!
    Francis: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
    Reg: He’s over there. [points to a lone man]
    Reg, Stan, Francis, Judith: SPLITTER!

  56. #56 Andy Groves
    November 23, 2006

    These are fairly ordinary arguments with people standing all over the spectrum on them — we don’t usually call the ones who demand higher standards than we’ve got now “appalling” and “vile”.

    I agree that words like that are an over-reaction and uncalled for, and I look forward to you moderating your own brand of anti-religious prejudice in the same spirit of reasonable discourse!

  57. #57 SmellyTerror
    November 23, 2006

    Dey done tote me at mah skoo-ell dat wun plus wun were tree. Dayum intolecshoo-ell dog-mantises done wan-ed to teech me difrent!!! So ah tol dem ware dey can stik dere ed-yoo-cashun. AHM GOIN TO A GOOD CHRIS-TSHUN SKOO-ELL WARE THAYL REE-SPEKT MAH BELEEFS!!!

    Hayt dem dog-mantises…

  58. #58 Great White Wonder
    November 23, 2006

    Pat Hayes

    he/you are perfectly willing to sacrifice victory in the very real war over evolution in order to fight some quixotic battle against religious belief.

    As Caledonian noted above, the proper term for the above spewage is “concern troll.”

    For years now I have been asking these chicken littles for evidence that relentless, harsh, pointed and factually grounded trashing of supernatural religious idiocy is “harmful” to the goal of promoting better science education in schools.

    They have no such evidence. In fact, even as atheists have become more outspoken in their disgust for what “faith-based” “thinking” has done to this country, the fundies and their religion-based unreality have taken major political hits. The wise thing to do now now that the creationist movement is on its knees is to put a pistol in its mouth and pull the trigger.

    But for some inexplicable reason, the Braytons and Matskes never want to administer the final blow or take the ball into the endzone. They play politics as if politics is baseball and there is some unspoken code that says if you’re ahead by fifteen runs you don’t ask your slugger to pinch hit when the bases are loaded.

    Have the fundie nitwits ever acknowledged the existence of such a code of conduct when it comes to taking a crap on infidels? Of course not.

    Every public university in the country which educates future teachers and scientists should have a course on the history of creationism which documents the behavior and lies of the idiots who peddle anti-scientific crap.

    Will the fundies and Discovery Institute whine and moan and claim discrimination and persecution and issue press releases ad nauseum and compare their plight to that of the Jews in Nazi Germany? Of course they will. Boo freaking hoo.

  59. #59 poke
    November 23, 2006

    I think you’re correct in your final assessment: Ed Brayton et al simply share in a common prejudice against atheism. You’d think the fact that their arguments match other forms of prejudice in style and structure would worry them. This sort of prejudice really does just straightforwardly map to the more “sophisticated” forms of prejudice against women, minorities and gays.

    The “militant atheist” is a construct of prejudice no less than the female “feminazi,” the “loud” subset of a minority group, or the “in your face” gay. The same tactics are applied to all these constructs: a caricatured version of the target group is created so that the group as a whole can be attacked while giving the impression of only attacking an alleged subset.

    The caricature always portrays vocal members as extremists and usually identifies them with those they oppose (so feminazis hate men, “loud” minorities are racist against whites, “in your face” homosexuals want to “recruit” your children, and “militant atheists” are evangelical fundamentalists). They also all share the unfortunate characteristic of frequently being voiced by members of the target group to silence other members.

  60. #60 susannah
    November 23, 2006

    PZ wrote, in the comments:

    The way to get people to stop using the rebuke that evolution is godless science, as if that were a strike against it, is to end this idea that godlessness is evil…

    That, I think is the core of the debate. And I think most of us fall for it, unthinkingly, shying away from that adjective, “godless”.

    New slogan (for me, anyhow); “Godless science is real science.”

  61. #61 Kristjan Wager
    November 23, 2006

    This whole debate is silly. Ed, Pat and Nick have all build up some kind of strawman position of the more outspoken atheists, and are busy flailing at it. We are all on the side of science, and that’s the important part. I think the flailing trio should stop up and remember that.

  62. #62 mtraven
    November 23, 2006

    If I were William Dembski or some other IDer or creationist, I would be giving thanks this Thanksgiving for such infighting amongst mine enemies.

    It seems painfully childish to me. And even worse, much of it seems to be based on willful failure to understand other people’s points of view. That is intellectually irresponsible, at best.

  63. #63 Milo Johnson
    November 23, 2006

    Who cares what Dembski (or his ilk) thinks?

  64. #64 John Wilkins
    November 23, 2006

    My only comment here is that I am deeply deeply offended that PZ failed to include me in the Mediocracy.

    Oh, and the fact that I don’t give a rat’s arse what a student believes, so long as they show that they understand the material being taught. For my money they can believe that all is Maya, so long as they show they understand how evolution proceeds. [Of course, there is always the hope that in understanding it, they will come to think it is correct, as well.]

  65. #65 mtraven
    November 23, 2006

    For instance: susannah says, quoting PZ, that “the core of the debate” is “to end this idea that godlessness is evil”. That’s fucking ridiculous. Nobody on any side of this debate has maintained that godlessness is evil. The core of the debate is how much respect atheists should give to the religious beliefs of others. That at least is something worth arguing about.

    The PZ-camp says “none”. The Brayton camp points out, quite reasonably I think, that this is tactically a bad idea. It also seems intellectually lazy and dangerous, since there are numerous forms of religious belief that don’t conflict with science. Even Sam Harris recognizes this towards the end of his book.

  66. #66 AndyS
    November 23, 2006

    Blake Stacey sees the silver lining in the dark cloud and tells us about it with some great writing (see his comment above). I admire that. (For Christ’s sake even Caledonian, instead of throwing out his usual “concern troll” comment, expresses his admiration, so it’s something of a red-letter day. Well, maybe he’s just being satirical….)

    Personally, I think this is a great opportunity to see a schism forming in real time — not quite as momentous as the Martin Luther variety perhaps, but worth study nevertheless.

    One thing this debate is not about is teaching good science. Everyone involved in the discussion wants good science to be taught. It is not about teaching evolution either. Again, everyone concerned with this wants evolution to be taught. The debate is about the status of theistic evolutionists, the people who believe in evolution and some concept of God. Everyone agrees that theistic evolutionists are, on the whole, helpful in making the case for evolution — hardly a stretch since those opposed to evolution are 100% theists. This schism has to do with the phrase “on the whole.”

    The MnM side (Myers and Moran) says “Theistic evolution, yes, is a ghastly piece of work, little better than outright creationism…” (in PZ’s post above). It’s the “little better than” part that the Brayton side objects to. Ed thinks it’s a whole lot better than creationism and completely beside the point as well. Even MnM agree that the theistic evolutionists don’t teach the theistic part in their classes and that’s all the Brayton side is asking for. MnM aren’t satisfied with such a separation of what you teach in class and what you say outside of class about your personal beliefs — not if you call yourself a scientist. For them, if a scientist admits to any form of theism (apparently in most any forum) they are The Other and should be Objects of Ridicule no matter how they go about teaching science.

    To me, the MnM position seems weak. They play the poor put-upon atheist role, bitching about not being given the respect shown to theists in popular discourse. The Brayton stance OTOH is powerful: we don’t care what you personally believe as long as you do good science in the classroom and play the role of the good scientist in the peer-review system. Your personal opinions outside of that system do not threaten us.

    For MnM science entails atheism. For Brayton, science is about doing science.

    On the whole it’s a pretty feeble schism.

  67. #67 John Pieret
    November 23, 2006

    So Dawkins wasn’t choosing up sides when he wrote:

    Scientists divide into two schools of thought over the best tactics with which to face the threat. The Neville Chamberlain ‘appeasement’ school focuses on the battle for evolution. … Scientists of the Winston Churchill school, by contrast, see the fight for evolution as only one battle in a larger war …

    And what was Larry doing when he said:

    When Eugenie Scott and others promote a theistic version of science they seem to think they are allowing for a safe middle ground where Theistic Evolutionists like Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller can find common cause with scientists who don’t let superstition masquerade as science. They are wrong. There is no common ground between the rational and the irrational.

    And which is worse, saying that it is wrong to drag the religious beliefs of people into a debate about science education when those people aren’t trying to inject their beliefs into the classroom; or claiming, as Larry does, that Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller “are just as bad, perhaps worse” for science education than “Intelligent Design Creationism and Young Earth Creationism”?

  68. #68 MartinM
    November 23, 2006

    The Brayton camp points out, quite reasonably I think, that this is tactically a bad idea

    Why, exactly?

  69. #69 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 23, 2006

    Perhaps Dawkins is succeeding in his quest to shake some insecure from their positions on privileging religion. Or maybe the success in Dover has relaxed the pro-science camp to let some tensions loose.

    For whatever reason this started, it is really obvious which group is mischaracterizing, projecting and fuzzy. I’m not always comfortable with the result when PZ draws the lines as is his wont, or even the basic premise. But this time it is fully supportable. It is easy to sit down with Myers&Moran on this.

    proselytizing for religion is seen as just fine, but open and clear advocacy for atheism is seen as offensive.

    Right! I had forgotten the formulations to replace the epithet “evangelical atheist”. Advocating atheist seems fine, and is a nice contrast to proselytizing priests. :-)

    But it goes deeper than that. Criticizing religion is a negative. It can be anything from simply demanding secular separation state-church or science-religion, to discussing the problems of privileging religion. I don’t often hear atheists trying to talk individuals into atheism. It is after all enough to point out the stupidity of religion. ;-)

  70. #70 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    For MnM science entails atheism. For Brayton, science is about doing science.

    Andy, you can be such an idiot.

    As I rather plainly said up there, I can’t and have no desire to dictate to people what they believe, and yes, of course science is about doing science.

    Unless, of course, you are one of those atheist scientists, and then you damn well better shut up, and you won’t be allowed in Ed’s clubhouse.

    MnM aren’t satisfied with such a separation of what you teach in class and what you say outside of class about your personal beliefs — not if you call yourself a scientist.

    I’m not? Of course I am. You’ve got a bit of gall telling me that after I rather clearly said otherwise.

    However, that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize the inanities of theistic scientists. I will continue to do so, loudly and viciously. What you are really demanding is free passes for stupid ideas as long as they aren’t taught in the classroom, and no, you’re never going to get that.

  71. #71 Greco
    November 23, 2006

    For instance: susannah says, quoting PZ, that “the core of the debate” is “to end this idea that godlessness is evil”. That’s fucking ridiculous. Nobody on any side of this debate has maintained that godlessness is evil.

    Not with explicit words, but with actions. The constant public assertions that non-theistic scientists who talk about religion in a non-apologetic should “shut the hell up because you’re hurting the cause” is no different than telling the religious “no, I agree, them Evil Atheists are disgusting, here, have a Theistic Evolutionist.”

  72. #72 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Sorry, Wilkins, I can’t place you in the mediocracy. I may disagree with you on some things, but you don’t hold your opinions because you are a fearful ass trying to avoid pissing off the dominant religious bias.

    And really, that’s the bottom line here: Ed and ilk are taking the position they do entirely because they’re afraid — afraid that if anyone boldly challenges the comfortable bigotry of the bulk of the citizenry, that those citizens are too stupid to think.

  73. #73 Anton Mates
    November 23, 2006

    MnM aren’t satisfied with such a separation of what you teach in class and what you say outside of class about your personal beliefs — not if you call yourself a scientist. For them, if a scientist admits to any form of theism (apparently in most any forum) they are The Other and should be Objects of Ridicule no matter how they go about teaching science.

    Andy, can you please link to anywhere where either PZ or Moran have said that? Or any examples of them ridiculing a particular scientist purely because they admitted to theism? Any at all?

  74. #74 Blake Stacey
    November 23, 2006

    I’m gonna quote a paragraph of PZ, because I think it’s very important and too many people are like to skim right past it. Thus:

    One case in point, a familiar one to all of us now: Ken Miller. I agree entirely that he has been a net gain to the fight against creationism, he’s effective, he’s rhetorically powerful. Read his book, and it sails along strongly, making a solid case and building beautifully…and then wham, he introduces his religion, and it sails off the cliff into insipidity and chaos. Does religion erode science education? You bet it does, and that book demonstrates it vividly.

    Now, with this freshly in mind read what AndyS wrote:

    To me, the MnM position seems weak. They play the poor put-upon atheist role, bitching about not being given the respect shown to theists in popular discourse. The Brayton stance OTOH is powerful: we don’t care what you personally believe as long as you do good science in the classroom and play the role of the good scientist in the peer-review system. Your personal opinions outside of that system do not threaten us.

    I shouldn’t criticize someone who praised my own writing, but I have to say I find this horribly backwards, so much so I had to rub my eyes and make sure I wasn’t getting words mixed up. The “Brayton stance” is “we don’t care what you personally believe”? These people were the first to claim that pro-science folk who all wanted the same decision at Dover are now split into two irreconcilable factions, and ne’er the twain shall meet. I just don’t get it. When your first reaction is to sever your kinfolk from your side, you don’t get to call yourself tolerant. And with all due respect, Messrs. Brayton et al., this is the behavior of religious fundamentalists, the act we should not stoop to emulate!

    I’ll say it again: CITOKATE. Criticism is the only known antidote to error. We can do each other worlds of good by acknowledging our differences, dishing the dirt when we catch each other saying foolish things, and closing ranks when the need arises. But we can only reap these benefits if we are willing to respect that criticism. It is an understandable reaction to brand those who think a little differently than we as the Other — understandable, and frequent in human events, but completely wrong.

    History does not provide too many examples of people acting in this way. A few ancient Chinese sages — Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists — could get drunk and proclaim, “One truth, three ways!” Other than that, few instances spring to mind. Factionalism is the rule, e pluribus unum the exception. As scientists, humanists and custodians of the Enlightenment, we challenge ourselves to reject this poisoned heritage.

    Instead of calling our business a “war”, why not think of it as our great chance to play good cop, bad cop. The words we speak will not always agree, but each tactic is a path — a way, a tao — to justice.

  75. #75 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    I’m about a vehement an atheist as you can find, and even I don’t mock people in general or scientists in particular for believing in God. I’ll criticize them if they try to represent this belief as rational or compatible with scientific inquiry in any way, but otherwise it’s like being afraid of the dark – totally irrational and completely understandable.

    I do hold special contempt for those fools who proclaim that their being religious makes them an oppressed minority group. Religious nonsense dominates my society, and will do so increasingly as standards decrease.

  76. #76 mark
    November 23, 2006

    Milo, I take your points, and agree that it would be great to only have mature students to teach at degree level, but that’s not the reality. The whole education system of a nation *should* work well, but in the States, that doesn’t seem to be happening. Some high schools do a good job at educating kids, but others are falling short, so it’s up to university lecturers to pick up the slack. Students shouldn’t suffer because their high schools are bad.

    If we want better informed students to teach, we should be concentrating on making HS science better. Until then, it’s up to us. Lets not be prejudiced against the Mgjsslt’s of the world.

  77. #77 Great White Wonder
    November 23, 2006

    Tireless concern troll AndyS:

    The Brayton stance OTOH is powerful: we don’t care what you personally believe as long as you do good science in the classroom and play the role of the good scientist in the peer-review system. Your personal opinions outside of that system do not threaten us.

    I don’t know about “threatening” but when those “personal beliefs” are expressed in a public forum where one’s status as a scientist is the whole point of the forum, those “personal beliefs” are no longer merely “personal.”

    I don’t expect AndyS to understand this or even try to understand this. But ignoring this fact is The Big Lie of the Boo-hooing Brayton crowd.

    For the “theistic evolution” types to refer to those of us who are dubious of religion as their “enemy” is absurd. We’re their best friends. If it weren’t for us calling Francis Collins et al. on their bullcrap, there would be a hell of a lot more bullcrap to deal with.

    The goal is zero bullcrap. It’s an unreachable goal but I’ll be damned if that’s going to shut me up when a steaming plate of the crap is shoved under my nose in the form of, e.g., a theology-spoutin’ book by a “famous scientist.”

  78. #78 J. J. Ramsey
    November 23, 2006

    mgjsslt: But in High School, my biology teacher (in a public school) took part of a class to state he doesn’t believe in evolution, and that macroevolution was unsupported. I was 16 at the time, and here was a teacher, a professional in the public education system whom I trusted, telling us evolution was wrong. And to my shame, I believed him at the time.

    Since then, I’ve learned a lot. I check panda’s thumb every day, and I’ve read at least half the Talk-Origins index. I’ve challenged creationists when they set up a gathering not far from campus, I’ve checked with every single religious club on campus to determine who was creationism-supporters, and have challenged each and every one on the science of evolution. I’ve read books on evolution, attended classes, even gave a seminar on DNA methylation and its evolutionary history and roles for a graduate course.

    But if we adopt the position that Moran suggested, and that you, PZ, support, I would have been flunked out. I would not have been admitted to university in the first place.

    What’s interesting is that this was exactly why Brayton took Moran to task. As he put it:

    The average 18 year old, even ones who have gone through advanced biology in high school, know virtually nothing about evolution. There is no active choice going on with these students. In most cases, there is little more than a vague notion that evolution means no god and therefore must be wrong. That is the primary reason why most people reject evolution, it has nothing at all to do with weighing two sides on the basis of the evidence and choosing one. And unfortunately, people like Larry, rather than trying to remove the primary reason why these people reject evolution, only go out of their way to reinforce it.

    Here’s what I don’t get. Ed Brayton is objecting to Larry Moran’s idea on the grounds that it would mean that students like mgjsslt wouldn’t get a chance to unlearn their misperceptions about evolution. So how is this “encouraging greater tolerance for stupid ideas”?

    Bizarro world, indeed.

  79. #79 Great White Wonder
    November 23, 2006

    claiming, as Larry does, that Francis Collins, Simon Conway Morris, and Ken Miller “are just as bad, perhaps worse” for science education than “Intelligent Design Creationism and Young Earth Creationism”?

    In the long run, the unscientific drivel accepted and implicitly (or explicitly) prommoted by Collins et al. is much more entrenched and difficult for the average indoctrinated American to dismiss than the palpably incorrect and ridiculous nonsense peddled by the IDists and YEC suckwads.

    I think that is what Larry was driving at (either way, it’s certainly my opinion).

  80. #80 Great White Wonder
    November 23, 2006

    Ramsey

    So how is this “encouraging greater tolerance for stupid ideas”?

    Duh. The idea is that by refusing to admit creationist-spouting diptwits into public universities, the public universities force public schools to teach biology properly.

    Not exactly rocket science to figure that out.

  81. #81 Chris Ho-Stuart
    November 23, 2006

    And really, that’s the bottom line here: Ed and ilk are taking the position they do entirely because they’re afraid — afraid that if anyone boldly challenges the comfortable bigotry of the bulk of the citizenry, that those citizens are too stupid to think.

    That’s absurd. I’m probably part of the “ilk”; I’m certainly much closer to Ed than to Paul on the matters being discussed. But I’m also active in trying to challenge the bigotry and the religion involved in evolution denial.

    We have some strong disagreements; the imputation that “fear” is the basis for this is irrational.

    Cheers — Chris Ho-Stuart

  82. #82 inge
    November 23, 2006

    Remedial classes do not sound like such a bad idea to me, however, not having them take place at university might be more efficient for all involved.

    People who have the bad luck that their parents or high school teachers did not believe in education should get at least a chance to catch up if they are willing to spend the effort and are old enough to chose their own schools.

  83. #83 Sam
    November 23, 2006

    I didn’t go throught the US school system myself, but it seems to me there’s a couple of points to be made.

    It seems trivially true that the study of biology at a tertiary level should not need to recap the basics of evolution. But at the same time, the students themselves are the product of their prior eduction – further, or indeed any, study of evolution in an environment that actively discourages it is difficult, especially for younger people. That’s what the fight about science education in High Schools is supposed to address, and the fact that there is a fight at all indicates that some students are disadvantaged in this regard, be it socially or geographically, through no fault of their own as those circumstances are beyond their control. Ideally, remedial work should not be necessary,but circumstances are not always ideal. University study may be those youth’s final chance to avoid being on a school board in later life, making a stand for Jesus. In this regard I disagree with Moran, but I hope he wouldn’t be disappointed that his statements led to me expressing this view – discussion is good.

    It also seems odd to characterise the strongish atheist position in whatever field as ‘attacking religion’. That’s drawing lines in the sand using the religious stick. What’s really going on, in all forms of science, is the creating of more and more accurate and supportable positions that will, inevitably but not intentionally, disparage and make redundant to some degree other, less supported positions. This applies equally well to flat earths and Newtownian mechanics as it does to ideas of supreme beings and may well do one day to punctuated equilibrium or string theory.

    Thus we shouldn’t allow anyone to define us as attacking religion in particular. Instead, we should be championing impartial appraisals of available evidence and advocating having the courage to let go of what no longer fits what we know, regardless of the field. Atheism is merely a by-product of this emminently defensible mindset.

  84. #84 AndyS
    November 23, 2006

    You’ve got a bit of gall telling me that after I rather clearly said otherwise.

    But where? I’ve read your post several times looking for it. You do say this:

    Does religion erode science education? You bet it does, and that book demonstrates it vividly.

    But how? Way back when you said

    There is a distinction to be made between small “c” creationists who believe in a creator god, and big “C” Creationists who wage a culture war against good science. Miller may be a believer in a creator god, but he’s a staunch opponent of the Creationists–despite disagreement on matters philosophical, I should be clear in saying that he is on our side.

    What is “our side”? Sometimes it seems like it is about good science and pro-evolution, but most times it is atheism. Pick one or tell us how science entails atheism.

    This conflict isn’t about some rarefied abstraction, it’s about deeply ingrained doctrinal issues: evolution contradicts biblical literalism, and that’s a fundamental tenet of many of the religions in this country.

    But hardly all religions. You seem to rail against the fundamentalist and then conflate them with all religious believers no matter how “rational” the latter might be (e.g Unitarian Universalist, American Buddhists).

    Theistic evolution, yes, is a ghastly piece of work, little better than outright creationism, but the theistic evolutionists keep that out of the classroom, so it’s OK; however, you still need us shrill, strident atheistical evolutionists to point and make our alien scream if some well-meaning theistic evolutionist starts assuming that silence and the tacit support of Ed’s Team means he gets to start babbling about god lurking in quantum indeterminacy to his class.

    Where is the evidence that theistic evolutionists are “babbling” about theism in their classes? We know that ID Creationists tend to do that, but the Ken Millers of the world? No. So what’s your beef?

  85. #85 Peter Barber
    November 23, 2006

    Universities are supposed to teach subjects at an advanced level. It is not their place to make up for substandard teaching at secondary level. This is not to say that universities shouldn’t care or do anything to improve the situation: indeed most have school outreach programmes, and are setting up support networks for local schoolteachers offering refresher courses and “ask a scientist” resources.

    However, a reasonably intelligent teenager is well capable of understanding the fundamentals of evolutionary biology. If that teenager has had a Biblical literalist upbringing or poor biology teaching, and leaves school without that understanding, then what hope has he or she got of getting through university-level biology?

    Tackle the causes of scientific illiteracy. Don’t pander to the people who cause the problem by offering to pick up the pieces.

  86. #86 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 23, 2006

    “Advocating atheist seems fine, and is a nice contrast to proselytizing priests.”

    On the PT thread Russell has proposed “dysangelist (“bad-newsers”)” since “”evangelical” comes from the Greek for “good news””. Also, Anton Mates notes there that for example Dawkins wants avoid any teaching of beliefs to children, atheist as well as theist, so “anti-evangelism” may be more proper.

    poke:
    Acute observation on prejudices and group behavior.

  87. #87 AndyS
    November 23, 2006

    Anton Mates,

    Andy, can you please link to anywhere where either PZ or Moran have said that? Or any examples of them ridiculing a particular scientist purely because they admitted to theism? Any at all?

    Just search this site for Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

  88. #88 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    Just search this site for Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

    Yes. Do you think their “quantum indeterminacy” and “three waterfalls” bullshit should not be criticized? That’s what it gets down to: people insisting that theistic evolutionists may not be criticized, period.

    We might as well give up on the day that is held to be our standard (or similarly, that atheistic evolutionists can’t be criticized–but we don’t seem to be at risk of that, ever.)

  89. #89 AndyS
    November 23, 2006

    Peter Barber read the comment above by mgjsslt. http://tinyurl.com/y9dfp9

  90. #90 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    I think it’s wonderful that mgjsslt persevered and made it through. I have to wonder, though, who deserves resentment and opposition: a few academics who think we ought to be more demanding, or a whole huge culture of inanity, that indoctrinates youth into superstition and corrupts their public school education?

    Hmmm?

    That’s this argument in a nutshell. Some people think the solution is to jump on people like Larry Moran. Some others are incredulous that the whole culture of fundamentalism is being given a pass.

  91. #91 Lerker
    November 23, 2006

    The problem is standerds. If we don’t have standerds, then the problem gose away. Just becuase student has poor backgrounding is not excuse to not admit them to universety. Just becuase student not learn maths or reading in hi school don’t mean they cant learn the subjict in collage. It is unfair to denie the student the oportunety for that reason.

    Thank you and please dont flame.

  92. #92 JJR
    November 23, 2006

    Slightly O.T., but it’s sometimes interesting how we atheists and the fundies on the other side almost collude, in an unspoken way, put the double squeeze on wishy-washy mainstream & liberal religious believers, who may like to fancy themselves as enlightened and pro-science too–to either “put up or shut up”. I’m reminded coincidentally of the satirical Phil Ochs song “Love me, love me, love me, I’m a Liberal” (for the current discussion switch out liberal with ‘theistic evolutionist’, but keep the attitude, with PZ as Phil Ochs).

    Once upon a time in Europe, “Theistic Science” was the only tenable position and even good “Theistic Scientists” ran afoul of the Catholic Church from time to time. I don’t think we want go back to those bad old days. So what brought Europe out of Medieval superstition and into the Enlightenment project? Expanding science and science education, continuing to do experiments, record observations, debate with one’s peers, etc. Henry VIII and Luther, et. al. helped tip the balance of power in favor of secular rather than ecclesiastical authority. Luther was actually quite reactionary himself, in a lot of ways more “fundamentalist” than the Roman Catholic Church, but it was secular northern European, nominally religious/Lutheran petty noblemen, who created spaces to let scientists work more freely.

    The documentary THE GOD WHO WASN’T THERE was put together by a former fundamentalist turned atheist, and he quite vehemently throws down the metaphorical gauntlet before religious moderates and challenges them directly “What do you really believe?? Are you a Christian or AREN’T you?”

    I am of course talking about the more general cultural struggle that frames the backdrop of the debate above.
    As for myself, I am dividing my time on weekends now between a Unitarian Universalist congregation (I take their vague, non-dogmatic spiritualism with a grain of salt and focus on their passion for social justice, which I strongly agree with–and as a humanist and someone with more of a liberal arts education–with just enough math and science to make me well rounded, or so the theory goes–I don’t find UU’s even remotely threatening, really…sublime feeling need not be directed at some otherworldly other) and the paradoxically named Houston Church of Freethought, whose last coffee social I attended and had a rolicking good time with other unabashedly godless people willing to speak their minds.

    My ex-wife, who is a raving fundie anti-evo nutter, but last time I checked still in pre-med; she could “do” biology, but kept her more whack beliefs to herself. I just don’t understand people who prefer to engage in that sort of mental gymnastics. –Reminds me a little bit of some of the persons described in Czeslaw Milosz’s THE CAPTIVE MIND, writing about the Stalinization of Poland in the immediate Post-WW2 period. It would really frighten me if she actually becomes a licensed MD.

  93. #93 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    I have to wonder: why didn’t mgjsslt ever go to the library and do some research on the subject? I can’t bring myself to believe that he lived in an area without a public library, and any library with even a basic encyclopedia set has enough information to determine that the referenced teacher was utterly wrong.

    So why shouldn’t we consider mgjsslt to be less than university material? An independence of thought is so incredibly valuable to education that those lacking it are far less qualified than those who possess it. Why shouldn’t students like mgjsslt be selected against, or students unlike mgjsslt favored above the others?

  94. #94 Buridan
    November 23, 2006

    What bothers me about this discussion and the countless others like it is the notion that unless the scientific community, and the academy more generally, publicly demonstrates some cultural commonality with the masses, science will suffer serious harm in the public eye. Since when has the academy been the mouthpiece for the majority?

  95. #95 J. J. Ramsey
    November 23, 2006

    Ramsey

    So how is this “encouraging greater tolerance for stupid ideas”?

    Duh. The idea is that by refusing to admit creationist-spouting diptwits into public universities, the public universities force public schools to teach biology properly.

    Except that presumes that the public schools would feel the sting if their graduates were refused admission. More likely, the creationist parents of these creationist graduates would blame the universities for their “godless evolutionism” instead of blaming the public schools for flattering the parents’ misconceptions, and they would place their votes and dollars accordingly.

    P.Z. Meyers: I have to wonder, though, who deserves resentment and opposition: a few academics who think we ought to be more demanding, or a whole huge culture of inanity, that indoctrinates youth into superstition and corrupts their public school education?

    That culture of inanity isn’t going away unless more people get disabused of their superstitions, and if Moran’s idea were put into practice, fewer people would get a chance to be disabused. Ironically, Moran’s idea to be more demanding in admissions would backfire. It would be better to be demanding in the classroom, so that the current generation of students would come to learn just how wrong they were and not inflict their parents’ superstitions on the next generation.

  96. #96 Chris Ho-Stuart
    November 23, 2006

    … who deserves resentment and opposition: a few academics who think we ought to be more demanding, or a whole huge culture of inanity, that indoctrinates youth into superstition and corrupts their public school education?

    … Some people think the solution is to jump on people like Larry Moran. Some others are incredulous that the whole culture of fundamentalism is being given a pass.

    I think this is a false dichotomy.

    The major problem by far is the culture of fundamentalism.

    This greatly outweighs the secondary problem of academics who conflate funamentalism with any kind of religious belief; or who mix up having demanding academic standards with having a sweeping rejection of any form of religious belief; or the secondary problem of academics who want to deal with the problem that many high schools don’t give students the basics in evolution, and propose (seriously? tongue in cheek? Larry is inconsistent on this) a kind of litmus test on one hotbutton issue where otherwise capable students are most likely to be disadvantaged by pernicious fundamentalist influences.

    There is no the solution. There are many ways to contribute.

    One is blogs like this. I’ve been critical of some of the things Paul has said, but overall this blog is a massively positive effort in the whole fight, by explaining the science, making it fun, and dealing with various specific cases of fundamentalist idiocy in explict detail. Kudos; it’s one of my favourite blogs on the web. I don’t consider myself on a different “team”. I disagree with Paul on some things, but that’s okay in a team. Where Paul lets himself down is much less significant that where he’s a tremendous asset. The letting down, by the way, is not in being critical of religion. It’s in doing it stupidly from time to time. Ah well.

    Another contribution to a solution is the fight against religious influences in high schools, which remain actively harming students and eroding their basic education. People getting on school boards and supporting teachers and making legal challenges where necessary and much else are on the front line.

    Another is remedial classes in universities. It seems to me that this is a bandaid, but an appropriate one. You don’t just flunk kids on some litmus test. Many college entrants will have good grades while still having misconceptions on one field or other. As evolution is especially likely to be an area in which misconceptions are common, the responsible solution is twofold… address it at the source in schools and in the meantime give some extra help to new uni students in that area.

    Another part of the solution is jumping on Larry Moran when he makes inappropriate suggestions, or on Paul Myers when he misrepresents people like Ken Miller. Being critical of Miller’s religion is fine; where Paul went off the rails was in seeing an “attack” where no such thing existed; and so making what should be a matter of civil debate and disagreement into a rather nasty esclation of outright animosities. Paul did tone down eventually, without ever really recognizing just how seriously off the planet his original comments were.

    There are other ways to contribute as well. Writing books, educating yourself, writing to newspapers, etc, etc. It’s not a problem with a quick fix.

    Cheers — Chris Ho-Stuart

  97. #97 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    I am not entirely in favor of blocking admissions in that way. We currently have one lecture on creationism in our intro biology course; I think we do have some responsibility as a state school to do some remedial instruction. However, I do think it’s an argument worth having. Are we damaging ourselves by putting up with poor teaching in the high schools this way? The amount of stuff we have to cover in biology is going up and up every year, and if we have to do more and more catch-up work at the same time, we’re going to hit a wall in staffing and money and time.

    What we’re doing now is already a compromise. At some point we have to make a stand and say that if a high school has not given its students basic background in a subject, we shouldn’t accept them. We can’t let it slide much further.

    Although I would say that my major concern as a biology professor isn’t so much the kids’ deficiencies in biology — I’m more worried about the ones who show up here not knowing any math. The major slaughter of the hopes of new students comes when they slam into general chemistry and have to do some very elementary algebra.

  98. #98 AndyS
    November 23, 2006

    I have to wonder, though, who deserves resentment and opposition: a few academics who think we ought to be more demanding, or a whole huge culture of inanity, that indoctrinates youth into superstition and corrupts their public school education?

    Who’s in the position of power? Am I to cry for the academics who have tenure, earn a decent if not especially high standard of living, and enjoy good health care and other benefits on the public dole? These are people who can say pretty much anything and not suffer economic consequences. Their jobs are guaranteed.

    Most of us are in a much less powerful position. We risk our livihoods when we speak up — no small matter.

    This “huge culture of inanity, that indoctrinates youth into superstition and corrupts their public school education” is exactly the population that you are ethically required to appeal to. (Do you think your tenure is for your use only?) That doesn’t mean you have to accept their premises, but you should acknowledge the previledge of your position — a previledge available to damn few in our society.

  99. #99 J. J. Ramsey
    November 23, 2006

    Peter Barber: “However, a reasonably intelligent teenager is well capable of understanding the fundamentals of evolutionary biology. If that teenager has had a Biblical literalist upbringing or poor biology teaching, and leaves school without that understanding, then what hope has he or she got of getting through university-level biology?”

    It is quite possible to have a biology teacher who teaches the mechanics of how DNA encodes proteins, mutations, and so on, adequately, while simultaneously saying that DNA, etc., was too complex to have evolved. I’ve witnessed that myself, unfortunately.

  100. #100 John Wilkins
    November 23, 2006

    Sorry, Wilkins, I can’t place you in the mediocracy.

    I see. So I’m the guy left at the end of choosing teams because nobody wants him for their side.? Again. *sob*

  101. #101 Great White Wonder
    November 23, 2006

    Most of us are in a much less powerful position. We risk our livihoods when we speak up — no small matter.

    LOL coming from you AndyS.

  102. #102 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    I will continue to disagree with you on Ken Miller, Chris. I think he is blinded by his religion and thinks it’s ok to blame atheists for the creationist problem, and jebus, but that theistic evolution crap is a crock.

    But I think you are quite right that the creationist problem requires a multiplicity of approaches. That’s why I contribute to the Panda’s Thumb, despite the fact that it’s a hotbed of simpering theistic evilutionists and an arm of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement. It’s why I think our local MnCSE is a great thing, even though they will never, ever be as vociferously anti-religious as I am. It’s why I still read and link to RedStateRabble even while Pat Hayes has revealed himself to be a tool of the religious establishment.

    But it’s also why I get pissed off when Ken Miller tells his audience that they’re shooting at the wrong target, or when Ed Brayton makes up his “teams” with lists of the good people and the bad people. There’s no willingness to reciprocate, and there’s definitely a feeling that they would happily throw the atheist scientists to the wolves if it would make one dumbass pol vote down a DI-sponsored bill. There’s also a definite disparity in treatment: criticize St. Ken, and everyone is aghast; at the same time, demonizing that devil Dawkins without even reading his book is fair game.

    Oh, and Wilkins, you can be on my “team” if you want, but I don’t think you do, and my point here was that the whole “team” nonsense is offensive bullshit anyway.

  103. #103 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    AndyS, you don’t understand the idea behind tenure. It’s precisely so people can freely oppose the premises of the majority, free of the need to appeal to the mob or the ruling aristos or whoever. And it is utterly ridiculous to suggest that academics are in a position of much power, or that somehow we are failing in our solemn duty by not appealing to the lowest common denominators of society.

  104. #104 Sastra
    November 23, 2006

    I once gave a short informal talk on Intelligent Design to a Unitarian Universalist congregation — liberal and very anti-Fundamentalist. After the talk there were questions and a kind of discussion session where we went around the room and people “shared” their views. Many of the pro-evolution anti-creationism folks there then proceeded to wax eloquent on an amazingly sloppy, teleological, teilhard de chardin-inspired endorsment of evolution as a progress towards higher spirituality. They were on the “right” side primarily for political reasons, not because they really understood the theory. Evolution is the process magic uses to unfold the universe for us.

    My point: Dawkins and PZ are right on the real debate being against supernaturalism — if the issue is taking science seriously, and not just getting enough people on the “right” side. But given that even intelligent, educated pro-evolution advocates don’t seem to have much real understanding, making some kind of distinction between teenagers before they even hit college makes little sense.

    Creationists and Theistic Evolutionists aren’t that different — and that’s actually why I think Ed’s right on not having a litmus test to get into college. It’s not an either/or. I suspect you’re practically starting from scratch even WITH those who accept evolution.

  105. #105 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    Stop listening to the lies of people like Ed Brayton.

    What “lies”? All I see is a difference of opinion here, a difference of opinion that’s become rather more nasty than it needs to be–and is threatening to become nastier.

    Do explain, please. What specific “lies” has Ed Brayton told? A lie is an untruth that the teller knows to be an untruth. I don’t see anything of the sort here.

    Really. I’m confused here. Please educate me. Personally, I never label anyone as telling lies unless I’m damned sure that they’re lies.

  106. #106 Buridan
    November 23, 2006

    This “huge culture of inanity, that indoctrinates youth into superstition and corrupts their public school education” is exactly the population that you are ethically required to appeal to. (Do you think your tenure is for your use only?)

    I can’t imagine a more misinformed statement about the academy than this one. You may not like it, but tenure was and is designed for the exact opposite of what you’re advocating. We have the ethical responsibility to expose and counter inanity, indoctrination and superstition, not appeal to it.

  107. #107 PZ Myers
    November 23, 2006

    A lie: Ed says that we have as our goal to attack and destroy religion “by any means possible.”

    Or do you think he is just so stupid that he thinks we would endorse the use of violence, for instance, to destroy religion?

    If you think this is an escalation on my part, consider that Brayton’s original post used the words I quoted: “appalling”, “vile”, “disturbing”, “dangerous”, etc. Perhaps you aren’t as troubled by those kinds of labels?

  108. #108 morgan-lynn lamberth
    November 23, 2006

    I’m with Dawkins,Provine and other strong atheists against theistic evolution.One cannot rationally conflate that which has no goals and that which has.Selection is on its own . The Chamberlains can do what they will but should leave us alone!And special creationists see through the Chamberlains anyway.Theistic evololutionists are still faith-based and obscurantist.

  109. #109 Bro. Bartleby
    November 23, 2006

    We need a name … “The War of the Roses”? Already used. “The Battle for the Purple Mitre”! Yes, that’s catchy, and may the best atheist win! Ahh, the brave new secular world to come, free of those nasty quarrelsome Christians, filled with peaceful proven truths accepted by peaceful proven warriors of the Purple Mitre!

  110. #110 Todd Adamson
    November 23, 2006

    Geez, did somebody spike the cranberry sauce?

    What puzzles me is that the rudimentary academic standards of a high school education don’t include introduction to philosophy. The fact that the average high school graduate has probably not grappled with the Socratic method prior to entering college is far more disturbing than not understanding the basic rudiments of evolution.

    Let’s leave the “theistic evolutionist” questions at the doorstep of Hume and Russell, where they can properly be ripped to shreds rather than in the hands of metaphysical amateurs like Ken Miller, Francis Collins, and yes, even PZ Myers.

  111. #111 Bryson Brown
    November 23, 2006

    The local response seems to incline in favour of PZ and Larry– and I’m struck again by the amplification of small differences that’s going on here. Not to say that theism vs. atheism is a small difference– but the disagreement over how to respond to inadequately prepared students whose ‘cognitive well’ has been poisoned certainly is. Mgjssl made it through– and deserves cudos for overcoming a dreadful miseducation. Some students will manage this, but many will not; there is no good reason to lower standards to accomodate them. How far we should go to re-educate them is an open question, I think– and also a small one, strictly a matter of tactics and educational goals.

    As for who is to be blamed for damaging the cause, I think it’s offensive to demand that some code of silence be observed by either atheists or theists on the side of good science. There will be, and should be, debate and disagreement within the house. Surely we can live with that. Efforts to offer persuasive justification of religious faith generally look pretty ridiculous to confirmed atheists like me. I don’t see why I should bite my tongue for fear of offending the general sentiment in favour of religion. Still, as far as I’m concerned, theists are welcome to continue trying out their favourite arguments for theism, so long as they keep them out of the scientific debate. I’ll continue to be critical (unless, as seems unlikely, I’m suddenly converted), and so, no doubt, will many others. But there’s nothing more ‘aggressive’ or ‘evangelical’ about my behaviour in this regard than there is (say) about Collins’ ill-judged characterization of a vivid personal experience as justification for theological conclusions. His remarks on this preach only to the converted. I do try to do better myself, but I don’t expect much difference in the outcomes, and I certainly don’t regard it as grounds for a bitter schism. I have many friends whom I disagree sharply with on many issues– this is just one of them, and hardly the most weighty. When a rational naturalism tempers and restrains faith, faith is a lot easier to live with.

  112. #112 Pete Dunkelberg
    November 23, 2006

    “A lie: Ed says….”

    Bull. The correct phrase is

    “An inaccurate statement. Ed misunderstands me.”.

  113. #113 Prup aka Jim Benton
    November 23, 2006

    Pope PZ Myers:
    I find that my ideas; to wit,
    That conflating atheism and evolution, two ideas I entirely believe in — and have as long as you have been alive, injures the progress of the belief in evolution without aiding in the progress of atheism;
    That Larry Moran’s idea that a belief in creationism should bar one from admission to college totally ignores the fact that most people use college to unlearn the prejudices they have gathered during their previous 18 years;
    That Ed Brayton’s writings have done as much or more than your own to advance both causes, and that his work with Talk2Action has been vital in helping the fight against the more malignant forms of Christianity;
    have made me worthy of excommunication from your Chruch of Evangelical Atheism.

    So be it.

  114. #114 Pete Dunkelberg
    November 23, 2006

    Thanks to your flamboyant language it is not unusual for you to be misunderstood this way. Thus the misunderstanding in question is not completely surprising.

  115. #115 Milo Johnson
    November 23, 2006

    No, that won’t work. The “purple mitre” is my private name for “little Milo.” How about “Fiction vs. Non-fiction” instead?

  116. #116 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    A lie: Ed says that we have as our goal to attack and destroy religion “by any means possible.”

    So you’re saying that your goal isn’t to attack and destroy religion by any means possible? That’s interesting. I can’t speak for the others Ed lumped into that group, but, quite frankly, having read your blog for nearly two years now, your apparent denial that that’s your goal comes as somewhat of a surprise to me. And you yourself just said in your own post above:

    First, I want better science teaching in the schools, and that is the mechanism I propose to defeat religion.

    You’ll forgive me if I interpret that remark, along with your longstanding vociferous attacks on religion as implying that your overall goal is indeed to attack and defeat religion and that the fight against ID is indeed just one front in that war. (I’m funny that way in that I tend to believe that people mean what they say.)

    As for Ed’s choice of words, your bringing that up is a nice diversion, but a very obvious ploy that has nothing to do with whether your calling Ed a liar is justified, and I won’t play that game with you. I happened to see your post first and then went back to Ed’s. But, hey, if it’ll make you happy I’ll go over to Ed’s blog and tell him he shouldn’t have used those nasty words, just to be sufficiently even-handed for your liking. Bad Ed. In any case. Ed didn’t call you or Larry liars. He simply said that you don’t appear to be fighting the same battle that he is.

  117. #117 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    So you’re saying that your goal isn’t to attack and destroy religion by any means possible?

    So you’re saying that it is your honest belief that PZ favors herding the religious into camps and exterminating them?

  118. #118 J. J. Ramsey
    November 23, 2006

    PZ Myers:

    A lie: Ed says that we have as our goal to attack and destroy religion “by any means possible.”

    Or do you think he is just so stupid that he thinks we would endorse the use of violence, for instance, to destroy religion?

    I think it is a stretch to say that Ed Brayton was seriously contemplating that atheists would use violence. Rather, he was pointing out that atheists were willing to uses tactics that would make, in his words, “the battle I’m fighting, for good science education free from the influence of creationists, less achievable.”

    If you think this is an escalation on my part, consider that Brayton’s original post used the words I quoted: “appalling”, “vile”, “disturbing”, “dangerous”, etc. Perhaps you aren’t as troubled by those kinds of labels?

    I’m not troubled by strong language if it is accurate. Moran’s proposed approach plays right into creationist stereotypes, which should be disturbing, and its shear myopia of it is appalling. And quite frankly, I find the gross exaggeration and distortion of calling Panda’s Thumb an “arm of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement” rather vile (and, curiously enough, a subtle example of Godwin’s Law in action).

  119. #119 Nick (Matzke)
    November 23, 2006

    Um, Larry Moran seems to have said he was just joking about never admitting creationists, so defending that proposal seems to be a bit odd.

  120. #120 J. J. Ramsey
    November 23, 2006

    Errm, what I would have posted had I previewed first (sorry):

    PZ Myers:

    A lie: Ed says that we have as our goal to attack and destroy religion “by any means possible.”

    Or do you think he is just so stupid that he thinks we would endorse the use of violence, for instance, to destroy religion?

    I think it is a stretch to say that Ed Brayton was seriously contemplating that atheists would use violence. Rather, he was pointing out that atheists were willing to uses tactics that would make, in his words, “the battle I’m fighting, for good science education free from the influence of creationists, less achievable.”

    If you think this is an escalation on my part, consider that Brayton’s original post used the words I quoted: “appalling”, “vile”, “disturbing”, “dangerous”, etc. Perhaps you aren’t as troubled by those kinds of labels?

    I’m not troubled by strong language if it is accurate. Moran’s proposed approach plays right into creationist stereotypes, which should be disturbing, and its shear myopia of it is appalling. And quite frankly, I find the gross exaggeration and distortion of calling Panda’s Thumb an “arm of the Neville Chamberlain school of appeasement” rather vile (and, curiously enough, a subtle example of Godwin’s Law in action).

  121. #121 George
    November 23, 2006

    PZ: “At some point we have to make a stand and say that if a high school has not given its students basic background in a subject, we shouldn’t accept them. We can’t let it slide much further.”

    Interesting UC eligibility policy:

    Local Eligibility

    The Eligibility in the Local Context (ELC) program recognizes students’ individual accomplishments in light of the opportunities offered by their particular high schools.

    If you rank in the top 4 percent of students at your California high school, and if your high school participates in the program, you may be admitted via the ELC path.

    To be considered for ELC, you must complete the equivalent of 11 specific yearlong courses of the Subject Requirement by the end of your junior year, as noted below. With the assistance of each participating high school, the University will identify the top 4 percent of students on the basis of GPA in UC-approved coursework completed in the 10th and 11th grades.

    ELC Requirements

    GPA ≥ 3.0 (beginning with fall 2007 applicants)

    Must be designated by UC evaluators as being in top 4% of participating high school graduating class

    Must complete 11 UC-approved courses by end of junior year.

    The 11 units include:

    – History/Social Science – 1 year
    – English – 3 years
    – Mathematics – 3 years
    – Laboratory Science – 1 year
    – Language Other than English – 1 year
    – VPA or Electives – 2 years

    If you are UC-eligible through ELC, the University will notify you at the beginning of your senior year. You must then submit the University’s undergraduate application during the November filing period and complete remaining eligibility requirements – including the Subject and Examination requirements – to be considered fully eligible. Fully eligible ELC students are guaranteed a spot at one of UC’s undergraduate campuses, though not necessarily at their first-choice campus.

    http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/admissions/undergrad_adm/paths_to_adm/freshman/local_eligibility.html

  122. #122 Buridan
    November 23, 2006

    Come on… This talk about PZ or any other atheist wanting to destroy religion is getting silly. Yeah, all 0.46% of us atheists in this country are plotting to overthrow the remaining 85% of Americans who profess a religious belief. Get a perspective for christ sake.

  123. #123 Pierce R. Butler
    November 23, 2006

    Odd that PZ doesn’t include a link to this problematic post by Ed Brayton. Assuming that’s the “Dispatches from the Culture Wars” Ed Brayton, I went to his blog and browsed around.

    Missed the relevant item on the first pass, but I did find this morsel:

    … We also need to attack the basis as well, the notion that atheism leads to some horrible collapse of morality. There is not a shred of evidence that atheists behave any worse than religious people. Indeed, there is substantial cross-national evidence that the more religious belief a nation has, the more they have a wide range of problems, from teen pregnancy to violent crime. …
    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/11/framing_the_evolution_debate_s.php

    Doesn’t sound like someone circling the theo-wagons, to say the least.

    Then I retracked & found the post, at http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/11/responding_to_moran.php . It includes some good points, some sloppy thinking (are all personal opinions supposed to be expressed with the caution required of those in Official Positions?), and some unexamined suppositions. Possibly foremost among these is exactly what constitutes Good Science Education. Textbook regurgitation might apparently pass Brayton’s standards, as not spelled out here.

    Of course, that’s not a fair conclusion to draw from values left implicit – just as I could say that Myers standards might comprise basic training for an amphibious assault on the epistemological towers of western civilization. (Not that I’m complaining about that…)

    Moran’s posting, alas, suffers from a severe troll infestation – I’m not in a mood for brawling tonight, but anyone with excess spleen to vent should flame on and help beat back the barbarians over there.

    If Moran were in a position to enforce his viewpoint (and I in a position to say diddly), I’d agree with one condition: any university raising its admission standards to that degree should give at least two years’ notice, so that substandard high schools such as the one which almost derailed the eloquent mgjsslt can clean up their sorry acts.

  124. #124 Pete Dunkelberg
    November 23, 2006

    Caledonian, we don’t need a strawman born of absurd literalism. We all know PZ only wants to have verbal contests and possibly convince society that relagion is overrated. He has repeatedly been clear that use of force muchless violence is anathema. Despite the flamboyant language he’s a mild mannered liberal arts college prof.

  125. #125 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    So you’re saying that it is your honest belief that PZ favors herding the religious into camps and exterminating them?

    So you’re saying that it is your honest belief that Ed meant when he said “by any means necessary” that PZ favors herding the religious into camps and exterminating them?

  126. #126 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    Somehow you only point out alternate interpretations for statements when those statements are made by people favorable to your position.

    I don’t see any people who ally themselves with the likes of Brayton suggesting that PZ’s desire to “defeat religion” applies to keeping it out of the educational system, but that’s far less of a charitable stretch than suggesting that “any means necessary” doesn’t actually mean “any means necessary”.

    How… interesting.

  127. #127 J. J. Ramsey
    November 23, 2006

    Nick (Matzke): “Um, Larry Moran seems to have said he was just joking about never admitting creationists, so defending that proposal seems to be a bit odd.”

    Moran claimed to have been joking after the shortcomings of what he had suggested were pointed out. And as Brayton pointed out, “one might believe that it was a joke if Moran didn’t go ahead in the very next paragraph after claiming it was a joke and reiterate that he meant it”:

    However, behind the humor is a serious point. If students entering university have already made up their minds that evolution should be rejected, then that’s a serious problem. It’s not a question of ignorance. Those students have made an active decision to choose superstition over science.

  128. #128 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    Misuse of language – redefinition of the word ‘it’.

    Speaking of language, when are you going to present us with the definitions that allow us to coherently operationalize between the ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, Ramsey?

  129. #129 Tyler DiPietro
    November 23, 2006

    So you’re saying that it is your honest belief that Ed meant when he said “by any means necessary” that PZ favors herding the religious into camps and exterminating them?

    I would say that Ed’s use of unnecessarily hyperbolic language to describe the goals of Myers, et al. is deceptive, and whether it was intentional or not (i.e., whether he was lying or just unconsciously making misleading statements) is a bit beside the point. PZ is pretty clear that he thinks theism is idiotic, and the E-Team or Chamberlainite evolutionists has been jumping on him as some sort of enemy. Same for Moran, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, etc.

    My only response to such inane rhetoric, as a pround member of the MnM-Team, is to say this: if you think our anti-religious rhetorical and skeptical analysis of religious claims is politically counterproductive, then tough shit. If people like Brayton and the E-Team are going to go for our throats for arguing against the nonsensical cognitive dissonance known as “theistic evolution”, that’s your choice.

  130. #130 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    Somehow you only point out alternate interpretations for statements when those statements are made by people favorable to your position.

    Oh, please, I could just as easily say

    Somehow you only point out the worst possible alternative interpretations for statements when those statements are made by people not favorable to your position, even to the point of invoking the old argumentum ad Naziium fallacy.

    Whee! Isn’t this fun?

  131. #131 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    Ah, but in this case the worst possible interpretation of the phrase is also the simplest and most likely interpretation given the general vernacular use of the words.

    Brayton accused PZ of placing his desire to eliminate religion as a social phenomenon above all other considerations. That’s zealous fanaticism in which any other ethical principles that conflict with this goal are abandoned.

    He’s being hyperbolic in a negative way, which suggests his intention is not to offer meaningful argument but to propagandize. Demonization of opponents is a common propaganda technique – and since he just got through declaring PZ an opponent, the shoe seems to fit.

  132. #132 Tyler DiPietro
    November 23, 2006

    Whee! Isn’t this fun?

    I actually thinks it fun, or rather funny, that one of the big-cheeses around here on scienceblogs could stoop to trollish depths rather than actually addressing a mere commenters point.

  133. #133 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    I would say that Ed’s use of unnecessarily hyperbolic language to describe the goals of Myers, et al. is deceptive, and whether it was intentional or not (i.e., whether he was lying or just unconsciously making misleading statements) is a bit beside the point.

    I’d say that the unnecessarily hyperbolic language on all sides of this debate (Ed included) has gotten out of hand. However, I don’t believe that Ed was lying; so I’d disagree that that distinction is beside the point. It is a major point. If PZ had merely said that Ed was mistaken, deluded, wrong, or even a total idiot, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to jump into this thread because from my perspective this is indeed simply a difference of opinion.

    Seeing PZ call Ed a liar simply pushed one of my buttons, as unsupported accusations of lying are one of the things that used to irritate me the most on Usenet.

  134. #134 Tyler DiPietro
    November 23, 2006

    Seeing PZ call Ed a liar simply pushed one of my buttons, as unsupported accusations of lying are one of the things that used to irritate me the most on Usenet.

    Well, like I said, it is a deceptive use of hyperbole, but since it was PZ, Moran and not necessarily myself that were implicated, I’m more inclined to give Ed the benefit of the doubt.

    I also think that Caledonian has made a good point, that taking Ed’s words at face value makes far more sense in this case than assuming that he was just being vaguely metaphorical.

    Either way, Ed’s wrong. But I think people already know that I am of that opinion.

  135. #135 GW
    November 23, 2006

    Right now, we need more people like PZ and Dawkins, and less like Brayton. Believe it or not, Dawkins book has made a substantial impact, altering the long-term landscape in favor of evolution. And still selling well after all these weeks (#3 on amazon). Somebody must be reading ‘em. More atheist books coming out too.

  136. #136 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    It is a major point. If PZ had merely said that Ed was mistaken, deluded, wrong, or even a total idiot, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to jump into this thread because from my perspective this is indeed simply a difference of opinion.

    Given a statement which is so obviously wrong that the speaker must either a) know that it is wrong and is choosing to make it anyway or b) is so mentally impaired that, assuming they’re not currently in a chemically altered state, he or she is unable to function in society and needs to be institutionalized, you’d prefer that we accused the speaker of option b), even though it is statistically implausible?

    People lie all the time, about all sorts of things, and people frequently have ulterior motives for the things they say. Accusing a person of lying and having ulterior motives is only a small defamation – saying they are literally a moron is a much larger one.

    Your priorities are out of whack, Orac.

  137. #137 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    I actually thinks it fun, or rather funny, that one of the big-cheeses around here on scienceblogs could stoop to trollish depths rather than actually addressing a mere commenters point.

    “A big cheese” on ScienceBlogs?

    I’m honored. I never really thought of myself that way. Just ask anyone. After all, there’s PZ, Ed, and then me in a very, very distant third (that is, when Good Math, Bad Math or a couple of other of my SB colleagues aren’t busy knocking me down to the fourth, fifth, or sixth slot periodically, something that seems to be happening more and more frequently).

    As for the “troll” thing, I was addressing the comment to which you refer with all the respect that I thought that it deserved. If you consider that to be “trolling,” well, you’re entitled to your opinion. My other comments here should demonstrate that I do address the substance of serious comments.

  138. #138 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    Accusing a person of lying and having ulterior motives is only a small defamation – saying they are literally a moron is a much larger one.

    I disagree.

    I value my reputation for honest far more than whether anyone, be it you, PZ, Ed, or anyone else, thinks I’m an idiot.

  139. #139 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    My other comments here should demonstrate that I do address the substance of serious comments.

    The other comments of yours that I’ve seen are generally contemptuous, inane, and pointless. Ergo, either do you not address the substance of serious comments on a regular basis, or your criteria for what is a ‘serious comment’ are deranged.

    Brayton claims to seek quality science education, but he wants a systematic misrepresentation of the nature of science to be generally adopted, and he accuses people who refuse to misrepresent the scientific method of sabotaging quality science education.

    Does that seem right to anyone?

  140. #140 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    I value my reputation for honest far more than whether anyone, be it you, PZ, Ed, or anyone else, thinks I’m an idiot.

    The chances of your being so honest that you deserve the kind of reputation you claim to value are essentially nil. So are the chances of any other person we’re likely to encounter, on or off the ‘Net.

    Besides, you’ve been less than honest in your dealings just in the last twenty posts or so. Your actions belie your words.

  141. #141 Orac
    November 23, 2006

    Besides, you’ve been less than honest in your dealings just in the last twenty posts or so. Your actions belie your words.

    Ah, I wondered how long it would be before this tactic was used. Very predictable.

    Do tell, though. How, specifically, have I been “less than honest”?

  142. #142 J. J. Ramsey
    November 23, 2006

    Speaking of language, when are you going to present us with the definitions that allow us to coherently operationalize between the ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’, Ramsey?

    For those wondering what Caledonian is going on about, see this old thread:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/11/eugenie_scott_in_kansas.php#comments

  143. #143 Milo Johnson
    November 23, 2006

    “Come on… This talk about PZ or any other atheist wanting to destroy religion is getting silly. Yeah, all 0.46% of us atheists in this country are plotting to overthrow the remaining 85% of Americans who profess a religious belief. Get a perspective for christ sake.”

    Buridan, PLEASE! With their numerical superiority, we can’t let them know of our secret plan or we have no chance of success at all…

  144. #144 Caledonian
    November 23, 2006

    When has Orac been less than honest?

    When he said the following:

    So you’re saying that it is your honest belief that Ed meant when he said “by any means necessary” that PZ favors herding the religious into camps and exterminating them?

    The question is a rhetorical one, suggesting that Brayton didn’t mean what the most straightforward interpretation of his words implied. In other words, he was not being honest. He was at best being ironic in the literary sense, and at worst demonizing an opponent.

    Orac’s statements indicated that he did not believe Brayton’s comments were intended honestly; at the same time, he claims to value his own and others’ reputations for honesty highly. Yet he implicitly acknowledged that Brayton was being dishonest. His actions are in tension with his words.

  145. #145 Buridan
    November 24, 2006

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, a 64 year old grandmother blew herself up in Gaza today. The woman’s daughter was quoted saying:

    “She and I, we went to the mosque. We were looking for martyrdom.” “I hope God accepts it.”

    I’m searching the internet for those “evangelical atheist” suicide bombers just to balance out the extremism here. Damn, no matter what I put in Google, I get nothing.

  146. #146 Buridan
    November 24, 2006

    Shit! Sorry about that Milo. Not to fear my friend. If we can get the self-identified agnostics and humanists to sign off on our secret plan, we’ll have a whole 1% of the U.S. population on our side. I think we’ll have a chance then…

  147. #147 Tyler DiPietro
    November 24, 2006

    As for the “troll” thing, I was addressing the comment to which you refer with all the respect that I thought that it deserved.

    Of course, because removing a passage from it’s context of broader point another poster is trying to make is really “addressing” it. Really, it’s not. It’s rather perfectly troll like behavior. If that is the respect you think a post like Caledonian’s deserves, then it may be wise for me (and, presumably, anyone else who happens to value such as “intellectual honesty”) to avoid such discussions with you.

  148. #148 llewelly
    November 24, 2006

    … fantasy where there is this totalitarian group of atheists seeking world domination …

    Does this mean we are still not allowed to fly our black helicopters during the daylight?

  149. #149 Chris Ho-Stuart
    November 24, 2006

    Paul says in comment 271625 on Nov 23, 9:14 pm:

    I will continue to disagree with you on Ken Miller, Chris. I think he is blinded by his religion and thinks it’s ok to blame atheists for the creationist problem, and jebus, but that theistic evolution crap is a crock.

    I agree that Miller’s theistic evolution is a crock.

    We do disagree on some other points though. Disagreement is okay; but let’s engage it a bit more. The major error that remains in your comment above is thinking that Miller is blaming atheists for the creationist problem. Miller for by far the most part correctly puts the blame on other Christians who are actively pushing creationism, and are driving the problem. For sure that is where he spends the vast majority of his effort; trying to address and refute the nonsense put about by some of his fellow Christians.

    I think I know where you get this error. You read his comment about “creationists shooting at the wrong problem”, and that they should be targetting atheists; and that is what you are spinning as “blaming atheists”.

    You’re wrong. This is no more that simple recognition that his belief in God involves a disagreement with those who don’t believe in God, and that this is a disagreement between atheists generally and Christians generally. That is, in his view creationists are raging against evolution when they’d do better to recognize that evolution is a part of how the world works, and then deal with atheism directly. It’s not about who to blame for creationism.

    The problem is not that you disagree with Miller or that you think his theistic evolution is stupid. I’m with you on both of those. The problem is that you made frankly stupid misreadings of his comments, that impute malice and repression to what is actually a civil disagreement from an honourable gentleman.

    As I said before; this is secondary. By far the major impact of your writing is lots of easily accessible and fascinating information — and this is as positive as all get out. Miller acknowledges this aspect as well; he singles out Richard Dawkins, for example, as one of the best at explaining evolution. From his talk that was the focus of your first posts on Miller, he said (transcript from 11:39 in “04.speech3″):

    Later on this semester you’re going to hear from Richard Dawkins — who is, in my opinion, the most brilliant and the most incisive writer on evolutionary theory alive. I have enormous respect for Dawkins. His book, The Selfish Gene, I think is the greatest book on evolution written in the twentieth century. None the less, Dawkins takes this bleak view of what evolutionary science tells us about the world. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good; nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.
    I always wonder, how does Richard manage to get up in the morning? [laughter obscures some words] But the irony of this, is he says this universe tells us that there is no purpose. I don’t know anyone who lives his life with more drive and purpose than Richard Dawkins. And that’s the point to be made about the nature of this point of view.
    Now all of these assertions that I’ve just shown you have something built into them that I think sometimes their advocates are unaware of, but you should be aware of. And that assertion is that science alone can lead us to truth regarding the purpose of existence, which is, of course, that it does not have a purpose. That’s a bleak message. But the argument again is that science is the only road to truth.
    Now the reality of those statements is that statements like that are philosophical, not scientific in nature. Philosophical doesn’t mean wrong, it simply means not testable by the methods of science. And they actually have no more scientific standing than a statement that I might make about the purpose of existence on the basis of my own theistic points of view.

    I’m not posting this transcript because I think Miller is correct. I’m posting it because I think it is representative of what he says. He does not “blame” Dawkins for creationism, but credits him for excellent and incisive writing about evolution. He does not want to repress Dawkins, but to engage the points on which they disagree. And he would like creationists to learn some evolution from Dawkins, and refocus their criticisms on engaging the question of whether or not God exists, given evolution.

    Now I think Miller’s reconciliation doesn’t make much sense. The quantum thing is silly. Evolution shows no sign at all of tweaking and direction; it just happens. Miller is trying to fit God into a tiny gap where it doesn’t actually make a scrap of difference. And that’s worth engaging and refuting.

    It irritates me that an otherwise smart guy like yourself gets sidetracked from a real and civil engagement on such things and into flawed red herrings about blame and repression. Miller does not irritate me as much, in part because I have so much less in common with Miller, and in part because he’s much less aggressive. (It’s a personal thing with me that I find misdirected aggression particularly irritating.)

    Cheers — Chris

  150. #150 fructose
    November 24, 2006

    If you’re just joining us, here’s a recap of things so far:

    1 Larry Moran screws up and says any incoming university student who won’t swear allegiance to evolution should be expelled.
    2 Ed Brayton, like several other science bloggers with brains, takes strong issue with this
    3 Larry Moran, realizing he screwed up, backtracks and tries to qualify and modify his statement.
    4 PZ Meyers comes along and, not understanding what Larry originally said, makes a royal ass out of himself, insulting Ed, Nick, Miller, Orac, and everyone else he can think of, changing several people’s opinions of him from “strong atheist advocate” to “knee-jerk idiot loudmouth”.

    we now return to the discussion already in progress.

  151. #151 Bryson Brown
    November 24, 2006

    I’m still missing something here. What is all the heat really about? A few harsh words were exchanged– starting with Moran’s remarks about flunking and admissions (a light sort of remark, really, addressing what I think is a widely shared frustration with the level of nonsense that miseducation and systematic well-poisoning have inculcated in many students) and Ed’s subsequent criticism of Moran. From there we moved to some criticism of Ed’s apparently ‘you’re either with us (consenting to theistic evolution by silence at least) or you’re with (as in helping) the creationists’ stance, and then it was, ‘cry, havoc, and let slip the dogs of war’… I think a little perspective (and thicker skin) is needed here.

    Moran’s remark about admissions is actually interesting: How much would a biology program be improved if applicants were pre-screened in this way? Maybe a little, but I suspect most who can’t adjust to the scientific approach in their studies self-select out pretty quickly. How could it be done? Perhaps an entrance exam would work: Flunking some on such a test would be an easy slam-dunk– any exam that parrots ID and creationist arguments and displays deep ignorance about the basic facts of biology would indicate a serious need for remedial work that (arguably) is not what universities are there for. Anyway, this is a reasonable debate that might be worth having.

    But on the issue being kicked around here now, I’m moved to ask why is it so hard for some theistic evolutionists to understand that some of us don’t agree that we should conceal our atheism ‘for the good of the cause’? Why is exercising the freedom to frankly express our views considered so dismaying? I don’t want to be thin-skinned, but, at least to my ears the ugly demonization of atheists by fanatics and Tartuffes (like Bush 41– we’re not even citizens, really) is echoed in the call for (strategic?) silence on the part of atheists.

    I really, honestly have no problem with those who are forthright about their theism. I do claim the right to criticize arguments for theism, but I ask no one to be silent. I’m even prepared to acknowledge that, for some, the existence of religious folk who believe in evolution can help to change minds. But I also think the existence of people prepared to use common-sense standards of evidence and a healthy skepticism (think of Thomas Paine) to question religious belief can help change minds.

    As defenders of the scientific virtues of evolution, we aren’t even as coherent a group as a political party with an adopted, cobbled-together platform– all we have is broad agreement on what is, and is not, part of science in general, and biology in particular. I tend to think that ought to be enough to be getting on with, at least when it comes to the scientific and educational generalities.

    As for tactics, well, I think that the values of honesty and clarity outweigh any illusion of unity or theological ‘safety’ that silence from the atheists among us might create. I think continuing the (separate) debate about God (and Gods) in a vigourous and serious way might even be a healthy sight for some of the theocrats whose main desire seems to be the systematic suppression of any beliefs they disgree with: Social cooperation can survive despite high levels of disagreement (it must, if we’re to avoid disasters like the English revolution). And I think civilized people can disagree on religious matters and still work together. I’d really hate to be proven wrong on that last thing… (and I’m sorry for going on so long).

  152. #152 Scott Hatfield
    November 24, 2006

    This is just ridiculous. We don’t need ‘sides’ in the promotion of science education, we need unity. It seems to me that both ‘sides’ are almost eager to misunderstand or overstate the other’s point of view. Look. Larry Moran is certainly right that we need high standards to discourage those who can’t ‘get’ evolution from earning scientific and technical degrees. High standards are exactly that, standards. They do not constitute a ‘loyalty oath’ to any particular philosophy or belief system, and all of us should be opposed to such as antithetical to the practice of science. We should not let principled disagreement on tactics lead to a fractured strategy….SH

  153. #153 Peter Barber
    November 24, 2006

    AndyS,

    I had already read that comment. If universities continue on this trend of offering more and more remedial courses, they will cease to be universities, and become adult education institutes. The answer is to set stringent standards for science education (as well as literacy and numeracy) at secondary level and enforce them. If the US public school system did that, you wouldn’t have so many crap biology teachers like the one mgjsslt had.

  154. #154 coturnix
    November 24, 2006

    No, the fight is not over admission standards. It is about the meaning of the anti-ID battle. Is it an end in itself, or is it part of a bigger whole? If former, one can remain respectful of religion as long as it is not in science class. If latter, court victories against ID will be only temporary once theocracy takes hold, so religion as a whole needs to be tackled. My comment got too long, so here is my response in full.

  155. #155 Sam Paris
    November 24, 2006

    PZ wrote: In particular, Ed Brayton, that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre…

    Yep, good to see that we’re all still following the tradition of shooting each other in the ass rather than sticking together and, you know, actually accomplishing anything.

  156. #156 Bro. Bartleby
    November 24, 2006

    Stay tuned for the “Capping Ceremony” beginnng at dawn, local time. The Purple Mitre is being readied while those in Central Time have already bedded, those in Mountain Time are in the kitchen eating turkey and mustard on white bread, those in Pacific Time are still considering who to vote for, while those in Alaska Time are still out ice fishing, and those in Hawaii Time have just stumbled upon the “The War of the Purple Mitre” and are wading through the action reports of the ongoing battle. So, please vote now, before the sun rises upon Madison, where I understand one contender is preparing an acceptance speech at this very moment!

  157. #157 Great White Wonder
    November 24, 2006

    Yep, good to see that we’re all still following the tradition of shooting each other in the ass rather than sticking together and, you know, actually accomplishing anything.

    Want to see my taser scars?

  158. #158 Milo Johnson
    November 24, 2006

    Buridan, thanks for reminding me. We have the strength of a hundred because our hearts aren’t pure.

    And Bro. Bartleby, please stay off of my webcam. What I’m doing with the Purple Mitre right now is private.

  159. #159 Mark UK
    November 24, 2006

    What’s with all the calls for unity? Since when is that the first priority in science? I don’t think that starting out with unity is the best way to stand up for scientific standards. We all have a similar end goal in mind but disagree on the methods to be employed at some stages. How surprising… Scientists in disagreement! Never seen before.

  160. #160 JohnnieCanuck
    November 24, 2006

    ID strategists determined that the best way to achieve their goal was to lie about their religious motivations and try to get their co-theists to play along.

    It didn’t work for them. Not only did their lies get exposed, but almost none of their theist allies kept the secret. Either because they never intended to lie, or they couldn’t help letting the truth slip out.

    Shouldn’t we be taking this opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others?

    Kicking atheists under the table so they won’t offend is asking or demanding that they lie by omission. It appears to be a truism that the longer you contest with opponents whose tactics you condemn, the more likely you are to be ‘forced’ to adopt the same tactics.

    Why are creation ‘scientists’ opposing evolution? They do so because they believe it acts against their theism and enables atheism. This is true. It does. Clearly it doesn’t cause atheism. It just tips the balance to some degree. Whether they have reasoned it out or not, I think everyone knows this at some level. Thus it fools nobody to try to pretend otherwise.

    I don’t believe anyone can predict whether the effect of atheist criticism of the religious will be positive, neutral or negative in the battle over evolution in public schools. It’s too complex and chaotic to model, in my opinion.

    I just don’t see how this strategy of dishonesty is going to work any better for the evolution side than it did for the IDers. We’ll just have the DI types taking the high moral ground and pointing out our sham, and won’t they enjoy finding a pot to match their kettle.

    Perhaps we would keep the favour of theistic evolutionists if we stopped our honest criticism. Perhaps we would lose their respect.

    What might be the next compromise with theists, if we agreed to this one? After voluntary censorship perhaps comes involuntary censorship, in the form of laws. That would work wouldn’t it? We accept a law banning all criticism of religion as hate speech and they accept a law banning criticism of evolution.

    It saddens me to see divisive politics at work. At least when sharp differences of opinion are expressed in science, we can usually expect a concensus will appear when all the data are in. I can only hope this acrimony will end soon.

  161. #161 Heleen
    November 24, 2006

    This polarization does not make any sense. The only point of EB RSR NM JW seems to be that it is unwise that atheists vilify agnosts for not being aggressive enough. Since when has atheist aggression paid off?

    If LM said that UCSD or whatever university biology department should require a sufficient grasp of evolutionary biology to start studying biology, that is fine. But this is a point about science education not about atheism

  162. #163 Anton Mates
    November 24, 2006

    Andy, can you please link to anywhere where either PZ or Moran have said that? Or any examples of them ridiculing a particular scientist purely because they admitted to theism? Any at all?

    Just search this site for Ken Miller and Francis Collins.

    Okay, see, that doesn’t work. Because PZ has attacked them for claiming scientific support for theism, and (in Miller’s case) for saying creationists should go fight with atheists instead. Now you can say one or both charges are simply incorrect–and I do think PZ’s misinterpreting Miller’s position on the latter one–but that’s not even in the same time zone as attacking them merely for being avowed theists. Hell, PZ’s praised Miller’s scientific accomplishments repeatedly on this blog.

    And in Collins’ case–crikey, have you read his interviews? He has said, explicitly, on multiple occasions, that morality is uniquely human and evolutionarily inexplicable and therefore provides evidence of God. PZ shouldn’t have to attack that, because every moderate religious scienceblogger should have gotten there first! Collins is making exactly the same argument as Michael Behe, he’s just doing it about morality instead of the flagellum.

    So…any other cases?

  163. #164 Daniel Morgan
    November 24, 2006

    General observation about 90% of all this, from all sides, and all comments: Lots of heat, very little light.

    Now, what is this winning strategy that Ed’s Team is pushing? It seems to be more of the same, the stuff that we’ve been doing for 80 years, accommodating the watering down of science teaching to avoid conflict with religious superstition…the strategy that has led to a United States where a slim majority opposes the idea of evolution, and we’re left with nothing but a struggle in the courts to maintain the status quo.

    I agree.

    I don’t know why this is so hard to understand. We are not winning. We are clinging to tactics that rely on legal fiat to keep nonsense out of the science classroom, while a rising tide of uninformed, idiotic anti-science opinion, tugged upwards by fundamentalist religious fervor, cripples science education. Treading water is not a winning strategy. I’m glad we’re not sinking, and I applaud the deserving legal efforts that have kept us afloat, but come on, people, this isn’t winning.

    I agree.

    I am sure lots of merry thickheads in the IDC community will be posting lots of gems on this stuff in the next few days. In the end, we’re on the side of science, and they’re not, and that’s what matters. We can have schisms, flame wars, etc., over how to end their fired-up “culture wars”. It doesn’t matter. They are on the wrong side of this argument. They lose.

    In a few decades, my simple hope is that the sorts of people who reject evolution will have been selected out of positions of leadership and influence by their demonstrated lack of competence and by educational filtering, as you pointed out. Deep down, I hope that the same happens to all believers in fundamentalist flavors of religion, for the same reason. However, there is nothing I can do to promote that. The same is not true for the fight to teach science. That is a fight I think we’ll win.

    But I won’t see it as a “victory” for “our side”. Just as you explained above, all we want is for reality to line up with public education [and sentiment, but that's too much to ask].

    What I will see it as is just human beings doing the same thing they have for centuries — fighting about religious beliefs and struggling to preserve them against the scientific revolution and modernism. They lose, but we don’t win, because this has slowed human progress, and fueled a resurgence to religious fundamentalism — and so we all lose.

  164. #165 BC
    November 24, 2006

    Is this thread still going on? This is such a he-said, she-said, I’m going to ignore your larger point and attack the way your said it, I said it but didn’t mean it the way it sounded, tangental, self-contradictory, derailed thread I’ve seen in a long time. If I felt like pointing out all the problems with people’s comments, it would take too much space and just cause another stupid firestorm. Besides, I’m sure it would quickly be misunderstood and altered several times over anyway.

    What, did the recent schism at AIG get everyone jealous?

    South Park seems oddly prescient (see 5:30-6:10).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV6Lh_gtD8o

  165. #166 valhar2000
    November 24, 2006

    Sciencebloggers: you have achieved a level of pedantic inanity in this debate that I had never had the misfortune to witness before.

  166. #167 Markus
    November 24, 2006

    PZ and Ed are my top 2 bloggers.

  167. #168 mah9
    November 24, 2006

    Although this seems a bit too personal for my tastes (I’m uncomfortable with reducing deabates on anything to personal insults), at least the matter is debated in public and is hence visible to all, rather than behind closed doors and only announced when the preacher that wins comes forward.

    Slightly OT, but this (to my mind) seems even more worrying. Training children in prophecy etc and telling them that they will become missionaries before they can make that choice for themselves is just plain wrong. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/main.jhtml?xml=/health/2006/11/18/ftjesus18.xml

  168. #169 Chris Ho-Stuart
    November 24, 2006

    PZ and Ed are my top 2 bloggers.

    Funny that. It’s the same for me. Paul is at the top of my list; Ed comes next. After that, in no particular order, there’s John Lynch (who is more sensible than either Ed or Paul on this particular neverending topic) Olduvai George, John Wilkins, John Hawks, Carl Zimmer, Bad Astronomer, Cosmic Variance and a few others. But Ed and Paul are the easy top two.

    Cheers — Chris

  169. #170 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 24, 2006

    Funny.

    I was going to comment on what I percieved as a lack in perspective on free speech and diversity on this thread. But Bryson Brown has already made those points with far more detail and eloquence than I can.

    So I will switch to the post-analysis Daniel Morgan started:

    I am sure lots of merry thickheads in the IDC community will be posting lots of gems on this stuff in the next few days.

    Quotemining and argument-perversion is their wont, and it will be easy this time since the issues were fuzzified and crosstalked by many.

    One argument they could drive is that religion is an item of conflict. But since it was so obvious that Brayton, Matzke et cetera extended their attacks from Moran’s snide remark on the futility of remedial classes for creationists and an efficient solution for that to the free expression of atheism I don’t think they will get far. Arguing religion is also contraproductive for ID – I expect the YEC/OEC nuts will rant a lot more.

  170. #171 Phunicular
    November 24, 2006

    In our battle against butchers
    (who survive on lies and lectures to the vulnerable–
    vultures who misquote to float conjectures)
    we should criticize the creatures
    who with nonsense-tolerant natures
    blame the blokes who pull no punches…

    Due Respect

  171. #172 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    For anyone with eyes to see, what this whole flap demonstrates is which side the “moderate” theists and concern-troll soi-disant atheists will always be found on whenever the struggle between sense and nonsense heats up. They appear not to understand just how much they’re revealing about themselves.

    I didn’t have the patience to scroll through the whole thread to find out from whom the following comment originally came, but whoever first said this was right on the money:

    Now, what is this winning strategy that Ed’s Team is pushing? It seems to be more of the same, the stuff that we’ve been doing for 80 years, accommodating the watering down of science teaching to avoid conflict with religious superstition…the strategy that has led to a United States where a slim majority opposes the idea of evolution, and we’re left with nothing but a struggle in the courts to maintain the status quo.

    I don’t know why this is so hard to understand. We are not winning. We are clinging to tactics that rely on legal fiat to keep nonsense out of the science classroom, while a rising tide of uninformed, idiotic anti-science opinion, tugged upwards by fundamentalist religious fervor, cripples science education. Treading water is not a winning strategy. I’m glad we’re not sinking, and I applaud the deserving legal efforts that have kept us afloat, but come on, people, this isn’t winning.

    The members of the Maginot Line garrison have whined that people like PZ and Larry Moran haven’t been actively involved in their rear-guard defense. I would turn that around and ask them what they have been doing to help stem the rising tide of irrationality to which the commenter quoted above correctly points.

  172. #173 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    It’s a long article and a long thread, so I’ll forgive you for not noticing that that came directly from the article.

  173. #174 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    My apologies, I’m embarassed not to have noticed that, but again, you were right on the money.

  174. #175 Tristram Shandy
    November 24, 2006

    Orac:

    Do tell, though. How, specifically, have I been “less than honest”?

    You, previously:

    So you’re saying that your goal isn’t to attack and destroy religion by any means possible? That’s interesting. I can’t speak for the others Ed lumped into that group, but, quite frankly, having read your blog for nearly two years now, your apparent denial that that’s your goal comes as somewhat of a surprise to me. And you yourself just said in your own post above:

    First, I want better science teaching in the schools, and that is the mechanism I propose to defeat religion.

    You took wrenched that line out of its surrounding context and pretended as if it were support for Ed Brayton’s claim that Dr. Myers wants to attack and destroy religion “by an means necessary”. You ignored the following paragraph in the initial post which said:

    Second, I’d really like to know how I’m supposed to be fighting this “war on religion”. Are there guns involved? Because I don’t like violence. Am I supposed to be pushing to legislate what people are allowed to believe? Because I don’t think that’s possible, and if it were, I’d oppose it even more strongly than violence. As near as I can tell, the way I’ve been fighting this “war” is to express my opinions as loudly and clearly as possible, and encourage other like-minded people to openly state their positions as well. I also insist that beliefs about religion should not be a litmus test used to discriminate against people (there is, of course, a great deal of self-interest there, since non-Christian beliefs are the ones discriminated against most). When people declare that they oppose my strategy in the “war against religion”, that’s what I hear them opposing.

    So Dr. Myers would oppose the use of violence or legislative coercion. In fact, he’s only proposing to defeat religion by one means, not any means, and that is through persuasion and better education.

    He then follows it up with his first comment in this ongoing thread saying:

    Yes. Teach people to think, and let ‘em make up their own minds. I’m confident that more, if we strip away the lies and propaganda of religion, will make a sensible decision. And if they don’t, well, there isn’t anything more I can do. We’ll just have to chalk it up to people’s inherent irrationality. [emphasis mine]

    I can understand your unwillingness to deal with this quoted matter, however. Rephrasing Brayton’s claim to “Dr. Myers wants to defeat religion only through education and persuasion and will admit defeat if he’s not successful in that endeavor” doesn’t give much scope to sanctimonious scolds like you and Brayton.

  175. #176 Tristram Shandy
    November 24, 2006

    This is a long thread, but nobody’s quite captured what I have to say so I’m putting my two cents in.

    First off, Larry Moran is factually wrong on one point, though not so egregiously as the execrable Casey Luskin (who is, sadly, a fellow UCSD alumnus).

    While an evolutionary biology class is apparently required of Sixth College biology majors, it is has nothing to do with the Robert Pennock lecture. Instead, it will be a full class which was taught by Dr. Trevor Price when I was there. The Pennock lecture is not required of all UCSD freshmen, not even of all freshmen at Sixth College, but only first quarter Culture, Arts, and Technology-track freshmen at Sixth College, although it is also open to the public and all students from Sixth are encouraged to attend.

    I’m not sure if Sixth is intended to be the new science-emphasis college. Back when I attended, that was the emphasis of Revelle College (where I got an undergrad degree in biochem and cell biology) and Sixth was being built and was just getting started when I left. In any case, a 40% incoming class which believes in creationism is worrisome, but not quite as much as if Sixth is being touted as the college for science majors.

    My approach to intelligent design is summed up in an adage from medical school: “When you see hoofprints in the dirt, look for horses before zebras.” Or if you have a set of facts, go for the mundane causes rather than the exotic causes. In the case of creationists, they bypass horses and zebras and run straight to unicorns. Theistic evolutionists and the non-theistic concern trolls say “Well, we obviously can’t have a science based on unicorns, but here’s a guy who will convince the unicorn-faithful that science isn’t necessarily opposed to their faith by proposing a horse running through the dirt with a unicorn balanced on its back.” Then someone like PZ Myers, Larry Moran comes along and says “Wait a minute! What do we get out of incorporating unicorns into our science at all?” and the supporters of the unicorn-horse pas de deuz rise up and threaten to drive them out by bell, book, and candle. It’s incredibly petty and inane.

    And it does nothing for those outside of the theistic evolution-supporter fold who are looking in. They cannot seriously expect me to hitch science to a position which can only be sustained if it’s not subjected to the withering glare of scrutiny. In fact, if I am being forced to choose teams, I’ll be part of the team which says nothing is beyond criticism and analysis, either within science or without.

  176. #177 JamesR
    November 24, 2006

    There is no room to allow religious belief and faith to influence scientific understanding. The two should never meet. Let people believe what they will but leave science to scientists. Afterall if the religious really want a say and opinion in scientific matters then I say we claim the same right in religious matters. If they want a say about how scinece is taught and what the standards should be then I am of the opinion that we as scientists need to assert our rights to verify god and determine the standards of belief.

    Lets start today. Any of you religious care to submit your beliefs to me so that I can determine the real standards that you should have so that I too can believe. I do not believe because you believe in the “unbelievable”. However I would love to help you verify all of it.

    On topic. The idea of education is to educate. If students don’t meet the standards then they need remediation. Not everyone comes to class fully prepared. A good university education will educate according to the highest standards. And unfortunately remediation is part of those standards. What we really need is accountability at the high school level. Never should anything but science be taught in science class and never should the standards be lowered to include any controversy.

  177. #178 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    Tristram Shandy: “In fact, he’s only proposing to defeat religion by one means, not any means, and that is through persuasion and better education.”

    Yet Myers sides with a man who kidded on the square about advocating a policy that would have the effect of denying access to better education.

  178. #179 Tristram Shandy
    November 24, 2006

    So it’s possible to flunk people at UCSD without having them admitted first?

    Today, I really do feel cut off from the old school.

  179. #180 plunge
    November 24, 2006

    “PZ and Ed are my top 2 bloggers.”

    Yep, me too. I wonder if either of them would find that to be bizarre?

  180. #181 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    Tristram Shandy: “So it’s possible to flunk people at UCSD without having them admitted first?”

    From the horse’s, um, mouth:

    I agree with the Dembski sycophants that UCSD should not have required their uneducated students to attend remedial classes. Instead, they should never have admitted them in the first place.….[emphasis mine]

    It is after stating that these students shouldn’t have been admitted that he goes on to say that students in the remedial classes–the ones that Moran thinks shouldn’t have been admitted in the first place–should just have been flunked to make room for “smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.”

    As Brayton and mgjsslt pointed out, Moran was mistaken in his belief that students who believed in ID as teenagers did not “have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education,” so Moran’s idea basically amounted to insuring that fewer creationists would have a chance learn the errors of their ways.

  181. #182 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    Ramsey, let’s hear your principled defense of admitting unqualified students to 4-year research universities. The rash of remedial course at such institutions is ridiculous and notoriously wasteful. Such students should first attend a community college to get up to speed.

  182. #183 Milo Johnson
    November 24, 2006

    “The idea of education is to educate. If students don’t meet the standards then they need remediation. Not everyone comes to class fully prepared. A good university education will educate according to the highest standards. And unfortunately remediation is part of those standards.”

    Nope, sorry. I became a college professor because I wanted to teach advanced science, not remedial English and arithmetic. If a student is unprepared for college, it’s their own fault. Primary schools offer the information they need, and education is a two-way street. If students choose to not pay attention in class, to slough off doing the basic work, never crack a book, whether a textbook or a book from the library, and think that the policy of “social promotion” that many schools seem to have shows that they successfully completed their education, it is not incumbent upon me to rectify that. Many parents these days are raising incurious and education-dismissive children, and there is no absolute right that they have to be incurious and illiterate and yet still to attend college. Actions have consequences, and if your actions in school do not permit you to attend college, too bad. Nobody is restricted to entering college at age eighteen and if anyone is really that motivated, all they have to do is go to the library and spend a few years reading several hundred books which might correct many of their deficiencies, after which they might be able to persuade a small college to test them and perhaps accept them. There’s no guarantee, but there isn’t one for anybody else, either. It may be a bit Ayn Randian, but I offer my knowledge on my own terms, and I will gladly quit teaching the moment I am required to spoonfeed the unmotivated because someone thinks it is their “right” to harness me to their own ends.

  183. #184 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    Like I said, this is a real debate, and it is not “authoritarian dogmatism” for a university to wrestle with these issue. I previously worked at a U where there was a strong commitment in the mission of the school to provide an educational service to the region and to give opportunities to those who wouldn’t otherwise have them (look up Temple and the “Acres of Diamonds” story to see what I mean). It was a major strain. I had kids show up who planned to graduate and go to med school who could barely read and had almost no academic discipline at all. There were great successes, but there was also the routine of failure, and it all sucked up immense amounts of effort.

    There are many things we should demand that the high schools do if we’re going to admit their students. There are also things we should demand that high schools do for students who won’t be going to college. I put evolution in the latter category, because we can cope with freshman who don’t know much biology (although such deficient students are behind and will have a harder time of it, so parents should be pushing their schools to do a better job). But I really don’t object if a university were to say that a student needs to master a certain set of core concepts or skills in order to graduate, or even to be admitted. That’s the way it has to be. College is not high school or junior high school.

  184. #185 mgjsslt
    November 24, 2006

    Please, Mr. LaBonne, allow me.

    In High School, I took every math and science course available, and graduated in the top ten of my graduating class. I was studious, dedicated, a skilled writer and speaker, and every element of my academic record reflected that.

    But I had been lied to on one issue. That makes me unqualified to speak on the matter of evolution with authority (but what 17-year old IS qualified to discuss evolutionary biology in any serious manner) but it makes me a pretty good candidate for education, which is the process by which we learn the material. At the end of my first year, I took it upon myself to learn more about the debate. I read several books on the subject. That’s when I learned I had been lied to.

    I haven’t taken a single remedial class, and I had all the skills needed to keep up and excell at the university level. If I hadn’t, you’d certainly be justified in throwing me out. But in High School, I was deceived by a teacher, a person hired to teach science, who’d been teaching biology for decades, and whom I genuinely thought would know what he was talking about. For that, for trusting a teacher, I should have been kept out, regardless of my abilities, dedication, or accomplishments? Over a single such issue, and an honest lack of the full picture?

    There are two types of creationist/IDer/etc. out there (okay, there are more like two hundred… but let me focus on two). There are the Behes, Dembskis, Hovinds and Hams, who have shut their minds completely (and flunk them, by all means), and there are the rank and file ‘dupes’ who believe the former because they haven’t looked at the issue with perhaps the amount of attention it deserves. I concede to you that at the age of 17, I was duped. I admit I didn’t think to fact-check my teachers on this, instead trusting they knew the material, and I see now why trusting even a professional educator blindly is a mistake (though one I suspect we all made in our teenage days).

    But I had demonstrated significant enough potential to get recommendation letters from teachers, and to win two entrance scholarships. I passed the admission requirements because I showed the skills neccessary. I would have failed the litmus test because I was wrong on one issue for trusting the wrong person, but we’re fighting creationism because we KNOW students are going to listen to these people, especially their biology teachers, on biology matters.

    It’s dangerous to think everyone who doesn’t hold the correct view is incapable of learning. And that’s the problem I have with the suggestion we should flunk people for having an incorrect view from an institution of learning without looking at their abilities.

    (and to preempt the criticism, yes, I realize Moran believes in flunking those who’ve closed their minds to evolution, not the merely misguided. But how would that actually happen? Asking ‘Do you believe in evolution?’ and using that as your acid test doesn’t tell you what you need to know. The two are ideologically distinct, but practically indistinguishable)

    Hmm… It appears I ramble. I apologize.

  185. #186 plunge
    November 24, 2006

    The real problem is that college admissions have next to nothing to do with things like loftier goals for a better educated populace or what professors want to teach. They are all about the school’s financial situation and reputation. Academic excellence is a means to an end, not an end, and there are many many other factors that swamp it out.

    Take sports in many top division colleges and even some not so top ones: they have become so separate from the school that maintaining the fiction that many of the athletes are actually going to college is often pretty hard to maintain. The whole thing is bizarre. And yet, they bring in so much money that they can’t just be gotten rid or or scaled back (though they also consume a heck of a lot of money as well).

  186. #187 NeoLotus
    November 24, 2006

    PZ, you might want to take a gander at John Dean’s book “Conservatives Without Conscience” or at least look up Altemeyer’s work on “right-wing authoritarians” and “social dominance orientation.”

    This will go far in helping you understand their psychology rather than blather about bewilderedly by asking “Are we on Bizarro Earth or something?”

    Dean’s book is actually an important work on what has happened to our political and social landscape. It also provides clues for what to do about it if you can wrap your mind around the fact that there are many people who don’t do well without SOMETHING to anchor their lives on.

    They are indeed ignorant in many respects, but they are spot on when it comes to knowing that the rug has been pulled out from under them and need something to grab onto, even if what they grab onto are absolutist demogogues.

    The overturning of our social, civic, and spiritual values by the merchant class is what you need to look at a lot more closely, in addition to Altemeyer’s work and Dean’s use of it in regards to the sociopaths who seek power at any and all costs.

  187. #188 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    It’s dangerous to think everyone who doesn’t hold the correct view is incapable of learning.

    Learn to read, and stop changing the subject to nonsense that’s ony going on in your own head. The issue is whether students with a clearly deficient background in science should be taking up places in the science courses of a Research I university and forcing that instition to teach remedial classes that are clearly outside its real mission, given that such students, whether or not you’re bright enough to recognize the fact, simply are not equipped to benefit from the university’s regular academic program. Did I say that they should be denied a higher education? I most certainly did not- I said they should first make up their academic deficiencies at an institution that is actually designed to do a better job of that than the university is- whereupon, having completed that task, they would be more than welcome to apply for transfer to the university and to earn their degree from the latter.

  188. #189 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    P.S. And I’m happy that your experience went well, but remember that anecdote is not the plural of data. You are greatly outnumbered by the kids who flounder. Indeed, you ought to check the statistics on the graduation rates at major public universities. With few exceptions, they ain’t pretty, and by far the biggest leak in the pipeline is in the frist year or two. Also, a little googling should give you a wealth of information on the every-growing problem of research universities being forced to teach more and more remdial courses to unprepared students. Accepting such students not only overburdens the university, but even more importantly sends the wrong message to the K-12 system about the current quality of its output.

    And you would have been harmed not at all had you been asked to follow the path I outlined.

  189. #190 Jason
    November 24, 2006

    If Dr. Myers’ “strategy” to improve science education (i.e. to deny admittance to all incoming freshmen who don’t fully endorse evolutionary theory) were in place in the late 1980′s, I would not have ever earned my multiple degrees in the biological sciences, become a professional biologist, or become a strong advocate of science education (including evolutionary biology).

    You see, unfortunately in a lot of places throughout the US, incoming freshmen haven’t had much of an education in evolution, and have instead been exposed to a large amount of creationist propaganda. So while they might not be “creationists”, they might come in harboring some doubts about the validity of evolution and common descent. But it’s not because they’re incompetent (as Dr. Myers suggests, “I think it is entirely reasonable for a university to say, for instance, that you need to be able to read with a certain level of competency“; it’s solely a result of their background and upbringing. And oftentimes, once such people enter into the biological sciences at the university level, they quickly learn that evolutionary theory is supported by the data and creationism is falsified by it. I’m living testimony of that.

    Interestingly, at one point Dr. Myers seems to recognize this effect when he states, “Educated people tend to shed religious beliefs more readily, or adopt religious beliefs that do not conflict with reality.“.

    Ok, so we agree that the more educated a person is, the more likely they are to question and alter their religious beliefs. Now, that would logically seem to suggest that in order to combat religious fundamentalism and its influence on science education, we should do whatever we can to educate the religious. But apparently, Dr. Myers would take the opposite approach, i.e. deny access to higher education to those who don’t come in already fully endorsing evolutionary theory.

    Bizarro world indeed.

  190. #191 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    Steve LaBonne: “Ramsey, let’s hear your principled defense of admitting unqualified students to 4-year research universities. The rash of remedial course at such institutions is ridiculous and notoriously wasteful. Such students should first attend a community college to get up to speed.”

    A creationist high school graduate is not necessarily deficient in the same way as someone who is bad at math. It is possible to know all the following and still be a creationist:

    * How DNA encodes for proteins, i.e. the roles of codons, transfer RNA, ribosomal RNA, etc.
    * How cells metabolize glucose and make ATP
    * How the circulatory system works
    * How the respiratory system works

    I could go on. In fact, a biology teacher can teach all those things correctly and then go on to say, “Isn’t this all too complex to have just evolved?” In short, a high school could actually do a good job of teaching its students the brute facts needed to be prepared for more advanced biology courses in college, but spin the facts as to favor ID. Remedial community college courses are not designed to fix that problem.

  191. #192 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    But apparently, Dr. Myers would take the opposite approach, i.e. deny access to higher education At this point this matter has been discussed more than suffieciently that you have no excuse not to know this is completly false. You owe an apology for your utterly shameless lying.

  192. #193 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    Jason wrote:

    Ok, so we agree that the more educated a person is, the more likely they are to question and alter their religious beliefs. Now, that would logically seem to suggest that in order to combat religious fundamentalism and its influence on science education, we should do whatever we can to educate the religious. But apparently, Dr. Myers would take the opposite approach, i.e. deny access to higher education to those who don’t come in already fully endorsing evolutionary theory.

    What if the task of teaching the central and most fundamental discovery of biology and one of the most glorious truths unearthed by science is not an appropriate task for “higher education”? In a just world, such knowledge would be given away for free, starting in elementary school.

    PZ Myers has stated, if I understood correctly, that the college environment is not the appropriate one for what he considers remedial education. Having to support so many remedial classes overloads the university infrastructure, he claims. I suspect that the exact extent to which this is true depends upon the university and its particular situation, but in general, this position sounds reasonable.

    When I go to the dentist, a hygienist does the relatively routine job of cleaning my teeth before the actual dentist comes out to perform the more complicated task of checking how many holes I’ve managed to rot in them. Likewise, we would be very dismayed if we found a hospital where the brain surgeons were required to mop the toilet stalls! I don’t want to denigrate anyone’s job here. On the contrary, I want to emphasize that all of these jobs are necessary for the smooth functioning of the whole.

    I suspect that PZ believes having four-year universities teach remedial biology is like taking the hygienists and assistants away from the poor dentists and having them do each job themselves. Yes, “we should do whatever we can to educate the religious”, but on practical grounds, this is the wrong place to go about that!

    All the more reason to push for better science education at the younger levels, of course, where we can perhaps arrange resources adequate to the task. Those are the students who are (or should be) already studying the fundamentals of science, and they are the ones whose curricula need reform the most badly.

  193. #194 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    Sorry, JJ Ramsey., no cigar. Anyone genuinely familiar with the higher education system from the inside would be aware that good community colleges typically are much better than Research I institutions at teaching intro courses- their class sizes are much smaller, and their faculty are selected for teaching ability. Basically, you’re ignorantly insulting a large number of qualified and dedicated community college professors. Because, to repeat, no student is harmed by starting at a community college and transferring to a 4-year institution. (Increasingly, indeed, qualified students are voluntarily going this route to cut down on their expenses.) It’s the latter institution, after all, that will end up awarding their degree.

  194. #195 Jason
    November 24, 2006

    Dr. Myers expresses astonishment and asks, “what is wrong with those academics who are aghast at Moran’s proposal?

    And what was “Moran’s proposal” (emphasis mine)?

    I agree with the Dembski sycophants that UCSD should not have required their uneducated students to attend remedial classes. Instead, they should never have admitted them in the first place…The University should just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.

  195. #196 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    Jason, are you so stupid you don’t realize- or so dishonest you hope nobody reading your drivel will remember- that students who can’t cut it at one university have almost infinite chances to make good at another institution better suited to their needs? Again, nobody is suggesting that access to higher education be cut off- not even Moran in semi-jest.

  196. #197 Jason
    November 24, 2006

    Blake,

    In a general sense, I agree. However, the topic here is not an understanding of evolutionary biology, but acceptance of it.

    I’m not a Bible-believing Christian, but I guarantee you I could pass a test on the Bible.

    Steve LaBonne,

    Apparently, you are unable to engage in discussion or debate in an adult manner. I have better things to do with my time than try and hold a conversation with the guy on the street corner frothing at the mouth and calling everyone names.

  197. #198 Steve LaBonne
    November 24, 2006

    Indeed I don’t “discuss” anything with unrepentant liars. It’s a waste of time. And you clearly are lying at this point, since the falsity of your claim has been repeatedly pointed out and explained.

  198. #199 Gary Hurd
    November 24, 2006

    My My My.

    I tend to some other interests for a few days and all Hell breaks lose. Ed Brayton, as usual, is throwing accusations around trying to seem important. One of his more absurd statements is;

    But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

    First, I am flattered to be mentioned together with Moran, Myers and Dawkins, but it is totally inappropriate. I have at best a tiny fraction of the scientific accomplishments of these men, or their public influence. Brayton has never contributed to science or education and has comparatively little influence, so this is clearly a “division by zero” problem.

    Nor have I ever considered it necessary to eliminate religion, regardless of means. I don’t think that science can do this in any event. The only certain path to atheism I know of is to study theology.

    Let me propose a simple analogy; the pro-science education effort is like a dog. There is the wagging tail at one end, and the bark and even teeth at the other. PZ, Dawkins and others are at the front. Pat, Nick and others are the friendly, inclusive wagging tail and Ed Brayton is the little part just below the wag. I’m the little flee whispering that if you don’t want to divide forces, then ignore divicive people like Ed who demand that you have to be on “his” side and don’t step in the mess he leaves on the floor.

  199. #200 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    Steve LaBonne: “Anyone genuinely familiar with the higher education system from the inside would be aware that good community colleges typically are much better than Research I institutions at teaching intro courses”

    As I pointed out before, this isn’t simply a matter of teaching introductory biology as a remedial course, since a prospective student can have a good grounding in introductory biology and still be a creationist. In such a case, a remedial biology course would not teach the student much that was new to him or her. What is needed here are opportunities to see just how wrong ID is, and an introductory biology course is too general to provide that.

    Note, by the way, that what Moran described as a remedial course was a lecture specifically aimed at ID, not a mere introductory biology course. I doubt not only that community colleges provide an anti-ID class as a matter of course, but also that a creationist student would seek such a class out.

  200. #201 Blake Stacey
    November 24, 2006

    Jason wrote:

    Blake,

    In a general sense, I agree. However, the topic here is not an understanding of evolutionary biology, but acceptance of it.

    I’m not a Bible-believing Christian, but I guarantee you I could pass a test on the Bible.

    I’m an out-and-out atheist, and I could probably do pretty well on a Bible exam too. My knowledge of Biblical lore grew from my interests in history and literature, but I was an atheist before I became an amateur theologian. I knew the arguments in favor of punctuated equilibrium years before I could tell the difference between the J and P documents or explain why Isaiah 7:14 should not be interpreted as a Messianic prophecy.

    The tao of atheism does not lie in nitpicking the details of Biblical criticism, nor in counting the number of cherubim and seraphim which can form a conga line on the head of a pin. If any portion of theology is relevant, it is the philosophical heritage of Hume and others who punctured the notions of First Causes, Watchmakers and so forth. The rest, the Biblical lore, comes from valuing the study of human history.

    It takes very little time for a good biology teacher to dispense with the standard creationist canards. Teaching the clear and simple refutations of these antiscientific arguments may well become a requirement for introductory science educators; in any case, they often mesh nicely with a historical discussion of how our understanding of evolution came about. An honest person, with a functioning mind — not in such short supply as one might fear! — would have little trouble realizing that the rest of creationism is the same kind of bunk as the central tenets just demolished.

  201. #202 Keith Douglas
    November 24, 2006

    Bryson Brown: “Evolutionary theism” – such as the anti-neuroscience view of the Catholics? What then?

  202. #203 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    J.J. Ramsey: yes, what it would take is a comprehensive course in the issues of creationism, or a good solid course in the concepts of evolutionary biology that took pains to address the common errors. This is hard. We only have four years to have students complete all of our core curriculum in biology, which includes cell, molecular, genetics, and ecology, a collection of biology electives, and all of the general education requirements for a bachelor’s degree. It’s easy to say “add a course”, but there ain’t no room. We just rejiggered our biology curriculum, and it was no fun: we were trying to pare down the number of required courses, rearrange some of the others to make sure students still all came out of here with the essential basics, and trying to make sure that they’d also get exposed to microbiology, botany, systematics, etc.

    We’re full up. We can’t do remedial classwork, unless we want to tell students it’s going to take 5 years to finish their degree, minimum. Often times the students are willing — they can appreciate that it would make life less hellish if they could take a year to get caught up — but parents would squawk, and if parents squawk, the administration comes after us with blood in their eye.

    I’ll also add that one of the metrics those administrators are very fond of is the four or five year graduation rate — what percentage of our students get out of here in time. UMM has a very good four year grad rate, I think it’s the highest in the UM system. If biology, one of the largest majors on our campus, announced that we’d decided to demand a little extra time to fulfill our discipline requirements…man, I’d want to be away on sabbatical that year, to avoid the axes.

  203. #204 mgjsslt
    November 24, 2006

    Maybe I can make myself more clear.

    Assume, Mr. LaBonne, that you have infinite power over who gets in and who stays out of your own private university. You can accept students who learned to regurgitate facts that are correct and keep out those that regurgitate facts that are incorrect, or you can accept those that show learning and reasoning skills despite not having a full awareness of an issue and reject those that practice the art of regurgitating pre-memorized facts instead.

    Which of the two do you beleive will work better?

    Which is the bigger defficiency, and which is responsible for more dropouts: The practice of teaching a kid to spit out pre-memorized facts with no understanding (in order to get better short-term test scores), or teaching a kid to look at concepts and try to understand ideas, even if they occasionally get something wrong? Especially if their error was the result of bad starting data? Which of the two students, do you suppose, is better equipped to learn in a university setting? Which will drop out because they never learned how to function academically beyond memorization? When schools teach how to function intellectually, rather than a list of things to say when asked pre-defined questions, I suspect university profs will have a much easier time in the classroom, and a better success rate to boot.

    Now ask yourself what the effect of a ‘Do you believe in evolution’ question would be. Would it weed out the ones who learned to say evolution is good without knowing why? Or would it weed out the ones who learn and understand from concepts and ideas, but sometimes get a fact wrong? That’s all I’m looking for here; a simple acknowledgement that honest people make mistakes, can catch themselves and can correct them, and that the priority should therefore be on something besides a ‘belief checklist’ and more on a ‘can person X figure things out for himself’. I’m not even asking for remedial courses, since a person able to think for themselves, when he sees signs he was mistaken, will be able to go back and review new material himself. If he can’t, then he won’t be able to keep up, and that’s his fault. I could, that’s how I justify being here. Not just because I changed views.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’d like students that are capable of going beyond blind regurgitation. Sure, it may take some extra readings and personal time in the bookstore (which need not come out of class time at all) to get them up to speed on an issue as complex as evolution can be, and yes, it means the occasional misguided one that will need some correction, but parroting facts or positions blindly is supposed to be the other side’s claim to fame.

    I know you’re trying to defend high standards here, and ensure students get in who can cut it, but this is not a good system for separating one from the other. I’m not making excuses for stupidity, and I’m taking responsibility for believing bullshit at the age of 16-17. I’m saying let’s look at learning ability, not memorization ability. And that’s the element of the ‘do you believe in evolution’ question that’s missing, that, say, ‘describe how natural selection on an individual is believed to affect a population’s genome’ contains.

    Why don’t we try, just for a change, getting away from the idea that higher learning = memorizing more, and keep the pressure on ability to reason, not regurgitate? We can be just as stringent that way with our criteria, maybe even more.

    (again, to preempt criticism: I’m well aware you’re not advocating an all-memorizing strategy for evolution. I’m suggesting that this will be the effect of a ‘Do you believe in evolution’ question, whether you advocate that result or not.)

  204. #205 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    Is somebody actually advancing the idea that we should have a “belief checklist” for admitting students? Because that sure isn’t on my agenda.

    I’ve had a few creationist students in my intro classes. It isn’t a problem. We spell out that the course isn’t about what they have to believe, but what they understand, and that’s all that matters. They either master that and succeed (and I don’t have a clue about whether they still “believe” in creationism when they graduate), or they refuse to address the evidence, turn in papers that puke up recycled drivel from Kent Hovind, and fail.

  205. #206 fusilier
    November 24, 2006

    Funny, but the name Kerensky and the epithet “Menshevik” come to mind.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  206. #207 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    PZ Meyers: “Is somebody actually advancing the idea that we should have a ‘belief checklist’ for admitting students?”

    Yes! That is exactly what Moran is effectively proposing by suggesting that creationist students should not be admitted. And if you had paid attention to what Brayton had written instead of distorting it, you’d have noticed that’s precisely what Brayton was saying as well.

    PZ Meyers: “I’ve had a few creationist students in my intro classes. It isn’t a problem. We spell out that the course isn’t about what they have to believe, but what they understand, and that’s all that matters. They either master that and succeed (and I don’t have a clue about whether they still “believe” in creationism when they graduate), or they refuse to address the evidence, turn in papers that puke up recycled drivel from Kent Hovind, and fail.”

    Good. That is exactly how it should be. If the stories of Brayton and mgjsslt are any indication, you have probably unmade more creationists than you realize.

    Interestingly enough, the whole idea of there being a remedial course being involved is Moran’s, not Brayton’s. Moran was the one who called Pennock’s lecture against ID a remedial course. I certainly did not see Brayton suggest that there be special remedial courses for creationists.

  207. #208 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    I’d rather not pay attention to what Brayton said, since he seems to have a habit of distorting comments himself. I looked at what Moran said, directly. Here it is:

    I agree with the Dembski sycophants that UCSD should not have required their uneducated students to attend remedial classes. Instead, they should never have admitted them in the first place.

    I don’t see anything about a “belief checklist”, or anything about beliefs at all. I see that uneducated students shouldn’t be admitted. He later expanded it to say this:

    If students entering university have already made up their minds that evolution should be rejected, then that’s a serious problem. It’s not a question of ignorance.

    I’m afraid I agree with all of that. Students who can’t show that they’ve learned something in their prior education or who actively reject good science shouldn’t be admitted to my university until they’ve made the effort to correct their shortcomings.

    Where did this idea that Moran was suggesting we kick out students who merely express a stupid idea come from?

    Oh. Brayton.

    Yet Moran is here suggesting that universities expel every 18 year old who holds a single position that he considers stupid.

    You will note that Moran suggested no such thing, nor do I.

  208. #209 Caledonian
    November 24, 2006

    How peculiar – Mr. Orac seems to have become awfully quiet all of a sudden.

  209. #210 Pierce R. Butler
    November 24, 2006

    My Pharyngula browsing is admittedly incomplete. Can someone direct me to, or summarize, whatever previous episode(s) generated such bad blood that Myers seems – atypically – unable to mention Brayton without a double ration of ad hominem whacks?

    After reading just about all (except the expressly supercilious) postings in this thread, I’m a bit bemused that the problem epitomized by Jonathan Wells, PhD, has yet to be addressed. If a top university can award a high degree to someone whose primary talent is, apparently, regurgitation, while showing no signs of having (ahem) digested what he’s ingested, then perhaps the problems with standards & goals of upper-level science education go far beyond the wording of entrance exams and mandatory lectures.

  210. #211 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    I’d rather not pay attention to what Brayton said, since he seems to have a habit of distorting comments himself.

    You mean the comment where you claim that you were joking when you said, “this idea that godlessness is evil…an idea that Brayton seems determined to perpetuate.” The tone of that comment was certainly sarcastic, but it was hardly clear that you did not really mean that Brayton wasn’t perpetrating the “immoral atheist” stereotype. (Indeed the comment itself wasn’t too clear in general.) Neither Orac nor Sastra picked up on your irony.

    I looked at what Moran said, directly.

    So did I. It’s not too hard to figure out from the tone of his post that “uneducated students” was a sneering way of referring to students who were creationists when they came out of high school, and those were the people Moran said should never have been admitted.

    Where did this idea that Moran was suggesting we kick out students who merely express a stupid idea come from?

    Actually, the idea was that Moran was suggesting we kick out students who merely hold a “a single position that he [Moran] considers stupid,” with the “single position” in question being creationism. And where did that idea come from? Here:

    Having made that mistake, it’s hopeless to expect that a single lecture–even one by a distinguished scholar like Robert Pennock–will have any effect. The University should just flunk the lot of them and make room for smart students who have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.

    Now to be fair, Moran thinks these students should be flunked because (in contrast to the presumably smart students who accept evolution) they don’t “have a chance of benefiting from a high quality education.” However, he takes it for granted that these students don’t have a chance simply because they are creationists, so it all amounts to him proposing that the students be flunked because of their creationism.

  211. #212 MC
    November 24, 2006

    Honestly, what is with you people? ‘By any means necessary’ was a poor choice of words (something that Ed has himself admitted), and any reasonable person would acknowledge the fact that the writer did not mean this phrase to be taken literally, and likely no one who read it took it literally, either. Yes, that particular phrase has a specific meaning in common usage. In this particular context, it obviously does not carry the connotations of violence, concentration camps or any other absurd example that people have been throwing out. Those of you nitpicking about this little mishap, especially those trying to frame it as a purposeful deception, are overreaching in an attempt to discredit Ed’s opinion, rather than attacking the substance of his ideas. At worst, the phrase was an example of poorly chosen hyperbole, and please… let’s not pretend PZ has never engaged in exaggeration and rhetorical excess himself.

    I respect PZ’s opinions; in fact, it was Pharyngula that drew me to Scienceblogs, after which I began reading Dispatches From The Culture Wars (most of which I also find very, thought-provoking, rational and reasonable). I agree with PZ’s underlying beliefs almost entirely. Religion is an interesting historical and psychological phenomenon. It is also one of the worst, most destructive social memes to ever have an impact on society, in large part because of the extent of that impact. Theistic evolution is a ridiculous idea, and I can’t tell you how happy I would be if all superstition vanished from the earth tomorrow morning. I consider myself not just an atheist, but an extremist atheist – someone who would actively want and strive to eliminate religious belief from public consciousness. (One note: extremist, with all its bad connotations, does not take away from the fact that in a world with many conflicting ideas, each of which has a so-called ‘extreme’, some of these extremes must be correct.) But I can’t condone some of the strident, exaggerated rhetoric and tactics advocated in this forum.

  212. #213 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    That last comment was not an ad hominem. Look it up. This recent flamewar was begun by Brayton with this sudden attack out of the blue on us nasty cranky “fundamentalist atheists” over a remark Moran made. As you can pretty plainly see, Brayton’s criticism was nothing but a distortion — I should have looked at it more closely at the time.

    Wells is a different case than undergrad admissions. Grad students and postdocs are under the tutelage of a much smaller group of faculty, and it’s actually possible to slide through with the approval of an obliging faculty advisor, if that advisor has some influence with the committee (it’s also possible for a grad student to be utterly screwed over by a bad advisor). There’s a fair amount of trust between faculty that if an advisor vouches for his grad student, there’s a lot of reluctance to nay-say him. Part of the check should be that an advisor’s reputation is a bit at stake.

  213. #214 Caledonian
    November 24, 2006

    Why aren’t you condemning the strident, exaggerated rhetoric and tactics of Brayton, MC? He’s the one who has repeatedly misrepresented the positions and statements of others. He’s the one who declared that there were two ‘camps’. Why are you complaining about the reaction here instead of the originating action there?

  214. #215 Tyler DiPietro
    November 24, 2006

    Why aren’t you condemning the strident, exaggerated rhetoric and tactics of Brayton, MC?

    My guess is that he sympathizes more with Ed’s self-righteous condemnation of atheists who dare insist on such things as consistency in scientific reasoning and think theistic evolution is nonsense on a scale only marginally less anti-scientific than IDC. Just a conjecture.

  215. #216 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    PZ Myers: Brayton’s criticism was nothing but a distortion — I should have looked at it more closely at the time.

    Brayton didn’t attribute bad ideas to Moran; Moran came up with them on his own. Actually, Moran admitted that he made a “tongue in check suggestion that students who reject evolution should be flunked, or not admitted to university in the first place,” and then went on to belie that his suggestion was really tongue-in-cheek.

  216. #217 PZ Myers
    November 24, 2006

    Let’s not get into the situation where we start condemning other commenters for being Brayton supporters, OK?

  217. #218 MartinM
    November 24, 2006

    Brayton didn’t attribute bad ideas to Moran; Moran came up with them on his own. Actually, Moran admitted that he made a “tongue in check suggestion that students who reject evolution should be flunked, or not admitted to university in the first place,” and then went on to belie that his suggestion was really tongue-in-cheek

    Nonsense. Moran’s position as actually detailed in his follow-up post is considerably different to the one he made in jest.

  218. #219 Stogoe
    November 24, 2006

    I read Brayton daily, but he’s a bit too in love with his ‘sensible, moderate’ positions to be much more than a blowhard.

  219. #220 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    MartinM: Nonsense. Moran’s position as actually detailed in his follow-up post is considerably different to the one he made in jest.

    Really? What Moran said next:

    If students entering university have already made up their minds that evolution should be rejected, then that’s a serious problem. It’s not a question of ignorance. Those students have made an active decision to choose superstition over science. Given a choice of students to admit into university science programs, I would choose the ones who show some understanding of science over those who reject one [of] the fundamental facts of biology.

    Let’s see now. Students who come out of high school as creationists “have made an active decision to choose superstition over science,” and therefore should be passed over in favor of those who did not “reject one [of] the fundamental facts of biology.” Moran has simply rephrased the idea that he had called tongue in cheek, and made it look more neat and plausible. Unfortunately, like many neat and plausible ideas, it’s still wrong.

  220. #221 MartinM
    November 24, 2006

    Students who come out of high school as creationists “have made an active decision to choose superstition over science,” and therefore should be passed over in favor of those who did not “reject one [of] the fundamental facts of biology.”

    Which is not the same thing as flunking creationists, let alone saying “that the 40% of incoming freshman who didn’t believe in evolution should be expelled,” as Ed stated it. That’s a blatant distortion that requires one to take the original jest at face value while completel yignoring the later clarificatioins. So yes, Ed’s interpretation of Moran’s position is nonsense. Unless you know of some other statements Moran has made which clarify further, and support Ed’s position?

  221. #222 Pierce R. Butler
    November 24, 2006

    That last comment was not an ad hominem.

    It was the first comment mentioning Brayton (“…that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre…”) that could accurately be labeled ad hom – to merit that I’d’ve thought he would’ve had to have emitted some verbal flatulence down at the Lenny Flank yanking-your-chain-for-the-drunken-fun-of-it level.

    And, as a history buff, I’d like to register a protest against Dawkins (& Moran, & Myers) likening attempts to appease the religious with Neville Chamberlain’s screw-up of nearly 70 years ago. Chamberlain, confronted with Hitler’s aggression against Czechoslovakia, had very little choice but to go along: the British public & military were neither willing nor able to resist effectively, nor were there any international institutions able to intervene. (Chamberlain’s tragedy was that he seemed to believe his own blather about German greed having been sated, though at least he did push rearmament and stood firm in 1940, when fighting back was a more practical political/military option.) Hitlerian parallels with present evo-creo (or realo-theo) rhetorical battles are misplaced at best.

    If Dawkins really wants to stir the political cauldron, perhaps he could dub the “compromisers” as Uncle Toms, just as more militant civil rights activists did to accommodationists such as Geo. W. Carver. (NB: I am not recommending that Dawkins play with such matches…)

  222. #223 Pierce R. Butler
    November 24, 2006

    Part of the check should be that an advisor’s reputation is a bit at stake.

    Then, who was that panjandrum of mendacity, Wells’s Harvard advisor?

  223. #224 J. J. Ramsey
    November 24, 2006

    MartinM: “Which is not the same thing as flunking creationists”

    No, but it is the same thing as saying that they should not be admitted. Moran has still screwed the pooch here.

    MartinM: “let alone saying “that the 40% of incoming freshman who didn’t believe in evolution should be expelled,” as Ed stated it. That’s a blatant distortion that requires one to take the original jest at face value while completel yignoring the later clarificatioins.”

    You do have a point, although it is pretty clear that Brayton simply doesn’t buy that Moran was really jesting in the first place. It’s pretty easy to read Moran’s “I was only kidding” defense as an dodge when he affirms a big part of what he said he was jesting about.

  224. #225 Steve LaBonne
    November 25, 2006

    Gee, I go do other things for a few hours and the same liars are still lying about what Meyrs and Moran actually said. What a surprise. Then there’s this gem:

    As I pointed out before, this isn’t simply a matter of teaching introductory biology as a remedial course, since a prospective student can have a good grounding in introductory biology and still be a creationist.

    In the same sense in which one can have a “good grounding” in arithmetic while believing that 2 + 2 = 5. Really, by the time one’s “arguments” have become this desperate one should have the common sense to just shut up. But of course, just as with political pundits, your “moderate, sensible” blowhard never does know when to shut up.

  225. #226 Ichthyic
    November 25, 2006

    Then, who was that panjandrum of mendacity, Wells’s Harvard advisor?

    if you mean Jonathan Wells, professional Mooney and all around insaneophile, then he did his grad work at Berkeley in the Molecular and Cell Bio. dept.

    I know ’cause I was there as a grad student in Zoology at the same time.

    yes, there was quite a bit of consternation behind the scenes about Wells at the time, but hey, he wrote his own ticket (well, the Reverend Moon did, at any rate).

    amazing what money will do for ya, ain’t it? I knwo the profs in the Zoo dept. were pretty miffed about Wells even being at Berkeley as a grad student at all, but they mostly kept their mouths shut about it, even to their own grad students.

  226. #227 Anton Mates
    November 25, 2006

    I think Pierce Butler was thinking of Kurt Wise, who was advised by Gould.

  227. #228 Ichthyic
    November 25, 2006

    ah. I was confused because Wells was also mentioned earlier by PZ, and the case is on point.

  228. #229 Scott Hatfield
    November 25, 2006

    Icthyic: I believe you alluded to this business before in an earlier thread. I’m terribly interested to know more, because of all the creationist goons I know, no one angers me more than Wells. Perhaps it’s because more than any other person he seeks to directly impugn what high school biology teachers (like me) are trying to accomplish.

    Under the circumstances, I think it’s entirely fair game to impugn his credentials and motivations as much as possible, as I believe he misrepresents them almost as much as he misrepresents the science. Anything you could share about his time at Berkeley would be greatly appreciated:

    I hope you will take the time to drop me a line…..epigene13@hotmail.com

  229. #230 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    Steve LaBonne: Then there’s this gem:

    Me: As I pointed out before, this isn’t simply a matter of teaching introductory biology as a remedial course, since a prospective student can have a good grounding in introductory biology and still be a creationist.

    In the same sense in which one can have a “good grounding” in arithmetic while believing that 2 + 2 = 5.

    I noticed that you left out the list of things in biology that one could grasp while still being a creationist, e.g. DNA transcription, etc. Of course, if you did that, it would become obvious that your analogy was a total sham. It’s a category error to liken “2 + 2 = 4″ to evolution. Both are facts, of course. However, arithmetic is fundamental in the sense that one simply cannot do math without it, while evolution is fundamental in the sense that it ties together previously known facts in biology (and several other disciplines) and explains how they relate to one another.

  230. #231 MartinM
    November 25, 2006

    No, but it is the same thing as saying that they should not be admitted

    I think even that is too strong. He’s not saying that creationists shouldn’t be admitted. He’s simply saying that, given a limited number of places and too many applicants, one should preferentially reject the creationists.

    You do have a point, although it is pretty clear that Brayton simply doesn’t buy that Moran was really jesting in the first place. It’s pretty easy to read Moran’s “I was only kidding” defense as an dodge when he affirms a big part of what he said he was jesting about.

    Sure, but I disagree that it’s a particularly big part. I think there’s a very signifcant difference between the first and second posts.

  231. #232 Steve LaBonne
    November 25, 2006

    I noticed that you left out the list of things in biology that one could grasp while still being a creationist, e.g. DNA transcription, etc.

    This again displays your total lack of understanding of what’s at stake. Biology is not a collection of random facts any more than arithmetic is; to make sense it requires an understanding of evolution, its central organizing principle. (Cf. the famous Dobzhansky article title, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”.)

    You thus failed to grasp the significance of my analogy. Thinking that 2 + 2 = 5 is NOT simply a matter of not knowing a single isolated fact. It would only be possible if one does not understand the operation of addition- a far more serious deficit.

  232. #233 Caledonian
    November 25, 2006

    Ah, but Mr. Ramsey’s not a big fan of operational thinking. He much prefers individual, isolated facts – they don’t lead to messy, inconvenient conclusions.

    By the way, where are those coherent, operationalizable defintions of ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ you claimed existed? We’re still waiting for you to present us with the claims that will revolutionize scientific thought.

  233. #234 Steve LaBonne
    November 25, 2006

    And by the way, this is another reason why the Bray(ton)ing moderates shouldn’t be so damn complacent about their famous victories. What they’ve “won”, in most of the country, is a situation in which evolution, as a “controversial” topic, is barely mentioned at all, at any level of the K-12 system- which represents a truly parlous failure of science education in the US. Now this situation is certainly a few degrees better than one in which the public schools purvey active indoctrination in “creation science” or “ID” or some such nonsense, and I am sincerely grateful for the efforts of all those who have helped stave off an even worse situation, but it is hardly a status quo that scientists and those who claim to represent the interests of science should accept. And I agree with PZ that educational efforts on a much larger and more fundamental scale over a much longer time period rather than Dover-type court battles- including the very efforts the “moderates” are so eager to denounce- are the only route to bringing about real change.

    To put it bluntly, Ed Brayton is part of the problem and Richard Dawkins is part is the solution. (Note that Dawkins only wants to fight religious indoctrination but is actually eager to see unbiased, scholarly teaching about religion, as a highly important human phenomenon, in the schools- so that students can in the end make up their own minds. I’d like to hear a principled “moderate” argument against that, but I’m not holding my breath.)

  234. #235 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 25, 2006

    “If Dawkins really wants to stir the political cauldron, perhaps he could dub the “compromisers” as Uncle Toms”

    Any analogy is imperfect. In this case “there is debate over whether the character himself is deserving of the pejorative attributed to him” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Tom ).

    So Dawkins is probably using as good an analogy he can find. At the very least it is good enough that he is entitled to it.

  235. #236 Caledonian
    November 25, 2006

    But judging from his statements, Brayton views the status quo as desirable – science is not permitted to intrude upon the areas religion has set up on its own, and students are not confronted with data that might challenge their religious prejudices.

    In that way, he is rather like the Puritans, who left England in search for greater restrictions than they could find there at the time. They didn’t object to living in a theocracy, they objected to living in a theocracy that wasn’t based on their religion. Similarly, Brayton doesn’t value science education, he simply doesn’t want Intelligent Design to be taught as science. Whether actual science is taught as science seems to be irrelevant to him.

  236. #237 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 25, 2006

    Steve:
    That is a much better and constructive post-analysis than looking at what creos will do with the discussion.

    Looking at the big picture as you do it becomes even more curious why Brayton et al acted on this. It seems obvious from your analysis that this case does harm. A case where they keep blurring the borders between beliefs and science (by projecting an attack on beliefs instead of an insistence on not rejecting knowledge). It is a double failure since they are confirming what they attack – that science must be a secular practice.

    That doesn’t mean that Moran’s suggestion is correct of course. (But it is clear something must be done with education, as you point out, yet another problem for those attacking him.)

  237. #238 Pierce R. Butler
    November 25, 2006

    Ichthyic & Anton Mates: Thanks for the clarification about Wells attending UC Berkeley – yes, somehow I’d thought he studied under SJ Gould, though I doubted Gould had been his advisor. At any rate, there was somebody who abetted Wells who needs just enough humiliation about that to prevent others from making the same mistake. (If Moon actually used his mysterious money mountain to buy little Jonny his doctorate, then a lot of UCB people need some humiliatin’.)

    Ichthyic: Pls, let’s not wound the guys on our side with friendly fire, even if they are in verbal proximity to the foe. The official pejorative for vectors of the Unification Church is “Moonie”, not to be confused with the name of a hard-working pro-science journalist.

    Torbjörn Larsson: Just as well that the Uncle Tom analogy doesn’t fit – at least in the US, Nazi metaphors are over-used to the point of dullness, but racial allusions can shred people before they know what happened.

    Searching for a better parallel, the best I’ve been able to muster is poor ol’ Tony Blair: going along with Shrub’s Iraq madness for the sake of “leverage”, but having that crumble in his hands each time (Israel/Palestine, Kyoto, Africa, Israel/Lebanon) he’s tried to use it. Alas, I doubt the (US) public is informed enough to understand this reference – the metaphoric quest continues…

  238. #239 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    Taking Steve LaBonne’s stuff out of order….

    You thus failed to grasp the significance of my analogy. Thinking that 2 + 2 = 5 is NOT simply a matter of not knowing a single isolated fact.

    I never said it was. As I had written, “arithmetic is fundamental in the sense that one simply cannot do math without it.” If you cannot grok that 2 + 2 = 4, you cannot do algebra, calculus, and so on. Evolution does not serve the kind of foundational role as arithmetic, as one can tell just by history. Biology was around long before Darwin. Obviously it was able to get by without him, even as something more than a collection of random facts. Darwin revolutionized biology, but he was not the one who made it possible to do biology in the first place.

    (Cf. the famous Dobzhansky article title, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”.)

    With all due respect to Dobzhansky, the title of the article is an exaggeration. Quite a few mechanisms and processes, not just isolated facts, can be understood without reference to evolution.

  239. #240 Caledonian
    November 25, 2006

    Darwin is the one who made it possible to study biology as something other than a series of unconnected facts. Before him, ‘biology’ was nothing more than categorization.

  240. #241 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    MartinM: “I think even that is too strong. He’s not saying that creationists shouldn’t be admitted. He’s simply saying that, given a limited number of places and too many applicants, one should preferentially reject the creationists.”

    If one is to take Moran’s words in the charitable way that you describe, does this mean that he expects that there may be some open slots that might be taken by creationists? Somehow, I doubt this is what Moran was thinking.

    Anyway you slice it, Moran’s not out of the soup, since what he is proposing still amounts to giving fewer opportunities for creationists to unlearn creationism, which is Brayton’s main objection. Moran is also in the soup for presuming young creationists for being more incorrigible than they really are.

  241. #242 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    Caledonian: “Darwin is the one who made it possible to study biology as something other than a series of unconnected facts. Before him, ‘biology’ was nothing more than categorization.”

    Right, like understanding, for example, how the circulatory system works is “nothing more than categorization.”

  242. #243 Caledonian
    November 25, 2006

    But it doesn’t make sense without evolution.

  243. #244 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    MartinM, while I have a much less charitable view of Moran’s remarks than you, you do have some good points on what Moran may have been trying to say. I’ll e-mail Brayton to bring them to his attention.

  244. #245 Blake Stacey
    November 25, 2006

    I have to say that while the remarks thrown around in the blog posts themselves have too often been needlessly abrasive, I am surprised by the remarkably high quality of discourse in the comments. It could be better, no doubt, but we really are exceeding my cynical expectations. Could it be that — ghasp! — the balance of people hanging around Scienceblogs.com are reasonable and willing to discuss serious matters? Could South Park have been not just unfunny, but actually wrong?

  245. #246 Tristram Shandy
    November 25, 2006

    I think having Wells tout his affiliation with UC Berkeley is humiliation enough. Wells’ advisor at UCB was John Gerhart, and, as I understand it, he was the most reticent about granting Wells a doctorate. I’m not sure what feats of persuasion were made, but eventually Wells did come out of there with that doctorate and the reputation of UCB was just that little bit more tarnished.

    If I had been there, I would have definitely made the case that he wasn’t a suitable candidate for a doctoral program, given that he a) didn’t even understand the foundational stuff about developmental biology and b) wasn’t going to further scientific research with his degree. In fact, he spent his postdoc period writing Icons of Evolution and doing no further research.

  246. #247 Steve LaBonne
    November 25, 2006

    Obviously it was able to get by without him, even as something more than a collection of random facts.

    No, actually it was very little more than that- it was basically “natural history”, precisely a collection of curious facts, and with little real conceptual advance beyond Aristotle- rather like chemistry before Dalton and Lavoisier, or- a comparison closer to home- geology before Lyell .

  247. #248 Caledonian
    November 25, 2006

    Could South Park have been not just unfunny, but actually wrong?

    There’s a bit in the show where a Wise Old Otter comes out and chides the others for their rejection of theism. Then he suggests that belief in God creates God – and is torn apart by an angry mob.

    I realized that this was supposed to be biting satire, but all I could think as I watched his gruesome death was “Man, he really had that coming”.

  248. #249 Blake Stacey
    November 25, 2006

    The second half of that South Park two-parter was slightly more amusing than the first. I mean, time-travel paradoxes are always good for a chuckle, and a Buck Rogers send-up riffing on standard SF tropes has plenty of potential. . . But the ending really threw me. That blather about “isms” was obviously meant to be the happy “let’s all get together and sing” moral message — but it boils down to the assertion that we are all too stupid to disagree with one another. It insults the very idea of a rational civilization.

    Odd, you’d think, for a show produced by “small-l libertarians” who claim to believe that citizens of a democracy can be trusted with something more dangerous than a burnt match.

  249. #250 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    Caledonian: “But it doesn’t make sense without evolution.”

    If one can describe how the circulatory system works without reference to evolution, it is a stretch to say that the circulatory system is incomprehensible without evolution.

    Steve LaBonne: “No, actually it was very little more than that- it was basically “natural history”, precisely a collection of curious facts, and with little real conceptual advance beyond Aristotle”

    To the extent that this is true, that has a lot more to do with the limitations of 19th measurement technology. IIRC, anatomy, at least, pre-dates Darwin, and that should include some knowledge of things like the circulatory system, muscles, etc. More to the point, evolutionary theory doesn’t help much in understanding the mechanisms of respiration, DNA transcription, etc. That’s a matter of measurement and experimentation.

  250. #251 MartinM
    November 25, 2006

    If one is to take Moran’s words in the charitable way that you describe, does this mean that he expects that there may be some open slots that might be taken by creationists?

    I hope so. If not, I’ll happily disagree with him.

    Anyway you slice it, Moran’s not out of the soup, since what he is proposing still amounts to giving fewer opportunities for creationists to unlearn creationism, which is Brayton’s main objection. Moran is also in the soup for presuming young creationists for being more incorrigible than they really are

    Brayton’s objection certainly sounds good, but I’m not sure it stands up to close scrutiny. Suppose we have two applicants for the one remaining biology undergrad slot, who are effectively indistinguishable save that one is creationist and one is not. What are we to do, toss a coin?

    MartinM, while I have a much less charitable view of Moran’s remarks than you, you do have some good points on what Moran may have been trying to say. I’ll e-mail Brayton to bring them to his attention.

    Thank you. I’ll echo Blake’s statements; It’s nice to discuss this in a reasonable manner.

  251. #252 Scott Hatfield
    November 25, 2006

    J.J. Ramsey: At the risk of irritation, I’m forced to agree with Caledonian (and Dobzhansky): evolution really is fundamental to modern biology, and picking isolated cases like Harvey’s on the circulation of the blood really misses the point.

    Indeed, Harvey did work in what would now be called biology, but he was no biologist. What he discovered amounts to a proximal explanation of the function of a set of structures, but (and this is key) it doesn’t explain *how* the structures came to be in the first place, or why other animals have similar structures, or why other animals differ, etc.

    Evolution, on the other hand, provides the conceptual framework to do all of these and more. Without such a framework, biology reduces to stamp collecting.

    After all, merely dropping an object from a great height over and over again does not make physics a science, either. We remember Galileo for his courage in applying the test of nature to the claims of others, but courage and curiousity alone were not sufficient to render physics a science. A model that unified the investigation of disparate phenomena in a testable way was required….SH

  252. #253 Ichthyic
    November 25, 2006

    If one can describe how the circulatory system works without reference to evolution, it is a stretch to say that the circulatory system is incomprehensible without evolution.

    yes, you can describe how anything works by simply observing it with your eyes. Such things are trivial.

    the more interesting question as to WHY it works, and how it got to be the way it is are entirely dependent on a grounding in evolutionary theory.

    so without it, you won’t get very far when you kid asks:

    Why?

  253. #254 JohnnieCanuck
    November 25, 2006

    Is there precedent for a university to cancel a person’s postdoc degree?

    It really would be a service to science if UCB did acknowledge the error and the damage they caused.

  254. #255 Ichthyic
    November 25, 2006

    Is there precedent for a university to cancel a person’s postdoc degree?

    you mean revoke it after it was obtained?

    if so, I’ve never heard of such a thing. It would be odd indeed, since it would reflect so poorly on the University that granted it to begin with.

    Think about it: If you pass all the requirements set forth in that University’s PhD program, why should you be in fear of having it revoked?

    that’s just too much “reach” for a university.

  255. #256 PZ Myers
    November 25, 2006

    Unless it were demonstrated that the work Wells did for his degree was fraudulent, I would oppose any effort to retroactively strip him of it. The degree is awarded for the work done, not for work that will be done in the future; his demonstrable incompetence now can’t be used against him.

    Wells’ published work from UCB was all on mechanisms of cortical rotation in frog development. There’s nothing wrong with it. I suspect he kept mum about any of his stupid ideas while he plodded through the graduate program, and avoided saying anything that would verify his ignorance, and earned his piece of paper.

  256. #257 llewelly
    November 25, 2006

    Wells’ degree implies his recent work is not merely ignorant, but deliberately fraudulent. That piece of paper says Wells knows better, that he chooses to delude the ignorant, that he is not merely a kook, but also a charlatan.

  257. #258 MC
    November 25, 2006

    [i]My guess is that he sympathizes more with Ed’s self-righteous condemnation of atheists who dare insist on such things as consistency in scientific reasoning and think theistic evolution is nonsense on a scale only marginally less anti-scientific than IDC. Just a conjecture.[/i]

    Perhaps I should be more clear. While I do usually find Ed Brayton’s opinions to be rational and reasonable, as far as the substance of the issue goes I agree with PZ. PZ’s blog served as an inspiration for me to get more involved in debates on atheism, religion and science in the first place (that, coupled with my being a science major at UCLA). Finding a forum with intelligent discussion of fascinating issues which I had never really discussed, and a blog whose opinions I very much agree but had never really otherwise encountered, seemed like a fantastic thing (as it should!).

    However, despite taking PZ’s side in the actual debate, I can’t really say I agree with his current tactics of debating. In particular, criticism such as this:

    ‘…that sad panjandrum of the self-satisfied mean, medium, middle, moderate, and mediocre…’

    in response to this:

    ‘calling us “disturbing and dangerous” and “appalling and vile”‘

    where the former is a fairly obvious criticism of a person’s general character and the latter is a criticism of a specific action that comes from a specific opinion on a specific debate. Or insinuating that the opposite camp believes ‘godlessness is evil’, when it’s obvious that they don’t, despite having a difference of opinion on the subject. This is the kind of exaggeration I’m talking about. Let’s compare with Ed’s now-infamous ‘by any means necessary’, which as I’ve already said is a poorly chosen hyperbole intended to make a point. The generalizations that PZ makes about those he disagrees with are also poorly chosen hyperboles intended to make points. The difference I see is that some of the points made here are exaggerations that the author must be fully conscious of as exaggerations, even if it was not written with clear intention to mislead… that, and there seem to be more of them.

    I’m not going to let Ed off the hook, either… some of his opinions are certifiably wacky, and just like anyone else he’s not immune to mischaracterization etc., even if he campaigns verbally against it. But it seems to me (and this is just my opinion, remember), that Ed and company are more willing to at least attempt and present a semblance of relevant analysis and criticism, and maintain a more professional or ‘scientific’ level of discourse, than many of the people I’ve encountered here… even if they may be wrong on the issue.

  258. #259 J. J. Ramsey
    November 25, 2006

    “Evolution, on the other hand, provides the conceptual framework to do all of these and more.”

    The theory of evolution certainly provides the framework for how the structures came to be in the first place, but it is not necessarily a good tool for probing how the structures work.

    “Without such a framework, biology reduces to stamp collecting.”

    Figuring out how various biological mechanisms work is a lot more involved than “stamp collecting.”

    The problem with saying that evolution has the same kind of foundational role as arithmetic (e.g. 2 + 2 = 4) is that it is a lot easier to grasp evolution after one has been introduced to the various biological mechanisms and processes. Once that introduction has been made, then one can see how evolution ties the pieces together. That’s not true of arithmetic.

  259. #260 Sandra Porter
    November 25, 2006

    I think UCSD has the right idea. Fluency with evolutionary theory should be a prerequisite for graduation as a biology major. Allowing someone to graduate as a biology major, without having developed an understanding of evolution, would be like matriculating an accounting major who couldn’t do math.

    But I do not agree with the suggestion that students should be expected to posess this understanding, before they enter college, for the following reasons:

    1. I don’t think there are many high school science teachers who fully grasp how evolution fits into biology. Even if they do understand it, they may not be capable of teaching about it. We should not overly penalize students for poor high school teaching.

    2. Requiring evolution as a prerequisite for college entry would eliminate the ability of biology departments to recruit new students to the field. Remember, not all students take biology in high school and many of those who do take it, do not take it seriously (partly for reason #1).

    3. It’s been my observation, from having a daughter in an AP biology course, that the goal of the “most rigorous” high school biology course is for students to memorize vast amounts of words and score well on the AP test. Her class will cover a broad array of topics, but none of them in depth. I suspect they will end up spending one or two days on evolution, but it will not be the major organizing principle in the way that we see it.

  260. #261 Pinku-Sensei
    November 25, 2006

    Here is a blast from Dr. Myers’ USENET past. The current Friendly Neighborhood Vote Wrangler of alt.usenet.kooks is trained as a systematist, paleontologist, and sociobiologist and as such is as sympathetic to Dr. Myers and his beliefs as any who have ever held the office. Based on Dr. Myers’ prolonged service to biology and to advancing the cause of reason, the FNVW is inclined to pardon Dr. Myers for a certain award bestowed on him because of self-inflicted wounds incurred in the fight to demonstrate the irrationality of astrology. Such an action would partially reverse what some see as both a disservice done to Dr. Myers and a misapplication of the awards process. That said, a pardon would also require prolonged demonstration of abstinence from the kind of behavior that earned him that dubious distinction in the first place. Unfortunately, the use of colorful ad hominem by Dr. Myers against his allies in the struggle to protect science education from attacks by creationists because he finds his compatriots suffering from insufficient ideological purity does nothing to convince the FNVW that Dr. Myers has satisfied the last criterion for a pardon. Pity.

  261. #262 Tristram Shandy
    November 25, 2006

    Pinku-Sensei,

    If you’re posting that because you think anyone here cares what a bunch of supporters of astrology believe, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

  262. #263 Steve LaBonne
    November 25, 2006

    Sandra, I think you accurately describe the current situation, but I’m not nearly as inclined as you seem to be (forgive me if I’m inaccurately construing your meaning)to regard it as acceptable or inevitable. The “AP” approach induces a maimed understanding of what biology is which- as I observed for myself as a teacher of sophomore college genetics- can be quite difficult to un-teach.

  263. #264 Caledonian
    November 25, 2006

    The problem with saying that evolution has the same kind of foundational role as arithmetic (e.g. 2 + 2 = 4) is that it is a lot easier to grasp evolution after one has been introduced to the various biological mechanisms and processes. Once that introduction has been made, then one can see how evolution ties the pieces together. That’s not true of arithmetic.

    On the contrary, children normally learn the operationalization after they’ve been taught to solve simple problems purely by counting; only later is a procedure established.

  264. #265 Pierce R. Butler
    November 25, 2006

    This tiny tempest has rocked the science-blog teacup quite thoroughly.

    Brayton’s cranked out two posts on it so far; oddly, the comments on the first are much more constructive than those on the second (the odd part is that D. Heddle’s participation in the latter is only a small part of the problem).

    Coturnix offers a (pro-Moran/Myers) overview, including at least 25 links to various virtual aftershocks, at http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2006/11/i_like_mms.php

    Another oddity: he doesn’t include the Panda’s Thumb persiflage at http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/11/neil_degrasse_t.html .

    We now return to your regularly scheduled brawl.

  265. #266 Ichthyic
    November 26, 2006

    I suspect he kept mum about any of his stupid ideas while he plodded through the graduate program, and avoided saying anything that would verify his ignorance, and earned his piece of paper.

    not completely…

    he gave a talk at a museum lunch once about “reconciling” science and faith, and i swear, I think my major prof. pretty much had a meltdown and heckled him before he could even get halfway through his little talk. Never saw my major prof. get that angry about anything before.

    His being accepted, let alone getting a degree, stuck in the craws of many folks there.

    He never would have made it throught the Zoo. dept., but evidently his supporters in MCB didn’t have as many problems with him.

  266. #267 Ichthyic
    November 26, 2006

    er, the first paragraph of my last post is actually from PZ’s last post.

    damn code.

  267. #268 Scott Hatfield
    November 26, 2006

    J.J. Ramsey wrote: “The problem with saying that evolution has the same kind of foundational role as arithmetic (e.g. 2 + 2 = 4)…”

    Well, I know that’s a way that was phrased earlier in this thread, but in saying that evolution is foundational to biology I wasn’t saying it had the *same* kind of role within biology as arithmetic has in math. I didn’t sign up for *that* particular analogy, only the proposition (widely agreed-upon by biologists) that evolution provides the conceptual framework for modern biology.

    At any rate, the analogy fails for me because biology is concerned with explaining natural objects (or, as Caledonian would be quick to correct us, ‘real’ objects). Math does not have that objective, so whatever is foundational in math is foundational for many things that do not appear to exist in nature. From this I infer that evolution is foundational for biology in a way that arithmetic is not foundational for mathematics….SH

  268. #269 PZ Myers
    November 26, 2006

    he gave a talk at a museum lunch once about “reconciling” science and faith, and i swear, I think my major prof. pretty much had a meltdown and heckled him before he could even get halfway through his little talk. Never saw my major prof. get that angry about anything before.

    I’m not surprised that he would get a strongly negative reaction to that, but nobody would deny a candidate his degree because he was devout, no matter how stupid his religion was. Just as we wouldn’t deny him one for his political party affiliation, what football team he roots for, or whether he prefers cats to dogs. Those are supposed to be things that are part of your personal life and that don’t affect how you do science.

    Maybe more Christians ought to be concerned about the Wells example, because there’s a case that would make people think, “Hmmm…maybe religion ought to be a criterion we consider,” ’cause that boy sure poisoned the well.

  269. #270 Ichthyic
    November 26, 2006

    I’m not surprised that he would get a strongly negative reaction to that, but nobody would deny a candidate his degree because he was devout, no matter how stupid his religion was.

    I’m just saying he wasn’t exactly “mum” about some of his crazier leanings, even back then.

    The Museum of Vert. Zoo. at UCB is about as hardcore as you can get wrt to evolutionary biology, and the gall of this guy giving a talk like that at a museum lunch was just a bit too much for the Zoo folk to take.

    at the time, I had hardly ever heard of even what a creationist was (that was back in 1990), so I was pretty clueless what all the hubbub was about. I just thought his ideas were laughable, but thought it polite to at least let him finish.

    the reaction certainly wouldn’t surprise me these days, and I myself probably would be the one in my old prof’s place, standing up and heckling someone who presented Well’s consumate tripe.

    Heck, if Francis Collins started babbling about “Moral Law” at a museum lunch, I doubt I would be able to resist either.

    Maybe more Christians ought to be concerned about the Wells example, because there’s a case that would make people think, “Hmmm…maybe religion ought to be a criterion we consider,” ’cause that boy sure poisoned the well.

    indeed, it’s something Wells himself should have thought about.

    He created some serious friction between MCB and Zoology that persisted for quite a while afterwards, so I understand (I left in 91, so it’s all second-hand after that).

  270. #271 Pierce R. Butler
    November 26, 2006

    PZ Myers: Just as we wouldn’t deny him one for … what football team he roots for…

    You liberal Yankees have such strange priorities.

    It may not be in the official criteria, but I doubt the University of Florida would grant a degree to anyone rooting for any team other than the Gators… and we’re really laid back that way compared to Texas.

  271. #272 Blake Stacey
    November 26, 2006

    Sandra Porter wrote:

    It’s been my observation, from having a daughter in an AP biology course, that the goal of the “most rigorous” high school biology course is for students to memorize vast amounts of words and score well on the AP test. Her class will cover a broad array of topics, but none of them in depth. I suspect they will end up spending one or two days on evolution, but it will not be the major organizing principle in the way that we see it.

    I didn’t actually take “AP bio” in high school; on a lark, I signed up to take the test, and being either lazy or busy with other things, I didn’t actually get around to studying for it. I got a perfect score (or as close to perfect as they report) based on what I’d learned out of Isaac Asimov, Discover magazine, etc.

    That aside, judging from my experience with other AP classes (physics in particular) and the reports of my friends, I believe you are generally correct.

  272. #273 Daniel Morgan
    November 27, 2006

    Ichthyic said:
    He never would have made it throught the Zoo. dept., but evidently his supporters in MCB didn’t have as many problems with him…
    He created some serious friction between MCB and Zoology that persisted for quite a while afterwards, so I understand (I left in 91, so it’s all second-hand after that).

    I have to wonder how much money Moon gave as a “gift” to the dept. to soften them up preceding Wells’ arrival.

  273. #274 truth machine
    December 6, 2006

    You’re on the dishonesty-by-omission side. Ed Brayton wrote:

    But some, like Larry Moran, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, Gary Hurd and others, are involved in an entirely different battle. For them, it’s not enough to protect science education from the attacks of some religious people; religion itself, in any form, is to be attacked and destroyed by any means necessary.

    Ed Brayton is a liar and an ass. Just say so.

  274. #275 truth machine
    December 6, 2006

    Ya gotta love Gary Hurd’s image:

    Let me propose a simple analogy; the pro-science education effort is like a dog. There is the wagging tail at one end, and the bark and even teeth at the other. PZ, Dawkins and others are at the front. Pat, Nick and others are the friendly, inclusive wagging tail and Ed Brayton is the little part just below the wag. I’m the little flea whispering that if you don’t want to divide forces, then ignore divisive people like Ed who demand that you have to be on “his” side and don’t step in the mess he leaves on the floor.

  275. #276 truth machine
    December 6, 2006

    John Wilkins writes “Coming on to someone’s blog and attacking their honesty is not a wise move. You are free to think I am wrong, or even stupid. But attack my or other commenters’ honesty again and you’ll be banned.”

    Apparently the nonexistence of God is questionable, but not his honesty (and I only said that he isn’t intellectually honest).

  276. #277 truth machine
    December 6, 2006

    “You’re on the dishonesty-by-omission side.”

    Oops, I posted that on the wrong blog — it was aimed at Mike Dunford.

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