Pharyngula

All right, who’s in charge of pool predicting the location of the next big creationist trial? The odds on Florida have just gone up: another Board of Education member has said something stupid.

I would support teaching evolution, but with all its warts. I think that some of the facts have been questioned by evolutionists themselves. I would want them taught as theories. That’s important. They could be challenged by others and the kids could then be taught critical thinking and they can make their own choices.

Thank you, Linda Taylor. Warts: name two. Theory: define the term. Answer the following multiple choice question:

Who is best qualified to make informed choices about complex scientific theories?

  1. Scientists with years of training in the subject, and qualified science teachers who understand the fundamentals of the theory.
  2. Creationists who won’t even commit to an estimate of the age of the earth.
  3. Members of the board of education who have absolutely no training in the sciences.
  4. Children who are just being introduced to the topic for the first time, haven’t read any of the primary literature, and who are entirely dependent on the competence of the instructors who have given them an outline of the general story.

So I’m leaning towards a big blow-up in Florida. Now you might think Texas should be in the lead, what with the obvious clown circus in the Chris Comer story, but I suspect that the Texas creationists have grossly overreached and are going to face a serious backlash — Texas biology professors are pissed off and are mobilizing to fight back. Floridans are going for the slow and steady buildup.

Florida parents are also contributing to the problem. Let’s see more Florida parents rising up to protest so I can dial those odds down a notch.

Comments

  1. #1 autumn
    December 12, 2007

    Florida parent here, and I can assure all of the loyal Pharyngulites that an electronic missive shall be issued forthwith!
    Well, I’ll probably wait until I’m a little more sober, but other than that…Tally-ho!

  2. #2 Ed Darrell
    December 12, 2007

    The reaction of the biologists in Texas is very encouraging. I hope Florida has a similar band of researchers and practitioners and teachers who can complain.

    It’s not only football that goes on at those universities, in either Texas or Florida. And even were that so, since the rise of that odd staph variety, even football players benefit from serious knowledge about evolution.

  3. #3 Atheist in a Kilt
    December 12, 2007

    I would also keep a sharp eye on California. What’s that you say? Yes, California. There are some pockets here [Sacramento County for one] that are populated by some of the most fundemental people I have ever come accross. Not all of California is S.F. and L.A.

    But I do agree, a showdown in Florida is coming, Texas is a timebomb, and there are some incredibly foolish people on some of these schoolboards.

  4. #4 Epistaxis
    December 12, 2007

    Before we throw punches…

    From the sound of the original post, board member Taylor may just be ill-informed, not malevolent.

    This sentence is key:

    The Gradebook caught up with board member Linda Taylor, who had so far been silent on the topic of the standards, and found her generally supportive of the “choices” philosophy, so long as it falls within what the state can do legally.

    She doesn’t sound like the Dover guys who were just playing dumb (in a sense) while they and their DI overlords sharpened the wedge; it just sounds like a reporter cornered her on an issue about which she doesn’t know much or feel strongly.

    In other words, she’s not necessarily the enemy. This may be a teachable moment rather than a declaration of war.

  5. #5 Chris
    December 12, 2007

    Florida resident. Sister teaches 3rd grade. Thanks for keeping tabs on the situation and allowing me to stay informed. I saw this coming some time ago when Michael Ruse and some other man (Tom Woodward popped into my head just now so I think it was him) had a debate on Evolution and Intelligent design at Valencia Community College in Orlando. Florida’s educational system sucks and this will just bring it down to an even lower level. However Im not sure how much lower it can go. The schools here no longer focus on education but on test taking (FCAT). It seems students are more taught how to pass this test than just being taught the basic school subjects. Then you have schools being given money based on their FCAT scores, so those with the higher scores get more money then those with the lower scores. Man I love Florida (sarcasm)

  6. #6 Michael
    December 12, 2007

    if this is the kind of society we live in and promote, we deserve to fall as a nation and die out as a species. this is absolute bullshit. education is severely lacking and should be a priority, yet it is be sabotaged by ignorant know-it-alls.

  7. #7 Bartlett
    December 12, 2007

    How did post #4 get past the moderator bot? It’s got about 50 links and its all in asian jibberish. Anyone care to translate?

  8. #8 G. Tingey
    December 12, 2007

    I hate to admit it, but it isn’t just in the USA, or even Africa ( “Polio jabs sterilise muslim women” ) but in supposedly educated circles in England.

    The word supposedly is important, because there is one very unpleasant British newspaper, the “Daily Mail”, one of whose regular contributors is pushing this sort of lying stupidity.

    See:
    http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=1229

  9. #9 Niklas Ramsberg
    December 12, 2007

    The odds on Florida should go down, not up. Higher odds – less likely to happen; lower odds – more likely to happen.

    After lurking for a couple of years, my first comment just had to be of the nitpicking variety πŸ˜‰

  10. #10 Cat of many faces
    December 12, 2007

    That’s exactly the point; well taught critical thinking would say to listen to the experts, not just hear 4 or so points said by someone completely unqualified, or roundly denounced, and proclaim an answer.

    You can’t teach critical thinking by destroying it.

  11. #11 aracne
    December 12, 2007

    #8, I know very little Chinese, but sure looks like spam. It’s all unrelated sentences, like “work half a year (something)”, “student work (something)”, and with a firefox extension dictionary “asma”, “lung cancer” and the like.

  12. #12 Chris
    December 12, 2007

    Just when you think there can’t be a person more stupid than this, there comes another and beats ’em with a comment like “I think that some of the facts have been questioned by evolutionists themselves. I would want them taught as theories.

    *shakes his head in disbelieve*

  13. #13 SEF
    December 12, 2007

    Of course it’s spam – and it’s not just on this thread. No-one normal puts that many links into a post and has no text other than the bits making the links. (Eg people making a mistake with their tag would have a single very long link or link-like block). PZ can’t disemvowel Chinese though. πŸ˜€

  14. #14 Dan
    December 12, 2007

    Oh please be Florida. And, please let it be soon. I need the sun, and this would be a delightful story to work on.

  15. #15 Wobert
    December 12, 2007

    Post 4 was from Wild Bill Dembski with the sum total of evidence from umpteen years of “research” into id/creationism horse shit.

    Jeebuz, these vodka thingies have got some boot in em.

  16. #16 Turcano
    December 12, 2007

    Florida has two other things going for it (or against it). It’s home both to Pensacola Christian College (one of the two major publishers of creationist textbooks) and Kent Hovind. (Speaking of whom, how the hell did his series get a 3.8/5 rating on Netflix? Even when I was a creationist, I thought he was a colossal dumbass.)

  17. #17 Dan
    December 12, 2007

    Vodka? It’s five in the morning here, Wobert. Hook me up! I need the antifreeze.

  18. #18 Wobert
    December 12, 2007

    Tis 10.30 in the evening and a balmy 22 degrees Celsius Dan old chap,and I dont think I’ll see 11.00.

    cheers

  19. #19 Fernando Magyar
    December 12, 2007

    Another Florida parent here with a horse, er, kid in the race.

    I will be sending my holiday wishes to the appropriate people with my sincere hope that they make an effort to understand why they need to support real science as opposed to what passes for such. I will also be including a link to The Enlightenment 2.0 series of lectures:
    http://thesciencenetwork.org/BeyondBelief2/

    Unfortunately I do not believe that these people will take the time to listen and even if they did they would not be able to understand. They themselves do not have the critical thinking skills nor the knowledge necessary to assess the difference between BS and reality.

    Maybe we are slowly evolving into two fundamentally different species, rational and non rational, and time will tell which group is the better adapted to pass on its genes.

  20. #20 Brandon
    December 12, 2007

    Epistaxis,

    I agree. My Florida Citizens for Science post might have come across as sounding a bit harsh, but note that I do say we need to educate her. On the other hand, if she isn’t sure what she’s talking about, them maybe she should have stayed silent until she did some basic research.

    That’s part of the problem here. The research she and others are doing is nothing more than getting a feel for public response. These Board members are listening to the loudest voices. So, we need to get louder!

    We are having problems here in Florida getting folks off their butts to do something. The simplest thing to do is send e-mails to the BoE members, but we don’t have their e-mail addresses. So, folks need to step up a bit more if they really do care. Participating in the FCS “All I Want for Christmas is a Good Science Education” project would be a good start: http://www.flascience.org/xmas1.html

    But that’s not the only thing folks can do. All you Florida people here in these comments … what are you doing? It’s amazing how hard it is to mobilize folks sometimes …

    My apologies for the frustrated tone of this comment. We’re feeling a tad discouraged here in Florida. As a strictly volunteer organization, FCS can only do so much in our limited free time. We need many, many more people willing to organize and DO SOMETHING if we’re going to be heard.

  21. #21 maxi
    December 12, 2007

    G Tingey @9

    Thanks for the link. I remember all the fuss about this. No idea The Daily (Hate) Mail perpetrated it all though. Anyone with any sense could see that this scientist was talking out of his ass. It’s shocking that Britain could be subject to a measles epidemic all because of one religious nutcase.

  22. #22 Nan
    December 12, 2007

    When do you sleep?

  23. #23 Jake S.
    December 12, 2007

    Another multiple choice question:

    What’s required to serve on your local school board?
    A. A degree in education, preferably a masters or Ph.D.
    B. A college degree and demonstrated understanding of educational issues.
    C. A high school diploma.
    D. A pulse.

    This may vary state to state, but here in Wisconsin, the answer is “D.”

  24. #24 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 12, 2007

    Oh please don’t forget about us down here in South Carolina. We are running the very real chance of being the only state that has a Homeschooling mother as the head of our State Board of Edumacation. Yes a HOMESCHOOLER. We would be the only… let me repeat that.. only state in the Union with a homeschooler as the head of the education policy board. I’m pretty sure you can guess what a few her positions are.

    I had a short write up on it here and check out the dangerously named group she belongs to SCPIE (SC Parents Involved in Education). Be sure to check out their issues section and if you really want to retch, read their past newsletters (I link directly to a few of them).

  25. #25 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 12, 2007

    Comment moderation on a little tighter today?

  26. #26 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 12, 2007

    Well at the risk of a double post coming…

    Don’t forget us down in South Carolina. We are running the very real risk of being the only State in the Union with a Homeschooling mother as the head of the State Board of Education. I have a write up here.

    Be sure to follow the links to the group she belongs to SCPIE.

  27. #27 Diego
    December 12, 2007

    It’s just a nit, but folks from Florida are usually called Floridian, not Floridan.

    But the aquifer is the Floridan Aquifer though. πŸ˜‰

    On a more pertinent note, there are many of us (me included) gearing up for a fight here, but I still hope it blows over.

  28. #28 Bob O'H
    December 12, 2007

    What, no one else noticed this (emphasis mine):

    In addition to UT faculty, the signers include professors from Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas State, Rice and Baylor universities and the universities of North Texas and Houston.

    Poor Bill (and Bob Marks too, I suppose). That gotta hurt.

    Bob

  29. #29 PZ Myers
    December 12, 2007

    Comment moderation sucks. First thing every morning I have to go through and clean up the spam that has leaked through, and approve the larger body of false positives that the software has arbitrarily tossed into the filtered queue.

    Moveable Type’s spam control is really, really poor. I’ve often wondered if they’ve got some kind of financial arrangement under the table with the major spammers to keep their software loose.

  30. #30 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 12, 2007

    I’m pretty sure it is because the comment that got hung up had two links in it.

  31. #31 jim
    December 12, 2007

    Hanlon’s Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.
    (But remember Clarke’s Corollary: Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from magic.)

  32. #32 jim
    December 12, 2007

    Well I cocked that up. Should have previewed. For “magic” read “malice” above, of course.

  33. #33 extattyzoma
    December 12, 2007

    ‘I would want them taught as theories. That’s important’

    Its funny but most if not all would agree with that but for very different reasons. Some because they correctly recognise evo as a theory whereas for others its simply because they dont have a clue what the word theory even means.

    A creationists general incompetence can be immediately recognised as soon as they mention the word ‘theory’, especially with ‘its only a’ before it.

  34. #34 Kseniya
    December 12, 2007

    It looks like we’re going to have to go to 64-bit integers just to keep the Idiot Count from rolling over.

  35. #36 Casey
    December 12, 2007

    Dammit, I live in Florida. I’m going to try to do whatever I can to stop this. I wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper after Donna Callaway’s initial statements but it wasn’t accepted. This issue isn’t on anybodys radar yet. Also, the “teach the controversy” strategy is a brilliant strategy which sounds totally reasonable but will chip away at evolutionary teaching. So it is hard to write a letter to the editor describing the nuance.

    If you want to get politically active, the Florida Citizens for Science are sending christmas cards to the board members stating, “All I want for christmas is a good science education”. Link here http://www.flascience.org/xmascard.html

  36. #37 Y'arr
    December 12, 2007

    I would probably set off the powder keg of ID/Creationism vs. Evolution in classrooms by bringing up the fact that the only myth they are trying to put on “equal terms” to evolution is the Christian myth.

    I would then be forced to bring up the obligatory Scientology comment, pointing out that they have their own creation myth, and start questioning the IDiots why they are unwilling to permit the Scientology myth in classrooms, as well.

    Of course, that could simply be making the situation worse; Scientologists are not know as the most, er, kind-hearted people out there.

    Even so, it would make for some interesting fireworks.

  37. #38 Randy
    December 12, 2007

    New reader just popping my head in to say thanks for keeping us up-to-date on this “debate” as it goes on across the country. I’m always worried that we in Tennessee will creep back in the lead on this at some point, but it’s sadly comforting to know that at least in this particular topic, other states are worse.

  38. #39 spencer
    December 12, 2007

    But the aquifer is the Floridan Aquifer though. πŸ˜‰

    Finally, someone on Pharyngula is talking about science that I actually know something about!

  39. #40 raven
    December 12, 2007

    but I suspect that the Texas creationists have grossly overreached and are going to face a serious backlash.

    Overreached? They just purged two people. No one got burnt at the stake or sent to Siberia or sent to the Gulags. Yet.

    What is the point of being a religious fanatic with some political power if you can’t persecute a few million people? Two purgees isn’t even a warmup.

    I would hope the reality based community is waking up. Before comrade Mcleroy and Pol Perry are through, there could be refugee problems and resettlement camps across the borders in the USA. Mexico will complain that destitute, illegal Texas immigrants are taking all their low wage jobs.

  40. #41 Jsn
    December 12, 2007

    / Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from magic./
    Actually, the logic of this is quite good for understanding those who believe in the supernatural.

  41. #42 thadd
    December 12, 2007

    Does anyone teach evolution as anything but a theory? Or gravity?
    Now I would like to see religion taught as a theory, so we can refine it away.
    How about the peer review bible, that would be quite interesting.

  42. #43 Sigmund
    December 12, 2007

    The only way to kill this ‘teach the controversy’ ploy as a useful political strategy is to truly embrace it. Those of us who want good science education should demand that every area of education, and not simply biology, will ‘teach its own controversies’. Does 1 + 1 really equal 2? Some say 3 – teach that controversy. Is the world flat? Not everyone agrees. Was George Washington actually a shape shifting alien from the planet Zorg? Its time to break the history paradigm. It only by showing the public that there must be a valid controversy in the first place before there’s a requirement to treat any issue as one of two sides.

  43. #44 viggen
    December 12, 2007

    Scientists with years of training in the subject, and qualified science teachers who understand the fundamentals of the theory.

    I’m not entirely convinced that all science teachers are qualified. For one thing, there is a dearth at the moment, particularly in the hard science disciplines. When I was first in high school, I had the misfortune of drawing a biology teacher who didn’t believe in evolution. As a result, I was seeing “teach the controversy” even before there was a “Wedge Document” and I’ve never lived in Florida or Kansas or Texas or even Dover. It is a repulsive thing to do that to tenth graders who know too little to argue for truth and I wish someone had made a stink about it at my HS–I believe it was unethical and a breach in standards.

    I believe that this sort of thing is probably happening more commonly than people realize, mainly because kids often don’t know to argue and because parents are not as involved as they should be in their kids’ education. Likely, many parents, who are otherwise sensible, maybe professional hairdressers, grocery clerks, small business men/women, who pay their taxes, drive the speed-limit, are kind to the people around them and otherwise want the best for their kids, simply do not understand the subject and accept that said Highschool teacher knows what he/she is talking about.

    The appearance of this sort of thing in school boards should be unsurprising. It is a sign that the corruption is much deeper than people might believe since we are now seeing it emerge into plain view. I think this problem with the school boards is only the tip of the iceberg.

  44. #45 Curt Cameron
    December 12, 2007

    They could be challenged by others and the kids could then be taught critical thinking and they can make their own choices.

    Yes, let’s present these kids with lots of nonsense alongside the real stuff, and allow them to sharpen their skills of sorting the good from the bad.

  45. #46 viggen
    December 12, 2007

    The appearance of this sort of thing in school boards should be unsurprising. It is a sign that the corruption is much deeper than people might believe since we are now seeing it emerge into plain view. I think this problem with the school boards is only the tip of the iceberg.

    Actually, a quick addition to my previous comment:

    I believe that the problems we are currently seeing are compounded by the fact that we don’t have enough really good K-12 science educators. If this country is serious about defeating the tactics of the DI and mainstream creationists, the first thing that we need to do is bolster the foundations of science which, deny it all you want, are a child’s first exposure in school or at a young age. Because creationists recruit the young–youth groups in HS, Sunday school, missionary work, bible retreats–they do have a means of undercutting initial science education. The last generation was very lucky for Star Trek and Star Wars because those were impression forming too; despite their warts, these movies created many modern scientists and engineers.

  46. #47 raven
    December 12, 2007

    I’m not entirely convinced that all science teachers are qualified. For one thing, there is a dearth at the moment, particularly in the hard science disciplines.

    We keep hearing that there is a shortage of secondary school science teachers. OTOH, why would anyone want to be a science teacher these days? They immediately become demonized by religious bigots who have brains the size of walnuts and can get pretty nasty and occasionally violent.

    The fundie creos target them. I’ve heard from a few that decided the job wasn’t worth the hassle and quit or were forced out. Rumor has it that this isn’t at all uncommon.

  47. #48 David Marjanovi?
    December 12, 2007

    I would then be forced to bring up the obligatory Scientology comment, pointing out that they have their own creation myth, and start questioning the IDiots why they are unwilling to permit the Scientology myth in classrooms, as well.
    Of course, that could simply be making the situation worse; Scientologists are not know as the most, er, kind-hearted people out there.

    See? That’s why the Flying Spaghetti Monster was invented revealed Himself. Raamen!

  48. #49 David Marjanovi?
    December 12, 2007

    I would then be forced to bring up the obligatory Scientology comment, pointing out that they have their own creation myth, and start questioning the IDiots why they are unwilling to permit the Scientology myth in classrooms, as well.
    Of course, that could simply be making the situation worse; Scientologists are not know as the most, er, kind-hearted people out there.

    See? That’s why the Flying Spaghetti Monster was invented revealed Himself. Raamen!

  49. #50 raven
    December 12, 2007

    There will be a court case in Texas, start preparing now. Ms. Comer was forced out due to religious discrimination and would have an excellent chance in court if she pursues it.

    The creos are immune to public appearances, common sense, or ideals like democracy and law. They only want to win and don’t care how. If they do and turn the USA into a third world trash heap banana republic, in their eyes so what. The people at least will be very religious. Or else.

    Starting to show. A recent test showed that USA kids are lagging most of the civilized world in science and math. Texas scores low on most QOL standards compared to the national averages. For them, this is irrelevant.

  50. #51 Brad S
    December 12, 2007

    As a Texas student I’m glad to see that reaction. I was dissapointed when I heard the story myself. Daniel Bolnick was my Research Methods professor, and he also organized a seminar on teachin evolution. Its a priority at UT at least, but Austin is way different than other parts of Texas.

  51. #52 bilfred
    December 12, 2007

    “They could be challenged by others and the kids could then be taught critical thinking and they can make their own choices.”

    Just think of the critical thinking skills they could acquire if they were taught Dialectical Materialism in their civics classes, phlogiston theory in their physics classes, and the medieval Four Humors theory in their health classes! I’m sure that each of these could be made present interesting critiques of the dominant theories in their respective fields.

  52. #53 Mark
    December 12, 2007

    December 12th: On this day in 1930, at a rally in the courthouse square in Canyon, J. Frank Norris, Baptist pastor and editor of The Fundamentalist, denounced Professor Joseph Leo Duflot of West Texas State Teachers College (now West Texas A&M University) for teaching evolution and for his “modernist” philosophy.

    From here: [link]

    Just thought you might like more proof that history repeats itself.

  53. #54 arensb
    December 12, 2007

    the obvious clown circus in the Chris Comer story

    What did clowns ever do to you, that you insult them so?

  54. #55 Nathan Parker
    December 12, 2007

    The reaction of the biologists in Texas is very encouraging. I hope Florida has a similar band of researchers and practitioners and teachers who can complain.

    A strong defense isn’t enough, IMO, we need a strong offense. Comer’s superiors need to be chased down and removed. They will cause trouble as long as they have power.

  55. #56 Steven Levery
    December 12, 2007

    “The reaction of the biologists in Texas is very encouraging.” “There will be a court case in Texas, start preparing now.”

    I’m also happy to see from the Statesman article that Texas biology educators are taking some initiative in speaking out, and that Comer is considering a lawsuit. I certainly hope she goes through with it; if this delusional idiot Abraham thinks he has a case, can there be any doubt that Comer does? The clowns in the Texas case may not realize it, but their circus has only just begun.

  56. #57 stogoe
    December 12, 2007

    What did clowns ever do to you, that you insult them so?

    Any sane person is at least a little terrified of clowns. They’re freakish, jibbering monstrosities, meant only as an object lesson in the danger of talking to strangers.

    While clowns advertise themselves as peddlers of joy and mirth, the only thing they bring to an occasion is a garish tilt, a cackling nightmare world of hideousness.

  57. #58 SEF
    December 12, 2007

    Comer’s superiors need to be chased down and removed. They will cause trouble as long as they have power.

    They’re not really her superiors (ie in anything other than the largely meritless hiring and firing power hierarchy). They’re merely her persecutors.

  58. #59 Sastra, OM
    December 12, 2007

    PZ’s multiple choice question should be considered in light of another multiple choice question.

    Who is best qualified to make informed choices about the existence of God?

    A. Pointy-headed scientists with years of training in the nature of reality, but no understanding of the deeper, spiritual things.

    B. Rational adults who have studied the world’s religions, read philosophy and theology, and weighed the arguments on both sides before coming to a reasoned decision.

    C. Children who are informed from birth that God exists and loves them, and who have a natural tendency to attribute meaning, purpose, and intentions to anything more complicated than a rock.

    “And a little child shall lead them …”

    God wouldn’t make it all too hard for a child to grasp, now would He?

  59. #60 Glen Davidson
    December 12, 2007

    I sure do hope that when Florida’s teaching children Newton’s laws of gravitation that they’ll also teach the warts. You know, problems with reconciling the general theory of relativity and quantum gravity. To make everything perfectly clear, of course.

    Why should Florida’s children sink to the bottom only in biology, after all?

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  60. #61 The Wanderer
    December 12, 2007

    Although I have no children of my own, I am dead-set against this creationist drivel. The members of the Polk School Board (yes, I live there, worse luck) apparently live in a world where the Kitzmiller decision doesn’t apply to them.
    I’ve already written one letter, asking what their aims are by combining religious obscurantism with mindless rote memorization to pass standardized tests.
    And the ridicule has begun, with the appearance in the local paper of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  61. #62 Chance
    December 12, 2007

    The fundie creos target them. I’ve heard from a few that decided the job wasn’t worth the hassle and quit or were forced out. Rumor has it that this isn’t at all uncommon.

    I am a biology teacher in fundie heaven Texas. I have the benefit of being well liked by the students for whatever reason but my principal is a fundie who if push came to shove would cower like a mouse if the public rose up. I’ve been doing this for 15years though and frankly I have found the students to be more than receptive.

    I also hear alot of ‘Oh that makes sense’ comments once they actually begin to understand the stuff. I also do a section at the beginning of the school year on CT skills and the difference between pseudoscience and science. The list starts with ghosts and compares itself to established science.

    At the end kids always ask ‘Well there is no good evidence for God either’. I sit in silence on that one.:-)

    But I am amazed at how a little CT can sometimes trump 15 years of dogma. Now if only it was reinforced in the culture itself.

  62. #63 Matt Penfold
    December 12, 2007

    “Who is best qualified to make informed choices about the existence of God?

    A. Pointy-headed scientists with years of training in the nature of reality, but no understanding of the deeper, spiritual things.

    B. Rational adults who have studied the world’s religions, read philosophy and theology, and weighed the arguments on both sides before coming to a reasoned decision.”

    Of course the fact is most people saying god exists make scientific claims for him. How the universe began, Miracle cures, Visitations etc. These are things that can, and are, investigated by scientists. The problem for those making these claims is that there is no evidence to support to them. Now this does not rule out that god might exist but it does place restrictions on the nature of such a god. Ty my knowledge, non of the scientists who say god does not exist actually claim certainty for that. They point out given the lack of evidence to support the claims god does not exist the chances of a god actually existing are so remote as to be not worth bothering with. Russell made this point when he talked of the teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars. No one can show there is no such teapot, only that it is so unlikely as to not be worth considering as possible.

    Now it is possible that a god exists but does not do the things the religious claims he does. Of course any god that does not get involved in running the universe is not much of a god compared with the god most religious people think exists. Such a god would, at most, have a role in starting the universe but after that can do nothing but watch. Possible I suppose but belief in such a god would seem to be rather a waste of time.

    SO it would seem the scientists can tell us rather a lot about the possibility of god existing. It is a pity so many do not listen to them.

  63. #64 Brownian, OM
    December 12, 2007

    So we gotta teach the controversy with regards to evolution versus goddiditthrumagic, but the the religios gotta boycott Pullman?

    Oh please, dear Lord, if You truly exist, please, please, please bring the Rapture and save the rest of us from your narcissitic, borderline-psychotic retardsdevoted followers.

  64. #65 Stanton
    December 12, 2007
    What did clowns ever do to you, that you insult them so?

    Any sane person is at least a little terrified of clowns. They’re freakish, jibbering monstrosities, meant only as an object lesson in the danger of talking to strangers.

    While clowns advertise themselves as peddlers of joy and mirth, the only thing they bring to an occasion is a garish tilt, a cackling nightmare world of hideousness.

    And how does this warrant their comparison to creationists?

  65. #66 Landrew
    December 12, 2007

    When a board of education drafts a curriculum for equal time or provide competing “theories” to Evolution, do they argue for a specific alternate to be taught?
    From what I’ve seen, superficially, the draft is ambiguous even though there is an implicit understanding that creation/ID is the sole competing theory to be taught.
    If a draft is open to interpretation then kill the clock. Starting from Day 1 teach evolution. Then teach as many competing theories as possible (pastafarianism, scientology, Descartes 3rd meditation, etc). Unfortunately, time is limited in a school year. Hopefully, there will be enough time to get to creationism and ID. πŸ˜‰
    I don’t like the idea of time being wasted in this fashion, but ideally students would be given college credit towards a philosophy or a course.

    Keep up the good fight.

  66. #67 Sastra, OM
    December 12, 2007

    Matt Penfold #62 wrote:

    SO it would seem the scientists can tell us rather a lot about the possibility of god existing. It is a pity so many do not listen to them.

    I agree, and well put. But it seems that an uncomfortable number of Christians not only define and throw out option #1 — but think that option #2 (thoughtful and mature analysis) is also fishy. No, the best way to qualify people for the task of deciding if there is a God is to indoctrinate them from birth, and encourage and praise every childish tendency and habit of seeing purpose in everything as “innate wisdom.” Make sure they’re babbling how they know God loves them by the time they can barely talk. They’re capable of being sure of that sort of thing.

    I really do think that one of the reasons behind the surprising displays of hubris on the part of unqualified people who so blithely dismiss scientific expertise is a world-view which thinks the universe has been set up for our comprehension. Everything which is important to know about is readily accessible to the sincere seeker, regardless of their educational background, intelligence, or age, as long as they allow themselves to be guided like a child towards God by instinct.

    I raised my children the way I was raised myself: without religion. I didn’t “teach” atheism either. I told them there were a lot of different views on God, this is what I thought and why, but they should consider everything and come to their own conclusions when they were mature enough to look at the issue carefully.

    And yet, I would not want them sitting in a science class and asked to “choose for themselves” between the consensus of experts and a “theory” which scientists say is bad science, and no theory at all. They’re not qualified for that. You have to really know the field if you’re going to go against it.

    Creationists seem to be doing it the opposite way — in both cases, going with the “hunch” which has the desired conclusion over the cautious method which attempts to be correct. When you go that route, even small children are fit to grapple with difficult questions, and solve them against people with actual expertise. God makes a simple universe, brought down to the level of the simple.

  67. #68 Brenda Tucker
    December 12, 2007

    I think Linda Taylor is asking teachers to critically present evolution where upon some of the data showing a conflict, those conflicts be presented for students to strive to resolve the conflict, making even the theory of evolution subject to revision and rewriting.

    Then I might like to comment on Myers comment

    Who is best qualified to make informed choices about complex scientific theories?

    – Scientists with years of training in the subject, and qualified science teachers who understand the fundamentals of the theory.

    – Creationists who won’t even commit to an estimate of the age of the earth.

    – Members of the board of education who have absolutely no training in the sciences.

    – Children who are just being introduced to the topic for the first time, haven’t read any of the primary literature, and who are entirely dependent on the competence of the instructors who have given them an outline of the general story.

    and answer his question by saying the teachers are the best qualified to make that decision and you didn’t even give the teachers a place on the bill.

    Teachers are capable of reaching the youth of America with an honest approach. THE SECRET DOCTRINE has within it a theory of evolution that our children would enjoy thinking about and making decisions based on what is presented to them about races and rounds. This theory was never understood by masses and since I have personally extracted it from not only theosophical books, but also confirmed what I read by an independent second organization: The Saint Germain Foundation, I am attempting to use scientific methods by looking for confirming data.

    However, in all honesty, THE SECRET DOCTRINE gives the age of the earth as presented by scientists and others and tries to help the reader choose the best analysis of the earth’s age, showing great diversity of opinion. She reports that humans were here for 300 million years which totally disagrees with what we read from scientific research.

    Now we must not only define human, but what we mean by earth. If the earth is meant to include all of its present life forms, then it might be accurate to say the earth is clearly defined as a body with the fifth race human and all accompanying forms on it.

    Saint Germain adamantly gives the age of the earth as 4 million years, but qualifies his statement to mean the earth as we know it today. A much different earth would have existed during the 4th race, 3rd race, etc.

    Because of his statement in the dictations by Edna Ballard, the two “confirming” organizations which I use are in fact at odds with each other about what should be taught. I doubt if anyone is even trying to define the word human, which could be defined to mean only the 5th race or all of the races for a period of seven rounds on seven globes.

    Either we restrict words, qualify them, or add to their number for better understanding, but I don’t see why we can’t all be right. It’s just the words themselves that are at fault. Please add girasas to your dictionary.

  68. #69 truth machine
    December 12, 2007

    She doesn’t sound like the Dover guys who were just playing dumb (in a sense) while they and their DI overlords sharpened the wedge; it just sounds like a reporter cornered her on an issue about which she doesn’t know much or feel strongly.

    This is utterly clueless. “”With the evolution, there’s a bigger topic called theories of origin. I think kids should have the opportunity to compare different theories” — she didn’t just come up with that on the spur of the moment.

  69. #70 Rey Fox
    December 12, 2007

    That’s right, Florida Board of Education, teach the controversy! Teach the girasas! Or are you too CHICKEN?!

  70. #71 GTMoogle
    December 12, 2007

    Brenda: “and answer his question by saying the teachers are the best qualified to make that decision and you didn’t even give the teachers a place on the bill.”

    Err, you might want to read the second half of that first bullet it point where it says exactly that.

  71. #72 truth machine
    December 12, 2007

    Who is best qualified to make informed choices about the existence of God?

    A. Pointy-headed scientists with years of training in the nature of reality, but no understanding of the deeper, spiritual things.

    B. Rational adults who have studied the world’s religions, read philosophy and theology, and weighed the arguments on both sides before coming to a reasoned decision.

    That’s quite a false dichotomy. Since when do scientists necessarily have no understanding of “the deeper spiritual things” (if there are any — the wording begs the question), aren’t rational adults, haven’t studied the world’s religions, haven’t read philosophy and theology, haven’t weighed “the arguments on both sides”, or haven’t come to reasoned decisions? And since when are any of the characteristics in B, other than rationality, essential to coming a reasoned decision? We don’t require such studying and weighing when it comes to astrology, flat-earthism, Velikovskiism, or a host of other claims. What the heck does studying the world’s religions, which are human institutions, have to do with whether God exists? (A question Dawkins’ critics would do well to answer.) Do we have to study all Sun-worshipping sects before “coming to a reasoned decision” as to whether the Sun is a deity?

    I think that those “with years of training in the nature of reality” are much more likely to have an accurate “understanding of the deeper, spiritual things” than those who live in Sagan’s “demon-haunted world”, and those who live in that world aren’t made any the wiser by studying the religions, philosophy, theology, and arguments of their coinhabitants.

  72. #73 MikeM
    December 12, 2007

    #3, Atheist in a Kilt:

    I gotta wholeheartedly disagree. Like every other county in America, of course we have conservatives. But more conservative than San Diego, Orange or Placer county?

    You can’t possibly be serious.

    If creationism came to a debate before Sac City Unified, at this point, I think it’d get rejected unanimously. The last semi-famous case of a local school board considering creationism was in Placer county, where it failed by a much wider margin than I expected it to.

    I just wanted to defend where I live a little bit. I think Creationism, if presented to Sac City Unified, San Juan Unified or Elk Grove, would lose by very wide margins. Probably unanimously in Sac City Unified.

  73. #74 Sastra, OM
    December 12, 2007

    truthmachine #71:

    Since I more or less agree with you, I obviously did a poor job getting across that I was being snarky. I was pretending to present the options as a Creationist would see them:

    The people who are best qualified to decide whether God exists or not are not the scientists (because they’re cold); not mature philosophers (because they think too much.) No, the only qualification you really need to come to make a decision on the truth of theism is to be as a little child, open, trusting, and simple.

    They seem to approach science the same way.

  74. #75 more like a tech guy
    December 12, 2007

    If they put biblical creation in schools I want equal time for the Taoist creation:

    The Tao gives birth to the One.
    The One gives birth to two.
    Two gives birth to three.
    And three gives birth to the ten thousand things.

    The ten thousand things have their backs in the shadow
    while they embrace the light.
    Harmony is achieved by blending
    the breaths of these two forces.

    Notice that Taoist creation actually starts with the singularity, proceeds to the birth of matter & antimatter, treats the three elementary building blocks of the atom, and includes the expanding universe. In general Taoism has an excellent sense about dynamic equlibrium and the often counter-intuitive effects of change within a complex system. Above all it fosters skepticism.

  75. #76 Kseniya
    December 12, 2007

    Brenda once again inadvertently descends into self-parody before taking her first breath. Sorry, Brenda. Nothing personal.

    Stogoe, you might enjoy this.

  76. #77 Matt
    December 12, 2007

    Because of this blog post, I have been moved to write a letter to the board members here in Florida. Would someone mind reading my letter real quick and see if it is adequate? Thanks in advance.

    Dear Ms. Callaway,

    I am a Florida resident and concerned parent and I am writing you to make known my position on the upcoming vote to decide the fate of the science standard revisions. The future of this state and this country rests on our children’s education, especially science education. In particular, the importance of understanding the theory of evolution and how it applies to the Life Sciences cannot be overemphasized. Principles of evolutionary theory are vital to our understanding of important issues such as bacterial resistance to antibiotics, flu vaccine production, and AIDS treatments, to name a few. To deprive our children access to this knowledge is to place them at a disadvantage in the future. In contrast, as we learned in the Dover case, “intelligent design” offers only religious dogma parading as “science”. ID offers nothing except for poor attempts to subvert the importance of evolutionary theory.

    As I am sure you are aware, when we speak of the “theory” of evolution, we do not mean it in the common sense of “speculation” or “vague idea”. A theory, as defined on the American Museum of Natural History website, is “a well-substantiated explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can incorporate laws, hypotheses and facts” (http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/darwin/evolution/theory.php). So, indeed, evolution should be taught as theory in the latter sense. It should not, however, be taught as “just a theory” as in the former sense.

    Thank you for your time. For our children’s sake, let us see that evolutionary theory is fully integrated into Florida’s science curriculum so that they have every advantage for future success.

  77. #78 Sastra, OM
    December 12, 2007

    Matt:
    Looks good to me — very well written. My only suggestion might be more paragraph breaks, to make it easier to pick out points at a glance.

    (btw, this post is about a Linda Taylor and it’s addressed to Ms. Callaway. I haven’t been following names all that closely; I assume she’s a major player.)

  78. #79 dogmeatib
    December 12, 2007

    Nifty entry at that SCPIE:

    Origin Science versus Operation Science
    Written by Kerby Anderson
    Oct. 16, 2007
    Recently Probe produced a DVD based small group curriculum entitled Redeeming Darwin: The Intelligent Design Controversy. It has been a great way to inform Christians about Intelligent Design and show them how to use a conversation about this topic to share the gospel. (more)

    Good thing it isn’t religious or anything, don’t know why us evilutionists wont accept an alternative scientific theory.

  79. #80 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 12, 2007

    Bad news is Dogmeat. Their homeschooler is now Chair of the SC Board of Education.

    shit

  80. #81 MPW
    December 12, 2007

    Brenda, girlfriend, whatever you’re smoking, pass me the pipe! Yowza!

  81. #82 foxfire
    December 12, 2007

    @Matt regarding #76,

    Beautiful! I agree with Sastra OM’s point about paragraph breaks. I suggest a break in the first paragraph so that “Principles of evolutionary theory ..” forms a new paragraph.

    In a way, I envy you (not just for your eloquent prose) because Oregon is just *so* darn BORING! Here is the take on ID from the Oregon Department of Education: http://www.ode.state.or.us/news/announcements/announcement.aspx?=2588. The last clown that tried to teach IDC (earlier this year) was terminated – beats being lynched by outraged parents. All we have is the newspaper editorial section (when some yahoo does a “Linda”).

    I really have to hope Florida rationality perseveres and your odds for the next trial take a dive – we in Oregon welcome progressive industry and it would be delightful to see big bucks pouring in from Texas to investigate a wave alternative energy source when that state goes goddidit: http://eecs.oregonstate.edu/wesrf/

  82. #83 Alan Kellogg
    December 12, 2007

    I will now commit to an age for the Earth. The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, though she doesn’t look a day over 4.2.

  83. #84 Matt
    December 12, 2007

    Foxfire and Sostra…

    Thanks for the kudos and suggestions, I’ll fix it up and send it out. Florida citizens for science (the web-site PZ linked to) has a letter-writing campaign going on and this is the letter being sent to the members who have voiced creastionist leanings (Taylor, Callaway) and to those who have not given an opinion either way. The pro-evolution members are getting a quick “thanks, good job, keep the kooks at bay” note.

    Matt

  84. #85 Matt
    December 12, 2007

    BTW, I have to say that this is my first foray into “activism” and it feels good. After reading “Kingdom Coming” and reading this site, Dawkins’ site, and others like them, I feel moved to get off my ass and do something. I can no longer sit by while these morons quietly take over the country and ruin everything. Thanks to all of you who have set the example.

  85. #86 bronco214
    December 13, 2007

    God told me that the answer is B. He also told me that if you don’t come around to his way of thinking, some day you are going to die.
    Believe it nor not! If you do believe it (that the answer is B), I have some propeties for sale at a very reasonable price. Trust me!

  86. #87 arachnophilia
    December 13, 2007

    matt:

    as a resident of florida, and graduate of the public education system here…

    …you’re writing to people who probably can’t read. try to remember that. your “latter” and “former” will only have people scratching their heads at the school board.

    yes, it’s that bad. our education system’s motto used to be “thank god for mississippi.”

  87. #88 uriel
    December 13, 2007

    “our education system’s motto used to be “thank god for mississippi.””

    Yep. They use the same defence in Georgia and Arkansas, as well.

    Al though, oddly enough, I’ve heard the same in Mississipi, as well…

  88. #89 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 13, 2007

    A homeschooler leading the South Carolina State Board of Education is like…..

    … someone with Apiphobia running the local honey farm.

  89. #90 secondclass
    December 18, 2007

    Egnor reads Myers, but nothing sinks in:

    Here’s my suggestion for the answer to the question “Who is best qualified to make informed choices about complex scientific theories in public schools in Florida?”:

    The people of Florida, through their elected school boards.

    Darwinists like Myers find democracy so frustrating.

    Here’s a scenario for Egnor: You tell one of your patients that he needs surgery or he’ll die. He demurs, saying that he wants to first put it to a vote and let the people decide whether the surgery is necessary. That’s democratized science, and doctors who advocate it should lose their license.

  90. #91 Paul
    December 19, 2007

    You should know better, PZ. The significant question isn’t “Who is best qualified to make informed choices about complex scientific theories?” but “Who is best qualified to determine what is taught to children?” and my answer to that question is – certainly nobody who deliberately seeks to shut down discussion, and certainly nobody who doesn’t have sufficient philosophical insight to realise that philosophical materialism is a matter of presuppositions, not an empirically derived truth.

    I object to the half-baked ideas that some children in Christian families have about evolution, and try and give them more accurate knowledge. But then, I object to people who think that materialism works because it says so in “The God Delusion” – a book every bit as half-baked as the worst creationist material, but which for too many people has virtually the standing of Scripture. The solution isn’t greater polarisation or greater censorship, but more informed discussion.

  91. #92 MartinM
    December 19, 2007

    certainly nobody who deliberately seeks to shut down discussion

    Who’s doing that, then? Certainly not supporters of evolution, who have been inviting discussion in peer-reviewed journals for quite some time.

    certainly nobody who doesn’t have sufficient philosophical insight to realise that philosophical materialism is a matter of presuppositions, not an empirically derived truth.

    And who would that be? Clearly, you can’t be referring to the supporters of evolution, who represent a broad range of philosophical positions.

  92. #93 Paul
    December 19, 2007

    “supporters of evolution who have been inviting discussion in peer-reviewed journals for quite some time.”

    Right. Like the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, perhaps? Where there was little engagement with the actual paper published, but plenty of attempt to do for the editor? Or getting noted opponents of ID to review books published by proponents of ID? What exactly do you mean by “discussion”? Philosophical naturalism rules the debate about possible external agency off-limits before any discussion can even start – despite the fact that (as I have pointed out) it isn’t an empirical truth: it’s a presupposition.

    “…you can’t be referring to supporters of evolution, who represent a broad range of philosophical positions.” No, I’m referring to those people who can’t see beyond philosophical materialism. But if the hat fits, wear it. To allow such religious/philosophical dogmatists – whether scientists or artists – to determine the content of school curricula is as much your feared ideocracy as allowing fundamentalist religionists to.

  93. #94 Kseniya
    December 19, 2007

    Sure, Paul, except for one detail: evolution is a robust scientific theory, and ID is not. It’s not even “a theory in crisis.” Your argument is specious.

  94. #95 MartinM
    December 19, 2007

    Like the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, perhaps?

    Have you ever read it?

    Where there was little engagement with the actual paper published, but plenty of attempt to do for the editor?

    Leaving aside the fact that the content of the paper was indeed discussed in detail, in what sense ‘do for?’ Couldn’t fire him, since it was his last issue anyway. Nothing happened to him at the Smithsonian, beyond some unkind comments in e-mail behind his back.

    Or getting noted opponents of ID to review books published by proponents of ID?

    So what?

    What exactly do you mean by “discussion”?

    That would be the kind of discussion which begins with doing some fucking research, then publishing it through the normal channels.

    Philosophical naturalism…

    …is still a red herring. The supporters of evolution still represent a broad spectrum of philosophical positions, so trying to argue against one subgroup when all are in agreement on the points of relevance is still utterly dishonest.

  95. #96 Paul
    December 19, 2007

    Yes, I read the PBSW paper. And for what it’s worth, I read the PT response – which interestingly didn’t make it into a peer-reviewed paper of the sort in which you are saying discussion should take place. And I read the responses to PT as well, for that matter. Panda’s Thumb left me unconvinced.

    “Nothing … beyond some unkind comments and emails behind his back.” Well, kudos for acknowledging that much. Watch out that PZ doesn’t strike you down for being a collaborator, though.

    “So what?” Well, perhaps a little “NPOV” (which isn’t really possible in such a contentious area, but there are people who could take a balanced perspective) would mean that reviews concentrated on the substance of the book, rather than recycled spin relating to legal disputes. That might lead to proper and reasoned analysis, and perhaps even move discussion forward, rather than trying to prevent other people from understanding what is being talked about.

    As for fucking research, I don’t believe they give grants to hard scientists for it – try an anthropology department. However, since the PBSW paper hasn’t evoked discussion of the sort that you claim is desirable, and it resulted in huge pressure on the editor and the board, I’m not convinced by darwinist protestations that this is what they’d like to see.

    Philosophical naturalism is completely not a red herring – it is the heart of the debate. I have absolutely no problem as a Christian with an education system which looks at different philosophical presuppositions, their epistemological implications and how this impacts people’s understanding of the universe. I have a huge problem with an education system that presents teaching with only one philosophical presupposition, and asserts that it is the only valid one. That is what PZ (and presumably you) so fear will come about in the southern states. It is what I and others fear when I hear people like you saying that you want to dictate how things are taught in schools.

  96. #97 Paul
    December 19, 2007

    “Evolution is a robust scientific theory, and ID is not.” Careful with terms, here. What do you mean by “theory”?

  97. #98 Kseniya
    December 19, 2007

    You can’t be serious.

  98. #100 Kseniya
    December 19, 2007

    Bah. Of course you are right. I was being lazy because of time constraints.

    In this context, I mean “theory” in the sense of a testable or otherwise falsifiable model (or collection of related models) constructed to explain some natural phenomema.

  99. #101 Steve LaBonne
    December 19, 2007

    And I would add that as the words are commonly used, a hypothesis needs to undergo quite a lot of rigorous testing before it begins to be spoken of as a theory.

    ID is not even a hypothesis- its actual content is elusive at best. There’s not anything specific enough to test. No actual ID hypothesis will come into being until the IDiots start to venture specific testable predictions about the nature and mode of action of the “designer”. Of course they can’t and won’t because the whole enterprise is merely a legal / political fig leaf for attempts the smuggle religion into the public schools, and was deliberately made as vague and evasive as humanly possible in the vain hope that it could avoid meeting the same fate as “creation science”.

  100. #102 Paul
    December 19, 2007

    I am aware of the political implications of ID in the US – with your stupid lawyer-friendly system of saying that anything “religious” is against the first amendment – nothing of course to do with whether or not something is true!! Your constitution is basically excellent; the way it is abused is crass. Further, it is very convenient for you to paint ID as religious, as it means you don’t have to bother engaging with the actual debate – “Irreducible complexity? The unique location that is earth? It’s all religion, and we can’t talk about that. And children can’t be taught about it, because it’s against the first amendment.” Yaaaaawn. And what makes it religion? The fact that external agency is required – which is precisely the point at stake. So you are using constitutional means to prevent the issue from being considered – without even having to weigh up the arguments. Neat! Just don’t kid yourself that what you are doing is scientific.

    Well, bright children should learn critical thinking rather than legal procedure. But it’s very difficult to hear the debate over the sirens of materialism and religious fundamentalism.

    Evolution is a strong theory, in the terms in which you describe it. I’m not disputing that. However, there are key areas in which the evidence doesn’t support it. These aren’t “gaps” in the sense of loose ends just waiting to be tied up, but fundamental discontinuities that simply defy materialistic explanation. Belief that they can be explained derives not from an analysis of the problem or processes, but from the presupposition that non-materialistic processes have to be excluded – i.e. philosophical naturalism. That isn’t science. And that’s what people need to know, because it provides reassurance that belief in a god is no more or less rational than lack of belief in one.

  101. #103 Steve LaBonne
    December 19, 2007

    “Irreducible complexity” has been discussed to death by actual biologists. If one accepts that the term even has any meaning, then it is simply and flatly false that “irreducibly complex” objects cannot evolve. Behe and his acolytes simply ignore the evidence to the contrary. See: http://tinyurl.com/3a85yz

    And you obviously wouldn’t be able to recognize good science if it upped and bit you in the ass.

  102. #104 Rey Fox
    December 19, 2007

    “Further, it is very convenient for you to paint ID as religious, as it means you don’t have to bother engaging with the actual debate”

    Oh, it’s been engaged. Again and again and again.

    “Irreducible complexity?”

    Thoroughly debunked.

    “The unique location that is earth?”

    Banal, doesn’t take into account the inhospitability of most of the earth’s surface to human life, nor the inhospitability of the rest of the universe. Has nothing to do with evolution to begin with.

    “So you are using constitutional means to prevent the issue from being considered”

    Oh, it’s considered by many people. What makes you so insistant on teaching it to children, though? Even some ID proponents don’t think it’s robust enough to teach in high school. And don’t kids get enough claptrap about how the earth was created by a magical Sky Daddy in church?

    “And what makes it religion?”

    The vacuousness of it, the total lack of testible claims, the Goddidit cop-out. Oh, and the Wedge Document. You’ve heard of that, right?

    “because it provides reassurance that belief in a god is no more or less rational than lack of belief in one.”

    Sure it provides reassurance, doesn’t mean it’s true, though. Disbelief in things that leave no evidence seems perfectly rational to me.

  103. #105 Steve LaBonne
    December 19, 2007

    Even some ID proponents don’t think it’s robust enough to teach in high school.

    Yes, there is that- just like that clown in Dover, our buddy Paul hasn’t gotten the official DI memo that ID isn’t quite ready for prime time and that they really only want the supposed “weaknesses” of evolutionary theory taught. (Maybe by now the party line has shifted yet again, I don’t know.)

  104. #106 secondclass
    December 19, 2007

    Paul:

    I object to people who think that materialism works because it says so in “The God Delusion”

    And who, pray tell, would that be? Or are you just making things up?

    Tell you what, if anyone tries to include The God Delusion in a high school science curriculum, I’ll stand right beside you in objecting to it.

  105. #107 Paul
    December 19, 2007

    You’re right, I am making things up.

    In actual fact, of course, whilst there are still some who think that way (see Amazon reviews as evidence) a significant number of people who had appreciated Dawkins’ work hitherto stepped off the bus with “The God Delusion”. (“Did you read the ‘God Delusion’? Pile of shite, wasn’t it? And I love RD.” Plus all those “I’m an atheist but …” people that Dawkins is so angry with in the preface to the paperback edition.) TGD is evidence of the vacuousness of the reasoning coming from philosophical materialists. If you want me to take you seriously when you say that you ought to be deciding what to teach people, then I want to see you acknowledge the fact that Richard Dawkins has messed up in speaking about things he knows little about and hasn’t bothered to adequately research. Until then, as far as I’m concerned, you barely have sufficient ability to critically engage to be considered eligible for voting.

  106. #108 MAJeff
    December 19, 2007

    belief in a god is no more or less rational than lack of belief in one.

    BZZZZT.

  107. #109 Steve_C
    December 19, 2007

    Belief in Thor is more rational than belief in the generic god.

    Thor has a hammer. God has a beard. Big deal.

  108. #110 Paul
    December 20, 2007

    Steve_C: How do you know God has a beard? How do you know he (if you are referring to the Judaeo-Christian deity) is “the generic god”? ITWSBT.

  109. #111 Steve LaBonne
    December 20, 2007

    Until then, as far as I’m concerned, you barely have sufficient ability to critically engage to be considered eligible for voting.

    Since your remarks above have already established that you’re an ignorant git with the reasoning power of the average cabbage, your opinion is worth precisely nothing.

  110. #112 MartinM
    December 20, 2007

    Yes, I read the PBSW paper.

    I didn’t mean the paper, but rather the journal; I’m wondering if you thought the Meyer paper was out of place.

    And for what it’s worth, I read the PT response – which interestingly didn’t make it into a peer-reviewed paper of the sort in which you are saying discussion should take place.

    The peer-reviewed literature is not the beginning and end of science, but it is a vital component. The absence of any serious research on the ID side is telling.

    Well, kudos for acknowledging that much.

    As far as I’m aware, that’s all there is to acknowledge.

    However, since the PBSW paper hasn’t evoked discussion of the sort that you claim is desirable, and it resulted in huge pressure on the editor and the board, I’m not convinced by darwinist protestations that this is what they’d like to see.

    Well, for one, it was a review paper. But more obviously, I should think it clear that when we say we want to see ID propnents publishing in peer-reviewed journals, we mean we want to see them raise their game so that their papers pass legitimate peer-review, not that we want them to find an ID-friendly editor who is willing to bypass the usual procedures.

    Philosophical naturalism is completely not a red herring – it is the heart of the debate. I have absolutely no problem as a Christian with an education system which looks at different philosophical presuppositions, their epistemological implications and how this impacts people’s understanding of the universe.

    And that’s exactly my point. Scientists hold a wide range of philosophical positions, and yet almost all in the relevant fields accept evolution. Thus, as far as biological science goes, clearly their philosophical positions do not impact their understanding of the Universe. Which is why this:

    I have a huge problem with an education system that presents teaching with only one philosophical presupposition, and asserts that it is the only valid one.

    …is simply wrong. Teaching evolution and not ID does not mean teaching philosophical naturalism. Theistic evolutionists are proof enough of that.

  111. #113 Kseniya
    December 20, 2007

    Your constitution is basically excellent; the way it is abused is crass.

    I wonder if Paul even realizes the truth of this. Surely not, given that he thinks that Dover is evidence of it. I wonder if he knows that even adults who think that Jesus rode a T-Rex and that the earth is 6,000 years old are eligible to vote. Surely not, given that he thinks that siding with him on TGD should be a criterion for voter eligibility in a country he’s probably never even visited.

    Paul wants philosophers to decide what to teach in science, and for scientists to just shut up.

  112. #114 MartinM
    December 20, 2007

    So you are using constitutional means to prevent the issue from being considered – without even having to weigh up the arguments.

    The first amendment only proscribes what government and its officers can do. As far as ID is concerned, it only comes into play when someone tries to use a political position to bypass the usual channels of scientific discussion and take ID directly to young children. This is not how science is usually done, oddly enough.

  113. #115 Paul
    December 20, 2007

    “The first amendment only proscribes what government and its officers can do.” And your lawyers have come to the conclusion that teachers in public schools are officers of the government. What if the government were to behave as though that was the case? Doesn’t that bug you a bit? It would terrify me. But then, the thought that the government claims the right to know what books I borrow from the public library would bring me out in the streets, and you lot just seem to have swallowed it. “Home of the free”, eh?

    “Paul wants philosophers to decide what to teach in science, and for scientists to just shut up.” Not exactly. Decisions about the nature of curriculum should not be the province of one group – philosophers or scientists. And decisions about such things should be subject to democratic control. This is really important. If you can persuade people of the truth of your position, then you will get the mandate you seek. If you can’t, then why should you have the right to disregard their will? Why, fundamentally, do you think you have a constitution? It’s not to ensure that you have the best form of government – it’s to prevent any group (including materialist scientists) taking too much power. That’s what the checks and balances are for. “Democracy is the worst form of government – apart from all the others.” If somebody is ignorant, then why mock them? Why not teach them?

    As for me, I’m really not bothered whether you think I’m an ignorant git. I don’t give a fig what is taught in US public schools, actually. I don’t believe all the spin from the pro-ID side, any more than I believe the spin from your side. I just want to know the truth, and I’m fed up with people with vested interests refusing to engage the debate – and why? Perhaps because they are afraid they might lose? Perhaps because they think that even acknowledging the good points of the other person’s argument might be viewed as a sign of weakness?

    The fact is, the more contempt you express for the “ignorant” people who think differently to you, the more you will appear to be extremists and fundamentalists.

  114. #116 Steve LaBonne
    December 20, 2007

    I just want to know the truth

    Then you need to make the mental effort to understand the science. Thus far you either couldn’t or wouldn’t, otherwise you would be unable to say completely stupid things such as

    I don’t believe all the spin from the pro-ID side, any more than I believe the spin from your side.

    Such lazy split-it-down-the-middle anti-intellectualism is the very opposite of truth-seeking.

  115. #117 Steve_C
    December 20, 2007

    They’re ignorant because they don’t UNDERSTAND.

    I’m ignorant about alot of things… but I don’t have an opinion of those things and think the need to be debated.

  116. #118 Rey Fox
    December 20, 2007

    “Decisions about the nature of curriculum should not be the province of one group – philosophers or scientists.”

    The hell it shouldn’t.

    “If you can’t, then why should you have the right to disregard their will?”

    Because they’re wrong. Sorry if that makes you feel bad. Polls have shown up to 75% of people in America believe in angels, and somewhere around 40% believe the world was created less than 10,000 years ago. If we were to make it a point to limit ourselves to only teaching everyone’s comfortable delusions, we would never make it anywhere as a society. We can’t vote on our reality.

    “If somebody is ignorant, then why mock them? Why not teach them?”

    Those who have the willingness to learn and be taught shall be taught. Many don’t. There is such a thing as willful ignorance. Many want to make that into policy.

  117. #119 MartinM
    December 20, 2007

    And your lawyers have come to the conclusion that teachers in public schools are officers of the government.

    More precisely, teachers are ‘under colour of law,’ meaning that, in their official capacity, their actions carry the imprimatur of office. This is largely because the law requires children to be educated, and the curricula of state schools are determined through the political process. If you understand why it is inappropriate for teachers in state schools to teach YEC, you should understand why the same argument applies to ID.

    My spelling might tip you off to the fact that they’re not my lawyers, incidentally.

  118. #120 Paul
    December 20, 2007

    “Because they’re wrong. Sorry if that makes you feel bad. Polls have shown up to 75% of people in America believe in angels …”

    How do you know angels don’t exist? How do you know those people are wrong?

    Because you haven’t seen one? Have you seen the black hole in the middle of our galaxy? Have you seen the solid core of the earth? Do you believe it exists?

    Because they are logically impossible? How?

    Because belief in them is against your presuppositions? How do you know your presuppositions are correct? How do you KNOW?

    You think these people should be disenfranchised, basically, because you think they are intellectually incompetent – fundamentally because they believe in things that you don’t. But I don’t believe that in real terms, you have any basis for choosing between your beliefs and theirs. And furthermore, the reason nations are given constitutions is to prevent a tyranny by the strong over the weak. If you can’t persuade them, then you certainly have no moral authority to rule them, unless you are prepared to embrace tyranny. And if so – well, “Goodbye all you Neo-Nazis, I hope they give you Auschwitz” – MacPhisto.

    Put it another way. Do you think those people have the right to tell you what to believe? So why do you think it’s acceptable to tell them what to believe?

  119. #121 Steve LaBonne
    December 20, 2007

    I haven’t seen electrons either, dumbass. But I wouldn’t be able to post this comment without them. Do you understand ANYTHING at all about science? Evidently not.

  120. #122 thalarctos
    December 20, 2007

    You think these people should be disenfranchised, basically, because you think they are intellectually incompetent – fundamentally because they believe in things that you don’t.

    You’re the only one who’s argued that particular position:

    Until then, as far as I’m concerned, you barely have sufficient ability to critically engage to be considered eligible for voting.

    Projecting much?

    And if so – well, “Goodbye all you Neo-Nazis, I hope they give you Auschwitz” – MacPhisto.

    Do I smell burning martyr?

    As pointed out, *you’re* the only one arguing for disenfranchising opponents and wishing evil to be visited upon them.

    And as sanctimonious as you may personally feel about it, comparing the refusal to teach your nonsense in public schools to large-scale genocide really is insane.

  121. #123 Jake Boyman
    December 20, 2007

    How do you know angels don’t exist? How do you know those people are wrong?
    Because you haven’t seen one? Have you seen the black hole in the middle of our galaxy? Have you seen the solid core of the earth? Do you believe it exists?
    Because they are logically impossible? How?
    Because belief in them is against your presuppositions? How do you know your presuppositions are correct? How do you KNOW?

    Behold the future of Western fundamentalism: total postmodernism. All facts are equally valid, no idea is any more true than any other. Therefore, let’s all vote on what reality is!

    “HOW DO YOU KNOW THE EARTH ISN’T 6,000 YEARS OLD? WERE YOU *THERE*???”

    Let’s be very glad Paul will never be put in charge of American school curricula.

  122. #124 Paul
    December 21, 2007

    *Sigh* You have obviously learnt nothing in philosophical terms from Kant onwards. I am not a postmodernist – postmodernism isn’t even able to support itself. BUT the reason postmodernism came along was because it became apparent that modernism didn’t really work either. Had modernism provided a satisfactory metanarrative, do you really think that all those university philosophy departments would have been able to find anything to do for the last 150 years? (Yes, I’m sure you consider them to be a waste of time – that’s a pretty typical reaction from somebody who is ignorant and can’t be bothered to learn.) And yet you continue to behave as though the modernist metanarrative is the only game in town.

    Jake, I am not saying that all beliefs (which is what I assume you mean, rather than facts) are equally valid. What I am saying is that if you want your view to be taken seriously, you’ll have to do better in analysing alternatives than, “You’re stupid! You believe in angels! We say this – so we are right. So what we say should be taken seriously and what you say should be ignored.” To which the obvious question is: why? And the answer, ultimately, will come back to your presuppositions, which are not shared by other people. There is nothing inherently more right about the naturalist metanarrative – because all metanarratives are fundamentally faith positions, with other observations being interpreted in the light of them, rather than supporting or not supporting them.

    For example, you possibly believe that a quantum fluctuation brought about the existence of space, time and energy. I don’t believe that this is reasonable – the scope of “something out of nothing” that we see in the universe is seriously limited, and such an event represents a major scientific discontinuity, which invalidates science as a suitable tool for analysing it. You interpret your observation (of the effects of the big bang) in accordance with your naturalistic presupposition – that it can’t require external agency. But you can hardly say that the big bang supports a naturalistic perspective – it is simply a phenomenon that you are treating as a natural event. I interpret it in accordance with my presuppositions – that what we observe requires creation. Now, you say there is no evidence of a God – but in actual fact, that is because for all phenomena that suggest a requirement for external agency, you choose to believe instead in a naturalistic explanation. Your interpretation of the phenomena isn’t “more right” – it’s just one that happens to fit with your presuppositions. Unless you can make a convincing case that the presuppositions are inconsistent – AND THERE ARE MUCH BETTER QUALIFIED PEOPLE THAN YOU – OR DAWKINS! – WHO HAVE BEEN TRYING TO DO THIS FOR 200 YEARS! – then you have no grounds for saying that my belief in external agency – or the belief of 75% of the US population in angels – is wrong.

  123. #125 Steve LaBonne
    December 21, 2007

    Add philosophy to the list of subjects about which Paul knows less than nothing but about which he is not thereby deterred from bloviating.

  124. #126 thalarctos
    December 21, 2007

    You have obviously learnt nothing in philosophical terms from Kant onwards.

    Yeah, I must have missed the part where they advocate disenfranchising scientists, calling your opponents Neo-Nazis, and wishing Auschwitz on them.

  125. #127 Paul
    December 21, 2007

    thalarctos: Oh, don’t be so precious. Or so spinny.

    I don’t advocate disenfranchising anybody, although I am concerned about the contempt in which the majority of the US population is held by people here – at least my beliefs demand that I respect other humans simply on the basis of their humanity; that doesn’t seem to be the case for most of the people who have commented here.

    And I didn’t call you neo-nazis, or wish Auschwitz on you. Firstly it was a quote, and secondly what I was referring to, if you look at the context, was people who are prepared to assert their views by force on other people. If the hat doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. (But on the other hand, if you are prepared to force your opinions on people who don’t want them, maybe the hat does fit? How far are you prepared to go, given your conviction about how right you are? PZ has certainly come up with some fruity statements in the past…)

    Incidentally, by “disenfranchising” I didn’t simply mean removing the right to vote, although that is the dictionary definition, and represents the most important aspect of what I was talking about. I meant, more broadly withdrawing the right to participate in a democracy – I don’t have a better word than that – if you have one, let me know. As far as I’m concerned, the assertion here that non-scientists are incompetent to decide what should be part of a curriculum is an aspect of disenfranchisement, and that was why I talked about what is needed of somebody to vote.

  126. #128 Steve_C
    December 21, 2007

    Not non-scientists… CREATIONISTS shouldn’t be allowed to determine what science is taught.

  127. #129 Kseniya
    December 21, 2007

    [* makes a mental note on the distinction between “non-scientist” and “anti-scientist” *]

  128. #130 thalarctos
    December 21, 2007

    Firstly it was a quote, and secondly what I was referring to, if you look at the context, was people who are prepared to assert their views by force on other people. If the hat doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. (But on the other hand, if you are prepared to force your opinions on people who don’t want them, maybe the hat does fit? How far are you prepared to go, given your conviction about how right you are? PZ has certainly come up with some fruity statements in the past…)

    Who’s up for a game of “Count the Fallacies”?

    I see 3: well-poisoning, guilt-by-association, and slippery-slope.

    Anyone else get more than 3?

  129. #131 Rey Fox
    December 21, 2007

    “I don’t advocate disenfranchising anybody, although I am concerned about the contempt in which the majority of the US population is held by people here- at least my beliefs demand that I respect other humans simply on the basis of their humanity; that doesn’t seem to be the case for most of the people who have commented here.”

    You’re certainly a sensitive one. We can all respect people for being people, for doing what they can to navigate their lives just as we do. That doesn’t mean we have to respect all of their ideas. The world is not 6,000 years old. There’s no real scientific reason to believe that some intelligent agent created everything. There’s plenty of evidence for evolution. People can believe whatever goofy stuff they want to in their free time, but as long as we’re charged to teach science, we’re going to teach the best available science. ID is not that. And with their all-consuming focus on classroom obfuscation and talks at churches, it’s not likely to become the best of science.

    (And with regards to angels, no I haven’t seen one, I’ve never seen pictures of one, few people can even agree on what they are, they steadfastly refuse to subject them to any kind of hard scientific inquiry, and the sort of things attributed to angels can be much more easily attributed to other things that we know exist. Plus, the manner in which angels operate is rather curiously in line with the sort of things that the people who see them wish to see in their own lives. Nobody claims that the black hole at the center of the galaxy has any direct effect on their actual lives (makes them better people, saved them from walking in front of that bus) other than the gravitational influence it exerts.)

    (By the way, did I ever tell you about the dragon in my garage?)

    “But on the other hand, if you are prepared to force your opinions on people who don’t want them, maybe the hat does fit?”

    Yes. We want to FORCE science on people as part of the great Darwinist Reich. And by the way, drama queens will be the first ones in the gas chambers.

  130. #132 Paul
    December 24, 2007

    You have a dragon in your garage? How cool is that!

    The whole approach that says that everything can be reduced to the observable and measurable – the scientific – fails to deal with the universe as it is. There’s this image that somebody suggested a few days ago, of a person looking for his keys under a streetlight. Somebody suggested to him that they might not be under the light, but he responded that he was looking under the light because he could see there.

    You have reduced your analysis of the universe to naturalistic phenomena “because you can see there”, and then concluded that that is all there is. To argue that the work of Shakespeare is no more than a guy particularly successful at one means of trying to score with women – or that human creation and imagination is no more than a slightly more sophisticated version of termites building a nest – or that there is no evidence that complexity is more than the product of chance and time – or that our appreciation of the universe is just an anthropic coincidence – or that our concern for truth, justice, fairness, decency is just an evolutionary strategy of our selfish (anthropomorphising) genes – all of these things look to me like a wilful rejection of the obvious – that there is more to life than naturalism.

    This isn’t “unscientific” – it’s just pointing out that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

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