Pharyngula

The local angle here in Seattle

One of the fun things about traveling to strange places like Seattle is getting to meet new and interesting people — or, at least, people who are made of meat rather than the more familiar bit patterns of the net. I’ve had a few occasions now to talk to Alan Boyle, who has just summarized my NWSA talk…and done a pretty good job of it, too.

One thing I want to expand on a little bit is something I brought up for the Seattle audience: I think the Discovery Institute is toast, and are going to be increasingly irrelevant. The Wedge document is dead and gone; their strategy of pretending to have a secular goal has failed; and everyone can see through their claim that “Intelligent Design” is something other than creationism. All along, the buzzword has been a front for old school creationism, of the type favored by more traditional, openly Biblical groups like Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, and what’s driving the base is not the attenuated rationalizations of the DI, but the Jesus-lovin’ evangelical beliefs of its supporters.

I should have said more about a remaining concern. Creationism is not dead, but is still a dangerous force for ignorance. And of course, the Discovery Institute is going to be trying hard to reinvent itself. We’re looking at several new strategies already: there’s the clamoring for “academic freedom” bills, and also the magic words of “strengths and weaknesses”. Note that they still have the common thread of misleading with labels — their version of “academic freedom” isn’t about freedom at all, but about giving preferential treatment to ideological inanity, and when they talk about “strengths and weaknesses”, they intend to overlook the strengths of modern biology and focus on imaginary weaknesses invented by ignorant creationists.

So more accurately, what I should have said is that one line of rhetorical noise is failing fast, but that they’re rapidly generating new clouds of obfuscatory squid ink that they hope will stick and confuse another generation of innocent students. Liars and con men just have to keep moving to keep their misdeeds from catching up with them, and the DI is going to have to scramble to redefine their intellectual swindle.

Comments

  1. #1 Glen Davidson
    June 4, 2008

    Yes, but “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution was all that ID ever was. It had no research program, no genuine hypothesis, and used no actual design criteria (like rational solutions or purpose).

    Only the name has changed, then. Then again, that’s about all that had ever happened, aside from casting off the design criteria that Paley still included in his version of creationism.

    My point is that they should not be given a pass on “academic freedom” even in name, because it’s the same mindlessness that ID was.

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

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    June 4, 2008

    But speaking of ID, here is a bit from a bill before Oklahoma’s governor:

    “Students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions. Homework and classroom assignments shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school district. Students shall not be penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work.”

    http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=2754&dept_id=574610&newsid=19745992&PAG=461&rfi=9

    There’s a stark contradiction, there, in that students are not to be judged by the religious content of their work, and yet they’re supposed to be answering substantively and relevantly.

    Certainly in any evidence-based subject (any of the science, IOW), religion is the opposite of substantive and relevant.

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

  3. #3 midwifetoad
    June 4, 2008

    “Strengths and weaknesses” is the main buzzword right now, but “historical biology” is warming up in the bullpen. When strengths and weakness crashes and burns, look for the argument that historical biology is irrelevant and unnecessary.

  4. #4 Allytude
    June 4, 2008

    What surprises me about this entire ID nonsense is that a bunch of un-educated boors pull out a book of fairy stories and claim their “evidence” from there, disguising it in various names.. and everyone else, non-scientific is willing to give them the time of the day, as opposed to listening to people who spend their lives in research, doing real science, with PEER EVALUATIONS… There is something WRONG with the world.

  5. #5 Joshua Arnold
    June 4, 2008

    Very well put, PZ.

    This fight, between demonstrable truth and mere assertion, will boil down, I think, to a fight of rhetoric. Preachers don’t have facts on their side. They can’t show you God. Scientists can show you the evidence. But evidence and facts fade to the background in the face of eloquence. It’s tragic that so often in our history that power has been used to harm. It’s a power scientists need to employ more.

  6. #6 Quidam
    June 4, 2008

    I think Expelled was a bad strategic move for the movement. It drove a stake through the heart of the phantom that ID is not about religion. It alienated the kind of middle of road, soft and woolly Christians they needed on their side and the holocaust revisionist history is blatant and offends many.

    Imagine a Dover type trial now trying to pretend “it’s all about the science’ with that millstone round their necks.

  7. #7 mjs
    June 4, 2008

    When ID died on the cross
    Some complained that all was lost
    But ID from the grave will rise
    Ascending into heaven’s skies
    When it returns just do the math
    And feel the force of Christian wrath
    For thoughts unexamined cry
    When their veracity’s denied
    A mother often won’t surrender
    A stillborn thought she once held tender

    ++++

  8. #8 midwifetoad
    June 4, 2008

    Who’s left to testify in court for ID? Behe wound up hurting his cause in his last two appearances. Dembski has a long paper trail identifying his motives as creationist.

    I’m thinking this is the time for scientists to stand up to textbook publishers and demand an end to the mincing around. Any publisher bowing to creationists loses the other 49 states.

  9. #9 Graculus
    June 4, 2008

    What the hell is “historical biology”?

  10. #10 Barklikeadog
    June 4, 2008

    The con men always try to sneek in through the side door. There will be more attacks. And people don’t want to use their god given time and intelligence actually looking at evidence. They want a good story. So make it beautiful as PZ said.

  11. #11 Holbach
    June 4, 2008

    How absolutely true that the demented fundamentals will continue to power and perpetuate religious insanity without the assistance of the Deranged Institute. Religion is strapped with so much insane baggage that you wonder if anything can bring it down. Surely, stark and blatant reality and reason has no effect on it and it just boggles the mind that as long as there are humans we will be forever in its insane grasp.

    Here is something that is descriptive of how religious insanity continually feeds on the necessary baggage to keep alive its irrational hold on unsound minds. This is from the book “Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan” by Will Ferguson, 1998. The author is very perceptive while ruminating on a long walk in Japan.

    “But no religion can survive on air alone. If you want to take hold of the lowbrow, popular imagination, you have to give them something tangible. Hence, every major religion- every successful major religion- ends up populating its world with demons and angels and cartoonish-like literal interpretations”.

  12. #12 Duncan
    June 4, 2008

    Coming soon: a documentary film discussing the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of the Bible. Called simply “Cross”, the film details the numerous internal contradictions that can be found in both the old and new testament, as well as the numerous historical and logical problems that literalists choose to ignore.

    Teach the controversy!

  13. #13 Olorin
    June 4, 2008

    Historical biology is everything that you can’t demonstrate right now with your own eyes. It includes all inferences about what happened before scientists were around to actually eyeball it directly.

    The claim will be that “real biology” operates only in the present, and that all creation stories are merely unverifiable guesses. For example, “historical biology” would claim that, while intelligent design may not be verifiable, neither is evolution. Therefore, they should be taught to the same extent.

  14. #14 Bill Dauphin
    June 4, 2008

    Speaking of Alan Boyle’s article, PZ, did you read the comments thread? Did you notice how deftly I sprang to defend the proper spelling of your name? Did you note how little good it did? [sigh]

  15. #15 raven
    June 4, 2008

    I think the Discovery Institute is toast, and are going to be increasingly irrelevant.

    Sounds more like wishful thinking. They were always just a propaganda institute for the Death Cult xian loons. They spend no money on research and everything on trying to overthrow the government, destroy the American civilization, and brainwash kids with mythology pretending to be fact.

    They also seem to be well funded by various right wing extremist and fundie xian organizations. One old source from the early 2000′s said their annual budget was 4 million bucks. That is a lot of money to throw into advertising and politics. No idea what their budget is now but they don’t seem to be running out of money.

    The Templeton foundation did bail, saying they didn’t want to support a political front.

  16. #16 raven
    June 4, 2008

    There will be more attacks.

    Sure. That is all one can do when faced with irrefutable facts with centuries of data supporting them.

    Attacks and lies, all they have, all they ever had.

  17. #17 Owlmirror
    June 4, 2008

    The claim will be that “real biology” operates only in the present, and that all creation stories are merely unverifiable guesses. For example, “historical biology” would claim that, while intelligent design may not be verifiable, neither is evolution. Therefore, they should be taught to the same extent.

    That seems even easier to counter than “ID”.

    In addition to all of the historical inferences made in geology, archaeology, astrophysics and cosmology, not to mention regular old history, there’s the point I made to Kevin Wirth when he was yammering about: everyone’s personal biological existence is a bunch of “merely unverifiable guesses” (unless, I suppose, one is a test-tube baby).

    Where’s that stork video?

  18. #18 Barklikeadog
    June 4, 2008

    Glen D #2,
    Glen, we’re doing what we can but alas we are a minority here in Oklahoma. Stupid hicks! And we can’t even get a decent spring around here. The wind is blowing at a constant 30 mph right now at 90 something degrees.

  19. #19 David Marjanovi?, OM
    June 4, 2008

    What the hell is “historical biology”?

    1. A very rarely used synonym of paleontology or more precisely paleobiology. Think “biology in four dimensions rather than just three”.
    2. The name of a journal on same. It publishes very good papers, but appears very infrequently and with large delays.

  20. #20 Sastra
    June 4, 2008

    The Discovery Institute has gone from lame attempts to claim ID is science to flabby appeals to fairness. When “teach the controversy” and “strengths and weaknesses” fail, watch them descend to slogans like “This is America; Everybody Should Have the Right to Believe Whatever they Want.”

  21. #21 John
    June 4, 2008

    Rather than fighting “strength and weaknesses”, lets demand that the strengths and weaknesses of alternative explanations be presented irregardless of their impact on religion.

    ie. no factual basis or evidence for “creation”; all the evidence for evolution contradicts “creation”.

    Let’s have religious and scientific freedom in our classrooms.

  22. #22 Elwood Herring
    June 4, 2008

    “I think the Discovery Institute is toast, and are going to be increasingly irrelevant.”

    I know what you are saying here, but I have to make the following observation: when exactly were they relevant?

  23. #23 JJ
    June 4, 2008

    Unfortunately, I don’t think the DI will go away. They keep coming back with even more sophisticated techniques. Example, the “Academic Freedom” bills. In Texas they are trying the ‘Strengths and weaknesses” approach. We feel 100% sure we will see an academic frredom bill in the next legislative session. Historical Biology is probably the same as “historical science”, the Institute for creation research claimed there is “experimental science” and “historical science” when they tried to get accredited to grant master degrees in science education in Texas. They claimed they do “historical science” looking at past events, etc. and interpreting in their own way.

  24. #24 DanGerousIntersection
    June 4, 2008

    “Who’s left to testify in court for ID?”

    There is a fresh batch of Creationists (or whatever the coming tag is) going through reputable schools. They play along with actual scientists to get advanced and credible degrees, while stealthily holding to their true beliefs. Young Earth is their truth, but they write proper papers about scientifically tested chronologies.

    This is from where the next generation of fully credentialed doubters will arise. Once they have a fully accredited Ph.D. or (FSM help us) tenure, they can rejoin the fray.

  25. #25 Olorin
    June 4, 2008

    “[Historical biology argument] seems even easier to counter than ‘ID’.”

    Au contraire, Owlmirror. This creationist attack says that you can’t _prove_ anything about the past, so everything is up fpr grabs. All they have to do is to deny the evidence for inferences about the past. To the extent that the unwashed public doesn’t know hoe to evaluate scientific evidence in the first place, all they have to do is say “We just don’t credit it.”

  26. #26 Nova
    June 4, 2008

    New York Times:

    Already, legislators in a half-dozen states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina — have tried to require that classrooms be open to “views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory,” according to a petition from the Discovery Institute

    The usual suspects, you know you yanks should have just said “fine, fuck off then” to the south when the civil war broke out.

  27. #27 Crudely Wrott
    June 4, 2008

    Don’t you wonder how long it will be until a new Document is released by some combination of the usual suspects? Now that the Wedge Document has failed to cause a fracturing of public sentiment maybe it’s nearly time for the Ok Now the Gloves Come Off and That’s Just the Way Jesus Wants It Document.

    Hey, they might stop dancing around and bring out the big guns, ya know? That could get them some attention from some interesting special interests who might be mighty interested in this election.

    But what meaningful role can the faithful play now that candidates are shedding preachers left and right? Stay tuned!

  28. #28 amphiox
    June 4, 2008

    “clouds of obfuscatory squid ink” indeed. I note, however, that when real cephalopods deploy their ink, they generally have the sense to take the opportunity to retreat from the exposed position and make themselves scarce as quickly as possible.

    These creos, on the other hand, tend to shoot their ink and then refuse to move at all. They just sit there while their cloud dissipates and exposes them to the pissed off sperm whales.

  29. #29 Eric
    June 4, 2008

    I agree that the Discovery Institute is being recognized for the creationist-front it is, but this is because most people have never heard of the Discovery Institute and the people that have are mostly the types who like to dig deeper and find the bias behind sources.

    However, I strongly disagree with your statement “…everyone can see through their claim that “Intelligent Design” is something other than creationism.” This may be true in a university city in Minnesota, but in many parts of the country, my native Upstate New York, for example, virtually anyone without a biology degree thinks that ID has some validity and scientific panache.

    Many of them don’t know the details of evolution or ID, but they have soaked up the false message “Intelligent Design is a scientific challenge to evolution” (which conveniently validates their religious belief)

    A lot of uphill work is yet to be done correcting the propaganda done by ID proponents

  30. #30 JJ
    June 4, 2008

    Nova – Here is the link to the NYT article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/04/us/04evolution.html

    Everyone should read it and see what we have to deal with in Texas. The science standards revision will be loads of fun.

  31. #31 Crudely Wrott
    June 4, 2008

    “Many of them don’t know the details of evolution or ID, but they have soaked up the false message “Intelligent Design is a scientific challenge to evolution” (which conveniently validates their religious belief)”

    You’re right Eric. The average American today would be hard pressed to explain a toaster with a “darkness” knob let alone abiogenesis and how the hell we got here.

    I hate to mention it but I think we will be eating this one big time for a long time. (I hope it’s only a subjectively long time! (Oh, don’t worry, it will be.))

    Until people have a working knowledge of basic physical reactions and the behavior of materials under different conditions and how simple machines work and are combined to make complicated machines and the concept of tools and how to choose and wield them and a lot of other really simple stuff, we will still hear of people who run gasoline generators inside their houses. Like the two sisters who died the other day not far from my house. They were checking to see if the generator was still supplying power to the sump pump in a house that one sister had just bought. They hadn’t had the electric service connected so they bought a generator . . .

    Had they an inkling of the Theory of the Internal Combustion Engine and possibly a brief knowledge of the behavior of gases and maybe the barest awareness of human physiology, they might have made the connection that would have kept them alive. Instead, they died because they were ignorant of the way the real world operates. They died from lack of science. They were dead before they walked through the front door.

    Is there any need to question the value of science to a prosperous and healthy country? To a robust and capable population? To people who, all by themselves, can take advantage of longer lifespans by avoiding most of the obvious dangers that can threaten to be terminal, both natural and artificial? The question answers itself.

  32. #32 Jim Anderson
    June 4, 2008

    David Marjanovi?, OM, describes Historical Biology:

    It publishes very good papers, but appears very infrequently and with large delays.

    Do they call issues “Saltations?”

  33. #33 Scott
    June 4, 2008

    Hostility to science hasn’t changed in several thousand years. I was watching a rerun of Cosmos last night about the Library of Alexandria. (Say what you like about Sagan, but he was rather eloquent for science.) His point this time was that shortly after 300 AD, the scientists of the day at the Library were driven out and the Library destroyed by the up and coming Christian church, because study of the “natural” world was considered to be pagan and heretical. I don’t know how accurate this interpretation of history is, but he made a persuasive argument.

  34. #34 Ichthyic
    June 4, 2008

    So more accurately, what I should have said is that one line of rhetorical noise is failing fast, but that they’re rapidly generating new clouds of obfuscatory squid ink that they hope will stick and confuse another generation of innocent students.

    well, to not mix metaphors:

    the camouflage failed, next comes the obscuring cloud of ink.

    if that fails, look for an attempt at a quick getaway via some sort of jet propulsion…

  35. #35 mkuriluk
    June 4, 2008

    Could someone PLEASE fill me in as to what these (perceived)weaknesses are?

  36. #36 DLC
    June 4, 2008

    Scott:

    Say what you like about Sagan. . .

    I’ll be glad to.
    Carl Sagan was one of the best proponents of science ever, if not the best ever.
    Sagan’s description of the sacking of the Library of Alexandria was correct. The library was burned not once, but three times, each time by religious zealots following the dictates of their witch-doctors. The lost knowledge cannot be replaced. Another crime to lay at the feet of the witch-doctors.

  37. #37 Steven Dunlap
    June 5, 2008

    RE: #5:
    “This fight, between demonstrable truth and mere assertion, will boil down, I think, to a fight of rhetoric. Preachers don’t have facts on their side. They can’t show you God. Scientists can show you the evidence. But evidence and facts fade to the background in the face of eloquence. It’s tragic that so often in our history that power has been used to harm. It’s a power scientists need to employ more.”

    Given my experience with creationists on other fora I have come to realize that they conflate the simplifications of scientific theory published as popular works with the theory itself. This leads to the old saw “It’s possible to understand evolution and disagree with it.” Rhetoric, not evidence. A few pointers and suggestions:

    1.) It’s not possible to verify what’s going on in someone else’s head. We can only observe behavior. Therefore, anyone can claim understanding. Such claims prove nothing. Ignore this argument and focus on statements the creationist makes which one can dispute.

    2.) Science teachers and those taking on creationists need to concede that anyone can dispute an analogy, comparison, or other rhetorical device. Analogies and metaphors have great power to explain, and even to persuade, but do not have the weight of proof. Inductive arguments are the creationist’s sandbox. Although one may not prove able to convince the creationist that s/he’s not even talking about the theory itself but about a simplified explanation of it, some others listening/reading may catch on.

    3.) This is the “riskiest” suggestion since I can inadvertently come off as a bit presumptuous. If a given scientist who seeks to do battle with ID/IC has not yet read Bacon’s “Advancement of Learning” do so. Especially book 2. It helps to have a good grasp of the philosophy behind science. I consider it possible to practice good science without an understanding of its philosophical foundation the way that a person can drive a car without knowing how the engine works (There’s an analogy, proves nothing, I know).

    Regarding post #4:
    I understand and respect the peer review process. But the opposition does neither. I would suggest avoiding this line as it strays perilously close to the “trust us we’re experts” type argument.

    Which leads us to post #24
    “They play along with actual scientists to get advanced and credible degrees, while stealthily holding to their true beliefs. ”

    Stealth “scientists.” This comes from the belief (not stated but clearly implied by many ID’ers posts I have read), that they consider science a kind of cabal of people who somehow have managed to appoint themselves the ones who get to decide what reality is. They think if they infiltrate the cabal they can overturn it. You just can not mention evidence often enough.

    Which brings me to various posts mentioning “historical biology.” I highly recommend a chapter from Gould’s “Bully for Brontosaurus” called “Justice Scalia’s misunderstanding” which demolishes the creationists misleading argument regarding evolution, evidence and the beginning of life. As Gould writes: “Science proceeds from evidence.” Creationists dishonestly conflate speculative writing by scientists with established evolutionary theory.

    The running theme here is that the creationists use sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant lies, distortions and deceit. Scientists may have some success countering these arguments by pointing out the dishonesty behind them.

    I hope my comments prove helpful.

  38. #38 Steven Dunlap
    June 5, 2008

    On the topic of school textbooks and Texas (I think post #8 is a reference to Texas and its school textbooks approval process):

    Unfortunately, Texas has a centralized school system run at the state level. It’s the largest school system with this structure in the nation and therefore the single largest school textbook buyer in the U.S. (maybe the world?). Like it or not, the textbook publishers do not want to loose Texas as a customer and therefore bow to its standards. If Texas will not buy the textbook, the publishers do not even want to print it.

    Sticks in my craw too, but what can we do about it?

  39. #39 skylights
    June 5, 2008

    What’s funny is that the Wedge was supposed to be a 20-year strategy. Instead, ID has been soundly defeated in the courts and the Wedge has been abandoned after only around 10 years. Nice work, losers! The only big political change I’m seeing is youth participation in politics, and that can’t be good for creationism.

  40. #40 Flamethorn
    June 5, 2008
  41. #41 JM Inc.
    June 5, 2008

    On the NY Times article, did you guys catch that quote by Dr. McLeroy, referring to his belief in young earth creationism:

    I believe a lot of incredible things,” he said, “The most incredible thing I believe is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the god that created the universe.

    Even when I was still nominally a christian, it never ceased to confuse me that so many of my peers actually thought that something not making sense was a selling point.

    On the actual subject of the DI, ID, CS BS, I’m going to have to say that none of us should really be remotely surprised that it’s all just mutated yet again. We’re the proponents of evolution, aren’t we? It isn’t as though, on the eighth day, god ordered all of the various theologies, and sophistries, and every intellectual profanity that creepeth beneath the rock of ignorance; made them he according to their kinds, having fruit each one according to its kind.

    It’s a delightful little microcosm, isn’t it? They claim kinds can’t change one to another, we demonstrate that they can (and furthermore that the concept of “kind” is obscenely archaic) – they claim that their ideas are well-founded, falsifiable scientific hypotheses, we smash them over and over, and in doing so demonstrate that, in fact, their ideas have no truth value, but are infinitely mutable and permutable, being naturally selected to do their viral work. Let’s start a project or something to catalogue and classify their systems of thought – the core concept that remains largely invariant could be something like, Attributed Intelligent Design Syndrome.

    Still, as much as we can laugh and shrug this off, this is really bad for us – it means they can go on indefinitely without ever suffering a single real defeat. Our main hope here is to hit them on a number of fronts with a number of different weapons – it’s not enough just to be able to show, unremittently, that evolution is a technically accurate description of the history and functionality of life; people have to care that evolution is correct, they have to care about science more than about their superstitions, they have to be interested in getting rid of illusions more than they’re interested in perpetuating comfortable modes of thought. We need to hit them simultaneously with drastically refurbished science education, a big fat wallop of the old data sets, and an increasing effort to excise religion from public discourses.

    We can’t just shoot holes through everything they say, while the central proposition remains unassailable by reason of being so utterly vague – we have to actually create, beforehand, the sort of intellectual environment in schools and in the public sphere that values a philosophical perspective, the kind of environment that is inherently toxic to dogmatism and to dogmatically self-deceiving modes of thought. It has to become intellectually unacceptable in North America to be as blatantly, perversely, self-deludingly religious as the attitude that those comments of Dr. McLeroy’s betray. I’m not a Dawkinsian, I’m not saying get rid of religion completely, I’m a Dennettite: let’s use the tools at our disposal to artificially select for benign forms of religion and theology (we might even say that theology is the religious genome; theological engineering, anyone?) that don’t lead to this sort of intellectual pathology at all to begin with.

  42. #42 Sigmund
    June 5, 2008

    I have no problem with the principle of teaching the ‘weaknesses’ of evolution (or any other scientific theory). Lets just not allow non biologists to define those weaknesses.
    Would anyone here really object to a high school class being taught about ‘weaknesses’ such as genetic similarity amongst species or biogeographical species distribution?
    OK, you may say these are actually amongst the most compelling evidences for evolution but thats only because you know a little biology. ID supporters don’t. They haven’t a clue about biology. Have you actually seen what they consider to be weaknesses? Most of them simply parrot anything that backs up their notions that evolution is a threat to evangelical beliefs (and I can’t say they haven’t some sort of point there!)
    Its pretty easy to make anything in evolution a ‘weakness’ that is difficult for non biologists to refute so why not take this to its logical conclusion.
    http://sneerreview.blogspot.com/2008/05/tree-of-life-hacked-down.html
    Lets play them at their own game and get extra teaching on these points!
    We must make it plain that even if they do manage to get the weaknesses taught, it is biologists, not megachurch pastors, who get to define what those weaknesses are.
    (and no, I don’t know of any serious weaknesses in the modern version of the theory of evolution – not now that it includes aspects such as genetics, genetic drift, geological changes and contingency that weren’t part of the original theory, certainly no debatable points that are suitable for high school students – are there enough high school teachers around who could teach the most up to date biochemistry of the pre-RNA world?).

  43. #43 st0nes
    June 5, 2008

    I attended an African religious school (run by the Anglican Church) where there was no question of not teaching evolution in Biology class. Creationism was taught in Divinity class, along with comparative religion. The Anglican dogma was preached in chapel. Nobody, not even the religious teachers, would have dreamed of trying to introduce creationism in a science class. That way, we heard all the opposing viewpoints and made our choice as to what to believe. I chose to believe, on the grounds of superior evidence, in evolution and science. So I have the Anglican Church to thank for my atheism.

  44. #44 st0nes
    June 5, 2008

    I attended an African religious school (run by the Anglican Church) where there was no question of not teaching evolution in Biology class. Creationism was taught in Divinity class, along with comparative religion. The Anglican dogma was preached in chapel. Nobody, not even the religious teachers, would have dreamed of trying to introduce creationism in a science class. That way, we heard all the opposing viewpoints and made our choice as to what to believe. I chose to believe, on the grounds of superior evidence, in evolution and science. So I have the Anglican Church to thank for my atheism.

  45. #45 AJS
    June 5, 2008

    I say we should call the cdesign proponentsists’ bluff.

    They currently posit that “microevolution” (change within a kind) is possible but “macroevolution” (changing from one kind to another) is impossible.

    So call them out on this! We should be demanding in no uncertain terms to see evidence of the mechanism which prevents macroevolution; otherwise, their assertion that there is a distiction between micro- and macroevolution is without merit.

    Somebody is bound to do some research; and I for one would happily bet the farm on an equivalent of Poisson’s famous Bright Spot showing up.

  46. #46 Rowan
    June 5, 2008

    Lets start a campaign to teach the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of religion in churches

    …or the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of creationism in churches

    …or the ‘strengths and weaknesses’ of ID in churches

    I’m sure the DI would have no objections!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO2n3GHGK7c

  47. #47 st0nes
    June 5, 2008

    I attended an African religious school (run by the Anglican Church) where there was no question of not teaching evolution in Biology class. Creationism was taught in Divinity class, along with comparative religion. The Anglican dogma was preached in chapel. Nobody, not even the religious teachers, would have dreamed of trying to introduce creationism in a science class. That way, we heard all the opposing viewpoints and made our choice as to what to believe. I chose to believe, on the grounds of superior evidence, in evolution and science. So I have the Anglican Church to thank for my atheism.

  48. #48 st0nes
    June 5, 2008

    I apologise for the multiple posts — my browser seemed to “hang”, so I was not aware that the other posts had gone through.

  49. #49 Holbach
    June 5, 2008

    Scott @33, DLC @ 36: Nice to always read again comments on Carl Sagan, even with the many character flaws and unkind opinions from colleagues, I wish he was still around to battle the increasing muck and mire of religious insanity infecting our country. Almost daily I go to YouTube and watch snippets of Cosmos and realize how important this man was to science and how much he would be a more forceful spokesman to counter the insane retards running rampant. He might even be a paramount contributor to Pharyngula! Today, a 15% coupon from Barnes & Noble came in online, and with a “buy 2 and get the 3rd free” for the month of June, I’ll buy the enhanced Cosmos and will always have Carl at hand. It is sad how so many of our esteemed rational scientists have died just at the time when we need them the most to blast away at the insane slime. I have no doubt that Carl would have been awarded the Order Of Molly!

  50. #50 CalGeorge
    June 5, 2008

    In the beginning there was Genesis.

    Then there was Creationism.

    And scientists and other sensible people saw that these things were stupid.

    Then some jerks said, let there be Intelligent Design. And let’s dribble food on our chins. And whine. And infiltrate science classrooms.

    And then lots more people dumped on the childish, god-intoxicated people. And they were beaten. Again.

    But then the crazy people regrouped. And they came back as something else.

    Forever and ever and ever, the end.

  51. #51 Tim Fuller
    June 5, 2008

    On the NY Times article, did you guys catch that quote by Dr. McLeroy, referring to his belief in young earth creationism:

    “I believe a lot of incredible things,” he said, “The most incredible thing I believe is the Christmas story. That little baby born in the manger was the god that created the universe.

    Looks like they aren’t even trying to hide the fact they want to move Jesus into the classroom!! At least in Dover they did their dam best to try and hide that fact. Unless the Supreme Court gets totally stacked with nutjobs (we’re well on the way) then there’s no hope for the Godheads.

    Enjoy.

  52. #52 James F
    June 5, 2008

    I take issue with the characterization of Ken Miller as a “wishy-washy Catholic.” If one’s faith does not espouse creationism and other anti-science Biblical literalism, what is the problem with being a staunch public advocate of science? Is Barry Lynn of AU a wishy-washy UCC minister for supporting evolution? Admittedly, I’m reading a second-hand account here, but it troubles me. I’d like to see atheists and theistic evolutionists coordinate and concentrate their fire on the creationists instead of taking pot shots at each other.

  53. #53 Longtime Lurker
    June 5, 2008

    “The usual suspects, you know you yanks should have just said “fine, fuck off then” to the south when the civil war broke out.”

    Nova, this is a tempting thought, but that would have damned African-Americans to slavery for another century, and probably would have kept women under the heel of the putrid patriarchs as well.

    Steven Dunlap hit the nail on the head when he mentioned the Texas school board calling the shots when it comes to textbook content. If the “blue” states could only band together to ensure a better quality of textbook, then maybe this nasty, ratty tail would not wag the dog.

  54. #54 Glen Davidson
    June 5, 2008

    I take issue with the characterization of Ken Miller as a “wishy-washy Catholic.”

    See, that’s where a lack of understanding of religion does get some critics of religion into trouble.

    I do not think that one has to understand religion very well to be able to criticize it from an atheist perspective, since one can rely on epistemological issues to keep asking where their evidence is.

    But to criticize a Catholic like Miller for being a “wishy-washy Catholic”, one would need to understand what it means to be Catholic. And there are multiple answers to that question. I have had some Catholic university training in philosophy (much more protestant schooling), and I don’t think I feel qualified to judge Miller to be either a wishy-washy Catholic, or not to be. My suspicion is that there is too little certainty of what a Catholic “must be” for anyone to be able to judge the issue properly, but I don’t know that for sure, either.

    To make these judgments really does require the religious knowledge that, say, Myers and Dawkins mostly lack. I defend them for attacking religion at its (lack of) evidentiary basis from time to time, but do not if they presume to determine what a “proper Catholic” is, or should be.

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

  55. #55 Tim
    June 5, 2008

    I particularly dislike the IDer’s lack of worry about their racist, misogynist fellow travelers, but let anyone in any field that looks vaguely scientific extrapolate a bit freely from an animal study, and in their eyes, it’s a blot on all science.

  56. #56 Ted Herrlich
    June 5, 2008

    The “strength and weakness” discussion on Topix has generated a lot of interest.

    http://www.topix.net/tech/2008/06/opponents-of-evolution-adopting-a-new-strategy

  57. #57 JJ
    June 5, 2008

    Ahhhh….the discotute did not like the NYT article…what a surprise…

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/06/new_york_times_makes_a_big_mes.html

  58. #58 Citizen Z
    June 5, 2008

    Shorter version of the Evolution News & Views post JJ linked:

    “‘Strengths and weaknesses’ isn’t new. We’ve been using that dishonest tactic for nearly 10 years now!”

  59. #59 ZorkFox
    June 6, 2008

    It was a real pleasure to meet you, PZ. I hope you’ll pay more visits to our standard metropolitan statistical area in the future.