Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Louisiana public school science teachers allowed to criticize evolution.

THIS is definitely a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this will seep into all 50 states and allow all science teachers the right to present evidence for and against evolution.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this week signed into law the Louisiana Science Education Act, which allows school districts to permit teachers to present evidence, analysis and critique of evolution and other prevalent scientific theories in public school classrooms.

The law came to the governor's desk after overwhelming support in the legislature, including a unanimous vote in the state's Senate and a 93-4 vote in the House.

The act has been criticized by some as an attempt to insert religion into science education and hailed by others as a blow for academic freedom in the face of pressure to ignore flaws in politically correct scientific theories.

Robert Crowther, director of communications for The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank on science and culture, called the act necessary.

In an article posted on The Discovery Institute's evolution news website, Crowther wrote, "The law is needed for two reasons. First, around the country, science teachers are being harassed, intimidated, and sometimes fired for trying to present scientific evidence critical of Darwinian theory along with the evidence that supports it. Second, many school administrators and teachers are fearful or confused about what is legally allowed when teaching about controversial scientific issues like evolution. The Louisiana Science Education Act clarifies what teachers may be allowed to do."

Specifically, the act allows teachers in the state's public schools to present evidence both for and against Darwinian theories of evolution and allows local school boards to approve supplemental materials that may open critical discussions of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, human cloning and other scientific theories.

Teachers are still required by the act to follow the standardized science curriculum, and school districts are required to authorize both the teachers' classes and additional materials. The state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will have the power to prohibit materials it deems inappropriate, and the act prohibits religious instruction.

ection 1D of the act states that the law "shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or nonreligion."

Despite section 1D, many national voices, including the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a New York Times editorial, and the American Civil Liberties Union opposed the measure.

Marjorie Esman, state director of Lousiana's ACLU told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "To the extent that this might invite religion in the public school classroom, we will do everything we can do to keep religion out."

John West, a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, however, said opponents of the bill are misunderstanding it. Rather than being about infusing intelligent design or creationism into the classroom, he contends, the bill is about giving teachers the freedom to talk about the debates that already exist in science, even among evolutionists themselves.

"This bill is not a license to propagandize against something they don't like in science," West told the Times-Picayune. "Someone who uses materials to inject religion into the classroom is not only violating the Constitution, they are violating the bill."

Gov. Jindal released a statement at the time of the signing that read, in part: "I will continue to consistently support the ability of school boards and (the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) to make the best decisions to ensure a quality education for our children."


1stanbul said...

This is definitely NOT a step in the right direction. Since when are scientific battles fought in the classroom instead of the arena or peer review? There's a reason evolution is the scientific standard. It just fits.

Mike-e said...

So if there is evidence against evolution, you don't think it should be mentioned in the classroom?

Olorin said...

Just imagine.... If Einstein had thought to pressure school boards to criticize Newtonism, instead of wasting years with research and publishing in obscure journals that nobody pays any attention to.

Just imagine if Ludwig Boltzmann had taken out newspaper ads for his atomic theory, instead of having to gather actual evidence for 30 years to convince other scientists.

Think of the time we could have saved by bypassing the scientific process!

1stanbul said...

There is no evidence AGAINST evolution. There is probability calculation. Calculation that is made irrelevant when considering the nature of evolution itself.

And even if there WERE valid evidence against the evolution, would you rather it be discussed by those who are already educated men and women of science or those who are being educated and will probably opt out of science let alone fully understand it? The teachers who do Biology often barely understand it themselves.

Mike-e said...

Your comments are very telling. What I take from it is that you don't think we should allow critical thinking in the science classroom. Your statements seem to imply that this generation of students are too ignorant and uneducated to think about this important issue, when in fact they should be encouraged to question the validity of "established scientific theories." To do otherwise is to discourage the progress of science. I'm sorry, but I suppose I believe in this generation of students far more than you do as well as the progress of modern science. If the "theory" of evolution diminishes as a result of new discoveries, then so be it. I choose to follow the evidence wherever it may lead and I only wish that more people would consider the same. I'm sorry that you don't see things the same way.

Shawn said...

You and I agree on a lot of things, but I need to disagree here. There are some things that you may not be aware of about the Discovery Institute (DI). First, they are not a scientific organization even though they claim to be. They have not published a single peer-reviewed paper... ever. This is not because of some conspiracy against them. All scientific papers go through the same meat-grinder of a process to get published. The funny thing is... the Discovery Institute hasn't even tried.

Secondly, DI claims that 'the controversy' isn't being taught... as if scientists are all in 100% agreement. Science is about argument. This is how real science is separated from the snake oil. It's perfectly fine for teachers to let students know that scientists aren't sure about a particular subject and those teachers should be encouraging their students to seek out the answers.

The problem here is not that there is a controversy, but that there isn't one. For a controversy to exist, there has to be an opposing argument which is backed by evidence. DI has the argument, but not the evidence.

DI's argument does a lot of damage to the image of theists everywhere, IMHO. They subscribe to 'the god of the gaps' argument, basically saying that anything that science can't explain must be the result of divine intervention... as if we have to have an answer for every unknown. If we have an answer for everything then we're all done with science because we know everything and there's no need for critical thinking students who will push the fields of science further. This is exactly what DI is doing. Their 'controversy' fills in all of the unknowns we have with intelligent design and shuts down the real critical thinking. Back when it was introduced 'germ theory' was widely rejected by theists because it implied that God actually created little life forms that killed and otherwise brought pain and suffering to the rest of creation. It was considered practically blasphemous. However, now we don't even think about it. We all know germs exist. We know that we can lessen the chances of infection by washing our bodies and cooking surfaces. People didn't degrade morally into a throbbing hedonistic mob because of the discovery that tiny forms of life can make us sick.

The other approach DI takes is to claim that evolution is too improbable to be true... applying the the statistics used to help insurance companies calculate risk for the next year to the entire universe over the eons of time that have gone before us.

What they fail to do is lay out the whole picture which is that improbable things happen all the time. Genetically, the chances that you would turn out to be you is one in seventy quadrillion. That's...

1/70,000,000,000,000,000th chance that you'd be you.

There's no way I'd take that bet, but there you are.

Another spin DI has taken is to keep stressing the word 'theory'. In the scientific community gravity is also a theory... as in theory of operation. We have ample evidence to support the theory of gravity as well as the theory of evolution.

Really, what we need is evidence. Cold, hard facts that break the model that science has about the development of life on this planet. If there is actual evidence against evolution, then we all need to see it! That is what DI should be doing, but the reality is that they spend most of their money lobbying, supporting this kind of legislation and funding intellectually dishonest 'documentaries' that blatantly equate evolution with Nazi atrocities.

Personally, I don't want teachers force-feeding students evidence for or against anything. I want our teachers to be teaching students the scientific method ( and most are ). Teachers need to give their students the tools to answer the questions...

How do we know what we know?
How can I find out if what I believe about x is true?
...and so on.

A student who has been taught evolution and told to push the 'believe button' is no better ( or more useful to society ) than a student who was taught that the young-earth creation model is the absolute truth.

What I don't want are teachers teaching our children science that has not stood up to qualified peer-review. If we allow questionable arguments to be put before children who do not have the tools to weed out things which are likely to be true from the things that are based on weak evidence or none at all, then we have done them a disgraceful disservice.

1stanbul said...

Let's clarify a few things. I am a scientist. An economist, but a scientist nonetheless. I've read more than enough biology to consider myself knowledgeable about the subject. I've done enough reading on the ID movement to know it's a load of crock. And as a student planning on going into academics, I am more than assured that students can think critically about science. And that's why I don't think ID should be in science. It should be in formal logic. The fallacies are just disgusting.

Now, let's address some of your accusations. You said I don't trust students to think critically. No, that's not true. I just don't consider the classroom the right place to challenge the established scientific standard. That's the job of TRAINED SCIENTISTS not the job of UNTRAINED OR SEMI-TRAINED AMATEURS. If these scientists, whose job it is to research (not the students, whose job it is to establish a foundation of learning from the scientists), discover that evolution is entirely unfounded, then so be it. The theory changes. That's how science works.

What you ID proponents do is assume the guise of free inquiry when you don't understand the scientific process. Yes, in science you can say whatever you want AS LONG AS IT'S BACKED UP WITH EVIDENCE. Until you provide actual evidence for ID it isn't valid. Evidence "for ID" doesn't include misunderstood probabilities against evolution.

In the name of real and valid science, please stop this nonsense.

Mike-e said...

Hey Shawn, I really appreciate your comments and definitely considered everything you said. I used to be very involved in the creation/evolution controversy and would discuss it until the bitter end. Recently, however, i've found myself engaging the vast majority of my time in theology. With that said, I just want you to know that i'm very well aware of the arguments against ID, but I thank you anyways for taking the time to point those things out. Its very tempting to discuss with you the points raised, but these days I have to be very particular about what I choose to focus my time on. And since ID wasn't the focus of the blog, i'd prefer to keep the discussion focused on whether evolution should be allowed to be criticized in public schools.

Istanbul, thanks for your comments. I respect the fact that you are a scientist, as am I, but I still have to disagree with you. As I mentioned to Shawn, the focus of my posting the blog is not whether ID is valid. Yes, the article did mention the discovery institute, but the law had nothing to do with whether ID should be taught in schools. In fact, if the law was allowing ID to be taught, i would disagree. And this is where i'd disagree with the discovery institute, because i'm well aware that they would prefer ID be taught in schools.

You mentioned that the classroom is not the place to challenge "the established scientific standard." Why not? To leave it up to "trained scientists" only is to hinder scientific progress. I find it interesting that Darwin, a theologian, formulated this so-called "scientific standard" but he was not a trained scientist. I think high school students should be allowed to challenge established theories openly in class, because they may discover something new. How is this a bad thing? Are you suggesting that only post-grads are smart enough to think of new ideas? Again, i'm sorry that you underestimate this generation of students.

"What you ID proponents do is assume the guise of free inquiry when you don't understand the scientific progress."

Excuse me? Last time I checked, I didn't have a problem obtaining my science degree. I do understand the scientific process, and if ID proponents didn't, they wouldn't be able to obtain their Ph.D's. I think it is quite immature to accuse Ph.D's of not understanding the scientific process when their universities didn't have a problem with their reasoning.

As for your demanding of evidence, this isn't the issue of discussion. I'm discussing whether evolution should be allowed criticism in the classroom. If evolution is rock-solid, with absolutely no problems, and beyond the scope of criticism, then this law should not bother you in any way. In other words, if there is nothing to criticize, then what are you so concerned with?

Shawn said...

Hi Mike,

Sorry, my knee-jerk reaction to DI was due to the deceptive and dishonest tactics that they use and that distracted me from the point of the post.

I don't think any branch of the sciences is above criticism and I think that high school students should be taught to question the status quo. I also think that students should be aware of pseudo-scientific books like "Of Pandas and People" (which, BTW, does not teach 'both sides' of the 'controversy').

The question is, where does the 'controversy' line get drawn? When is a controversy considered illegitimate? Should we teach the flat earth controversy? Should we teach the heliocentric/geocentric solar system controversy? For that matter, no one can prove that pink unicorns and garden fairies don't exist because lack of evidence of their existence is not proof of their nonexistence. So maybe we should teach students that pink unicorns and garden fairies may exist just to make sure that both sides of the controversy are taught.

Another question that begs to be asked is why is it only biology that needs this protection? If we're really interested in protecting teachers who want to challenge their students by offering them both sides of the controversy, why don't we also protect math teachers who would like to challenge the established standard of the concept of zero? Right now, math teachers who challenge the legitimacy of zero would be subject to ridicule, persecution and potentially loss of their job if they persist.

I'd like to offer the flip-side of your argument. If ID proponents have such a rock-solid case against evolution, why do they need to be protected by legislation? Why would they need to get legal protection if there actually was a controversy raging in the field of biology? In other words, science based on evidence doesn't need laws of the land to protect it.

There is a difference between teachers who teach their students to think critically and those that teach their students things outside of what is known in the scientific community. The former produce the next generation of scientists who will advance the knowledge base of humanity, the later produce students who have to relearn the basics before they can progress. This is why teachers who introduce literature critical of evolution but based solely on arguments of statistics and 'irreducible complexity' are ridiculed and sometimes fired. They are doing a huge disservice to their students.

Mike-e said...

I can appreciate your view that students should be aware of books like "of pandas and people." Although I don't think ID should even be addressed in the classroom, I think its completely legit to critique views (such as "of pandas and people") in the classroom that are critical of evolution.

As to where the "controversy line" gets drawn, I think your examples are quite a stretch. But keep in mind that i'm not saying that both sides should be taught. I'm merely suggesting that teachers and students should have the right to criticize evolution if they can present a satisfactory case for their position.

Let's apply this to the flat earth. Is there anyone on planet earth with a Ph.D in the relevant field who even attempts to argue for a flat earth? Is there even an argument by anyone, Ph.D or not, that can be made for a flat earth? I could only imagine a classroom discussion going so far...

student: I disagree that the earth is round. I'm convinced that it is flat.

teacher: what makes you think the earth is flat?

student: I just do

teacher: i'll tell you what. Go to wherever the edge of earth is, take a picture, and then come back and show me. If you do, then we'll take a group of geologists and see if your right. But last time I checked, we've been able to fly airplanes around the world without going off the edge.

Shawn, this is simply to show that comparing an imaginary flat-earth controversy to whether or not we should criticize evolution is a bit of a stretch. And the whole pink unicorn thing is just silly, but I always appreciate humor :-)

I'm pretty much in agreement with your point on math teachers who question the legitimacy of zero. But again, there is no controversy here. And a teacher who questions such a thing would be utterly incapable of doing math and wouldn't even make it through high school with such a mindset.

To answer your question, "why do they need to be protected by legislation?" The answer is, because they may be subject to persecution and possibly lose their jobs. This has nothing to do with how rock-solid their arguments are. It has to do with the fact that many evolutionists do not want a fair exchange of ideas. And this legislation is simply to the protection of teachers and students who question the legitimacy of evolution or particular aspects of it.

I couldn't disagree more with your last paragraph. If that mindset was adopted beginning at the time of Newton, then we would not be where we are today. Although I completely disagree with Darwin's conclusion, he did exactly what you are arguing against: "teachers who teach their students things outside of what is known in the scientific community." I don't think there was anything wrong with Darwin questioning things in the way that he did, although I couldn't have disagreed with him more.

Shawn said...

Here is the simple, easy to understand explanation the student could give to the 'big science' teacher. Students trained to think critically are also armed with the arguments to back up their beliefs and not just say "I just do." when asked to defend their position. The student would say...

student: Humans live on a disc, with the North Pole at its center and a 150-foot (45 m) high wall of ice at the outer edge. It's not possible for me to climb a 150ft wall and take a picture right here never mind the icy one at the edge of the earth. You're just trying to put a stop to the free exchange of ideas so you don't have to deal with the controversy!

In 1956 in England, Samuel Shenton, a sign painter and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Geographic Society, revived the Universal Zetetic Society, changing its name to The International Flat Earth Society.

A brochure from the IFS forthrightly states its position.

" The International Flat Earth Sociey has been established to prove by sound reasoning and factual evidence that the present accepted theory that the Earth is a globe spinning on its axis every 24 hours and at the same time describing an orbit round the Sun at a speed of 66,000 m.p.h, is contrary to all experience and to sound common-sense.

In ancient times the Earth was regarded as plane, and this is expressed in all literature up to a few hundred of years ago. The theory has fallen into disfavour, owing mainly to the dogmatism of modern science and popular education in schools, which leads to prejudice in favour of the globular theory from the start.

It is always a pity to allow false theories to pass unchallenged, and it is hoped that the Flat Earth Society will do much to undo the harm that has been caused. Remember that the truth of the plane figure of the Earth can be shown by irrefutable evidence, and anyone who is interested in becoming a member is asked to contact the President or the Organising Secretary. In future it is hoped to hold regular meetings of the Society.

December 20th, 1956."

The current sign-up flier for their news letter states...

"Aim: To carefully observe, think freely rediscove forgotten fact and oppose theoretical dogmatic assumptions. To help establish the United States...of the the world on this flat earth. Replace the science religion...with SANITY

The International Flat Earth Society is the oldest continuous Society existing on the world today. It began with the Creation of the Creation. First the water...the face of the deep...without form or limits...just Water. Then the Land sitting in and on the Water, the Water then as now being flat and level, as is the very Nature of Water. There are, of course, mountains and valleys on the Land but since most of the World is Water, we say, "The World is Flat." Historical accounts and spoken history tell us the Land part may have been square, all in one mass at one time, then as now, the magnetic north being the Center. Vast cataclysmic events and shaking no doubt broke the land apart, divided the Land to be our present continents or islands as they exist today. One thing we know for sure about this world...the known inhabited world is Flat, Level, a Plain World.

We maintain that what is called 'Science' today and 'scientists' consist of the same old gang of witch doctors, sorcerers, tellers of tales, the 'Priest-Entertainers' for the common people. 'Science' consists of a weird, way-out occult concoction of jibberish theory-theology...unrelated to the real world of facts, technology and inventions, tall buildings and fast cars, airplanes and other Real and Good things in life; technology is not in any way related to the web of idiotic scientific theory. ALL inventors have been anti-science. The Wright brothers said: "Science theory held us up for years. When we threw out all science, started from experiment and experience, then we invented the airplane." By the way, airplanes all fly level on this Plane earth."

So far from being imaginary, the flat-earth controversy is very real and flat-earth advocates are experiencing the same big science oppression that critics of evolution are experiencing.

This is why science is not about "a fair exchange of ideas", but the examination of facts. Questioning evolution is fine. By the way, no one subscribes to Darwin's theory now. The modern evolutionary synthesis is a refinement of Darwin's explanation of evolution, which did not include genes in its explanation. Darwin's model could only have been corrected by people who questioned his theory. However, people who challenged Darwin's theory had to prove why he was not quite right.

What would be a disservice to our students and our nation would be allowing teachers to introduce alternatives that are not based on facts.

Alternatives to evolution need to be vetted by the scientific community. Otherwise, the flat-earth subscribers have every much a right to demand that Universal Zetetic Astronomy be taught as an alternative idea.

There are plenty of scientists who are both evolutionists and who subscribe to creationism. Just as there are doctors and average people alike who believe in creation and accept the fact that there are microscopic life forms, presumably created, which cause sickness and death in less microscopic life forms. There is not some wide-scale conspiracy in the scientific community to stomp out religion. Science deals with observable facts in the natural world and has nothing to do with the super-natural.

When organizations like the Discovery Institute put their money where their mouth is, that is invest their money in research and publish papers that have stood up to the peer review process like everyone else, instead of investing it in lobbyists and lawyers, then I would have no issue with teaching the controversy (because at that point, there will actually be one).

Mike-e said...

I'm honestly pretty amazed that there is actually a flat-earth society. I've heard about it, but my search only resulted in a rock band with the same name. I still have a hard time believing that there are actually people who believe that, but i'll just take your word for it.

But I still think the comparison of the flat earth society and those who criticize evolution is an absurd stretch. There are thousands of Ph.D scientists in there respected fields who question evolution. And I highly doubt that you could find me one Ph.D scientist alive today who believes the earth is flat.

The hypothetical explanation by the student did not suffice for me an accurate representation of how a student or teacher could offer a fair critique of evolution. The reason being, the student's response was basically a "nuh uh!!" Thus, the conversation would go so far as the teacher concluding, "well, if you want to believe that, then fine. But you've offered no evidence other than the fact that you think its flat."

I suppose, just to be fair, that if a teacher really believed the earth was round and wanted to offer their reasons for believing so, then they would be refuted within a split second. I just find it absurd to even consider this as being equal to the evolution controversy when there is absolutely no controversy within the scientific community on the roundness of the earth. You simply cannot say the same for the thousands of Ph.D scientists who doubt evolution.

I agree that this is about the examination of facts. But censoring the right to question evolution is to not allow a fair exchange of ideas. Of course, for teachers to present alternatives that are not based on facts would be a disservice. That is why teachers and students who criticize evolution should do so by appealing to facts, rather than "nuh-uh's!"

I, too, agree that there is not a secret conspiracy to stomp out religion. But I do think that evolutionists do not want their worldview to be questioned. And evolution/naturalism is definitely a worldview. Therefore, to question evolution is to question one's worldview. Richard Dawkins is an excellent example of this.

But with that aside, the whole reason behind my wanting this "fair exchange of ideas" is because of how absurd I believe evolution is. And as long as I am convinced of its absurdity, then I can't help but desire the protection for those who feel the need to question it.

Shawn said...

Here's the active flat-earth debate...

I agree that I don't know of any scientists that accept the flat-earth theory, but that controversy has been going on for a lot longer that the controversy over evolution. When there was a flat-earth controversy, the flat-earthers were convinced that the bible taught that the earth was flat. Now, I don't think anyone sees a conflict with the fact that the earth is a sphere and what is written in the scriptures. It may take just as long, but I am convinced that the pattern will be the same as those who opposed a spherical earth and those who were appalled at the idea that tiny living things made us sick.

As far as criticizing evolution goes, legislation is unnecessary. The criticism is on-going and has benefited our understanding of the mechanics of the processes under the umbrella we call evolution. When there is a breakthrough in what we as humans know, you can be sure that science teachers are going to be alerting their students to the new development.

The idea that 'evolutionists' (I put evolutionists in quotes because it's like calling someone a 'germist' or a 'gravityist') are somehow guarded about their 'world view' being questioned is simply not true. Theists are quick to re-frame an opposing position as another type of faith. Science does not run on faith but physical evidence. Scientists who study the effects of evolution on life are not upset about someone questioning their 'world view', they are upset because people are trying to teach children something that isn't based on the facts.

The statement that there are "thousands of Ph.D scientists who doubt evolution" is known as argumentum ad numerum or the assertion that the more people who support or believe a proposition, the more likely it is that that proposition is correct. This is first of all a fallacy argument and second isn't a true statement. There are less than 800 scientists who have gone on record as being anti-evolutionist.

In response to the creationist lists of scientists (many of whom have engineering degrees, by the way), the NCSE created the Project Steve list. Despite the list's restriction to only scientists with names like "Steve", which in the United States limits the list to roughly 1 percent of the total population, Project Steve is longer and contains many more eminent scientists than any creationist list. In particular, Project Steve contains many more biologists than the creationist lists, since about 2/3 of the Steves are biologists.

Project Steve doesn't prove evolution to be true any more than the other opposing lists do. It doesn't matter how many people believe one way or the other. What matters is physical evidence.

Instead of wasting all of this time and money arguing about the right to teach a non-existent (at least in the scientific community) controversy, I would much rather science teachers point out to their students what we don't know, because that is what the scientists of the future are going to look at. If, in the process of discovering what we don't know, those scientists discover for a fact that evolution is wrong, then the scientific community will change no matter how absurd it seems compared to what was previously believed.

Mike-e said...

Thanks for your response Shawn. I'm definitely amazed at this flat earth thing. And ironically, I stumbled upon another site that was talking about this "controversy." I'd love to meet one of these flat-earthers. I know a lot of people who look for conspiracies in everything, but wow, this is on a whole new level! In fact, i'd probably shake their hand in sheer amazement that there are actually people who hold to a strong conviction on the matter.

Many evolutionists (maybe I should start using the word "naturalists?") view the creation/evolution issue in the same way as the flat earth issue when it was actually an issue. I find this completely absurd on the basis that the creation/evolution issue is far, far, far more complicated and controversial than the flat earth issue ever was. But then again, I have to put myself in the shoes of a naturalist (eh, naturalist just doesn't sound as good) who sees creationism as a step back to the dark ages. If that's the case, then I guess creation can be put in the same category of all "disproven" issues.

The legislation may very well be unnecessary. Or it may not be. It depends on whether or not teachers have the academic freedom to present evidence for and against evolution. Its been quite a few years since i've been in public schools, but if I can remember back far enough, I doubt that my teachers would have gotten in trouble for criticizing evolution. Of course, they would probably get in trouble for teaching ID or something, but I would be just as against that as anyone else would. But if there really isn't an issue with this; if everything that happened in "expelled" is really just a fanciful over-exaggeration of what really happened, then I suppose that we are in somewhat of an agreement.

This whole "worldview" issue is certainly a reality. I would agree that many scientists could care less or haven't even thought about the consequential issues of whether or not evolution is true. But those who affirm a particular belief system, such as humanism, naturalism, etc., they will certainly feel "threatened" if their beliefs are put into question. I don't see how this can be denied when so many atheists were led to their conclusions based on the reality of evolution. Charles Darwin is an excellent example of this. Call this what you will. But evolution has an extremely significant impact on one's worldview when convinced one way or the other. Dawkins makes this emphatically clear.

As for the "thousands of scientists," I never used this as an argument for anything other than to show that there is a controversy. I'm aware of project steve, and in no way would even begin to suggest that creationists are in the majority. You are possibly correct on the 800 who have spoken out, but its not like every scientist on the planet has been questioned on this issue. In fact, i'm sure a large portion of scientists rarely even think about evolution or consider it something that would impact their research in any way.

I think what this boils down to between me and you is our conclusion; you think that ID is dead wrong, and I believe evolution is dead wrong. As long as we are convinced of our positions, you will continue to denounce ideas critical of evolution as absurd and I will denounce ideas in affirmation of evolution as absurd. The difference is, i'm completely fine with that which I find absurd (evolution) to be taught in schools, but I can't say the same were the situation flipped in my favor.

I've been enjoying this discussion, Shawn! Feel free to continue if you have more to say, as i'm open to being challenged on this.

Shawn said...

First of all, I'm going to acknowledge the fact that there are zealots for atheism (oxymoron intentional ) out there... and, unfortunately, they are the squeaky wheel that gets the most media grease. However, I would argue that there are plenty of people out there who would not go so far as to say that creationism is 'a step back into the dark ages'. I think most atheists/humanists out there see the creation/evolution issue as apples and oranges. It's one of the reasons IMHO that the Discovery Institute has been so successful. Very few people on the 'evolutionist' side of the issue are really concerned about arguing with creationists, so the DI slips under the radar a lot of the time.

It's like the statement by a friend of mine who is an orthodox Jew. He said:

"Christians spend a lot of time thinking and reading about Jews but Jews don't think about Christianity at all."

You could say the same thing about the majority of people who accept evolution. They just don't spend any time thinking about creationism. They don't necessarily take the stance that creationism is 'dead wrong', that's kind of an extreme position to take. I spend no time thinking about how wrong the claim that the Buddha was born out of his mother's arm pit is. I don't go around telling people that this claim is dead wrong. I would go as far as saying that it's highly unlikely based on everything we know about how mammals reproduce.

I realize I'm simplifying the situation, but it's just to clarify my own position on the issue. I also think that calling atheism a belief system is like calling bald a hair color. Unless they have some kind of religious ax to grind, an atheist simply doesn't believe that there are any gods. It's no more a belief system than people who could be called a-Thor-ists, which I think most, if not all, people alive on earth today could be called. Instead of feeling that their belief system is being threatened, they are simply incredulous of the things that the ID camp ( and I'm not including you in that group, Mike ) want to teach to our children in the name of 'academic freedom'.

I personally would not denounce an idea critical of evolution as absurd until that idea is weighed against the facts. Even then, I would rarely use the term absurd ( the exception being that the earth is a mere 6,000 years old). I have seen a lot of intellectual dishonesty such as:

Talking about how improbable something is using only numbers and ignoring the physical evidence.

Talking about the Cambrian 'explosion' as proof of sudden appearance of life and failing to mention that this explosion took 80 million years and did not produce anything more advanced than mollusks, trilobites and possibly chordates.

The vague notion of irreducible complexity of things like eyes and flagella when there are examples of other less-complicated versions of these mechanisms.

Isn't there at least the possibility that the Genesis account is allegorical. If we assume that God was explaining the origin of life to Moses, It seems unreasonable that He would have required Moses to have an advanced understanding of biology any more than a mother would expect her child to understand the process of intercourse and fetal development when that child asks the simple question "How did I get here?" Additionally, wasn't Adam's God-assigned job to observe the animals and give them names, basically to begin the study biology? Would it not have undermined the purpose of that assignment if God had given Moses all of the answers?

It's true that Dawkins did become an atheist as he learned about biology, but I don't think evolution is a god-killer any more than a spherical earth is a god-killer ( and I know the issues are very different). All science is saying is that 'we know what we know - we're working on what we don't know'. There is absolutely nothing that has disproved the existence of God. Going back to the mother and child parallel, we should be happy that human kind has gone beyond the "you grew in mummy's tummy" explanation of how life on earth developed to the understanding of this incredibly beautiful process.