Reed A. Cartwright posted Entry 498 on September 22, 2004 03:00 PM.
Trackback URL: http://degas.fdisk.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/497

A few years ago the Cobb County (GA)  Board of Education installed the following disclaimer in their biology textbooks.  (Contrary to what you might think, Cobb County is the most affluent and one of the least Georgian counties in the state.  Damn conservative Yankees making my state look bad.)

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

After two years and three classes of students that have had their science education undermined by the Cobb County disclaimer against evolution, the ACLU suit against the disclaimers is finally going to trial. Federal Judge Clarence Cooper recently ruled against the Cobb County Board of Education’s latest motion to dismiss the suit.

The suit is the only legal action being taken by any community against the latest  wave of assaults on science education.  While they are prepared with witnesses, evidence, and a truly strong case, they are again, as they were for the taking of depositions, in need of funds to meet the costs of prosecution. Over a year ago, they asked for help, and it came through. People raised sufficient funds to pay for the sorely needed depositions. With the trial on the horizon, they are again asking for help.

The latest information is that bringing witnesses to Atlanta and all the ancillary items needed to go to trial will cost $3,000.  Just three hundred people at $10 each will satisfy the cost.

All contributions are tax deductible if the following is done.

Checks should be made out to The ACLU of Georgia Foundation and must be sent to:

The ACLU of Georgia Foundation
70 Fairlie Street suite 340
Atlanta Georgia  30303

A letter earmarking the donation to the evolution case must accompany it.
Here is a template for that earmarked note:

<Address>
<Email>
<Date>

The ACLU of Georgia Foundation
142 Mitchell Street  suite 301
Atlanta, Georgia  30303

Dear Ms. Seagraves:

Enclosed you will find a check for $<amont> made out to The ACLU of Georgia Foundation. I have sent this donation for the sole purpose of funding the litigation against Cobb County Board of Education’s evolution disclaimer suit. I was not solicited by the ACLU to send these funds and have forwarded them willingly and for the mentioned purpose.

Sincerely,

<Signature>
<Name>
<Phone>

People can also call the ACLU and donate by credit card over the phone but they still need to send an earmarked note for their records. The phone number is 404-523-6201 ask for Debbie Seagraves.

A third way is pay pal on The ACLU web site at  ACLUGA.org. Click on join the ACLU and it will bring up the Pay Pal screen. You still have to send the follow up earmarked note.

P.S. Spread the Word.

Comment #7844

Posted by Gary Hurd on September 22, 2004 03:35 PM (e) (s)

Oky Dookey, or however you should spell that. Figure that it costs $10 just to open the letter, and cash the check, so I recon’ that a $20 donation is about minimum.

Comment #7845

Posted by Steve on September 22, 2004 03:47 PM (e) (s)

In July I renewed my membership. I urge everyone out there to find out what the ACLU does, and support them.

Comment #7848

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 22, 2004 05:26 PM (e) (s)

This is an awesome and timely post. Thanks Reed!!!

Comment #7850

Posted by Bob Maurus on September 22, 2004 08:14 PM (e) (s)

Reed,

Debbie’s been a close friend of Ginger’s and mine for the better part of 20 years. She fights the good fight.

Comment #7853

Posted by theEnvoy on September 22, 2004 11:48 PM (e) (s)

Oy, I live in Atlanta, and work in the Northern Burbs, and this is depressing. I haven’t joined the ACLU yet, but I think this pushes me over the edge.

Comment #7855

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 09:11 AM (e) (s)

Just curious,

Do you folks object to the statement, the fact that it is required, or both?

In my opinion, the statement arguably true, in a fill in the blank kind of sense, e.g., it just as easily could claim:

This textbook contains material on String Theory. String Theory is a theory, not a fact, regarding the fabric of spacetime. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

There is nothing wrong with this statement, even when referring to evolution, in fact any teacher/professor that does not adhere to it in any science instruction is a bozo.

So I can’t imagine objecting to the statement itself, although I am very sympathetic to resisting a government mandate to include it in textbooks.

Now the statement

After two years and three classes of students that have had their science education undermined by the Cobb County disclaimer against evolution

Is just too much, too melodramatic, for many reasons. Get real. First of all, as I stated, some scientists would agree with it in the generic sense I discussed above, so how can it “undermine” science education. Second, it’s elitist, for essentially the concern is that while we (the enlightened) can see through it, the overly pliable youth will be turned into frothing Pat Robertsons. Give me a break.

In truth, this statement will sway nobody. It is a student’s overall world view that will determine whether or not they accept evolution.

Like I have said elsewhere on this blog, I think macro-evolution (I know you guys hate that term, but tough) is a bunch of crap, but I encourage my boys to study it. And if the text book had a disclaimer that read “Evolution is fact, and ID is for lunatics” it wouldn’t bother me a bit, and it would undermine absolutely nothing. I have faith in their power of discernment.

Comment #7856

Posted by Jon Fleming on September 23, 2004 09:46 AM (e) (s)

Do you folks object to the statement, the fact that it is required, or both?

Me, neither.

In my opinion, the statement arguably true, in a fill in the blank kind of sense, e.g., it just as easily could claim …

Yes, that’s correct. What I (and I suspect many others) object to is the singling out of evolution. Since that statement is true in some sense for all science, it might be reasonable to include it in all science textbooks worded in a a way so as to clearly apply to all science. However, including it worded so as to apply to only one science gives the false and misleadinbg impression that the results and theories of that particular science are more tenuous and suspect than others.

Comment #7857

Posted by Dave S. on September 23, 2004 10:10 AM (e) (s)

David Heddle wrote:

In my opinion, the statement arguably true, in a fill in the blank kind of sense, e.g., it just as easily could claim:

“This textbook contains material on String Theory. String Theory is a theory, not a fact, regarding the fabric of spacetime. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

There is nothing wrong with this statement, even when referring to evolution, in fact any teacher/professor that does not adhere to it in any science instruction is a bozo.

Hmmmm….

If the statement is really just an inoccuous fill-in-the-blank self evident kind of thing that could apply to any science, then why should it be mandated for inclusion at all? And if it’s mandated for biology texts, why not a similar statement in every science text, like a chem text?

This book contains material on quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of atoms. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.

Let’s mandate that too.

Why not?

Comment #7858

Posted by Bob Maurus on September 23, 2004 10:18 AM (e) (s)

David,

How about, “This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a Scientific theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things, and as a scientific theory - unlike Intelligent Design, which is nothing but Biblical Creation in a new suit of clothes trying to masquerade as something other than religion - evolution is supported by an impressibly large and growing body of multidisciplinary scientific evidence collected over 100s of years of research, observation, and duplicated controlled experiments.
A Scientific Theory, in realty, is as close to a fact as is ever claimed in science, and at some point can be considered to be a fact.”

I think that statement, though a bit unwieldy, might suffice nicely.

Comment #7859

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 10:19 AM (e) (s)

Dave S.,

Like I wrote (it seems like I have to start many of posts this way—people read what fires them up and ignore the rest) I am sympathetic to resisting a government mandate to include it (the disclaimer) in textbooks.

Comment #7860

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 10:30 AM (e) (s)

Bob,

Again, I might object to such a statement on the grounds of government intrusion, but I would not worry about influencing minds. It wouldn’t have had any effect on me, so why should I worry it would affect others? Common sense and experience dictate that such boiler-plate encapsulations carry no weight.

I disagree with your claim that theory can be considered to be a fact. Its predictions can be considered facts—e.g. if I drop a rock it will fall—but the precise explanation is still, and always will be, a theory subject to revision.

For example, just yesterday I read a new SciAm article about a revolution in evolution regarding junk DNA. This highlights that, in a non-pejorative sense, evolution is a theory in progress, not factoids written in stone

Comment #7864

Posted by Bob Maurus on September 23, 2004 11:04 AM (e) (s)

David,

Maybe - only maybe - a tad bit of an overreach, but the basic Theory holds remarkably well, and the body of supporting evidence continues to grow. I would agree that there are, and will probably continue to be, disputes and tinkerings over specifics and mechanics but not over the overall Theory.

At a minimum, I think the disclaimer’s use of the innocuous “theory” rather than the proper “scientific theory” creates a (potentially intentional)false impression of its strength. We all know what the fight is all about. Religion/Creationism has no business in a Biology textbook, and this disclaimer is the Wedgies’ first baby step toward an endrun.

As far as government’s place in education, it seems to me that there must be government input and oversight concerning standards and standarization. That does not, to me, constitute intrusion.

No offense intended, but your own beliefs in this area must be considered when weighing the merits of your positions and statements on Science/Faith issues.

Comment #7869

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 23, 2004 11:48 AM (e) (s)

Jon writes

What I (and I suspect many others) object to is the singling out of evolution. Since that statement is true in some sense for all science, it might be reasonable to include it in all science textbooks worded in a a way so as to clearly apply to all science. However, including it worded so as to apply to only one science gives the false and misleading impression that the results and theories of that particular science are more tenuous and suspect than others.

Well said. Of course this is the problem.

How about a statement at the beginning of all science textbooks that says, “This is a science textbook. It is not a religious text. If you are religious, please be aware that nothing in this book can harm your soul or undermine your religion. At the end of this course, you will be tested on your understanding of what is written in the textbook, not on the strength of your beliefs. Have a great day.”

Comment #7873

Posted by Dave S. on September 23, 2004 12:36 PM (e) (s)

David Heddle wrote:

Like I wrote (it seems like I have to start many of posts this way—-people read what fires them up and ignore the rest) I am sympathetic to resisting a government mandate to include it (the disclaimer) in textbooks.

Yes, but you also wrote …

In my opinion, the statement arguably true, in a fill in the blank kind of sense, e.g., it just as easily could claim:

….

There is nothing wrong with this statement, even when referring to evolution, in fact any teacher/professor that does not adhere to it in any science instruction is a bozo.

Comment #7875

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 12:54 PM (e) (s)

Dave S.

Yes I wrote “there is nothing wrong with this statement”. Did you think I wrote that there is nothing wrong with requiring the statement? I did not write or imply that.

Comment #7877

Posted by Dave S. on September 23, 2004 01:41 PM (e) (s)

David Heddle

My response was to the effect that there is something wrong with the statement.

So not only do I disagree with requiring it (which I know is not necessarily your position), I also disagree with a position that would suggest it’s acceptible to have in there at all.

Comment #7879

Posted by ~DS~ on September 23, 2004 02:21 PM (e) (s)

David H:

Those stickers don’t bother most people too much at all. They don’t bother me anyway. I sometimes wonder though how theists would feel if the shoe was on the other foot?

This book contains mythological material describing an ancient form of supernaturalism/cosmogony common among ANE Cultures. There are competing versions of ANE Mythos which should also be reviewed along with various forms of spiritualism found throughout both early and modern human societies. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

Now, admittedly my analogy is far from perfect. But would you like to see statements like that on the front of Bibles and Qu’rons? How would you feel about it if the folks who pushed the requirement that that statement be placed on all religious books through the local government were openly atheistic and backed by a National Association of Atheists?
Isn’t it factually correct? Even though it is factually correct, might it be possible to misinterpret it to mean more than it really should? Does the term Mythology accurately describe the Bible or could that term be misinterpreted?

Comment #7881

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 02:31 PM (e) (s)

~DS~

Fair question, I would of course be upset if the government required such a sticker—which is why I was curious as to whether it was the statement, the mandate, or both that caused the uproar.

Of course, if the government did require such a statement on bibles, what would be the effect? Any number of things, including protests, etc. But what would not be an effect, in my opinion, is the undermining of someone’s beliefs. People would see it for what it was: the government intruding where it shouldn’t.

So fight for the removal of the disclaimer, I’ll even be in your camp. But don’t pretend that the statement has undermined science education.

Comment #7882

Posted by Steve on September 23, 2004 02:48 PM (e) (s)

“Everybody meet our new employee Bob.”
“Hi Bob.”
“Let me introduce you around, Bob. This is eddie. Eddie’s a great guy. Here’s Sarah. Sarah’s wonderful. Here’s Mr. Reliable himself, Frank. And Jim, you know Jim fixed my car once. Okay, here’s Carl. Carl’s a human, and humans sometimes steal cars, or sleep with your daughter, or shoot people. Anyway. Here’s Raul, Raul is awesome. And here—”
“Hey.”
“What Carl?”
“Why’d you say all that shit about me?”
“Everything I said was factually true, Carl.”

Comment #7884

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on September 23, 2004 03:23 PM (e) (s)

David,

Perhaps it hasn’t occured to you, but the statement is a false. Evolution is both a theory and a fact. Furthermore, evolution is not about the origin of living things. Evolution is about the origin of the diversity of life, not the origin of life.

And in some sense it doesn’t matter what the actual statement is, the fact that material in the curriculium is disclaimed undermines students’ education.

Comment #7885

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 23, 2004 03:51 PM (e) (s)

But what would not be an effect, in my opinion, is the undermining of someone’s beliefs.

David, how about some support for your opinion? You know, some kind of argument that a disclaimer which appears on one textbook and not others won’t undermine a student’s impressions as to the relative veracity of the textbook’s contents.

Your claim certainly strikes me as counter-intuitive at best, as Steve’s post 7882 demonstrates. Why do you suppose that teaching materials would be approached differently from any other object or person by teenage students?

As for your other claim, that students would “see it for what it is,” I think that is absurd. Perhaps to ensure that students “see it for what it is,” we should include a statement above the disclaimer which states plainly why the statement is there:

“This statement appears as required by law, said law promulgated at the request of Christians who believe that the contents of this textbook undermine their religious beliefs and increase the likelihood that a reader will choose to become a homosexual. That belief, however, is not supported by any evidence and should be viewed critically, with an open mind.”

Comment #7887

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 04:12 PM (e) (s)

So GWW, if you had seen that disclaimer the first time you studied evolution as a teenager, would you have been weak minded enough to be affected?

As for your addendum to the disclaimer, it would be just as absurd as the one about evolution and just as ineffectual. While the evolution blurb would be seen by some as intrusion by religious zealots, your addendum would be viewed by Christian students as common secular humanist nonsense.

In short, both sides would simply ignore it.

Comment #7888

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 23, 2004 04:19 PM (e) (s)

Heddle states as a matter of fact:

In truth, this statement will sway nobody. It is a student’s overall world view that will determine whether or not they accept evolution.

There’s that term again. My fundie sensors are tingling.

A couple questions

David, are you referring to the student’s prior indoctrination by his or her parents or church leader when you say “world view”?

In your view, David, which aspect of a “world view” (assuming a “world view” can be divided into aspects) would “determine” that a student could NOT “accept evolution”?

Comment #7889

Posted by Larry Lord on September 23, 2004 04:27 PM (e) (s)

Heddle, sounding like a CECC, writes:

In truth, this statement will sway nobody. It is a student’s overall world view that will determine whether or not they accept evolution.

My sensors are tingling!

In your view, David, which aspect of a student’s “overall world view” would “determine” that a student could NOT “accept evolution”?

Comment #7890

Posted by Great White Larry on September 23, 2004 04:29 PM (e) (s)

I hate this damn server.

Comment #7891

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 04:42 PM (e) (s)

What is a CECC? I don’t know if I am one.

What I am stating is the obvious.

A student will accept or reject evolution regardless of some disclaimer in the front of the book. The disclaimer is ineffectual. That said, I agree with you that the government should not require it.

It is demonstrable that not all students will study evolution and accept it. I studied it and did not accept it, and I wasn’t a believer at the time, and came from a family of non believers. And I was very strong in science—so it was not a weakness in matters scientific that made me reject it. Whatever it was, I’m calling it my world view.

If my bio book had a disclaimer in the front that read: “If you don’t accept this, you must be the progeny of Jimmy Swaggart (sp?)”, it would have had no effect.

Comment #7892

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 23, 2004 04:53 PM (e) (s)

Heddle writes

So GWW, if you had seen that disclaimer the first time you studied evolution as a teenager, would you have been weak minded enough to be affected?

Nope. But that’s because my parents failed to indoctrinate me that the naturalists were out to take over my mind. I can’t speak for other students whose brains were programmed by evangelical Christian parents or who simply weren’t as intelligent as I was. Not to brag or anything, but I graduated at the top of my class and was always interested in science and evolutionary biology. Surely you agree, David, that intelligence and prior knowledge has something do with how a student will react to such a statement.

your addendum would be viewed by Christian students as common secular humanist nonsense.

Probably. That’s the way many CECC’s tend to characterize indisputable statements about them which expose the prejudicial tenets of their religion. Of course, the term “nonsense” would lose all its meaning if used by CECC’s in that way, but that’s also typical.

Comment #7893

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 23, 2004 05:07 PM (e) (s)

CECC = conservative evangelical christian creationist
I use the term to avoid capturing benign Christians with my sweeping, totally unfounded, abusive diatribes. ;)

Heddle writes

And I was very strong in science—-so it was not a weakness in matters scientific that made me reject it. Whatever it was, I’m calling it my world view.

Okay. So your “world view” “made” you “reject evolution”. In other words, you had no choice but to “reject evolution”, given your “world view” at the time, which (interestingly enough) was not a Christian “world view.” And you claim that you were strong in science.

Presumably the authors of the text books and the authors of the papers which provided the data on which the text book was based were also “strong in science.”

Nevertheless, you were “made” to “reject evolution” because of your “world view.”

I must admit that I have absolutely no idea what you could possibly mean by your statement that your non-Christian “worldview” “made” you “reject evolution.”

In fact, it’s such an odd claim that I’m inclined to think that you’re making it up. What am I missing here, David???

Comment #7894

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 05:17 PM (e) (s)

I am not sure if I am a CECC. It sounds like a synonym for a young earth fundamentalist. I am an old earth IDer, and my theology is Calvinistic, if that means anything to you, which is not at all like what is normally meant when someone is described as a fundie. So I don’t really know if I am an CECC.

My first exposure to evolution was classic Darwinianism. Nothing “neo” about it. I remember thinking there just isn’t enough time for all of this. (I still believe that time is a major problem for evolution, but lets not go there).

Was I influenced by other things I read? Possibly, proably, but it wouldn’t have been Christian tracts—I would have pitched those at once. And it wouldn’t have been ID literature, we are talking mid seventies here.

Of course, I could be a liar as you seem to think.

Comment #7895

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 23, 2004 06:22 PM (e) (s)

I remember thinking there just isn’t enough time for all of this.

So at age 15? 17? your “world view” dictated that it was impossible, according to the laws of nature as you understood them, for the life forms living on earth back in the 70s and preserved in the fossil record to have evolved?

Did you try to articulate your view rationally/scientifically at the time? Or was your belief something that “simply had to be true” based on an aspect of your “world view” at the time that you haven’t revealed yet?

I can understand being skeptical, surprised, impressed by, or not fully comprehending evolutionary biology as a student.

But we’re talking about “rejecting Darwinism” as a high school student as a direct cause of holding a non-theistic or at least a non-Christian “world view.” I still don’t see how that works unless your “world view” at the time included rejecting every scientific theory you were taught in school. Was that the case?

This still strikes me as an exceedingly unusual scenario, especially for someone who is “strong in science.”

Comment #7897

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 07:22 PM (e) (s)

GWW: I don’t really know how to respond to your problem of “not seeing how it works”. I simply didn’t buy it. I know I spun arguments in my head like: (in whatever manner of speaking I had at the time) “If man has been more or less like this for 50,000 years, without changing in any appreciable way, and it would take at least a million big changes to transform pond scum into man, then there is not enough time.”)

NOTE: I do not intend to debate the merits of that argument, it was, right or wrong, one of the things I thought about as a teenager that made me reject Darwinism.

At the same time, I accepted most everything else I learned in bio and everything I learned in physics and chem. So I did not reject everything scientific. Far from it.

I am curious as to who you are worried about being “brain washed”. For simplicity, suppose there are four types of people.

1) Smart Christians

2) Dumb Christians

3) Smart non believers

4) Dumb non believers

Now the first two groups are immune to the disclaimer. After all, they will already be predisposed against evolution. If the evolutionary argument is strong enough to break the hold of their beliefs, then surely the disclaimer will not keep them from the dark side.

You, I gather, were in group three, a smart non believer, based on your statement:

Nope. But that’s because my parents failed to indoctrinate me that the naturalists were out to take over my mind. I can’t speak for other students whose brains were programmed by evangelical Christian parents or who simply weren’t as intelligent as I was.

So group three, by virtue of being smart non believers like yourself, are also immune.

So is your concern for dumb unbelievers? It must be, I don’t who else is left. If they are dumb, will they even ponder the disclaimer? And are they potential scientists?

Comment #7898

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on September 23, 2004 07:57 PM (e) (s)

David Heddle wrote:

1) Smart Christians

2) Dumb Christians

3) Smart non believers

4) Dumb non believers

Now the first two groups are immune to the disclaimer. After all, they will already be predisposed against evolution.

Plenty of people in groups 1 and 2, Christians, are not predisposed against evolution.

Several Christian organizations have no problem with evolutionary biology.

Comment #7899

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 08:08 PM (e) (s)

Wesley wrote:

Plenty of people in groups 1 and 2, Christians, are not predisposed against evolution.

Fair enough—but if they are Christians and not predisposed, then surely they are independent thinkers and, having no doubt already resisted their Christian friends and families who are predisposed against evolution, would not be swayed by a silly bureaucratic disclaimer. So the question stands: who are you worried about?

Comment #7901

Posted by ~DS~ on September 23, 2004 08:27 PM (e) (s)

David H,

I appreciate your courtesy. And I understand you’re somewhat alone here as far as active participants on this thread who are skeptical of evolution. That takes genuine interest and courage; both admirable qualities. Don’t feel that you have to respond every comment I make.

I would find a String Theory disclaimer far more accurate than an evolution disclaimer. We don’t know if there really are tiny, dense filaments of mysterious ‘string’ vibrating in n-dimensional Calabi-Yau Metrics under imaginably immense tension. But we do know that species change over time and diversify/speciate. So the two cases are not only different, the difference has a direct bearing on the accuracy of each respective version.

As Reed pointed out, one of the things that disclaimer does is to capitalize on the fuzzy colloquial meaning of the term theory (a half assed guess), VS scientific meaning the scientific definition of the word theory (an explanation which has been tested and found consistent with observations). In addition evolution is used to refer to both a fact and a theory as are many concepts in science. E.G.: Just as we have a Theory of Planetary Motion which explains the observed fact that planets move relative to the background stars and our frame of reference, we have a Theory of Evolution which explains how evolution happens.

But if you don’t know any better, say if you were a freshman in High School, you might be puzzled by all these different meanings. And that’s precisely the intent of the Discovery Institute. To score political brownie points with creationist sympathizers AKA The Religious Right at the expense of confusing students. That’s dishonest and I find that dishonesty objectionable.

Does such a statement have any negative impact on science in education in Cobb County K-12 Schools? I really don’t know. I doubt it has any significant impact, but I have no way to really know.
Would it have an impact on the faith of the devout if the transitional hominid sequence was on One Dollar Bills instead of In God We Trust?

Comment #7903

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 23, 2004 11:29 PM (e) (s)

David do you have no concept that there are many people that are much more …well… prone to manipulation than others. It is not all about smart and dump. It is about impressionable.

Comment #7904

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 23, 2004 11:31 PM (e) (s)

ack….as I’ve proven I’m one of those dump people :/

Obviously I’m spelling deficient

Comment #7907

Posted by David Heddle on September 24, 2004 07:47 AM (e) (s)

Wayne,

No I don’t concede your point. My experience has been that prople are overly worried about others being manipulated by some simple minded platitude—while not explaining why they themselves are immune.

On this point, I found GWW’s willingness to claim that he would have avoided brainwashing because he was smarter than other students both honest and refreshing.

If their minds are such mush that they can be swayed by a few sentences in the front of the book, then over the course of a year a biology teacher along with a few hundred pages of text ought to be able to reel in these pliable dolts.

In case anyone forgot my position: I am NOT in favor of this useless government mandated disclaimer. However, the claim that it has undermined science education is a gross exaggeration.

Comment #7910

Posted by David Heddle on September 24, 2004 07:55 AM (e) (s)

~DS~ wrote

Would it have an impact on the faith of the devout if the transitional hominid sequence was on One Dollar Bills instead of In God We Trust?

My answer: no

Comment #7926

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 24, 2004 01:33 PM (e) (s)

Heddle writes

I don’t really know how to respond to your problem of “not seeing how it works”. I simply didn’t buy it. I know I spun arguments in my head like: (in whatever manner of speaking I had at the time) “If man has been more or less like this for 50,000 years, without changing in any appreciable way, and it would take at least a million big changes to transform pond scum into man, then there is not enough time.”)

Fascinating. You said above that a “student’s overall worldview would determine whether they would reject evolution.” You also said that your “world view” made you reject evolution.

Now you say that you “simply didn’t buy it,” based on the sort of scientific arguments that (if only the assumptions were correct) would fit neatly into any secular humanists or philosophical naturalists “worldview” (to the extent I understand the meaning of those buzzwords). But my understanding is that so-called secular humanists are typically the “deepest” believers in evolutionary theory? Therefore, one’s “world view” is NOT determining, provided one’s “world view” allows one to use one’s reason.

Am I missing something here? Perhaps you could answer my question above directly about which aspect of a student’s “worldview” would determine that a student must reject evolution. That is a most perplexing statement.

By the way, David, without debating the fine points: do you think the argument you spun in your head as a teenager withstands much scrutiny? Would you make that argument today with a straight face? Did you wonder at the time how it was possible for you to logically conclude that evolution was bogus while thousands of scientists with much more knowledge and experience than you labored futiley under the shadow of an obviously dead theory?

All serious questions.

I found GWW’s willingness to claim that he would have avoided brainwashing because he was smarter than other students both honest and refreshing.

I didn’t claim anything of the sort. I just said that my parents failed to brainwash me, i.e., they didn’t try. They weren’t the sort of people whose religious beliefs were the number one motivating forces in their lives. They certainly weren’t evangelical Christian creationists concerned about “secular humanism” and that sort of nonsense.

I also said (to repeat)

I can’t speak for other students whose brains were programmed by evangelical Christian parents OR who simply weren’t as intelligent as I was.

Emphasis added. Please read my posts carefully before you paraphrase my comments. Thanks.

You also said

I am curious as to who you are worried about being “brain washed”.

Now you appear to be spinning vigorously, David. Please be more careful (for the moment, I’m assuming your mischaracterizations of my posts are benign). I never claimed that the disclaimer would be brainwashing anyone. I am not worried about the disclaimer brainwashing anyone.

Comment #7927

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 24, 2004 01:51 PM (e) (s)

Oh, and David, in case you’ve any doubt about how impressionable people are, check out some of the research results of Elizabeth Loftus at UC Irvine.

http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/A…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/feature/story/0,1…

Of course, the statistics which show how many people in this country believe in ESP, communication with the dead, or Saddam’s role in planning 9/11 are equally compelling.

Comment #7929

Posted by David Heddle on September 24, 2004 02:44 PM (e) (s)

GWW,

I don’t get your point. If on every ESP publication the goverment required a sticker that read “Anyone who believes in ESP is an idiot” do you think it would change minds?

Comment #7932

Posted by David Heddle on September 24, 2004 03:13 PM (e) (s)

GWW,

Sorry, I missed your previous diatribe. Apologies if I mischaracterized your quote about students who weren’t “as intelligent as [you were]”, but in truth I don’t see, even with the help of the word OR being capitalized, what else it could mean,

My world view, at the time, included a thorough grounding in critical thinking. That is why I rejected evolution. Not because my thoughts were necessarily correct, but because I did think about it critically, I didn’t just accept it. Examining what I was taught with a critical eye was/is an important part of my world view.

Others may have accepted after their own critical thinking, including reasoning that there was sufficient time, or accepted/rejected without thinking at all, but in any case their response was based on how they viewed the world. I’m not sure why this isn’t obvious.

Christian/atheist students will have more obviously-relevant aspects they bring to bear, but how that plays out is not perfectly predictable as both the cases Wesley referred to (theistic evolutionists) and my own, at the time (agnostic non-evolutionist) bear out.

As for time, as in the time available both for life to form and for primitive life to evolve, I already said I still think it is a big problem, one of the biggest problems, for evolution. So I still believe in the gist of my primitive analysis, but I am not going to debate that on this post. If someone posts on the sufficiency of time, I might engage in debate there.

Finally, I used brainwashing to mean “swayed” by the disclaimer. If there is no possibility of brainwashing in this sense, then how does the statement “undermine science education” as claimed?

Comment #7933

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 24, 2004 03:28 PM (e) (s)

I don’t get your point. If on every ESP publication the goverment required a sticker that read “Anyone who believes in ESP is an idiot” do you think it would change minds?

Um, yes I do, actually. Of course, I never said that I approved of such a sticker. My point is that people are impressionable and adopt positions and beliefs even when there is no evidence to support those beliefs.

I also think that a disclaimer before John Edwards TV show that says

John Edwards is an entertainer who specializes in deception. He lacks the ability to communicate with dead people

would be perfectly appropriate and would reduce the number of people who believe that John Edwarsd can communicate with dead people. I don’t really care if you agree with me. I am more interested in your direct honest response to my questions above.

Others here have praised you for your willingness to engage in honest discussion and not dissemble like so many other “skeptics” who turn up here. I’m giving you (and them) the benefit of the doubt.

Comment #7934

Posted by Larry Lord on September 24, 2004 03:41 PM (e) (s)

David,

You didn’t answer this question

Did you wonder at the time how it was possible for you to logically conclude that evolution was bogus while thousands of scientists with much more knowledge and experience than you labored futiley under the shadow of an obviously dead theory?

And you wrote

Examining what I was taught with a critical eye was/is an important part of my world view.

So, based on your previous statement that your “world view” made you reject evolution, is it your view that the thousands and thousands of scientists who labor under evolutionary theory do not incorporate critical thinking into their “world view”? If this is not your view, could you please explain the contradiction?

Of course, that still leaves open the original question of why so many conservative evangelical Christians who like the term “world view” and admit to lacking a scientific background choose to disparage the work of evolutionary biologists. What is the aspect of their “world view” that leads them to reject evolution, David? Do you believe it is this “critical thinking” aspect you claim to have adopted when you were an agnostic in high school?

Comment #7935

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 24, 2004 03:47 PM (e) (s)

David, — re the last paragraph of my 7933 post — that was coming around one side of the barn while your post was coming around t’other. Thanks for getting to my questions.

Re “brainwashing” = “swayed” : that is a rather novel use of the term! Forgive me for not recognizing what you meant.

I certainly do believe that students can be swayed by the disclaimer into giving less credit to evolutionary biologists than they are due. I also believe that is the intent of the disclaimer’s proponents.

Comment #7937

Posted by David Heddle on September 24, 2004 04:02 PM (e) (s)

GWW

I cannot speak for anyone else as to why they accept or reject evolution, but certainly I believe that many Christians reject it simply because they believe, as Christians, that evolution is loathesome.

Likewise, many athiests will accept evolution without even knowing what a gene is—simply because it seems to be the thing for an athiest to do.

I do not claim that “thousands and thousands” of scientists do not engage in critical thinking—I believe I was clear that some of my classmates might have accepted evolution after critical thought.

Critical thought does not imply infallibility, nor does it always lead to agreement.

Comment #7941

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 24, 2004 05:19 PM (e) (s)

David

Why do you refuse to answer this question (now presented twice)?

Did you wonder at the time how it was possible for you to logically conclude that evolution was bogus while thousands of scientists with much more knowledge and experience than you labored futiley under the shadow of an obviously dead theory?

Also,

many athiests will accept evolution without even knowing what a gene is—-simply because it seems to be the thing for an athiest to do

Really? Yet another bold claim from good ol’ David Heddle. Approximately how many atheists have said that to you? Care to point me to a website where I can find an atheist who accepts evolution because “it seems to be the thing for an atheist to do”? Just one would be fine, David.

Absolutely freaking hilarious.

Comment #7942

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 24, 2004 06:36 PM (e) (s)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #7948

Posted by David Heddle on September 24, 2004 09:01 PM (e) (s)

GWW,

The point (athiests who don’t know what a gene is) is that there are athiests who will accept evolution without having any scientific background and therefore no real basis to make a jusgement—the equivalent of the Christians who will parrot untrue comments about violations of the second law of thermo without knowing what they are talking about. Both sides have unthinking bumpkins.

As for your question:

Did you wonder at the time how it was possible for you to logically conclude that evolution was bogus while thousands of scientists with much more knowledge and experience than you labored futiley under the shadow of an obviously dead theory?

That’s like asking:

Why is it that Christianity can claim such a rich heritage of intellectuals and yet you don’t believe it?

I know the answer, but do you?

Comment #7951

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on September 24, 2004 11:19 PM (e) (s)

David Heddle wrote:

The point (athiests who don’t know what a gene is) is that there are athiests who will accept evolution without having any scientific background and therefore no real basis to make a jusgement—-the equivalent of the Christians who will parrot untrue comments about violations of the second law of thermo without knowing what they are talking about. Both sides have unthinking bumpkins.

Except that in your example, the “athiests” are not accepting a position not held by the vast majority of more knowledgable people. There is a major difference between trusting scientific consensus and doubting it when you are ignorant of the subject.

It is one thing to teach high school students critical thinking skills. It is another thing to expect them to apply them successfully to scientific questions that take at least eight years to read the material.

Comment #7953

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 25, 2004 03:42 AM (e) (s)

David

Reed wrote pretty much what I would have written in response.

And this issue merges right into my Unanswered Question.

I have no idea what point your trying to make with your comment about the rich heritage of Christians. I never said anything about “Christian intellectuals” and I don’t see what the alleged richness of their heritage has to do with anything.

You, on the other hand, said that your agnostic “world view” made you reject evolution, but your description of your thought process in high school shows that you concluded, based on some assumptions and on scientific reasoning, that the scientists of the world were fools and you, a high school student, weren’t.

Was assuming expertise in areas where you have none part of your agnostic “world view” when you were in high school? In your opinion, is that sort of behavior consistent with “critical thinking” and having an “open mind”? Or would you call it something else?

The point (athiests who don’t know what a gene is) is that there are athiests who will accept evolution without having any scientific background and therefore no real basis to make a judgment

This statement is false, as reliance on expertise is a “real basis” on which to make a judgment, unless you are a monk or what some people call a “fruitloop.” In fact, everyone who chooses to live in modern society relies on the scientific expertise of others and on some variation of the scientific method every day of their lives. I sometimes refer to this condition of existence as “reality.”

I also note that this “point” of yours is very different from your earlier claim that “many atheists” choose to believe evolutionary theory because “it’s the right thing to do.”

I won’t comment further on that trend, as I have promised to ask myself “what would Pim do” before hitting the launch button. ;)

Comment #7954

Posted by Frank J on September 25, 2004 07:21 AM (e) (s)

David Heddle wrote:

My world view, at the time, included a thorough grounding in critical thinking. That is why I rejected evolution. Not because my thoughts were necessarily correct, but because I did think about it critically, I didn’t just accept it. Examining what I was taught with a critical eye was/is an important part of my world view.

You also say that you are an old-earther, which means that you reject YEC as well as evolution. And if you truly are a critical thinker, you probably conclude that YEC is more at odds with “what really happened” than evolution (the conclusions of mainstream science and mainstream religion) is. Do you then criticize YEC at least as much as you criticize evolution?

And what about “what really happened”? From your earlier posts you suggest “independent abiogenesis,” rather than saltation. Though, like nearly all anti-evolutionists, you don’t refer to it specifically, or detail when and for what groups you think it occurs. If there’s not enough time for evolution in your old earth scenario, isn’t there also not enough time for independent abiogenesis and saltation too? If not, why not? And please, no “designer” bait and switch. Recall that I accept a designer, but see no evidence that He used anything but evolution.

Comment #7986

Posted by ~DS~ on September 26, 2004 12:16 AM (e) (s)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #7990

Posted by Frank J on September 26, 2004 07:14 AM (e) (s)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #8009

Posted by Ed Darrell on September 27, 2004 02:57 AM (e) (s)

There are people who deny the Holocaust. Under U.S. law, under California evidence standards, such a view is not legally tenable (see the Mermelstein case). While it is quite legal, under the First Amendment, for someone to say that they doubt whether the Holocaust occurred, they do not have the privilege of putting a stamp in the front of U.S. history texts saying that the statements about the Holocaust are “hypothetical” or in any other way subject to challenge.

Under all fair rules of evidence in science, in law and in education, evolution is a fact, and the theory of evolution is the best explanation for how it all adds up.

Are there really some who would wish to disclaim the best science we have, and to suggest to our kids that it’s just not so? Why shouldn’t we view them as just as wacko as the Holocaust deniers? Yes, they have a right to their odd, unsupportable views. But they don’t have a right to insist that everyone else ignore the evidence, the consensus of the experts, and the formal, legal decisions on the issue.

As a pragmatic view, every fact taught as fact in school, is questionable. As Einstein demonstrated, even things so basic as the “laws” of motion can be found to be “in error” in extreme circumstances. We don’t put disclaimers on Newtonian physics, however. We shouldn’t treat well-evidenced Darwinian evolution any differently than we treat Newtonian or Einsteinian physics.

I think it was the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan who observed that everyone gets to have their own opinion, but not everyone gets to have their own set of facts.

Or, in the alternative, how about we get a disclaimer that represents the majority of Christians in the U.S.? Something along the lines of, “Evolution theory is the best science we have in biology. it doesn’t threaten your faith — and anyone who tells you differently is probably a charlatan, or at least weak in their own faith.” It’s factually accurate, at least as factually accurate as the disclaimer now in the books. It should offend no one of any religious persuasion, as a consequence. It’s at least as non-offensive as the current disclaimer, to this Christian, but for the opposite reason.

Comment #8012

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on September 27, 2004 12:02 PM (e) (s)

I called the attorney handling the Cobb County case, and was told that no trial date has been set as of yet. I will keep an eye on the case, but right now it appears to be sitting still.

Comment #8015

Posted by frank schmidt on September 27, 2004 01:26 PM (e) (s)

DS wrote:

The evidence for this is in some ways similar to the evidence for Plate Tectonics. We cannot observe continents go skidding around the world and smash into each other. We can confidently infer it however from the geological evidence and we can observe ‘micro’ tectonic in operation today. Thus we infer Plate Tectonics ‘really happened’ and in much the same way we can do the same for common descent. It’s an imperfect analogy, but no analogy is perfect.

An interesting but perhaps misleading analogy. The movement of plates can indeed be measured contemporaneously at 2-7 cm/yr (altho I am not a geophysicist, nor do I play one on TV). The key point, however, is that there is no distinction between “micro” and “macro” tectonics. The large scale movements are simply the small movements over a longer time scale. Similarly, there is no difference in mechanism between “micro” and “macro” evolution - simply the difference in time scale.

Failure to understand the deep time scale causes much of the misunderstanding of evolution (at least among the non-fundies), and this may be why so much anti-evolutionism (including IDC) devolves into YEC. It’s really hard to grasp. I tell my students that, translated into distance, the distance from Missouri to Los Angeles and back again is the age of the earth at a million years per mile. The time of humans on this scale is the length of the off-ramp at the end of the drive. The time since Darwin is about twice the width of the white line at the end of the off ramp.

Comment #8033

Posted by Wayne Francis on September 27, 2004 08:13 PM (e) (s)

I know some people are very impressionable and first impressions are important.

My mother is a intelligent woman but very impressionable. Her “World View” changes every 5-10 years depending on what she reads. I’m not sure what her latest world view is but I know she gravitates towards supernatural answers. I know if she had read a disclaimer on the front of “Conversations with God” saying “This book contains material on my public view of theology. This theology is just my view of the world, not a fact, regarding God and God’s interaction with humans. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.” That she might not have actually thought that he asked god questions and god actually answered those questions by having the author write the answers out. In fact I’ve got other friends that believe in the books as 100% fact while if the book had a sticker on it they would not believe in the book as much. How do I know this? Well as a test last night I went to a “Mulled wine & Chocolate party” last night where everyone there was of a new age religion, spiritual, crystal feeling, aura cleansing persuasion. I asked them that question and they, while it would not affect their overall view, said they would not take the book as serious if the author did prefix the book with such a statement.

Now if we expand this out to every book they read about the subjects of their theological view of the world then some of them just might not hold the view they do today.

frank schmidt wrote:

An interesting but perhaps misleading analogy. The movement of plates can indeed be measured contemporaneously at 2-7 cm/yr (altho I am not a geophysicist, nor do I play one on TV). The key point, however, is that there is no distinction between “micro” and “macro” tectonics. The large scale movements are simply the small movements over a longer time scale. Similarly, there is no difference in mechanism between “micro” and “macro” evolution - simply the difference in time scale.

I don’t get what you are saying here. You say it is misleading but concede that the “micro/macro” distinction is just an artifact of time. I do agree that many people really can’t come to grasp with the scales we are talking about. It is easy say how many galaxies and stars there are in the observable universe. It is different really grasp what this means as far as our, excuse the phrase, piss ant place in the whole scheme of things.

To David, I agree with some of what you say ( there are blind believers on both sides) and respect what you think but I have 2¢ to add to the discussion … .actually probably about a buck fifty to add.

I think it is, as others have point out, one thing to blindly believe in scientific theories that are being used and put into practice every day and quiet another to take 4 thousand year old Babylonian stories that have migrated through multiple languages, religions and show a clear history of modification and state that because the current day version of said stories disagrees with some science that the science must be wrong and call this “critical thinking”.

The problem is that while propaganda is used in many places I do not think education is one place we should allow this to occur.

I do find it amusing that you seem to think evolution is some type of linear process where you are simply grabbing assumptions like “it would take at least a million big changes to transform pond scum into man” and “man has been more or less like this for 50,000 years, without changing in any appreciable way,” then go 1,000,000 * 50,000 = 50,000,000,000 and earth is 4,500,000,000 years … .thus there is not enough time, blah blah blah.

While I don’t know about the 1,000,000 changes, I personally would speculate that there is much more then 1,000,000 changes in there, I’d disagree with the other statement that we’ve not really changed in 50,000 years. I do believe there are some major changes even in that 50,000 years. While we might be genetically compatible for mating purposes I’d have to say there would be some significant changes in the two and half thousand generations that have occurred in the last 50,000 years. But this is all subjective. I’d also have to look at the data we have and concede that evolution works in spurts, be it P.E. or some other mechanism. The fact is while we can use mitochondrial DNA mutations as a type of clock and work back in a fairly linear manner and say that 2 people from across the world have a common relative 120,000 years ago I don’t think we can say that evolution is like clock work and that we need “a million big changes” to turn pond scum into humans and thus these “big changes” must occur once every 3,000 years.

Many times my head has gone swimming with the amount of change that must have happened. Then again my mind goes swimming at just thinking of 15+ billion years that the universe has been around. This does not detract a bit from the work that our forefathers have done until someone comes up with a hypothesis that can be tested that challenges the current theories and fits the data we see.

Evolution is a huge science and even as I talk to my son about it I reinforce the concept that we don’t always need to know everything about a subject to accept the subject as a truth. The joy is that in science you can find out about the history, the mistakes and successes, if you desire and many scientists would even encourage it. Do you find this in religion? How many people understand where the bible came from? How many people think the Old Testament was written as one book 4+ thousand years ago? How many people understand that the much of the New Testament was written 60 years after the death of Christ? How many people understand the history of the Catholic Church? Ironically the people that want you to critical consider evolution get quite upset when you critically consider their “world view” that is based on stories that have evolved over the last four thousand years

If you let this disclaimer go then where do you draw the line next and how long will it be before it is crossed.

Maybe you should put a disclaimer on your car when you go to sell it that says “I’ll tell you that this car was taken care of, never abused and mishandled, but this statement is not a fact and you should be distrusting of the evidence that I’ve regularly serviced this auto with comments from the mechanics showing there has never been any problems with this car when considering if you want to buy it.” See how many people, despite your clear documentation of the maintenance of your car, will just walk away from the car and won’t buy it.

Comment #8034

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 27, 2004 08:42 PM (e) (s)

Wayne wrote

I asked them that question and they, while it would not affect their overall view, said they would not take the book as serious if the author did prefix the book with such a statement.

Nice field research, Wayne!

The other question worth polling is whether the act of regularly repeating the statement “If you don’t believe X is true, then you won’t see Mom and Dad again because you’ll be in hell” to children aged 5 to 15 years is more equivalent to brainwashing than “The earth is approximately five billion years old.”

Comment #9861

Posted by TheBlackDon on November 3, 2004 10:02 PM (e) (s)

Oh gaddamn all of you with your semantic wrangling. No one can clearly state their opinon without being jumped upon to further clarify what they meant, or having words misrepresented and misinterpreted. I enjoy intellectual subjects, but shit like these sort of forums just pisses me off.
Secondly, there is no goddamn way that you can even throw a theory involving history into the scientific realm. It is simply not science. It can be affected by science, but it has no business dealing with it in such a manner. It is a historical theory, nothing more nothing less. Both evolution and ID fall into this category. You are simply trying to surmise how something happened, and here is where it falls into a historical perspective. Science deals with things that can be repeated, and the past developments of life cannot be duplicated.
Thirdly, I hear a lot of reiterated bullcrap here. Tired arguments have been brought to the discussion here, old statements that are just wrong and misleading.
Finally, all of this discusion is very stimulating. But in the end the real evidence will be when we’re all dead. If we continue to exist, hooray! But if not we can see that evolution was correct and our lives have just been the assinine scramblings of animals that hold no value or meaning. Or I guess we won’t see if thats the case.

In closing I would just like to say that I am currently tired as hell. Forgive the off-the-cuffnes of the above comment. I may return here, but I stubled on this site while doing Biology homework. This has not been an enlightening discussion however, and for that I curse you and all your progeny for wasting so much fucking time being assholed intellectuals. Have a nice night.

Comment #9866

Posted by Great White Wonder on November 4, 2004 12:59 AM (e) (s)

Science deals with things that can be repeated, and the past developments of life cannot be duplicated.

Oh, in that case why all the fuss about destroying the polio virus? Just dump all the remaining stock in a river. In Ohio. After all, past developments of life cannot be duplicated.

So, what sort of “intellectual subjects” do you enjoy Don?

Comment #9871

Posted by Jon Fleming on November 4, 2004 08:35 AM (e) (s)

Secondly, there is no goddamn way that you can even throw a theory involving history into the scientific realm. It is simply not science…. I hear a lot of reiterated bullcrap here. Tired arguments have been brought to the discussion here, old statements that are just wrong and misleading.

Few statements here are so wrong and misleading as your second point.

Comment #10044

Posted by Tom on November 8, 2004 12:34 PM (e) (s)

Like it or not, ‘religion’ crosses ‘science’ with this topic. One cannot be taught creation if one believes in evolution and vice versa. The existence of life and its many forms should be studied in a biology book. But the theories of where life began and how it came to be in its current form should not. Remove the origins component from science books and we can all learn to appreciate the wonders of this world.

I know it’s not that simple, believe me. But we have to first recognize the issue. There is so much to be learned in science, but we (all of us) ruin it with the absolutes that are not provable. (and please, don’t even try to “prove” evolution or creation, they aren’t provable)

Comment #10066

Posted by Great White Wonder on November 8, 2004 05:13 PM (e) (s)

There is so much to be learned in science, but we (all of us) ruin it with the absolutes that are not provable. (and please, don’t even try to “prove” evolution or creation, they aren’t provable)

Don’t worry, Tom. I won’t try to prove anything to you!

Is it okay with you, though, if I just assume evolution is true because it’s the only testable scientific theory that humans have articulated which is capable of explaining the millions of observations scientists have made about living things over the past several hundred years? You know, kind of how you assume that when you let go of your pencil, it’s going to fall toward you feet (assuming that you are standing up) because of gravity?

Hurry up and let me know! I don’t want to waste my time assuming that stuff like gravity, atoms, and reproduction are real if they’re not. What a shame that would be.

Comment #10099

Posted by Tom on November 9, 2004 01:06 PM (e) (s)

“millions of observations scientists have made about living things over the past several hundred years”… That’s exactly what needs to be taught in biology today (period).

But explain to me how a fossil can be “proved” to be millions of years old. You can’t prove it, no one observed it at that time. I can’t prove that it’s only a few thousand years old either. You can talk about carbon dating and other dating techniques which have scientifically known behavior, but there’s no way to prove that the behavior is uniform throughout time, etc. There are significant flaws in dating techniques.

Why not focus on the “millions of observations” that define what science is today? Whether its through intelligent design or random evolution, it’s still something worthy of studying and classifying as science.

What is not science is the proposition of origins. This is what needs to be separated from science, and left to debate. Present the various positions and let every person come to their own conclusion. If you believe evolution contains stronger evidence, then by “natural selection”, it will win out. If you find creation is a more believable explanation, then God will welcome you into His kingdom with open arms.

Everyone should see the Mount St. Helens video about the rock formations that were created from the first eruption. They are indistinguishable from rock formations estimated to have taken millions of years to form, and yet we have observable proof that MSH’s formations developed in a few weeks’ time.

Comment #10100

Posted by KeithB on November 9, 2004 01:14 PM (e) (s)

“Everyone should see the Mount St. Helens video about the rock formations that were created from the first eruption. They are indistinguishable from rock formations estimated to have taken millions of years to form, and yet we have observable proof that MSH’s formations developed in a few weeks’ time.”

Classic creationist bait and switch - either ignorance or a lie:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CH/CH581_1.ht…

Even if you doubt the actual dates, you still have to explain the *sequence* of the fossil record. Nothing but mainstream science does that.

Comment #10101

Posted by steve on November 9, 2004 01:36 PM (e) (s)

If you find creation is a more believable explanation, then God will welcome you into His kingdom with open arms.

Then is there a god for smart people, too?

Comment #10106

Posted by Tom Curtis on November 9, 2004 02:04 PM (e) (s)

But explain to me how a fossil can be “proved” to be millions of years old. You can’t prove it, no one observed it at that time. I can’t prove that it’s only a few thousand years old either. You can talk about carbon dating and other dating techniques which have scientifically known behavior, but there’s no way to prove that the behavior is uniform throughout time, etc. There are significant flaws in dating techniques.

Actually we can prove they absolute age of fossils by isotope dating techniques. The use of isochron dating methods, and the consistent values obtained for objects of similar ages (as established by relative dating methods) show that isotope dating techniques measure some real physical property.

Further, it can be shown that rates of radioactive decay have remained constant over time by astronomical observations. Thus, observations of the fine structure constant show it to have not varied by more than one thousandth of 1 percent over the last six billion years. This is evidence that decay rates have also varied by no more than that amount. More directly, the energy produced by fission reactions following a supernovas can be observed and plotted against time. Observations such as those of super nova 1987a show radioactive decay rates to have been constant over the last 200 thousand years, more than enough to dispose of creationist alternative dates.

Further, on Earth the Oklo nuclear reactors show that decay energetics have remained constant long into the past. Higher decay rates in a nucleur reactor turns it into a nuclear bomb - whose fossil remains would be quite distinctive. Indeed decay halos in minerals also show that decay rates have been constant - so there is a variety of direct evidence on Earth that isotope dating is accurate.

Finally, we can prove the constancy of decay rates by deduction from the well confirmed theory known as quantum dynamics. This establishes reasonable grounds for accepting the accuracy of isotope dating so that any challenge must provide significant evidence to the contrary - something creationists are unable to do.

So we can prove the ages of fossils, at least in the sense of “prove beyond reasonable doubt”. Admitedly, we cannot prove it beyond “creationist doubt” - but that tells us little about the state of the evidence, and much about creationists.

Comment #10107

Posted by Neil Johnson on November 9, 2004 02:14 PM (e) (s)

Tom wrote:

There are significant flaws in dating techniques.

OK, Tom, fill me in. I’m a physical geologist, so I tend to defer detailed discussions about evolutionary mechanisms to PvM and others, but this one’s in my court.

Specifically, what flaws in what methods? Are you talking relative or absolute dating? Have a particular problem with U-Pb, or K-Ar (or Ar-Ar or Nd-Sm or Lu-Hf, etc.? (I just love being able to work lutetium into a conversation!) Or do you expect to be another “make unsupported assertion” poster for us to snark about?

Neil

Comment #10109

Posted by steve on November 9, 2004 02:23 PM (e) (s)

I think it’s inefficient that the smart people here have to reargue the same fifteen things every time some dunce stumbles through the door. When possible, I think we should—if we’re even going to respond—link to well-made answers whenever possible.

The dating questions are so stupid that one christian geologist wrote basically a primer for his fellow christians, because he was tired of them, as he saw it, besmirching his faith by making idiotic arguments against solid science.

Radiometric Dating

A Christian Perspective

Dr. Roger C. Wiens

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/Wiens.html

Comment #10110

Posted by Flint on November 9, 2004 02:49 PM (e) (s)

OK, Tom, fill me in. I’m a physical geologist, so I tend to defer detailed discussions about evolutionary mechanisms to PvM and others, but this one’s in my court.

Dating techniques are flawed because they produce obviously wrong answers. We KNOW the earth is only a few thousand years old, God said so! This is Absolute Truth. If the rocks seem old to your techniques, it’s because God MADE them to seem old. Were you there when those rocks were made, huh, were you? If you spent more time with your Bible and less time with your Geiger counter, you could be as righteous as I am. What are you waiting for?

Comment #10111

Posted by Flint on November 9, 2004 02:58 PM (e) (s)

OK, Tom, fill me in. I’m a physical geologist, so I tend to defer detailed discussions about evolutionary mechanisms to PvM and others, but this one’s in my court.

Dating techniques are flawed because they produce obviously wrong answers. We KNOW the earth is only a few thousand years old, God said so! This is Absolute Truth. If the rocks seem old to your techniques, it’s because God MADE them to seem old. Were you there when those rocks were made, huh, were you? If you spent more time with your Bible and less time with your Geiger counter, you could be as righteous as I am. What are you waiting for?

Comment #10115

Posted by Wayne Francis on November 9, 2004 07:21 PM (e) (s)

Tom Comment #10099 wrote:

You can talk about carbon dating and other dating techniques which have scientifically known behavior, but there’s no way to prove that the behavior is uniform throughout time, etc

Yea? If you think that then gravity might stop tomorrow or the Earth might start orbiting the other way and cause the sun to rise in the west…oh wait…maybe the sun will be purple tomorrow.

Comment #10130

Posted by Neil Johnson on November 10, 2004 08:26 AM (e) (s)

Flint wrote:

Dating techniques are flawed because they produce obviously wrong answers. We KNOW the earth is only a few thousand years old, God said so! This is Absolute Truth. If the rocks seem old to your techniques, it’s because God MADE them to seem old. Were you there when those rocks were made, huh, were you? If you spent more time with your Bible and less time with your Geiger counter, you could be as righteous as I am. What are you waiting for?

LOL, Flint. You definitely have their shtick down. Hey, if there was money in trolling, you could make a fortune…at least for as long as you could keep your meals down!
Neil

Comment #10152

Posted by Flint on November 10, 2004 07:37 PM (e) (s)

Neil:

So long as my point isn’t lost amidst the words. Creationists come in all levels of sophistication and knowledge, but ultimately they are creationists and deny evolution for the same simple reason: the interpretation the experts assign to the evidence contradicts an unimpeachable preference. It is wrong because if it is not, THEY are wrong.

Comment #10153

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2004 07:50 PM (e) (s)

We should count ourselves lucky that IDers are our opponents. Not everyone has opponents who humiliate themselves in print, the internet, in person, etc.

Comment #10169

Posted by Neil Johnson on November 11, 2004 08:40 AM (e) (s)

Flint,

After reading many of your earlier posts, I have been impressed with your grasp of the hard-core creationist mentality. I suggest that regardless of their resistance to reality, we need to continue to respond to them, even if there is little to no hope of them escaping from the (intellectual) Dark Side. My suspicion is that a significant amount of their popular support is ‘soft ‘ and potentially can be convinced by reality-based arguments.

Neil

Comment #10171

Posted by Flint on November 11, 2004 10:23 AM (e) (s)

Neil,

Well, some thoughts on this stuff, for what they’re worth.

1) I really don’t have any good feel for the “shape of the curve” on which we might graph the non-fanatics. Even if we grant that the virulent creationists occupy the tail of the curve, there’s no question that their total output is impressive and influential, and that their strategies evolve through unquestionably intelligent design. Maybe the silent majority is unconvinced, I don’t know.

My personal (and therefore limited) observation is that evolution is terra incognita to the overwhelming majority of the American public. Until Sputnik, it was illegal to teach it in public school. After Sputnik, students might have had a single class session where evolution was presented by unqualified teachers. So most people’s notion of evolution is the standard cartoon sequence of fish crawling out onto land, becoming a dog, then a monkey, then a troglodyte, finally a human. The “ladder” image, which is plain wrong, is about the only “knowledge” knocking around in the otherwise-empty bin labeled evolution in most peoples’ minds. About the only thing concerning this general ignorance in favor of evolution, is that people are aware that science “believes in it”, and science (also very poorly understood) is synonymous with “good” and “smart” in our culture.

Competing with this, as I see it, is a generalized cultural religious homogeneity. Americans are overwhelmingly raised to believe that there is one god, who actually DOES something — most especially with regard to our exalted position as the “highest” life form. Science might be generally agnostic and not factor any gods into their theories, and people are indifferent for the most part. But when science invokes no gods in the origin of US, that’s going too far. When it comes to us, not involving any gods becomes a highly partisan anti-God position, rather than a neutral position.

And this explains the appeal, and the danger, of ID. For those not immersed in this tarbaby, the claim of ID is that “science has discovered that God created us after all.” What a wonderfully congenial message that is - you can keep your faith in both Jesus and science. ID proponents carefully position themselves as trying to get a valid scientific theory into the schools. This is a seductive argument both because it appeals to what people want to hear, and because the fact that it’s a flat lie can’t really be understood without an education effort few people will make.

Anyway, for nearly everyone, exposure to evolution will take place through school and church. I predict that the more it’s presented in school, the more it will be correspondingly be attacked in church, which will regard this campaign as “damage control.” Perhaps bad publicity is better than no publicity? I don’t know how this will shape up.

2) How should creationists claims be responded to? As another thread here argues, patient responses to the ludicrous become ludicrous themselves. This has historically been a problem, adopting a posture with respect to the Big Lie. If one carefully refutes point by point, one can hardly avoid creating the impression that the points being refuted are legitimate, valid, competitive points based on genuine merit. Conversely, responding with ridicule tends to backfire, creating the impression that one is hopelessly closed-minded.

The public debates are an extreme example of this problem. The creationist spews forth a long list of crap that’s not simply wrong, but instead carefully misleading. Each individual point can truly be countered only with an argument the audience would require at least a semester of study to understand — and another semester of different study for each point! And of course, creationists won’t debate unless they get to name the moderator and (usually) bus in their own audience from poor churches in neighborhoods where scientific education is essentially unknown. The notion is, if any scientist agrees to debate the creationist claims must be worth debating; if nobody agrees, then science is locking out non-institutionalized viewpoints.

So the question of the general, popular response is important. I think it’s important to bear in mind that the entire creationist/ID budget goes into PR campaigns and political lobbying, and none into research. Creationists seek hearts, and science defends minds. There is a disconnect here.

3) There is always the outside possibility that evolution’s opponents can find genuine weaknesses in the theory, areas which have been taken for granted and not sufficiently investigated, and the like. Creationist attacks, in other words, are not necessarily 100% dishonest, though of course most of them (as befits a PR campaign) are misrepresentations calculated to take advantage of the target audience simply not knowing (and not *wanting* to know) better. As politicians well understand, *loyal* opposition is an absolutely requirement. I think some creationists are loyal in this sense, genuinely seeking a rapprochement with their faith, rather than a denial.

Comment #10178

Posted by Tom Curtis on November 11, 2004 01:35 PM (e) (s)

Flint:

Your responce to Neil is excellent. There is one factor that ought to be included. I used to be both an evangelical Christian, and an YEC. In the end, I ceased being a Christian, but remained agnostic about evolution for at least another 10 years, until I read “The Blind Watchmaker”. The reason I stayed agnostic is because I had an implicit trust that other Christians were trustworthy. It just did not occur to me that Christians would lie about the scientific evidence. Consequently, even as an agnostic, I assumed that the creationists must have some sort of genuine case.

I think this attitude would be wide spread amongst Christians. They would feel that even if the YECs are wrong, there must at least be some evidence in favour of what they say or else they would not be saying it. With that attitude, they don’t need to examine the evidence to “know” that when evolutionists say there is no evidence for YEC, or ID, that the evolutionists are being close minded and stopping “genuine scientific debate”.

For this reason I think it is essential for defeating creationism in the short term that, in addition to detail point by point responces, it should be made clear that the creationists are not being honest with the evidence. Really this should be especially encumbant on Christian evolutionists, because we atheists and agnostics just won’t be believed on the subject.

Comment #10182

Posted by Flint on November 11, 2004 03:24 PM (e) (s)

Tom Curtis,

I agree, but I also have an issue here, as they say. I’m convinced that while Philip Johnson is cynically aware of his dishonesty, many creationists are not. As an example, I’m convinced Duane Gish is as sincere as he is deluded. For him (and those like him), the possibility that evolution is true is simply unthinkable. Evolution must be wrong, it has to be wrong, God really DID say so; Genesis is not ambiguous. Since scripture is absolute truth, any conflict between scripture and evidence can have only one possible explanation — the evidence has been fatally misinterpreted. All that remains, all that can remain, is to determine the cause of the misinterpretation, what combination of ignorance, humanism, atheism, bias, or whatever contributed to such obvious error. If there is no currently plausible way to fit some bit of evidence into scriptural Truth (and to the scientific ignoramus, uh, typical American, nearly anything is plausible), that’s OK, God will fill us in in His own time.

And so I read some of what you regard as dishonesty with the evidence, as instead sincere attempts by non-specialists to place the evidence within the context Truth requires. Maybe, as non-specialists, they don’t know exactly how it fits, but as Christians, they know it MUST fit. So I suspect most Christians, lacking any useful knowledge to serve as a better context, look at the creationists and see only the facts that (1) these people are Christians; and (2) they are obviously and enthusiastically sincere. I just don’t read Salvadore, for example, as lying. He simply has too much of his self-image wrapped up in his faith. For him, it’s not a matter of honesty, it’s just that the price of doubt exceeds his ability to pay. He might get the details wrong, but the Big Picture?

Comment #10188

Posted by Steve on November 11, 2004 04:33 PM (e) (s)

It’s as hard to determine if they’re lying, as it is to determine that they aren’t trolling. More or less impossible. But I suspect the head creationists with some science education, Behe and Dembski, know by now not only that they’ve failed to create a science, but that their arguments require proving the unprovable. Why do they soldier on? Maybe out of religious devotion. Mabye they believe in the political consequences of believers thinking they created Jesus-Certified Science. I don’t know. And that only applies to the few IDiots with any scientific education. There’s no reason to suspect that the Philip Johnsons and the Kent Hovinds can understand the impossibility of creating creation science.
Over and over, people fail to learn from history that when your religion conflicts with science, the sooner you ‘reinterpret’ your religion to accomodate science, the better you’ll look in retrospect.

Comment #10205

Posted by Tom Curtis on November 12, 2004 05:57 AM (e) (s)

I agree that it is almost impossible to know whether a persistent liar is actually a liar, or merely a sincerely and massively individual - and vice versa. So far as I can tell, most of the YEC leadership would fall into the latter category, as indeed would most of the ID leadership. That is why I suggested it be shown they are not “honest with the evidence”, rather than that they are deliberate liars.

When Gish cites a joke as evidence against evolution, he is not being honest with evidence even if he is not a deliberate liar. When Royal Truman accuses someone of ad hoc assumptions for coming to a conclusion (based on evidence) that Truman agreed with, he is not being honest with the evidence. The creationists may not be deliberately lying in the sense of saying things they know to be false with intent to decieve. But they are demonstrably making claims based on non-existant evidence; chopping their words fine to avoid admissions of error; repeatedly asserting as facts things that have clearly shown in their presence to be false; and so on. I think if you could show this to most Christians, they would not try to make fine distinctions about sincerity etc. They would conclude that Gish and co are straight up liars.

The problem is getting them to listen to that evidence in the first place. If an atheist or other non-Christian source gets up and presents the evidence, their minds close two seconds before the presentation starts. They here the atheist calling a Christian a liar and never get as far as considering the evidence that it is true. They will only listen if conservative, well respected Christians or Christian publications start spreading the message.

Comment #10212

Posted by Bryson Brown on November 12, 2004 12:43 PM (e) (s)

Facile skepticism about the past (see 10044, 9861 above) is a familiar trait of creationist/ID defenders. But it’s untenable. What’s the point of repeatability if knowledge of the past is not part of science? And a quick move to ‘only testimony counts’ is useless: the evidence shows that testimony itself is often unreliable— and we show this by appealing to multiple kinds of evidence about the past and cross-checking the results. Well understood physical evidence of past events is the gold standard here. And processes like plate tectonics, sedimentation, fossilization, and evolution (descent with modification) meet that standard in spades. If you’re skeptic enough to reject all that, you’ve already handed out enough rope to hang all empirical science.

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