Timothy Sandefur posted Entry 745 on January 15, 2005 11:55 AM.
Trackback URL: http://degas.fdisk.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/743

To Mr. Cartwright's excellent rebuttal of the DI's spin on the Cobb County case, allow me to add the following:

Seth Cooper has a post up on DI's blog also trying spinning the Cobb County decision. In it he clings to the libel that defenders of evolution are just mindless robots reciting a party line as programmed: "it remains constitutional for students to critically analyze aspects of chemical and biological evolutionary theories," he says. Well, that's certainly a relief, eh?

The fact, of course, is that nobody on any side has ever suggested otherwise. Indeed, I'm sure all science teachers desperately long for students to critically analyze chemical and biological evolutionary theories, rather than staring at the ceiling or at the bra strap of the girl sitting in the front row. The notion that "[t]his freedom was put at risk by the arguments made by the ACLU in the Cobb County case" is just the sort of mischaracterization that ought to embarrass anyone seriously interested in understanding the issues involved in this case.

But Mr. Cooper goes on to say that "critical thinking is itself a contested issue these days." Again, this is absurd. If that were true, why would scientists spend so much of their time and energy trying patiently to explain science to people? And why would the Panda's Thumb crew take time to carefully respond to--and even link to--the DI's blog (a standard courtesy they never extend to us, lest their readers see the facts of the matter). Again, all that can be advanced by Mr. Cooper's ludicrous hyperbole is the personal emotional need of the person writing it. But those interested in understanding the Cobb County case--even those who may be sympathetic to ID--need to understand what the case is and is not about. The case was about the state putting an arguably religious statement on school textbooks. Suggesting that the case was somehow a showdown over the continuing validity of "critical thinking" is childish and unhelpful.

Finally, Mr. Cooper latches on to "there is a scientific controversy over aspects of evolutionary theory." But read more carefully. The judge found that there is controversy over certain aspects of the theory--not about the theory itself.

We all would love to see more critical thinking. That's what makes science such a wonderful thing. But it must be fully-informed critical thinking, and thinking about facts, not about emotions and mischaracterizations masquerading as facts, which is what the ID movement offers. We all welcome critical thinkers to read about evolution, study the facts, investigate the misrepresentations promulgated by the ID movement. Seth Cooper's post plays fast and loose with the details--that ought to let you know how that side treats the facts.

Comment #13908

Posted by Steve Reuland on January 15, 2005 01:27 PM (e) (s)

Orwell, move over. You’ve got nothing on the DI. “Critical thinking” my third leg…

Comment #13911

Posted by RBH on January 15, 2005 02:55 PM (e) (s)

I’m reminded of a woman who stopped me in the parking lot after a contentious local school board meeting concerning using Wells’s garbage in high school bio classes. She told me she wanted her children to learn to think critically. She then proceeded to cite the Joshua’s missing day urban legend as confirming the Bible. Thinking critically indeed!

RBH

Comment #13914

Posted by Flint on January 15, 2005 03:44 PM (e) (s)

If we do a global search and replace of “critical thinking” with “agreeing with me” we find that the intended meaning is never changed, and always clarified. Similarly, we can read “presents both sides” to mean “presents my beliefs”. There is a 2-step process going on. First, make it clear to the intended audience that every time we say X, we mean Y, and second, substitute X for Y in the list of “officially recommended complaints” in the hopes of slipping under the radar. The normal meaning of phrases X and Y can be essentially opposite (and probably will be pretty close, else this substitution wouldn’t be useful).

Comment #13918

Posted by noob on January 15, 2005 05:43 PM (e) (s)

When Panda’s Thumb links to the DI, and the ID avoids linking to Panda’s Thumb, they implicitly admit the weakness of their position. Not that their fans will understand that.

Comment #13928

Posted by Frank Schmidt on January 15, 2005 10:13 PM (e) (s)

It’s important that “Critical Thinking” not become a smokescreen for simply being obtuse.

Tim Van Gelder’s page has a number of links on the definition of critical thinking including the executive sumary of the American Philosophical Association’s Delphi report on Critical Thinking:

We understand critical thinking to be purposeful, self-regulatory judgment that results in interpretation, analysis, evaluation, and inference, as well as explanation of the evidential, conceptual, methodological, criteriological, or contextual considerations upon which that judgment is based.

Odd, they missed “debunking scientific evidence on the basis of predetermined religious belief” which seems to be the DI’s definition, not to mention Cobb County’s.

Comment #13929

Posted by Flint on January 15, 2005 10:25 PM (e) (s)

Does anyone really think that if evolution were eliminated from all grade school curricula in favor of ID, and nothing else were presented whatsoever, that the DI would continue to push “critical thinking”? This is simply a code-phrase accepted to mean “abandon the false faith in science for the true faith in Christ.”

Comment #13951

Posted by Frank J on January 16, 2005 08:03 AM (e) (s)

Timothy Sandefur wrote:

And why would the Panda’s Thumb crew take time to carefully respond to—-and even link to—-the DI’s blog (a standard courtesy they never extend to us, lest their readers see the facts of the matter).

This alone should put to rest who is trying to hide something. And if that is not enough, compare the Talk Origins Archive to anti-evolution websites. From the TOA home page click on “Other Web Sites” and scroll down to a list of all the major mutually contradictory positions and strategies. The TOA has better access to anti-evolution information than any anti-evolution web site. Ironic enough for you?

Comment #13952

Posted by Jeff on January 16, 2005 08:15 AM (e) (s)

Great post Timothy!

And sinece when has the ACLU’s mandate been about promoting critical thinking? The last time I looked, the CL in ACLU stands for Civil Liberties. As usual, IDers confuse the issue.

Comment #13961

Posted by Phil on January 16, 2005 11:08 AM (e) (s)

Can evolution be taught as the only explanation for origin of life without directly or indirectly imposing someone’s ideology on our students? Of course not!! Students will naturally rethink what they may have already been taught up until that point. One way or the other, somebody’s ideology is going to be imposed unless alternative scientific views are presented. Many scientist point out that the theory of evolution conflicts with the law of biogenisis, the law of mass action, ect. Whether you agree with them or not the controversy is out there and students have a right to know that the controversy exist!

To respond to Flint’s question (coment # 13929) Are those behind Intelligent Design asking that evolution be remove from the schools?
No, they’re not, so let’s just stick to the facts. How about you spend less time trying throw up a smoke screen by assuming to know the motivation of those behind ID in order to score more points for your side.

I am so sick of brainwashed indoctrinated evolutionist zealots who rely on faith that evoution is a theory not to be questioned or challenged. As a student, I am outraged at the attempt to selectively control the information provided or taught to us. Why not objectively provide the different scientific points of views and let us decide! Since when in history has a scientific theory not been available for scrutiny? Just as I don’t want anybody’s religion imposed on me, I don’t want anybody’s ideology or philosophy resulting from their unwavering belief in evolution imposed on me either!!!!!!

Comment #13962

Posted by Flint on January 16, 2005 11:26 AM (e) (s)

Many scientist point out that the theory of evolution conflicts with the law of biogenisis, the law of mass action, ect.

I admit I’ve never heard of either of these laws. Can anyone explain what they mean or provide a link?

As for the rest, I suggest that Phil contemplate the meaning of evidence. Scientific theories are based on evidence, so knowing what evidence is provides a pretty good leg up on getting a handle on these tricky things.

I suppose one might plausibly argue that the notion that effects have causes that can be understood, is an ideological viewpoint, in direct contrast to the ideology of making stuff up. And that scientists can be said to have faith that evidence means something, from which tentative conclusions can be drawn. But I suspect Phil is not addressing this argument. He is simply outraged that the “religion of science” is the only faith being worshipped in science classes. Unfair!

Comment #13966

Posted by Wedgie World on January 16, 2005 11:42 AM (e) (s)

Phil wrote:

How about you spend less time trying throw up a smoke screen by assuming to know the motivation of those behind ID in order to score more points for your side.

Simple, read the Wedge document, listen to their comments made to their supporters and notice how they disagree with how they are portraying themselves in the mainstream.

I would respect ID far more if it just admitted to what is obvious to all, even many Christians namely that ID is all about religion. Many Christians I have talked to consider the ‘denial’ to be misleading and dishonest.

Comment #13967

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on January 16, 2005 11:53 AM (e) (s)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'b'

Comment #13970

Posted by Alan Gourant on January 16, 2005 01:18 PM (e) (s)

Mr. Phil: How about teaching the Flat Earth Theory along with the scientific theory about our planet, and giving students a free choice between the two theories? Unlike ID which is not supported by any evidence whatsoever, the FET al least can refer to a seeming evidence - our direct observation, and is therefore better supported than ID. We don’t teach it because it is contrary to overwhelming evidence. Why ID should be more privileged?

More generally, if school kids were left on their own to choose which theory to accept, and, say, theories were accepted by a vote of general population, we’d never had quantum mechanics, special and general relativity, antibiotics, spacecraft reaching Titan, you name it. So, Phil, before choosing a theory you like, first spend years on studying science. ID has nothing to do with science so there is no reason to teach it, not any more than teaching FET.

Comment #13978

Posted by Tim Tesar on January 16, 2005 03:16 PM (e) (s)

Whenever IDists or other creationists whine about “teaching the controversy” or teaching critical thinking, they should be asked if that is what they do in their churches and church schools. Do they give representatives of other religions equal time to preach? Do they invite evolutionists to their Sunday school classes and give them equal time? Do they teach critical thinking in their Sunday school classes? Do they invite pro-choice people to speak and give them equal time? I suspect their concerns about supposed fairness do not extend to their own institutions.

Comment #13980

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on January 16, 2005 03:31 PM (e) (s)

Tim Tesar,

That’s kind of a red herring. People can teach whatever they want in private institutions.

The public schools, however, cannot stop to teach the fringe views of whatever particular religious group pops up and declares their views “science”. “Evolution is theory not fact” is a classic creationist pseudoargument. It is wildly misleading scientifically, so it has no legitimate secular effect, and it is a creationist tenet, so it has a primarily sectarian effect.

I’m sure the courts would find the same if a bunch of followers of Christian Science demanded that “germ theory is theory not fact” disclaimer got stuck in health textbooks.

Comment #13982

Posted by Ed Darrell on January 16, 2005 04:47 PM (e) (s)

Phil said:

Can evolution be taught as the only explanation for origin of life without directly or indirectly imposing someone’s ideology on our students? Of course not!! Students will naturally rethink what they may have already been taught up until that point. One way or the other, somebody’s ideology is going to be imposed unless alternative scientific views are presented. Many scientist point out that the theory of evolution conflicts with the law of biogenisis, the law of mass action, ect. Whether you agree with them or not the controversy is out there and students have a right to know that the controversy exist!

Nor is evolution taught as an explanation for the origin of life, let alone the only explanation.

I wish that creationists who claim to know what’s wrong with evolution would bother to read the textbooks they claim fail to tell their story, and the curricula that school boards actually approve and teachers actually teach.

Evolution is not a theory of the origin of life, nor is it taught as such in any textbook published in this nation.

Evolution is a theory for how species arise and diversify from common ancestry. It applies whether life on this planet was seeded from outer space, as Fred Hoyle claimed it might have been, or whether something “breathed” life into “one form or many,” as Darwin claimed, or whether it arose spontaneously, as hundreds of experiments indicate it might have.

If Phil’s views lie somewhere outside that continuum, too bad.

Comment #13983

Posted by DaveScot on January 16, 2005 05:04 PM (e) (s)

God (pun intended) I love politics.

http://www.thedailytimes.com/sited/story/html/18…

Blount County school board, TN okays teaching alternatives to biological evolution.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Here we go again. TN is in a different Circuit Court of Appeals than Georgia. This is going to take a year or two to make it before the supreme court. Our fearless fundie leader President Bush and his rubber-stamp republican senate will have the USSC packed with right-minded justices by that time so it’s really a forgone conclusion which way the cookie is going to crumble.

In the meantime the dopey posturing by anal retentives on both sides is outstanding entertainment for irreverent chuckleheads like me in election off-years.

Carry on.

Comment #13984

Posted by Flint on January 16, 2005 05:20 PM (e) (s)

Evolution is not a theory of the origin of life, nor is it taught as such in any textbook published in this nation.

Sigh. In the creationist theology, the origin of life and the origin of species was exactly the same event, as inseparable as sound and vibration. Creation was a single event. Even recognizing any difference between the two is heresy.

Comment #13985

Posted by Ian Musgrave on January 16, 2005 05:34 PM (e) (s)

Phil wrote:

Many scientist point out that the theory of evolution conflicts with the law of biogenisis, the law of mass action, ect.

The so called “Law” of biogenesis states that life only comes from life. Evolutionary theory is completely compatible with this, as it is a theory of common descent and mechanisms of speciation. Evolution relies on this “law” being true over most of Earth’s history. For example, we can’t produce deep phylogenies with nested heirachies of mophological and DNA relationships if new living things are poping up all the time.

Like most laws, it fails at its limit, the origin of liife (just as Newtons laws fail for very fast and very massive objects, hence relativity). Evolution does not deal with the origin of life.

The Law of mass action states that if a chemical system is at equilibrium at a given temperature, then the ratio of producst to reactants is a constant. How anyone could imagine that evolution violates the law of mass action is beyond me.

Simply put, any so-called “Scientist” who claims that evolution violates these laws is speaking nonsense.

Comment #13986

Posted by davidf on January 16, 2005 05:35 PM (e) (s)

Phil comments on the law of mass-action which relates to concentrations of reactants and products at equilibrium. That is, in a closed system, reactions will approach equilibrium. As I understand the creationists’ argument - which relates to biogenesis and not evolution - if an amino acid were formed in the sea (say) then it would decompose because there is such an abundance of water as compared to amino acid. I can’t vouch that this is what Phil was talking about, but here is where I found this explanation;

http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/07prim…

The objections to this argument are many; here are a few

(i) That argument itself mis-states the law of mass-action which relates concentrations of reactants and products at equilibrium. It says nothing about what the actual concentrations of anything have to be. That depends on the equilibrium constant. The Creationists seem to be mixing the law of mass-action up with entropy in a hard-to-follow way. Anyway, the result is hopelessly wrong. For example, make a micro-molar solution of sucrose and wait for the sucrose to decompose. You’d be waiting a long time.

(ii) While it is true that closed systems try to reach equilibrium, there is nothing in the law of mass action that implies that this has to happen on a short time scale. For example, diamond and graphite are two different forms of carbon but to wait for diamond to turn into graphite spontaneously is obviously a long term proposition.

(iii) The argument ignores kinetic barriers - after all, if the “law of mass-action” applied in the (incorrect) way that the web site above claims, then how could fish exist? An individual fish is obviously of small concentration in the ocean and so why wouldn’t its skin start to equilibrate and so the whole thing would eventually dissolve? Why, for that matter, don’t humans go up in flames since CO2+H2O plus some dust is the thermodynamically preferred state of mammals? The answer is kinetics.

(iv) If micelles could form somehow - and there are many ways this could have happened pre-life - then the chemistry inside would have been protected from environmental factors.

In any event, evolution and biogenesis are separate, though related, issues. However life got started it has certainly evolved since then. That is, the _Theory_ in “Theory of evolution” relates to how evolution happened (there do exist competing theories for this) rather than _if_ it happened (about which there is no scientific dispute).

A good reason that this Creationist stuff should not be taught in schools is that it relies on mis-stating scientific principles which in themselves have nothing to do with evolution. Cases in point: law of mass-action and entropy. If the Creationist people actually understood these concepts they’d realize that these “laws” have nothing to say - pro or con - about evolution or creation. But, since facts don’t matter to them and their faith based world view, they are happy to distort or mis-state scientific principles. Actually, it’s worse than that since mis-representation requires a degree of understanding. Generally, people who posit such disproofs have never understood the very principles they are using in the first place.

Comment #13987

Posted by Wedgie World on January 16, 2005 05:56 PM (e) (s)

Davescott wrote:

In the meantime the dopey posturing by anal retentives on both sides is outstanding entertainment for irreverent chuckleheads like me in election off-years.

Similarly your dopey posturing is quite a bit of entertainment to us here. Of course the religious foundation of the school board’s decision as well as ID is clear. It will only be time until ID is defeated by its own claims

Comment #13988

Posted by Jeff on January 16, 2005 06:40 PM (e) (s)

If Phil would care to share with us his educational background, I’d be interested in how many science courses he’s taken. This is a genuine curiosity on my part - I’m not interested in lampooning you. It would be interesting to know if you’re a high school or college student and what you’ve been taught - physics, biology, chemistry…?

The reason I ask is that you characterize evolutionary science as an ideology. Does this extend to other branches of science? If so, which ones and why? If not, what is it about the science of evolution that you find different from say physics, chemistry, etc., that leads you to see it as an ideology?

Thanks.

Comment #13990

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 16, 2005 06:55 PM (e) (s)

David Scott Springer predicts

Our fearless fundie leader President Bush and his rubber-stamp republican senate will have the USSC packed with right-minded justices by that time so it’s really a forgone conclusion which way the cookie is going to crumble.

Wow, this guy is really clueless. I really am curious whether his ignorance is a family affair.

C’mon, Dave, send the kids over to the Panda’s Thumb. Perhaps they can do a better job of defending your inane positions than you can. I’m waiting.

Comment #13996

Posted by Aaron on January 16, 2005 09:18 PM (e) (s)

Can Kepler’s Laws be taught as the only explanation for planetary motion without directly or indirectly imposing someone’s ideology on our students? Of course not!! Students will naturally rethink what they may have already been taught up until that point. One way or the other, somebody’s ideology is going to be imposed unless alternative scientific views are presented. Many scientist point out that the theory of elliptical orbits conflicts with the weak anthropic principle, the law of conservation of momentum, ect. Whether you agree with them or not the controversy is out there and students have a right to know that the controversy exist!

KEPLERS LAWS ARE WRONG, I DEMAND TO BE TAUGHT EPICYCLES.

Comment #13997

Posted by Great White Wonder on January 16, 2005 09:26 PM (e) (s)

Lest we forget where DaveScot aka Dave Springer aka David Scott Springer is coming from with his predictions …

http://www.usefulwork.com/shark/archives/001927.…

The real crux of the issue is that the science community is understandably reluctant to admit that what they’ve been heralding as proven fact (naturalistic origin & evolution) for 150 years might not be fact after all. They’re afraid of the loss of credibility and not enough soap in the world to remove all the egg from their faces.

It just doesn’t get any stupider than that.

The only eggs I’ve seen lately were the ones I fried this morning. Speaking of which, how’s the crow taste, Dave, that you’ve been eating since the Cobb decision? Judge Cooper feeds it to you nice and easy but, unfortuantely for you, he doesn’t change diapers. Care to place any bets on how the Dover case is going to turn out, Dave?

For more David Springer shenanigans …

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&c…

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&c…

By the way, Dave, when are you going to provide us with some support for your claim that public school teachers in the Austin are aren’t allowed to say Merry Christmas?

We don’t like liars around here, Dave. Remember how long it took for us to sniff you out as a pretender? About one minute. That’s pretty sad for a guy who claimed (erroneously) to know something about politics. Then again, what could be more sad than a retiree who trolls science blogs reciting from a creationist apologetics script?

Comment #13998

Posted by Ed Darrell on January 16, 2005 09:59 PM (e) (s)

The board in Marysville, Tennessee, ignores all the knowledge available at the nearby University of Tennessee. Those in Tennessee who mock the Volunteers are not generally considered to be among the state’s best and brightest.

The board claims to have used no religious language to frame their resolution, thereby keeping the whole thing secular. And, they argue, the textbooks they have now do not have the most up-to-date information.

Hmmm. Tell us, Blount County school board member Don McNelly, where did you hear about the “science” of intelligent design? We know it wasn’t at the University of Tennessee. We know it wasn’t from the textbook companies selling their latest textbooks — the ones with the “latest” information. We know it wasn’t from any research laboratory.

What? You heard about it in church, and in the religion newspapers?

I wish you guys would study history sometime. As Jefferson wrote in the Virginia Statute for Religious freedom, “the holy Author of our Religion” doesn’t need laws and school board resolutions to spread the truth.

So, we know you’re not working for science. And we’re sure you’re not working for Jesus. Whose side do you represent?

Comment #14002

Posted by Wedgie World on January 16, 2005 10:14 PM (e) (s)

The history of creationism in Blount Country is well documented and the board will have a hard time explaining their comments. What’s worse is that the DI is losing control over their Wedgie :-)

Of course the board will be surprised to find out that there is really nothing like a scientific hypothesis of ID and that ID is all about ignorance. Perhaps it’s time to let the students find out for themselves.

Comment #14015

Posted by Tim Tesar on January 17, 2005 11:17 AM (e) (s)

Nick (Matzke) wrote:

That’s kind of a red herring. People can teach whatever they want in private institutions.

Of course people can teach whatever they want in private institutions. My point is that creationists are being highly inconsistent if they demand that we “teach the controversy” in public schools, and yet fail to follow that principle in their own institutions (churches and church schools). If they think it is so important that they demand it in one context, then why don’t they do it in the other? They need to practice what they preach!

Your point about germ theory and Christian Science is excellent. I think we need a list of similar “controversies” that we should confront the creationists with. If they think we should “teach the controversy” regarding evolution, then should we not also teach these other controversies? Should we teach astrology along with astronomy? Should we teach communism along with democracy/capitalism? Obviously, “teaching the controversy” is relevant to them only when it is their views that are not being taught. Again, another gross inconsistency.

I know this point is not new, but I think it is not emphasized enough.

Comment #14073

Posted by SteveS on January 17, 2005 07:57 PM (e) (s)

Getting back to the critical thinking issue, I think Judge Cooper made an excellent point here:

The other language on the Sticker, which states that evolution is a theory and not a fact, somewhat undermines the goal of critical thinking by predetermining that students should think of evolution as a theory when many in the scientific community would argue that evolution is factual in some respects.

He’s getting at how self-contradictory the creationist rhetoric about critical thinking really is. Of course, this kind of rhetoric is standard issue among cranks and crackpots, and means nothing in itself. When you’re making totally baseless and nonsensical claims, appealing to people’s open-mindedness and sense of fair play is one of the few means of persuasion you have available to you.

When you’re in the position of having to respond to such nonsense, on the other hand, it’s helpful to be able to explain why these appeals to critical thinking are so shallow and hypocritical. The mere presense of this sticker in the text books is an impediment to critical thinking, in fact, since it creates a false impression that evolutionary theory is somehow more susceptible to critical thinking and honest doubt than any other branch of science.

Nothing new in all this, of course, but it seems like a useful line of argument. Basically you’re saying, “Why don’t we stop pontificating about critical thinking for a minute and actually do some critical thinking?”

Comment #14193

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on January 19, 2005 10:04 AM (e) (s)

Forty years ago in elementary school, it was made clear to me that “critical thinking” as such was _not_ part of the curriculum and was actively and officially, though not explicitly, discouraged. Even without evolutionary theory being involved, such activity tends to lead to the critical thinkers questioning both what they are told and what they are told to do and not to do. This in turn tends to disrupt the institutional processes of the school, or at least the schedule for such processes, and could be expected to do the same when critically-thinking students return home (and return to the church of their parents’ choice).

A serious program for “critical thinking” would be a wonderful thing, not least because it would eventually lead to profoundly different political processes and outcomes - but that’s exactly why we shouldn’t expect to see anything of the sort in any major way in contemporary classrooms. Something of the sort inevitably occurs with good science education, though for the sake of staying within the lesson plan and the teachers staying employed it’s usually kept within a narrow focus. True afficianados of C.T. are generally limited to promoting a solid science curriculum in the hope that it can influence school culture generally, and to encouraging rigorous questioning by the students we meet in person.

Comment #14196

Posted by Timothy Sandefur on January 19, 2005 10:15 AM (e) (s)

Well said. I’m reminded of the Simpsons episode in which all the teacher’s desks are equipped with a red button marked “independent thought alarm.”

Trackback: Response to the Discovery Institute's Cobb County Spin

Posted by Dispatches from the Culture Wars on January 15, 2005 05:14 PM

Reed Cartwright thoroughly demolishes the DI's spin concerning the Cobb County case in this post at the Panda's Thumb. Timothy Sandefur continues the fisking in this post, where he points out that all the talk of "critical thinking" on the...