Steve Reuland posted Entry 1054 on May 20, 2005 04:34 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1052

A couple of days ago (infinity in blog-time), Chris Mooney had an interesting post about a 20 year-old article on the creation/evolution debate.  As Chris writes… 

I have just been reading an interesting article: Thomas F. Gieryn; George M. Bevins; Stephen C. Zehr, “Professionalization of American Scientists: Public Science in the Creation/Evolution Trials,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 50, No. 3 (Jun. 1985), 392-409. What the article reveals is that during the 1981-1982 McLean v. Arkansas case, anti-evolutionists were using a very similar strategy to the one promulgated today: Attacking evolution for its own alleged religious (i.e., atheistic) biases.

Mooney produces some choice quotes from the article that I won’t bother to reproduce here (you should go to his blog to read them).  The article was written in 1985, but it could have been written yesterday; the motives and tactics of today’s anti-evolution movement have changed little.  At least in 1985, they were honest enough to still call themselves creationists.

John Calvert’s impending legal strategy (which seems to be the standard strategy for the ID movement) was aired during the recent Kansas kangaroo court.  As reported by Stan Cox, it tries to paint evolution as necessarily atheistic, and therefore demands that ID be brought in for balance.  Not only is this strategy not new, it’s already dead.  One thing that Mooney neglects to mention is that this strategy backfired badly the first time around.  Let’s take a look…

Here is an outline of Calvert’s strategy as reported by Cox:  (It’s not clear to me how explicit Calvert was about this, or if this is largely based on Cox’s inference; we’ll know soon enough when Calvert releases his legal brief.  Update:  Jack Krebs assures us in comments that the following does indeed represent Calvert’s arguments, explicitly.)

The final witness was Calvert himself, who announced that he planned to file “an extensive legal brief” in the coming days that would provide the basis for revising the science standards to allow ID. His legal argument, which had been implicit in all of his questioning of witnesses, goes like this:

(1) Evolution as it’s now taught in Kansas schools is based on methodological naturalism, that is, the search by science for explanations only in the natural world.

(2) Methodological naturalism always implies philosophical naturalism, the belief that there is nothing beyond the natural world. (This, say anti-ID scientists, is the fatal flaw in the argument.)

(3) Philosophical naturalism is atheistic.

(4) Atheism is a religion. (Needless to say, this is a proposition not universally accepted.)

(5) Therefore, religion is already being taught in Kansas biology classes.

(6) So religious fairness requires that evidence for intelligent design and against evolution through natural selection also be allowed in the classroom.

By arguing, implicitly, that the supernatural should be introduced into science curricula alongside “naturalistic” ideas, Calvert is relying on the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that teaching be “secular, neutral, and non-ideological” with respect to religion.

There are any number of problems with the above, some of which were pointed out in the thread we had on Cox’s article.  The two biggies are 1) evolution is no more based on methodological naturalism than any other science.  By arguing that methodological naturalism leads inexorably to atheism, Calvert argues that all science leads to atheism.  And 2) methodological naturalism does not necessarily imply philosophical naturalism, and hence isn’t atheistic to begin with.  But the legal argument that ID (or creationism, or supernaturalism, or whatever) must be brought in for balance is self-defeating if one’s aim is to skirt the Constitutional prohibition on teaching religion.  In fact, this was brought up in McLean v. Arkansas, the very case that the 1985 article refers to.  Here is an excerpt of the judge’s decision: 

The defendants argue in their brief that evolution is, in effect, a religion, and that by teaching a religion which is contrary to some students’ religious views, the State is infringing upon the student’s free exercise rights under the First Amendment. […] 

The defendants argue that the teaching of evolution alone presents both a free exercise problem and an establishment problem which can only be redressed by giving balanced treatment to creation science, which is admittedly consistent with some religious beliefs. … The argument has no legal merit.

If creation science is, in fact, science and not religion, as the defendants claim, it is difficult to see how the teaching of such a science could “neutralize” the religious nature of evolution.

Assuming for the purposes of argument, however, that evolution is a religion or religious tenet, the remedy is to stop the teaching of evolution, not establish another religion in opposition to it. Yet it is clearly established in the case law, and perhaps also in common sense, that evolution is not a religion and that teaching evolution does not violate the Establishment Clause, Epperson v. Arkansas, supra, Willoughby v. Stever, No. 15574-75 (D.D.C. May 18, 1973); aff’d. 504 F.2d 271 (D.C. Cir. 1974), cert. denied , 420 U.S. 924 (1975); Wright v. Houston Indep. School Dist., 366 F. Supp. 1208 (S.D. Tex 1978), aff.d. 486 F.2d 137 (5th Cir. 1973), cert. denied 417 U.S. 969 (1974).

So not only is it established law (and established common sense) that evolution is not a religious belief, the claim that we must teach some alternative in order to balance out evolution tips the creationists’ hand and exposes their own religious motivations.  How, the judge wondered, can you provide “balance” to one set of religious teachings unless the remedy is itself religious?  They’ve been saying all along that ID is a scientific theory, not a religious belief, and therefore teaching ID not in violation of the Establishment Clause.  Yet this is clearly belied by the claim that ID is needed to balance out the atheistic implications of evolution. 

The strategy that Calvert is supposedly pursuing has been tried already, and it failed.  It will almost certainly fail again.  John Calvert is obviously not a stupid man — unless he’s really thinking big, and trying to overturn all previous case law, I have no idea why he thinks this will work. 

One last side note:  It occurred to me when reading though the McLean decision (which is well worth reading in its entirety), that “objective” is the new “balanced”.  In other words, Calvert has his Objective Origins Science Policy, and the other ID hacks constantly use the word “objective”, without a hint of irony, to describe their religiously motivated attacks on evolution.  From reading the McLean decision, it seems that the creationists of yesteryear used precisely the same rhetorical device, except they called it “balanced” rather than “objective”.  As the creationist movement evolves, so too does their abuse of the English language.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #31294

Posted by Steve U. on May 20, 2005 4:50 PM (e)

Steve R.

Great post – keep em’ comin’, guys and gals!

John Calvert is obviously not a stupid man — unless he’s really thinking big, and trying to overturn all previous case law, I have no idea why he thinks this will work.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter what John Calvert thinks, as long as he can put on a good show for the puppet masters who pay him to do so.

Or perhaps, as you suggest, he’s hoping that a zealous majority of the Supreme Court wants to promote the idea that scientific and religious beliefs are equally important for answering scientific questions will hear his case.

I think that is thinking big, indeed. If we get to that point in the United States, the integrity of science will be just one of a multitude of problems we will be facing.

Comment #31298

Posted by Rilke's Granddaughter on May 20, 2005 5:01 PM (e)

Perhaps I misunderstood, but I thought that part of Calvert’s point was that evolution made statements that were in conflict with the claims of some religions - and by that token was making religious statements. Of course, the problem applies equally well to geology, biology, physics, cosmology, etc.

Comment #31308

Posted by Mark Nutter on May 20, 2005 5:38 PM (e)

There’s another problem with proposing Intelligent Design as a remedy for “methodological naturalism” (or “methodological materialism,” a term Dembski may be leaning towards these days), and that is that intelligence itself is a natural, material phenomenon, insofar as any verifiable, real-world observable instances are concerned. “Intelligence” refers to a material process which occurs in natural, materialistic organisms, so unless the ID movement wants to drop the pretense of not appealing to supernatural, disembodied, “spiritual” intelligences (and thus introducing the attendant difficulties of how non-material intelligences interact with a material universe), even intelligent design is still ultimately only a special case of complexity within a naturalistic/materialistic domain.

Comment #31319

Posted by Jack Krebs on May 20, 2005 5:57 PM (e)

Steve, thanks for this most pertinent post. Stan Cox acuurately expresses Calvert’s explicit arguments. Furthermore, in his closing argument, Pedro Irigonegaray made exactly the same point as to why Calvert’s argument fails: that McLean clearly states that balancing one religious teaching with another is not a solution to the problem, which is exactly what the IDists are proposing.

I will soon have Pedro’s closing speech online in mp3 format for people to listen to, and I will alert him to this thread.

Comment #31331

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 6:40 PM (e)

Methodologisticalistic Naturalismism must be an enormous handicap. In the 400 years or so we’ve been strongly applying it, progress in understanding the world has crashed to a halt.

Poor, deluded scientists.

Comment #31334

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 6:48 PM (e)

Hahaha the great thing about that, Mark is that it’s a carbon copy of the ID argument.

When we know the source of design,
there’s always an intelligent designer responsible.
Life is designed, so it was by an intelligent designer.

When we know the source of intelligence,
There’s always a physical process involved.
The Designer is intelligent, so he is physical.

Something tells me the ID logic structure will be less than compelling to them in that second instance.

Comment #31336

Posted by Flint on May 20, 2005 6:50 PM (e)

I agree, I’ve seen this same strategy applied for decades: First, religion lays claim to scientific territory and declares it to be religious. Then, religion claims that in investigating that territory, science is necessarily making religious statements, rendering science religious. Finally, they conclude that where there is a religious conflict, the State should teach either both religions or neither.

This tired argument has never convinced a judge, and probably never will. Recently, creationists (like tax protesters, who are amazingly similar) have realized that this is much more a political than a legal issue. Politics is how judges are elected or appointed in any case. As they say in boxing, kill the head and the body will die. Elect creationists, and the judiciary will become creationist in due time.

Comment #31337

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on May 20, 2005 6:51 PM (e)

Creationists not reading the relevant literature, uh?

So, what’s new?

Comment #31340

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 20, 2005 6:53 PM (e)

“… the judiciary will become creationist in due time.”

if the fillibuster gets busted by Frist, it may be sooner than you think.

Comment #31341

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 6:53 PM (e)

Do they really want to open up the definition of science so we atheist scientists can start commenting on their Designer in class?

Comment #31342

Posted by "Rev Dr" Lenny Flank on May 20, 2005 7:03 PM (e)

As I’ve always said, ID has not presented a single argument that wasn’t just cribbed from the creation “scientists” of two decades ago.

Comment #31345

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 7:13 PM (e)

“ … the judiciary will become creationist in due time.”

Can you find that many creationist college graduates?

Comment #31347

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 7:17 PM (e)

Does Patriot University offer law degrees?

Comment #31349

Posted by Flint on May 20, 2005 7:21 PM (e)

Can you find that many creationist college graduates?

??? So what? Is there any legal requirement that a judge must have a college degree? Even if there is, I think the goal is that the job qualifications be changed in creationist directions.

Comment #31351

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 7:27 PM (e)

Speaking of uneducated creationists, check out that new “answers in genesis” blog, the lead story,

Home Schoolers in Chicago!
Friday, May 20th, 2005

http://info.answersingenesis.org/aroundtheworld/

It’s enough to make you grind your teeth.

Comment #31355

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 7:31 PM (e)

Steve R’s post, btw, is excellent.

Comment #31359

Posted by Yvonne Strong on May 20, 2005 7:37 PM (e)

There are any number of problems with the above, some of which were pointed out in the thread we had on Cox’s article. The two biggies are 1) evolution is no more based on methodological naturalism than any other science. By arguing that methodological naturalism leads inexorably to atheism, Calvert argues that all science leads to atheism.

No surprise there - the IDists are wanting to renew science (and culture) in general, not just evolution, according to their Wedge Document. Evolution is just the thin end of their wedge, after all.

Comment #31373

Posted by Steve Reuland on May 20, 2005 9:32 PM (e)

Jack Krebs wrote:

Steve, thanks for this most pertinent post. Stan Cox acuurately expresses Calvert’s explicit arguments. Furthermore, in his closing argument, Pedro Irigonegaray made exactly the same point as to why Calvert’s argument fails: that McLean clearly states that balancing one religious teaching with another is not a solution to the problem, which is exactly what the IDists are proposing.

Thanks Jack. I was a little worried that Cox may have been giving his own interpretation and that Calvert was being rather more subtle. I added a short update indicating that you’ve confirmed Cox’s rendition.

Comment #31375

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 9:51 PM (e)

I would like to see a PT story about what the ID Creationists are going to do when (in Dover, or elsewhere) ID is found to be creationism and prohibited. As we all know, these guys aren’t doing science, they’re doing PR and advocacy in service to a political agenda. If they lose in court, their political agenda is more or less destroyed.

What do you think they’ll do after that?

Comment #31377

Posted by steve on May 20, 2005 9:59 PM (e)

Obviously the FLs, Charlie Wagner, DaveScat, Robert O”Brien, David Heddle types won’t suddenly stop making science-proves-god arguments, but the Dembski types will change their plans. I wonder what they’ll do. I bet they’ll at least change their name.

Comment #31379

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 20, 2005 10:07 PM (e)

the exact same thing they did after losing with the pure creationist argument to begin with.

1.) they will blame the courts and “liberal” judges that are “anti-faith”, and also charge that they are in cohoots with ‘dem materialist atheist eviloutionists.

2.) they will try to bribe politicians with promises of support in order to garner judicial nominees more favorable to themselves.

3.) they will rename ID to something else.

4.) they will launch a new effort with the help and resources of folks like Ahmanson.

lather, rinse, repeat.

this cycle will continue until:

1.) we provide better science education at the secondary level, in order to alleviate all the minsinterpretations so common out there.

2.) those who we have educated grow up and become politicians themselves.

lather, rinse, repeat until the ignorance level subsides sufficiently through simple generational decline.

I thought we were further along than this, but it seems we probably have another 50 years or so before this radical retention of ancient creationist belief systems dies out sufficiently.

It appears the battle has been won for the most part in the realm of meteorology, at least in this country (not in other areas of the world, evidently), so there is hope that it can be won in the biological sciences eventually as well.

I think we won the battle for meteorology simply because the concepts are easier for most layfolk to understand.

We need better ways of explaining evolutionary theory so that layfolks can understand this as well, and eventually the majority view will change.

it is our great failure as educators that we have the highest percentage of creationists anywhere in the modern world (er, except South Africa).

It is our great failure as politicians that we condone the utlization of ignorance and fear to support our own policy initiatives (think Bill Frist accusing the Demos of being “anti-faith”).

it is our great failure as a people that we have not reached out to our neighbors to alleviate their fears.

I’m kinda getting sick of being a failure, myself. I hope we can do better and fix this.

Comment #31380

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on May 20, 2005 10:12 PM (e)

I would like to see a PT story about what the ID Creationists are going to do when (in Dover, or elsewhere) ID is found to be creationism and prohibited. As we all know, these guys aren’t doing science, they’re doing PR and advocacy in service to a political agenda. If they lose in court, their political agenda is more or less destroyed.

What do you think they’ll do after that?

The same thing they did after they lost in Epperson, and after they lost in Mclean, and after they lost in Aguillard.

They will change their name and come back again with the very same crap as before (although they will call it something different – again).

And they will lose again.

Repeat indefinitely.

Comment #31389

Posted by Steve Reuland on May 20, 2005 10:32 PM (e)

Mark Nutter wrote:

There’s another problem with proposing Intelligent Design as a remedy for “methodological naturalism” (or “methodological materialism,” a term Dembski may be leaning towards these days), and that is that intelligence itself is a natural, material phenomenon, insofar as any verifiable, real-world observable instances are concerned.

Actually, the IDists also argue that “intelligence” (or at least, consciousness) cannot be reduced to material causes. Jeffery Schwartz (sp?) appears to be their token psychologist (neurologist?) who makes this argument. It’s mostly a side issue in the whole ID vs. evolution debate, but it strongly underlies many of the IDist arguments.

Most importantly, Dembski et al try to make a dichotomy between “natural” causes and “intelligent” causes. This is a great rhetorical strategy, but there are some serious problems with it:

1) As you point out, “intelligence” may be fully materialistic. I don’t know if it is or not, but it certainly can’t be ruled out. If the IDists assume that it cannot be a phenomenon which is ultimately derived from material causes, they’re making a major unsubstantiated assumption, more or less begging the very question that they presume to answer.

2) Even if we assume, for the sake of argument, that human consciousness is not the result of underlying material causes, that still doesn’t mean that consciousness is “supernatural”, or otherwise incapable of being studied by science. All intelligences that we know of are capable of study. When we find human artifacts, we’re able to construct hypotheses about how and why these artifacts were created, and we can test these hypotheses based upon the artifacts themselves or other circumstantial evidence. But this is precisely what the IDists say we cannot do when it comes to the “designer” who supposedly designed some aspect of life. That particular “intelligence” is supposedly beyond any kind of scientific study at all. Clearly, they are talking about something different than the kinds of intelligence with which we’re familiar.

So what it comes down to is that the whole “natural vs. intelligence” dichotomy cannot work. If there is any dichotomy, it is “natural vs. supernatural”. They don’t like framing it this way, but that’s what it is.

As I see it, “methodological naturalism” is simply a description (not a prescription) of what scientists do. Scientists rely on natural explanations because these can be placed within a framework of empirical investigation. Not so with supernatural causes. If the ID people disagree, the burden of proof is on them to establish a research program and show how “methodological supernaturalism” manages to produce useful knowledge about the natural world. Of course, they haven’t made so much as a token effort at doing this, or even tried to describe how it might be done. I guess lobbying school boards and conducting media campaigns, flying around the country to attend kangaroo courts and contrived conferences, leaves one too exhausted to do much else…

Comment #31398

Posted by primate on May 21, 2005 12:20 AM (e)

Steve Reuland wrote:

They’ve been saying all along that ID is a scientific theory, not a religious belief, and therefore teaching ID not in violation of the Establishment Clause. Yet this is clearly belied by the claim that ID is needed to balance out the atheistic implications of evolution.

Ah, but we all know that ID is theistic science NOT creation science and is borne from theistic realism, an unbiased philosophical position which is far less dogmatic than Darwinism. This Kuhnsian paradigm shift is on solid scientific ground even though only an incredibly small minority of scientists support ID which is why all those old creationist arguments can now be taught as “scientific criticisms”. Just because it has religious overtones and seeks to include supernatural explanations in no way contravenes the Supreme Court’s ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard that the view that a supernatural being created mankind impermissibly promotes religion because the identity of Designer is not a suitable topic for a high school biology class.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose
.

Comment #31403

Posted by tytlal on May 21, 2005 8:58 AM (e)

Sir_toejam:

“it is our great failure as educators that we have the highest percentage of creationists anywhere in the modern world (er, except South Africa).”

Can you break this down further for me? I believe you, meeting many here in Indiana, however, I would like to point out how we fare compared to outher countries, “civilized” or not.

Thanks,

Tytlal

Comment #31405

Posted by Hiero5ant on May 21, 2005 9:05 AM (e)

Steve Reuland –

This may come as a shock to you and to readers of this blog, but Dembski has a habit of equivocating on the issue of whether intelligence is natural.

OK, everyone gathered themselves together?

You are correct that Dembski and others routinely define ‘intelligent’ as synonymous with ‘supernatural’ (Beckwith did this at his recent appearance at HLS). But they break from this routine when their equivocation is pointed out to them. For example, in last week’s appearance on Nightline, Dembski remarked ““From the vantage of my colleagues and I, ‘intelligence’ is a perfectly natural explanation.” He then went on to hedge and say some remarkably vague things about the issue being “reductionism of the mind” or some such; interested parties can check the transcript or watch the video.

This is one more area where I think it’s crucial for defenders of science to be on alert. I make it a habit to note each and every time a creationist uses either the term ‘intelligent’ or ‘supernatural’, and in my response to always pin them down on whether they think they’re necessarily the same.

If a creationist (in the process of trying to deny that ID is religious) says that intelligence is *not* necessarily supernatural, then ask them what, precisely, the hell Dembski and Johnson and Calvert and Wells are bitching about when they rail against science’s “naturalistic bias”. If a creationist (in the process of trying to argue that science is inherently atheistic) says that intelligence is necessarily supernatural, ask them how anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics, and criminal forensics are carried out using supernatural means.

Comment #31406

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 21, 2005 9:21 AM (e)

Dembski’s leaning to “methodological materialism” is another nod to religious people, and a particularly pernicious one in that it plays on a lack of understanding of just what is being discussed.

As we use “materialism” to suggest a methodology by which scientists can conduct experiments, we mean the material world, i.e. as opposed to the world of spirits. We mean the material world we can analyze in a test-tube.

Of course, in Christianity, materialism is also shorthand for those who chase dollars instead of God, dollars instead of good, or carnal pleasure instead of good deeds.

It is ironic, to say the least. Researchers I know often spend many extra hours, without “carnal pleasure” or sometimes food or sleep, in their labs, chasing answers to questions in quests for knowledge that can only be described as useful and good, the sorts of good deeds that we need to reward. Think of researchers in infectious diseases, virologists, cancer researchers, crop researchers, and others.

In any case, the ID folks are trading on ambiguity, hoping to reap the benefits of their audiences’ not understanding the issue fully, and the ID folks being in no hurry to help them understand.

Ignorance is the desired result of these IDists. “Darkness was cheap, and Scrooge liked it,” Dickens wrote.

Comment #31408

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on May 21, 2005 10:19 AM (e)

I’d like to point out that we do have more material online from the McLean v. Arkansas trial than just the decision.

Comment #31425

Posted by SEF on May 21, 2005 2:12 PM (e)

steve wrote:

What do you think they’ll do after that?

They may already have started on some early counter-measures against the success of project Steve. Check the US baby name data for the various forms of Steve and you’ll find they are decreasing in popularity - making potential new recruits scarce. Most tellingly, the decline started before the project announcement. So the creationists had to have had supernatural help to organise this mass suppression of Stevedom. ;-)

Comment #31428

Posted by steve on May 21, 2005 2:35 PM (e)

They can’t make a science, and it looks like they can’t even make a coherent argument in favor of their political agenda. The only people capable of falling for this gibberish, are people who psychologically need some scientific proof of god.

Comment #31431

Posted by Moses on May 21, 2005 3:05 PM (e)

From Ken Ham’s site:

A man said, “Aren’t you Ken Ham?” He went on to say, “I’m a teacher at a local Community College and I use your material in my classes.” So many others must be using our material—it’s out there ministering to people—yes, the Lord is using AiG to spread a vital message.

And I wonder what the story is? Is it biology and these materials are used to show the stupidity of ID arguments? Is it a religion class? A philosophy class?

In life, I’ve said similar things. They are “polite lies” because I really don’t want to hurt their feelings when I’m using their stuff to show how ludicrous the arguments are…

Comment #31434

Posted by steve on May 21, 2005 3:13 PM (e)

Sadly, the word ‘material’ suggests the guy was a moron. An objective sentence would be like “I’m a teacher at a local Community College and I use your ignorant horseshit in my classes, mostly for a good laugh.”

I would send Jay Richards’s ID Relativity to a physics prof I know who uses wacko stuff for pedagogical purposes, but he probably would find it too boring.

Comment #31438

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on May 21, 2005 4:22 PM (e)

The TalkOrigins Archive doesn’t have to deal in hearsay concerning people being favorably impressed by the site content or using it in courses – we just point to those people, groups, and magazines saying so.

Comment #31440

Posted by steve on May 21, 2005 5:11 PM (e)

Jay Richards’s complaint about Relativity is like the sort of thing you get from a more thoughtless student in PY 203 (if you’re at NCSU). Probably this is similar to what their bio complaints look like to you biologists. It might be good enough to gather some lay support, but the pros just roll their eyes.

Comment #31453

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 21, 2005 7:04 PM (e)

“however, I would like to point out how we fare compared to outher countries, “civilized” or not.”

then please do so.

Comment #31454

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 21, 2005 7:11 PM (e)

From Ken Ham’s site:

A man said, “Aren’t you Ken Ham?” He went on to say, “I’m a teacher at a local Community College and I use your material in my classes.” So many others must be using our material—it’s out there ministering to people—yes, the Lord is using AiG to spread a vital message.

It’s probably a class in scams, rip-offs and consumer fraud. Funny Ham didn’t ask, or didn’t relate what the answer is.

Comment #31455

Posted by tytlal on May 21, 2005 7:18 PM (e)

Sir_Toejam,

LOL. No, I was hoping you (or anyone) would show me comparison between other coutnries in regards to creationism :) Is it just the Middle East and The United States who seem to believe in creationism, more per capita anyway, than, say, Europe … Canada … Mexico? I would like to see a comparison because I find the idea of us (US) being so far behind (as a culture) to other parts of the world to be quite disturbing.

Thanks,

tytlal

Comment #31458

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 21, 2005 7:51 PM (e)

Most of the information i have on creationists come from people writing me from different countries, and telling me how common it is/isn’t.
In areas where it appears more common, the idea that poor or even direct miseducation is a part of it is very much supported by the people i speak with.

In the middle east, it is both a general lack of availability to good education, and deliberate miseducation.

In South Africa, it appears to be mostly miseducation, as they won’t even teach evolutionary theory at all in public schools. I did read statistics indicating 90% creationism believers in S. Africa, as opposed to 45% here.

In the UK and most of Europe, all of the people i speak with tell me how they are well taught in evolutionary theory in the public schools, and creationism is frowned on as not just religious “backwardness” but an actual threat to political and scientific progress.

i do remember seeing a “developed nation” comparison of the statistics on this issue, and when i find it again, i’ll post the link for you (or you can find it; it shouldn’t be too hard). In the meantime, here is a brief discussion of some statistics on the issue:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/ev_publi.htm

an interesting quote from that:

Belief in creation science seems to be largely a U.S. phenomenon. A British survey of 103 Roman Catholic priests, Anglican bishops and Protestant ministers/pastors showed that:

97% do not believe the world was created in six days.
80% do not believe in the existence of Adam and Eve.

but I am sure you have heard of the fact that we are falling signigicantly behind other nations (like the UK, Japan, others) in science and math education? this has been noted frequently by both politcal parties for the last 20 years. it was part of the foundation for Clinton’s educational outreach program, as well as Bush’s “no child left behind” program.

I have also spoken with secondary level educators in this country who feel that teaching evolutionary theory is no longer worth the flak they get from religious fundamentalists in their communities. Even when legally required to teach evolutionary theory, they admit they simply “skim” the issue, and do not really bother to test students on the concepts.

As a biologist, I am well aware of the importance of evolutionary theory in the biological sciences (and other sciences too!).

Truly, I am kind of surprised that you are unaware of the decline in education that has been happening in this country over the last 25 years or so.

Even the National Geo. article that came out in Nov. of 2004 about evolutionary theory speaks about this issue, and mentions some of the statistics.

Note i am only touching on one aspect of this; in general science education is declining rapidly in the US, and this WILL affect culture.

I find the idea of us (US) being so far behind (as a culture) to other parts of the world to be quite disturbing.

Indeed you should, as should we all.

Comment #31460

Posted by tytlal on May 21, 2005 8:16 PM (e)

Thanks for the info.

I am aware of the decline of science and math scores vs. the rest of the world.

I hope that biologists who choose to become a SCIENCE teacher do not wilt under political (local or otherwise) pressure in regards to teaching evolution. How can a BIOLOGY teacher, in good faith, claim to be a teacher if evolution is not taught? This scenario is absolutely absurd - no “other side” to it! Media may portray “two sides” to a story but you know, sometimes 2 + 2 really does equal 4. I’m really sorry that evolution interfers with some people’s faith but it is time for them to readjust/reinterpret their faith. Once quaint ideas such as the Earth being flat, the Sun being the center of the Universe (let alone us), humans being “special”, lightenening bolts being thrown by God (thank you Ben Franklin) … *shudder* … my wife, who is and educator from Russia , honestly thinks that I am telling jokes regarding the antics of the Creationists, er, ID’ers. “Clearly, your educational system is broken.” Is this true?

If evolution were to be taught properly, would ID be as popular?

Comment #31464

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 21, 2005 8:30 PM (e)

“If evolution were to be taught properly, would ID be as popular?”

that’s an excellent question.

I happen to be researching that very question right now.

I wrote a proposal to start a non-profit NGO to investigate the issue, and am starting to gather cross-district statitistics to see whether there is an effect of local standards on graduate performance in this area.

The second would at least indicate correlation, if not causation. If there appears to be a correlation (I’m reasonably sure there is), then providing educational resources directly to secondary level educators should be a causative test of the question.

Note that NSF has already funded an endeavor to address this as well:

http://www.nescent.org./nescent/Education.html

I’m still working on the rough draft of the NGO i proposed; you are welcome to view it and comment (if you wish) here:

http://groups-beta.google.com/group/evolution-ngo (just click past the “adult warning” -it’s meaningless)

I plan to work final comments that i have received privately into the proposal this weekend, and submit it for review to several educational NGO’s next week.

If i get a positive review, i will actively start recruiting potential board members, and start looking for funding. I will also post any results i get from the correlative comparison between districts.

cheers

Comment #31482

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 21, 2005 11:02 PM (e)

If evolution were to be taught properly, would ID be as popular?

No. Now the big question: How does a teacher go about teaching it “properly?”

Comment #31483

Posted by Jim Harrison on May 21, 2005 11:24 PM (e)

A modest suggestion on improving the public’s understanding of evolution: we shouldn’t assume that students at good schools automatically get an adequate introduction to evolutionary thinking. Even people with advanced degrees often lack basic information about natural selection and related topics because they never took biology in college or got a lousy course. Reaching the mass of the public via highschool education is a worthwhile long-range goal, but for starters we need to do a better job of in colleges and universities.

Comment #31484

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 21, 2005 11:28 PM (e)

that’s certainly worthy of discussion.

should i open a new topic on the issue at the bar?

Comment #31649

Posted by Fernmonkey on May 23, 2005 6:39 AM (e)

I can’t think of anywhere else to put it, but there was a writeup of a full-blown YEC museum in the Observer this Sunday:

http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1489520,00.html

I actually prefer the old-school YECs to the IDers. At least the YECs actually *have* theories. They may all be from the first chapter of Genesis and they may all be bollocks, but they’re there.

Comment #31707

Posted by Steviepinhead on May 23, 2005 2:59 PM (e)

Maybe this would make a good “Bumper Sticker” slogan:

“Suppressing Evolution in Schools:
A Whole Nation of Children Left Behind”

Comment #31790

Posted by Heinz Kiosk on May 24, 2005 3:55 AM (e)

No, I was hoping you (or anyone) would show me comparison between other countries in regards to creationism

No hard data, but I can state anecdotaly that young-earth-creationism is essentially invisible in the UK. Because I’ve become interested in the crevo debate I’ve raised the issue to do straw polls at workplaces and social gatherings and the most common reaction is astonishment that there are people out there who don’t accept an old earth, and who don’t accept some form of evolution. I haven’t yet found anyone who espouses YEC. I suspect the situation would be similar throughout Western Europe.

Comment #31792

Posted by Alan on May 24, 2005 4:18 AM (e)

I suspect the situation would be similar throughout Western Europe.

Certainly true in France. The State here is robustly secular, as was demonstrated by the brief furore over the weaing of the veil by muslim girls while at school. (Overt religious symbolism is not permitted, that includes wearing crucifixes etc.)

Attempts to explain IDC meet with bemusement and/or amusement.

Comment #31794

Posted by Alan on May 24, 2005 5:34 AM (e)

Any comments on this?

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-196-1619264,00.html

Comment #31804

Posted by Ian Hearn on May 24, 2005 9:12 AM (e)

Alan wrote:

Any comments on this?
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-196-1619264, …

It’s a good summary of the little trick’s IDers use, I especially like this.

The standard methodology of creationists is to find some phenomenon in nature which Darwinism cannot readily explain. Darwin said: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty in order to abuse his challenge. “Bet you can’t tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees?” If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: “Right, then, the alternative theory; ‘intelligent design’ wins by default.”

Notice the biased logic: if theory A fails in some particular, theory B must be right! Notice, too, how the creationist ploy undermines the scientist’s rejoicing in uncertainty. Today’s scientist in America dare not say: “Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’ll have to go to the university library and take a look.” No, the moment a scientist said something like that the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: “Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.”

You see this all the time on PT yet they never show where ID is right, now why is that.

Comment #31808

Posted by Steve F on May 24, 2005 9:29 AM (e)

Its a lesser phenomena but it exists. There is a member of a prominent UK science funcing body who is a YEC.

Comment #31821

Posted by Heinz Kiosk on May 24, 2005 11:38 AM (e)

That Dawkins quote is superb:

The creationists’ fondness for “gaps” in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.

You have to be careful though. American supporters of evolution dislike Dawkins because his militant atheism combined with overt socialism makes harder their job of persuading American creationists that religion in general and the religious-right in particular has nothing to fear from evolution.

Comment #31826

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 24, 2005 12:02 PM (e)

Americans don’t dislike atheism, though – we elected Lincoln despite his confession of atheism in 1846.

We Americans really don’t like intentional ignorance. As David Gardner and Milton Goldberg once wrote, if a foreign nation were to do to our schools what the IDists propose, we’d declare war. “ …[T]he educaitonal foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity tht threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur – orthers are matching and surpassing our educational attainments….Learning is the indispensable investment required for success in the ‘information age’ we are entering,” they wrote (A Nation at Risk, 1983)

Creationism and its daughter, ‘intelligent design,’ are bad science, bad theology, and an assault on the high academic standards people understand that we need. Keep saying that.

Comment #31827

Posted by Russell on May 24, 2005 12:04 PM (e)

You have to be careful though. American supporters of evolution dislike Dawkins because his militant atheism combined with overt socialism makes harder their job of persuading American creationists that religion in general and the religious-right in particular has nothing to fear from evolution.

Dawkins has as much right to his religious and political opinions as anyone else, of course. But is there really anything at all in any of his biology writing that needs to be tut-tutted by would-be supporters? I often see the quote about “intellectually fulfilled atheist” - but, in context, I really don’t see anything objectionable about that.

Should chemists refrain from citing Linus Pauling because he was famously leftist?

Comment #31835

Posted by Alan on May 24, 2005 12:54 PM (e)

As a point of information, I don’t think R. Dawkins is politically active or particularly leftist.

The political spectrum extends so far right in the US that it is difficult not be called a leftie if one holds views that, elsewhere, might be considered “middle of the road”.

Comment #31837

Posted by Heinz Kiosk on May 24, 2005 12:59 PM (e)

Understand in all this that I am a militant atheist myself. I believe that Dawkins is perfectly entitled to both his religious and political views (even though I don’t agree with those. I am not a right-wing nutcase, I don’t believe, but I found some of Dawkin’s recent comments about US politics fairly inflammatory and likely to sway US doubters on the right straight into Bush’s arms. A bit like the Guardian’s Clark County fiasco). I am merely reporting that some supporters of evolution in the States feel that Dawkins high profile in the evolutionary resistance against creationism and its brother-in-law ID doesn’t help them (in fact it is an active hindrance), despite Dawkin’s undoubted command of the scientific material and fluid writing style.

Many Americans feel that evolution is anti-God and socialist in its outlook. Those posting here know that is nonsense and that evolution is no more anti-God than for example atomic theory or germ theory. The pitiful state of general scientific and philosophical education does not help.

Comment #31855

Posted by Alan on May 24, 2005 2:40 PM (e)

A bit like the Guardian’s Clark County fiasco

Missed that, any link you could point me to?

Comment #31858

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 24, 2005 2:46 PM (e)

“Many Americans feel that evolution is anti-God and socialist in its outlook”

socialist?

that’s a new one on me. can someone link to some support for that?

thanks

Comment #32006

Posted by Heinz Kiosk on May 25, 2005 8:19 AM (e)

Clark County Campaign

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1326066,00.html

Clark County was seen as the most marginal county in the most marginal state, so there was a letter-writing campaign from the left-of-centre Guardian newspaper in the UK to try and influence the CC electorate to vote against Bush.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it backfired. The Americans who received these letters didn’t like being lectured by foreigners about how they should vote. Clark County swung towards Bush.

The fact that one of the letters was from Dawkins makes it easier for those on the religious right to paint him as a godless socialist who wants to destroy The American Way. Typically such people are unable to separate the man from his arguments and as they don’t understand the science themselves this gives them an ideal opportunity to dismiss the scientific arguments because of their source.

If you want to see numerous examples of conservative Americans who believe that evolution is a tool of the liberals, Democrats, socialists, and communists then have a look at some of the crevo debates in www.freerepublic.com. Not all of these people are stupid (though some of them are embarrasingly so). They are simply uneducated about matters scientific, and see one set of arguments that their pastor agrees with, and another set that atheists can agree with. In the minds of such people atheism and socialism are bedfellows.

Of course there are other groups who reject evolution because they conflate it with unfettered capitalism or fascism, or anything else that they object to. The name of this fallacy is “argument from consequences”.

Fortunately there are plenty of conservatives who do understand the science in these debates too, and I daresay that many of the lurkers are able to see which side has the rational arguments. But educating the ineducable who already know that evolution is evil and godless is hard work.

Comment #32007

Posted by Heinz Kiosk on May 25, 2005 8:25 AM (e)

Clark County Campaign

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1326066,00.html

Clark County was seen as the most marginal county in the most marginal state, so there was a letter-writing campaign from the left-of-centre Guardian newspaper in the UK to try and influence the CC electorate to vote against Bush.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it backfired. The Americans who received these letters didn’t like being lectured by foreigners about how they should vote. Clark County swung towards Bush.

The fact that one of the letters was from Dawkins makes it easier for those on the religious right to paint him as a godless socialist who wants to destroy The American Way. Typically such people are unable to separate the man from his arguments and as they don’t understand the science themselves this gives them an ideal opportunity to dismiss the scientific arguments because of their source.

If you want to see numerous examples of conservative Americans who wrongly believe that evolution is a tool of the liberals, Democrats, socialists, and communists then have a look at some of the crevo debates in www.freerepublic.com. Not all of these people are stupid (though some of them are embarrasingly so). They are simply uneducated about matters scientific, and see one set of arguments that their pastor agrees with, and another set that atheists can agree with. In the minds of such people atheism and socialism are bedfellows.

Of course there are other groups who reject evolution because they conflate it with unfettered capitalism or fascism, or anything else that they object to. The name of this fallacy is “argument from consequences”.

Fortunately there are plenty of conservatives who do understand the science in these debates too, and I daresay that many of the lurkers are able to see which side has the rational arguments. But educating the ineducable who already know that evolution is evil and godless is hard work.

Comment #32090

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 25, 2005 1:54 PM (e)

so, essentially you are saying that the association of evolution with socialism is essentially like the association of evolution with communism - totally unfounded, and in the case of communism… bass ackward, as the stalinists tried to crush evolutionary theorists.

got it.

It’s pretty much what i expected, the irrational seems to be gaining ground on the right more and more.

Comment #32234

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 26, 2005 4:18 AM (e)

Evolution is inherently free enterprise – fair competition and all that. Not socialist at all.

People who claim evolution is socialist either don’t understand socialism, or they don’t understand evolution. Or perhaps they understand neither.

Comment #32244

Posted by euan on May 26, 2005 7:10 AM (e)

Fair competition? Lyin’, cheatin’, stealin’, thuggery and buggery are all evolutionary successful. Life and evolution are not “fair”.

Comment #32300

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 26, 2005 2:55 PM (e)

you are focusing on Ed’s use of a term “fair competition” and ignoring the whole point of his comment.

why?

Comment #32334

Posted by euan on May 26, 2005 5:56 PM (e)

Pointing out that the evidence contradicts Mr Darrel’s premise renders the rest of his point simply a non-sequitur.

To be more explicit, evolution does not promote or contradict any political or economic ideology, to claim it does is to fall for the Naturalistic Fallacy.

Comment #32336

Posted by Sir_Toejam on May 26, 2005 6:15 PM (e)

Ed’s point was related to:

inherently free enterprise

he only mislabeled it using the term “fair competition”

his point was essentially the same as yours, that ascribing a political system like socialism simply doesn’t fit. a free enterpise description fits it far better than a top-down system. However, your point in your second post is also well make that evolution does not promote any political ideology.

still we often do make analogies, and some analogies fit better than others.