Matt Young posted Entry 1597 on October 22, 2005 03:47 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1592

My colleague, Taner Edis, Associate Professor of Physics at Truman State University, sent the following e-mail to a mailing list in which we both participate. The e-mail is reproduced here with permission. Read it carefully before you gloat about the shellacking we think our side is delivering in the Kitzmiller trial.

For some years now, I’ve been teaching a “Weird Science” course where students have to argue about paranormal and fringe-science subjects such as UFOs or ID.

Well, I just finished the few weeks of ID-related discussion for this year, and again, it looks to me that ID has a formidable political edge – as much because of the liberal instincts of my students as the religiously conservative.

I started off by inviting Guillermo Gonzalez (Iowa State is not too far away) to come and present the case for ID. I explained the basics of Behe and Dembski, and explained some of the flaws critics point out in books such as WIDF. I had a colleague from biology over to explain why biologists accept evolution.

In the end, most students (and this is a smart crowd of students, just mostly non-science majors) ended up thinking there is an awful lot of technical stuff being thrown about by PhD’s on both sides, and so we don’t really know [that is, no one knows] whether Darwinian evolution or ID is true. And so in our discussions about the political and educational aspects of ID, their political instincts took over. And those who supported ID being discussed in high school biology classes invariably did so on impeccably liberal grounds – fairness, critical thinking and so forth. “Teach the controversy” sounded very reasonable to them.

No surprises to anyone here, I’m sure. But it hardly inspires confidence, nonetheless.

I met Professor Edis’s class last spring, and I can attest that they were bright and engaged. They would not, I will venture, argue in favor of teaching the controversy between astrology and astronomy. We may recognize that intelligent-design creationism is exactly analogous to astrology, but they evidently do not. The Discovery Institute’s propaganda and disinformation machine is winning.

If you wanted to coin a phrase, you might say that liberalism, by being open-minded to a fault, contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Notes.

WIDF is the book, Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism, edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis, Rutgers, New Brunswick, 2004.

Guillermo Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Iowa and coauthor of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery, by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, Regnery, Washington, 2004.

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Comment #53208

Posted by Robert Stanley on October 22, 2005 5:18 PM (e)

In order to keep it simple, the issue is speciation.

May I offer the following for class discussion:
In the grand scheme what are the Mule and Hinny?
Are they evidence of transition (speciation) – that is, common ancestry?
Or
Are they poor or faulty examples of “Intelligent Design”?
Why?

Comment #53210

Posted by qetzal on October 22, 2005 5:42 PM (e)

One question - was ID presented in the usual way? That is, “evolution can’t explain this, that, and the other thing, therefore ID is right?”

If so, perhaps a more appropriate approach would be:

“Here is the evidence that supports the theory of evolution:” [insert your favorite few hundred successful predictions here].”

“Now, here is the evidence the supports ID: [insert sound of crickets chirping].”

Assuming these truly are bright, engaged students, I expect quite a few would reject ID as vacuous (as it is, of course). The fact that they apparently do not suggests that the presentation is biased.

Comment #53211

Posted by Adam Ierymenko on October 22, 2005 6:02 PM (e)

“… liberalism, by being open minded to a fault, contains the seeds of it’s own destruction …”

This is an interesting point. I once had a pretty friendly debate with a staunch but fairly intellectual religious conservative, and it’s a point that he brought up. Let me try to paraphrase exactly what he said:

“All successful societies have a strong religious faith, because only strong religious doctrines can stand the test of time. It’s not just that people need strong unquestioning faith when they are in a time of crisis, or to give them a strong and unambiguous morality. They also need it to resist other faiths. When people give up their religions, they seem to go through a period of open-mindedness. However, what eventually happens is that they are won over by some *other* religion. We saw this in the 1960s, when the open-minded consciousness movement kids eventually all ended up joining political and religious cults. You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology. In the long run, strong uncompromising ideas always win and wishy-washy so-called open-minded ideas always lose. So it is better, even if it isn’t literally true, for people to have a strong commitment to a traditional religion. At least traditional religions have withstood the test of time and have some moderation and perspective built into them.”

That’s paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Note how often he said “strong.” He might have said it even more times in the real discussion. His basic argument amounts to: strong uncompromising ideas will always drive out weak ones. Open-mindedness is weak because it allows rival ideas in the door.

It’s essentially an evolutionary argument. Religious conservatives may not believe evolution, but they often do a much better job *practicing* it than liberals and other secular-minded “modern” folk do. Not only do they play a better Darwinian game in the arena of ideas, but they also tend to have more kids. We seem to accept evolution on theoretical grounds but be tone-deaf when it comes to the implications of evolution. Our “progress myth” that rational ideas will always win is essentially teleological, and specific/rigid teleology is a fallacy in evolutionary thought. Nature does not care if our ideas are rational in the purely logical/scientific sense. Nature cares what does a better job of perpetuating itself. If religious fundamentalism perpetuates itself better than rational modern ideas, then we will all be religious fundamentalists pretty soon.

As you have probably guessed, I consider myself a liberal. Actually I consider myself more of a classical liberal / moderate libertarian, but that’s besides the point. I’m on your side when it comes to scientific stuff like this as well as when it comes to most social issues. However, I also think there’s something very true about the argument that I paraphrased above. Liberals and other secular folk need to stop and think about this argument until it sinks in.

A living thing that decides for so-called rational reasons to refrain from self-perpetuation ceases to exist in future generations. So to remain in existence, rational ideas must defend themselves and perpetuate themselves.

The big challenge is how to harmonize this fact of nature with a commitment to open-mindedness. How can we remain “beyond dogmatic thought” and still defend what we might call our “collective mind” from aggressive dogmas, especially those that use our own liberal beliefs as vectors to spread?

I think part of the solution would be to form a rigid “meta-dogma” in the form of scientific epistemology, and defend that to the death. This is part of the subtext to the defense of science from ID and it’s brethren, as they are essentially attacks on our epistemology.

Comment #53212

Posted by JSB on October 22, 2005 6:11 PM (e)

Perhaps the appeal to fairness could be mitigated if we emphasized more that we aren’t talking about prohibiting classroom discussion or having Pandas in the library. We’re talking about what the state should be endorsing in its curriculum standards.

Comment #53213

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 22, 2005 6:38 PM (e)

Perhaps the appeal to fairness could be mitigated if we emphasized more that we aren’t talking about prohibiting classroom discussion or having Pandas in the library. We’re talking about what the state should be endorsing in its curriculum standards.

Perhaps we should just explain that science isn’t a democracy, and scientific truth doesn’t depend upon “fairness”.

Comment #53215

Posted by Adam Ierymenko on October 22, 2005 6:50 PM (e)

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank wrote:

Perhaps we should just explain that science isn’t a democracy, and scientific truth doesn’t depend upon “fairness”.

Close, but that’s not how I would put it.

Science is a democracy, in that anyone who discovers something new about nature and who explains it rationally is a scientist, regardless of what sort of political connections or credentials they have. If a bum on a the street discovers a new facet of nature and rationally explains it, they are a scientist.

Einstein had no degree, if I’m not mistaken. (I might be… correct me if I’m wrong…)

What isn’t a democracy is the universe. The universe just is. It doesn’t care what we think or what is “fair” or what appeals to our politics. So what should be said is that the universe is what it is irrespective of our beliefs about it.

Another way that science isn’t a democracy is that there is a right way and wrong way to know something. This is a corrolary of the fact that the universe exists independent of our beliefs. If you say that you know something just because it feels good, you are wrong. You might have the right to personally believe this, but you have no right to use our tax money to indoctrinate people with it. Schools should only teach that which is reproducible and independently verifiable, because that is all that we can say exists for certain.

Comment #53216

Posted by darwinfinch on October 22, 2005 6:59 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #53217

Posted by plum on October 22, 2005 7:02 PM (e)

I tend to think that any arguments that depend on audiences having to absorb complicated scientific facts are doomed to failure. Keep your line of defence simple and confine it to the following talking points:

1. Science is not a democracy.

2. Scientific theories gain credence through dissemination and acceptance in peer reviewed research articles.

3. ID hasn’t had a single peer reviewed research article published yet.

4. Ergo: It is not science. It may become a science in the future (of course, we know it never will, for good methodological reasons, but we needn’t get into that unless asked), but we owe to children to teach them sound science.

State these talking points, rinse and repeat.

Comment #53219

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 22, 2005 7:11 PM (e)

Einstein had no degree, if I’m not mistaken. (I might be… correct me if I’m wrong…)

You’re wrong. :>

He had a degree in physics from the Zurich Polytechnic.

Comment #53220

Posted by Joel Sax on October 22, 2005 7:13 PM (e)

It seems to me that one of the reasons why you go to school is to receive insight into what is important and what isn’t important in terms of issues. So why are the students driving the teaching of science?

The problem here is that for the last sixty years, schools have been swarmed with creationists who drop off heaps of comic books which deride the theory of evolution and scientists. What would the originators of these pamphlets do if we started dropping tracts which denounced religion as mind control and chicanery?

That’s the enemy and he’s fighting a Culture War. So do we take up the arms of Reason or do we let him mow us down with his platitudes and his shibboleths?

Comment #53221

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 22, 2005 7:14 PM (e)

It’s essentially an evolutionary argument. Religious conservatives may not believe evolution, but they often do a much better job *practicing* it than liberals and other secular-minded “modern” folk do.

Oddly enough, too, the fundies all tend to be strong “social darwinists” with unshakable faith in the “free market”, where, it is assumed, competition produces the fittest, who thus gain their position at the top.

Comment #53223

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 22, 2005 7:16 PM (e)

strong uncompromising ideas will always drive out weak ones. Open-mindedness is weak because it allows rival ideas in the door.

Does he know the words to the Horst Wessel song, by any chance?

Comment #53224

Posted by K.E. on October 22, 2005 7:18 PM (e)

5. There is no contoversy as far a Science is concerned

6. Re-read point 3. Repeat until the end of time

Comment #53225

Posted by Norman Doering on October 22, 2005 7:20 PM (e)

“If you wanted to coin a phrase, you might say that liberalism, by being open-minded to a fault, contains the seeds of its own destruction.”

One might say the same of democracy, it potentially contains the seeds of its own destruction. People can vote away their vote.

I’m not so sure that “teach the controversy” is wrong. It really depends on how you teach it. If most of the smart non-science students ended up thinking there was an awful lot of technical stuff thrown about by PhD’s who don’t really know whether Darwinian evolution or ID is true then you have to accept the fact that they don’t get it. You failed to teach what you wanted.

It’s not necessarily your fault. You can’t teach a dog quantum mechanics no matter how hard you try and maybe the students who can get it are just few and far between.

Maybe you’ll always have to settle for the rare soul with the intelligence and interest and never get more than that.

Maybe an hour for a couple days a week for a few weeks just isn’t enough time.

Maybe the students don’t care that much.

Maybe you need something more interactive than lectures – let students see evolution at work on a computer.

Maybe this is the best we can ever do because of the nature of the human condition.

Comment #53226

Posted by Adam Ierymenko on October 22, 2005 7:21 PM (e)

“Science is not a democracy.”

I really hate this talking point. The problem with it is that it makes science sound like an argument from authority, and thus makes it sound indistinguishable from religious fundamentalism.

One of the most important things about science is that it is *not* an argument from authority. You don’t have to believe evolution because someone tells you it’s true. You can go see fossils or do experiments yourself if you want. Even if the National Academy of Science or the NSF or the Royal Academy or whatever decides tomorrow that evolution is not a real phenomenon and that the universe was “intelligently designed,” I will still believe that evolution is a real phenomenon because I have seen the evidence myself! If ID papers start passing peer review, I will *still* not believe them because I *understand* how they are intellectually vacuous and, again, I have personally seen and experienced the evidence for evolution.

In this sense science *is* a democracy.

I see this talking point as also having the objective of avoiding what really has to be said: the *universe* is not a democracy. The universe doesn’t care what we believe. It is what it is. It is the cosmos that is inflexible and will not yield to our whims.

People seem to have a hard time saying that… for much the same way as an alcoholic has a hard time saying “I have a drinking problem.” We don’t like to admit the objectivity or impartialness of the universe because it leave us no wiggle room for fantasy or dishonesty.

Comment #53227

Posted by Adam Ierymenko on October 22, 2005 7:32 PM (e)

Sorry to flood the comments, but I have one more point.

Above I wrote: “We don’t like to admit the objectivity or impartialness of the universe because it leave us no wiggle room for fantasy or dishonesty.”

Mystics and religionists like to teach us that they universe *is* governed by consciousness and that we can literally do anything if we want to (or if God permits it).

They say that they are liberating us by teaching us to see beyond the rigidity of the universe. “It is not the spoon that bends… it is yourself…” “Do… or do not… there is no try…”

This view sounds really good to us, but I have come to view it with deep suspicion and contempt. It was sort of a combination of several things, including “trying out” mystical beliefs for myself and also living through the Bush years here in the U.S. and watching how mysticism has softened up our minds to accept fascist political ideology.

The mystics tell us they are liberating us by teaching us that the universe has no fixed nature. In reality they are softening up our reason and our grip on reality to make us easier for them to control. Teaching us that the universe has no nature independent of ourselves (or of some supernatural God or spirit) allows them to substitute their own doctrines for reality in our minds. This is the great bait and switch. The bait is the idea that if we throw out objective reality we can gain access to something higher; the switch is that the “something higher” is the replacement of reality with someone else’s carefully constructed myth. When reality has been replaced with someone else’s myth, you are their slave.

When I hear some scary authoritarian politico or religious fundamentalist commanding us to do one thing or another, I know that I am free and he is impotent because the universe does not care. Next time you hear one of them, go outside and look at the stars and laugh at their impotence.

Comment #53228

Posted by K.E. on October 22, 2005 7:38 PM (e)

Adam said

We don’t like to admit the objectivity or impartialness of the universe because it leave us no wiggle room for fantasy or dishonesty.

This is part of the problem
The “why”
For those who must believe …OK the universe “god” does care about you… stop crying, can we get on and do the science.

Comment #53232

Posted by Phil on October 22, 2005 8:06 PM (e)

Adam Ierymenko wrote:

It’s essentially an evolutionary argument. Religious conservatives may not believe evolution, but they often do a much better job *practicing* it than liberals and other secular-minded “modern” folk do.

This makes a lot of sense to me. If you considier religions to be existent in meme space, then their continued existence and success implies that they are strong, survivable memetic structures.

Perhaps what is required in response is for us to… intelligently design a competing structure around science in general, and evolution in particular.

Comment #53233

Posted by Gary Hurd on October 22, 2005 8:30 PM (e)

[quote]You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology.[/quote]

Sorry, but that is piffle. Manson was “brought up” in various forms of government custody during a period of solid religious and political conservativism in the US. His most solid followers belived he was their messiah. He turned them largely by manipulating their repressed sexual desire. The “Children of God” Christian cult worked the same tricks (pun intended) but avoided drugs and murder. Charlie was created by “strong traditional religion.” L. Ron Hubbard also schemed aginst the liberal ethic by encouraging his followers to feel superior to nonscientologists, and then allowing them to buy more superiority. No need for liberal’s good works, scientology superiority can be had for cash money. And when did Hubbard launch his scam? Thats right, in the solid politically and religiously conservative 1950s.

Comment #53234

Posted by Gary Hurd on October 22, 2005 8:43 PM (e)

You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology.

Sorry, but that is piffle. Manson was “brought up” in various forms of government custody during a period of solid religious and political conservativism in the US. His most solid followers belived he was their messiah. He turned them largely by manipulating their repressed sexual desire. The “Children of God” Christian cult worked the same tricks (pun intended) but avoided drugs and murder. Charlie was created by “strong traditional religion.” L. Ron Hubbard also schemed aginst the liberal ethic by encouraging his followers to feel superior to nonscientologists, and then allowing them to buy more superiority. No need for liberal’s good works, scientology superiority can be had for cash money. And when did Hubbard launch his scam? Thats right, in the solid politically and religiously conservative 1950s.

As for Matt and Taner’s concern, Liberal (note capital) is not the same as “soft headed” or even “open minded.” I will listen to nearly any sort of BS from conservative creationists at least the first few dozen times, but there it is not any likelihood that I’ll be conned by them. This is “tolerance,” a Liberal virtue. Those of us who are science activists tend to think that anything short of creationist concession is failure. The error here is not recognizing that religious freedom, which includes ‘freedom from religion,’ is a Liberal -and not a conservative- virtue.

Comment #53235

Posted by Don S on October 22, 2005 8:45 PM (e)

Hmm. If you ask me, science is definitely not a Democracy.

It’s a Republic.

Comment #53236

Posted by Julie Stahlhut on October 22, 2005 8:57 PM (e)

I think there are probably as many approaches to “mysticism” as there are to religion itself – it’s a mistake to consider either concept monolithic. I personally don’t seem to have had a mystical bone in my body at any stage of my life, but I know a number of people, including fellow scientists, who consider themselves to have had mystical experiences. Most of these people take their experiences with the same equanimity that, say, Kenneth Miller has applied to the coexistence of his firm grasp of science and his strong religious faith.

The “fairness” angle is, IMO, a much, much bigger problem, because the popular view of “fairness” means that there are exactly two sides to an issue and both deserve to be heard. This idea has considerable merit in discussions of whether or not to take a specific action, but it’s limited to decisions that are under human control. You can choose whether or not to smoke cigarettes, and if your city is holding a vote on an ordinance that would ban smoking in restaurants, you can choose to vote either for or against the ban. Either you smoke or you don’t. Either the ordinance passes or it doesn’t. But you can’t vote on whether or not smoking causes lung disease. (Or, more precisely, you can if you’d like, but it won’t make a bit of difference to either the smoke or your lung tissue.)

Unfortunately, our society is being sold the idea that every conceivable issue has exactly two sides that deserve equal time and can be judged in debate. This may or may not have given us real fairness, but it has given us “fair and balanced news” as well as other vacuous slogans like “teach the controversy”. This approach sells books and TV viewership, it encourages sponsors to buy airtime, and it’s being skillfully used as a political tool. It also encourages students to conflate the physical world with the world of opinion. That, to me, is frightening. It brings to mind the infamous story of the White House aide who allegedly disparaged the reality-based community.

Incidentally, in competitive high school or college debate, it’s not even necessary to personally support the position you’re promoting in your presentation. The purpose of competitive debate is to hone the debaters’ argumentation skills, and not to establish whether a statement is true. One would hope that argumentation skills alone aren’t considered sufficient for understanding either nature or politics. But, in the popular view, that idea itself has become debatable. Perhaps we should vote on it.

Comment #53237

Posted by Jokermage on October 22, 2005 9:04 PM (e)

Regarding the “Is science democratic?” question:

I’ve always felt that science, if described as a political construct, is a meritocracy. Optimal and proven choices are promoted while ineffective and disproven choices are demoted. This is how a lot of systems (including nature) work.

However, trying to explain science using political metaphors is probably a bad idea, no matter which metaphor you try to use.

Comment #53239

Posted by Steve S on October 22, 2005 9:14 PM (e)

You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology.

Reply posted on the Bathroo—uh After the Bar Closes.

Comment #53247

Posted by Kathy on October 22, 2005 10:14 PM (e)

I am posting for the first time and have only read a few of the posts for today, so apologize in advance if i step all over the topic like a bull in a china shop.

In my working mode, i am a professional engineer and testify in court fairly regularly on groundwater pollution cases. Basically i fight corporate entities that do not believe that gravity causes pollution to travel through dirt and get into the groundwater (hahahahaha).

Invariably during my testimony I have to say the following: “gravity does not care if you believe in it – it does not care if you know about it or even understand it – gravity does what it is going to do, period end of conversation.”

and i actually use those words (smile).

same with evolution…it is a physical phenomena on this planet. it does not care if you know about it, or understand it, or believe in it…it just happens.

what we are doing is trying to figure out how it happens and when it happens. we do this by looking into the geologic past (fossil records and geologic formation aging) and currently (microbiology/DNA). It is that simple.

Just as the guy whose car slips off the road because he is traveling too fast— and the momentum of his car was greater than the friction forces that would keep it on the road — finds himself upside down in the ditch (and hence did not understand gravity or angular momentum) is probably pissed. but guess what? it did not matter that he believed he would stay on the road – the physical laws of our little planet prevailed.

just so with ID/CR/EV (my abbreviation for the controversy)…evolution just is. no amount of arguing will change the fact that it is occurring and has occurred. but what will happen in our strange little litigious country is that we will find ourselves fighting for truth in science in front of judges and juries that for the most part flat will never understand the science (or they would have grown up to be scientists instead of lawyers). Take it from someone who is in technical hearings all the time — judges don’t get gravity for crying out loud, how are they going to understand 3.4 billion years of evolution?

by the way i am educated in petroleum engineering so have a soft spot for fossils found in the Permian age (smile). and absolutely understand change over time (long long long time).

back to you - k

Comment #53252

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on October 22, 2005 10:52 PM (e)

Actually, in the purest sense, science *is* an argument from authority, the “authority” being the universe.

Comment #53253

Posted by jeffw on October 22, 2005 10:53 PM (e)

“Science is not a democracy.”

Science is a democracy, but the citzenship requirements are quite formidable (as they should be). Not as tough as switzerland, though.

Comment #53257

Posted by Eugene Lai on October 22, 2005 11:58 PM (e)

Please don’t compare science to any political model.

Firstly, science is not about majority wins. Therefore it is not democratic, not in the sense of election anyway.

Secondly, science is not about might makes right. Therefore it is not autocratic either.

Thirdly, science is about finding the truth, something politics is known to actively avoid. Therefore any analogy between science and politics is bound to be inapt.

Comment #53258

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on October 23, 2005 12:04 AM (e)

Giving “intelligent design” creationism equal time in science classrooms is like giving a couch potato equal time at quarterback for USC. Merit matters in science.

Comment #53261

Posted by Gerry L on October 23, 2005 12:30 AM (e)

I think we can all agree that science is not democratic in the sense that people can vote on it by raising their hands or marking a ballot – as is implied in those surveys about how many people believe in biblical creationism. As they say on FactCheck.org (quoting I can’t remember who) “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.”

Comment #53269

Posted by plum on October 23, 2005 2:27 AM (e)

About objections to the lesson point “science is not a democracy.”

The problem with this (and something I didn’t realise when I posted earlier) is that, as Eugene points out, it’s a bad analogy. Comparing a field of naturalistic study to a political model is like comparing apples and oranges (or mousetraps and bacterial flagellum).

So it’s badly worded. Ditch it and go for something more precise but still easy for kids (and a non-science inclined public) to understand. So, to reformulate (and incorporating K.E.’s suggestions):

1. Some scientific ideas are better than others. Saying the earth is flat is not as good as saying it’s a sphere. (When kids ask why, you have a ready-made teaching moment.)

2. Scientific theories gain credence through dissemination and acceptance in peer reviewed research articles.

3. ID hasn’t had a single peer reviewed research article published yet.

4. Ergo: It is not science and there is no controversy. It may become a science in the future (of course, we know it never will, for good methodological reasons, but we needn’t get into that unless asked), but we owe to children to teach them sound science.

——-

For practical reasons, we need settle on simple talking points. Stop letting IDists set the speaking agenda and focus on the basic facts we want kids to take away.

Comment #53274

Posted by Pastor Bentonit on October 23, 2005 4:08 AM (e)

Adam Ierymenko wrote:

A living thing that decides for so-called rational reasons to refrain from self-perpetuation ceases to exist in future generations. So to remain in existence, rational ideas must defend themselves and perpetuate themselves.

The big challenge is how to harmonize this fact of nature with a commitment to open-mindedness. How can we remain “beyond dogmatic thought” and still defend what we might call our “collective mind” from aggressive dogmas, especially those that use our own liberal beliefs as vectors to spread?

I think part of the solution would be to form a rigid “meta-dogma” in the form of scientific epistemology, and defend that to the death. This is part of the subtext to the defense of science from ID and it’s brethren, as they are essentially attacks on our epistemology.

(emphasis added)

Sounds like “secular apologetics” to me…just an observation. I agree on the “attack on science” (epistemology) angle; IDC is in great part precisely that.

Comment #53285

Posted by GT(N)T on October 23, 2005 8:58 AM (e)

Kathy, good first PT post. I have a little problem with your statement:

“…we will find ourselves fighting for truth in science in front of judges and juries…”

The fight isn’t about truth in science, that is beyond the purview of judges and juries, the fight is about truth in education.

Comment #53287

Posted by Keith Douglas on October 23, 2005 9:30 AM (e)

The points about science not being a democracy are right on the money as far as they go. (In my view saying science isn’t a democracy will invite the question: shouldn’t it be?) However, there is still the fundamental question of how science is to play a role in the public sphere. There I am not nearly as confident what the answer is. If one must use a political analogy, the “consensus-ocracy” of some native American groups might be better: a scientific paper tries to persuade everyone to go along with its proposal, and the discipline moves forward with more or less uniform consensus, but individual researchers (like individual hunters or whatever in the NA society) and individual lay people are welcome to once in a while do their own thing, but if they stray too much and too often, they will be ignored in the future (killed by a bear or something, in the NA society, because cooperation is needed). That said, I don’t think the political analogies help.

I just don’t know what to say about people who reject the scientific world view, because as Adam said, subjectivism is extremely dangerous. The philosopher of science Philip Kitcher has a recent book about this (Science, Truth and Democracy) but I don’t like his solution either. See my review on amazon.com as to why. Incidentally the bit about subjectivism being totalitarian is quite clear from history, too. Heidegger, the most famous of the Nazi philosophers, was also anti-science and a subjectivist. (Note finally the dual to subjectivism is objectivism, not Objectivism.)

Comment #53288

Posted by Kathy on October 23, 2005 10:24 AM (e)

gt(n)t wrote: “The fight isn’t about truth in science, that is beyond the purview of judges and juries, the fight is about truth in education.”

my point: when i testify in court about groundwater pollution transport and fate issues, i always have to give a “beginner’s course” in flow through porous media that involves ideas like gravity, adsorption phenomena, and mobility of dissolved pollutants. These are fact-based issues (ie., the truth). Many times i am asked by the judge if it is my “opinion” that lagoon liners leak and my response is always that it is not opinion but fact…water flows through dirt due to gravity in direct proportion to the height of the liquid column and thickness of the soil liner.

the corporate engineers testify that they do not believe the liners leak (ie., opinion that negates fact). and even if they do leak, the pollution will “hover” in the subsurface.

without getting into specifics, there is some credence to the idea of “hover” BUT not with respect to the particular pollutants of concern and their respective charge and the ability of the subsurface to adsorb or filter them.

anyhoo….clearly not about evolution, but definitely about judge’s ability to understand BASIC science — the judges rule in favor of the corporation because of politics and corruption (i simplify the actual situation a lot for this post) not on the scientific facts.

hence, we (technical expert witnesses) find ourselves testifying about science but facing rebuttal themes of ‘not proven or why would we pollute our own environment” which are psychological arguments not technical arguments.

clearly the ID/CR dudes are all about the psychological argument — “it is so hard to understand thus god did it” versus the EV argument — “we are in the process and have been for some time to continually upgrade the theory of evolution”

my question to the ID dudes is this “is the intelligent designer the low bidder? is it a corporate entity or a some guy flying solo?”

I looked back at my Historical Geology textbook and all the plant fossil record that is presented there and wonder why in the world anyone would want to argue against such a vast amount of information. seriously. the oil and gas industry absolutely understands the proof of evolution in the fossil record - cripes they discovered most of it from core drilling looking for oil and gas…lots of correlation between rock formations and fossil record.

and i do not understand Behe at all. he appears to be educated, but then off he goes on some psychological argument about origin.

my humble opinion is that the origin of life is based completely on the concept of molecular bonding. not the types of bonds but the mere fact that bonds occur. without it – no stuff we can see and feel and measure. with bonding –seemingly a limitless amount of combinations that result in different stuff we can see, feel, measure and use ourselves to make more bonds and more stuff.

now if one has to have a god – give me the god of bonding, cause that dude is a freaking genius. the king of tinker toys and the master manipulator of energy.

back to you - k

Comment #53293

Posted by qetzal on October 23, 2005 11:36 AM (e)

plum, I would modify your points 2 & 3:

2. Scientific theories gain credence by explaining existing observations, and especially by accurately predicting new ones.

3. ID hasn’t made any accurate predictions. (The few predictions it has made, e.g. that flagella and clotting systems are “unevolvable,” have been inaccurate.)

I think the issue of peer-reviewed publications is slightly off point. It’s not peer review per se that leads to scientific acceptance, it’s the merit of the theory being reviewed.

Saying ID isn’t science because it hasn’t published any peer-reviewed articles just invites the claim that the “godless” scientific establishment won’t allow ID to publish in “their” journals.

It’s incorrect to say that ID isn’t science because it hasn’t published any peer-reviewed articles. It’s the other way around; ID hasn’t published any peer-reviewed articles because it isn’t science.

Comment #53294

Posted by Julie Stahlhut on October 23, 2005 11:45 AM (e)

plum wrote:

1. Some scientific ideas are better than others. Saying the earth is flat is not as good as saying it’s a sphere. (When kids ask why, you have a ready-made teaching moment.)

2. Scientific theories gain credence through dissemination and acceptance in peer reviewed research articles.

3. ID hasn’t had a single peer reviewed research article published yet.

4. Ergo: It is not science and there is no controversy. It may become a science in the future (of course, we know it never will, for good methodological reasons, but we needn’t get into that unless asked), but we owe to children to teach them sound science.

Argument #1 is dead on. I’d generally use arguments #2 and #3 only with people who have a firm grasp of item #4. After all, many of us are working on research projects that haven’t yielded any publications yet!

The approach I generally use goes more along these lines:

1. Scientific investigations deal only with the natural, physical world.

2. Many, if not most, religions assume the presence of one or more gods that can change the rules of the physical world. Belief in gods is one definition of religion, and anything that can change the laws of physics is by definition supernatural.

3. Therefore, you can’t test a religious/supernatural idea using the methods of science.

4. ID advocates claim that the scientific method can determine whether a supernatural intelligent agent created or is managing the physical world. But, since science can’t test the supernatural, ID is not science.

I’m sure a skilled ID debater could go around and around with a tiresome argument that an intelligent designer is part of nature and thus not supernatural. But, most of our teaching moments are directed at people who are not skilled ID debaters. And, of course, I often throw in my previous point about why debate skills alone don’t make a proposition true.

Comment #53302

Posted by K.E. on October 23, 2005 1:10 PM (e)

The point about debating is a good one.
I tend to say all you need to have a debate is 2 oposing views
and ask them why would I waste my time ? They either froth at the mouth or storm off.

Comment #53307

Posted by Mona on October 23, 2005 2:18 PM (e)

Gary Hurd, I have to take issue with your pronouncing “piffle” on the observations that: You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology.

You claim Charles Manson’s upbringing in a conservative foster care system, and that Hubbard launched Scientology in the 50s, supports your dismissal.

The 60s and 70s, which was a time of counter-cultural upheaval, saw an explosion of “cult” activity. And the radical left largely embraced and promoted it. (Many of the radicals of that era had been raised in conservative homes in the 50s, yet became just that, radicals.)

For one thing, Scientology did not take off until the 60s – in the 50s mostly all Hubbard did was sell his Dianetics book. For another, Jim Jones was stationed in California in the 60s, and received public patronage, including photo ops, from radicals like Jane Fonda. Further, when the Weathermen convened their “War Council” in Flint, Michigan shortly after the Manson gang gutted Sharon Tate and others, Bernadine Dohrn celebrated it, announcing: “Dig it! First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach. Wild!” And of course, there were the Weathermen themselves, as well as the Symbionese Liberation Army, and other violent political cults that attracted many in that era.

If nature abhors a vacuum, so does culture. Rejecting traditional religion, in droves, is not necessarily healthy for any society. I’m not a believer in any religion or gods, but I can observe history and see the important role of “social glue” that religion provides. A severe dissolution of that glue is bound to have consequences, human beings being as they are, and many needing to believe in something metaphysical and a Great Purpose. The wave of new religions and extreme political movements that we saw in the 60s and 70s provided belief systems to many who had lost faith in the mainstream religions and institutions.

Comment #53308

Posted by K.E. on October 23, 2005 2:32 PM (e)

Is that a case for a separate comparative ethics and religion class in schools (which isn’t against the constitution)?

Comment #53309

Posted by Ed Darrell on October 23, 2005 2:39 PM (e)

We should be careful to point out to kids and to policy makers the rather rigorous process by which science “accepts” ideas, and why it is so important to be so rigorous. We should list a couple hundred beneficial results of applied evolution theory – the almost-done eradicatio of cotton boll weevils from the U.S., broccoli, the fight against influenza, etc. – and point out that only an idea that had been rigorously tested could produce such beneficial results, or should be trusted to produce such results.

Then we should note that intelligent design has not been subjected to any rigorous testing, and that there are no practical results from applied ID hypotheses.

And then we should ask: Is it fair to let ID be taught to otherwise innocent children, when it has not gone through the testing that all other science ideas have gone through?

Remind people of the farce that resulted from eugenics in the 1920s and 1930s. Remind them of the dangers from thalidomide, and the process by which the U.S.’s FDA had acted to prohibit the drug in the U.S. before other nations had. Remind them of cold fusion, and note that there are dozens more peer-reviewed papers that offer support for cold fusion than there have ever been for intelligent design.

Remind people of the farce of Lysenkoism, how the Soviets under Joseph Stalin decreed Darwinian evolution “too bourgeois,” and how Darwinians were banned from teaching and forced into exile. Remind people that the application of anti-Darwinian science led to the failures of Soviet wheat crops, which led to the starvation of at least 4 million people and the Soviet Union’s having to purchase wheat from the U.S. on borrowed money, starting a mountain of debt that ultimately brought down the Soviet Union.

And ask again: Is it fair that intelligent design be given a pass to be taught to kids, when cold fusion is not? Is it fair that a potentially dangerous, or at least research-crippling, idea in science, be legislated into place, over proven science?

Ask whether it’s fair for Americans to be saddled with science the Soviets already proved to be dangerous and false.

Fairness? In a fair fight, truth wins, Ben Franklin said. The trick is to keep the fight fair. Insist on it.

Intelligent design is unfair to scientists, to science, to kids and to Americans.

Should we be fair?

Comment #53314

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 23, 2005 3:13 PM (e)

The fight isn’t about truth in science, that is beyond the purview of judges and juries, the fight is about truth in education.

No, its’ not about that either. It’s about political power and who gets to have it. The ID’s Wedge Document makes it crushingly clear that what they are fighting for is theocracy. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Our fight is to stop them.

And that has very little to do with science, or education.

Comment #53315

Posted by K.E. on October 23, 2005 3:15 PM (e)

Julie said

4. ID advocates claim that the scientific method can determine whether a supernatural intelligent agent created or is managing the physical world. But, since science can’t test the supernatural, ID is not science.

5. Science is not religion and cannot test religious concerns such as morals, your faith (list could go on)

Comment #53319

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 3:31 PM (e)

Mona-

I’m curious why you don’t view the current rise in the ranks and numbers of “evangelical christians” as a similar interest in a cult, just like those of the 60’s?

to me, the pheonomena and root causes seem to be quite similar, if more dispersed.

shall we always placate the cults in favor of “societal stability”? I think many sociologists would argue that isn’t tenable.

How about all the eurpean countries who have rejected religious fervor to a great extent? have their societies “collapsed”? I think not.

Perhaps you are buying into a fallacious argument here?

In fact, this would be a great scientific sociology experiment.

to start, we would have to get historical data as a reference, (real data, no subjective opinion), and then we actually might be able to propose some real hypotheses to test.

Now I’m no sociologist, but the steps required to test the hypothesis that religion is needed for social stability shouldn’t be all that hard to test. In fact, I would bet that an afternoon at the university library would turn up many relevant references.

I would lean towards thinking that to be a false hypothesis, but I could be wrong. Real science probably already has some input on the question.

Comment #53320

Posted by Mona on October 23, 2005 3:32 PM (e)

Lenny Flank writes: No, its’ not about that either. It’s about political power and who gets to have it. The ID’s Wedge Document makes it crushingly clear that what they are fighting for is theocracy. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

That is a well-supported accusation as far as the DI goes, given its stated purpose and who funds it (Ahmanson, a Xian Reconstructionist). But polls show majorities of Americans think ID should have equal time, and most Americans – including most born agains and evangelicals – are decidedly not theocrats. Most adhere to American civil religion that enshrines the Constitution and its Bill of Rights as something akin to a sacred text.

The Reconstructionists, by contrast, explicitly reject the Bill of Rights and the Enlightenment-driven foundation of this nation. It makes sense that they are going to object to methodological naturalism, among many other things; they are at war with the Enlightenment and its influence on politics whereby people agree to disagree in peace. Most Americans do not reject that compact.

If the majority of Americans can be convinced that ID simply is NOT science, I think they would abandon it. Americans do worship science, because of what it generates: antibiotics, life-saving surgeries, labor-saving devices, cheap computers, the Internet & etc. So, I believe many of them could be dissuaded from the DI agenda if it was made clear to them that the science they love for its benefits would be DESTROYED by including supernatural explanations in the scientific method.

Comment #53323

Posted by H. Humbert on October 23, 2005 3:54 PM (e)

The way I handle the “fairness” issue is to explain that ID already has gotten the opportunity to make their case. They failed.

The reason “teach the controvery” is bunk is precisely because there is no controversy among those who actually get a vote–scientists.

The average taxpayer is left out of this process, and that is really what they feel is unfair. They think their opinion should count for something. It can sometimes be hard to make them understand in a way that doesn’t offend them that, in the case of science, their opinions don’t matter for jack.

Comment #53328

Posted by Mona on October 23, 2005 4:07 PM (e)

Sir Toejam asks: I’m curious why you don’t view the current rise in the ranks and numbers of “evangelical christians” as a similar interest in a cult, just like those of the 60’s?

You ask many good questions, and I hope my somewhat dated understanding of these issues (I did a religious studies major as an undergrad, w/ an emphasis on religion in America, but that was 15 yrs ago) is adequate to answer them. You raise the point of Europe becoming secular without seeing destabilization, and that question has been addressed by sociologists of religion.

I approach these kinds of topics as a devotee of F.A. Hayek, who, among other things, believed change was good but that it is best accomplished slowly and organically. That is what happened in Europe vis-a-vis secularization, with the exception of France. That population was becoming more secular than the U.S. centuries ago; it evolved naturally. In the mid-19th century de Toqueville addressed the difference between Americans and Europeans, noting that the U.S. was based on a civil religion buttressed by a devout population, unlike most of Europe. France, however, had become far more secular in the wake of a very bloody revolution that imposed secularism. The U.S. never experienced that kind of disaster; it did the Enlightenment differently. Here, Xianity became “tamed” by Enlightenment values and began to feed them.

As to the current popularity of evangelical religions, that does not bother me. For one thing, it would be a very great error to assume evangelicals are all conservative, at least fiscally. They can be most anti-Randian. And their history in the U.S. is one that, for some of them, includes the social gospel, supporting everything from abolitionism to women’s suffrage.

They do tend to diverge from other “liberal” positions on issues like, say, abortion. But that is not the only issue on the planet, and it is misguided to consign them to a theocratic pile based solely on that and a few other issues where they are with the “religious right.” Further, they are not invariable even on that issue.

Look at the current kerfuffle going on among conservatives re: the Harriet Miers nomination. She is an evangelical, and she opposes legal abortion. But many on the right are having conniptions because she is very friendly to affirmative action and to women’s concerns about glass ceilings. They know fully well that Bush’s attempt to sell her on the basis of her evangelical religious beliefs is not sufficient to their concerns. Miers is actually in the tradition of “social gospel” Evangelicals, as is George Bush to a certain degree – he is fiscally anything BUT conservative. And he is on record as being unwilling to use his office as a bully pulpit to pick on gay people, which he was invited to do by a TX minister. Then there is his evangelical wife, Laura, who like *some* evangelicals, including Condi Rice, is pro-choice.

So, in sum, conversions to evangelical religions are conversions to bedrock American belief systems, and they almost all stay within and affirm the system. They are not culturally disruptive as, say, a mass conversion to Scientology or the Symbionese Liberation Army would be. Evangelicals are literally as American as apple pie, but they are not a politically homogeneous lot.

Comment #53331

Posted by Matt Young on October 23, 2005 4:29 PM (e)

Thank you all for the splendid responses to my posting. The discussion is bringing a lot of latent posts out of me. Let’s look at just 2.

1. For a discussion of religion as adaptive behavior, see Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, by David Sloan Wilson, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2002. Professor Wilson has reintroduced the controversial topic of group selection – the contention that natural selection can apply to unrelated groups as well as to kin groups.

2. Mr. Flank’s observation that many evolution deniers embrace social Darwinism is fascinating. It’s impossible to get inside anyone else’s head, but surely some reject evolution because they see it as amoral and do not want to believe in an inherently amoral universe. Social Darwinism, currently disguised as free-market economics, is not amoral; it is immoral. Why? Evolution is amoral because we can’t do anything about it; social Darwinism is something we can correct and occasionally have corrected. For example, what made the American auto workers prosperous was not the free market but the constraints put on the market by strong unions and government regulation. The free market (that is, a market controlled by giant corporations) had, rather, brought us starvation wages and long hours in unsafe conditions. Unhappily for the American auto workers, social Darwinism is staging a comeback.

Comment #53332

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 4:33 PM (e)

actually, the assignment of evangeleicals to one political movement or another is a different topic. I can easily provide evidence as to where how and why there was a movement within the republican party in the late 70’s/early 80’s to begin embracing the evangelicals; in fact i posted some relevant articles in the after the bar closes area.

the only related part of my post was a discussion of the rise in popularity of evangenlicals as similar to the rise in popularity of cults in the 60’s.

I understand a conservative’s desire to define the evangelicals as being “aside” from mainstream conservatism (though you kinda have to be careful which conservatives you mean), however it doesn’t address the behavioral/sociological aspect of the apparent increase in the ranks of evangelicals to begin with, nor the similarity to cult phenomena i raised.

thanks for the on topic history lesson of secularism in europe. However, my point in raising it was that there appears to be no INTRINSIC need for religion per say in order to maintain stable societies. Your brief summary only serves to reinforce this point.

don’t get hung up too much on Miers. a lot of opposition is simply to her apparent lack of experience and qualifications for the post, aside from any extreme positions she may/may not harbor (currently or in the past).

the fact the GW would even TRY to “sell her on the basis of her evangelical religious beliefs” should be of tremendous concern to both sides of the issue, and to the public at large. Not just for Miers, but for the current administration.

Comment #53336

Posted by Mona on October 23, 2005 5:02 PM (e)

Matt Young posts: Social Darwinism, currently disguised as free-market economics, is not amoral; it is immoral.

Free market economics is not, or at least is not necessarily, Social Darwinism. Adam Smith was not a social Darwinist, and neither am I, nor was Nobel Prize-winning economist F. A. Hayek. Hayek, for example, did not oppose labor unions, tho he and many of his followers object to some legislation that gives what we see as too much (counter-productive) power to organized labor.

To tie back to ID and how to debunk it for “the masses.” I would not advise an attack on “free market” economics. Those markets are heavily dependent on science, and have generated the standard of living that Americans esteem. As a female, I credit American capitalism for more of my liberation than anything Gloria Steinem did. I was able, due to medical technology, to stop at three children. Due to medical technology, I could safely bet that all three would survive to adulthood, and that I need not bear ten to retain three. I was able to earn an advanced degree while raising them, because rather than canning food for the family and sewing everyone’s clothes, I availed myself of the canned, for zen and fresh produce sections at the supermarket, and I bought ready-to-wear clothes at K-Mart and Sears. I washed/dried my clothes and dishes courtesy of Maytag and Kitchen-Aid.

And I knew it was not likely I’d be a decrepit, toothless crone at age 40, if I was even still alive. I knew I would probably still be alive and healthy, and able to pursue other life interests, something new in history. Markets, and the science that feeds them, did all that for me.

One way to approach those who think ID is such a groovy idea is to show that all of this bounty would be impossible if, say, those who designed dishwashers considered the elf theory of hydrodynamics.

Comment #53341

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 5:24 PM (e)

Markets, and the science that feeds them, did all that for me.

…and laws controlling unrestrained markets made sure that all that medical technology wouldn’t kill you outright a high percentage of the time, nor that your airplane would fall out of the sky due to unrestricted market economics dictating “acceptable losses”, etc etc etc.

get your facts straight (or at least remember to provide more detail). this is NOT, nor ever WAS a free market economy, no more than the US was ever a democracy by definition.

the fact that there needs exist restrictions on free market economics at all indicates why they can’t produce a functional society in their pure form. for many of the same reasons, in fact, that we have a republic rather than a democracy.

Comment #53345

Posted by Mona on October 23, 2005 5:29 PM (e)

Sir Toejam writes: thanks for the on topic history lesson of secularism in europe. However, my point in raising it was that there appears to be no INTRINSIC need for religion per say in order to maintain stable societies. Your brief summary only serves to reinforce this point.

The U.S. has not had a Hitler, Stalin or Robespierre, after the era of the Divine Right of Kings passed leaving nothing solid in its place. The UK did not have those things either, but then, they still have an established church, and blasphemy is still a crime there. Nothing horrible filled a vacuum there and the UK evolved slowly into a parliamentarian democracy that still pays residual lip service to the monarchy. Might that not go to its long-standing stability?

France, which is secular, has had how many republics now since the kings and religion were dethroned?

The U.S. is supported by a civil religion that is Xian at its roots, but that incorporates Enlightenment values such as those in the BOR. My point is that a sudden, rapid rejection of that religion is harmful to the compact.

Comment #53346

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 23, 2005 5:34 PM (e)

But polls show majorities of Americans think ID should have equal time, and most Americans — including most born agains and evangelicals — are decidedly not theocrats.

True. But then, most Americans are uneducated, uninformed, uninvolved dolts.

They don’t know any science, don’t care about any sciecne, and don’t want to learn any science. All they know is that someone is telling them that science is anti-god, and Americans like their god.

That is OUR fault. More specifically, it is our fault both because the mainstream religious denominations haev done a piss-poor job of demonstrating to people that science and religion are not in conflict, and it also because the anti-ID movement has been, at least verbally, dominated by atheists who ALSO assert that science and religion can’t live with each other.

Neither of those things helps us. Both of them hurt us.

Let Americans know that evolution doesn’t mean they have to give up their sky daddy, and they will smile happily and go back to watching “reality TV”.

Comment #53349

Posted by Edin Najetovic on October 23, 2005 5:38 PM (e)

Science is indeed not a democracy. I think it is most comparable to a beehive hierarchy. Nature is queen, and the scientists are the drones that fly around her and work. Bees work for the good of the hive, scienctists work to find out what nature is. But the scientists are not the authority, nature is.

So science could be called a natural dictatorship… sounds pretty natural to me.

Comment #53350

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 23, 2005 5:40 PM (e)

The U.S. has not had a Hitler, Stalin or Robespierre

Not yet.

I think that probably has something to do with the ayatollah-wanna-be’s lack of any charismatic leader who people will rally around. Most of the religious right is about as charismatic as three-day-old oatmeal. Some, like Robertson, are genuinely insane. Others, like Dubya, are simply stupid.

Comment #53351

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 23, 2005 5:42 PM (e)

My point is that a sudden, rapid rejection of that religion is harmful to the compact.

Perhaps, perhaps not.

But then, I am not seeing anyone advocating or even talking about rapidly rejecting this or any other religion …. . except in the paranoid rantings of the lunatic fringe.

Comment #53354

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 5:58 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #53357

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 6:14 PM (e)

damnit! i wish someone would eliminate error checking on this board.

*sigh*

The U.S. has not had a Hitler, Stalin or Robespierre, after the era of the Divine Right of Kings passed leaving nothing solid in its place. The UK did not have those things either, but then, they still have an established church, and blasphemy is still a crime there. Nothing horrible filled a vacuum there and the UK evolved slowly into a parliamentarian democracy that still pays residual lip service to the monarchy. Might that not go to its long-standing stability?

nope. in fact, it was the total rejection of religion in government because of some very nasty results of said union that has resulted in the current stable UK society.

I’m sure if you asked most any englishman on the street, you would find a dramatic difference in their view of the appropriate role of religion in government than that of the average american.

uh, they laugh when they hear our president lauding Miers religious background as if it was a legitimate qualification for a post on the supreme court. Are you sure you can’t see a difference there?

perhaps you had forgotten much of England’s history?

Also, you mentioned France, i assume you intended to somehow use that as an example of secularism inciting instability, but that would be a poor example. Frances geo-political history of constant invasion due to it’s position within europe probably has far more to do with its past instability than any secularism/relgious influences.

as a counter, take most of scandanavia; it has become RAPIDLY secularized over the last few decades, yet has retained its stability quite nicely.

again, my point being that even ONE successful example of a secularized society would support the idea that there is no INTRINSIC need for religion in society in order to maintain stability…. and there are many more than just one example.

I wouldn’t have disagreed with your generalized definition of the average american’s religion, if we were talking about the 70’s or earlier, but current poll data indicate a very large segment of the US population rejects enlightment values. the proportion of folks who reject evolution, for example, is around 43% and hasn’t changed for about 20 years now.

If the majority of evangelica xians reject evolutionary theory (they do), then for the same reasons they reject evolutionary theory, they could easily reject the rest of any enlightment era values you can think of in similar fashion.

sure sounds like a cult to me.

*shrug*

Comment #53360

Posted by David Harmon on October 23, 2005 6:19 PM (e)

It’s not just that science isn’t a democracy, it’s not any> kind of -ocracy. Science is not governed. Consider that many of the “wingnut” crowd claim that the “mainstream” scientists are conspiring to “keep them out of the club”. This shows the same sort of misunderstanding – an assumption that if all the “real scientists’ are saying the same thing, it must be because somebody is telling them what to say. Needless to say, that just isn’t how it works!

Scientists agree because they are consulting a common reference, namely “the real world”. Science works because, unlike divine relevations, the real world is consistent. This is not a matter of faith or conviction, but of lengthy experience – as we cycle through the steps of the scientific methods, we do in fact find that experiments and measurements do in fact produce patterned results, which we can eventually explain with theories and principles. Even more impressive, once we’ve learned how the real world works, we can use that knowledge to manipulate the world, with technology. That’s where the “authority” of science comes from – as far as understanding and controlling our world, science is what works, and no amount of hyperbole, misdirection, nor even outright force, can overcome that.

Comment #53361

Posted by Pastor Bentonit on October 23, 2005 6:20 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag ‘kwikcxml’

Comment #53364

Posted by Mona on October 23, 2005 6:44 PM (e)

nope. in fact, it was the total rejection of religion in government because of some very nasty results of said union that has resulted in the current stable UK society

This is simply not true. As I wrote earlier, prosecutions for blasphemy will and do still stand in Britain, but not in the U.S. They have an established church, as does, I believe it is Denmark. (Lutheranism.) Their cultures tend to be secular, but they have relatively slowly entered that place with accommodations, such as established churches, that work for them, but would be anathema to us.

Secularism has evolved naturally in these countries, to the extent it has, but with important religious holdovers. It did not do so in France, which covered itself in blood trying to bring a wholly secular state about tout suite and has struggled through some five republics since.

My point is that cultures are not so malleable that a bunch of folks can decide to jettison the dominant tropes, succeed to any significant degree, and not pay a price. To my mind, Hayek was right when he applied evolutionary constructs to society, arguing that some beliefs are selected for. A successful culture is such because of its bedrock beliefs, and they should not all be chucked abruptly, root and branch.

The American civil religion has, so far, worked. It lets anybody in as long as they sign onto an endorsement of the “sacred” nature of the Constitution. that is a rather amazing phenomenon, historically speaking (and yes, I know it has not always been perfectly realized).

Turning to your views on “cults,” I’m not sure I understand your point, or that you understand what a cult is. Evangelicals, by definition, are not cult members. Cults, sociologically speaking, are new religions (or political movements), and Evangelicalism is older than the nation. It is a religious movement that has withstood the test of time and in the U.S., has grown with, contributed to, and adapted itself to American mores. Many new religions do not make this adaptation, and some are even hostile to the civil religion, which is why they can be destabilizing.

Comment #53365

Posted by Eugene Lai on October 23, 2005 6:51 PM (e)

Edin Najetovic wrote:

So science could be called a natural dictatorship… sounds pretty natural to me.

Why insist on analogies? Why coin new terms just for the sake of it? What about “No analog is apt”? Science is about who has more evidence in explaining the universe. No politics ever operates on evidence, period.

The more analogies of this type, the more confusion they will cause to the lay audience.

Comment #53366

Posted by Mona on October 23, 2005 6:53 PM (e)

But then, I am not seeing anyone advocating or even talking about rapidly rejecting this or any other religion … . . except in the paranoid rantings of the lunatic fringe.

That advocacy happened in the 60s. It was largely successful with the young, and then we saw an explosion of popular religious and political cults filling the vacuum. That kind of vacuum was the subject introduced early in the thread by someone who has not commented lately. I don’t think anyone argued that this was a particularly current problem.

Comment #53369

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 7:09 PM (e)

This is simply not true. As I wrote earlier, prosecutions for blasphemy will and do still stand in Britain

that implies nothing about the extend to which religion is important in government. btw, how many brittons do you think have been prosecuted under that law in the last 50 years, eh?

please, you are showing a complete lack of knowledge of british politics that is unbecoming of your more usual informed posts.

you actually haven’t addressed any of my points regarding secularism, merely restated yourself. is that the way you debate issues? what about the rapid secularizations that have occured in scandavia? were those “natural evolutions” that took long periods of time? i think not.

you still have NOT shown any evidence in support of the idea of an intrinsic need for relgious belief to stabilize modern society.

there is no “american civil religion” to which you refer. there is catholicism, evangelism, mormonism, presbyterianism…. etc etc etc.

which of these would you characterize as significantly different from the others wrt american practices and belief structures?

I worry that you are closing your mind to the obvious.

Evangelicals, by definition, are not cult members.

oh? let’s examine the defintion of “cult” shall we:

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary lists five different meanings of the word “cult”32:
-formal religious veneration. Worship.
-system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents
-a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents
-a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
-a: great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad
b: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

I think your definition of “cult” is a more modern connotation you derived from your apparently negative experiences in the 60’s.

feel free to correct me, but you can check wiki or any other source yourself and see.

as to your characterization of “evangelical xian” again, i think our defintions are somwhat in disagreement. if you really think you can characterize modern “evangelicals” in similar fashion to what one might call and evangelical during early christian eras, you are quite mistaken and in danger of seeming more than a bit naive.

in fact, it is the difference between what most would consider to be representative of the modern evangelical movement in america vs it’s traditional definition that leads me to characterize it as a cult to begin with.

it’s obvious to me that you are incapable of seeing that for yourself, or in actually providing real world evidence to support your position on the impact of secularization on society, or that you ever will bother to actually research the socio-political organization of modern europe to support any of your arguments (or argue against mine, for that matter).

ergo, it’s pointless to continue.

for my part, I encourage anyone who cares to examine countries like Denmark and Holland for themselves and see what the effects of rapid secularization have and HAVE NOT been. go speak with any UK buddies you might have and ask them how they view religion as playing a role in government in the UK.

I have, and it’s quite interesting, to say the least.

Don’t believe the hype: religion is no more needed to provide stability to modern society than it is to explain evolution.

If you want to have faith, do so for the right reasons, not as an argument from its value to society at large, but as value to yourself as an individual.

Mona’s description of religion’s value to society reminds me of those who have, throughout history, pointed out the use of religion as a crutch. We can certainly see past both sides of that debate, can’t we?

Comment #53370

Posted by the pro from dover on October 23, 2005 7:12 PM (e)

I had to move this from another posting-it was deleted Dembski-style. You have all heard of the “wedgie document” well it’s actually just a part of a larger book called “Origin of the specious by means of Intelligent Design or the perpetuation of biblical creationism in the struggle for donations”. I dont have the whole book but here is the last paragraph. “It is uplifting to witness complete paralysis of high school education obscured by many experts with no pertinent credentials, with fundamentalists singing in the churches, with biology teachers bowing to political pressure and with lawyers crawling out from under damp rocks and to realize that this elaborately constructed baloney so different from mainstream science and dependant on wealthy conservative donors has all been produced by ideas from the Discovery Institute. These ideas taken in the greatest sense being complexity with specification, mathematical improbability which implies supernatural intervention, dishonesty from the out-of-context mining of quotes and from denial of peer reviewed empirical data: a rationalization of saving souls which leads to a struggle for values and as a consequence to Intelligent Design entailing ad hominem attacks on character and extinction of the scientific method. Thus from the war of culture from ignorance and fear the most exalted object we are capable of concieving namely a fundamentalist Christian theocracy directly follows. There is no methodologic materialism in this view of science powerless to generate even the simplest of testable hypotheses and whilst America goes on circling the drain from so useless a concept endless litigation most costly and most detrimental has been and is being designed. With apologies to Charlie himself TPFD.

Comment #53371

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 7:14 PM (e)

oh and mona -

ever consider the possibility that the vacuum was created by the sensless society being promoted in the 50’s?

most historians believe the rise in cult behavior in the 60’s to be a result of the false societal values being promoted by those in power during the 50’s…. and nobody viewed those values and being secular in nature, that’s for sure.

your mind is exactly backwards on this issue. it was the imposition of “psuedo-religious values” rather than the absence of them that spawned the explorations of the 60’s.

Comment #53373

Posted by Steve S on October 23, 2005 8:01 PM (e)

Comment #53370

Posted by the pro from dover on October 23, 2005 07:12 PM (e) (s)

I had to move this from another posting-it was deleted Dembski-style.

I highly doubt that. Nobody here is interested in the absolute suppression of criticism, as Dembski is. It was probably moved to After the Bar Closes or something.

Comment #53377

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 8:15 PM (e)

yes, it was moved from the sticky on Dover, just like all the rest of our off topic posts there were, and was explicitly stated by Wesley would be done several times.

i guess tpfd missed that tho.

Comment #53378

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 23, 2005 8:18 PM (e)

That advocacy happened in the 60s.

Huh? You mean all those people who were adopting Eastern religions and who made TM an American phenomenon?

Or maybe you mean the Jesus Freaks?

Or how about all those religious people involved in the civil rights movement (Rev Dr Martin Luther King comes to mind)?

Did you actually live in the 60’s, Mona? Or do you just read about them in loony right-wing tracts.

Comment #53383

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 8:30 PM (e)

would it be pushing belief to take a guess that Mona is a McCarhthy apologist?

no insult intended.

Comment #53393

Posted by the pro from dover on October 23, 2005 8:48 PM (e)

I’m much too computer illiterate to find these other sites in fact I have clicked onto “Pandasthumb” at times from internet explorer and gotten creatioinist websites..what’s with that?

Comment #53395

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 9:04 PM (e)

good question. what creationist websites do you get when you click on your link for PT?

could be interesting…

to fast forward, i begin to wonder if some of these creationist sites are using link forwarding spyware?

Comment #53399

Posted by K.E. on October 23, 2005 9:38 PM (e)

Isn’t this current wave of religiosity the result of Baby Boomer parents who are filling a “meaning and youth discipline” vacuum by a lazy latching onto the nearest and “fittest” available “product” in the religion space because of a perceived breakdown in society just a natural phenomenon anyway?

The “product” being aggressively promoted as though it were a new mobile phone network….

A materialistic answer for a materialistic society?

All the trappings of brand promotion and acceptance.. image amongst peers, belonging to an exclusive (cool) group, brand loyalty etc etc for both parents and children.

Demand and Supply.

Is the perceived extreme treat (lack of meaning, lawlessness, addictions, youyh discipline, outside attack )to society that strong that it is driving this push to an equally extreme religion.

I read a news report in the mainstream media that young people in France are more pious and conservative than their parents so I think the cyclic nature of the nature of man is not something that can be wished away.

It needs to be dealt with from a science teaching point of view anyway that allows peaceful coexistence. As Lenny notes the mainstream religions seem to be not getting the message through and it is left up to people without the knowledge and skill to deflect the hyperbolic language the fundies are using.

Comment #53402

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 23, 2005 9:59 PM (e)

All the trappings of brand promotion and acceptance.. image amongst peers, belonging to an exclusive (cool) group, brand loyalty etc etc for both parents and children.

hmmm, you might be onto something there.

I’ve seen marketing for annual evangelical christian events that would certainly fit with that characterization.

Comment #53452

Posted by Jeff Guinn on October 24, 2005 7:01 AM (e)

Mona:

Excellent, thoughtful, posts. Thank you.

I lived for seven years in the UK from the early 80’s to the early 90’s. My experience there corroborates your analysis.

Comment #53455

Posted by Alan on October 24, 2005 7:33 AM (e)

I lived for 50 years on the UK until moving to France 4 years ago( to a part where the local people still smart with resentment over the Albigensian Crusade started by the Catholic northern French in 1209).

I find Sir_Toejam’s analysis #53357 (for example) closer to the mark than Mona’s. I can’t recall a blasphemy prosecution, for instance, in my time in the UK since a couple of high-profile cases in the late sixties.

Comment #53456

Posted by Flint on October 24, 2005 7:50 AM (e)

As a point of interest, pandasthumb.org is right here. However, pandasthumb.com takes you to a religious site.

Comment #53486

Posted by Bob Lane on October 24, 2005 11:12 AM (e)

The following paper was published in 1983. I post it here not only to show my skills as a crystal ball gazer, but also to indicate how, some 22 years later the same debates are still around. Although “creationism” has evolved into “Intelligent Design” the claims are the same and the argument for equal time seems to be working.

Challenges to Science

Humanist in Canada, Summer 1983

By Bob Lane

©2005 Bob Lane

Over the past two hundred years science has proved itself to be the most powerful intellectual method yet devised. The “scientific method” has become the paradigm for all disciplines which deal in empirical fact. Observation, generalisation, falsification, repetition of experiments have become orthodox methodology which is rarely questioned and not often understood.

Today there are several challenges to science. In the United States, and to some degree here in Canada, one of the centerpiece theories of contemporary science — evolution — has come under strong attack by a group of fundamentalist Christians who call themselves “creationists”. They are trying to get creationism taught in the school system as a scientific theory on equal footing with evolutionism.

A second challenge comes from those who believe in paranormal phenomena: ESP, out-of-body travel, clairvoyance and the like. The tremendous interest in this area of “psychic” phenomena is witnessed by the procession of movies, books, television shows, and newspaper columns devoted to the mysterious powers of people who can, seemingly, bend spoons with mind power alone, predict events before they occur, and, in general, are tuned in to some dimension of reality that the rest of us, bound by our five senses, can only vicariously experience. Are any of these phenomena real? Or are they merely hoped for evidence of some spirit world that promises us immortality? Or are they, more seriously, hoaxes perpetrated on a gullible audience for very non-scientific reasons, like greed?

Yet another challenge to science comes from a different quarter and is motivated by a more complex human response. Is all research good research, or should we limit research in principle on the grounds that there are forbidden zones in science?

These three external challenges, plus some others which could be called internal (the problems, for example, raised by fabrication in the laboratory, or faulty data, or invalid inferences) were described, debated, and discussed in a conference called Challenges to Science sponsored by Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. The conference chairman, Professor Norman Swartz, is a professor of philosophy at SFU. Swartz, assisted by SFU’s Office of Continuing Studies, brought together a group of scholars to present their findings on these challenges to science. The conference committee drew on a large body of distinguished specialists in philosophy, science, psychology and magic to ensure that the areas of discussion were pertinent and that the participants were indeed experts in their fields.

The general format of the conference had one point of view set against another with participants presenting papers which were commented upon and then discussed by conference participants. For example, the creation-evolution controversy was chaired by Professor Resnick, chairman of philosophy at SFU, who introduced the antagonists: Kelly Seagraves, of the Creation-Science Research Center in San Diego, California who talked about his belief in special creation and his desire to force schools to teach creationism , on a par with evolutionism. Taking the position that “creation science is not genuine science” was historian and philosopher Michael Ruse, from the University of Guelph.

Seagraves’ basic argument is that since evolution is merely a theory, not a fact: therefore it should compete with other theories, such as the creation story in Genesis, on an equal footing in science classes in the school system. His position relied heavily on his belief that people hold a certain set of suppositions based entirely on the bias and prejudices present in the person. He argued that scientists are no different from anyone else in bending the facts to fit a preconceived theory. Thus, he attempted to cast doubt on the evolutionary model and to plead for equal time for a creationist model.

I found this a very dangerous argument. We all tend to find the equal time request reasonable and fair. But we must be clear just what is being asked by the creationists. They want evolution taught as a theory and not as fact. Fair enough. But they also want textbooks and course materials which offer special creation as a scientific theory on a par with evolution.

That’s not fair. As Deputy Minister Robert Stewart from the Ministry of Universities, Science and Communication pointed out in the keynote address, a theory is a scientific theory if, and only if, one can imagine an experiment that could falsify the theory. A scientific theory, in short, has to be testable, in principle, through being falsifiable. There is no conceivable data that the creationists would allow as falsifying the Genesis-based special creation story. Therefore, it cannot be a scientific theory. Should special creation be taught? Yes, but not in the science class.

Ruse pointed out that behind the name “Creation Science” was little science and a strong belief in the literal reading of Genesis as actual fact. Also speaking was Reverend George Hermanson who said “creationism is bad theology and bad science”.

Who won this round? The evolutionists showed clearly that they did not hold a priori belief in their theory, could imagine data that would falsify, and were continuing to debate the mechanisms of evolution. Mr. Seagraves failed to convince that creationism is a science, and hence his claim that it should be taught on an equal footing as science makes no sense. However, this debate will go on, not in science laboratories but in the political arena, or perhaps in the courts, as has occurred in California and Arkansas. In short, you can expect the creationists to continue to urge equal footing for their “theory”.

The “paranormal phenomena” section of the recent conference in the SFU-sponsored ‘Public Issues and Philosophy’ series began with a special session at the Images Theatre. There, Professor Ray Hyman, of the University of Oregon, entertained a large audience with a demonstration and explanation of a psychic reading.

Hyman is a clinical psychologist and is also a magician. He began doing magic tricks as a child to entertain his family. Later he discovered that he could make money doing magic, and still later learned that giving psychic readings was even more lucrative. For a while, in fact, he believed he had some special power until during one reading a friend told him to tell the client the opposite of whatever came into his mind. He did and was astonished that it made no difference — the client still believed that what was said was true!

In this session Hyman predicted accurately what card would be picked at random from a deck of cards (normal chances from a normal deck: 1 in 52) and also predicted what a calculator, fed numbers by several audience members, would read as the answer to an arithmetic calculation. There were gasps of excitement when he opened the envelope and we saw that the “predictions” were correct.

Calling this demonstration “Imposing Meaning on Ambiguous Messages” Hyman went on to call on a volunteer from the audience and give a “reading” by using palmistry. The young lady, unknown to him before that moment, agreed he was 95 per cent accurate in what he said about her. He then explained how to do cold reading by observing the clients’ clothing, the body language cues that are given, staying very general until you receive a cue, etc. The session was not only fun but certainly made the point that we can impose meaning On ambiguous messages and not even be aware that we are doing so.

What followed had Professor Donderi, a clinical psychologist from McGill University, arguing that paranormal phenomena are a part of normal science and that magicians, psychic readers and charlatans had no place in the labs of serious researchers searching for real psychic phenomena. I was convinced that if there is anything to all of this stuff, people like Donderi would be able to find out by using carefully scientific and statistical models in carefully controlled experiments

But then Ray Hyman presented, not a magic show, but an exhaustive review of the very best paranormal research and concluded that there was really nothing there. Granting that it is impossible to prove the truth of the claim “there are no paranormal phenomena” since no scientific claim can be proved beyond doubt (again, falsification is the important concept in scientific theory) he nevertheless made the case that:

(1) Many times, researchers in the paranormal re imposing meaning on ambiguous messages;

(2) The very best of the paranormal research is flawed in design or in result so seriously as to make it suspect.

He rested his case by reminding the audience that William James, after spending 25 years investigating claims of the paranormal, had concluded there was no evidence at all indicating the reality of the phenomena.

The winner? Ray Hyman by a technical knock-out.

Third challenge: Are there forbidden zones in science?

Three philosophers presented their views on this subject, and the views were complex. Edwin Levy argued, for example, that some scientific knowledge is dangerous and should be forbidden or limited by society. He thought we should resurrect what he calls “the archaic view” that some knowledge is not appropriate for human beings. The example he used was from agricultural science where research has produced a new high-yield rice plant which, when put into production, had the consequence of totally disrupting the life and culture of the countries blessed by this gift of Western science.

Both Levy and Dworkin (University of Illinois) argued that society must assess the consequences of scientific research and judge on the basis of those consequences whether the research should proceed. Research that attempts, for example, to show that in telligence is either a racially or sexually determined matter has such evil consequences that it should not be allowed.

In some ways this is the most complex of the challenges faced by science today. Many would agree that if we did not know how to build atomic weapons we would be better off as a species. The manipulation of DNA has become another technique where we really have no way of predicting what the consequences of unlimited research will be. And perhaps a more serious threat to science and to life comes from so- called “mandated science” where scientists are hired to represent an institution (for example, B.C. Hydro) with a special interest.

This aspect of science turns out to be the most con fusing, for we are constantly buffeted by claims and counter claims that cannot be true together. One group of scientists tells us that chemical sprays are harmless to humans while another group warns us of impending doom.

It is in the social application of science that most of our lives are touched daily. It is for that reason that we need to be informed and to elect informed politicians. We might also begin to push for a “scientific court” made up of scientists whose livelihood is not depen dent upon special interest groups or companies who could rule on questions of a scientific nature in an objective manner, a kind of supreme court of science.

Bob Lane Is the Coordinator of Philosophy at Malaspina College in Nanaimo, B.C. [was in 1983]

Comment #53578

Posted by the pro from dover on October 24, 2005 6:32 PM (e)

yes it was the pandasthumb.com website–I was freaked. I’m still unclear on the “sticky from dover” concept. Regardless is my microphone turned on? I thought “origin of the specious” was pretty darned funny since it came to me in a fevered dream. TPFD.

Comment #53580

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 24, 2005 6:38 PM (e)

As a point of interest, pandasthumb.org is right here. However, pandasthumb.com takes you to a religious site.

Reed/Wesley:

It would be worth your time to file a claim to that domain (pandasthumb.com) as well as pandasthumb.net, pandasthumb.cc, etc.

you could easily make a legal argument in favor of claiming the domain as essentially belonging to you, since others owning it creates “confusion”. the law at this point is on your side.

Comment #53586

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 24, 2005 6:53 PM (e)

nvm about the .net addy, i see you already have it.

Comment #53587

Posted by the pro from dover on October 24, 2005 6:57 PM (e)

interrupted by wife needing computer– to continue about the pandasthumb.com I was routed to the site of “uncommon descent” what struck me was the face in the upper left hand corner. I thought to myself “it is so improbable that anyone would look like this from known human genetics that this face had to be designed” I just cant figure out what kind of intelligent designer would be so cruel. I had a brief crisis of faith.

Comment #53599

Posted by geogeek on October 24, 2005 7:47 PM (e)

Webster’s is probably more broad than what most people think of when they think of “dangerous, religious-type cult:” try this one for size:

“Cult (totalist type): a group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing, and employing unethical, manipulative or coercive techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, promotion of total dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, suspension of individuality and critical judgment, etc.), designed to advance the goals of the group’s leaders, to the possible or actual detriment of members, their families, or the community.” (DJ West, 1989)

Comment #53607

Posted by Julie Stahlhut on October 24, 2005 8:38 PM (e)

Edin wrote:

Nature is queen, and the scientists are the drones that fly around her and work.

Actually, bee-wise, real drones would just mate and die. It’s the workers – generally sterile females – who work. :-)

– Julie
Entomology geek, hymenopteran division

Comment #53609

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 24, 2005 9:12 PM (e)

As a point of interest, pandasthumb.org is right here. However, pandasthumb.com takes you to a religious site.

So now the fundies are adopting the same tactics as the porn sites.

How appropriate.

Comment #53837

Posted by Mona on October 25, 2005 10:24 PM (e)

that implies nothing about the extend to which religion is important in government. btw, how many brittons do you think have been prosecuted under that law in the last 50 years, eh?

please, you are showing a complete lack of knowledge of british politics that is unbecoming of your more usual informed posts.

I’m sorry, I have trouble keeping up, in terms of time.

I would commend to you Leonard W. Levy’s book, Blasphemy: Verbal Offense against the Sacred from Moses to Salman Rushdie. See especially chapter 26, “The Gay News Case.”

In 1976 PM James Callaghan warned a Danish film director not to enter England to film a “pornographic” film about Jesus. The Archbishop of Canterbury denounced the planned film as blasphemous, and Callaghan warned the filmmaker not to try to come make it. He didn’t.

In that same year, the poet James Kirkup published a poem about Jesus in Gay News, in which Jesus is depicted as gay. Kirkup and the GN editor were tried and convicted of blasphemy in 1977. At appeal to the Court of Appeal to Queen’s Bench in ‘78 the conviction was upheld, and in 1979 the House of Lords also upheld the conviction.

As Levy writes: “After the Lords sustained the convictions in the Gay News case, efforts were made to abolish the common law of blasphemy by an act of parliament. All failed.” One should watch oneself in the UK, as people do (according to Levy), before criticizing Christianity or saying anything “demeaning” about it.

Interest in Britain’s blasphemy law has lately been rekindled by Muslims who wish to see blasphemy against Allah added to the crime.

Comment #53840

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 25, 2005 10:49 PM (e)

your exceptions prove my point.

one, that it isn’t very common

two, that recent interest is being generated by interests that origninated OUTSIDE of the UK.

Moreover, this does NOT discount what i said about what the average UK citizen thinks about religion in government, as opposed to what we see here in the US.

you are equating interest in a specific law with a general attitude, which is not the case in the UK

also, you might want to check out the scandanavian countries, like i suggested, for perhaps a clearer view of how secularization has not caused destabilization, which was my point to begin with, and the most important point i keep raising.

again, your specific law does not imply a need for religion per sae, more than it implies an anarchic infrastructure that never bothered to do away with it, so occassionaly some take advantage of it.

as odd as it is, the situation in the UK is very different than here.

In the UK, you have a general secular attitude amongst most of the population, but a constitution that never bothered to separate church and state.

In the US, you have a majority with religious attitudes, but with a constitution that very clearly demarks the seperation of church and state.

perhaps rather than looking at specific laws, you might be better off looking at poll data on these questions?

it’s readily available for both UK and US issues along these lines, as well as for the Scandanavian countries i mentioned.

I’m not interested in continuing further unless we address what i see as the critical issue:

Is religion NECESSARY to maintain societal stability?

I still say no.

Comment #53843

Posted by Mona on October 25, 2005 11:26 PM (e)

Sir TJ writes: your exceptions prove my point.
one, that it isn’t very common
two, that recent interest is being generated by interests that origninated OUTSIDE of the UK.

No, no. British Muslims within the UK are seeking to have blasphemy against Allah added to the crime. These are internal, not external forces.

In any event, you claimed it had been over 50 years since blasphemy was prosecuted in the UK. This is not so, as the Gay News case shows. Further, in 1989, the British Board of Film Classification refused to allow the movie Vision of Ecstasy (about St. Teresa of Avila, and what the producers felt were her repressed sexual feelings) to be shown on British TV; in 1990 the Video Appeals Committee upheld the finding that the film was blasphemous. According to author Levy, a British freethought journal said this demonstrated “the utter absurdity of the blasphemy law.”

And again, Levy argues this extant law inhibits speech in the UK; it only takes one or two prosecutions to chill speech.

Several commissions looked into repealing the blasphemy law in the UK in the 80s, issuing deeply divided multiple reports, but Parliament did not repeal the law.

Levy’s book was published in ‘93. I have not tracked British blasphemy law since then except to read that some native Muslims recently wish to see offense against Islam added to the crime.

Comment #53846

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 25, 2005 11:51 PM (e)

British Muslims… is that part of the orthodox church of england?

In any event, you claimed it had been over 50 years since blasphemy was prosecuted in the UK

no, i didn’t. i asked you how many you think have occured in the last 50 years, knowing the answer would be very few. which of course, you provided confirmation of.

“the utter absurdity of the blasphemy law”

…and my question would be, do you think Levy’s position was the minority or the majority view for most Brittons, then and now?

btw, you are still missing my main point i guess. i think i reiterated it in my post previous to this one.

Comment #53848

Posted by Mona on October 26, 2005 12:07 AM (e)

Is religion NECESSARY to maintain societal stability?

I still say no.

Possibly. However, my point was not the necessity of religion per se (tho the jury is still out on that), but rather, a too rapid, disruptive jettisoning of it.

Imagine a primal people, say, Rain Forrest pygmies, who are animists who engage in ancestor worship. I think most of us would agree it would be awful for Westerners to rush in and “disabuse” them of their beliefs pell mell, and immediately raise their kids to believe only in empiricism. That would destroy their culture.

Somewhere in between that scenario, and a slow and natural progression toward secularism in some European countries, is the U.S. Religion is still a major factor in our civil enterprise.

And, now, I am to bed, and gone all day tomorrow, at least – work calls.

Comment #53854

Posted by Alan on October 26, 2005 1:51 AM (e)

Mona said

Possibly. However, my point was not the necessity of religion per se (tho the jury is still out on that), but rather, a too rapid, disruptive jettisoning of it.

Clémenceau may have been thinking along these lines1 ;)

In any event, you claimed it had been over 50 years since blasphemy was prosecuted in the UK.

I think that was me, when I said “sixties” and it was, as you point out, the”seventies”. Those cases were the death knell for the blasphemy law. Except UK governments like to leave redundant laws on the statute book (you never know when they might come in handy). Once legislators start trying to protect daft ideas such as particular faiths. rather than protecting the rights of citizens to have daft beliefs and not be discriminated against, where does one stop?

interrupted by wife needing computer

Ditto

Comment #53860

Posted by Ross on October 26, 2005 4:27 AM (e)

Mona,

Most charges of Blasphemy, or allegations of the same, over here often relate to portrayals of religious figures as gay - although there have been more threats of pursuing charges of blasphemy than actual cases. “Jerry Springer the Opera” (has that been shown in the US?) with its camp, black, nappy wearing Jesus was challenged by one of our fundie groups - but only when it was shown on TV. I’d suggest that this reflects the fact that we don’t object to religion being discussed or mocked but haven’t quite grown up enough about homosexuality.

UK citizens generally ignore people who cry “blasphemy” and even the most tolerant can recognise the fact that the Koran and the Bible are, by definition, blasphemous to each other. If we took our blasphemy law seriously then every single copy of the Koran would be destroyed as it is a central tenent of the Church of England that Jesus was the ‘son of god’ yet the Koran has him only as a ‘prophet’.

The idea that the blasphemy law would be extended to cover any religion but Church of England is laughable but we’ll keep it on the statue books (just as there’s still a law requiring all cars to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag) because change is to be feared*. Yes the Muslems want the blasphemy law extended - no they’re never going to get it.

What the governement has offered is a law against inciting religious hatred (an extension of our laws against inciting racial hatred) because the courts have ruled that ‘Moselem’ is not a race and therefore is not covered by the present law (unlike ‘Sikh’ or ‘Jew’ which are both religion and race). This is obviously inequitable and had to be addressed (although the proposed law is shoddy and poorly drafted)

Given your track record (spats with Leny aside) I’m surprised at your lack of knowledge of the history of the UK. Your suggestion that mid 19th century England was essentially secular is somewhat erroneous, I’m assuming that the analysis comes from Darwin et al (ironically) but society in general was utterly christian and completely church/chapel driven for the rest of the 19th and most of the early 20th centuries.

We don’t just ‘pay lip service’ to the Crown either - my oath as a member of the Territorial Army (our part-time soliders, a little like the National Guard I think) was to the Queen, not parliament. Mr Blair might have his hands on the levers of power but it’s only by the grace of Her Majesty that they stay there.

The UK avoided a lot of religious strife in part because we’ve had a theocracy and it didn’t work but mainly because a lot of discontented religious were able to ‘flee’ to the Colonies and, later, the United States where your admirable constitution gave them the freedom to practice their religions and develop Creation-science and ID

If I had to suggest why we haven’t have a Stalin or a Hitler - I’d say it’s because of the Monarchy, not religion. If you can’t replace the head of state it’s kind of hard to swing the country around and take control.

*How many Englishmen does it take to change a lightbulb?
Change?, Change!?! We’ve had that lightbulb for over a thousand years, why should we change it now?!

Comment #53919

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 26, 2005 1:49 PM (e)

If I had to suggest why we haven’t have a Stalin or a Hitler - I’d say it’s because of the Monarchy, not religion. If you can’t replace the head of state it’s kind of hard to swing the country around and take control.

playing devil’s advocate here, I’m sure Mona will bring up France again in this context, or maybe Czarist Russia?

Comment #53921

Posted by Stephen Elliott on October 26, 2005 2:13 PM (e)

I do believe the UK has had a Stalin/Hitler type leader.
His name was Oliver Cromwell.
Well; maybe more Stalin-lite.

Comment #54017

Posted by Ross on October 27, 2005 3:21 AM (e)

Sir TJ,

playing devil’s advocate here, I’m sure Mona will bring up France again in this context, or maybe Czarist Russia?>

IMHO, Czarist Russia replaced an absolute monarchy with an absolute civilian government - simple politics then gave rise to a Stalin-type leader. France had Robespierre (as noted by Mona) and has had a sting of dubious, centralising, corrupt presidents - I’ve lost track of which “Republic” they’re on at the moment whereas the US got it right first time!

Stephen,

I do believe the UK has had a Stalin/Hitler type leader.
His name was Oliver Cromwell.
Well; maybe more Stalin-lite.>

Interesting comparison but, in my opinion, Cromwell was nothing like Stalin - all of the actions for which he was condemned were culture-normal for the time (see thirty-years war for example) and a lot is propaganda following the Restoration. If I’m wrong and the comparison stands then it adds to my case that our ‘resistivity’ to dictators comes from our monarchical system rather than religion ‘cos Oliver was a ‘bit of a church-goer’ by nature.

Cromwell - the leader of our Theocracy and a fundie protestant theocracy at that! If you want to consider what the US under the Discovery Institute might be like you’d do well to read 17th century English History and extrapolate for technology.

Actually, reading my two answers I’d like to accept some of Mona’s points in that both Stalin and Cromwell (and Hitler to some extent) rose to power during periods of great change and I accept that this change could be a religious upheaval as well as a social one - the English Civil War wasn’t actually a religious war but effectivly returned a theocracy after the monarchy was overthrown.

Ross

Comment #54018

Posted by K.E. on October 27, 2005 3:37 AM (e)

Weren’t right wing Protestants complicit in Hitlers rise ?

Comment #54019

Posted by K.E. on October 27, 2005 3:39 AM (e)

Catholic’s behind Franco and a bunch of South American states
Power and glory go together

Comment #54036

Posted by Stephen Elliott on October 27, 2005 9:58 AM (e)

Sir TG,

With Oliver Cromwell, I was refering more to his sense of Fun=Evil civil policies.
His foul atrocities in Ireland where indeed the norm for his time, during war.

However, on another point. If the “US got it right first time!” Why was there a civil war later?

Is the UK alone in fighting a long and bloody war, to depose a monarchy; only to decide a relatively short time later, to re-introduce it?

Comment #54092

Posted by Sir_Toejam on October 27, 2005 2:55 PM (e)

actually, i was referring more to the resistance to change in government if it exists as a monarchy.

that’s why the reference to France and Czarist Russia.

These governments had Monarchies that were overthrown.

just a simple point.

Comment #54498

Posted by morbius on October 31, 2005 2:57 PM (e)

… most students … ended up thinking … we don’t really know [that is, no one knows] whether Darwinian evolution or ID is true

Then Dr. Edis badly failed to educate them.

Comment #54499

Posted by morbius on October 31, 2005 3:02 PM (e)

you claimed it had been over 50 years since blasphemy was prosecuted in the UK

Hmmm … is English not the native language of Brits?

Comment #54505

Posted by morbius on October 31, 2005 3:13 PM (e)

As a point of interest, pandasthumb.org is right here. However, pandasthumb.com takes you to a religious site.

So now the fundies are adopting the same tactics as the porn sites.

How appropriate.

Perhaps, but this isn’t an example, as you would know if you had bothered to look. The domain name is for sale, and the links it lists are paid for; most of those at the moment are anything but “fundie”:

Meme
Come to the ‘real’ light. Proving there is no God.
www.BetterHuman.org

God Without Religion
“A commonsense approach [leading] to inner peace.” -Melissa Etheridge
www.godwithoutreligion.com

Explore Your Faith
When you have too many questions and don’t agree with the answers.
www.explorefaith.org

Live Radio
Islam Exposed, know the truth. To know, you must understand!
www.islamtomorrow.com/

Religion Run Amok
7 Great Lies Of Organized Religion A Hard Look at Past & Present
CoffeehouseTheology.com

Comment #54507

Posted by morbius on October 31, 2005 3:37 PM (e)

Oops, I guess Mona’s not a Brit – perhaps that helps explain why she so misrepresents the situation there. But really,

The U.S. is supported by a civil religion that is Xian at its roots, but that incorporates Enlightenment values such as those in the BOR. My point is that a sudden, rapid rejection of that religion is harmful to the compact.

The point is both mistaken and, as has been noted, a strawman. And the first sentence is right wing religious propaganda expressed in a particularly meaningless form – the U.S. is a country, not in the category of things that could be “supported by a civil religion”. And neither American society nor the American legal system rests upon Christianity, regardless of what Roy Moore and his ilk claim.

Comment #54512

Posted by Julie Stahlhut on October 31, 2005 4:30 PM (e)

Morbius wrote, regarding the confusion of Dr. Edis’s students over evolution and ID:

Then Dr. Edis badly failed to educate them.

… but that’s undoubtedly an oversimplification. One person may communicate a subject very well, but still not be able to change student attitudes that are affected by other sources of information (or misinformation). There’s a considerable literature in the field of “student misconceptions”, and it shows that misconceptions aren’t held only by students who weren’t working hard enough, had indifferent teachers, or were exposed to crank science at home. I’ve seen a wonderful film (will try to look up the title on request) which followed a gifted, highly motivated, science-oriented seventh-grader as he studied a science-class unit on photosynthesis, aced the test, and STILL thought that plants gained weight primarily because they extracted food from the soil.

Photosynthesis is counterintuitive in some ways. We have to think hard about how carbon dioxide is incorporated into organic material in plants, because in our casual, qualitative experience, air doesn’t seem to weigh anything. Besides, we’re animals, so we have to make an effort to, pardon the expression, think like an autotroph instead of a heterotroph.

Macroevolution can be equally counterintuitive, especially to someone who has not been encouraged to think about it before. And, no one is out there trying to propagandize against photosynthesis! If you’re a teacher and you think you’re in control of what your students believe, you may be running up against a misconception or two yourself.

Comment #54514

Posted by morbius on October 31, 2005 4:55 PM (e)

… but that’s undoubtedly an oversimplification.

Lack of doubt is not a good approach for scientists. I think there is adequate basis for my statement, which was not absolute – just how badly he failed could be explored. But your comments about intuitiveness are irrelevant – the students reached the conclusion that “we don’t know [that is, no one knows]”’ but this is simply false, “we” do know, whether the students find the basis for this knowledge intuitive or not. One of the ways in which Dr. Edis failed was by presenting this as a “he said, she said”. The presentation of this subject as a one-on-one debate is poor pedagogy.