Gary Hurd posted Entry 1638 on November 3, 2005 10:00 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1633

Mr. Michael Balter wrote what he referred to as a “somewhat contrarian view on the ID controversy” which was published as an editorial by the Los Angles Times on October 2, 2005.

I happen to subscribe to the Los Angeles Times. I even tried to canceled my week-day subscription to the LA Times protesting the far-right political shift in their editorial pages. Perversely, the only result is that I now receive the paper for free. And, I did read the editorial written by Mr. Balter and would have responded at the time but for other deadlines. I was reminded when he posted a link to his essay on the TalkOrigins Feedback page for October. What irritates me most about Mr. Balter’s editorial is its presentation of ID arguments without refutations so that it reads more easily as a pro-ID than as anti-ID.

Mr. Balter, You wrote your article at the beginning of the trial phase of the Dover creationism case, and I am writing toward the end. I should have replied sooner, but I have had far too much fun reading the Dover trial transcripts. None the less, I would have written basically the same rejoinder a month ago as today.

You posed a number of questions, the first being, “Should ‘Intelligent DESIGN’ be taught in school alongside the theory of evolution?” You wave this off saying that this is the wrong question. This won’t do. This is the question at issue and there are several very good reasons what Intelligent Design or any other form of creationism should not be taught as alternatives to evolutionary biology. This fails quickly under simple consideration. First, the classroom hour is scripted down the the quarter hour (like my attorney’s billing rate) and there is not enough time under the current curriculum standards to actually present all the material in sufficient detail. The addition of a time-waster like ID to class schedules demands that something of merit be removed. The more creationism = the less science, even if you propose to use classroom time to criticize IDC. If you would like some further reason that teaching IDC is just plain stupid, read “Intelligent Design Has No Place in the Science Curriculum” by Harold Morowitz, Robert Hazen and James Trefil.

Second, Intelligent Design is creationism and is fundamentalist religion. This is not arguable. I direct you to “Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross for the best available dissection of this topic currently available. In a shorter form, there is also Dr. Forrest’s testimony in the Dover Panda Trial Days 6 and 7. Every significant IDC leader has admitted their prior religious faith and practice as their core motivation for promoting ID.

The American religious right has forgotten a critical historical lesson, which is that when government invades the church religious freedom is doomed and that injecting the church into government opens a two-way door that cannot be closed. The biblical analogy is the camel’s nose in your tent.

“A national debate over how best to explain the complexity of living organisms would better serve our children, and adults too.” which you followed by, “Most scientists don’t want any debate.”

A national debate over the “complexity of living organisms” is superfluous. There is no basis for debate on facts. Intelligent Design Creationism fails at every scientific test even disregarding its patent religious nature. We consciously took the premise that IDC was ‘scientific’ and addressed its ‘scientific’ standing in “Why Intelligent Design Fails”. Intelligent Design fails as science. I began to question your experience with scientists when you added that the majority of scientists “don’t want any debate.” As I have pointed out there is no “debate” over fact, but, it is true that the vast majority of scientists can’t afford to spend their time with these issues. They have productive work to do in field work and in their laboratories. The average working scientist won’t even notice this issue unless there is some interference with their studies. This interference is just becoming evident. It is becoming hard to find qualified student labor. Funding for critical research is withheld for political and religious reasons as we have seen now for nearly a decade in stem-cell research. Unchecked, this will drive talented scientists away from the US to more accommodating surroundings. In the 1950s and ’60s the “brain drain” flowed to America, but this is easily changed.

Using complex statistics, intelligent-design theorists contend that natural selection fails to fully explain life’s complexity, thus alternative explanations to evolution should be considered.

At most, William Dembski has promoted a statistical shell game that fools the mathematically challenged. Must I now count you in that number? For a thorough debunking of the “complex statistics” that have some people snowed, I recommend starting with “Not a Free Lunch But a Box of Chocolates” by Richard Wein, “Dembski “displaces Darwinism” mathematically – or does he?” by Mark Perakh, “Information Theory, Evolutionary Computation, and Dembski’s ‘Complex Specified Information” by Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit, and “William Dembski’s treatment of the No Free Lunch theorems is written in jello” by the co-discoverer of the No Free Lunch Theorems, David Wolpert. For a solid debunking of Michael Behe and David W. Snoke’s paper on computational models of protein evolution, I can recommend “Theory is as Theory Does” by Ian F. Musgrave, Steve Reuland, and Reed A. Cartwright. Further information can be gathered from the devastating cross examination of Dr. Behe by Mr. Rothchild representing the plaintiffs in the Dover Pandas trial.

As a rule, they don’t speculate over who or what did the designing.

This is true even though you are again very wrong, Mr. Balter.

It is true that the IDC advocates don’t speculate of the identity of the “Designer” because they are quite certain that he is the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God. They quite freely say, in front of friendly fundamentalist audiences, the designer is God. For example, Dembski recently (March 7, 2004) gave a talk at the Baptist Fellowship Church in Waco, Texas that was tape recorded. Relevant to the current topic, Dembski, in response to an audience member’s question said, “When you are attributing the wonders of nature to these mindless material mechanisms, God’s glory is getting robbed.” He further added, “And so there is a cultural war here. Ultimately I want to see God get the credit for what he’s done — and he’s not getting it.”

Intelligent-design proponents also argue that the scientific consensus on evolution is not rock solid. The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, whose Center for Science and Culture spearheads the intelligent-design campaign, has recruited more than 400 scientists to sign its “Scientific Dissent From Darwinism,” which states in part: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.”

Mr. Balter, you are a professional writer. You write for a magazine published by the world’s largest association of scientists. That magazine, Science, has published dozens of articles in just the last year or two about evolutionary mechanisms that could be construed as non-random- “random” defined by creationists as “blind chance” or compared to by intelligent design creationists as “coin tossing.” In this later sense, all mutation is not random. At the same time, mutation does not, and can not anticipate future conditions and in this sense is “non-directed,” or “random.” These are totally distinct meanings that I would have hoped a professional writer for one the world’s premiere scientific publications should have been able to grasp. And there have also been articles published in Science that illustrate the complexity of “natural selection.” What is it that does the selecting in natural selection? The answer is the environment. Yet, organism’s’ most significant interactions (the ‘selecting environment’) are with other organisms which are also evolving. A further example is the impact theory of dinosaur extinction which is the sort of event that no trivial model of “natural selection” can accommodate. I could sign the Discovery Institute “statement” if I were not aware that the Discovery Institute “statement” was a shill for creationism!

And why did you not observe that over 650 scientists named “Steve” who are actually qualified to have an expert opinion have signed the following unambiguous statement,

Evolution is a vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences, and the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of the idea that all living things share a common ancestry. Although there are legitimate debates about the patterns and processes of evolution, there is no serious scientific doubt that evolution occurred or that natural selection is a major mechanism in its occurrence. It is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to “intelligent design,” to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation’s public schools.

How many creationist signatories you are impressed by are named “Steve,” Mr. Balter? And on the other side of the pro-science coin, as of 2 November 2005, 9,151 signatures have been gathered from clergy supporting in part, “We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.”

In large part, Americans’ skepticism toward evolutionary theory reflects the continuing influence of religion. Yet it also implies that scientists have not been persuasive enough, even when buttressed by strong scientific evidence that natural selection alone can account for life’s complexity.

Could it be that the theory of evolution’s judicially sanctioned monopoly in the classroom has backfired?

For one thing, the monopoly strengthens claims by intelligent-design proponents that scientists don’t want to be challenged. More important, it shields Darwinian theory from challenges that, when properly refuted, might win over adherents to evolutionary views.

Mr. Balter is not a keen observer of educational issues in American schools. Perhaps living abroad has clouded his vision. Evolutionary biology is poorly taught, or not taught at all in most American classrooms as documented by Cornelia Dean for the New York Times. Go here for additional commentary from the National Center for Science Education. And from the Dover Panda trial, we learn that the creationist dominated school board was reassured that “macro evolution” and “common descent” were not taught in the Dover schools even before their official imposition of creationism. So, there has been no “monopoly” of evolutionary biology even in biology classrooms.

Mr. Balter used his essay to make some fatuous suggestions to “improve” the situation. He suggested classroom debates be held pitting creationism against science, and to have this echo nationally televised debates between scientists and “biblical literalists.” There are two rather ignorant features of this proposal. Easy first: it is a common fallacy that science is in diametric opposition to religion. This is not true even in the extreme case of biblical literalism such as Young Earth Creationism which posits the sudden creation of all existence, and of course life, just around 6,000 years ago. The existence of a entity that could create the universe as a simple act of will, could of course miraculously create that universe in any sort of condition that they wanted it. The point is that science is simply incapable of responding to such an assertion.

It is only the American Constitution that is protecting us from a 6,000 year old universe, global flood, and other assorted miracles being the legally enforced, mandatory religious beliefs dictated to all Americans. The Constitution is a very old and very fragile document that needs our protection. The least we can do is to keep public school science classes free of superstition and magic.

Mr. Balter’s essay next argues,

“Would this bring religion into the classroom? Religious faith and thinking are already in the classroom, as the opinion polls strongly suggest. And the courts should stay out of it because educators would not be required nor allowed to advocate a religious point of view.”

As we have seen in Dover, Intelligent Design Creationists and their more direct Christian fundamentalist brethren, count on the fact that public school teachers are prohibited from presenting any position that conflicts with a religious point of view. I frequently encountered this problem as Director of Education for a small natural history museum. For example, I could not present to public school children all the many reasons that we know that the “Noah’s Flood” never happened as described in fundamentalist/creationist myths. If I did this, I would be teaching facts but they would violate the US Constitution by discouraging a particular religious sect. Instead I could merely teach biogeography, and biostatigraphy and deflect any question regarding “the Flood.” This is a minor example of the problem faced by teachers every day. The “debates” called for by Mr. Balter could in fact be prohibited under the Constitution.

Let us consider what the First Amendment cases blocking religious indoctrination from public schools are really about. Science educators are prevented from exposing creationism’s absurdity in the classroom directly. We can insist reciprocally that creationists not inject their religious dogma in the guise of science. Creationists are crying for fair play - all right- they should start playing fair.

Near the end of Mr. Balter’s essay he makes the following assertion,

Given the opportunity to debate, scientists should say: “Bring it on.”

This is so foolish that I could almost be amused. Paraphrasing our creationist president is ironic, and I am glad that isn’t dead. The issue of creationism in school curriculums is political and this is a weak area for most scientists. Scientists have not shied from debate on the scientific merits of ID, there are none.

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Comment #55123

Posted by RBH on November 4, 2005 12:36 AM (e)

With reference to the “DI 400”, Richard Forrest on Infidels did an analysis that shows that roughly 1/3 have credentials more-or-less relevant to an understanding of evolutionary biology, while 2/3s are an aggregation of everything from dairy science to “alternative medicine”.

RBH

Comment #55132

Posted by Registered User on November 4, 2005 2:56 AM (e)

For example, I could not present to public school children all the many reasons that we know that the “Noah’s Flood” never happened as described in fundamentalist/creationist myths. If I did this, I would be teaching facts but they would violate the US Constitution by discouraging a particular religious sect.

Is there a case on point?

You can’t teach a kid that someone’s religion is less worthy than someone’s else’s religion or no religion at all, but it is not a Constitutional violation to teach in science class that a verse in some religious mythos is scientifically incorrect.

If you’ve got case law to the contrary, I’d be interested in seeing it.

So would Jim Dobson.

Comment #55133

Posted by Registered User on November 4, 2005 3:08 AM (e)

Let us consider what the First Amendment cases blocking religious indoctrination from public schools are really about. Science educators are prevented from exposing creationism’s absurdity in the classroom directly.

Huh? Since when?

How does exposing creationist pseudoscientific garbage as such qualify as “religious indoctrination.”

The First Amendment is not a protective bubble in which anti-science religious fanatics and bigots are allowed to exist without challenge from the real world.

The First Amendment merely protects those religious fanatics from the government-sponsored dissemination of religious alternatives to their fanaticism. For example, the government cannot tell Muslims that Islam is bogus and Christianity is the real deal. But the government can tell Muslims and Christians that there is zilcho evidence to support the “theory” that two of every “kind” of non-swimming animal were put on a giant ship 5000 years ago while the earth was flooded.

Why is this allowed?

Because it’s a fact – you know, like the kind of fact that is relevant in courtrooms in this country and will remain relevant as long as we don’t let sleaze artists like Jim Dobson and Jay Sekulow decide who gets to sit on the highest court.

Comment #55134

Posted by Registered User on November 4, 2005 3:21 AM (e)

Gary, other than my nitpicks above, I think you wrote a fine letter.

The answer to your question is: “just lame.”

Balter sez:

Given the opportunity to debate, scientists should say: “Bring it on.”

Hey Mr. Balter, I think you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to creationists, their garbage theories, and the way they choose to peddle their theories.

I want to debate you on that issue right here, as soon as possible. Are you up for that Mr. Balter? If so, please “bring it on.” I’m ready whenever you are. I’m guessing you aren’t up to the task but who knows maybe you are Lenny Flank’s worst nightmare come to life at last.

Or else Mr. Balter why not visit the American Enterprise Institute website and download the videos which demonstrate to any human who isn’t drunk on fundamentalist Christian kool-aid that creationist peddlers like Paul Nelson are dissembling cretins who can’t answer a straightforward question if their lives depended on it.

And you’ll get to see how Mr. Ryland, the VP of the Discovery Institute, happily tells bald-faced lies and refuses to apologize for the lies when he’s presented with the incontrovertible evidence for those lies – in real time! And of course you’re aware (or you will be by the time we finish our debate that you are almost certainly too cowardly to “bring on”) that without Mr. Ryland and his organization and the lies they propogate to our famously lazy American media, we would not be having this conversation.

“Bring it on.” You make me puke, Mr. Balter.

Comment #55144

Posted by morbius on November 4, 2005 4:23 AM (e)

Not surprisingly, DI loved Balter’s piece:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2005/10/support_for_a_healthy_debate_over_darwin.html

Robert Crowther wrote:

Support for a Healthy Debate over Darwinism Needed to Curb Infringements on Academic Freedom

Michael Balter is a Paris-based correspondent for the AAAS and the journal Science. In an opinion piece titled “Let ‘intelligent design’ and science rumble” in last Sunday’s LA Times, Balter argued that public acceptance of evolution was suffering because of the Darwinian monopoly on public education. Balter is not the first Darwinist to suggest that free and open debate on Darwinism and intelligent design is healthy for science and for science education. (See our list of articles endorsing our teach the controversy approach).

There’s a lively debate about the article (with some atheists and Darwinists agreeing with Balter even, including responses from Balter, at this blog. So, maybe there’s hope for academic freedom after all.

They must really love that AAAS association – but I wonder how Balter’s colleagues reacted.

The referenced blog comments are worth reading; contrary to Crowther’s claim, nearly all of the posters (who are mostly left wing politicos, not “atheists and Darwinists”) disagreed with Balter and pointed out some serious problems with his position. Balter’s own comments there are as far off the mark as his op-ed:

… you will see that I do not advocate TEACHING intelligent design in the schools. What I advocate is a DEBATE, the best way for any point of view to win points. My starting point is that the theory of evolution has, in effect, already lost the debate—this is what the opinion polls I cite show, and a more recent Pew poll came up with similar results. The overwhelming majority of Americans don’t believe it. As a science writer and former scientist, I find that unfortunate. But it does not make me think that I am smarter or superior to those who don’t buy evolution; it makes me think that something has gone wrong in the way the theory is being taught. It is being taught as a MATTER OF FAITH rather than a theory that has a lot of evidence behind it. The best way to sharpen the teaching process is by debating.

Balter obviously knows nothing of how evolution is taught, how it should be taught, or why it is so widely disbelieved among Americans. All he has are some woefully uninformed opinions that he states as fact, and a penchant for insulting scientists and educators.

Comment #55147

Posted by Chris Noble on November 4, 2005 5:55 AM (e)

I find this comment of Michael Balter’s illuminating.

Gravity is poorly understood by scientists, and as I write they are still debating what it really is and how it really works. Yes, by all means let’s debate gravity too–what a great way to teach it to students!

Marc Cooper’s Blog

By all means current theories of gravity are incomplete. But poorly understood?

By the same criteria electricity is poorly understood. Everything in science is poorly understood.

And if gravity is poorly understood does that mean that the only possible answer is that God personally intervenes and stops each of us from floating off the Earth? Or does it mean that the Earth is flat?

Chris Noble

Comment #55149

Posted by Chris Noble on November 4, 2005 6:31 AM (e)

The more I think about this statement the stupider it seems.

Gravity is poorly understood by scientists, and as I write they are still debating what it really is and how it really works. Yes, by all means let’s debate gravity too–what a great way to teach it to students!

Is he proposing that 9th grade high school students should be debating the merits of string theory and quantum gravity compared to Eintein’s general theory of relativity? What a great way to teach it to students!

Or is he proposing that supernatural explanations for gravity should also be debated?

Chris Noble

Comment #55150

Posted by morbius on November 4, 2005 6:35 AM (e)

It’s truly amazing that “let’s debate gravity too–what a great way to teach it to students!” is something Balter actually wrote, rather than someone parodying him. Since the debate occurs among the leading theorists over a long period of time in journals, seminars, and physics department hallways, just how does Balter envision this debate taking place in the classroom? But at least that debate is carried out via the scientific method, involving evidence, hypothesis formation, and falsification, with all parties cooperating to reach understanding the subject under discussion. A debate with IDiots is nothing of the sort.

Comment #55157

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 4, 2005 8:09 AM (e)

I’m guessing you aren’t up to the task but who knows maybe you are Lenny Flank’s worst nightmare come to life at last.

Nope. Mr Balter dropped into my DebunkCreation email list to set us all straight about “how to fight ID”. After being corrected on all his pompously-pronounced but hopelessly-wrong statements (“ID isn’t the same as creationism”, “debating IDers helps our side”), he left, quickly.

He also blustered something about “you people haven’t done as much as I have to fight the IDers”, which prompted me to write:

I’ve been fighting creationists for well over 20 years now. I’ve helped form local coalitions to fight them locally, mano-a-mano. I’ve gotten my hands dirty with real grassrooots organizing to oppose and beat them. I’ve passed out leaflets in front of churches and on street corners. I’ve gone door-to-door to raise money. I’ve written press releases and been interviewed by the press. I’ve recruited new coalition members. I’ve spoken at local school board meetings. I’ve worked on election campaigns for anti-creationist school board candidates. I’ve done lots more than talk – I’ve done all the nonglamorous drudge work that really gets political things done. Not very many ivory-tower academics (or freelance writer academic wanna-be’s) can say that. I strongly suspect that YOU can’t.

Many of us have our own websites debunking ID/creationism. Mr Brass had written a book on the subject. Others are members of anti-ID groups in Kansas, Florida, Ohio and elsewhere. Several list members are helping organize the anti-ID movement in the UK.

When the Dover story first broke, this list, all by itself, organized an international effort to donate over 20 topline science books to the Dover Public School Library (and by the way, the cooperation we got from other anti-ID groups in that effort was pretty close to zero).

Where were YOU while all this was going on, Mr Balter? Upon what vast experience do YOU presume to lecture others on the matter?

I never got any answer from him.

A few members of the DebunkCreation list became convinced that Balter is actually a closet IDer. Me, I think Mr Balter is just a naive academic-wanna-be (he is, IIRC, just a freelance writer) who demonstrated an abysmal lack of knowledge about even the most basic things concerning ID, and who thinks he’s much more important and profound than he really is.

I wasn’t terribly impressed by him. At least not favorably.

Comment #55178

Posted by Joe on November 4, 2005 10:13 AM (e)

Hi,
I could not find the videos on the American Enterprise Institute website
that was referenced above. Can anyone direct me. Thanks

Comment #55179

Posted by mark on November 4, 2005 10:15 AM (e)

The question of debating has been raised many times, in many places. Balter seems to simply fail to understand that the IDiots love public debating, because the rules are different than they are for scientific debates–public debates address existing biases, beliefs, and emotions rather than factual evidence. Convincing a jury of citizens is much different than convincing scientists working in the relevant field of research. We’ve seen the Creationists debate–shoveling untruths, out-of-context quotes, and misleading impressions over and over again. Just look at the apparent perjuries in the current debate involving Dover.
The Grand Debate has been going on for more than 100 years, and Creationism has been consistently losing. Some people simply cannot accept facts that disagree with their worldview.

Comment #55191

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 4, 2005 11:31 AM (e)

The AEI videos mentioned above were available HERE. Commentary on the videos by the National Center for Science Education is available HERE.

I knew I was rather slow to respond to Mr. Balter. Thanks for the links to other critical reaction. I agree with Lenny Flank that Balter’s not a “closet creatinist,” just a poorly informed newbie.

Comment #55256

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 4, 2005 6:47 PM (e)

The question of debating has been raised many times, in many places. Balter seems to simply fail to understand that the IDiots love public debating, because the rules are different than they are for scientific debates—public debates address existing biases, beliefs, and emotions rather than factual evidence. Convincing a jury of citizens is much different than convincing scientists working in the relevant field of research. We’ve seen the Creationists debate—shoveling untruths, out-of-context quotes, and misleading impressions over and over again. Just look at the apparent perjuries in the current debate involving Dover.

Balter reminds me of the (extremely naive) scientist who guest-posted here a while ago (sorry, don’t recall his name) about his “debate” with “Dr” Hovind. He went in all full of piss and vinegar, ready to show the poor rubes the error of their ways — and ended up getting the floor mopped with himself.

Despite all his bluster, I doubt that Balter would do any better.

Comment #55275

Posted by Norman Doering on November 4, 2005 8:49 PM (e)

An off-topic question:

I was checking out Dembski’s site and saw a note on Richard Smalley’s death. Dembski then said he became a Christian a year ago and had “begun to express his doubts about Darwinism publicly.” There were 2 links but they took me to ID sites, not Smalley in his own words. Dembski also claimed this: “Rick’s prediction at the end of his life was that ID would be mainstreamed in five years and that evolution in its conventional materialistic sense would be dead within ten.”

Does anyone know if Richard Smalley doubted evolution?

It smells bogus.

Comment #55277

Posted by morbius on November 4, 2005 9:04 PM (e)

Dembski attributes this to Smalley:

Evolution has just been dealt its death blow. After reading Origins of Life with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear that biological evolution could not have occurred.

If Smalley really said this, then he didn’t know what biological evolution is. Whether or not Dembski is lying about this, it’s just another IDioticly fallacious appeal to authority.

Comment #55278

Posted by RBH on November 4, 2005 9:34 PM (e)

And, like Stuart Pivar, Dembsi quotes a dead authority who is unable to contradict him. Lady Hope springs eternal in the creationist breast.

RBH

Comment #55279

Posted by morbius on November 4, 2005 9:35 PM (e)

Apparently Smalley really did drink the koolaid:

http://philbio.typepad.com/philosophy_of_biology/2005/04/fallacies_at_in.html#comment-4915405

Another prime example of the ID mainstay, Argument from Unqualified Authority. A nobel-prize winning chemist believes in superstitious fairy tales and rejects evolution because of it. Conclusion? Evolution is unsupported by the evidence.

I wonder if folks like Richard Smalley are what Michael Balter meant by “reputable scientists who believe it”, as he stated at DebunkCreation (he was asked who he meant, but ran away without answering). I wonder if Balter realizes that such a statement is an Argument from Unqualified Authority. I wonder if he realizes that he’s trafficing in ID rhetoric.

Comment #55280

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 4, 2005 9:36 PM (e)

Dembski then said he became a Christian a year ago and had “begun to express his doubts about Darwinism publicly.”

But ID has nothing to do with religion. No sirree, Bob.

Is there ANY fundie who’s not a goddamn liar?

Comment #55281

Posted by morbius on November 4, 2005 9:38 PM (e)

And, like Stuart Pivar, Dembsi quotes a dead authority who is unable to contradict him.

To be fair, Smalley wasn’t dead when Dembski quoted him. OTOH, Smalley was no authority on the subject of the quote.

Comment #55284

Posted by morbius on November 4, 2005 10:01 PM (e)

Here’s a remarkable entry in the comments section of Dembski’s report of a Nobel laureate (Smalley, unidentified) saying that evolution is “bankrupt” and that ID would be mainstream in 5 years:

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/160#comment-868

(kip) Isn’t argument from authority a common logical fallacy:
http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/aa.htm

I think that (ii) applies in this case.

[Much of what we believe is taken on authority — and rightly so since we do not have the time to check everything out thoroughly in our brief lives. The argument from authority only becomes a fallacy if we think that this is enough to establish a claim. It’s not — ultimately there need to be sound arguments and evidence to back a claim up. Nonetheless, credible authorities give us good reason to think that the claims they are authorizing can indeed be backed up. –WmAD]

Which followed this little exchange:

Bill, is this seriously going to happen. Did two scientists really assess evolution as bankrupt?

Benjii: I don’t bluff. I don’t take prisoners. –WmAD

Bill, may I ask what fields these scientists practice?

A question that Dembski never answered.

Comment #55286

Posted by Pierce R. Butler on November 4, 2005 10:22 PM (e)

Speaking of James “Spank ‘em!” Dobson, his organization’s latest spin on the Dover trial and ID in general can be seen here.

A few highlights, from “Focus on the Family Action Origins Analyst Mark Hartwig, Ph. D.”:

… the ACLU is arguing that requiring students to learn about ID amounts to “coerced religious practice.” This is blatantly false, but if the courts go for it, ID would likely be classed with school prayer and Bible reading.

, … cases like Richard Sternberg, a Smithsonian-based researcher who also edited a small, peer-reviewed biology journal. When he allowed a major pro-ID paper to be published, upon approval by three reviewers, his life turned into a nightmare…. a federal investigation confirmed that they tried to drive him out of his job… This kind of thing all is going on everywhere. In fact, there’s an entire book on it that’s still in manuscript. When it comes out, I think people will be amazed at how widespread the harassment is - and how mean.

, … there seems to be a kind of anti-religious hysteria sweeping some segments of our society. There’s just a visceral fear and hatred of anything that even whiffs of Christianity.

, … My best guess is that Bush’s victory galvanized long-held anti-Christian stereotypes, causing many folks to drop all pretense of pluralism and join the battle in earnest. And I think it’s particularly bad in origins because ID has been so spectacularly successful.

, … ID theory merely takes our natural reasoning and expresses it in more explicit, rigorous terms. It then seeks to apply it in such areas as genetics, cell biology, molecular biology and so on. Of course, that’s the part that’s got some folks wrapped around the axle, because living organisms were clearly not designed by humans. And if humans didn’t make them, then who did?

[leading commas inserted to force KwickXML to recognize para breaks]

Note how Hartwig’s spiel - apparently anticipating a loss for ID in Dover - dovetails with Dobson’s crusade against “judicial tyranny” and the ACLU, as well as the “Christians are being cruelly oppressed!” hysteria now routine among political preachers. A link to his 1990 “Missing Evidence” paean to Philip Johnson is provided for the masochistic.

Comment #55447

Posted by Chris Noble on November 6, 2005 7:17 PM (e)

When did Michael Balter become an evolutionary biologist?
Dean’s World

Chris Noble

Comment #55450

Posted by Steve S on November 6, 2005 7:34 PM (e)

Dembski also claimed this: “Rick’s prediction at the end of his life was that ID would be mainstreamed in five years and that evolution in its conventional materialistic sense would be dead within ten.”

Last year after Dembski made this kind of comment himself, I emailed him, asking him to name a metric by which we would know that ID was winning. He refused, telling me to read Kuhn if I wanted to know how scientific revolutions become accepted. It was an obvious dodge, for obvious reasons.

Comment #55729

Posted by Michael Balter on November 8, 2005 4:35 AM (e)

I’ve just now seen all this. The amazing hysteria with which my Los Angeles Times piece has been discussed on this blog just provides ammunition for the ID’er claim that Darwinism has become a secular religion to some. How else to explain the anger and intolerance for any dissent even within the scientific community itself? I write about evolution and its Darwinian mechanisms for Science on a very regular basis, so I count myself as part of that community–but am saddened by the intolerance I see among some of its members. Fortunately I received many messages from scientists who sympathized with what I was trying to do even if they had reservations about my proposals.

I quit Lenny Frank’s DebunkCreation group because it specializes in personal attacks on people who disagree and is basically for people who want to feel superior to the ID’ers and creationists, who are branded as stupid and ignorant–as compared to the supposedly brilliant regulars on that blog. I am sorry to see some signs of that attitude here as well.

http://www.michaelbalter.com

Comment #55808

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 8, 2005 3:22 PM (e)

Well, in large part the irritation I feel is that you chose to enter the discussion on the editorial pages of the LA Times with very poor suggestions that indicate that you have very little background in teaching or the creationist assault on science education. As I wrote above,

What irritates me most about Mr. Balter’s editorial is its presentation of ID arguments without refutations so that it reads more easily as a pro-ID than as anti-ID.

Your comment above seems rather light on substance. Claims of “many messages from scientists who sympathized” hold no water. I sympathize with salvaging American science education, it is your proposals that are lame. Other that the complaint that we are hysterical and intolerant, which is merely false, what have you to offer?

The anger is that your prominently published editorial, in my opinion, helped creationists by reiterating their positions and false claims, and falsely indicated that there is no scientific response -even that scientists are afraid to confront creationists.

Do you now understand that the ID proposals, claims and arguments you presented in the LA Times are false? Have you spent any time in a US public school science class in the last month, or year? How long has it been since you taught biology? Have you read Forrest and Gross, or Young and Edis? Which books or articles on intelligent design have you read written by Dembski? Wells? Johnson? Behe?

Comment #55809

Posted by CJ O'Brien on November 8, 2005 3:47 PM (e)

I write about evolution and its Darwinian mechanisms for Science on a very regular basis, so I count myself as part of that community—but am saddened by the intolerance I see among some of its members.

What is it they’re supposed to be tolerant of?
A religiously motivated assault on the integrity of education?
Charlatans who would denigrate their life’s work as “dogma” while making a living from a fraud paid for by the gullible?
Warmed over literalist hogwash presented as science, without an iota of the effort needed to put forward serious research, the kind with funding, and publication and peer review, all that stuff creationists wave away as “censorship”?

Affirmative action for failed ideas is a really bad idea.
Science as appeal to the majority’s intuitions and beliefs is contrary to centuries of progress.

In short, you’d like biologists to “tolerate” the intolerable, and if some of them are angry, I don’t blame them.

Comment #55866

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 8, 2005 8:05 PM (e)

I quit Lenny Frank’s

Um, the name is “Flank”. It’s written right there above my posts.

That seems to be typical of your level of, uh, knowledge about the ID fight.

And why are you here anyway? Why aren’t you out there debating IDers, to show us poor simpleminded rubes who refuse to recognize your genius, just how it’s done?

Comment #55915

Posted by morbius on November 8, 2005 9:49 PM (e)

How else to explain the anger and intolerance for any dissent even within the scientific community itself?

How do we explain this absurd hyperbole other than intellectual dishonesty?

I am sorry to see some signs of that attitude here as well.

Yeah, funny how, at every site where people are knowledgeable on this subject, you get a similar reception.

Gary wrote a rebuttal of your article; how about trying to respond to the substance of his comments, instead of engaging in the same sort of evasive ad hominems as you did at DebunkCreation?

Comment #55920

Posted by morbius on November 8, 2005 9:53 PM (e)

What is it they’re supposed to be tolerant of?

I think he means we’re supposed to be tolerant of his poor arguments. Apparently, rebuttal = intolerance in his mind.

Comment #55969

Posted by Michael Balter on November 9, 2005 3:15 AM (e)

Let me start of by answering Lenny’s question, What am I doing here? On 3 November, Gary Hurd posted a lengthy, point by point rebuttal of my Los Angeles Times piece of 2 October. As I pointed out to Gary in a private email, neither he nor anyone else associated with this site contacted me to let me know that my piece was under discussion here. I did not see these posts nor have any idea about them until yesterday, 8 November. Gary apologized, saying that he thought I would see it via other means, and I accepted his apology. But in fact, were it not for a somewhat tardy Google Alert, I might never have seen any of this.

Some of the posts refer to my short time as a member of the DebunkCreation group, which I joined and then posted my Times piece in which I offered as an alternative strategy to countering ID. (Obviously the people who have posted here don’t think much of my strategy, which is fine–I will get to that in a moment.) With the exception of a sharp but reasoned response from Mikey Brass, my posting was followed by a flurry of personal attacks, questioning whether I was a dupe of the ID’ers, whether I was pretending to be an academic when I wasn’t, and including a number of statements from Lenny and others that anyone who believes ID or creationism is stupid and/or ignorant. It was then that I formed my impression that some defenders of Darwin are intolerant, dogmatic, and filled with missionary zeal that has religious undertones–in other words, some people involved in this, although certainly not all or even a majority, have come to resemble the caricature of the Darwinist that the creationists have always tried to paint. I do indeed detect some of that attitude here, but as I said, I have had discussions with a number of scientists who had a more nuanced reaction to my Times piece. This gives me hope that there is room for discussion about strategy and tactics.

I make all of these remarks because I think they are relevant to the issue of whether or not it is possible to have disagreements within the ranks of the scientific community. That is a key issue for me, because I think that many scientists and defenders of science are in denial about the extent to which religious belief trumps evolutionary thinking in the United States. And I think that this denial has led to a sort of take-no-prisoners approach to the fight against ID that could end up with science losing bigtime. Again, more on that in a moment.

Lenny and Chris Noble have raised here the same issue that came up on DebunkCreation, ie, who I am and what my credentials are to have an opinion on these matters. Since they have engaged in the same personal innuendos as on DebunkCreation, I am going to take another moment to tell you who I am–something that anyone who has read Science for the past 15 years should have a good idea about already. I am from Los Angeles and am 58 years old. From 1974-77 I was a graduate student in the biology department at UCLA, during which time I taught undergraduates and engaged in laboratory research. For various reasons of personal choice I left the department after three years with an MA in biology and went into journalism. In 1991 I became the first correspondent on the European continent for Science, and from 1993 to end 2002 I was the journal’s Paris correspondent. After quitting my staff position to write my book about prehistoric Catalhoyuk, The Goddess and the Bull (yes, it is good and yes you should read it) I became a Contributing Correspondent at the magazine, and my name is on the masthead indicating such. After finishing the book, I have continued in that capacity, and am one member of our three-person team specializing in archaeology and human evolution. Some of my articles, including several on human evolution (including the recent “Are Humans Still Evolving?”), can be found on the Articles page of my Web site:

http://www.michaelbalter.com/articles.php

You might read some of these to see whether you can find any hints of creationist thinking. And while you are on this page, please scroll down to the very bottom where my Los Angeles Times piece is posted and read it again or for the first time to see what I really say there. Then you will be ready for what I have to say next.

Gary has provided a very detailed rebuttal to my Times piece and it makes no sense for me to do a point by point rebuttal of his rebuttal, as my arguments are in the piece itself. But let me respond to certain things he says in yesterday’s post and in his original post in a way that seems suitable to me as a response.

Gary says that he is “irritated” by the fact that I entered the discussion by writing an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, which does indeed have some 800,000 subscribers (not all of whom read the editorials, of course), and put out some “very poor suggestions” about debating ID. For one thing, I obviously did not, and still don’t, agree that my suggestions are very poor, or I would never have written the piece in the first place. What does Gary think I should have done instead? Does he think that I should have debated my ideas about debating ID on The Panda’s Thumb or DebunkCreation before going public with them, to see if they passed muster? Well, they have not passed muster with this group, but I still think they needed to be aired. I assume that Gary is also irritated by the fact that I made sure my piece got the widest possible dissemination, with some help from the Times syndication service and bloggers all over the world. Again, I did this because I think the current strategy is a loser. I state my reasons in the piece.

But Gary’s rebuttal at the beginning of this thread confuses a number of different issues, all of which I agree are important in their own right: Whether or not we should debate the ID’ers, whether or not ID is science or religion, whether ID is correct, and whether I am naive or uninformed on these issues. He also complains that I helped ID and creationism by not refuting their positions in my Times piece but simply stating their position without comment. In fact, it was not the point of my piece to refute ID–plenty of others are already trying to do that–but to say that the best bet for scientists was to debate ID. Thus the fact that ID is wrongheaded or is not science is not relevant to the issue of whether we should debate them. The whole point in a debate is to try to prove the other side wrong. If you read my piece again, you should be able to see that I imply very heavily that scientists would win the debate as a result of their superior arguments. That is the meaning of my “bring it on” ending.

Thus when Gary asks, “Do you now understand that the ID proposals… are false,” he is attacking a straw man. I am sorry if debating an opponent means acknowledging that the opponent exists and has a point of view that he or she has a right to defend, but that is the way it is. And that’s where some of the intolerance comes in: The self-satisfied feeling of many people on the DebunkCreation group that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid and/or ignorant serves to LESSEN THE INFLUENCE THAT SCIENTISTS HAVE IN THIS ONGOING CULTURE WAR. To the extent that others adopt this attitude, you will lose in the long run.

So back to my point about denial. As I cite in my piece, and as everyone here knows, the opinion polls (Gallup, Pew, etc) consistently show that the overwhelming majority of Americans accept either ID or straight out creationism. That is the point from which we start. Scientists and educators have relied heavily on the courts to keep religious objections to evolution out of the classroom, with considerable success until recently. The Dover case is not yet decided, and when it is, most likely it will be appealed to a Supreme Court that will probably include a lot of judges you might not want to see handling this issue. Yesterday there was a setback in Kansas and a victory in Dover. But the battle for the hearts and minds of school kids and adults on the issues of religion vs science has been largely lost up to now, as the opinion polls show. You may keep ID out of some classrooms but you won’t keep it out of American life unless you are willing to confront your opponents directly in debate–that is my view, agree or not.

That brings me to one last major point, and a minor one. The claims by some ID’ers that ID represents an alternative scientific hypothesis to Darwinian approaches drives many scientists wild with anger, and I understand and sympathize with that. But really, you have fallen into their well-laid trap. ID is really a religious explanation for how we all got here, and if there was a debate between Michael Behe and, say, Jerry Coyne or Allen Orr on national TV it could be very enlightening in that regard. This in fact was one of my proposals; do you really not want to see this debate take place? The fact is, however, that the average American, and by that I mean the overwhelming majority of Americans, don’t care at all whether ID is really science or not. What they care about is which has the better explanation for how we all got here, religion or science. So keeping debate about ID (which is NOT the same as teaching the controversy, although some, including the ID’ers themselves, have myopically tried to see my piece as suggesting that) out of the classroom does not help win converts to Darwinian or scientific thinking because only a confrontation between religion and science can resolve the issue. Again, my support for this is the opinion polls which show that the percentage of Americans who think science has the better explanation is dismally low and has not risen in 20 years.

The minor point is Gary’s statement that I said scientists are afraid to confront creationists. Search the Los Angeles Times and see if I said that. What I said is that they did not want to debate, for reasons that may seem sound but which I find self-defeating. But that does raise an interesting issue which came up in the emails I received from some scientists about my piece. While agreeing that a debate was a good idea in principle, they expressed a lot of concern that the concepts of evolution were too complex to be handled properly in a high school biology class. My response to that is, if evolution is too complicated to teach to high school students, on what basis should they be expected to accept it as the best explanation–as a matter of faith?

Bon courage, as we say here, to everyone in this struggle–because there are rough times ahead and you are going to need it. And if you don’t understand that I am on your side, then go back and read my Times piece, and my articles for Science, one more time.

Comment #55974

Posted by Michael Balter on November 9, 2005 5:28 AM (e)

Addendum:

The new Dover school board could of course decide not to appeal a court decision against ID, or it could simply change the policy. On the other hand, if the court decides for ID, the Dover parents will no doubt be headed for the Supreme Court eventually with the possible permanent adverse effects I suggest above. And I would be interested to know what people here think is the best strategy for Kansas now. A court challenge could also have adverse results for the entire country if it loses. In my view, Kansas is the perfect place to try out my proposals if the denial can be overcome.

Comment #55975

Posted by Registered User on November 9, 2005 5:43 AM (e)

Balter, making a fool out of himself in public, writes

It was then that I formed my impression that some defenders of Darwin are intolerant, dogmatic, and filled with missionary zeal that has religious undertones—in other words, some people involved in this, although certainly not all or even a majority, have come to resemble the caricature of the Darwinist that the creationists have always tried to paint.

Uh … come again? Some dudes on a blog think you’re a naive tool and explain why in no uncertain terms. And this reminds me you of the “caricature of the Darwinist” that creationists love to paint, namely : intolerant, dogmatic, and filled with missionary zeal that has religious undertones.

Wake up, Mr. Balter. There is no Pope of science. There is no Jim Dobson of science. There is no Jerry Falwell of science. There is no equivalent of a Discovery Institute of science where ego-tripping scientists gather together and formulate political plans and propaganda for “turning the train around”, redefining God, and inserting atheist values into religions, all on the dime of some millionaire atheist freaks.

You spouted some funky baloney, Mr. Balter, that revealed your naivety and, yes, people more intelligent and more experienced than you pointed their fingers at you, chuckled, and made some derisive comments. Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo! Your wittle feewings got hurt! So now you pretend that we didn’t understand what you were talking about and you repeat the same ol’ sweet-sounding but oh-so-empty bullcrap.

In fact, it was not the point of my piece to refute ID—plenty of others are already trying to do that

Come again? What do you mean by “trying to refute ID”, Mr. “I’m On Your Side Why Can’t You See That”? What’s left of the scientific theory of ID that hasn’t been refuted, in your opinion, Mr. Balter?

You see, Mr. Balter, you have a lazy writing style for someone who claims to be on the side of scientists. That doesn’t surprise me. Laziness is a fairly common human trait. You’re lazy. I suggest you work harder at editing what you write more carefully if you don’t want to be serving softballs to creationists or confusing the rubes who read your copy.

Is it intolerant of me to point this out to you, Mr. Balter? Dogmatic? Is my zeal “missionary” in nature?

No, it’s not. So save your tears, Mr. Balter.

I am sorry if debating an opponent means acknowledging that the opponent exists and has a point of view that he or she has a right to defend, but that is the way it is.

My point of view is that the Discovery Institute is composed of a bunch of professional liars whose goal is to claim scientific validation for the existence of their deity, after which they’ll claim that their personal religious views about the universe are entitled to same credit as scientifically established facts.

Go ask Mr. Luskin from the Discovery Institute if he’d be interested in debating this issue with, say, Mr. Rothschild of Dover fame. When Lying Luskin declines, why don’t you write a big fat article discussing why a controversy-loving freak like Luskin would refuse such a debate.

You see, my point of view about Mr. Luskin and the Discovery Institute is shared by a whole lot of people but for some reason so-called “journalists” don’t acknowledge this view or the reams of evidence which support this view in a way that seems very, uh, balanced (given that the ratio of professional biologists who think is ID is worthless garbage versus those that think it’s “interesting” is probably 1000 to 1).

Why don’t you do something about this lack of balance, Mr. Self-proclaimed Writer Balter, instead of churning out articles which suggest that scientists should take time away from their jobs in order to provide careers for creationists (who don’t do scientific research, as some of us already know).

Id you write that sort of article, Mr. Balter, and you write it well and you write it repeatedly like you mean it, then you won’t be mistaken for a lazy creationist-serving lump (you know, like the ignoramuses who write copy for CNNOnline).

The Dover case is not yet decided, and when it is, most likely it will be appealed to a Supreme Court

Why do you think this? I would be stunned if the Supreme’s take cert on any issue arising from the facts in this case. Why do you say this? Do you think Judge Jones is going to write a terrible opinion that confuses the law terribly? Do you think that

I’m confused, Mr. Balter. But you’re the journalist. Enlighten me, oh great distributor of balanced facts!

that will probably include a lot of judges you might not want to see handling this issue.

Really? I’d have no problem with the current set of Supreme’s addressing any issue arising from the facts of Dover. ‘Bring it on,’ indeed.

But the battle for the hearts and minds of school kids and adults on the issues of religion vs science has been largely lost up to now, as the opinion polls show.

Really? Is that what the polls show, Mr. “I’m On Your Side” Balter? Are you sure about that? With your fantastic journalistic imagination, Mr. Balter, do you think that you could come up with some poll questions that would incontrovertibly show the opposite of what these other polls show?

Seriously, Mr. Balter. Whatever you’re smoking, get off it. It’s 2005. You’re 58 freaking years old. Time to wake up. Learn how to read a damn poll and understand the limits of what polls show, okay?

You may keep ID out of some classrooms but you won’t keep it out of American life unless you are willing to confront your opponents directly in debate—that is my view, agree or not.

I don’t agree and your view is pretty much worthless for all the reaons I’ve alluded to above. You have presented us with nothing to support your “strategy” except gripes about “look how bad it is and it’s only going to get worse unless you do something.”

Why aren’t you suggesting that history teachers step up to plate and start teaching kids why we have a separation clause in the first place? Why does the Constitution mandate that arts and sciences be promoted but prohibits the promotion of religion? Why aren’t history teachers teaching that in class?

For that matter, why isn’t that being discussed on television whenever this issue comes up?

And why aren’t journalists like you, Mr. “I’m On Your Side” Balter explaining the answers to these questions plainly and repetively to your readers?

Explaining why ID is a pile of baloney is simple, Mr. Balter. You dont need to be Ph.D. to show how ridiculous it is and explain why the rubes who buy into it are behaving like fools. Likewise, you don’t need to be a Supreme Court justice to understand that the Constitution of the US does not permit the establishment of a Christian theocracy. And you don’t need to be a political science professor to see that such an establishment is the goal of the Discovery Institute.

You only need to open your eyes and speak in clear simple sentences so the rubes can understand. You need to do that. I need to do that. Gary Hurd needs to do that. We all need to do that.

But hosting debates aboutscience with these professional hucksters, so they can get their garbage about the bacterial flagellum being created out of thin air by some invisible sky being into print for the 10,000th time? That’s absurd.

The self-satisfied feeling of many people on the DebunkCreation group that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid and/or ignorant serves to LESSEN THE INFLUENCE THAT SCIENTISTS HAVE IN THIS ONGOING CULTURE WAR. To the extent that others adopt this attitude, you will lose in the long run.

Funny, ridiculing stupid idiots seems to work to keep racist idiots mostly underground in this country. Or is there some ongoing series of debates I don’t know about where blacks debate whites about whether they are, in fact, members of the same species?

You see: you’ve got it exactly backwards, Mr. “I’m On Your Side” Balter. The more people adopt my attitude, the more I’m guaranteed to win. This is especially true in the case of ID where the issue is purely political. You’ll recall (or maybe you won’t) that the miserable rubes in Dover who were so eager to teach their kids “intelligent design” admitted to Judge Jones that they had no clue what it was!!!! Indeed, nobody can provide a coherent explanation for “ID” that amounts to anything more than “Uh … duh …duh … God did it!”

That’s not science. It’s religion. The government can’t promote religions in public schools by telling its citizens lies about scientific evidence for deities. It’s illegal to do that under the Constitution, for reasons that are clear to anyone who is willing to “think critically” about the consequences of the government behaving otherwise.

It is in fact quite simple, Mr. Balter. And that is why each and every time these charlatans are pressed to explain what the hell they are talking about, the start lying. They start making asses of themselves.

And it is that behavior that needs to be addressed, Mr. Balter. It’s not the behavior of blog commenters and professional scientists who are merely stating the facts about how these charlatans behave and how ignorant the rubes are who buy the snake-oil.

You want to educate the rubes? Write an article about Barbara Forrest and her research. Write an article about the Dover trial and what happened. Write an article about Bill “Stand up For Jesus” Buckingham and his similarities to another well-known lying baloney-artist who self-identifies as a Christian by the name of Rush Limbaugh.

It’s fascinating stuff. Educate the rubes, Mr. Balter. But first, educate yourself.

The fact is, however, that the average American, and by that I mean the overwhelming majority of Americans, don’t care at all whether ID is really science or not. What they care about is which has the better explanation for how we all got here, religion or science.

Really? Is that what Americans care about? Who has the better explanation, religion or science? Does that come from a poll, Mr. Balter? Care to define what you mean by “better”? Are you sure you didn’t mean to say “simpler”?

You sound so much like the empty balloon-heads that fill up the TV screens at the aiport, Mr. Balter, it’s downright creepy. Those professional pundits are always telling us what “Americans” really want but those brilliant mind-readers never seem to be able to bring themselves to explain how uninformed the majority of Americans are about very basic facts. Perhaps that’s because the pundits are similarly uninformed or just too lazy to think anything through. Again, Mr. Balter, the similarities are striking.

While agreeing that a debate was a good idea in principle, they expressed a lot of concern that the concepts of evolution were too complex to be handled properly in a high school biology class. My response to that is, if evolution is too complicated to teach to high school students, on what basis should they be expected to accept it as the best explanation—as a matter of faith?

I am certain Mr. Balter that you could not explain to me how a quantum chemist understands the reactions between atoms in a simple ketone synthesis. Yet, we teach chemistry in high school class as if the atoms in those stick models are really there! On what basis should students be expected to accept that the scientists aren’t just pulling all that atom stuff out of their rear-ends? As a matter of faith????

If my questions sounds stupid, Mr. Balter, let me assure you: it is stupid. The answer to your question is so obvious that I will leave it to you to answer.

You’re 58 years old, a professional writer or so you claim, and your question simply shows that you didn’t bother to think very carefully about what you were writing.

That’s an odd trait for a journalist, in my humble opinion.

When you arrive at the answer to your question, do me a favor: write an article about it. Write an article about how the answer to that question helps you answer some similar “deep” questions that creationists often ask in their attempts to smear scientists.

And in your article please describe whether it was a creationist or a defender of science who prompted your enlightenment.

And be honest.

Comment #55981

Posted by Michael Balter on November 9, 2005 6:42 AM (e)

Wow, what an amazing confirmation of my statement that there are a large number of intolerant, name calling personal attack artists here. And from an anonymous “Registered User,” no less. I used my name, why don’t you use yours?

Comment #55984

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 6:52 AM (e)

With the exception of a sharp but reasoned response from Mikey Brass, my posting was followed by a flurry of personal attacks, questioning whether I was a dupe of the ID’ers, whether I was pretending to be an academic when I wasn’t, and including a number of statements from Lenny and others that anyone who believes ID or creationism is stupid and/or ignorant.

I challenge Balter to substantiate this claim. In fact, on DebunkCreation he claimed that only Timothy Chase, not Mikey Brass, had offered a reasoned response. Neither claim is true.

Wow, what an amazing confirmation of my statement that there are a large number of intolerant, name calling personal attack artists here.

A posting by one person confirms a claim about a large number of people? That’s an odd sort of reasoning.

And from an anonymous “Registered User,” no less. I used my name, why don’t you use yours?

Not to defend RU in any way, that’s an irrelevant invasive ad hominem question.

Comment #55985

Posted by Michael Balter on November 9, 2005 7:12 AM (e)

morbius, feel free to trot out the entire DebunkCreation thread if you like, I will stand by everything I said there.

But let me ask you and Mr. Registered User something. Why do you care so much what I think that you spend precious time at your keyboards to answer me, if I am so uninformed and my arguments are so bad and I am such a bad journalist? Why not just smile at my foolishness and let it pass? Why the animus? Perhaps you need to take a close look at what is really motivating you here, because you hurt the fight against creationism and don’t help it by your attitudes. I wonder how many people Mr. Registered User has won over by calling them “rubes,” or perhaps that is why he is anonymous? And please don’t forget that this thread started with a rebuttal of my Los Angeles Times piece that I was not given the courtesy of being informed about, and now you are shocked! shocked! that I actually have the ill manners to answer it.

Comment #55987

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 7:39 AM (e)

Mr Balter said

Why do you care so much what I think that you spend precious time at your keyboards to answer me, if I am so uninformed and my arguments are so bad and I am such a bad journalist?

Your word count was 2056 + addendum
The replies were 1795 words with your quotes removed.

One should only ask rhetorical questions if you don’t want someone to answer them for you.

Comment #55990

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 7:50 AM (e)

Compare

Gary Hurd wrote:

Well, in large part the irritation I feel is that you chose to enter the discussion on the editorial pages of the LA Times with very poor suggestions that indicate that you have very little background in teaching or the creationist assault on science education. As I wrote above,

What irritates me most about Mr. Balter’s editorial is its presentation of ID arguments without refutations so that it reads more easily as a pro-ID than as anti-ID.

to

Michael Balter wrote:

Gary says that he is “irritated” by the fact that I entered the discussion by writing an editorial for the Los Angeles Times, which does indeed have some 800,000 subscribers (not all of whom read the editorials, of course), and put out some “very poor suggestions” about debating ID…. I assume that Gary is also irritated by the fact that I made sure my piece got the widest possible dissemination, with some help from the Times syndication service and bloggers all over the world.

Balter’s misrepresentation is evident. Regardless of the validity of his complaints, Hurd expressed irritation with Balter’s one-sided treatment and his lack of relevant background, whereas Balter focuses on the issue of the LA Times’ circulation.

Balter seems blind to his pompous attitude; he goes to DebunkCreation and lectures people who have been engaged in that enterprise for many years, people who have witnessed and even participated in numerous debates with creationists and IDists. He also lectures them on the difference between creationism and ID, based on an ahistorical understanding that comes straight from the ID literature. And he comes here and lectures people about “the extent to which religious belief trumps evolutionary thinking in the United States”, blissfully unaware of how this issue has been discussed here at great length and from many different perspectives, including the perspective of highly religious evolutionary biologists.

morbius, feel free to trot out the entire DebunkCreation thread if you like, I will stand by everything I said there.

A textbook case of burden shifting. You made a claim, and I challenged you to substantiate it. But I showed that you can’t, because here you say that only Mikey Brass responded substantively while there you said that only Timothy Chase responded substantively. The fact is that there were numerous substantive comments and criticisms that you avoided, choosing instead to focus on the most offensive comments and pretending that they characterized all comments, except for those of Mikey, or except for those of Timothy – in both cases using a divide and conquer strategy, but neither of them bit.

And rather than respond to the obvious contradiction, you again wish to focus on the personal, on identities and perceived animus – a common ploy by those unable to acknowledge error. Well, I don’t just pass it by because, like Gary Hurd and many others, I think your editorial hurt the cause, and good evidence of that is that numerous creationist sites have championed it. As Mikey Brass wrote, “you are falling for precisely the strategy that the Wedge Document
calls for, and are dancing to the tune that the IDs want you to as one
of their first steps”.

you are shocked! shocked! that I actually have the ill manners to answer it.

That’s great, just make stuff up – I have expressed no such shock nor claimed that it was ill manners to answer. You say that you accepted Gary’s apology, but you go on to use it as a club – it’s strictly an issue between you and Gary, and has no bearing on any substantive issue or on any other poster here at PT. But it’s handy for playing the victim. Well, you and all of us are victims of your ill-judged editorial which has ramifications that go far beyond your personal issue of not being informed of Hurd’s piece.

Comment #55991

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 8:03 AM (e)

Does he think that I should have debated my ideas about debating ID on The Panda’s Thumb or DebunkCreation before going public with them, to see if they passed muster? Well, they have not passed muster with this group, but I still think they needed to be aired.

This sums up Balter’s smug egocentric view. He should indeed have engaged in a discussion with people knowledgeable on the subject so that he could have become better informed before writing his editorial. As Gary Hurd pointed out, the editorial expressed only the views promoted by the ID movement. Among other things, Balter could have had discussions here with people who actually have debated ID proponents in public forums. He could have had discussions with science educators. He could have had discussions with people with a wide range of religious views. He could have had discussions with people intimately familiar with the history of creationism and ID. He could have learned of the Discovery Institute “Wedge document”, and of the fact that “Pandas and People” was rewritten after Aguillard to replace “creationism” with “intelligent design”. He could have learned a lot that he doesn’t seem to know. But he had his view and he was determined to air it, no matter how ill-informed or ill-considered.

Comment #55992

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 8:05 AM (e)

Mr Balter (nice book plug by the way)

One of your reviewers may explain why you draw the sort of fire you do

This from

http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/1469/The%20Goddess%20.htm

“He’s certainly fair to every argument, but perhaps too fair. It’s one thing not to claim to have the magic key, but quite another to almost intentionally frustrate the reader to prove a point.”

Comment #55994

Posted by Michael Balter on November 9, 2005 8:12 AM (e)

Okay, morbius is finally getting down to the crux of things with this:

I think your editorial hurt the cause, and good evidence of that is that numerous creationist sites have championed it. As Mikey Brass wrote, “you are falling for precisely the strategy that the Wedge Document calls for, and are dancing to the tune that the IDs want you to as one
of their first steps”.

So I am going to respond to this and then that is it for me in this thread, because I don’t think we are going anywhere–although I am sure you will continue to abuse me and misrepresent my views whether I respond or not! I suggest that you go read George Orwell about the way that the “playing into the hands of the enemy” line is used to try to shut up dissent and alternative views. I wrote the Los Angeles Times piece and proposed debating ID for all the reasons I state very clearly above, whether you agree with them or not: I think it is the best way to go. I am sorry that you don’t agree but my only hope is that my views become even more widespread, so no regrets whatsoever. Fortunately there is free speech in the United States and thus I am allowed to push my viewpoint whether or not it is popular with those who want to march in lockstep and demand that everyone follow the same strategy.

And yes, the Discovery Institute and others on their side of the debate have posted my article, precisely because they know that scientists don’t want to debate and so they can score even more points by pretending this is because they are afraid to or are dogmatic Darwinists. I have already said that I don’t believe the first of these two, but I am not so sure about the second.

PS–Apologies to Tim Chase for forgetting about his post, too bad this is not a debate about trite stuff like that or morbius would win it hands down.

Comment #56000

Posted by Michael Balter on November 9, 2005 8:18 AM (e)

k.e.’s comment on my book review came after I had posted. Thanks for a good example of selective quoting, by all means everyone should go to that link and see what Orrin Judd had to say about my book.

Comment #56001

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 8:22 AM (e)

The new Dover school board could of course decide not to appeal a court decision against ID, or it could simply change the policy. On the other hand, if the court decides for ID, the Dover parents will no doubt be headed for the Supreme Court eventually with the possible permanent adverse effects I suggest above. And I would be interested to know what people here think is the best strategy for Kansas now. A court challenge could also have adverse results for the entire country if it loses.

If you check the index, you will see that there are several threads where these issues are being discussed. If you want to know what “people here” think, then become one of them and join into the relevant discussion on equal footing.

In my view, Kansas is the perfect place to try out my proposals if the denial can be overcome.

It will be interesting to see you explain how you would go about implementing schoolroom debates of the sort you favor, especially when the other side controls the curriculum, and how you would fund and implement debates on Kansas TV between trained Discovery Institute rhetoricians vs. academic evolutionary biologists, such that viewers with poor science education and strong fundamentalist views don’t conclude that ID is the more convincing view, or at least that it’s just two competing theories. Perhaps, if you dropped your denial, you would realize that the denial you perceive is an informed view based on extensive experience and analysis.

Comment #56003

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 8:33 AM (e)

I am sure you will continue to abuse me and misrepresent my views whether I respond or not

Nice preemptive ad hominem attack.

I suggest that you go read George Orwell about the way that the “playing into the hands of the enemy” line is used to try to shut up dissent and alternative views.

And I suggest that you read Carl Sagan: “They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

It’s the same fallacy. And quite notably, you have not been shut up; rather your position, so widely circulated, has been criticized, and your judgment has been criticized. But you play the poor suppressed victim, an ad hominem that avoids the substance of the criticism.

PS—Apologies to Tim Chase for forgetting about his post, too bad this is not a debate about trite stuff like that or morbius would win it hands down.

You made a claim in which you slandered Lenny and others, and avoided their substantive criticisms. That’s not “trite”, it’s a matter of intellectual burden and good faith.

Comment #56005

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 8:42 AM (e)

Mr Balter

I take it you brushed up on Neolithic Mythology before you wrote your book.

THE WORLD OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL
VHS, 13-part series, 57 m each

PART 3 AND WE WASHED OUR WEAPONS IN THE SEA: GODS AND GODDESSES OF THE NEOLITHIC PERIOD
A cornerstone of modern life was the establishment of god-centered religions. Campbell traces this phenomenon from the Neolithic period, when goddesses were the primary mythic figures, to the emergence of wars of conquest and differing social roles, which heralded the dominance of god-centered religions.

The rest are here

http://www.ahf.net/AHRC/religiousstudies.htm

Maybe one of your reviewers wouldn’t have complained “Too much Bull not enough Goddess”

Just tell me when to stop.

Comment #56007

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 8:47 AM (e)

Thanks for a good example of selective quoting

Of course it’s selective; this is not a thread about archaeology or about your book. k.e. offered a comment from a highly complimentary reviewer about your approach that might give you some insight into why you are getting the sort of response you’re getting, if you could let it through your ego. It’s at least an alternate theory to the view that a rather large number of scientists, including Mikey Brass (who says you’re playing ID’s game, and thus is suppressing you according to your Orwell reference) “are intolerant, dogmatic, and filled with missionary zeal that has religious undertones”.

Comment #56010

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 8:53 AM (e)

Mr Balter Want to help?

Well don’t plug you “Bulldust and no Goddesses”

Read any one of these and report back when your done.


Strong Religion : The Rise of Fundamentalisms around the World (The Fundamentalism Project) by Gabriel A. Almond

Understanding Fundamentalism by Richard Antoun

The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong

Being Right: Conservative Catholics in America by Mary Jo Weaver

Gods in the Global Village : The World’s Religions in Sociological Perspective (Sociology for a New Century Series) by Lester Kurtz

The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism by Jr., Ralph W. Hood

Comment #56011

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 8:54 AM (e)

Maybe one of your reviewers wouldn’t have complained “Too much Bull not enough Goddess”

Um, first you quote a reviewer to is basically complaining that Balter is too fair to the Goddess movement, and now a reviewer who says the opposite. I think the view is nearly unanimous among scientists that Balter’s book treats the science well. So this OT digression isn’t productive.

Comment #56022

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 9:47 AM (e)

Different reviewer, different perspective, direct quote from Amazon.
Another reviewer found the focus on the people at the dig and their seemingly postmodern methodology with little speculation on the (goddess) culture, which the archaeologists apparently found to be a joke leading to his/her quote “Too much Bull not enough Goddess”. Can’t satisfy everyone of course, but doesn’t boost his credentials on the religious understanding side.

Anyway thanks for pointing out the point I should have made clearer in the first quote. Trying in an overly? fair way of showing why Mr Balter’s self focused style seems to some people like fingernails running down a blackboard.

I can’t help this image, is he like one of the actors in a Jaque Tati Film? Sort of a self focused, myopic, nonchalant well dressed harmless tall guy with glasses causing mayhem in the streets. As he ties his shoe laces cars crash, he looks at his watch and walks into a plate glass windows. Argues with an old lady walking a poodle and tips his hat to a policeman…….All with an annoying piano going in the background.

The whole point everyone is trying to make:-

There is a well funded media savvy PR game of kill science and take no prisoners being played by ruthless Fundamentalists. Is that clear “LE GRAND BLOND AVEC UNE CHAUSSURE NOIRE” ?

Comment #56028

Posted by Michael Balter on November 9, 2005 10:11 AM (e)

I said I was done but then morbius raised a very legitimate issue concerning my debate idea as applied to Kansas (someone tell me how to put quotes in boxes, please):

“It will be interesting to see you explain how you would go about implementing schoolroom debates of the sort you favor, especially when the other side controls the curriculum, and how you would fund and implement debates on Kansas TV between trained Discovery Institute rhetoricians vs. academic evolutionary biologists, such that viewers with poor science education and strong fundamentalist views don’t conclude that ID is the more convincing view, or at least that it’s just two competing theories. Perhaps, if you dropped your denial, you would realize that the denial you perceive is an informed view based on extensive experience and analysis.”

I do actually have some ideas about this but would like to take some time to formulate them properly rather than in shoot from the hip blog form, and believe it or not I am a science writer with deadlines. Meet me back here in a couple of days if you are interested.

btw, k.e. seems to be flipping out, if anyone knows him or her can they get a doctor over there right away? I was grateful at first for the link to a very nice review of my book but now am sorry about it.

Comment #56032

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 10:32 AM (e)

Please don’t tell us you are going to debate them yourself.

Comment #56033

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 10:33 AM (e)

So I am going to respond to this and then that is it for me in this thread, because I don’t think we are going anywhere—although I am sure you will continue to abuse me and misrepresent my views whether I respond or not!

It’s worth noting that Balter fails to apply the same considerations to the debates he advocates as he does to the debate here. By his argument, he must be a really bad debater, since he’s not able to win people over to his side. But the real problem is that he applies magical thinking to debates, granting them all sorts of characteristics that they simply don’t have, especially when not all parties to the debate are scrupulously committed to principles of good faith. If he thinks he’s been abused and had his views misrepresented, he should talk to those who have debated anti-evos. Oh, but talking to them and learning about their experiences was never part of his agenda – that would have risked his argument not “passing muster”.

Comment #56037

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 10:58 AM (e)

Different reviewer, different perspective, direct quote from Amazon.
Another reviewer found the focus on the people at the dig and their seemingly postmodern methodology with little speculation on the (goddess) culture, which the archaeologists apparently found to be a joke leading to his/her quote “Too much Bull not enough Goddess”. Can’t satisfy everyone of course, but doesn’t boost his credentials on the religious understanding side.

As I noted, your first reviewer claims quite the opposite; you can’t have it both ways. And Balter’s book is about the archaeologists at the dig; you can hardly fault him for their views. And I don’t think your characterization of their views is accurate, in any case. The Goddess culture thing started from claims of early archaeologists at the dig, who I believe are discussed in his book. But his book really isn’t relevant here.

To me, the relevance of the first reviewer’s statement is how it applies to the way Balter treats the IDist’s arguments in his piece, such as talking about “complex statistics” that purportedly challenge the ToE. He’s “too fair” to them, which isn’t fair to his audience – it would be fair to point out that no competent statistician accepts the statistical claims made by folks like Dembski, that his work has been soundly refuted and his responses have been very dishonest. And Balter says that “As a rule, they don’t speculate over who or what did the designing” – but this is way too fair to them, since it is their public position but it is very false, as has been amply documented here, in the posts at DebunkCreation that Balter dismisses, and in court at Dover. Fair to the IDists, but unfair to everyone else. And Balter mentions that DI has “more than” 400 scientists who have signed their “Scientific Dissent From Darwinism” – fair to DI, but very unfair to everyone else, with no mention of how the statement is not inconsistent with modern ToE, no mention of people withdrawing their names once they understood that they were being used the way DI – and Balter – uses them, and no mention of Project Steve with its much more rigorous statement in support of ToE. It’s a sort of fairness that misleads and misrepresents.

Comment #56046

Posted by Registered User on November 9, 2005 11:27 AM (e)

So Mr. Balter isn’t going to answer any of my questions.

What a surprise.

Neither does he acknowledge his errors.

What a surprise.

Comment #56081

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 12:38 PM (e)

OK to be fair Yes the book isn’t relevant.
What I was looking for were his credential for this debate.

1.Balter presented his credentials so I checked.
a)Science writer
b)Qualified Biologist
c)Author
(with a book plug, which is all fair when its your living, no problem)

I was the [Science} journal’s Paris correspondent. After quitting my staff position to write my book about prehistoric Catalhoyuk, The Goddess and the Bull (yes, it is good and yes you should read it) I became a Contributing Correspondent at the magazine, and my name is on the masthead indicating such.

I don’t know about you but when someone says “my book is good and you should read it” had better be prepared to back that up.
Balter the only Fiction I read has to be by Nobel, Booker, Pulitzer prize winning authors and even then has to have good reviews.

Its easy to find the Amazon reviews and I read them all.
One very positive reviewers point stuck home.

Which explains (from a totally independent source) his over attention to giving equal time to competing arguments to the point of frustration of the reader.

This explains Gary’s,Lenny’s,RU’s and my frustration. He’s just that kind of guy.

So I can not be accused of mis-characterizing him after his blast at Lenny RU etc who were trying to get that same point home.

Now ….equal time where have I heard that before? Who was that fast talking Postmodernist for the De fence at Dover?
Never mind …..Balter check this link

http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/pseudoscience_rev.pdf

That same reviewer seemed to think the goddess stuff was written tongue in cheek (maybe wishful thinking on his part).

Another reviewer wanted to know more about the culture of the city and found the title more enchanting than the contents.

But I did say you can’t satisfy everyone …..especially me.

If Balter could show he was across the “religion thing” it might help.

Which is why I suggested he broaden his horizons and provided titles that are far more relevant to the debate at hand and his book simply did not.

2.He is well credentialed science writer what is the problem ?
a)As has been excruciatingly pointed out the whole debate has gone in one ear and out the other without a BS filter. Perfectly reasonable when your dealing with reasonable people.
As I hope Balter is now aware, that is just not the case.

b)He has been schmoozed by the DI PR. reprinted one of their press releases on “scientist supporters” and sees the anti-DI crowd as an angry bunch. What the hell does he expect?

Comment #56086

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 12:55 PM (e)

don’t know about you but when someone says “my book is good and you should read it” had better be prepared to back that up.

Yeah, that was amazingly presumptuous, wasn’t it? I think more to the point is that Balter should read books by folks like Mark Perakh and Barbara Forrest.

Comment #56194

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 9, 2005 8:12 PM (e)

Let me start of by answering Lenny’s question, What am I doing here?

And why aren’t you out there debating IDers, to show us poor dolts who don’t appreciate your genius how it’s done?

Comment #56195

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 9, 2005 8:16 PM (e)

I have had “other things to do.” I would request that “Registered User” and “k.e.” chill out, and that Mr. Balter’s book is not relevant to this thread. (As a professional archaeologist and scientist, I have issues with the “post-processual” archaeology AKA “groking old stuff” just like I have with site survey by dousing rods. But, that is for a different discussion). In between chores, I have made some notes to myself. And I look forward to the offer in Mr. Balter’s last comment,

I do actually have some ideas about this but would like to take some time to formulate them properly rather than in shoot from the hip blog form, and believe it or not I am a science writer with deadlines. Meet me back here in a couple of days if you are interested.

In the mean time, take a look at Debunking Michael Balter which makes some good points without calling anyone names.

Comment #56219

Posted by k.e. on November 9, 2005 11:34 PM (e)

Entirely appropriate I think
http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=48570

Comment #56222

Posted by morbius on November 9, 2005 11:50 PM (e)

In the mean time, take a look at Debunking Michael Balter which makes some good points without calling anyone names.

That’s a reference to your debunking piece here, together with a comment from Mr. Balter that repeats one of his responses here. Unfortunately, Balter does call people names: “some defenders of Darwin are intolerant, dogmatic, and filled with missionary zeal that has religious undertones–in other words, some people involved in this, although certainly not all or even a majority, have come to resemble the caricature of the Darwinist that the creationists have always tried to paint”.

I think you mean Duane’s previous piece, Michael Balter on Teaching the Controversy, which does indeed respectfully make quite a few good points. It would be nice to see Mr. Balter offer a substantial response to those – or any – criticisms of his piece, and to acknowledge, in the face of such a large number of well informed critics, that there might be just a little something wrong with it, instead of insisting that the entire bunch is in denial or otherwise suffers from some personal – yet groupwide – flaw.

Comment #56227

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 10, 2005 12:22 AM (e)

I think you mean Duane’s previous piece, Michael Balter on Teaching the Controversy, which does indeed respectfully make quite a few good points.

Opps. Thanks for the corrected link.

Comment #56239

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 2:02 AM (e)

I’m sorry, but the statements by a number of people here that I have not answered the criticisms of my position made by Gary, Duane and others is simply untrue and dishonest. I have done so in my lengthy post above, in the way I felt was most appropriate. I have also stated that there is intolerance among some in this movement, and I stand by that. We still disagree, that is the issue.

Comment #56241

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 10, 2005 2:25 AM (e)

I’m sorry, but the statements by a number of people here that I have not answered the criticisms of my position made by Gary, Duane and others is simply untrue and dishonest.

Gary has provided a very detailed rebuttal to my Times piece and it makes no sense for me to do a point by point rebuttal of his rebuttal, as my arguments are in the piece itself.

“Instant karma gona’ getcha…”

People who would have welcomed a new ally are hardening aginst you. It is not due to “intolerance” or “dogmatism.” That exludes the only excuses you have given yourself. Their statements could be their actual honest assessments.

Michael, go work on the response you promised “in a few days.” I would much rather see that.

PS: Debate between scientists and creationists has been tried. I do it every single day. That’s a fact.

Comment #56244

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 10, 2005 2:36 AM (e)

Michael defines the term “self important”.

his posts come off as dismissive and arrogant, regardless of the fact that he has shown over and over that he doesn’t understand the least bit of the logical criticism of his article represented here.

pretty sad for a writer of any kind, let alone a science writer.

I too would like to see a more reasoned response to criticism of his article. If it ends up not being forthcoming, I would further like to see the response of his employers to his approach to “science writing”.

There are good science writers and bad ones, and so far, I haven’t seen the good part of why Michael should be employed as a science writer.

Comment #56250

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 10:31 AM (e)

This sounds like a threat to try to get me fired because of the position I have taken here. Is that the level of discussion on this site?

“I too would like to see a more reasoned response to criticism of his article. If it ends up not being forthcoming, I would further like to see the response of his employers to his approach to “science writing”.

There are good science writers and bad ones, and so far, I haven’t seen the good part of why Michael should be employed as a science writer.”

While I am here, I have meant to make some comments about the Wedge document. I believe it was Mikey Brass (morbius, you could tell me if I recall this wrong) who first asked me on DebunkCreation if I was aware of this. The answer is yes, but it has only a limited importance in my view to the debate we are having over whether to debate ID or not. To me, the Wedge document is to the anti-ID fight as the Downing Street memo is to the fight against the war in Iraq, a war which I oppose very strongly. A lot of anti-war people thought that exposure of the Downing Street memo, which demonstrates pretty clearly that Bush and co. intended to attack Iraq and “fix the intelligence around the policy” while they were publicly claiming that they were pursuing all options other than war, would naturally win lots of people over to oppose the war. That did not happen because the support for the war is not based entirely on rational considerations. Thus Cindy Sheehan was much more potent that the Downing Street memo, because people have to be confronted with a whole range of contradictions before they change their minds on a subject. The motivations are secondary to most people. Likewise, it does not matter to most people whether or not ID is part of a planned strategy, a conspiracy, or whatever, as long as it resonates with something that they already believe–and in some cases believe deeply and religiously. Thus the issue of whether or not to debate ID cannot be decided based entirely on the motivations and strategy of the ID movement–it is fine to try to expose that, but does not change many peoples’ minds and impresses mostly those like you who already oppose ID. The question is what is the best strategy to counter ID, which must take into consideration the motivations of the opponents but not be determined by them.

Just to summarize: The Wedge document may seem very important to you, but it is not very important to people who already believe that ID is correct because they think it is just fine to introduce it into the schools. The majority of Americans believe that alternatives to evolution should be taught. Now the the Kansas board has made its decision, scientists and educated should try to turn a bad thing into a good thing by aggressively ensuring that Darwinian evolution is properly represented and defended. Again, the best way to do that is to debate the ID’ers. They have won in Kansas, and you have now have nothing to lose by confronting them directly, on their home base as it were.

Comment #56251

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 10:35 AM (e)

Sorry, that is scientists and educators, not educated.

Comment #56252

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 10:41 AM (e)

“it makes no sense for me to do a point by point rebuttal of his rebuttal.”

Gary Hurd quotes this earlier statement by me as if it is some sort of strike against my argument. I argue in the way that I think is most effective and honest, and do not assume that the only people reading these posts are those of you who continue to respond to what I have to say, much as I read your posts with interest. I am arguing to the large number of people who come onto this site and am not a puppet to the small number who are actually debating me, obligated to respond to each and every point that you make–even though in reality I already have in nearly all cases. Instead of quibbling about how I argue, read what I have to say–I am certainly reading what you say, but we still disagree.

Comment #56263

Posted by k.e. on November 10, 2005 12:14 PM (e)

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

-Sun Tzu, The Art Of War

Comment #56268

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 12:20 PM (e)

I’m sorry, but the statements by a number of people here that I have not answered the criticisms of my position made by Gary, Duane and others is simply untrue and dishonest.

They might be untrue, but the claim that they are dishonest is, well, dishonest. Your position seems to be that, not only everyone except you wrong, but everyone except you is flawed – which was the basic stand of your op-ed: “Most scientists don’t want any debate” (not even “most scientists don’t want to debate”), “scientists have not been persuasive enough”.

You came out of the gate insulting scientists and educators, at the same time that you uncritically presented the ID position and played devil’s advocate: “They maintain that the theory of evolution, in particular natural selection, is so well supported by the evidence that it is the consensus scientific view” – they maintain? Regardless of the validity of the ToE, there certainly can’t be any question that it’s the consensus scientific view – not among honest people. And “As such, it deserves a monopoly in school curricula” – no, the prohibition against teaching religion in science classes is not the same as teaching the scientific consensus on evolution, any more than it is the same as teaching combustion rather than phlogiston; these are two different issues. And “the monopoly strengthens claims by intelligent-design proponents that scientists don’t want to be challenged” – only if you accept (and promote) their dishonest logic! “the monopoly” is a Supreme Court decision that the teaching of creationism promotes a religious view and violates the 1st amendment. Your framing is tendentious and dishonest. And “More important, it shields Darwinian theory from challenges that, when properly refuted, might win over adherents to evolutionary views” – no, it only bars teaching religion in public classrooms. “Darwinian theory” is constantly challenged by scientists, and the so called challenges from ID that you so uncritically echo have been “properly refuted” in numerous books and articles. The notion that TV debates might do what 8 part Nova presentations on evolution do not is a ludicrous fantasy. It would be more effective to present that Nova show to the superbowl audience, if you could get them to sit still for it – but that too is a fantasy.

You also made such unqualified statements as “it’s the wrong question” (it’s not a “question”, it’s a lawsuit based on people’s rights under the 1st amendment), “A national debate over how best to explain the complexity of living organisms would better serve our children” (would a national debate over how to punctuate sentences better serve our children than teaching them the consensus on that matter?), and “Pro-evolution scientists have little to lose and everything to gain from a nationwide debate” – why not talk about pro-atom or pro-gravity scientists? This again is tendentious devil’s-advocate framing that suggests that there’s a legitimate scientific dispute about evolution; even many creationists acknowledge “microevolution”. And talk about gain or loss for “pro-evolution scientists” suggests that they are a special interest, whereas the gain or loss affects all of us. As for the claim that there is nothing to lose, it is, like so many of your statements, not only unsubstantiated but demonstrably false. The Wedge Document, as well as our actual experience with such debates, make quite clear what there is to lose – the debates, like your article, gives the ID movement the gloss of scientific respectability, respectability that it isn’t able to gain through the normal process of the scientific method because it’s respectability it doesn’t deserve, being a political movement and not science at all.

it makes no sense for me to do a point by point rebuttal of his rebuttal, as my arguments are in the piece itself

It’s interesting that you suggest debates when you seem to have no concept of how rational debate is carried out. It’s not done by making arguments and then continuously repeating them while bypassing criticism of them. But it is now clear that this is your approach – you come to the “debate” close-minded, certain that you are right, making your claims as absolutes and disregarding couternevidence and counterargument. At no point have you been prepared to make any concession whatsoever. And that is a large part of why you have received so much hostility. As Gary said, it’s karma.

Comment #56273

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 12:48 PM (e)

To me, the Wedge document is to the anti-ID fight as the Downing Street memo is to the fight against the war in Iraq, a war which I oppose very strongly. A lot of anti-war people thought that exposure of the Downing Street memo, which demonstrates pretty clearly that Bush and co. intended to attack Iraq and “fix the intelligence around the policy” while they were publicly claiming that they were pursuing all options other than war, would naturally win lots of people over to oppose the war.

This misses the point by a mile. While the mere exposing the Wedge Document is significant in some contexts, such as the Dover case where the intent is to demonstrate to the court that ID is religion, the importance of the Wedge Document is what it tells us about the nature of the debate – those of us willing to listen, anyway. That is why you were asked whether you were familiar with it – because you approach the issue as if you weren’t. As I already quoted Mikey Brass, “you are falling for precisely the strategy that the Wedge Document calls for, and are dancing to the tune that the IDs want you to as one of their first steps” – that has nothing to do with alerting the American people to the document or expecting them to turn en masse against ID. And I also noted that your response to the sort of criticism Mikey offered up was this ad hominem: I suggest that you go read George Orwell about the way that the “playing into the hands of the enemy” line is used to try to shut up dissent and alternative views. No doubt the line is used in that way, as we have seen clearly enough with the charge leveled at critics of the Iraq war, but it is extremely dishonest to refer to Orwell here; “playing into the hands of the enemy” is not just a “line” here, used to silence dissent, it is an honest – and arguably legitimate – criticism. You do yourself no favors by suggesting that Mikey Brass or anyone else who offers this criticism is morally equivalent to the Bush administration.

Comment #56278

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 1:09 PM (e)

“You do yourself no favors by suggesting that Mikey Brass or anyone else who offers this criticism is morally equivalent to the Bush administration.”

Let’s get things straight, as I have a lot of respect for Mikey: I suggested no such thing. What I clearly said is that you can’t judge my argument by whether or not the Discovery Institute posts my Times article. It has been posted by bloggers and others on both sides of the issue all over the world.

As for concessions: Although I am strongly convinced that I am right, I realize that I could be wrong. The problem is that none of the arguments here have convinced me that I am. Are you ready to concede that I might be right, in whole or part? No one here has made any concessions to any of the points I have made, the only one was Duane on another site.

Comment #56279

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 1:10 PM (e)

There are good science writers and bad ones, and so far, I haven’t seen the good part of why Michael should be employed as a science writer.

This, like Balter’s book, isn’t relevant here, although they are relevant to each other – the generally positive reviews of Balter’s book (e.g., http://www.matamea.org/archives/the_goddess_and_the_.html) indicates that it is a “good part”. Questioning whether Balter should be employed as a science writer is not an example of the “more reasoned response” that you are asking of him (and, people being what they are, isn’t likely to elicit same).

Comment #56286

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 1:31 PM (e)

“the importance of the Wedge Document is what it tells us about the nature of the debate — those of us willing to listen, anyway.”

I totally agree that this document tells us what some of the key ID organizers are up to. But one of my main arguments is that ID falls on fertile ground precisely because it corresponds to what the majority of people think and feel as a matter of religious faith. That is why we have the Kansas situation: If the ID’ers did not have a receptive audience, they would get nowhere. And sorry, but I do not believe that everyone who thinks this way is stupid and ignorant, as some people especially on DebunkCreation have suggested (morbius since you have access to the threads, why don’t you pull a few of those comments and post them here, anonymously of course? Or at least agree that these kinds of comments were made by a number of people. For my part, I will concede that I did not handle the debate in that group as dispassionately as I should have.)

That raises the important strategic issues about how we get from where we are now, with ID a national issue and evolutionists fighting a constant battle, to where we want to be, people thinking scientifically. It’s too late to put ID back in the bottle, so I propose that we confront it directly. We can only gain from this. I understand the concerns here that this would just serve to legitimize ID, I concede concede concede that this is a legitimate and sincere worry, but it has already been legitimized in the minds of so many Americans that we can only go forward from here!

Time for dinner, everyone have a good day.

Comment #56287

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 1:39 PM (e)

Let’s get things straight, as I have a lot of respect for Mikey: I suggested no such thing.

Regardless of your respect for him, you did suggest that, as I just documented. Your comment wasn’t specifically directed at him, but it applies to him – that’s why I point it out to you. When it is demonstrated that the application of one’s reasoning leads to a conclusion one doesn’t accept, one must, if one is honest, acknowledge an error in the reasoning. Your denial in the face of the black and white of your actual words is another example of your intransigence. Despite your protestation, your Orwell comment was an ad hominem that attacked the motives of people who do exactly why Mikey did. Admit it or refute it – mere denial is demonstration of bad faith.

The problem is that none of the arguments here have convinced me that I am.

Yes, indeed, that is a problem. You offer no explanation for why some rather strong arguments are not convincing, despite your failure to counter them. It’s simply a raw fact that you are unconvinced.

Are you ready to concede that I might be right, in whole or part? No one here has made any concessions to any of the points I have made, the only one was Duane on another site.

This is simply false; it has been widely “conceded” (i.e., it was already widely recognized) that “Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Americans don’t believe that the theory of evolution is the best explanation for our own origins”. Beyond such facts, you have offered no reasons as to why anyone should accept your raw assertions that debates would change those numbers or that they would be effective in the classroom.

Comment #56288

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 2:19 PM (e)

But one of my main arguments is that ID falls on fertile ground precisely because it corresponds to what the majority of people think and feel as a matter of religious faith.

So one of your main arguments is that the DI strategy is effective? That’s hardly an “argument”.
No, you “main argument” is about what to do about it. You seem to think that public debates about evolution will change people’s religious beliefs. But if presented that way, people are likely to stick with their religious beliefs and reject what they perceive as opposed to them. It is hard enough to present the actual evidence for and reasoning behind the theory of evolution, without the obfuscations of creationist and ID rhetoric. Debates put honest and dishonest arguments on the same footing, presenting them to people without the resources to determine which claims are valid and which are not. It’s much like exposing people to two political ads about a candidate, one of which is a false attack ad that misrpresents the candidate’s position and plays upon people’s prejudices, and the other of which is a truthful statement of that position, with no objective authority who enforces accuracy. Actual political results confirm common sense – that the attack ad is more effective. Now, you may question this argument against debates, but at least it is an argument – as in A course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating truth or falsehood. I have yet seen any “course of reasoning” presented in favor of debates; all you offer is “we can only gain from this”, which offers nothing at all, and simply disregards every argument to the contrary; rather, you suggest that those who do not favor the sorts of debates you are championing have character flaws rather than reasons.

Comment #56289

Posted by k.e. on November 10, 2005 2:29 PM (e)

Mr Balter (I am strongly convinced that I am right)

I presume about

I make all of these remarks because I think they are relevant to the issue of whether or not it is possible to have disagreements within the ranks of the scientific community. That is a key issue for me, because I think that many scientists and defenders of science are in denial about the extent to which religious belief trumps evolutionary thinking in the United States. And I think that this denial has led to a sort of take-no-prisoners approach to the fight against ID that could end up with science losing bigtime.

To understand why belief trumps science in the US you need to take off your Biologists/Agatha Christie (in archaeological joke, she spent most of her later years in the ME with her archaeologist husband) hat and put on your cultural studies hat removing rose colored glasses at same time.

The “debate” as you like to characterize it, was held between
Bishop Wilberforce and T. Huxley at the British Association in Oxford on 30 June 1860 in case you weren’t there Huxley won with rhetorical force, the cold hard truth and a public keen on enlightened values. Something called a paradigm shift in public thinking occurred. The rest was a mopping up operation.
http://users.ox.ac.uk/~jrlucas/legend.html

For your information the DI have cleverly analyzed the apes entrails and cooked up something called a reverse paradigm shift as you might imagine it entails rhetoric and lots of it.

You are part of that plan.

To understand the cultural aspects no science is needed whatsoever, as you may now realize the DI is completely science free. The only theory they have runs on Power Point.

To understand the cultural aspects takes some REAL research.

However unless you ask the right questions you won’t learn much.

So lets Start.

You assert “religious belief trumps evolutionary thinking in the United States”

Why ?

Lets check the evidence

1. What do the Major Religions say (do a search on The CC position, and leading moderate Christian websites)…. nothing there, they all support it using something call Enlightened Theology and the Dignity of Man.

2. The CC warns that rejecting science will lead to Fundamentalism

Why? (Hint think Islam 1000 years ago)

Read J Campbell’s first essay in “Myths to Live by” Titled the “Impact of science on Myth”

3. Over the last 150 years major public leaders around the world have reconciled God and evolution so why is the US slipping ?

Does the problem start at the top?
GWB says he supports ID which as we all know is a Fundamentalist literal interpretation of Gen1. Gen2

Why ?

Is he convinced by the mixture of postmodernism and pseudo-science rhetoric? read Sokal.

What is the Fundamentalist mindset and why are they locked into some sort of psycho sexual miasma ?

Read the last chapter of J Campbell’s “Myths to Live by”

The debate is over.

What is needed now is leadership pure and simple.

Coupled with a vigilant defense against the Fundamentalists trying to Hijack planet earth and flying her with a Religious texts.

Comment #56291

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 2:41 PM (e)

I asked earlier if someone could tell me how to put quotes in blocks like you all do. I have read the Kwick thing and sorry to be dense but not at all clear to me what you do. Then I could respond to morbius’s last post tomorrow and have it look nice like all of yours.

Comment #56293

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 2:49 PM (e)

k.e. I am trying hard to keep up with your reading suggestions but I fear I shall never catch up and be as learned as you.

Comment #56295

Posted by CJ O'Brien on November 10, 2005 2:54 PM (e)

Use these guys: >
“quote” to open “/quote” to close

Comment #56296

Posted by k.e. on November 10, 2005 3:01 PM (e)

Mr Michael Balter

put a [shift ,] blockquote [shift .]

insert stuff

then [shift , fwd slash] blockquote [shift .]

You said


……already been legitimized in the minds of so many Americans that we can only go forward from here”

Look at the early debates in Britain, one thing they knew how to do was the “Vox Pop” before it was “Vox Pop”

such as …
Can’t find the orig. but a 1920’s Brit. PM said something like

“They say we don’t know whether we are Apes or Angels …. I side with the Angels”.

On second thoughts that mabe TOO literal… anyway the short nuanced statement is what people remember

Comment #56298

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on November 10, 2005 3:04 PM (e)

Michael, you need to do two things to use KwickXML. You need to declare a function, and then you need to end it. The declaration function is as shown above. To end it, type a / before the first part of the function declaration (anything after and including the first space is deleted). So to end a block quote, you need to type /quote within angle brackets >.

Comment #56299

Posted by k.e. on November 10, 2005 3:11 PM (e)

Man! … 3 posts while thinking. I’m taking a break to catch up so excuse me if I’m out of sync on the thread

Comment #56300

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 3:11 PM (e)

Michael, you need to do two things to use KwickXML.

thanks to all. it was so simple I didn’t get it.

Comment #56301

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 3:16 PM (e)

I make all of these remarks because I think they are relevant to the issue of whether or not it is possible to have disagreements within the ranks of the scientific community.

This comment powerfully demonstrates Mr. Balter’s dishonesty. It certainly can’t be ignorance of the possibility of having disagreements within the ranks of the scientific community, considering that he wrote a book that discussed such disagreements at length. No, the import of this remark is the implication that those who disagree with Balter do so because of character flaws, such as “denial”, not reasons. Regardless of his disagreement DI’s views on science and religion, Balter nonetheless employs their “reasoning”, as with his blather about “monopoly”. But no doubt that’s a position that he will forever cling to, despite the unrefuted point I made about the distinction between first amendment considerations about teaching religion in public schools, and teaching the scientific consensus, whatever it is. When the debate was raging between Big Bang and Steady State theories, both were discussed in public science classes; Steady State did not hold a “monopoly” just because many people perceived the Big Bang to be more consistent with religious views. Students were presented with the best scientific evidence and reasoning of the time, but when consensus was reached about the Big Bang, it “monopolized” the public science curriculum. And that’s the way it goes; scientific consensus “monopolizes” the curriculum across the board, but not because it isn’t possible to have disagreements in the ranks of the scientific community.

P.S.
Try

<quote author="someone">what someone wrote</quote>

“quote” is a synonym for “blockquote”. The author tag is optional.
When using tags, it’s a good idea to hit the preview button first, because posts with syntax errors in tags result in just the error message, without any content.

Comment #56305

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 3:36 PM (e)

Your comment wasn’t specifically directed at him

I take that back. The Orwell comment appeared in
http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/11/mr_michael_balt.html#comment-55994
(quote box added):

Okay, morbius is finally getting down to the crux of things with this:

I think your editorial hurt the cause, and good evidence of that is that numerous creationist sites have championed it. As Mikey Brass wrote, “you are falling for precisely the strategy that the Wedge Document calls for, and are dancing to the tune that the IDs want you to as one
of their first steps”.

So I am going to respond to this and then that is it for me in this thread, because I don’t think we are going anywhere—although I am sure you will continue to abuse me and misrepresent my views whether I respond or not! I suggest that you go read George Orwell about the way that the “playing into the hands of the enemy” line is used to try to shut up dissent and alternative views.

Balter could demonstrate a wee bit of good faith by acknowledging that his Orwell ad hominem that attacks the motives of those who point out that he is playing into the hands of the enemy was in fact directed at Mikey Brass, and even more good faith by withdrawing such offensive charges, and acknowledging that people like Mikey and myself make that claim because we believe it and are trying to convince Balter of it, not “to try to shut up dissent and alternative views”.

Comment #56306

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 10, 2005 3:43 PM (e)

I am trying hard to keep up with your reading suggestions but I fear I shall never catch up and be as learned as you.

sarcasm aside, you actually should stick by that statement if you wish to continue being a science writer, rather than a shill.

you haven’t provided the slightest bit of evidence in support of your opinion that ID needs further public debate. Isn’t that what a science writer should be concerned with?

why don’t you try some experiments yourself? try debating an IDer and take a real pro-evolution stance. see how far it gets you. or, you could actually be a bit more humble and recognize that MANY have already done this, and you might actually want to listen to what the results have been.

like i said earlier, you exude self importance and confidence in your postion that is NOT warranted by the evidence you present.

I think it would be a grand idea for you to review the position of AAAS as to why they decided to boycott the Kansas Kangaroo Kourt. Maybe you would get a better perspective on why so many of us agree with that decision, and why the exact reverse was the strategy for the Dover trial.

really, you don’t come off as someone who understands how scientists approach things, and that is a rather poor approach for someone who claims to be a science writer.

I can only hope you will do better in the future, and think more responsibly about the impact of what you write.

and yes, I am still curious as to what your employers think about your ability to write “science” articles. If you feel confident your approach to article writing reflects science, then you should have no compunction about sharing your employer’s contact information with us?

cheers

Comment #56309

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 10, 2005 3:51 PM (e)

am sure you will continue to abuse me and misrepresent my views whether I respond or not

your views are IN PRINT. that’s the problem, and you yourself must do a better job of presenting what your actual position is and why, otherwise you do a disservice to all writers, everywhere.

you don’t deserve to be a science writer, as far as i can see.

I for one, will be trying to locate and contact your editor to see why they let you be a science writer to begin with. Your “commentary” is barely fit for a note in a small town papers opinion section, let alone for any significant presentation of the issues at hand.

get a clue and re-examine your profession. You aren’t very good at it.

Comment #56310

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 10, 2005 4:02 PM (e)

right, so anyone who cares about quality science writing should contact Science magazine’s editorial board to point out the lack thereof in MB’s latest “work” and encourage them not to hire Mr. Blather for further piece work.

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/feedback

we have enough bad writers out there confusing the issue without the continued contributions of Mr. Balter

Comment #56311

Posted by Michael Balter on November 10, 2005 4:05 PM (e)

I for one, will be trying to locate and contact your editor to see why they let you be a science writer to begin with. Your “commentary” is barely fit for a note in a small town papers opinion section, let alone for any significant presentation of the issues at hand.

You can do this, although my editors might cite my hundreds of stories over the past 15 years, including in tomorrow’s Science about the first ancient DNA extracted from Neolithic skeletons and its bearing on the demic diffusion vs cultural diffusion debate. But I would be interested in what others here think about making threats to one’s livelihood as a debating technique?

Comment #56312

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 4:13 PM (e)

And yes, the Discovery Institute and others on their side of the debate have posted my article, precisely because they know that scientists don’t want to debate and so they can score even more points by pretending this is because they are afraid to or are dogmatic Darwinists. I have already said that I don’t believe the first of these two, but I am not so sure about the second.

This is a rather revealing comment. First, it’s an admission that Balter’s op-ed does play into DI’s hands (whether that’s his intent or not – and certainly it is not). Second, it’s odd that Balter says that he doesn’t believe that scientists are afraid to debate – on TV and in public classrooms – that’s the context of Balter’s op-ed. Surely scientists are afraid to have such debates, because they expect a bad outcome. This really is rather straightforward. As for his claiming to not be so sure that scientists don’t want to have these debates because they are dogmatic Darwinists, aside from this being foolish slander, it doesn’t make any sense. Since when does being dogmatic cause people to avoid publicly presenting their dogma? It certainly doesn’t affect the creationists that way!

Balter plays into DI’s hands in (at least) two ways:

1) He promotes the idea that, if you lose a public debate, you’re wrong. So that’s purportedly why scientists are afraid of such debates, because they don’t want to be shown wrong. And of course they don’t want to be shown wrong because they’re dogmatic.

2) He confuses the issue by conflating all debate. Despite the fact that scientists are frequently engaged in debate with creationists right here at PT, at talkorigins, in magazine articles and books, and of course are constantly debating with each other about various aspects of evolution and theory, Balter declares, right off the top in his op-ed:

Most scientists don’t want any debate.

Any debate. DI must have loved that. Scientists who have been engaged in this issue had a rather different reaction, of course. And yet Balter seems surprised that such an outrageous slander has resulted in a hostile response from people who have been engaged in such debates, and the only explanation that comes to his mind is that they are dogmatic and intolerant of dissent.

Comment #56313

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 4:28 PM (e)

right, so anyone who cares about quality science writing should contact Science magazine’s editorial board to point out the lack thereof in MB’s latest “work” and encourage them not to hire Mr. Blather for further piece work.

You’re making a fool of yourself. Balter’s op-ed was published in the LA Times, not Science, and there’s no evidence that his work for Science reflects the views or claims in his op-ed. If I were his editor, such complaints would make me want to publish even more of his science writing, just to piss off the jerks.

Comment #56314

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 4:34 PM (e)

P.S. Your comment #56306 makes some good points; the stuff about contacting his editor detracts from those, and from the points I have tried to make. They just give Balter yet another excuse to avoid substantive criticism.

Comment #56317

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 10, 2005 4:55 PM (e)

But I would be interested in what others here think about making threats to one’s livelihood as a debating technique?

you have clearly shown debate to be a useless tactic with yourself. ergo, i wished to warn those who consider you a “science” writer to view your work a bit more critically in the future. If you consider that to be a threat to your livelihood, perhaps you should take a closer look at what you do for a living.

Comment #56321

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 10, 2005 5:08 PM (e)

They just give Balter yet another excuse to avoid substantive criticism

bah. he already HAS avoided all substantive criticism. It’s time for authors to take personal responsibility for the things they write, especially if they are as well published an author as Mr. Balter is.

As to whether it is a “debate tactic” that is yet another straw man set up by Balter himself. It was never meant as a debate tactic, since Balter has already made up his mind that he is “correct” about his position, without any evidence in support, which is just the same reaction we get from creationists. This has nothing to do with debate, and more to do with hoping other methods will encourage him to be more responsible in the future.

all i did was bring Mr. Balter’s latest position piece to the attention of those who might publish them without serious consideration. In other words, I merely encouranged the editors of Science to do exactly what you want, which is apply substantive criticism to what he submits in the future.

I did not encourage them to cut off all communication with him, have him arrested, shot, or anything like that.

if you don’t think that bad writers can influence the “debate”, you need to tell me how GW got away with starting the war in Iraq.

It’s always a good idea to point out to editors (who are usually quite busy) where their writers do well, and where they do not. Discouraging poor writing is just as important as encouraging good writing (which i also do whenever a well written article about science appears in the public press), and it does make a difference.

You might view it as “mean”, but i view it as being responsible. The editors can make up their own minds.

Comment #56324

Posted by Brian Spitzer on November 10, 2005 5:08 PM (e)

Having gone back to read Mr. Balter’s piece a second time, it seems to me that pretty much everyone posting on this thread has a valid point. Namely:

Mr. Balter is correct that the pro-science strategy, such as it is, just ain’t getting the job done.

Morbius, Hurd, and their fellow detractors are correct that Mr. Balter’s piece, unless you’re reading it very closely, comes off as a pro-ID or pro-“teach the controversy” article.

That said, the rabid tone of this thread is ridiculous. Criticism is valuable. Incivility is childish.

Can we turn the direction of this thread to something more productive? Mr. Balter, I think some legitimate criticisms have been leveled at your editorial in the L.A. Times. It didn’t acknowledge the problem that the DI has historically used debates as a trap. Because there’s been a debate, they claim that there’s a legitimate controversy over the validity of the ToE. Furthermore, public debates favor show and smokescreens over substance.

Above, on this thread (#56028), you hint that you have some ideas about how a public debate might allow scientists to *educate* people, rather than simply giving the ID folks another soapbox. If that can be done, I’d personally like to hear about it.

In general: “how we get from where we are now, with ID a national issue and evolutionists fighting a constant battle, to where we want to be, people thinking scientifically” could be a very useful discussion.

The current state of this thread– spleen-venting and foaming-at-the-mouth attacks– is not.

Comment #56327

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 10, 2005 5:28 PM (e)

spleen-venting and foaming-at-the-mouth attacks

lol. I’d hardly categorize the discussion here as being in the spleen-venting stage yet, compared to other threads on PT in the past.

However, I agree that I have perhaps overreacted wrt the impact of Balter’s post.

I do hope, however, that if he does get same op-ed drivel published in Science, that my outrage might then be justified?

think ahead, folks.

Comment #56333

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 5:43 PM (e)

all i did was bring Mr. Balter’s latest position piece to the attention of those who might publish them without serious consideration

But, as I noted, it’s not Science that published Balter’s position piece, and what it publishes of his are not position pieces.

if you don’t think that bad writers can influence the “debate”

This seems to be directed at me but is rather obviously inapplicable. However, someone who has written a bad article is not necessarily a “bad writer”.

Also, Mr. Spitzer overgeneralizes about “the current state of this thread” – which consists of its entire content. That includes a number of my posts that make substantive (and unrefuted) arguments; they are not at all “spleen-venting” or “foaming-at-the-mouth attacks”, which statement verges on being the very thing it decries.

In general: “how we get from where we are now, with ID a national issue and evolutionists fighting a constant battle, to where we want to be, people thinking scientifically” could be a very useful discussion.

It’s a discussion that goes on at PT; even discussion of the value of public debate goes on here, with threads devoted to discussion of public debates that have actually been held. Unfortunately, Mr. Balter did not have the benefit of any of that discussion when he wrote his op-ed.

Comment #56338

Posted by morbius on November 10, 2005 5:52 PM (e)

Morbius, Hurd, and their fellow detractors are correct that Mr. Balter’s piece, unless you’re reading it very closely, comes off as a pro-ID or pro-“teach the controversy” article.

I’ve never claimed that his piece comes off as pro-ID; rather, I’ve said that he presents the ID position unopposed, and offers up DI strategies. As for pro-“teach the controversy” – it comes off that way no matter how closely you read it, as it advocates teaching by carrying out the controversy right there in the science classroom.

Comment #56355

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 10, 2005 6:42 PM (e)

So, I spend the morning and most of the afternoon in my yard. There was an ant mating swarm (unfortunately a noxious invasive species but I killed some and watched birds kill others), and I watched a mourning cloak butterfly emerge, and a half dozen caterpillars of the same species climb up various walls to pupate. It rained earlier and I watched some orb weaver spiders repair their webs. I planted some seeds.

I had a few beers, and I am totally mellow.

Sir_Toejam I think that you are out of bounds regarding suggestions about Balter’s employment. Please stop, or I’ll will regretfully exercise the “editorial prerogative.” Join the AAAS, and then see how you feel. I pay my AAAS dues, and so contribute to Mr. Balter’s salary. Apparently you don’t. No more such foolishness on this thread. Thank you in advance.

morbius, your contributions are very cogent. Thank you.

Mr. Balter, you are still just dodging. I suggest that you write your Kansas “solution.”

It has just been too pleasant outside to have stayed on top of this today.

Comment #56361

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 10, 2005 6:52 PM (e)

PS: I think that Brian Spitzer and morbius are basically agreeing, but I don’t want to detail this at the moment.

I did point out a few times that unless one was very familiar with ID -v- science, Mr. Balter’s editorial could be taken as pro-ID. He parroted the ID arguments, and merely implies that scientists could if only rousted, counter the threat by these “national debates.”

The names Hovind and Gish and Morris come to mind.

There is no thought in my mind that Mr. Balter has any idea about how these affairs actually transpire.

Comment #56378

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 10, 2005 7:37 PM (e)

Mr Balter, why are you wasting your time here arguing with us? Why aren’t you out there debating all the IDers, to show all of us poor dolts who don’t appreciate your genius how it’s done?

Comment #56379

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 10, 2005 7:39 PM (e)

It’s too late to put ID back in the bottle, so I propose that we confront it directly.

We did. In a place called Dover, Pennsylvania.

In a few weeks, ID will be dead because of it.

Comment #56381

Posted by Chris Noble on November 10, 2005 7:44 PM (e)

I apologise to Michael Balter for any perceived insult in my previous posting.

My comment was in reply to someone that was implying that your opinion was important because you are an “evolutionary biologist and contribitor to the peer-reviewed journal Science”. This is an appeal to authority.

I was responding to this assertion.I realise you have little control over what other people write about you and apologise for the comments I made above.

Chris Noble

Comment #56383

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 10, 2005 7:52 PM (e)

You seem to think that public debates about evolution will change people’s religious beliefs.

Indeed. Me, I’m not even remotely interested in changing anyone’s religious beliefs. In a democracy, anyone is entitled to hold whatever religious beliefs they like (no matter HOW silly or stupid they might be). What people are NOT entitled to do, however, (and what I fight against with all my strength) is to use the power of the state to force their religious beliefs onto everyone else whether we like it or not (particularly when, like the ID/creationists, they lie to us by claiming that their religious beliefs are really “science”).

If the fundies want to preach creationism/ID in church, they can do so every Sunday from now until Jesus comes back, and I will never have a word to say to them. But, if they attempt to use the power of the state to push their opinions onto everyone else, I will fight them using whatever effective methods are available to me.

And no, Mr Balter, “debating” the IDers has not proven to be in any way “effective”. But hey, if you think you can change people’s religious opinions by lecturing them with your, uh, vast scientific expertise, whereupon they slap themselves in the forehead and cry out “WOW! I’ve gotten it ALL WRONG lo these many years !! Thank you SOOOOO much, Mr Balter, for setting me straight !!!!” (pumps hand furiously) … well … good luck with that. (shrug)

Comment #56418

Posted by k.e. on November 10, 2005 10:10 PM (e)

Briefly
STJ writers are hired on their writing skill more than any other criteria take it easy. Complain, cajole, attack the lax thinking but threaten in my books is out.

The only public debate/discourse that could help would be between scientists who actually understand evolution with no particular religious axe to grind (i.e.non confrontational) from different faiths including enlightened atheists who can explain the theology behind their belief in very, very, simple terms. In other words proper Media coverage not the 3 D’s. That requires the interested media be engaged and encouraged.

In fact to my surprise, before I became aware of this latest DI thing, this is what has been going on with the interfaith dialog of the World’s major religions.

Never in my lifetime did I expect to see a Pope welcome believers from all faiths around the world, non-believers and atheists into that dialog. I think they know something don’t you ?,

They see the mistakes of the past writ large all over history, in their own church, the death of science with Islam a 1000 years ago, the worst excess of Fundamentalism, remember 1933? Sept 11?

Believe me Fundamentalism (institutional ignorance with knowledge replaced with rigid religious beliefs) is a major, major threat and that includes the DI.

So lead,defend,and remain tolerant. As far as the ID’ers are concerned the last one, tolerance is the most important to them, let them keep their beliefs just get the message through science can not kill god. (By the way I’m an enlightened atheist)

As far as we are concerned leadership and vigilance while not going over the top unless absolutely necessary, will support our case greatly.

Simple really .****cough cough?’;

Comment #56460

Posted by morbius on November 11, 2005 2:47 AM (e)

Going back to another comment from Balter:

And sorry, but I do not believe that everyone who thinks this way is stupid and ignorant, as some people especially on DebunkCreation have suggested (morbius since you have access to the threads, why don’t you pull a few of those comments and post them here, anonymously of course? Or at least agree that these kinds of comments were made by a number of people. For my part, I will concede that I did not handle the debate in that group as dispassionately as I should have.)

At least agree? When did I ever deny it? (But now I may have to – see below). And what does it matter? Neither what a handful of individuals on DebunkCreation think about those who disbelieve evolution nor what I agree that they think has any relevance to the issues, which you dodge every time you focus on this sort of thing. And here you use it as part of some silly competition as to who has or has not conceded things. That’s not what it’s about – it’s about your claims and good faith reasoning about them. Your good faith can’t be established by pointing out that someone at DebunkCreation said something nasty about someone. On the other hand, your bad faith can be established by dodging substantive points, including those made by people at DebunkCreation, even people said nasty things about someone. I will repeat what I wrote before, which you ignored other than to characterize it as “trite”:

The fact is that there were numerous substantive comments and criticisms that you avoided, choosing instead to focus on the most offensive comments and pretending that they characterized all comments, except for those of Mikey, or except for those of Timothy – in both cases using a divide and conquer strategy, but neither of them bit.

And you continue to do so – to play the victim and go on and on about this or that offensive comment. You want me to post threads that show that people at DebunkCreation said that disbelievers in evolution are stupid and ignorant – to what possible end? It’s not in doubt that some people say such things (though it may be in doubt that anyone at DC did), just as there are people on the ID blogs who say the same thing of “evilutionists”. It’s the internet; people say all kinds of things. But your agenda seems to be to show that a few people said some nasty things in order smear “scientists”. Not only is this a bad faith approach, but the facts don’t support you – rather, they demonstrate extraordinary bad faith on your part, even worse than I had realized. Rather than trying to pluck out some nasty comments to satisfy your bad faith agenda, I’ll present a whole series of posts (not anonymously, because they’re present on a public yahoo forum that anyone can access).

[note: I’ve removed the http leader from urls because there’s apparently a limit on how many can be posted]

Here’s the very first response to you at DC, from Ian Robinson:

On 10/10/05 13:49, “catalhoyukbalter” mbalter@…> wrote:

> in which I suggest an alternative
> approach to dealing with the intelligent design folks?

Welcome to the group. For the record I disagree 100% with your suggestion
that we should debate with the ID proponents. Debating these kooks is not
the answer. They don’t want to have a scientific debate. They want to muddy
the water and advance the “wedge strategy”. Giving them “respectability” by
debating them just plays into their hands IMHO.

We need to teach the facts as we see them in the world today in a better
way. I see this as a science communication problem rather than a conflict
between evidence based science and religion based ID.

Ian

Is Ian Robinson = Mikey Brass? No. Ian Robinson = Timothy Chase? No. Ian Robinson attack you and misrepresent you? No. Ian Robinson call people stupid and ignorant? No (“kooks” refers to the leaders of the ID movement, not average Americans who buy their BS). Ian Robinson make substantive comments? Yes. Those comments ever responded to by Michael Balter? No.

The next response to you was from Mikey Brass, whom you did finally acknowledge here:

I am surprised to see this article, Michael.

> Pro-evolution scientists have little to lose

Time, resources, effort, and not to mention the impossibility of knowing
all the little pieces that creationists throw at them.

> and everything to gain from a nationwide debate.

Scientists generally make very poor debaters. Anyways, science isn’t a
democracy or a tv debate forum and it transfers poorly into such a forum.

Kids can learn science by learning actual evolutionary biology. There
does not have to be a “debate” for this to occur.

>And the courts should stay out of it because educators would not be
required nor allowed to advocate a religious point of view.

Precisely another reason why creationism should not be anywhere but in a
theology, philosophical or history of science classroom.

Teaching creationism as part of history is one thing, to have a debate
on it as if it is a valid alternative is quite another.

You say you respect him, but apparently not enough to take his comments seriously. You never addressed his points, just repeating your position as if blind, demonstrating your ignorance of the history of the ToE and Darwin’s life, and insulting and slandering scientists:

Mikey, you should never be surprised when someone suggests a different
route to arrive at the same result! I don’t know how many members of this
group live in the United States, but the opinion polls I cite demonstrate
that in fact the theory of evolution has lost the argument amongst the
great majority of Americans. The theory was born out of a struggle between
religion and science, and that struggle continues today. Members of the
group who have not yet read my piece should look at it closely. What I say
is that evolutionists cannot avoid this struggle simply by ignoring it, and
in fact this strategy has backfired. Evolutionists cannot expect people to
accept the theory as a matter of faith! But in essence, by refusing to
debate–which provides an opportunity to make the sharpest
arguments–taking evolution on faith has become the de facto position of
many scientists.

Mikey responded in turn, with no apparent effect on your consciousness:

> Mikey, you should never be surprised when someone suggests a different
> route to arrive at the same result!

But granting creationism legitimacy is not the answer, it is the source
of the problem as that is what creationists crave.

> What I say
> is that evolutionists cannot avoid this struggle simply by ignoring it,

Neither should evolutionary biologists avoid it. However, many people’s
reluctance comes down to a few factors:

1. Poor science education in school
2. Disinterest
3. Theology

Out of the three, the bankrupt fundie theology proves to be the biggest
barrier. Basically you can have all the debates in the world, but unless
you convince a fundie that his theology is actually wrong and that he
won’t go to Hell by accepting evolution, you are on a losing streak
second to none.

If you want any debates, let them be between theologians who accept
evolution and fundies.

Timothy Chase also responded to your dismissive response to Mikey, and (politely) noted your bad faith at the end:

Michael,

There are forums in which something resembling rational debate are
possible – depending upon the ground rules. This particular email
group is one of them. Then there are other quite different forums –
particularly when a polished creationist is capable of putting out a
lie every ten seconds which takes perhaps a couple of minutes to
properly address – assuming you can hold the attention of your
audience for that long. And then there are different modes of
communication which do not necessarily involve debate. Essays are a
good example. I assume you don’t equate expecting someone to read is
equivilent to asking them to just have faith. But sound-bites
probably won’t do much good – in fact, they might give the impression
that there is actually something open to reasonable debate.

In any case, I believe you addressed Mikey’s first sentence without
taking any time to read the other six, judging from your response. I
find that interesting.

Take care,
Tim

The next post after Mikey’s was another from Timothy Chase, but again your mental slate seems clean of his content:

[…]
Actually, this group has a standing invitation to any proponent of
Intelligent Design who claims to be in possession of a “scientific
theory” of Intelligent Design…

You may wish to look at:

From: “Lenny Flank”
Date: Sat Aug 20, 2005 11:31 pm
Subject: periodic invitation for ID/creationists here
groups.yahoo.com/group/DebunkCreation/message/77777

The central question for us, though, is whether the proponent is in
possession of anything remotely resembling a scientific theory –
which is typically quite different from the sorts of questions that
such proponents would choose to focus on.

The next response to you was from Anne Gilbert. No acknowledgement of her kind words.

Michael:

We have all kinds of people here on this list. But we could always use more, and especially people who have “media” connections. Welcome to the group!

Anne G

The next was from Lenny Flank, the 4th person who addressed your article; he was polite to you. He spoke to you of his personal experience. This too apparently never made it onto your mental slate:

Hi there.

The creationist/IDers offer nothing to “debate”. They have no
alternative scientific theory, and no evidence of any sort of support
it. Until they, they quite literally have nothing to say.

I get invited every couple of months to “debate” some nutjob or
another on radio or TV (I just got invited a few weeks ago to radio-
debate some Canadian kook). I always turn all such invitations down.
Debates do nothing for us, and nothing but help for the
creationists. It gives then an air of respectibility that they don’t
deserve. It allows them an opportunity to raise money and fire up
their troops. I see no reason to help them.

If creationist/IDers think they have something scientifically
worthwhile to say, let them write it up and submit it to peer-
reviewed science journals like everyone else has to. They aren’t
privileged, and their ideas are no more deserving of skipping the
normal process of scientific acceptance than anyone else’s.

The IDers, right now, this very moment, have the opportunity of a
lifetime —- in a Dover courthouse, with the full glare of the
entire world’s media, they can present any evidence they have, call
all the witnesses they like, and dazzle us with all the data they can
produce.

But they won’t. They can’t. They don’t have any. (shrug)

Then a response to Lenny from Marc Draco:

Spoken like Richard Dawkins (who refuses invites for the same reason). I
salute you Lenny.

I won’t debate with them, but I do enjoy making fun of them and all that they
believe in.

Damning proof that scientists are intolerant dogmatic wretches! Of course, Marc might be a chimneysweep for all we know. In any case, he never called anyone stupid and ignorant.

Next, people who are very familiar with the history of creationism and intelligent design subject get an pompous and uninformed lecture from you:

In addition to my earlier post, I would like to take issue with the
conflation of creationism and intelligent design that has become a sort of
shorthand in this group. They are not the same thing. Creationism,
traditionally, is biblical literalism, although some creationists are open
to a more liberal interpretation, how many days, how many years, how it was
done, etc. Creationism does not try to play on the same turf as evolution.
Intelligent design, as anyone who has read its literature knows, is a
direct challenge to Darwinism and natural selection that tries to
demonstrate by statistics and other arguments (Cambrian explosion, etc)
that natural selection cant get us where we are today. Thus it engages with
Darwinian evolution and tries to debunk it directly. For this reason, it
can and should be confronted. To say that ID is just creationism warmed
over is an oversimplification and violates the dictum, know thy enemy.

Mikey politely refutes you; no response from you.

mbalter@… wrote:
> In addition to my earlier post, I would like to take issue with the
> conflation of creationism and intelligent design

Many of us here have been fighting creationism for a number of years and
know the literature better than all the creationists who have crossed
our paths.

See www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI001_2.html for a rebuttal.

Here’s another (apt) comment from Ian Robinson:

> taking evolution on faith has become the de facto position of
> many scientists.

You need to find new scientists to talk to.

And another from Ian:

> For this reason, it
> can and should be confronted. To say that ID is just creationism warmed
> over is an oversimplification and violates the dictum, know thy enemy.

Since you claim to be an expert in ID, can you point us to a scientific
theory of ID that is suitable to teach in science classes?

All the IDers have failed to do so when asked.

Next a post from Isabelle who disputes some of your statements, the 5th person who addressed your claims:

>The theory was born out of a struggle between
> religion and science,

Uh no, Darwin didn’t come up with his evo theory because of
a “struggle”.

What I say
> is that evolutionists

What the heck is an evolutionist? Is that like a moleculist?

> Evolutionists cannot expect people to
> accept the theory as a matter of faith!

Precisely, this is science and no “evolutionist” (whatever that may be)
has ever touted evolution as a matter of faith.

Next, just in case you hadn’t already done so, you insult everyone at DC:

What I find extraordinary is the energy with which those who have responded to my posts debate creationism and intelligent design, and with very good arguments–but amongst yourselves. You do not want to take the debate where it really counts, on the battlefield of public opinion. The result is that most Americans, and a sizeable number of people in the UK and other countries, don’t accept the theory of evolution. Is the purpose of a group like this to make everyone feel they are smarter than those who believe in creationism or ID, or is it to be effective and fine tune your debating skills in the larger arena? If the former, then all of the arguments fall on deaf ears, no matter how good they are. Demonizing the intelligent design people as a bunch of scheming, devious rightwingers does not win over anyone unless they agree with you already.

Some of you have not carefully read my article, which answers all of the points Mikey made. I have a lot of respect for Mikey and what he does but we do not agree on how to approach this issue.

www.michaelbalter.com (go to News and then Hominid Highlights to read the article, and respond to the specific points I make.)

best, Michael Balter

Uh, “best”?

Ian responds, far more politely than you deserve:

On 11/10/05 11:38, “Michael Balter” mbalter@…> wrote:

> You do not want to take the debate where it
> really counts, on the battlefield of public opinion.

Who says? Just because we don’t agree with your proposal doesn’t mean we
don’t want to get the fact of evolution to a wider audience. As I said
earlier this is a science communication issue and not a “we don’t debate
with iders” issue.

> and a sizeable number of people in the UK

Please define sizeable in context of the UK. With references if you have
them.

> and other countries,
> don’t accept the theory of evolution. Is the purpose of a group like this to
> make everyone feel they are smarter than those who believe in creationism or
> ID, or is it to be effective and fine tune your debating skills in the larger
> arena?

Its purpose it to provide a forum for the alleged scientific theory of ID to
be presented. The complete failure of said theory to appear means we often
go off on tangents.

>
> Some of you have not carefully read my article, which answers all of the
> points Mikey made. I have a lot of respect for Mikey and what he does but we
> do not agree on how to approach this issue.

Fine. Nobody is asking you to agree with the consensus that has grown in our
approach over the last few years. Nobody is stopping you go debate the ID
proponents.

Good luck with that…

Ian

Next is a comment from Cubist, the 6th person to address your claims:

>I would like to take issue with the
>conflation of creationism and intelligent design that has become a sort
>of shorthand in this group. They are not the same thing.
Sure they are. *IDists themselves SAY SO*. Have you read the Wedge
Document, which spells out the goals of the ID movement? For that matter, have
you
read what Johnson, Dembski, and other IDists have to say?
IDists like to make noise about how science is crippled by its adherence
to naturalism. Fine – the alternative to naturalism is *super*naturalism,
i.e., religion.
You may have heard of the pro-ID textbook, OF PANDAS AND PEOPLE? Well, one
of its earlier drafts differs from the published book largely in that the
draft says “creationism” where the published book says “intelligent design”.
Philip Johnson has asserted that there *is* empirical, scientific evidence
that God exists.
William Dembski has asserted that any scientific theory which *doesn’t*
mention Christ is *incomplete*; he’s also asserted that ID is both (a) a
ground-clearing operation for Christianity, and (b) the Logos of John’s theology

recast in terms of information theory.
Why do *you* think ID *isn’t* just the latest version of good
old-fashioned Creationism?

From Isabelle:

> Who says? Just because we don’t agree with your proposal doesn’t mean
we
> don’t want to get the fact of evolution to a wider audience. A

Indeed, Michael Balter should’ve been around at the time of that famous
book donation…

And more correction of your erroneous statements from Lenny:

>
Intelligent design, as anyone who has
> read its literature knows, is a direct challenge to Darwinism and
> natural selection that tries to demonstrate by statistics and other
> arguments (Cambrian explosion, etc) that natural selection cant get us
> where we are today.

Note that ALL of the arguments presented by IDers — every single
one, from the Cambrian explosion to the tornado in a junkyard to
irreducible complexity – are just rehashed versions of the same old
arguments made thirty years ago by the creation “scientists”. IDers
have not said anything that isn’t just cribbed from standard ICR
boilerplate. They have nothing new to add.

And more from Lenny:

> In addition to my earlier post, I would like to take issue with the
> conflation of creationism and intelligent design that has become a
> sort of shorthand in this group. They are not the same thing.

Yes they are. And the IDers themselves tell us that they are.

From the Wedge Document (which was written by the Discovery Institute
itself to describe the ID movement, its goals, and its strategy:

“Governing Goals

* To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral,
cultural and political legacies.

* To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic
understanding that nature and hurnan beings are created by God. “

“FIVE YEAR OBJECTIVES

1. A major public debate between design theorists and Darwinists (by
2003)

* Mainline renewal movements begin to appropriate insights from
design theory, and to repudiate theologies influenced by materialism

* Major Christian denomination(s) defend(s) traditional doctrine of
creation”

Thus, the IDers themselves tell us, in their own words, that the
objective of Intelligent design ‘theory” is to “defend traditional
doctrine of creation”.

Those who attempt to tell us that ID is different from creationism,
are flat-out lying to us.

Also, note that one of ID’s objectives is “a major public debate
between design theorists and darwinists”. This is a political
strategy, not a sicentific one. And I see no reason for us to help
them with it.

If ID has something scientific to say, let them say it in peer-
reviewed scientific journals like everyone else. But then, ID does
not *have* anything scientific to say. As they themselves note, ID
is a political movement with the goal of replacing science with
“theistic understanding”. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

and more:

> On 11/10/05 07:29, “mbalter@…” mbalter@…> wrote:
>
> > For this reason, it
> > can and should be confronted. To say that ID is just creationism
> > warmed over is an oversimplification and violates the dictum, know
> > thy enemy.
>
> Since you claim to be an expert in ID, can you point us to a
> scientific theory of ID that is suitable to teach in science classes?
>
> All the IDers have failed to do so when asked.
>

Indeed.

I’d like to know what the designer does, specifically, according to
this scientififc theory of ID. I’d like to know what mechanisms the
designer uses, according to this scientific theory of ID. And I’d
like to know where we can see the designer using these mechanisms to
do … well . . anything.

Were I to “debate” IDers, that would be the only quesiton I’d ask.

And I’d force them to shut up until they answered it.

Lenny then posted the entire Wedge Document. Nasty guy, that Lenny, misrepresenting you. It’s “trite”, of course, to point out these posts and to point out that there are no such misrepresentations.

But wait, wait, Lenny’s going to say something nasty – that will stick in Michael Balter’s brain:

>
> What I find extraordinary is the energy with which those who have
> responded to my posts debate creationism and intelligent design, and
> with very good arguments–but amongst yourselves. You do not want to
> take the debate where it really counts, on the battlefield of public
> opinion.

The only place where the debate really counts, in the US, in in the
courts. It is illegal to teach religious opinions in public schools.
Period. The creationist/IDers have lost every single Federal court
casr they have ever been involved with. In cases where they tried to
argue that ID/creationism is science, they have lost. In cases where
they have tried to argue that evolution is religion, they have lost.
In court, the creationist/IDers are free to present all their
evidence, call any witnesses they want, present any data they can,
and make all the arguments that they think will demonstrate their
position. And they have lost, every single time. They have not yet
been able to convince a single judge anywhere in the United States of
America that any of their crap is science and deserves to be taught
in a science class.

As for American public opinion, well, many Americans can’t even find
the United States on a world map, and most of us still beleive that
(1) Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and (2) Iraq was behind the
9-11 attacks. We are basically a nation of pig-ignorant uneducated
uninformed morons.

Oops, it’s about Americans in general, not just about religious folks or people who disbelieve evolution. Oh well. But Lenny, nasty fellow that he is, misrepresents you by, er, um, quoting your comments and daring to disagree with them:

The theory was born out of a
> struggle between religion and science

No it wasn’t.

, and that struggle continues
> today.

No it doesn’t. The vast majority of Christians, worldwide, accept
all of modern science and have no gripe at all with evolution or any
other part of science. The ONLY ones who have a gripe are the
fundamentalists, and they are a tiny lunatic fringe within
Chrisitanity.

What I say is that evolutionists cannot avoid this
> struggle simply by ignoring it

No one is “ignoring it”.

Evolutionists cannot expect people to accept the theory as
> a matter of faith!

That’s right. Faith is a matter for religious nuts, not for science.
Evolution is n o more based on “faith” than is gravity or plate
tectonics or the mass of an electron.

But in essence, by refusing to debate–which
> provides an opportunity to make the sharpest arguments

The fundies have had numerous opportunities, in open court, to make
all of their “sharpest arguments”. They can present whatever
witnesses they want to, they can make all their arguments, they can
offer all their data and evidence. They can take their very best
shot.

And they have lost, every single time.

Next we hear from Alan Wilson, another one of those nasty folks who calls people stupid and ignorant and misrepresents you. Of course it would be “trite” to point out he does no such thing:

> Mikey, you should never be surprised when someone suggests a different
> route to arrive at the same result! I don’t know how many members of
this
> group live in the United States, but the opinion polls I cite
demonstrate
> that in fact the theory of evolution has lost the argument amongst the
> great majority of Americans. The theory was born out of a struggle
between
> religion and science,

Wrong. The theory was an explanation for many puzzling scientific
issues that had nothing at all to do with religion. The fact that it
then conflicted with religion is irrelevant.

and that struggle continues today. Members of the
> group who have not yet read my piece should look at it closely. What
I say
> is that evolutionists cannot avoid this struggle simply by ignoring
it, and
> in fact this strategy has backfired. Evolutionists cannot expect
people to
> accept the theory as a matter of faith!

Wrong Faith does not have the slightest thing whatsoever to do with
evolution. Faith is belief without (& often in the face of) evidence &
is strongly associated with religion & the supernatural. Evolution is
a scientific concept derived from evidence that specifically is not
associated with anyone’s religious beliefs & requires only natural
mechanisms (as opposed to supernatural mechanisms) in its explanation.

Evolution & faith are like chalk & cheese, up & down, black & white;
they are about as far apart as two things could possibly be. It comes
as absolutely no surprise to me that creationists confuse the two, but
do you have to join in.

But in essence, by refusing to
> debate–which provides an opportunity to make the sharpest
> arguments–taking evolution on faith has become the de facto position of
> many scientists.

Wrong. Just because someone refuses to debate creationists it does not
logically follow that they accept evolution on faith (whatever that
actually means) no more than it logically follows that they are too
drunk to debate.

Alan.

Here’s more from Timothy Chase. He’s the only person that you acknowledged for addressing your argument. Well, we can see why: he says you “brought to the foreground an important point” (the wording is significant; it’s not a new point or one unknown to all of us). Well, that got your attention – a positive comment. Negative comments, well, they can just be ignored – by people of bad faith.

On 10/10/05, mbalter@… mbalter@…> wrote:
> In addition to my earlier post, I would like to take issue with the
> conflation of creationism and intelligent design that has become a sort of
> shorthand in this group. They are not the same thing. Creationism,
> traditionally, is biblical literalism, although some creationists are open
> to a more liberal interpretation, how many days, how many years, how it was
> done, etc. Creationism does not try to play on the same turf as evolution.
> Intelligent design, as anyone who has read its literature knows, is a
> direct challenge to Darwinism and natural selection that tries to
> demonstrate by statistics and other arguments (Cambrian explosion, etc)
> that natural selection cant get us where we are today. Thus it engages with
> Darwinian evolution and tries to debunk it directly. For this reason, it
> can and should be confronted. To say that ID is just creationism warmed
> over is an oversimplification and violates the dictum, know thy enemy.

Michael,

While I see that a number of people have responded to this post
already, I hope you won’t mind if I mention simply a few of items. At
the same time, while I disagree with much of your post, I believe you
have brought to foreground an important point, and I appreciate this
– but I will get to that a little later in this post, and instead
begin by focusing on a couple of clarifications.

First, there are different kinds of creationism. The best known
division is between the so called biblical literalists, known as the
Young Earth Creationists, and the Old Earth Creationists. This rather
basic division of Creationists existed long before the so-called
“Intelligent Design” Movement was conceived. Old Earth Creationists
will oftentimes have no difficulty with evolution – so long as it
takes within certain kinds – where what is meant by a “kind” is
deliberately left elastic.

The Intelligent Design movement itself is an unstable compromise
between Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism, where for
the time being, they are setting aside their differences in order to
join together against a common foe under the broad tent of
“Intelligent Design.”

As just one indication of this alliance, allow me to quote Dembski:

“As a limited tool for dislodging materialism, developing the concept
of design, and applying it to biological systems, ID is the best thing
going. I would therefore like to encourage Henry Morris and all
young-earth creationists to view intelligent design as a friend in the
destruction of Darwinian materialism and in developing the scientific
understanding of design in nature,” William Dembski,Intelligent
Design’s Contribute to the Debate over Evolution: a reply to Henry
Morris,1 February 2005.

www.designinference.com/documents/2005.02.Reply_to_Henry_Morris.htm

However, in order to portray themselves as a “scientific” alternative,
they have engaged in a slow process of distancing themselves from the
term “creationist.” One example was already brought up by Cubist:
the editing of the textbook “Of Pandas and People,” which we have
learned as the result of pretrial motions in the Dover case, started
off strictly using the term “creationism,” and only later replaced it
with “Intelligent Design.” But this is a process which has taken
years. (See the book “Creationism’s Trojan Horse” by Barbara Forrest
and Paul R. Gross for further detail.)

And now, one of the more recent strategies is to claim that term
“creationism” only refers to the doctrines of Young Earth Creationism,
and therefore, when evolutionists call “Intelligent Design theory” a
form of creationism, they are simply attacking a straw man. However,
this just simply is not the case: the proponents of Intelligent
Design are simply trying to obscure the origins of their own movement
in order to appear more scientific.

But as you have made clear, this strategy is something which we will
have to take into account. If we simply expect people to know that
“Intelligent Design Theory” is a form of creationism and they have
either heard or later hear that this is some kind of “straw man”
attack by evolutionists, they are likely to think our equating the two
is a consequence of our dishonesty, not that of the proponents of
Intelligent Design. This is something which we may very well wish to
take into account – at least when speaking with or writing for the
general public.

And here’s another fellow among the “trite”ly ignored but slammed:

Michael Balter wrote:

I would like to take issue with the
conflation of creationism and intelligent design that has become a sort of
shorthand in this group. They are not the same thing.>>>

This is not my understanding after reading the evidence of Dr Barbara
Forrest.

See www.aclupa.org/downloads/WA100505.pdf esp from p 106 or so.

She demonstrates (conclusively in my view) that the SAME people who lead the
Creationist movement simply adopted Intelligent Design as a convenient
mystification of the SAME old creationist canards. In fact a large number
of instances exist where draft Creationist materials had references to
creationism excised and replaced with ID. This happened wherever the drafts
had been authored prior to the Edwards case but published subsequently!!

Eg from p 117 of her evidence where the definition of creationism is quoted
as it appeared in a well-known creationist tract:

“Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the
agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already
intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings,
etc.”

This definition is VERBATIM repeated in a pre-Edwards draft of “Of Pandas
and People”.

The post-Edwards draft (subsequently published) repeats it again but now as
follows:

“Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through
an intelligent agency with their distinctive features already intact. Fish
with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.”

Forrest demonstrates that the word “creation” was substituted with the word
“design” throughout the text of Pandas.

This is simply roguery.

But perhaps it is necessary to debate the rogues - especially if they have
managed to bamboozle the delirious American population into believing their
crescendo of nonsense.

Clive van der Spuy

And here’s more from Alan Wilson:

> Mikey, you should never be surprised when someone suggests a different
> route to arrive at the same result! I don’t know how many members of this
> group live in the United States, but the opinion polls I cite demonstrate
> that in fact the theory of evolution has lost the argument amongst the
> great majority of Americans.

Michael,

America’s religious views on creation are mostly
irrelevant to Europe and the rest of the world.

If America wishes to take its own anti-scientific
stance on scientific matters such as evolution,

then that is America’s prerogative.

Somehow though, I just cannot see even America teaching

biblical creationism in its public school science classes,

no matter how little the majority of Americans know about evolution.

> The theory was born out of a struggle between
> religion and science, and that struggle continues today.

Only in America.

The battle was irrevocably lost by religion
in the rest of the world nearly 150 years ago.

> Members of the group who have not yet read my piece should look at it closely.

> What I say is that evolutionists cannot avoid this struggle simply by ignoring it,

We are not ignoring it.

All any Intelligent Design Creationist (IDC) has to do is publish their “science”

in the appropriate peer reviewed science journals.
Scientists themselves will do the rest for them if it is genuine science.

Alternatively IDCs can join a forum such as this one

to lay out their “scientific theory of intelligent design creationism”.

As you are probably well aware, no IDC has ever yet done either.

There is no value in my opinion, in participating in public debating forums,

which are designed to favour oratory & rhetoric and to use shallow argumentation to

excite the audience into voting for the wrong side for the wrong reasons.

This would do nothing for the cause of science and instead would give

“the oxygen of publicity” to less well educated Americans for IDC false causes.

> in fact this strategy has backfired. Evolutionists cannot expect people to
> accept the theory as a matter of faith!

IDCs accept their own beliefs on faith and reject evolution on faith, not reason.

Therefore using reason to convince them of their errors is very likely to fail.

> But in essence, by refusing to
> debate–which provides an opportunity to make the sharpest
> arguments–taking evolution on faith has become the de facto position of
> many scientists.

Science and scientists taking evolution on faith, is an oxymoron.

Taking IDC on faith without any science at all to support it
is wholly consistent with the religious nature of the IDC cause.

And more from Alan; he’s getting a bit indignant, I wonder why? I wonder if it has anything to do with your repeated rudeness, dismissal, pomposity, and mistaken claims.

> In addition to my earlier post, I would like to take issue with the
> conflation of creationism and intelligent design that has become a
sort of
> shorthand in this group. They are not the same thing. Creationism,
> traditionally, is biblical literalism, although some creationists
are open
> to a more liberal interpretation, how many days, how many years, how
it was
> done, etc. Creationism does not try to play on the same turf as
evolution.
> Intelligent design, as anyone who has read its literature knows, is a
> direct challenge to Darwinism and natural selection that tries to
> demonstrate by statistics and other arguments (Cambrian explosion, etc)
> that natural selection cant get us where we are today. Thus it
engages with
> Darwinian evolution and tries to debunk it directly. For this reason, it
> can and should be confronted. To say that ID is just creationism warmed
> over is an oversimplification and violates the dictum, know thy enemy.
>

I am not being funny, but don’t you think if you want to come in here
throwing your weight about, you would at least take the time to get
your facts right. Because had you done so to begin with, you might
understand why members of this group refer to ID (IDC) as a form of
creationism. Although at first sight they may appear dissimilar, on
closer examination it is obvious that they are one & the same thing.

Everyone on this group knows that creationism is associated with
biblical literalism & the phrase, “teaching your granny how to suck
eggs”, comes to mind at the way you seem to think that this should be
some sort of a revelation to us.

Scientific creationism, attempted to pass creationism off as a form of
science. Part of the package consisted of a range of arguments that
denigrated evolution. These were an upgraded version of earlier
creationist argument that denigrated evolution. Creationist have a
long history of denigrating evolution, in fact I would personally say
that this characteristic is as equally significant as the biblical
literalism. (Different sides of the same coin)

When the creationists finally realised that they were not going to
overcome the legal barriers put in their way, they responded by
rebranding SC into ID. Of course you are perfectly at liberty to argue
against this if you want, after all it could just be coincidence that
IDC came on the scene around the same time as SC was being rejected in
the courts, coincidence that they use the same rhetoric, coincidence
that the go for school kids, coincidence that they are funded by
religious groups, coincidence that they are supported by creationists
snip half a dozen more coincidences> & finally coincidence that like
every other creationist before them they just have to denigrate evolution.

Here is something to think about; even a Christian can accept
evolution, believing in theistic evolution. If a Christian does not
believe in evolution, then surely he or she must instead believe in a
form of creationism. The key to this is the rejection of evolution; if
someone rejects evolution then that by itself is a strong pointer
towards creationism. As explained above, supporters of ID reject
evolution. This fact coupled with all the other evidence showing a
link between ID & creationism, clearly points to a strong association
between the two.

A comment from Ian:

On 11/10/05 14:28, “Timothy Chase” timothychase@…> wrote:

> This is something which we may very well wish to
> take into account – at least when speaking with or writing for the
> general public.

This is why it’s a science communication issue and not a debating issue. IMO
direct debating with IDers is counterproductive. We need to get better
articles and programmes into the mainstream media.

And a response to him from Marc Draco:

And in the UK, we need to get religious extremists OUT of education - otherwise we’re going to be in the same trouble.

And another comment from Lenny:

At one point Philip Johnson was on the
> line, and he had the audacity to suggest that the “leaked” Wedge
> document did not originate from the Discovery Institute, that it was
> written anonymously and leaked on the internet. It was even pointed
> out that someone from the DI acknowledged it originated from the DI,
> and Johnson’s comment indicated to me that–whoops–he had been
> caught.
>

We should all fall to our knees and thank the person who leaked the
Wedge Document to the Internet. It, and it alone, is enough to kill
ID dead. And the IDers all know it.

And a comment from Timothy Chase:

On 10/11/05, Lenny Flank lflank@…> wrote:
>
> …. The vast majority of Christians, worldwide, accept
> all of modern science and have no gripe at all with evolution or any
> other part of science. The ONLY ones who have a gripe are the
> fundamentalists, and they are a tiny lunatic fringe within
> Chrisitanity.

I would like to make a small point concerning the last sentence I just quoted.

While fundamentalists are undoubtedly those who have the most to gripe
about when it comes to evolution, and they undoubtedly constitute a
fairly small minority in the United States, they are not the only ones
who have a gripe with evolution. According to a recent poll, more
than forty percent of Americans believe that organisms have existed in
the same form since the beginning of time:

“For example, in a recent Pew poll, 42 percent agreed that ‘humans and
other living things have existed in their present form since the
beginning of time,’ while 48 percent believe that ‘humans and other
living things have evolved over time.”’

Polls show a mixed bag
BY SCOTT KEETER
Posted on Sat, Oct. 08, 2005
www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/12849137.htm

Now does this mean that they are especially hostile to evolution? Not
necessarily – it simply means that when polled, they filled in one
oval rather than another, and did not necessarily give it much
thought. Do they have a gripe with it? Well, “gripe” may or may not
be too strong a word.

Likewise, there are the Old Earth Creationists – who it would seem
cannot be regarded as Fundamentalists, but who nevertheless have some
gripe with evolution. Clearly, they would also constitute part of
that 42%. Finally, if someone believes that God guides the process of
evolution in a way that is empirically distinguishable from the causal
mechanisms discovered by means of methodological naturalism, then I
would say that they at least have a problem with if not gripe against
evolution, whether they realize they have this problem or not.

Then Timothy offers a cartoon when he should be busy out debating on TV.
And then lisagut encourages Lenny; bad Lisa:

Lenny: I am sending a personal thank you for turning down offers to debate this
in a public forum. I agree, it gives creationists ammo and authenticity if they
are presented as one (equal?) side of a debate.

Then another comment from Ian Robinson to Marc Draco, who are talking with each other (horrors!) about strategies:

On 11/10/05 14:55, “Marc Draco” midnight.diamond@…> wrote:

> And in the UK, we need to get religious extremists OUT of education -
> otherwise we’re going to be in the same trouble.

The only way to do that is to get people to join the main political parties
and fight from the inside…

That’s what I’m doing. I’m in the Conservative party, although I’m not very
active locally (no point in this DUP dominated constituency).

So, we’ve seen comments from 10 or so people, most directly addressing Michael Balter’s comments. None misrepresented him, and none said “everyone who thinks this way is stupid and ignorant”, although Lenny did say that “We are basically a nation of pig-ignorant uneducated uninformed morons” because most Americans believe Bush’s lies about Iraq. People (with one notable exception) have been generally polite. But the next message, written by that notable exception, is full of misrepresentations, rudeness, and foolish complaints about people “talking to themselves” – imagine that, on a yahoo mailing list, people are talking to each other! Of course, they were mostly talking to the notable exception, but the notable exception wasn’t paying any attention.

Michael Balter wrote:

Timothy, you are pretty much the only one who has actually tried to engage
with my argument. Otherwise, almost all the other posts consist of members
of this group telling each other that ID is not science, that it is
identical to creationism, that only stupid and ignorant Americans don’t
accept evolution (thus writing off over 200 million people as hopeless.) In
other words, people here are talking to themselves, while the ID crowd is
talking to the American people and winning many more “converts” than anyone
here. That is my whole point, and that is why I said that there should be a
debate. If ID is wrong, then raise it in the debate; if ID is not science,
then raise that in the debate too. But neither points are arguments for not
debating. If people here want to Debunk Creation, then they have to do it
in an arena where people are actually listening. Don’t just preach to the
converted! And you certainly don’t have to convert me, who has written
extensively on how humans are the result of evolution. For a sample, you
can read my “Are Humans Still Evolving?” story in Science:

www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/309/5732/234?ijkey=DFjt5MUjYwurQ&keytype=ref&siteid=sci

If you have trouble reading it, email me and I will be happy to send the
pdf.

And there you have it; I pulled comments from DebunkCreation and posted them here as requested, but they demonstrate something very different from what Balter claimed.

Comment #56463

Posted by k.e. on November 11, 2005 3:04 AM (e)

Phew !
I must be psychic.

Comment #56471

Posted by Michael Balter on November 11, 2005 4:43 AM (e)

Since Brian Spitzer called for a calmer discussion, there have been a number of posts that I would not consider in this spirit. However, I appreciate that Brian acknowledged my point that the current strategy is not working, even if he disagrees with my Los Angeles Times piece to a large extent; and he and Gary Hurd have asked me to move on and post my suggestions about how the debate I advocate would be done, for example in Kansas. I am going to tell you my plans on this in a moment, but first want to deal with just a few bookkeeping items.

Chris Noble, apology accepted.

Morbius: You are very frustrating, because one minute you will make some cogent points and the next you are haranguing about debating style, dishonesty, etc. And you are not above selective quoting and quoting out of context. The threads from DebunkCreation did include several statements that people who believe in ID and creationism are stupid and ignorant, but you have left out all of them except one from Lenny in that spirit. And your “scientists don’t want any debate” quotation out of my Los Angeles Times is out of context, as the piece makes clear that this applies to the classroom situation and to face to face debates with ID’ers–not to magazine articles and that sort of thing. But while I did say earlier that I could have taken a more dispassionate tone on DebunkCreation, I am happy with the substance of the points that I made there and stand by them. You can quote me on that morbius, in a nice box!

Lenny: ID may be temporarily disabled in Dover, but dead? People say I am out of touch with America, but Kansas is not a mythical place in “The Wizard of Oz.” And what do I see here on DebunkCreation, but that Kenneth Miller and Barbara Forrest are participating on panels with ID’ers at a conference in Washington? The disapproving voice at the end is yours, Lenny, and you may be right–but Barbara Forrest doesn’t seem to think so, despite how many times she has been cited here for her expertise on ID. I might add that very similar panels have taken place in Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz recently, and I am sure lots of other places too. I take heart that my strategy is being put into practice by some.

> On 15/10/05 01:03, “Winston” winston.cmoran@…> wrote:
>
> > Panelists include the Discovery Institute’s Paul Nelson and Brown
> > University’s Kenneth R. Miller (a Supporter of NCSE), Father George
> > Coyne of the Vatican Observatory and Michael Novak of AEI, John
> > Calvert of the Intelligent Design Network and Southeastern Louisiana
> > University’s Barbara Forrest (a member of NCSE’s board of
> > directors), Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University, and
> > Steven Gey of Florida State University, Richard Thompson of the
> > Thomas More Law Center, and the Discovery Institute’s Mark Ryland.
>
> Miller and Forrest are wrong to do this or the reasons outlined in the
> Balter thread.
>

Indeed. Both of them should know better.

Okay, I have been thinking about all this for several days, and here is what I am going to do: I am going to write an article for publication (not in Science, of course) which will include specific suggestions about how my debating idea could be put into practice in Kansas and other places. It will serve as an update to my Los Angeles Times piece. Once I have a draft done, I will post it here for comment, or on my Web site with a link to it here. Until, then good wishes to everyone here.

Comment #56473

Posted by Michael Balter on November 11, 2005 5:11 AM (e)

Addendum: Here is a summary of what was discussed at the October AEI panel, although I suppose many of you have already seen this.

http://www.aei.org/events/filter.all,eventID.1169/summary.asp

Comment #56474

Posted by k.e. on November 11, 2005 5:19 AM (e)

The easiest way to see if the debate mentioned above works, is to sample the audience prior to and after the debate. And see if there is a change.

I might be wrong MB but belief as you say trumps reality and as someone once said “in the absence of good beliefs people will take on bad beliefs”.

Even if you replayed the entire Behe testimony which Behe clearly messed up in no uncertain terms it would not trump reality. Have you looked at it ? It’s very revealing and Behe is still not disabused and of all people he should know better.

You are dealing with a pathology/psychosis that needs analysis and treatment. Given the lack of leadership from the top in Government and the Churches that will not happen. It will remain a wrestling match in the courts on a regular basis.

Comment #56475

Posted by Michael Balter on November 11, 2005 5:20 AM (e)

And just to be clear: This panel did indeed include direct discussion of the merits of ID vs evolution, as well as the policy issues of whether ID should be taught in schools which was the main theme.

Bye for now.

Comment #56476

Posted by Michael Balter on November 11, 2005 5:41 AM (e)

Sorry k.e., it is hard to say goodbye even for just a little while. This from Talk Reason site. Let’s all read this paper, maybe it just could apply to high school classes if handled right? After all, a university freshman is just one year out of high school.

Steven D. Verhey’s article “The effect of engaging prior learning on student attitudes toward creationism and evolution” appeared in the November 2005 issue (55 [11]: 2-9) of BioScience, published by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. In his article, Verhey reports on a pedagogical experiment in which students in introductory college biology classes were exposed either to literature attacking and defending evolution or (as a control) to literature on the evolution of sex. According to a November 1, 2005, press release from AIBS, “Sixty-one percent of students in the intervention streams reported some change in their beliefs; most of these students were initially sympathetic to creationist explanations and moved toward increased acceptance of evolution.” The noted evolution educator Craig E. Nelson commented in his editorial in the same issue that emulating Verhey’s approach “may be difficult in high-school classes in many communities, especially since college science classes have prepared so few of the teachers to do it well, and so few of the parents and politicians to understand and support it. Hence, it would be quite inappropriate to require such comparisons in high school. But it is time for college and university classes to more effectively help future teachers and other leaders understand why there is no contest scientifically between creationism and evolution.” Verhey teaches in the Department of Biological Sciences at Central Washington University, and is Steve #289 of NCSE’s Project Steve (now with 650 Steves).

Comment #56478

Posted by Michael Balter on November 11, 2005 6:09 AM (e)

I am getting a copy of this, but meanwhile here is a more detailed version on Eurekalert. You must agree it is a fascinating study whether or not you agree that it supports my viewpoint.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-11/aiob-epl102605.php

Comment #56481

Posted by k.e. on November 11, 2005 6:59 AM (e)

The key point here is the development of the the adolescent brain to adult brain.

Something the DI is VERY, VERY well aware of.

Note there is no bible in this thinking its straight out of the “Art of War”.

Most targeted kids are never going to get the chance to do the Verhey training exactly when they need it on the cusp of adulthood.

It IS too advanced for HS kids and they will not have the time or thinking ability to handle the matter.

However it should be compulsory for Biology teachers Heads of Churches and Heads of State. How about getting all of congress to do it :>

Comment #56487

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 11, 2005 8:29 AM (e)

ID may be temporarily disabled in Dover, but dead? People say I am out of touch with America, but Kansas is not a mythical place in “The Wizard of Oz.”

Yes, dead. “Illegal” pretty much translates to “dead”.

Once ID is ruled illegal in Dover, Kansas becomes an irrelevant slam dunk. “Illegal” is “illegal”, even in Kansas.

Now answer my question — why aren’t you out there debating all the IDers, to show us stupid dolts who don’t appreciate your genius, how it’s done?

Comment #56489

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 11, 2005 8:32 AM (e)

people who believe in ID and creationism are stupid and ignorant

Looks at Blast . . Looks at Sal … Looks at Evopeach . . Looks at DaveScot ….

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm …… .

Draw your own conclusion.

Comment #56566

Posted by walker on November 11, 2005 1:09 PM (e)

Way way way above, in comments 55132, 55133, and 55134, (posted ONE WEEK ago) the commenter Registered User asked Gary Hurd several interesting questions that Gary has not bothered to address.

I also note that Registered User pointed out the American Enterprise Institute “debate” (more of a panel presentation, with plenty of debate, though) which featured several creationists as well as Ken Miller – a debate which Mr. Balter suddenly appears to have just now discovered (or at least he is mentioning it for the first time here).

I would like to follow up on what I perceive to be Registered User’s main point regarding Mr. Balter’s self-important whining. Mr. Balter claims to be a journalist (I believe he is). He claims to believe in evolution (I believe he does). Mr. Balter claims to be believe that debates between scientists and creationists are essential.

So my question is: given the importance that Mr. Balter places on such events, and given that a debate occurred, and given that Ken Miller wiped the floor with the creationists, why didn’t Mr. Balter write a creationist-skewering article memorializing the event and letting the public know what happened? Why didn’t Mr. Balter even acknowledge the event until just now?

I think that’s the most irrititating thing about Mr. Balter’s pomposity. He’s the journalist. Why doesn’t he just do his job? Others involved in this fight would love to have the access and resume Mr. Balter has so they could set the record straight about exactly the sorts of facts that Registered User refers to. Debates about the Discovery Institute’s sick agenda are fine with me – but the Discovery Institute would never allow any of its members to participate in a debate focused on that topic (they would insist that the debate focuses on the “science”).

Why doesn’t Mr. Balter – a journalist – put his energy into educating the public and his journalistic peers rather than ragging on scientists about their unwillingness to lend credibility to professional liars?

Comment #56592

Posted by morbius on November 11, 2005 3:44 PM (e)

And you are not above selective quoting and quoting out of context. The threads from DebunkCreation did include several statements that people who believe in ID and creationism are stupid and ignorant, but you have left out all of them except one from Lenny in that spirit.

I left out nothing; I included every post in those threads that preceded yours claiming that people had said this. When faced with the evidence that you were wrong, you accuse me of being selective but provide nothing to back it up. What an incredible lying slandering ass. Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DebunkCreation/ and present here the evidence to support your accusation or admit to being a dishonest scumball.

Comment #56593

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 11, 2005 3:45 PM (e)

Way way way above, in comments 55132, 55133, and 55134, (posted ONE WEEK ago) the commenter Registered User asked Gary Hurd several interesting questions that Gary has not bothered to address.

The questions raised were regarding my thought that the same First Amendment concerns that block a particular religious point of view from being promoted in public schools blocks the use of science to discourage a particular religious POV. “Registered User” asked if I had specific case law in support- I do not. But there is the relevant text of the First Amendment,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

It seems intuitively obvious to me that attacks on religious beliefs in public K-12 schools, which have mandatory attendance laws, would constitute a form of “prohibition.”

The reason I did not reply was that I did not want to dive down that rabbit hole so early in the discussion.

I would not like to go there even now.

Walker’s second point regarding the panel discussion recently hosted by AEI is more relevant.

The only “debate” aspect was during the question and answer period. Further, the science panelists were both expert in their professional fields, but also expert in the creationist movement, and creationist arguments. The audience seemed to have been limited to a small number of already quite well informed individuals. This a totally different situation from the “debates” where various scientists are regularly humiliated by professional creationists in front of hundreds of bussed in church groups.

I suppose that Mr Balter could now indicate that the former was the sort of venue he “really” imagined when he called for “national debates” between scientists and creationists. That was not the impression I had reading his editorial, nor had he held this up as his intended example.

Comment #56594

Posted by morbius on November 11, 2005 4:00 PM (e)

I included every post in those threads that preceded yours claiming that people had said this.

To clarify: I included all the posts (except for a few OT about some poem) in threads that Balter initiated, up through his post claiming that “almost all the other posts consist of members of this group telling each other that ID is not science, that it is identical to creationism, that only stupid and ignorant Americans don’t accept evolution (thus writing off over 200 million people as hopeless.)”. I did not include every post ever made at DC. Balter says I “make some cogent points and the next you are haranguing about debating style, dishonesty, etc.” These are not mutually exclusive; I made a cogent argument that Balter is a dishonest ass, and he continues to provide confirming evidence. If you want to talk about haranging, Balter, just look at your words I just quoted.

Comment #56596

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 11, 2005 4:06 PM (e)

PS: For a very good examination of the “free exercise of religion” I recommend this “Find Law” review article.

PPS: I naturally recognize that Mr. Balter could not have been thinking of the AEI event, as it had not happened before his unfortunate editorial was published.

PPPS: I suppose I should also point out the debate discussed in this PT thread from Nov. 3, 2005

Comment #56597

Posted by morbius on November 11, 2005 4:10 PM (e)

It seems intuitively obvious to me that attacks on religious beliefs in public K-12 schools, which have mandatory attendance laws, would constitute a form of “prohibition.”

Surely you don’t think that the establishment clause that means the free exercise of religion must be allowed in public classrooms? Yet that would be an “intuitive” interpretation. There’s no prohibition on refuting empirical claims that happen to be part of the dogma of some religion or another. There’s no more a prohibition against presenting evidence that contradicts Noah’s flood then there is a prohibition against presenting evidence that contradicts the sun standing still.

Comment #56599

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 11, 2005 4:22 PM (e)

Surely you don’t think that the establishment clause that means the free exercise of religion must be allowed in public classrooms? Yet that would be an “intuitive” interpretation. There’s no prohibition on refuting empirical claims that happen to be part of the dogma of some religion or another. There’s no more a prohibition against presenting evidence that contradicts Noah’s flood then there is a prohibition against presenting evidence that contradicts the sun standing still.

This is exactly why I didn’t want to charge down this particular rabbit hole.

If Mr. Balter actually provides his version of how to conduct his recommended “classroom debates,” that will be the proper opening for a discussion of what I, and you (all) think.

Comment #56601

Posted by Michael Balter on November 11, 2005 4:54 PM (e)

Talk about not my not engaging the arguments here, let’s hear someone engage with the Verhey paper, this is one of the Steves. And be careful before you answer: I have been in direct touch with the author and I know how he interprets his results as they relate to the debate here.

Comment #56624

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 11, 2005 6:26 PM (e)

Re: Verhey

Lube up those goal posts, because they are off to the races.

Why not add this to the “Kansas” solution you promised?

Comment #56645

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 11, 2005 7:41 PM (e)

Mr Balter, I have asked you, four or five times now, a very simple question. I am getting rather pissed off at your avoiding it (I *expect* it from ID/creationists who refuse to answer direct questions, so it doesn’t piss me off when THEY do it – but YOU are supposed to be different than they are).

So I’ll ask again. Please answer this time. Otherwise, just like with IDers, I will have no choice but to ask again. And again and again and again and again, as many times as I need to, until you either answer or run away. Please have no doubts about my patience or persistance.

*ahem*

Why are you, yourself, not out there debating IDers, to show all of us simple-minded dolts who don’t appreciate your genius exactly how it is done?

It’s a simple question, Mr Balter. You have been running breathlessly from one forum to another shouting out, “Hey everyone, look at me!! I have the Sure-Fire Winning Strategy™© to beat the IDers !!!!”

And yet, to my knowledge, the actual number of actual IDers you have actually engaged in actual public debate is … actually … zero.

Why is that?

Here’s what it looks like to me, Mr Balter — you seem far far more interested in the “hey look at me!!!” part than you are in the “beat the IDers” part. (shrug)

But now that you’ve *been* in several different forums, with a large number of active anti-IDers, many of whom have been actively organizing against creationists and IDers for several decades ———- and those longtime active organizers have rejected your Miracle Strategy™© as a waste of time, I’m curious. Why do you think your Sure-Fire Grand Winning Strategy™© has been so soundly rejected by all of the most experienced longterm creationist-ID fighters?

Is it because they’re just not as smart as you are?

Is it because they have less experience fighting creationists/IDers than you do?

Is it because they are all secretly on the side of the IDers?

Is it because you’ve just not explained your Unbeatable Guaranteeed Winning Strategy™© to them in a manner that their simple little minds can comprehend, and thus they simply don’t understand how wonderfully magnificent it really is?

Or maybe —- just MAYBE, mind you —- is it because they’ve seen these debates firsthand (and perhaps participated in a few themselves) and have seen firsthand that they don’t help? Is that POSSIBLE? Is it POSSIBLE that maybe, just MAYBE, your rather naive view of things is . . well . . wrong, and that maybe, just MAYBE, people who have been at this game for a lot longer than you have been, have a better idea than you do what works in this fight and what doesn’t, and why?

Is that POSSIBLE?

Or are you simply too much the Grand Exalted Science Writer ©™ for that?

Comment #56658

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 11, 2005 9:10 PM (e)

look, I don’t know how many of the posters in this thread know the history of my posting behavior here, but I don’t propose striking someone via their livelihood lightly. In fact, this is the very first time i ever remotely suggested anything like it.

perhaps some of you might realize why Mr. Balter’s attitude offends me so, and worries me greatly?

it has been pointed out repeatedly (not just for my benefit) how well published Mr. Balter is wrt to science commentary (in Science and other journals as well). the more well published someone is, the less i expect this kind of ignorant, high-handed attitutude to come from them, and the more damaging i perceive ill-considered arguments from them appearing in print. perhaps after a whole WEEK of this “debate” it has now become clear to the rest of you that Balter has no intention of actually comprehending the egregious error of his strategy?

if not, please, go right on ahead and bicker with him some more.

It is often stated on PT that we should be proactive in contacting the editors of writers who write good prose regarding the issues under discussion here, and i have been.

I still maintain it to be just as important to warn editors of writers that are off track, so they will be just as critical of any op-ed pieces they might submit as they are of any more traditional articles the editors are more familiar with.

I’ll say no more than that, and if you disagree, fine, but I think those who do should re-examine whether that stance would be a bit hypocritical.

Comment #56687

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 2:23 AM (e)

Why are you, yourself, not out there debating IDers, to show all of us simple-minded dolts who don’t appreciate your genius exactly how it is done?

Simple answer to that: Because I can’t do it all by myself. I need you and Gary and morbius and everyone involved in this issue to be convinced that this is the way to go and do it too if it is going to work. But there is a head start, some scientists do agree with some of my proposals.

Why not add this to the “Kansas” solution you promised?

The Verhey paper is indeed relevant to the issue of how best to teach evolution, even if its exact application requires a lot of consideration. Does anyone here disagree that it is not relevant to the issues we are discussing?

Comment #56691

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 2:49 AM (e)

I forgot to provide the link to Craig Nelson’s editorial in BioScience accompanying the Verhey paper. You should read it. Nelson does say he does not think this could be applied in high schools, but I think he is just not using his imagination on that point. This strategy could fairly easily be adapted at the high school level–not much difference between a hs senior and a college freshman.

Verhey, as some of you know, is working with NCSE on evolution teaching methods, and the post on Talk Reason of this paper originally came from the NCSE site as I realized later.

http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-editorials/editorial_2005_11.html

Comment #56692

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 2:52 AM (e)

Sorry, that’s disagree that it IS relevant.

Comment #56695

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 3:12 AM (e)

Why are you, yourself, not out there debating IDers, to show all of us simple-minded dolts who don’t appreciate your genius exactly how it is done?

Simple answer to that: Because I can’t do it all by myself.

But you can manage *one* debate by yourself, can’t you …? Why haven’t you debated even *one* IDer? You can’t debate ANYBODY by yourself … ?

And if you haven’t even debated *one* IDer, what on earth makes you think that your judgement on these “debates” is any better than the judgement of those of us who HAVE been “debating” IDers, for several years now, and have seen firsthand why they don’t work?

I need you and Gary and morbius and everyone involved in this issue to be convinced that this is the way to go and do it too if it is going to work.

But all of *us* (who have been fighting IDers for years or even decades now) think that your Grand Winning Idea™© is a load of crap, Mr Balter. (shrug)

As I asked before (and you didn’t answer):

Why do you think your Sure-Fire Grand Winning Strategy™© has been so soundly rejected by all of the most experienced longterm creationist-ID fighters?

Is it because they’re just not as smart as you are?

Is it because they have less experience fighting creationists/IDers than you do?

Is it because they are all secretly on the side of the IDers?

Is it because you’ve just not explained your Unbeatable Guaranteeed Winning Strategy™© to them in a manner that their simple little minds can comprehend, and thus they simply don’t understand how wonderfully magnificent it really is?

Or maybe —— just MAYBE, mind you —— is it because they’ve seen these debates firsthand (and perhaps participated in a few themselves) and have seen firsthand that they don’t help? Is that POSSIBLE? Is it POSSIBLE that maybe, just MAYBE, your rather naive view of things is . . well . . wrong, and that maybe, just MAYBE, people who have been at this game for a lot longer than you have been, have a better idea than you do what works in this fight and what doesn’t, and why?

Is that POSSIBLE?

Or are you simply too much the Grand Exalted Science Writer ©™ for that?

Comment #56699

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 3:37 AM (e)

That’s all great, Lenny. Sure I could be wrong, just as you could be; or we could both be wrong in various ways. But the fact that many here disagree with me is actually not an argument in itself. Now engage with the Verhey paper or it might start to look like you are more interested in being a hero in the Great Struggle against creationism (see Lenny’s post way higher up, 55157, for the list of his accomplishments) than in teaching kids to think scientifically–isn’t that, after all, what is really at stake here?

Comment #56701

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 4:28 AM (e)

That’s all great, Lenny. Sure I could be wrong, just as you could be; or we could both be wrong in various ways.

The difference, of course, being that one of us has actual experience fighting actual IDers, and therefore knows from firsthand practical experience what works and what doesn’t.

One of us … uh . . doesn’t.

But the fact that many here disagree with me is actually not an argument in itself.

Um, when all the experienced people think you are wrong, maybe it’s time to consider the probability that you are … well . . wrong.

And I notice you didn’t answer my question, yet again.

So I’ll ask again.

Why do you think your Sure-Fire Grand Winning Strategy™© has been so soundly rejected by all of the most experienced longterm creationist-ID fighters?

It’s a simple question, Mr Balter. Why do you think we all reject your sage advice?

Why won’t you just answer that simple question?

And please TRY to do better this time than “you’re all just big meanies, boo hoo hoo”.

Now engage with the Verhey paper

What’s to “engage”? He hasn’t debated any more IDers than you have, and I think he’s wrong for exactly and precisely the same reasons I think YOU are. And appealing to his authority doesn’t help you a shred. Or add anything new. (shrug)

or it might start to look like you are more interested in being a hero in the Great Struggle against creationism

Ya know, I can always tell when a criticism has stung an opponent, badly, because they always then go on to try and use the same criticism, badly.

I’ve been fighting creationist/IDers for 20 years now, Mr Balter. You, on the other hand, have done nothing but bloviate and pontificate, about a topic that you know utterly nothing about.

When you have some actual experience fighting actual IDers, then perhaps your, uh, advice, would be worth listening to. Until then, well, I’m too busy actually fighting actual IDers to listen to all your theoretical hypothetical guesses about how to do it. Particularly when I’ve already seen your theoretical hypothetical advice fall flat on its face in the real world. (shrug)

Comment #56704

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 4:48 AM (e)

But you can manage *one* debate by yourself, can’t you …? Why haven’t you debated even *one* IDer? You can’t debate ANYBODY by yourself … ?

And if you haven’t even debated *one* IDer, what on earth makes you think that your judgement on these “debates” is any better than the judgement of those of us who HAVE been “debating” IDers, for several years now, and have seen firsthand why they don’t work?

Well?

Comment #56709

Posted by morbius on November 12, 2005 5:59 AM (e)

And appealing to his authority doesn’t help you a shred.

Balter didn’t appeal to his authority, he appealed to his study, which is perfectly legitimate. But as Gary said, it’s goalpost moving. Verhey’s study is about a college intro biology course. It’s a very different population than, say, high school students in Dover. And it’s not a classroom debate, it’s about reading anti-evolution literature and then reading material refuting the former – all selected by Verhey. If it weren’t for the 1st amendment considerations, I wouldn’t have a problem with every public high school biology class in the country following Verhey’s curriculum (but, as Nelson points out, there would be serious problems in implementing this), but this has nothing to do with Balter’s debate proposals (Nelson spells out the difference between Verhey’s pedagogy and such debates and characterizes the latter: “That is clearly wrong, factually and morally”). As Ian Robinson wrote in the first response to Balter at DebunkCreation, one of so many substantive responses that Balter ignored,

We need to teach the facts as we see them in the world today in a better
way. I see this as a science communication problem rather than a conflict
between evidence based science and religion based ID.

This is the same position that Nelson takes:

Public rejection of sound science is not primarily the result of some facet of popular culture. Rather, it is the predictable result of ill-founded pedagogical choices.

But we can see that Balter applies the same approach to Nelson as he did to the folks at DebunkCreation and to the entire scientific community in his op-ed: “I think he is just not using his imagination on that point”. No counter to Nelson’s evidence or reasoning, just an arrogant and insulting ad hominem. I have seen no reason to think that Mr. Balter has a better imagination or uses it better than Professor Emeritus of Biology Craig Nelson.

BTW, while I think Verhey’s study is valuable and don’t find it surprising that his approach was effective, his “non-intervention stream” is not a proper control; it’s really apples and oranges to compare the effects of reading anti-evolution material, refutations of that material, and evidence for evolution, to the effects of reading about the evolutionary mechanisms of sexuality; the latter takes evolution as a given. A proper comparison would be to a strictly positive argument for evolution.

Comment #56710

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 6:08 AM (e)

What’s to “engage”? He hasn’t debated any more IDers than you have, and I think he’s wrong for exactly and precisely the same reasons I think YOU are. And appealing to his authority doesn’t help you a shred. Or add anything new. (shrug)

Gary Hurd, since I am obviously not appealing to the authority of this author but offering it as an important and relevant exhibit in this debate, do you have any advice about how best to disseminate it? I don’t see any file posting facility here but perhaps I have missed it. Verhey has sent me a corrected page proof version but it might not be final, otherwise I would offer to email it to anyone who wanted to see it. If I could get a final pdf from BioScience, is there any place we could post it where people could have access to it?

When I get to my office and have access to a qwerty keyboard I will post the author’s conclusions here.

Comment #56712

Posted by morbius on November 12, 2005 6:14 AM (e)

Balter didn’t appeal to his authority

Hmmm, actually, that’s not true. He did so with this (typically smug) comment:

And be careful before you answer: I have been in direct touch with the author and I know how he interprets his results as they relate to the debate here.

Not only aren’t interpretations by Verhey or anyone else scientific evidence, but I would not trust Balter to accurately characterize Verhey’s views, especially as they relate to a specific context.

Comment #56717

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 8:35 AM (e)

Please note that the only real statement I have made about the Verhey paper is that it is RELEVANT to our discussion, although Lenny and morbius have already begun to rebut it and its methodology even though most here have probably not read it yet–including them, as I have only posted two summaries of it and Nelson’s editorial. If in fact Lenny and morbius have read the entire paper, I stand corrected.

But we can see that Balter applies the same approach to Nelson as he did to the folks at DebunkCreation and to the entire scientific community in his op-ed: “I think he is just not using his imagination on that point”. No counter to Nelson’s evidence or reasoning, just an arrogant and insulting ad hominem. I have seen no reason to think that Mr. Balter has a better imagination or uses it better than Professor Emeritus of Biology Craig Nelson.

We should ALL be careful how we argue here. If Professor Emeritus of Biology Craig Nelson has an equal or better imagination than Michael Balter, then his hearty endorsement of the paper and its conclusions (given that he has actually read it) might also carry at least as much or even more weight than the hasty rebuttals of Lenny and morbius–although I don’t actually think that such an argument from authority would be valid.

One thing that can be said for this paper: It is a research study carried out by a biology prof who teaches evolution and it was published in a reputable journal. It is a study of pedagogical methods in teaching evolution. That makes it worthy of discussion here, and I suggest that we figure out how to get the whole text to people. Meanwhile, I will later on post the study’s conclusions here, subject of course to later verification that I have quoted it accurately and in context.

Comment #56725

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 10:08 AM (e)

Balter, come back when you have some real experience and advice to offer.

Otherwise, stop arguing with us, and get your ass out there and start debating some IDers. Shown us all how it’s done.

Comment #56726

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 10:10 AM (e)

And I notice you didn’t answer my question, yet again.

So I’ll ask again.

Why do you think your Sure-Fire Grand Winning Strategy™© has been so soundly rejected by all of the most experienced longterm creationist-ID fighters?

It’s a simple question, Mr Balter. Why do you think we all reject your sage advice?

Why won’t you just answer that simple question?

And please TRY to do better this time than “you’re all just big meanies, boo hoo hoo”.

Well …. ?

How many times am I going to have to ask you before you answer, Balter?

Comment #56728

Posted by k.e. on November 12, 2005 11:08 AM (e)

Can I just interupt this Punch and Judy show for an inXianty break ?

Futher on the very dangerous minds we are dealing with

http://www.global-vision.org/sacred/fundamentalism.html

Hilarious this guy gets em all the schizoid fundamentalist

http://educate-yourself.org/dc/leaveculturalschizobehind11mar05.shtml

Interesting if wishy washy theological comparison of various IDer’s

http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=83

Comment #56731

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 11:42 AM (e)

It’s a simple question, Mr Balter. Why do you think we all reject your sage advice?

Umm, uhhh,… [scratches head]… because you think I’m wrong? And tell me why your 20 year fight against the creationists has resulted in no change in the number of people who believe in it at least in the USA over the exact same period according to the polls I cite in my LA Times piece, and why we are still having this battle and only barely holding the line?

Now on to more substantial issues. I am going to post the abstract to the Verhey paper here, rest my wrists and do a few other things, and then post the conclusions which are much longer later on. Here is the author’s abstract:

“American adults and K-12 students frequently report nonrationalist views about creationism and evolution. Efforts to force educators to include material on ‘intelligent design’ theory are causing widespread concern in the science education community. I report here the effects of a modified approach to a majors-oriented college introductory biology course. The course was modified to connect with the experiences, knowledge, and beliefs that most students bring to college, with the intent of engaging prior learning about creationism and evolution and of emphasizing the nature of science. The effects of this approach on student creationist or evolutionist attitudes were compared with the effects of two other sections of the same course that were taught by different instructors during the same academic quarter. The modified approach produced more attitude change than the other approaches. It included some material whose use has been discouraged by science educators, including discussion of creation myths and use of an intelligent design-oriented book as a foil to a mainstream book on evolution in seminar discussions.”

Finally, morbius is absolutely right that this approach is somewhat different than the debate ID strategy I advocated in my Times piece. One might even say that if the Verhey paper is correct in its conclusions about pedagogical techniques, and if it could be adapted to the high school situation despite Craig Nelson’s reservations about this, then the Kansas school board’s vote could be turned around on them and made to backfire on them. I don’t say that I am ready to conclude this yet, but one could start to think about it–if, indeed, thinking about alternative strategies is something we want to do given the 20 year failure I mentioned above.

PS–as for why I won’t go away, Lenny, this is a thread about my LA Times piece and related issues. No one is forcing you to respond to my posts, why not just ignore me?

Comment #56733

Posted by Steve Verhey on November 12, 2005 11:46 AM (e)

Having read this entire thread within the past 12 hours, I really don’t know where to start. Perhaps like this: if anyone treats me as disrespectfully as Mr. Balter has been treated, I’m out of here. I don’t have time for it. I’d also prefer that further discussion of my paper be moved to a different thread. I can’t imagine anyone without a dog in this fight will have read this far.

The worst that can be said about Mr. Balter is that he means well and made a proposal that may be flawed. But I’m not here to defend him, I’m here to try to get ahead of the curve in the discussion of my paper, then get out of the way. Mr. Balter is doing a fine job of defending himself, and I respect his patience in the face of the treatment he has received here.

In my introductory college classes, I teach young-Earth creationism, ID, and other creation myths in addition to evolution and other general biology topics. In my BioScience paper, I compare my approach with the approaches of two other faculty who took a more mainstream approach to biology education. What a “traditional” approach is turns out to be difficult to describe, partly because people’s feelings get hurt if one suggests what they’re doing isn’t effective. Even so, I think we all know what it means: a focus on evolution and an avoidance of alternative explanations and possible impatience for student questions about creationism. Numerous scientists with exceptional education credentials have said that this is the approach that should be followed. Bruce Alberts, for example, says ID doesn’t deserve to be included because it isn’t science and would displace science content. Dr. Alberts puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else, and I disagree with him, at least when it comes to college.

I found that students in my classes changed their attitudes toward creationism and evolution far more frequently than students in the other classes, and the great majority of students (but not all) changed toward the rationalist end of the spectrum. I report data for the one term when I was able to do a reasonably clean experiment, but I got similar results in numerous other instantiations, starting in 2002.

I would post a pdf of my paper, but I’m mindful of BioScience’s copyright, and I think they should at least be able to mail the print version to subscribers before the paper version is released on the Internet. Meanwhile, please consider subscribing, or simply buying a copy of the paper off their website.

In his insightful editorial, Craig Nelson is perhaps too gracious. It seems to me that when he says “Public rejection of sound science is not primarily the result of some facet of popular culture. Rather, it is the predictable result of ill-founded pedagogical choices,” what he means is, “We’ve screwed up when it comes to teaching science, and it’s no surprise that we’re paying for it as the laughingstock of the world when it comes to public understanding and acceptance of science.”

It wouldn’t be so bad that we’ve screwed up, except that the information we, as teachers, need to do a better job has been in the pedagogical literature for several, sometimes many, years. I review some of it in my paper. I think key problem is that most “real” scientists don’t read, respect, or understand the pedagogical literature, and no one knows this better than Craig Nelson. Many science professors, even at small comprehensive universities like mine, have a conceit that they are “real” scientists, not primarily teachers (my appointment is 80% teaching, 20% everything else).

“Real” scientists may not realize that it is very difficult to arrange experiments like the one I describe, for example. First there’s the problem that instructors teaching the negative control classes risk being shown to be making “ill-founded pedagogical choices,” and are understandably reluctant to participate. It is impossible for one person to teach enough sections to do a proper experiment. Students in all sections need to have been randomly enrolled in the sections, something that isn’t even done any more at my university. One needs to demonstrate that the students have similar characteristics, in terms of college experience, grades, and gender. Educational research is field research, not lab research, with all the complications that implies. So of course the negative control sections aren’t proper controls, and I note in the paper that the results are technically not generalizable, though I personally think otherwise.

Also in the paper I write that “…one could argue that the evidence [from education literature] suggests most high school graduates, and even most college graduates, are cognitively unprepared to think effectively about evolution.” I don’t know what to say about high school evolution education. I don’t think my approach would work there. Perhaps it could work, but it would take too much time. Evolution can’t be avoided in HS biology classes, and creationism/ID can’t be presented as even vaguely valid alternatives, so we are where we are.

College is where the really important science education happens, and we’re screwing that up by focusing too much on the fraction of a percent of students who may become scientists. College is where we should be focusing our attention. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of creationists in the US has been fairly stable, at around 50%. During that same time, the proportion of people with less than a high school education has declined from 26 to 8%, and the proportion with at least some college education has increased from 35 to 59%.

As Steve#289, I signed a statement that says that teaching ID is poor pedagogy, and I still think that is true at the high school level. Based on my research, however, I tentatively conclude that failing to teach ID in college is poor pedagogy. I hope my paper will inspire further research on the subject.

Comment #56737

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 12:15 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quot'

Comment #56739

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 12:17 PM (e)

Umm, uhhh,… [scratches head]… because you think I’m wrong? And tell me why your 20 year fight against the creationists has resulted in no change in the number of people who believe in it at least in the USA over the exact same period according to the polls I cite in my LA Times piece, and why we are still having this battle and only barely holding the line?

Because nobody is going to change anybody’s religious opinions through “debate”. Of any sort. At any time or place.

If you think YOU can … well … good luck with that. (shrug)

Comment #56740

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 12:23 PM (e)

In deference to Steve Verhey’s request that any discussion of his paper be moved to another thread, I will say no more about it here. I assume that Gary will tell us how to proceed.

Thus I am done posting in this thread until I have completed the drafts of the one or more pieces I plan to write about my proposed strategy for Kansas etc.

Comment #56742

Posted by k.e. on November 12, 2005 12:25 PM (e)

Steve Verhey said

I tentatively conclude that failing to teach ID in college is poor pedagogy.

I presume you mean comparative creation myths to all teachers ?

Comment #56743

Posted by k.e. on November 12, 2005 12:29 PM (e)

Lenny did you read any of the stuff I put in my second last post ? (Don’t worry about the theology stuff that was for MB)
Would you like me to pick out any stuff I think you might find useful ?

Comment #56744

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 12:39 PM (e)

if anyone treats me as disrespectfully as Mr. Balter has been treated, I’m out of here.

Respect is earned, not assumed. I don’t recall seeing much in the way of “respect” coming from Mr Balter’s end, either. Mr Balter acted like a pompous ass. And he got treated like one. (shrug)

The worst that can be said about Mr. Balter is that he means well and made a proposal that may be flawed.

I accept that he means well. His proposal IS flawed. It might help him if he made an effort to understand WHY people think it is flawed, rather than acting like a smug self-righteous ass, and dismissing all his critics as “you’re mean to me, boo hoo hoo”.

Also in the paper I write that “…one could argue that the evidence [from education literature] suggests most high school graduates, and even most college graduates, are cognitively unprepared to think effectively about evolution.” I don’t know what to say about high school evolution education. I don’t think my approach would work there. Perhaps it could work, but it would take too much time. Evolution can’t be avoided in HS biology classes, and creationism/ID can’t be presented as even vaguely valid alternatives, so we are where we are.

Well, none of this has anything to do with public debates with IDers, whcih is what I was discussing with Mr Balter. There are very very few experienced ID fighters who think such “public debates” are anything other than an aid for the IDers.

As for science education, well, the *whole US education system* is a disaster. I see no need to focus solely on evolution, or even solely on science. Many American adults can’t tell you which country the US won independence from. Many can’t name the current Vice President. Many think that Iraq really had WMDs; many think that Saddam was behind the 9-11 attacks. Most can’t find Iraq on a world map – many can’t even find the USA on a world map. We are, basically, a nation of uneducated pig-ignorant morons.

This is mostly, I think, because we, as a society, have collectively decided that (despite all our pious talk to the contrary) we simply don’t care about educating our kids, and simply don’t want to put any more money into it than is necessary to produce the next generation of people who can flip cheeseburgers and occasionally give correct change.

As for teaching ID to college students as a way to teach “critical thinking”, I have no gripe with that (provided that these students first have a proper grounding in biology and science, which they won’t get in high school, and which would be the FIRST thing I’d change before going any further). Heck, I’m all in favor of massive teaching of “critical thinking” about everything from political campaign ads to soap commercials. Alas, the last thing that the powers that be want, is an educated population that is able to think for itself. So I think that our education system is doomed to produce more cheeseburger-flippers rather than more critical thinkers. (sigh)

As for teaching ID to middle school or high school kids (the ones targeted by IDers), I see no point to it. They don’t grasp enough basic science to “critically think” about anything anyway. It’s like teaching a bunch of five year olds all the arguments why they should eat a balanced nutritional meal at lunch, and all the arguments why they should eat ice cream and cookies for lunch, and then asking them to “decide for themselves”. ID’s entire agenda is to “teach the controversy” to people who are not prepared to *evaluate* their arguments. I see no reason to help them. There simply IS NO controversy. I see no reason to help IDers pretend that there is.

And finally, as to the “public debates” with IDers that I was talking about with Mr Balter, the near-unanimous opinion of every experienced ID-fighter I know is that they do far more harm than good. They give the IDers a chance to raise more money; they give the IDers an air of respectibility that they don’t deserve; they bamboozle people into thinking there is really a “scientific controversy” with “two valid sides” when there isn’t; they allow ID to present their crap as “science” without the necessity of going through the standard scientific process. I turn down every invitation I get to “debate” IDers. Such “debates” do more to harm us than to help us. I hope you would agree with that.

Comment #56745

Posted by Michael Balter on November 12, 2005 12:44 PM (e)

I turn down every invitation I get to “debate” IDers.

NOW I know why we’ve made no progress in 20 years!

Sorry Lenny, could not resist.

Comment #56751

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on November 12, 2005 1:36 PM (e)

How many IDers did you say you’ve debated and converted, Mr Balter?

Comment #56764

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 12, 2005 2:28 PM (e)

Steve Verhey wrote:

I really don’t know where to start. Perhaps like this: if anyone treats me as disrespectfully as Mr. Balter has been treated, I’m out of here. I don’t have time for it. I’d also prefer that further discussion of my paper be moved to a different thread. I can’t imagine anyone without a dog in this fight will have read this far.

A very poor start. Participation by comentors here is voluntary. Obviously you are not compelled to participate. It took me quite some time to realize that this type of communication is not like standing in front of a class as the “Professor.” After 30 years of being the “Professor,” it was a major adjustment for me to take flack from a semi literate high school student.

Some people can’t handle the ego deflation.

I think that a discussion of your paper would be worth potentially while and interesting. Send me an email with a PDF of your paper, or the URL where it is hosted, and I’ll set up a thread.

Until the new thread is established, I request that no further discussion regarding it be posted.

Thanks,

garyhurd@pandasthumb.org

Comment #56778

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 12, 2005 3:19 PM (e)

I report here the effects of a modified approach to a majors-oriented college introductory biology course

Mr. Balter, can’t you see the difference here? by the time someone is in a majors-oriented college introductory biology course, they ALREADY have the tools necessary to make logical decisions for themselves.

the same tactic WILL NOT WORK when used with less knowledgeable students, or the general public, for that matter.

This is what Lenny and others keep trying to point out to you, but you refuse to grasp.

Comment #56780

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 12, 2005 3:25 PM (e)

And tell me why your 20 year fight against the creationists has resulted in no change in the number of people who believe in it at least in the USA over the exact same period according to the polls I cite in my LA Times piece, and why we are still having this battle and only barely holding the line?

your use of poll data is astoundingly bad in this circumstance, and reflects on your abilities even more.

uh, what on EARTH makes you think that what Lenny by himself has done would reflect on 20 years of poll data for the entire US?

why not ask Lenny how effective his strategies have been directly?

probably because, like you have demonstrated over and over, you simply don’t care about what works and what doesn’t, only what YOU think will work.

Comment #56860

Posted by morbius on November 12, 2005 7:27 PM (e)

The worst that can be said about Mr. Balter is that he means well and made a proposal that may be flawed.

No, that’s not the worst that can be said about him, and that claim casts a deep shadow on your own judgment and intellectual honesty.

Comment #56862

Posted by morbius on November 12, 2005 7:33 PM (e)

One might even say that if the Verhey paper is correct in its conclusions about pedagogical techniques, and if it could be adapted to the high school situation despite Craig Nelson’s reservations about this

And Verhey’s own reservations:

I signed a statement that says that teaching ID is poor pedagogy, and I still think that is true at the high school level.

Comment #56865

Posted by morbius on November 12, 2005 7:41 PM (e)

Note: it would be quite worthwhile to have a discussion about approaches toward pedagogy in high school, college, and elsewhere. But that’s not what this thread was about; it was about a specific op-ed, a highly tendentious op-ed that made false charges, misrepresented positions, presented ID claims uncritically, insulted the scientific community, and offered some specific but ill-considered proposals, proposals that bear very little resemblance to the Verhey study.

Comment #56885

Posted by Registered User on November 12, 2005 8:57 PM (e)

The worst that can be said about Mr. Balter is that he means well and made a proposal that may be flawed.

Hilarious. I think that’s the best we could possibly for say for Mr. Balter under the circumstances, if we’re feeling really really generous. And why should we show Mr. Balter that sort of understanding when he does nothing but grandstand and dissemble in response to our questions and criticisms of his vaguely articulated and ill-considered “proposals”?

Recall the following questions Mr. Balter has completely dodged:

What’s left of the scientific theory of ID that hasn’t been refuted, in your opinion, Mr. Balter?

Re Balter’s claim that: The Dover case is not yet decided, and when it is, most likely it will be appealed to a Supreme Court

Why do you think this? I would be stunned if the Supreme’s take cert on any issue arising from the facts in this case. Why do you say this? Do you think Judge Jones is going to write a terrible opinion that confuses the law terribly?

Balter wrote: But the battle for the hearts and minds of school kids and adults on the issues of religion vs science has been largely lost up to now, as the opinion polls show.

Are you sure about that? With your fantastic journalistic imagination, Mr. Balter, do you think that you could come up with some poll questions that would incontrovertibly show the opposite of what these other polls show?

Why aren’t you suggesting that history teachers step up to plate and start teaching kids why we have a separation clause in the first place? Why does the Constitution mandate that arts and sciences be promoted but prohibits the promotion of religion? Why aren’t history teachers teaching that in class?

For that matter, why isn’t that being discussed on television whenever this issue comes up?

And why aren’t journalists like you, Mr. “I’m On Your Side” Balter explaining the answers to these questions plainly and repetively to your readers?

Balter wrote: The fact is, however, that the average American, and by that I mean the overwhelming majority of Americans, don’t care at all whether ID is really science or not. What they care about is which has the better explanation for how we all got here, religion or science.

Really? Is that what Americans care about? Who has the better explanation, religion or science? Does that come from a poll, Mr. Balter? Care to define what you mean by “better”? Are you sure you didn’t mean to say “simpler”?

I can understand why Mr. Balter wants to pretend that these questions weren’t asked. They reveal something about Mr. Balter that quite a few people have alluded to by now which is that Mr. Balter isn’t interested in doing his own job, which is allegedly that of a journalist. Instead, Mr. Balter wants to recast himself in the mode of some sort of specialist in education and mass psychology. We scientists are supposed to heed Mr. Balter’s warnings and call for “debates” because … why? I missed that part and so did everyone else.

I have to ask Mr. Balter again this straightforward question: if Mr. Balter is indeed the respectable journalist he claims to be, and if he is on the side of scientists as he claims to be, and if he knows that “intelligent design” is non-science creationist garbage promoted by lying charlatans like Bill “Street Theatre” Dembski, then why doesn’t Mr. Balter write devastating articles about these facts and publish them in Science magazine and elsewhere?

Why? Why in the hell isn’t Mr. Balter writing articles which would persuade even the most ignorant layperson that the Discovery Institute is a Christian reconstructionist-funded think tank with an anti-science pro-fundamentalist agenda, managed by and employing the worst sort of liars and charlatans in American culture today?

Why is Mr. Balter instead advocating that scientists do exactly what the Discovery Institute would love scientists to do?

When such a “debate” takes place, why should any of us expect Mr. Balter to write an article about the debate which casts the Discovery Institute charlatans in the starkest possible light, as we would hope that a journalist on “our side” would do?

And why hasn’t Mr. Balter called for the kind of debates which I suggested and which the Discovery Institute charlatans refuse to engage in: debates about the veracity of the Discovery Institute and its employees with respect to the Discovery Institute’s “scientific” agenda, which for some strange reason appears to be 100% dependent on the direction in which legal and political winds blow?

I recognize that the odds of Mr. Balter answering each of these questions are astronomical. Next to the creationist trolls and Discovery Institute charlatans themselves, he’s probably the laziest and least forthright person who has posted comments here.

Comment #56889

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 12, 2005 9:22 PM (e)

so, at this point, are we ready to answer the question posed at the top of the thread?

contrarian or just lame?

I vote both.

Comment #56909

Posted by morbius on November 12, 2005 10:46 PM (e)

We should ALL be careful how we argue here. If Professor Emeritus of Biology Craig Nelson has an equal or better imagination than Michael Balter, then his hearty endorsement of the paper and its conclusions (given that he has actually read it) might also carry at least as much or even more weight than the hasty rebuttals of Lenny and morbius

Balter’s reading comprehension leaves a lot to be desired. I didn’t rebut Verhey’s paper, I endorsed it. But, like both Nelson and Verhey, I reject Balter’s view on debates in public high schools. Balter manages to introduce as support for his position material that directly contradicts it, for instance

Also in the paper I write that “…one could argue that the evidence [from education literature] suggests most high school graduates, and even most college graduates, are cognitively unprepared to think effectively about evolution.” I don’t know what to say about high school evolution education. I don’t think my approach would work there. Perhaps it could work, but it would take too much time. Evolution can’t be avoided in HS biology classes, and creationism/ID can’t be presented as even vaguely valid alternatives, so we are where we are.

No one has endorsed Balter’s suggestion:

Let’s encourage teachers to stage debates in their classrooms or in assemblies. Students can be assigned to one or the other side, and guest speakers can be invited.

Nor his bizarre suggestion that

Among other things, students would learn that science, when properly done, reaches conclusions via experimentation, evidence and argument, not through majority view.

Science is not “properly done” by debating its detractors in auditoriums, and that is nothing like Verhey’s approach, which is to present ID nonsense and then refute it. The approach is not to have the educator act as a neutral moderator; as Craig Nelson points out,

Advocates of teaching intelligent design or creationism along with evolution assume that each alternative will be taught as equally valid (or that evolution will be critiqued and the alternative will not). That is clearly wrong, factually and morally.

Which sums up Balter’s suggestions from his op-ed.

Comment #56912

Posted by morbius on November 12, 2005 11:05 PM (e)

P.S.

If Professor Emeritus of Biology Craig Nelson has an equal or better imagination than Michael Balter, then his hearty endorsement of the paper and its conclusions (given that he has actually read it) might also carry at least as much or even more weight than the hasty rebuttals of Lenny and morbius—although I don’t actually think that such an argument from authority would be valid.

Not only does this not address the point I made, but it compounds the error. My point was that, instead of addressing Nelson’s reasoning, Balter attacked his imagination. I didn’t say that Nelson has an equal or better imagination than Balter, I countered Balter’s self-serving and self-inflating implication that he has a better imagination than Nelson, by noting that there is no reason to think so. Balter’s response is to offer a silly strawman argument from authority and then knock it down. To call this lame is to be far too kind.

Comment #56914

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 12, 2005 11:30 PM (e)

I have a few observations or two, and a suggestion. First, this thread has scrolled off the main page. It would be much more convenient for the 8 or so active participants to bookmark the thread at this point.

Secondly, there seems actually little left to say at this point. We have more or less uniformly been critical of Mr. Balter’s observations and agree that he has written a widely published recommendation that has little to commend it.

He has steadfastly rejected all these observations. There seems no point in further belaboring the point.

Mr. Balter has proposed to write a detailed program as solution to the Kansas situation which he wants to have posted and discussed.

Dr. Verhey’s paper will not be made available, as he informed me by Email. The copyright belongs to the journal, and he has indicated that anyone without journal access will merely not have access. (I read the article a week or two ago, so I know that there are electronic versions around, and Mr. Balter has said that Dr. Verhey sent him an electronic version. Dr. Verhey seems to want to limit further dissemination). That seems to block that topic.

My proposal is to close this discussion. If Mr. Balter wishes to make good on his “Kansas” offer, he might send me his proposal by email, which I will open in a new thread.

Comment #56920

Posted by Sir_Toejam on November 13, 2005 12:03 AM (e)

if you’re looking for a second to that proposal, consider it so.

Comment #56923

Posted by Steve Verhey on November 13, 2005 12:53 AM (e)

What I wrote offlist to Dr. Hurd was a gentle restatement of a part of my initial post that he chose to ignore: it only seems fair to let subscribers at least get the printed journal before my paper is released freely on the Internet. I didn’t realize that Dr. Hurd had already had access to the paper, so I don’t understand why he doesn’t take the initiative to release it if he wishes.

I also noted in my e-mail to Dr. Hurd that I forgot to mention in my post that the November issue of BioScience should be in libraries very soon. If your local library isn’t a subscriber, please suggest that it subscribe.

Meanwhile, I have been happy to send a pdf of the paper personally to the two people who have requested it. I will send copies to anyone else who asks, in the tradition of sending reprints.

To be perfectly honest, one reason I’m being so stubborn about this is that on page 933 (they sent me two advance copies!) is their annual statement of circulation, and I was surprised at how few subcribers they have. I am one, and I think others should be, too. They’ve published some important evolution education stuff in the past.

Comment #56958

Posted by Gary Hurd on November 13, 2005 1:14 PM (e)

Dr. Verhey is entirely correct.

If in a month or so he would like to open this topic again, I will be most happy to oblige.

Thanks to all those participants who have offered cogent comments.