Posted by Ed Brayton on March 24, 2004 06:07 PM

The Northern Lights blog has posted a link to us, for which I certainly thank them. But the article linking to us contains some specious reasoning that I feel the need to reply to. To wit:

Clearly, this weblog results from design of some sort, not random combination. ID advocates must be flattered that so many people consider them a serious threat to Western civilization as we know it. I'm no defender of ID as a scientific theory, but the question of what should be included in the science curriculum of a public high school is not a scientific question, it's a public policy question. This point seems lost on biologists and the growing horde of blog commentators who feel constrained to weigh in on this subject.
I would argue that the public policy question is a scientific question. That is, the public policy criteria for what should be in the science curriculum should be essentially scientific criteria. Non-scientific alternatives to scientific theories that lack explanatory power and are not testable or falsifiable should not be a part of public school science curricula. This seems so obvious to me as to be axiomatic, but if the author of the above blog has a better standard I'd like to hear it.

Perhaps even more odd is this statement:

If biologists really wanted to improve science teaching at high schools, they would campaign for higher salaries for science teachers or write a good high school biology textbook. I think lobbing rhetorical bombs at ID in the curriculum is about biologists, not about high school students.
The first statement strikes me as just plain silly. It's like those who say, "Well if those pro-life people were really pro-life, they'd adopt every unwanted child." This is a good example of a "rhetorical bomb", wouldn't you say? It's not as though there is some either/or dichotomy at play, where one can either advocate the teaching of evolution OR campaign for higher salaries for science teachers and write a good high school biology textbook. Ken Miller, for example, manages to defend evolution against the attacks of the ID lobby AND has written an excellent high school biology textbook. I would also argue that the ones lobbing rhetorical bombs are the ID advocates. The science is on our side; the only thing they have is rhetoric.
It's nice that the rather large group involved with The Panda's Thumb includes not just academic biology profs but also private sector researchers, science educators, and even one or two people with actual experience teaching in a high school! That's enough diversity to catch some of the bigger picture. They could have recruited a sympathetic minister and a lawyer or two to really round out the group, but perhaps there's a limit to how much variation one can squeeze into a single weblog.
Funny he should mention that. About half an hour ago, I did add one attorney (Tim Sandefur) and a second (Steve Gey) is likely to be invited to join. As far as ministers are concerned, I may well invite Henry Neufeld, an old friend and Methodist minister, to join our cast of characters. He's brilliant and has written rather extensively on the subject.
I don't have much to say for ID as science, but there are plenty of questionable positions that get a hearing and even carry the day in politics, law, education, and other domains where public policy decisions and compromises are played out. Just because ID doesn't get an A in biology doesn't mean it shouldn't get a hearing or that it should be run out of town. I sense that ID gets picked on more than other, more secular errors because of ID's religious ties, and biologists as a class have a real thing against religion.
This may be the silliest statement of all. ID gets "picked on" because its advocates have been very, very aggressive at extending their political influence in order to water down quality science education, and they've made little secret of the fact that they do so in service to a larger agenda of "cultural renewal". If they were not building a public relations and political machine that is threatening to damage science education in America, they wouldn't be so "picked on".