Posted by PvM on February 17, 2006 12:18 PM

William Dembski has joined the fray at evolutionnews with the following non-sequitur:

Ecstatic because “critical analysis of X” removed from standards

Dembski wrote:

Question: Is there any other field of inquiry — other than evolution, that is — whose advocates become ecstatic when critical analysis of its subject is suppressed?

While Dembski may not be trained in logic, the rethoric can be easily addressed by simply pointing out that people are ecstatic because yet another attempt to introduce Intelligent Design to schools has been stopped not because they object to critical thinking. History shows that the opposition was to the term “critical thinking” because it may lead to the inevitable attempt to ‘teach the controversy’ as promoted by so many ID activists. The fears were not unwarranted because soon a lesson plan emerged which used flawed, misleading or plainly wrong arguments, taken often almost verbatim from creationist resources.

Anyone familiar with science knows that science thrives on controversy and critical thinking.

If Dembski is so worried about ‘critical analysis’ being surpressed, then he would surely not object to provide links on his website to the vaste amount of criticisms of Intelligent Design which show how scientifically vacuous it is? And perhaps Dembksi would not mind addressing the many question that remain unanswered?

Perhaps Dembski can explain his position on school boards recycling the arguments from Wells’ “Icons of Evolution“, many of which have been found more than wanting by the scientific community?

So perhaps one may reverse the question as follow: Is there any science where some insist on teaching concepts or arguments which have been repeatedly shown to be scientifically incorrect, misleading or plain out wrong ?

I can’t think of any other than of course evolution, where creationists insist on ‘replacing’ science with their version of the ‘truth’?

People should really listen to the public comments made during the January 10 meeting to understand why scientists and citizens oppose the standards. Transcripts do not convey the anger in the voices of the citizens commenting on the standards.

Of course I understand the rethorical value of accusing scientists of surpressing ‘knowledge’. Politically speaking this is in line with the Wedge Strategy as outlined. But from a legal, scientific or even pedagogic perspective teach the controversy, often limited to the topic of evolution, is clearly a sham.


Judge Jones wrote:

… , we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.


Keith Miller wrote:

The most frustrating aspect of this for me has been the rejection of TEs (evolutionary creationists, continuous creationists) by most in the ID community. The ID supporters state that the object of their critique is materialistic philosophy and the denial of design, purpose, and meaning. Yet they reject the arguments of those like myself who have consistently argued against just such a misrepresentation of evolutionary science. It is the ID proponents who insist on labelling evolutionary theory as “Darwinism” and on defining it as implying a purposeless and meaningless process that denies God. They did this precise redefinition in Kansas against the objections of the standards revision committee, and virtually every scientific and educational organization in the state. Ironically it is the ID supporters who are fighting for an atheistic definition of evolution against the science and educational community. The only reason for this that I can see is that it gives them political leverage to include ID in the science curriculum as the counter to this atheistic science (which they themselves have inserted into the standards).

I understand that in Ohio, much of the lesson plan material came almost verbatim from Wells’ “Icons of evolution”.

Quoting from this resource, showing how the board went from ‘critically analyze’ to presenting discredited arguments lifted from “Icons of Evolution”

There was a snag, however. The following “indicator” was inserted into the standards: “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” Taken literally, this statement would require teaching of cutting-edge evolutionary biology. Yet many, including us, were concerned that those who are trying to force intelligent design creationism into the curriculum would claim this statement opened the gate.

So, the board clarified: “The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.”

One might have hoped the matter would have ended there. Unfortunately, this issue has come back with a vengeance. A copy of a draft curriculum approved for field-testing and public comment in the state has been leaked. The Department of Education board approved this draft in September but withheld it from public scrutiny. We now understand why.

Consider the lesson plan associated with “allowing students to critically analyze nine aspects of evolutionary theory.” One might have hoped that the students would be presented with, say, a rousing discussion of the vigorous controversy over how closely related dinosaurs are to birds.

They could then understand how predictions of evolutionary biology produced by the scientific community through decades of hard work and research have met all apparent challenges and led to substantial scientific progress.

Instead, students are required to “debate” each “challenge” as if they were in a government or English class, with some students required to take a position contradicting the results established by decades of sound science. There is little pedagogical value in requiring students to take positions that evidence has shown to be incorrect. Indeed, it is not clear that it is ethical. At the very least it would demoralize any students who took the debate seriously. Imagine forcing some young person to debate that the Holocaust never happened or that certain racial groups are inferior as a way of teaching them the fallacy of these notions.

Equally important, this process sheds no light on how “scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze” evolution. Science does not convene debates about well-established results. Rather, predictions of a theory such as evolution are compared to the data. If apparently anomalous data is uncovered, different groups of scientists will analyze and even debate it to judge if the results really are discrepant. But if they have been shown not to be, as is the case with all nine challenges promoted in the proposed curriculum, we don’t waste our time rehashing old issues. We move on. That’s how science works!

What’s more, the nine supposed “challenges” to evolution come straight out of intelligent design creationism. A main source listed in the curriculum is the discredited book “Icons of Evolution,” by the Rev. Jonathan Wells, one of the Discovery Institute authors who came to Ohio to promote teaching intelligent design.

Now that we know the ‘rest of the story’, it should be clear that Dembski’s comments have little relationship to what actually happened in Ohio.

See for instance the ‘discussion’ on homology (can anyone spot the many errors?)

Brief Challenging Sample Answer: Some scientists think similarities in anatomical and genetic structure reflect similar functional needs in different animals, not common ancestry. The nucleotide sequence of hemoglobin DNA is very similar between chimps and humans, but this may be because they provide the same function for both animals. Also, if similar anatomical structures really are the result of a shared evolutionary ancestry, then similar anatomical structures should be produced by related genes and patterns of embryological development. However, sometimes, similar anatomical structures in different animals are built from different genes and by different pathways of embryological development. Scientists can use these different anatomical structures and genes to build versions of Darwin family trees that will not match each other. This shows that diverse forms of life may have different ancestry.

Or this classic (ID) argument

No new features and no new species emerged. In addition, recent scientific articles have questioned the factual basis of the study performed during the 1950s. Scientists have learned that peppered moths do not actually rest on tree trunks.

The NCSE reports

Facing such criticisms, the proponents of the lesson plan revised it, but only cosmetically – removing the references to creationist publications and eliminating a number of the glaring errors, but leaving intact the basic structure, the choice of topics (which is indebted to the notoriously misleading Icons of Evolution), and the overall goal of instilling scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution. Even as revised, the lesson plan (PDF) was condemned by the National Academy of Sciences and the Ohio Academy of Sciences, which told Governor Taft that it was “defective because it is not science and has no place in the science curriculum.”

According to board members of Ohio Board of Education, one of the main reasons to change their vote was the realization that an independent group of scientists had described the plan as ‘wanting’.

I have an id
ea: A lesson plan which looks at the various “Icons of evolution” and show how evolutionary science explains the data, inform students about commonly flawed interpretations and expose the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design? How quickly would such a plan end up in court, based on the argument that high schools should not be teaching religion?

Perhaps the following resource can be of help to teachers

This Review Has Three Purposes
• Summarize Wells’ claims for each icon and his “10 Questions to ask your biology teacher.”
• Summarize the responses from the scientific community to each icon.
• Provide teachers with ideas, lessons and resources for providing their students with the background for answering Wells’ questions themselves.

Thus, when the Ohio Board of Education passed the following resolution

Here is the text of the resolution approved by the Ohio Board of Education

Resolved, that the Superintendent of Public Instruction be, and she hereby is, directed to take the following actions immediately:

1) Delete the model lesson plan, Critical Analysis of Evolution, from the state board-approved curriculum and remove its availability from print sources, technology sources, and any other Ohio Board of Education/Ohio Department of Education mechanism that makes it available for use;

2) Delete the following sentences from Grade 10 Life Science Benchmark H: “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this benchmark does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)”, and delete Indicator 23 in its entirety, and adjust all print sources, technology sources, and any other Ohio Board of Education/Ohio Department of Education documents to reflect the removal;

3) The Achievement Committee of the Sate Board of Education is charged to consider whether the deleted model lesson, Benchmark H and Indicator 23 shoud be replaced by a different benchmark, lesson, and indicator, and if so, to present any recommendation to the entire State Board for adoption;

4) Communicate the fact of the above actions to all public school superintendents and high school principals in Ohio.

it was done for solid scientific and pedagogic reasons. For the text of Benchmark H and indicator 23 and for a page linking to the controversies

The board, motivated by a letter from the Science Standards Adivisory Board revisited their decision and based on good pedagogic and scientific reasons, decided to reject Benchmark H and Indicator 23.

What was it that changed their minds? Members of the Advisory Committee showed how their initial concern that ‘teach the controversy’ would open the door to ‘Intelligent Design’, turned out to be a valid concern when the Board passed the following Lesson Plan

The former ODE science advisors noted that “such wording created an opportunity to teach creationist misrepresentations of science to Ohio’s students.” Referring to the embattled “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson adopted amid controversy in March 2004, the science content advisors told Gov. Taft “indeed, such a lesson tied to this indicator was prepared and accepted by the Ohio Board of Education in March 2004.”


Of the lesson itself, ODE’s own science standards advisory panel members said they found “it to be a pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio’s science classrooms. The pedagogy is weak at best, of negative, misleading and debilitating educational value. This lesson is devoid of scientific thinking.”

Noting that some members of the Ohio Board of Education have defended the lesson by claiming it does not contain Intelligent Design, the science advisory group observed that “while the lesson’s authors assiduously avoided using the words “intelligent” and “design,” the lesson embodies intelligent design creationism poorly concealed in scientific sounding jargon. Such cheap ploys are a disservice to Ohio’s children and an insult to the intelligence of its good citizens.”

The “teach the controversy” sham is not limited to Ohio. In South Carolina scientists and educators object to the obvious attempt to open up the door to Intelligent Design Creationism

Most scientists and science educators say “critically analyze” is surrogate language for instruction emphasizing “intelligent design,” whose believers credit a larger intelligence — perhaps a divine hand — with influencing the diversity of life.

Tenenbaum urged the EOC on Monday to reject the adopted recommendation crafted as a compromise by businessman Bob Staton of Lexington.

“‘Critically analyze’ is not just wordsmithing,” Tenenbaum said. “It carries with it a whole campaign against evolution.”

Judge Jones’ findings should have been a warning. Guess the ‘Dover trap’ has been set in yet another state.