An ID Curriculum?

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Over at ARN this was proposed as curriculum for Dover, PA new biology policy.

The theory of ID posits the following:

  • High information content (or specified complexity and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of past intelligent design.
  • Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.
  • Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.
  • Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanation for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

reference page 92 of Darwinism, Design and Public Education

As far as I can tell, the person who posted this is serious. From a logical standpoint, the major flaw in this “theory [sic] of ID” is that it relies solely on negative argumentation. It tries to prove “intelligent design” true by disproving something else. Such an argument rarely works in science because one has to first demonstrate that both the “proved” and “disproved” explanations together make up the complete set of all possible explanations. People who rely on negative argumentation seem to always ignore the unknown.

The problems with the proposal go beyond that because number four does not follow from number three even if we grant that there is a complete set. If hypotheses X and Xc are a complete set, and X explains 90% of the data, whereas Xc explains 10% of the data, neither is sufficient. But according to the logic employed in the ID argument above, Xc would be declared the best explanation because X is not sufficient. However, X is actually the best explanation on the criterion given despite the fact that it is not sufficient.

Points one, two, and three are popular talking points of “intelligent design” activists but are not supported by any scientific research. (If you disagree, feel free to provide references to the peer-reviewed scientific papers that demonstrate any of these things.) As such they are entirely inappropriate for a secondary school science curriculum that treats them as anything other than the pseudoscience they are.

Another obvious flaw is that “information” is not defined in any biologically meaningful way (or at all). Under some definitions of “information,” high information content is the hallmark of a completely random process. “Information” as a formal concept is butchered by “intelligent design theorists” almost as badly as the Second Law of Thermodynamics is butchered by Young Earth Creationists.

If this represents what “intelligent design” activists think counts as science, then its only use in a science classroom is to point out how to not do science.

25 Comments

The problems with the proposal go beyond that because number four does not follow from number three even if we grant that there is a complete set. If hypotheses X and Xc are a complete set, and X explains 90% of the data, whereas Xc explains 10% of the data, neither is sufficient. But according to the logic employed in the ID argument above, Xc would be declared the best explanation because X is not sufficient. However, X is actually the best explanation on the criterion given despite the fact that it is not sufficient.

No offense, Reed, but I think this passage shows why God created lawyers to help scientists keep ID out of the classroom. ;)

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I am in the beginning stages of preparing a video which documents what a dissembling charlatan Salvador and other ID apologists are, relying to some extent on the text of bogus failed arguments they presented on this web site and elsewhere.

I think this will be a fantastic way for students to learn exactly how worthless “ID apologism” is and how sleazy its supporters are.

Did Jesus turn water into wine?

Well, that depends…

Regardless, when a biology professor describes the biochemical process of fermentation, she does not (yet) feel compelled to admit:

“But when Jesus did it that one time, fermentation did not occur. That time, the properties attained by the wine - while identical to those of actually fermented wine - were “miraculously” obtained [sic].

Granted, “miraculous” is a valid explanation for a religious matter. But, it is not a scientific theory

Why should the passing mention of “Intelligent Design” be favored over the passing mention of ANY OTHER theory that purports to “explain” the current standing of biological properties?

ID Theory is simply a religious explanation, and (so far) has as little relevance within the scientific realm as my “scientific” theory that “lightning strikes because God is angry.”

GWW: I can’t get through to your e-mail address. Please contact me offline. I’d like to learn more about your video project.

The problem with “Unlocking the Mysteries of Life”, which I have seen, is that it contains basic biological errors that have nothing to do with the ID propaganda.

When was the last time you saw Bacteria lounging at the bottom of the pond languishing because they did not have “outboard motors?”

The theory of IDP (intelligent design physics) posits the following:

1. Consistency is a hallmark of an intelligently designed system.

2. Nature is consistent–nature doesn’t contradict itself.

3. Quantum mechanics and General Relativity produce inconsistent results.

4. Therefore, intelligent design physics constitutes the best explanation for the behavior of matter, space, and time.

I demand equal time! Teach the Controversy!

If this represents what “intelligent design” activists think counts as science, then its only use in a science classroom is to point out how to not do science.

ID indeed provides good material for demonstrating what’s not science. It’s full of meaningless definitions, hand waving, and false choice errors. Pretty fatal flaws.

Steve:

In my reading, the biblical creation myth (like most of the others) plays pretty fast and loose with physics as well. I think the only things that work against the “intelligent design physics controversy” are that even today few people have much of a concept of what physics involves, and physics doesn’t address the only important matter there is, namely (ahem) ourselves.

Still, there was a time when a geocentrism controversy existed.

There still is, at least among a few christians.

www.fixedearth.com

These twits at the DI, the Dover school board, and one or two fools who posted, or are mentioned above have no idea at all of how to teach or what a curriculum/lesson plan looks like. These are the same sorts of jerks that think that because they went to school (at least until the 10th grade) they could run a school.

Below is a sample of a partial curriculum for a 1.5 hour field trip to a small natural history museum based on the California State Science Guidelines. I was the Director of Education for the muesum, and wrote these lesson plans. I wrote one of these for each K-12 grade. There are classroom activities, lab work, readings and vocabulary exercises for both before and after the field trip that I have left out of the material below.

This is what a real curriculum looks like for a short field trip:

A Sixth Grade Curriculum

An example of our multiple curriculum standards approach is taken from the following Sixth Grade science standards;

Earth Sciences (major focus)

Plate Tectonics

1.F “Students know how to explain major features of California geology (including mountains, faults, volcanoes) in terms of plate tectonics.

2.A “Students know water running downhill is the dominant process in shaping the landscape, including California’s landscape.

2.B “Students know rivers and streams are dynamic systems that erode, transport sediment, change course, and flood their banks in natural and recurring patterns.

2.D “Students know earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods change human and wildlife habitats.

Physical Science (Heat)

3.A “Students know energy can be carried from one place to another by heat flow or by waves, including water, light, and sound waves, or by moving objects.

3.D “Students know heat energy is also transferred between objects by radiation (radiation can travel through space).

4.A “Students know the sun is the major source of energy for phenomena on Earth’s surface; it powers winds, ocean currents, and the water cycle.

4.B “Students know solar energy reaches Earth through radiation, mostly in the form of visible light.

4.E “Students know differences in pressure, heat, air movement, and humidity result in changes in weather.

Life Sciences (Ecology)

5.A “Students know energy entering ecosystems as sunlight is transferred by producers into chemical energy through photosynthesis and then organism to organism through food webs.

5.B “Students know matter is transferred over time from one organism to others in the food web and between organisms and the physical environment.

5.D “Students know different kinds of organisms may play similar ecological roles in similar biomes.

5.E “Students know the number and types of organisms an ecosystem can support depends on the resources available and on abiotic factors, such as quantities of light and water, a range of temperatures, and soil composition.

Resources

6.B “Students know different natural energy and material resources, including air, soil, rocks, minerals, petroleum, fresh water, wildlife, and forests, and know how to classify them as renewable or nonrenewable.

6.C “Students know the natural origin of the materials used to make common objects.

Investigation and Experimentation

7.G Interpret events by sequence and time from natural phenomena (e.g.. relative ages of rocks and intrusions).

7.H Identify changes in natural phenomena over time without manipulating the phenomena (e.g.. a tree limb, a grove of trees, a stream, a hill slope).

These sixteen standards requirements (many related to one another) represent about 50% of the grade level totals and are addressed in a single visit as follows:

Before the field trip, Teachers have started the identification of common household materials, and their origins (e.g. aluminum=bauxite, and plastic=petroleum). The students will collect aluminum, and plastic waste from their homes to be brought to the Museum recycling center on their field trip (6.B, 6.C). The students then move into groups of twenty to maximize the contact between the students and the Museum staff and facilitate flow. For purposes of this narrative we will “follow” a single group for the 1.5 hour program. Approximately 45 minutes are spent in each area; the Collections Room, and the Discovery Trail.

The students enter the Museum Collections room. There Docent provided content introduces the bird, insect, and mammal mounts. The entire collection area is focused on the Orange County environment through time. The Docent points out the many preditor/prey relationships. These specimens, in addition to skeleton mounts, and fossils partially satisfy Life Sciences 5.B, and 5.D. The students who wish to may hold a live snake. During a “free” time all students are encouraged to see, and feel many of the fossil and mineral specimens. Scattered throughout the Museum’s Collection Room are Discovery Boxes, small, hands-on experiential selections such as bear’s fur, fossil shells, bones, wildlife photos and so forth. Following the Collections Room the students are gathered together for the Discovery Trail. The Discovery Trail is an approximately 200 meter nature walk. The first station on the trail are large sandstone blocks that have been installed in front of the Museum. These specimens hold a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate fossils and show a high degree of stratification (7.G). The Museum setting is at the inland mouth of a coastal canyon transecting the San Joaquin Hills. The San Joaquin Hills are Miocene marine sandstones and gravels that were uplifted by tectonic movement in the Pliocene. The canyon was formed by water flowing across the landscape as the hills were uplifted, and has had multiple infilling and scouring episodes since forming (1.F, 2.A, 2.B, 2.D, 7.H).

The trail moves from a Coastal Sage Scrub / Grasslands habitat and to a Riparian Habitat before returning to the Museum. Because of seasonal variation and varying wildlife visitation, the Discovery Trail is always a fresh experience.

There are over twenty native plants, many which were important to Native Americans for food, medicine, and shelter (related to History/Social Science 6.1.1-3). Some of the medicines that were discovered by Native Americans (e.g. aspirin from Salix-willow trees) are still used today. Several plant species have interesting textures and/or smells which are related to their ecological relationships with other plants and animals including insects (5.B). The plants within a habitat can be shown to actively compete for resources; light, water, and nutrients. Sun light is the energy source for all photosynthetic organisms (3.A, 3.D, 4.A, 4.B, 5.A).

The Discovery Trail moves down into the stream bed [steep stairs!]. We feel a change in both the temperature and humidity, and see that there is a marked change in the plant and animal species present (5.D, 5.E). Soil building and removal episodes are clearly visible in the stream banks (7.H, re-enforce 2.A, 2.B, 2.C).

Animals commonly detected or observed are raccoons, coyotes, rabbits, ground squirrels, and bobcats as well as a number of birds, insects, and reptiles. Animals not directly observed are detected by signs such as tracks and scat. The scat, and occasional carcass are important observational lessons in animal behavior (i.e. coyote territorial marking) and is a direct referent to the propagation of mass and energy through the environment (3.A, 5.A, 5.B).

IDers would be perfectly happy with that curriculum, with just a little tweaking:

A Sixth Grade Curriculum

Earth Sciences (major focus)

Plate Tectonics

1.F “Students know how to explain major features of California geology (including mountains, faults, volcanoes) in terms of plate tectonics caused by Jesus.

2.A “Students know Jesus caused water running downhill to be the dominant process in shaping the landscape, including California’s landscape.

2.B “Students know rivers and streams are dynamic systems created by Jesus that erode, transport sediment, change course, and flood their banks in natural and recurring patterns. (Gen 2)

2.D “Students know earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods change human and wildlife habitats because Jesus…(1 Kings 19)…

Salvador T. Cordova said:

There have been some nice ID oriented college courses already.

If so, the link offered does not show them.

Of the courses listed, none describes a theory of intelligent design. None would be adequate for curriculum design of a high school course in intelligent design, even in Alabama.

And the Cal-State Fullerton course, rather than support ID, debunks it quite handily.

Wow. Just looking at the material in the Fullerton course makes one salivate for a cross examination of someone who claims there is scientific support for ID there. Woo!

Intelligent design continues to be the Oakland of science: There is no “there” there. (Necessary apologies to Alice B. Toklas)

While Salvador may believe that the “Privileged Planet” would be a good example of what would be taught in an ID curriculum, it shows how ID once again is founded on poorly formulated hypotheses, guided not by a careful analysis of the data but rather by a conviction that evidence of God’s design should be found in our world. To find such evidence Gonzalez and Richards focus on a modified form of Dembski’s eliminative filter (with all its known problems). Gonzalez et al however limit the “regularity and chance” hypotheses to chance hypotheses alone. In addition they rely on a single datapoint and a flawed interpretation of the concept of correlation to jump to conclusions not warranted by the data.

While I would agree with Sal that Privileged Planet and Meyer’s 2004 paper may be the best hope for an ID curriculum, it also shows why ID has no scientific future other than being shrouded in ignorance and scientific irrelevance. Concepts of IC, CSI have been shown to be theoretically flawed, lacking in practical application, shrouded in confusion of equivocation and scientifically without any relevance.

Notice also once again the lack of any scientifically relevant ID hypothesis.

Btw these ‘ID curricula’ at Universities…

Evolution and Creation at Cal State Fullerton Craig Nelson, Liberal Studies & Department of Comparative Religion

Intelligent Design Course at University of California Berkeley

When John L. Omdahl teaches a course on biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of New Mexico, he sets aside a portion of his last lecture to explain why he disagrees with a central tenet of evolutionary science: that Darwin’s theories of random mutation and natural selection offer a reliable framework for understanding how life developed. In fact, throughout his course, the professor tries to avoid the word “evolution,” which he calls a “loaded term.”

Intelligent Design Course at University of Alabama Honors 399, Spring 2002: Physics, Philosophy and Fundamentalism

Thanks Sal for making the case that ID is not really about science.

Oh yes and the Minnesota example?

Chris Macosko, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science

Thanks for giving us a good laugh Sal.

I was curious about the course at Berkeley. Here is what the link provided by Pim says

Jed Macosko, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley, created a course through a program that allows students to organize and run classes. Called “Evidence for Design in Nature?,” the course, which has been taught several times, most recently last year, offered readings by a number of intelligent-design proponents and their critics. “We asked the real question – why are we here, how did we get here?,” he says. “We were answering it by looking at science.”

With an undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from Berkeley, both in chemistry, Mr. Macosko has sterling credentials, and his course is frequently mentioned by people in the intelligent-design movement. The class was given an identifier, ChemE 198, that suggested it was a chemistry course.

But the person who authorized it, Jeffrey A. Reimer, a professor of chemical engineering, says that students were not allowed to take it for science credit. The syllabus covered such topics as the big bang, Mr. Dembski’s “explanatory filter,” and the origins of life. Mr. Macosko made clear to students that he believes firmly in intelligent design, but Mr. Reimer says he made sure that Mr. Macosko did not push his views on them. “I did not allow Jed to run it as a lecture format,” Mr. Reimer says.

So basically we have a discussion group led by a mentally challenged post-doctoral chemist who, evidently, wasn’t in a hurry to find a higher paying job.

For the record, it used to be quite simple to start an officially recognized course of one’s own at UC-Berkeley. Even senior undergrads were allowed to create and teach such courses. A couple years ago, one such course was a course in issues relating to human sexuality which included a class field trip to a San Francisco strip club. What better place to discuss the Master Sculptor and his fantastic designs?

Yeah, that’s the DeCal program. I took an undergrad-led DeCal on science fiction. Those classes can be lots of fun if the student teachers are serious about them, but they have no prerequisites and don’t provide you with credit toward anything (other than simple units). As you say, they’re basically formalized discussion clubs, and none of their material is endorsed by the university.

The Male Sexuality course got in quite a bit of trouble after some of the students wandered naked around Telegraph filming the responses of passerby, as I recall.

A Science and Religion class may be in the works at Jason Rosenhouse’s school, James Madison University, which will likely have a good portion of ID content.  Elements of any of these courses will be a starting point for scaled down highschool version.

I am so crushed. JMU is my alma matter. To think that they are descending into this crap…

Oh, wait. It is southern Virginia.

One of the reasons why I headed West.

How much analysis do we need here? This topic starts by quoting that ID ‘posits’, or assumes, four things.

The theory of ID posits the following:

1. High information content (or specified complexity and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of past intelligent design.

2. Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

4. Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanation for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

reference page 92 of Darwinism, Design and Public Education

Item # 2 is true and the others are false. End of story.

Even number 2 is half false.

So when is “The Privileged Moon” set to be published?

http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/[…]t/index.html

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) – Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan appears to have an environment rich in the carbon-based molecules that spawned life on Earth and winds that etched streaks into its icy surface, NASA scientists said on Thursday.

Most exciting to scientists who hoped to unlock the origins of life by studying chemical reactions in Titan’s soil and atmosphere were apparent signs of large amounts of a sort of primordial slush on its frozen surface.

“On early Earth there was organic material and something happened to those molecules that gave rise to life,” scientist Jonathan Lunine said. “We had to find a place elsewhere in the system where that process is being replicated … and it seems to be happening on Titan.”

How much analysis do we need here?

Stopping at two is not enough, since ID activists can hand wave around the issues and the debate gets focused on arguing about two. Two doesn’t matter. The logical construction of the argument is fundamentally flawed, and appealing the Behe and Dembski’s books doesn’t change that.

Correction: #2 is not false if IC is strictly defined as Behe did (at least at one time): “By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”

My mistake. I was using a looser definition of IC, roughly, that something is IC if it contains parts which could not have served any other function in any more rudimentary form.

i’m just shocked, though, looking over the proposed ID “theory”. What a bunch of nonsense. Assuming the conclusion, false choice. Christ.

They more or less say:

1. Complicated stuff is like stuff that somebody made.

2. Biological stuff is complicated.

3. No known or unknown theory can do complicated stuff.

4. Since Evolution can’t do it, whatever our alternative is, is the answer.

Mr. Cordova: Please try to get some of your “facts” straight. I’m not going to do this for you but to say that a “course” was taught at the UM on intelligent design is I admit true–in architecture where ID is a growing concept, designing buildings as though the environment matters. The other “ID course” was not a course, taught in the biology program, etc., and you need and can check this out, do the research and provide the evidence. And yes, Professor PZ Myers is a member of the UM system but teaches at another campus (Morris) which while part of the system is an independent unit. The so-called “course,” was an offering as a seminar and was taught on the main campus of the UM, Twin Cities. In a previous post (above) one responder points out some of the circumstances of this course. And in the tradition of science (and to “teach the alternative” to ID) please in future include in your proposal, the idea of multiple designers theory (cf PT Sept 23, Richard Hoppe). The hooey stick is well named (an activity developed I think by BSCS as an inquiry activity on the nature of science); ID is hooey. There is no crisis in evolution; one has only to review the journals and even I, in my splendid isolation from journals, reading only one or two a week do not see any mention by scientists doing the science writing papers on the crisis. Indeed what we see instead with the flowering of evodevo, new fossil finds and improved techiques is one curious thing after another being explained the way science explains: through mechanisms and evidence. I would have argued without evidence, that is without any data but based simply on the few journals I read that Dobzhansky’s aphorism is truer now than it was when he said it. I’m grateful to a little exercise that PZ Myers did and reported on in which he reviewed a single issue of a journal(Developmental Biology, one he noted where it is not directly related to evolutionary biology) he receives and rated the papers on their explicitness regarding evolution (including the category of ID–the non-architectural one). He noted that the “journals are full of references to evolution, even in disciplines and journals that don’t have ‘evolution’ in their title; it’s as ubiquitous as references to ‘genes.’” (cf. Pharyngula October 6). In the issue of the journal he reviewed, 12 articles explicity addressed evolution; four assume evolution; five were single species or even single molecule studies that made no attempt, for obvious reasons, to relate their results comparatively; none, zero, nada, naught, had anything to say about ID or as Professor Myers put it, “Creationism simply isn’t a legitimate or useful component of our analysis of the data.”

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on October 27, 2004 1:15 PM.

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