Analysis of Dover Biology Curriculum

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The Dover area schoolboard has released a press-release for the Biology Curriculum

It includes the following statement:

Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to Intelligent Design. The Origins of Life is not taught.

I will show that while there may be gaps in Darwin’s theory, it is not a theory in crisis. I will also show that by focusing on the gaps in Darwin’s theory, Intelligent Design is a ‘God of the Gaps’ theory which focuses on our ignorance rather than our knowledge. Finally I will show that there is no ‘Intelligent Design’ theory of evolution. Intelligent Design does not present any positive hypotheses to compete with scientific hypotheses but rather relies on scientific ignorance to makes it case. Finally I will show how the Intelligent Design approach is not only scientifically meaningless but also presents a significant risk to religious faith.

See also Dover School District Wades Into Troubled Waters by Ed Brayton who concludes that

The bottom line is that the Dover School statement is rife with contradictions and incoherencies, and that the disclaimer, because it specifically mentions Intelligent Design as the only alternative to evolution, is quite unlikely to survive a court challenge. Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Bd. of Education was a federal court case that struck down a similar disclaimer specifically because the only alternative mentioned to evolution was religious in nature. That ruling also noted that naming “intelligent design” specifically would be legally the same as the phrase “biblical concept of creation” that was used in the disclaimer that was deemed unconstitutional. The Dover School District is going to end up costing themselves (meaning the taxpayers of that district) an enormous amount of money in legal fees trying to defend what is clearly an incoherent and internally contradictory policy regarding the teaching of evolution and intelligent design. They will lose the legal battle, but more importantly, the children of that district will lose because the folks in charge of curriculum there are fumbling around in the dark trying frantically to justify their decisions and coming up only with the oxymoronic nonsense contained in the statement above.

Is evolution a ‘theory in crisis’?

Richard Colling, a professor at a Christian College and author of “Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with Creator” is quoted by Sharon Begley in Tough Assignment: Teaching Evolution To Fundamentalists, Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2004; Page A15

“It pains me to suggest that my religious brothers are telling falsehoods” when they say evolutionary theory is “in crisis” and claim that there is widespread skepticism about it among scientists. “Such statements are blatantly untrue,” he argues; “evolution has stood the test of time and considerable scrutiny. [1]”

Is Intelligent Design a theory of evolution?

Ryan Nichols is the author of “Scientific content, testability, and the vacuity of Intelligent Design theory” published in The American Catholic philosophical quarterly , 2003 , vol. 77 , no 4 , pp. 591 - 611

In my argument against Intelligent Design Theory I will not contend that it is not falsifiable or that it implies contradictions. I’ll argue that Intelligent Design Theory doesn’t imply anything at all, i.e. it has no content. By ‘content’ I refer to a body of determinate principles and propositions entailed by those principles. By ‘principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue. By ‘determinate principle’ I refer to a proposition of central importance to the theory at issue in which the extensions of its terms are clearly defined. I’ll evaluate the work of William Dembski because he specifies his methodology in detail, thinks Intelligent Design Theory is contentful and thinks Intelligent Design Theory (hereafter ‘IDT’) grounds an empirical research program. Later in the paper I assess a recent trend in which IDT is allegedly found a better home as a metascientific hypothesis, which serves as a paradigm that catalyzes research. I’ll conclude that, whether IDT is construed as a scientific or metascientific hypothesis, IDT lacks content.

Denis Lamoureux, assistant professor of Science and Religion, writes in A Black Box or a Black Hole? A Response to Michael Behe:

I have with interest followed the development of the Intelligent Design movement over the last five years. They claim to be in the process of creating and ushering in what they term is ‘theistic science.’ Behe’s work is the scientific centerpiece in their program. However, the greatest problem with this movement is that it never clearly defines ‘theistic science’ or does it offer a model of origins.

and in The Phillip Johnson Phenomenon: Are Evangelicals Inheriting The Wind?

In the last ten years, a loosely defined group known as the Intelligent Design Theorists has appeared in American evangelical circles with Johnson as its leader. They introduce a unique twist to the notion of design–the concept of irreducible complexity. That is, Intelligent Design Theorists assert that certain biological structures are fashioned in such a way that it was not possible for these to develop through a natural process like evolution. To account for the existence of these irreducible complex structures, direct Divine intervention from outside the normal operation of the universe is claimed to have occurred at some point during the history of life. Therefore, Johnson and the design theorists are progressive creationists. Such a position is another version of the “God-of-the-Gaps.” The problem with this view is that once natural processes are discovered to account for the creation of a once acclaimed irreducibly complex structure, God’s purported intervention is lost to the advancing light of scientific research. The consequence of filling these gaps is that God appears to be forced further and further into the dark recesses of our ignorance.

On EvangelicalSociety.org, David Talcott, a self proclaimed Christian, Protestant, Reformed and Evangelical and graduate student in Philosophy at Indiana State University, writes in The Fine Tuning Argument: A closer examination

In the past two decades Christian Biologists have attempted to revive a biological design argument, and now spearhead a movement known as Intelligent Design. This small community of scientists thinks that there are certain biological organisms, or mechanisms, or other features of biological life which cannot successfully be accounted for on the hypothesis of evolution alone. This movement has the potential to be very successful, but it is too early to tell if the science will turn out to be on their side.

Kenneth Miller, a practising Roman Catholic, professor of Biology at the University of Colorado, author of a series of high school and college textbooks and author of “Finding Darwin’s God” has an extensive webpage with resource about the failures of Intelligent Design. Kenneth Miller writes in the final chapter of his book:

Those who ask from science a final argument, an ultimate proof, an unassailable position from which the issue of God may be decided will always be disappointed. As a scientist I claim no new proofs, no revolutionary data, no stunning insight into nature that can tip the balance in one direction or another. But I do claim that to a believer, even in the most traditional sense, evolutionary biology is not at all the obstacle we often believe it to be. In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God.

Howard van Till, professor of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus at Calvin College, and theist, writes:

The Intelligent Design movement argues that it can point to specific biological systems that exhibit what ID’s chief theorist William A. Dembski calls “specified complexity.” Furthermore, Dembski claims to have demonstrated that natural causation is unable to generate this specified complexity and that the assembling of these biological systems must, therefore, have required the aid of a non-natural action called “intelligent design.” In his book, No Free Lunch, Dembski presents the bacterial flagellum as the premier example of a biological system that, because he judges it to be both complex and specified, must have been actualized by the form-conferring action of an unembodied intelligent agent. However, a critical examination of Dembski’s case reveals that, 1) it is built on unorthodox and inconsistently applied definitions of both “complex” and “specified,” 2) it employs a concept of the flagellum’s assembly that is radically out of touch with contemporary genetics and cell biology, and 3) it fails to demonstrate that the flagellum is either “complex” or “specified” in the manner required to make his case. If the case for Intelligent Design is dependent on the bacterial flagellum, then ID is a failure.

Del Ratzsch, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College, in an online chat “Del Ratzsch: Nature, Design and Science” on ISCID, July 24, 2003 remarks:

First, I have no difficulty with gaps at all - I’m not nearly as frightened of them as some people seem to think that we all should be. I think that Bill’s filter has a lot going for it (and some pretty significant people in the past have held filter-like views). What I have reservations about, however, is the fact that designs produced by the deliberate setting of natural processes to produce them seem to escape the filter, and that means that all filter-relevant design theories become gap theories.

and when asked if ID has anything to offer science

I think that some are certainly too far in the materialist direction, and they claim that science backs them up on that. ID can at least serve a ‘keeping em’ honest’ function, even if nothing else. I think that ID may very well have things to offer science, but I think that it is too early for ID to claim that it has done so. I don’t think that it is just obvious that ID will contribute substantively to science, but I think it has that potential, and that it should be pushed as far as it can be made to legitimately go.

Bill Wimsatt, who on the back cover of Dembski’s “The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities” wrote

Dembski has written a sparklingly original book. Not since David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion has someone taken such a close look at the design argument, but it is done now in a much broader post-Darwinian context. Now we proceed with modern characterizations of probability and complexity, and the results bear fundamentally on notions of randomness and on strategies for dealing with the explanation of radically improbable events. We almost forget that design arguments are implicit in criminal arguments “beyond a reasonable doubt,” plagiarism, phylogenetic inference, cryptography, and a host of other modern contexts. Dembski’s analysis of randomness is the most sophisticated to be found in the literature, and his discussions are an important contribution to the theory of explanation, and a timely discussion of a neglected and unanticipatedly important topic.

William Wimsatt, philosopher of biology, University of Chicago

now strongly speaks out on the YAHOO Evolutionary Psychology group:

I could not in conscience fail to respond to the ad for Bill Dembski’s new book, ““No Free Lunch”, and to the general tenor of the political push generated either within or by others using the so-called “intelligent design theory”. This is not a theory, but a denial of one, and a denial whose character is widely misrepresented, at least in the press.

… Unfortunately “popular” presentations of “Intelligent Design” have tended to give the impression that it rested solely on mathematical demonstrations. Anyone who could have succeeded in showing that natural selection is incapable of generating biological structures according to standards from mathematics or logic would have constructed a mathematical proof that would have dwarfed Godel’s famous Undecideability theorem in importance. As one who read Dembski’s original manuscript for his first book, found much to like in it, and had appreciative remarks on the dust jacket of the first printing, I can say categorically that Demski surely has shown no such thing, and i call upon him as a mathematician to deny and clarify the implications of this advertising copy.

The key issue for intelligent design is to apply a mathematical apparatus [which is nice, but not entirely without problems in its application] to probability estimates that come from elsewhere. The Neo-but-still-pseudo-scientific creationists take probability estimates that are problematic at best, and commonly just irresponsible or unfounded [and in any case, not accepted by any reputable natural scientists I know who are speaking about their own subject matter], and run them through Dembski’s apparatus.

So does the fact that the argument has a mathematical component validate it? No. The answer is found in the computer programmer’s lament: “Garbage in, garbage out”. A deductive argument with faulty premises shows nothing at all.

Note: Arguments, even successful arguments that evolutionists have not (yet?) succeeded in showing that natural selection can produce or explain a phenomenon is NOT equivalent to, would not entail, and even, would not add significant inductive support for the MUCH stronger claim that Natural selection is incapable of producing it. [I would also say, as a teacher and student of evolution for 35 years, that I have not yet seen any arguments of even the weaker former variety that I accept. That is not to say that the evolutionist’s task is yet complete.]

and

Wimsatt is quoted by Mark Vuletic:

I am an evolutionist to the core, and am not at all bothered by Dembski’s book.” Furthermore, he wrote, “I think [the book] is a double-edged sword, and–properly understood–should give no comfort to Creationists! i.e., I don’t think, by proper interpretation of the evidence that we have anything like evidence for intelligent design, but instead evolution emerges by far as the best explanation of the data.

Del Ratzsch explains the limitations of the ‘Design Inference’:

“I do not wish to play down or denigrate what Dembski has done. There is much of value in the Design Inference. But I think that some aspects of even the limited task Dembski set for himself still remains to be tamed.” “That Dembski is not employing the robust, standard, agency-derived conception of design that most of his supporters and many of his critics have assumed seems clear.”

Del Ratzsch in “Nature, Design, and Science:The Status of Design in Natural Science”, SUNY Press, 2001.

Edward B. Davis writes in Of Gods and Gaps: Intelligent Design and Darwinian Evolution (A shorter version of this essay was published in The Christian Century 115 (20) (15-22 July 1998), 678-81.)

Despite the desire by some in the ID movement to have potentially enlightening discussions of very interesting philosophical and scientific questions, however, thus far ID appears to be little more than a highly sophisticated form of special creationism, usually accompanied by strong apologetic overtones that tend to keep the debate at the ideological level. All too frequently science becomes a weapon in culture wars, denying in practice the clean theoretical distinction between science and religion that is otherwise widely proclaimed.

Jack Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary in St Lousi, writes in his article Miracles, Intelligent Design,and God-of-the-Gaps published in “Perspectives on science and Christian faith”, Volume 55, Number 1, March 2003

God-of-the-Gaps

To claim to have detected a miracle, or an instance of design in the natural world, renders one liable to the charge of committing the “God-of-the-gaps” fallacy.22 That is to say, suppose we come upon some object or event for which we do not have a naturalistic explanation, and then say, “See, God must have done that,” and then proceed to base either our own belief or our apologetic for belief on such an instance. This involves us in a risk. Let us suppose the sciences provide a natural-process based explanation. Then where does that leave God’s involve ment in the matter? Are what once were grounds for believing in God now made an argument for disbelief?23

Collins later argues that

I do not consider here whether the empirical case made by Behe is adequate. However, it deserves consideration, and can not be ruled automatically invalid for committing the God-of-the-gaps fallacy. This is because it is based on the claim of having discovered lacunae naturae causâ.

Patrick Frank is the author of “On the Assumption of Design”, published in in Theology and Science, Volume 2, Number 1, Apr, 2004 writes:

The assumption of design of the universe is examined from a scientific perspective. The claims of William Dembski and of Michael Behe are unscientific because they are a-theoretic. The argument from order or from utility are shown to be indeterminate, circular, to rest on psychological as opposed to factual certainty, or to be insupportable as regards humans but possibly not bacteria, respectively. The argument from the special intelligibility of the universe specifically to human science does not survive comparison with the capacities of other organisms. Finally, the argument from the unlikelihood of physical constants is vitiated by modern cosmogonic theory and recrudesces the God-of-the-gaps.

Intelligent Design responds

In Top Misconceptions about Intelligent Design (ID)

Intelligent Design states that objects that exhibit specified complexity have only one known cause and that is intelligent agency. We can be confident in this association because we understand the limited number of probabilistic resources in our Universe. We understand what chance can do in the 13.7 billion years that the Universe has existed, thanks to physicists.

And unless our fundamental understanding of the Universe changes, Intelligent Design is on solid ground scientifically. Claiming that it is based on scientific ignorance is tantamount to saying that physicists are wrong about things such as the finite nature of the Universe and the number of particles in the Universe.

First of all Intelligent Design ‘asserts’ that specified complexity is limited to intelligent agency. But how is specified complexity ‘calculated’? Not by showing a positive hypothesis of design but rather by showing that based on our present understandings, a particular event has a low probability of being explained by chance and we have no explanations based on law like regularities. In other words, specified complexity is not positive evidence for design. Additionally, while ID may claim that it can infer intelligent agency (design), the step which concludes intelligent agents is an inductive step and cannot exclude natural processes such as natural selection as its agent. This seems awkward to have natural selection be labeled an ‘intelligent designer’. In fact, Intelligent Design has been moving from design by intervention to a design by proxy where the designer uses natural processes to ‘design’. Wesley Elsberry in What does “Intelligent Agency by Proxy” Do for the Design Inference? shows that while design by proxy may save the design inference from a logical collapse, it does so at a significant cost since it now has to accept apparant and actual specified complexity since ID now has to propose how to distinguish between the two concepts. In other words, ID has moved from apparant and actual design to apparant and actual specified complexity but failed to provide any tools so far to distinguish between the two concepts.

Dembski is clear, the conclusion of design may be because of a gap in our knowledge (apparant specified complexity) or an actual gap in our knowledge (actual specified complexity)

The “gaps” in the god-of-the-gaps objection are meant to denote gaps of ignorance about underlying physical mechanisms. But there’s no reason to think that all gaps must give way to ordinary physical explanations once we know enough about the underlying physical mechanisms. The mechanisms may simply not exist. Some gaps might constitute ontic discontinuities in the chain of physical causes and thus remain forever beyond the capacity of physical mechanisms.

William Dembski, How Can an Unembodied Intelligence Interact with the Natural World?

However, Dembski does not provide us with any tools to distinguish between the two concepts.

38 Comments

Oh my, that press release is the silliest thing I ever did see.

“Mr. Baksa, and Dr. Nilsen will monitor the instruction to make sure no one is promoting but also not inhibiting religion.”

The superintendent is going to hover over the teacher, making sure that religious beliefs are being neither promoted nor inhibited??

And,

“The above statement and the Dover Area School District’s Biology Curriculum is only providing that opportunity for open critical discussions – the real heart of the scientific practice.”

Yes, the teachers must be tingling all over at the prospect of this “opportunity.”

Oh my.

Dembski Wrote:

The “gaps” in the god-of-the-gaps objection are meant to denote gaps of ignorance about underlying physical mechanisms.

Yes, his ignorance. But all gap enthusiasts believe that “My gaps are real!” Same old story: my gaps are real, so scientists should take my word for it and give up. Otherwise they are being dogmatic. aka Epistemic despair.

The nice thing about being a gap enthusiast is that there are always more gaps. Some people are especially good at finding them.

Dover is doomed, and I suspect the school board is just trying to hang on as long as they can. Unfortunately, when the inevitable collapse of this house of cards comes, I suspect many folks in Dover will blame atheists, secularists, scientists, etc. rather than demanding the heads of the very obviously delusional individuals who put the school system in this position.

Dover is doomed, and I suspect the school board is just trying to hang on as long as they can. Unfortunately, when the inevitable collapse of this house of cards comes, I suspect many folks in Dover will blame atheists, secularists, scientists, etc. rather than demanding the heads of the very obviously delusional individuals who put the school system in this position.

Ah, yes. That last citation in Pim’s essay is another place where Dembski claims that an unembodied designing agency can transmit information into the material world using a zero-energy (and therefore zero channel capacity) infinite wavelength (and therefore unfocusable) signal:

How much energy is required to impart information? We have sensors that can detect quantum events and amplify them to the macroscopic level. What’s more, the energy in quantum events is proportional to frequency or inversely proportional to wavelength. And since there is no upper limit to the wavelength of, for instance, electromagnetic radiation, there is no lower limit to the energy required to impart information. In the limit, a designer could therefore impart information into the universe without inputting any energy at all.

RBH

Yes, God surely could have waited an eternity for the signal to be sent through a zero bandwidth channel. Of course 14 billion years provide a bit of problem for a signal that takes an eternity to arrive. Dembski should stick to theology…

” In the limit, a designer could therefore impart information into the universe without inputting any energy at all.”

reminds me of

“In the long run, we’re all dead.”

But seriously, infinitely-long wavelength “signals”? Makes as much sense as his biology.

Yes, Dembski’s claims are as silly as Sal’s recent claims on ARN that a particular form of pattern recognition was an example of the explanatory filter being successfully used. When pressed for details Sal initially deleted the thread only to restart it with even worse results. See here how Sal handles his defeat… By accusing others of being uncharitable in their decriptions of ID ‘theory’. But it seems that it is Sal has some problems presenting ID ‘theory’ correctly. He proudly claims to have all relevant books by Dembski but there seems to be quite a difference between having access to it and actually understanding Dembski.

I thank Sal for making the case against ID much better than any ID critic ever could by showing how the explanatory filter is meaningless, and in fact poorly understood by ID proponents. So much for limiting God to a few gaps in our ignorance… a scientifically flawed and theologically destructive approach if I have ever seen one.

Christians of the world Unite.… Are we going to let a few insist on poor science and destructive theology? Or is it time to stand up and let our voices be heard. Several Christians have already stood up. I can’t wait for Richard Colling’s book to hit the bookstores.

PvM wrote:

Christians of the world Unite . … Are we going to let a few insist on poor science and destructive theology? Or is it time to stand up and let our voices be heard. Several Christians have already stood up. I can’t wait for Richard Colling’s book to hit the bookstores.

The problem is, of course, that most of the Christians who stand up and declare ID bad science and bad theology are regarded as the wrong kinds of Christians. You will find in the Fundementalist circles that Catholics (the most likely to reject ID) aren’t considered Christians at all and that major denominations like the Anglicans, Lutherans or Methodists who do not insist on Biblical literalism have somehow been undermined.

What is needed is more Christians from the Evangelical churches to begin standing up, not just in the outside world, but in theological circles and explaining why ID is flawed. It is important to demonstrate why Christianity is not reliant upon Biblical literalism, and why Biblical literalism is not the default position of Christianity, but rather a very recent development. You’d be surprised at how many Biblical literalists believe by default that literalism is some sort of bedrock doctrine.

What it boils down to is that many Christians are as ignorant of the history of Christianity as they are of science, and thus are easily swayed by the likes of AiG (straight Creationists) and the wink-wink-nudge-nudge tactics of the Discovery Institute and other ID advocates.

Scientifically, ID is already dead. After the scientific language is sufficiently boiled down to laymen’s terms, and when ID is debunked as bad theology, and this will be the job of theologians, it will lose much of its popular support. There will always be those die-hard creationists that have been around forever, but they will be in such a minority that no one will pay attention.

The Bible, especially in the New Testament, puts great emphasis on faith. Not the kind attained by mathematical proofs, but faith as a virtue. I won’t quote it here because this site is not for that, but just read Romans 5:1-2 as one of the many examples, if you’re interested.

Recently, Salvador Cordova commented that faith is no longer needed, but instead, a good understanding of the laws of physics which prove ID. Hello? If Sal is working for a god, it isn’t Jesus or the God of Abraham.

But in some ways, Salvador is the poster child of the religious folk who will continue to maintain something like ID forever. Since the existence of God (their version of God, of course) exists as part of their mental landscape in the same fashion that their car does, they cannot imagine any counter-argument has weight. In fact, they can’t even see the counter-arguments (witness some of the recent threads on ARN, for example).

What Sal also shows is the recognition - one of the few recognitions - made by the smarter religious folks: that science has fundamentally usurped the role of Truth in American society (even though most Americans associate it with technology rather than science).

Salvador Cordova commented that faith is no longer needed, but instead, a good understanding of the laws of physics which prove ID.

That is sad news. Salvador is truly a lost sheep, mouthing words which rebuke those of Christ, his Savior:

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” John 20:29

It may be a difference in how faith is perceived; it may be that, for a scientifically literate generation, scientific support may be what faith looks like. I’m not sure that’s clear.

Perhaps the issue is not simply that some religious folks feel that science has usurped the place of God or the Bible as truth, or that they feel that others percieve it that way, but that science has, in their minds, usurped the form in which believe is expressed.

Obviously not all (and quite possibly not even a majority of) believers feel this way, but many of the more articulate ones do.

This is why I’m not convinced that ID is just another flavor of creationism - it’s more a fundamental recasting of the religious argument in what is seen as the only current language of truth.

RGD:

Do you see Baptist church services where the altar is replaced by a lab bench with bunsen burners boiling beakers and flasks of colored liquids, clamps grasping spiraling glasswork, and the preacher wearing a white lab smock and safety goggles and intoning “Thus sayeth the Lord, quant suff!” and the congregation replies “Quant Suff!” straight out of Bester’s “Stars My Destination”?

In the beginning there was the hypothesis, and the Lord said “Let there be a Test” and it was good.

Flint,

Thanks for a good belly laugh! Oh, yes.

Shall we spread Salvador’s Physics Revelation? I will be ready with a little more Good News from Sal.

No, but that’s really a caricature of what I was trying to say.

Although if you had said Presbyterian…

(Profoundest apologies to all Presbyterians out there - I was making a point and I just rewatched the “Muppet Movie” again.

R. Granddaughter wrote:

“No, but that’s really a caricature of what I was trying to say.

Although if you had said Presbyterian … “

I am not sure I understand what you’re trying to say. Were you responding to one of my comments, or Flint’s?

Anyway, I think you bring up an interesting point about the language we use to tell the truth. By and large, science has (and has earned) great respect for getting to the truth. But the only type of truth science can deal with is physical.

Using science won’t add credibility to religious belief, it will only end in embarrassment.

Has any one sent the Dover School Board a response to their Biology curriculum? I plan on sending them a note and in the note let them know how their disclaimer is being trashed by many, many people. If you have not sent them something or do not plan on it, please reconsider. It is not enough just to comment on these pages, you need to let them know that there is a large group of people who disagree with what they are doing. The teachers and biologists among you certainly need to let them know where you stand. The ID group has gained a foothold by doing what America does best, selling something with no content, also known in the advertising industry as selling the sizzle. They have done a great job of creating buzz over their contentless idea. They have also gained a toehold in the education arena. Once you sell something to one customer it makes it much easier to sell to another. The best thing that can happen now is for Dover to realize that they have made a mistake and retract all of the nonsense. Then the ID movement will have lost some steam. They can point this as their star achievement and get some other school district to buy in. Once that happens they will be saying that ID is sweeping the nation. Please send the Dover district something to let them know you disagree.

The email was from the website that displayed the curriculum. If someone has a better one please post it.

[Enable javascript to see this email address.]

Rick Molnar,

As a future secondary biology teacher, I thank you for the advice and I will follow it. I have fount the address of the Dover Administration Building, where Dr. Nilsen, Superintendent, and Mr. Baksa, Assistent superintendent, have their offices, as posted on their website.

Dover Administration Building 2 School Lane Dover, PA. 17315

(717) 292-3671

katarina,

I am not sure I understand what you’re trying to say. Were you responding to one of my comments, or Flint’s?

My bad. I was responding to Flint, and I failed to make that clear.

My concern is that, so far as I can see, the efforts to cloak religion in the language of science won’t end in embarrassment because their users will never understand that they are wrong.

R’s Grandaughter

It may be a difference in how faith is perceived; it may be that, for a scientifically literate generation, scientific support may be what faith looks like. I’m not sure that’s clear.

I’ve seen this explicitly set forth by a certain “emmaus” over on Joe Carter’s “Evangelical Outpost” blog. This person claimed that “faith” meant “overwhelming evidence.”

It is hard to know where to begin a discussion with such a confused person. Perhaps it is wiser to just walk away. Or go to the toolshed and dig out the horsewhip.

This is why I’m not convinced that ID is just another flavor of creationism - it’s more a fundamental recasting of the religious argument in what is seen as the only current language of truth.

Again, over at the Outpost you can find Joe Carter and others arguing that if science can’t disprove the possibility of a designer, than there is scientific merit to “ID theory.” Of course, that sort of thinking illustrates a profound inability to accept the truth of any aspect of reality. The hypocracy of this “worldview,” as I’ve pointed out many times, lies in the fact that its proponents do not rely on this “way of thinking” UNLESS they are disparaging the work of evolutionary biologists.

Anyone else having trouble reading the entire curriculum (it’s cut off part way in my browser)? I’m using Netscape 7.1.

By the way, anyone notice that the Dover Area School District website is made possible by Penn State? I’m sure they’re real happy to be affiliated with such a “noble” cause.

Dover Area Board of Directors

Biology Curriculum Press Release

The Dover Area School District, would like to make the following statement as a press release concerning the Dover Area School District Biology curriculum. No official statement has been given prior to today because the curriculum update and work on the curriculum implementation was not complete, and the district was not interested in giving out bits and pieces of the curriculum effort at various times. The Dover Area School District was interested in working on a curriculum that included individual comments and suggestions from the School Board, community, administration, teachers, and our solicitor. The Dover Area School District now has a completed Biology Curriculum and implementation procedure. In an attempt to clarify and correct information the District would like to now state the following:

Over the past seven months, the Dover Area School District Board of Directors has been updating its Science and Biology Curriculum and adopting and approving support materials including textbooks. The School Board has made a considerable effort to develop and adopt a fair and balanced science curriculum. During this discussion numerous individuals and the media have made confusing, conflicting, and inaccurate statements. Many of these statements have been personal opinions or misunderstood interpretations of District activities and curriculum directives. Some statements and opinions from the media, community members, and board members have been assumed as official Dover Area School District policy or curriculum procedures and are significantly inaccurate and false. The following is the Dover Area School District official and current history and Biology curriculum and procedure.

The Science Department teachers researched and recommended to the administration the science book, Biology (Prentice Hall) as the textbook for our High School Biology class. The Dover Area School District adopted, approved, and purchased 220 copies of the teacher-and administration-recommended book.

The district also received as a donation 60 copies of Of Pandas and People and the book is now listed as a reference book in the curriculum. It is not a required text, but in an effort to present a balanced curriculum the book is made available to all students who wish to review the book.

The Biology curriculum was also updated to include the following statement:

“Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to Intelligent Design. The Origins of Life is not taught.”

The Assistant Superintendent in charge of curriculum development, Mr. Baksa, in coordination with the Science department teachers, the district solicitor, and the School Board has developed the following procedural statement to use in implementing the new Biology curriculum language. The following will be read to all students:

“The state standards require students to learn about Darwin’s Theory of

Evolution and to eventually take a standardized test of which evolution

is a part.

Because Darwin’s Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new

evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory

exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested

explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs

from Darwin’s view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is

available for students to see if they would like to explore this view

in an effort to gain an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually

involves. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep

an open mind.

The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life up to individual

students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class

instruction focuses on the standards and preparing students to

be successful on standards-based assessments.”

The statements were developed to provide a balanced view, not teach or present religious beliefs. The Superintendent, Dr. Richard Nilsen, is on record stating that no teacher will teach Intelligent Design, Creationism, or present his/her or the board’s religious beliefs. The Dover Area School District wants to support and not discriminate against students and parents that do have competing beliefs, especially in the area of the origin of life debate. Therefore, the School Board has noted that there are other opinions besides Darwin’s on the origin of life. School districts are places for inquiry and critical discussions. The above statement and the Dover Area School District’s Biology Curriculum is only providing that opportunity for open critical discussions – the real heart of the scientific practice.

Mr. Baksa, and Dr. Nilsen will monitor the instruction to make sure no one is promoting but also not inhibiting religion.

Mr. Baksa, and Dr. Nilsen will monitor the instruction to make sure no one is promoting but also not inhibiting religion

Which means that it’s okay to point out that billions of people believe the bible is a bunch of hooey and there is no evidence that most of the stories in it actually happened and no scientific evidence for God.

Great, now that we’ve got that settled, what are we going to study in Religion Class? Sasquatch burial rites?

FWIW, I sent these questions to the “questions or feedback” link:

Pardon what may be dumb questions, but my strength is science, not grammar. The questions are directed to the author(s) of the following statement:

“Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to Intelligent Design. The Origins of Life is not taught.”

Does it mean:

1. “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of gaps/problems in other theories … “?

2. “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s Theory and of the existence of (but not necessarily gaps/problem in) other theories … “?

3. Both 1 and 2?

Does “The Origins of Life is not taught” mean:

1. That abiogenesis, and its differences from evolution, will not be discussed?

2. That the chronology of the origin and diversification of life will be omitted?

3. Both 1 and 2?

4. Something else?

They make it clear, initially, that:

The Origins of Life is not taught.

But then they say:

The Dover Area School District wants to support and not discriminate against students and parents that do have competing beliefs, especially in the area of the origin of life debate. Therefore, the School Board has noted that there are other opinions besides Darwin’s on the origin of life.

They lack internal consistancy on the definition of The Origin of Life. Do they mean the origin of life from non-living things (abiogenesis) or the origin of new species (speciation)? Darwin isn’t known for an “opinion on the origin of life,” he’s known for a theory of biological evolution. Without a firm grasp of the field (let alone science in general), how can they hope to have a revolutionary (or devolutionary) curriculum?

Great White Wonder wrote:

I’ve seen this explicitly set forth by a certain “emmaus” over on Joe Carter’s “Evangelical Outpost” blog. This person claimed that “faith” meant “overwhelming evidence.”

It is hard to know where to begin a discussion with such a confused person. Perhaps it is wiser to just walk away. Or go to the toolshed and dig out the horsewhip.

It means that they should be held up as an example of what happens when education of children is screwed up. Huge numbers of people who don’t understand what science is, how it works, what the scientific definition of a theory, or anything other than “science that gives me neat stuff is good, science that goes against the Biblical literalism that I’ve been told is right but understand just as poorly is bad.”

It is becoming fairly obvious that the Dover school board is inhabited by people who themselves are the products of incompetent teachers. It isn’t just the fact that they want to teach ID, or the fact that they don’t understand science or what a scientific theory is, but this whole thing has revealed they don’t know how to even remain consistent in their thinking. Quite frankly if these sorts of people were responsible for my childrens’ education I’d be homeschooling.

Mark Twain’s famous saying belongs here:

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards.”

Now that’s the best theory of ID I’ve seen so far.

The “origins of life is not taught”? WTF not? It’s chemistry isn’t it?

RPM:

They lack internal consistancy on the definition of The Origin of Life. Do they mean the origin of life from non-living things (abiogenesis) or the origin of new species (speciation)?

Please understand that in the creationist doctrine, there simply is no difference here. New species were created POOF out of nothing. This is the origin of all life and all species (or kinds). There is no way to distinguish between the two, so creationists don’t do so. They can’t.

RPM:

They lack internal consistancy on the definition of The Origin of Life. Do they mean the origin of life from non-living things (abiogenesis) or the origin of new species (speciation)?

I agree with what Flint says, but I am pretty sure abiogenesis is what they find the most objectionable.

I know many creationists who wouldn’t deny the speciation of bacteria, which is so readily observed, but balk at picturing speciation for multicellular life. They can see evolutionary mechanisms at work on a small scale, but refuse to take the concepts further.

Katarina:

Do you suppose it’s possible for creationists to allow bacterial evolution, on the grounds that the Bible makes no mention of bacteria, so they are doctrinally neutral? Perhaps bacteria are considered beneath their notice, or don’t count because budding is a different process from sexual reproduction? Maybe any possible amount of change in bacteria and archaea doesn’t matter because these are all the same “kind”, making their changes permitted “microevolution”?

Katarina, they have partially surrendered, though. 150 years ago creationists denied evolution entirely. Now they have retreated to a position that evolution occurs, but just a little.

I imagine the slower flat-earthers didn’t quickly become round-earthers. Maybe they passed through a stage where they claimed it was still more or less flat, but a little curved. Microcurvature, if you will.

In my experience, there’s no belief so insane that a small fringe of passionate believers cannot be found.

Browsing the Creationist Dictionary, I found the following:

Microevolution (n.)

1. Any type of generational transformation that can be imagined at first or second thought

2. Anything that does not produce new body parts

3. Could be, but not limited to, the creativity of a creator.

Macroevolution (n.)

1. Any type of generational transformation that cannot be concieved of.

2. Anything that relates humans to monkeys

3. A vicious lie involving atheistic intellectual snobs who hold monopoly over the sciences.

Oh, I and I almost forgot,

Origins (n.)

1. The idea, in evolution, that man came from random combinations of primordial ooze.

2. The word of God in Genesis, that man came from dust and woman came from a man’s rib.

Sorry, this thread relates to Intelligent Design, my bad. Anyone know how to get a hold of the Discovery Dictionary?

Katarina:

Perhaps bacteria are considered beneath their notice, or don’t count because budding is a different process from sexual reproduction?

Not to get overly technical, but yeast bud and bacteria undergo fission (at least that’s what I can recall from the bit of microbiology I have learned).

Also, the mechanisms of speciation are fairly different between asexually reproducing organisms (bacteria and sometimes fungi, plants, and animals) and sexually reproducing organisms (animals, plants, and fungi). While the biological species concept applies to animals and plants, the jury is still out on how to define bacterial species since they never undergo sexual reproduction. That means a creationist/IDist could argue that all bacteria are a single “species” that has many divergent forms and over time has accumulated genetic and physiological difergence. The time required for such divergence is obviously greater than 6000 yrs, so the new earth folks are SOL (but would this fit into the ID doctrine?). They would also have to deal with the fact that Archae cluster with Eukaryotes leaving Eubacteria as the outgroup – of course they seem to reject large chunks of molecular evolutionary data, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they ignored this!

RPM,

Um, no big deal, but that is a quote from Flint’s comment, not mine.

Even if you could make a good case to someone of the ID persuasion about the molecular and genetic evidence for evolution, it doesn’t bother them in the least because it simply could mean that God used the same blueprint to create all kinds.

Thanks everyone for educating me a little, being gentle with me, and halping me when anti-evolutionists attack. Thank you anti-evolutionists for being polite. I won’t be back for a while, so I hope y’all have a great holiday (even the atheists, who get time off just like the rest of us).

Ciao!

RPM:

You’re right, only some bacteria reproduce by budding. Bacteria also practice a great deal of lateral gene transfer, almost unknown in eukaryotes (except possibly via viruses).

Back to the topic (at least a little bit), I haven’t encountered any explicit creationist position on bacteria or archaea. Mostly they are concerned with large organisms, which doctrine holds do not “macroevolve”, a term flexible enough to lie just beyond whatever can’t be supportably denied. Life, in the form of all “forms”, was simply created as-is, all at once. That was the origin of life, species, forms, you name it.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on December 7, 2004 10:01 PM.

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