Answering Dean Esmay on ID in Science Classrooms

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Dean Esmay, a blogger I respect, has a post about ID that might surprise some folks. Dean is an atheist, you see, but he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to teach ID in schools, or at least to bring it up in biology classes and mention that there are some smart people who advocate it. The question he wants answered is essentially this: what would the negative consequences be of taking time in science classrooms to discuss intelligent design? So far all he has heard are vague slippery slope arguments (which he appears to erroneously believe is always a logical fallacy; it is not) and arguments to the effect that ID isn’t science and therefore doesn’t belong there. It’s a fair question, of course, and it deserves a serious answer. As someone who is involved in the day to day battle against the movement to put ID into public school science classrooms, I hope to provide that answer here, but first I feel I need to correct some of Dean’s misconceptions about ID and those who advocate it. For instance, in answer to a comment he says:

Continue Reading Answering Dean Esmay on ID in Science Classrooms at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

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I can’t speak as much for the situation in public schools, but I do have a pulse on the mood in the universities. I have been working with an Atheist and Agnostic group at James Madison University known as the Freethinkers to do an opinion poll of the students. The Freethinkers are sympathetic to Dean Esmay’s position.…

(It was actually through the Freethinkers that I met Dr. Jason Rosenhouse, a contributor to PandasThumb.)

I mentioned to the group that the idea of an Intelligent Design College course was being explored and that they could help the process along by helping me conduct a poll of the students.

To my surprise all of the Freethinkers unanimously supported the teaching of such a course at JMU and are now in the process of helping me conduct a poll at JMU.

Even if they are sympathetic to the Darwinist position, they are thirsting to know what the arguments are. One of the biology majors last year converted from atheism to theism, another from Darwnism, to Intelligent Design.

The students at JMU want an ID course. They know various biology, math, physics professors have chosen to believe intelligent design rather than all the peer-reviewed articles in support of Darwinism. Some adjunct professors, with nothing to lose, who have regular day jobs, occasionally tell the students they don’t believe in Darwinism. One can’t suppress the rising scientific dissent, and the students know something is brewing.…

They hear of the creationists in the faculty of the medical school of nearby UVa (Paul Gross’s school). These aren’t the sort of things that can be dismissed by telling a student, “there are only a couple of ID peer-reviewed articles, therefore ID is illegitimate.” The students could care less when they see their professors doing the same.…

They see and hear of faculty members and top students who are creationists or IDists, and that’s all it takes.

The atheists and agnostic freethinkers at JMU want the discussion be opened up. I think that is consistent with Dean Esmays post. The Freethinkers of JMU know of creationist science faculty in their school and nearby schools in Virginia, and it fuels the hunger to hear the case for Intelligent Design…

One of the biology majors last year converted from atheism to theism, another from Darwnism, to Intelligent Design.

Did any convert from ID to digestocraftism yet? Ask the Freethinkers if they are interested in hearing about the digestocraftism challenge to ID, Salvador.

The Freethinkers of JMU know of creationist science faculty in their school and nearby schools in Virginia, and it fuels the hunger to hear the case for Intelligent Design …

Just wait until they hear about digestocraftism.

The Freethinkers are sympathetic to Dean Esmay’s position …

Just about any scientifically ignorant person would be sympathetic to Dean Esmay’s position. But as Ed pointed out so ably in his post, Esmay’s head is in his butt, just like yours is Sal except Esmay isn’t a pathologically lying tool like you are. He’s just misinformed.

Here’s a prediction for you, Sal: before any public school is allowed to teach “ID theory” as a “scientific alternative” to evolutionary theory, public school’s will be presenting lectures on fraud and pseudoscience in biology classrooms, which will include a discussion of “ID theory” and the sad jerks who tried to peddle it for years.

Of course, Salvador, there would be no reason to include Li’l Liars for Jesus like yourself, just as we needn’t mention Charlie Wagner or any of the other perpetually dissembling creationists who hang out here. You don’t even rise to the level of an asterix in a debate which itself amounts to an asterix in the history of biology.

These aren’t the sort of things that can be dismissed by telling a student, “there are only a couple of ID peer-reviewed articles, therefore ID is illegitimate.”

Good thing I didn’t tell any student that, isn’t it? I’m “thirsty” to hear not the arguments, but the actual ID model and how its advocates propose to test it. And if all there is to the actual ID model is “evolution doesn’t explain this, so God did it” (and that’s all there seems to be so far), it doesn’t get us anywhere at all. The discussion is already open. Scientists would be more than happy to examine a model and test hypotheses that flow from it; there just aren’t any here.

An interesting article about the sort of crap that fills the head of ID peddler Jonathan Wells, one of Salvador Cordova’s best beloved heroes:

http://gadflyer.com/articles/?ArticleID=258

Rather than the traditional egg hunt, this group, calling itself the American Clergy Leadership Conference, sponsored a nationwide “Tear Down The Cross” day for Easter, 2003. Last week, leaders in this radical cause presided over a Washington prayer breakfast featuring messages of thanks from the presidents. Former Senator Bob Dole came in person.

Mostly African-American, pastors who joined in 2003’s ACLC-sponsored “Tear Down The Cross” won gold watches from the wealthy group, which unabashedly claims in its publications to have stripped churches of over a hundred crosses over the Easter holiday alone. This, movement leaders said, cleared the way for a new age and second messiah.

Speaking of messiahs, make a quick stop at the web site of the ACLC, and it’s clear there’s more to it than the “rapidly growing movement of clergy committed to the endeavor of making this nation the best that it can be,” as the ACLC described itself in a December 8 Washington Times op-ed. It’s actually a vehicle for Sun Myung Moon, the billionaire conservative donor who calls himself the True Father.

Though the breakfast boasted two other “co-sponsors,” both are easily identifiable as projects of the self-declared Messiah: the International and Interreligious Federation of World Peace and the American Family Coalition, which Moon founded in 1984. How much more eminent these names sound than “the Moonies”! In the 1970s, that was the shorthand on the evening news for Moon’s followers, whose frank call for crushing Western democracy, combined with success in recruiting teenagers, made them a popular nightmare on the evening news.

On Wednesday, a video file containing the elder President Bush’s message to the ACLC disappeared from the movement’s web site, though both Bush endorsements were reported in the Washington Times. Neither the White House nor the ACLC returned requests for comment on the breakfast and President Bush’s participation.

Ed Wrote:

Jonathan Wells’ book, Icons of Evolution, again contained only negative arguments pointing to supposed weaknesses in evolution. His book was literally full of falsehoods and misrepresentations and used all the traditional creationist techniques: out-of-context quotations, oversimplifications, false predictions, evidence distorting, and of course vague insinuations of dark conspiracies among the Darwinian Priesthood to destroy those who dared question them. This is what passes for serious scholarship for these folks, and it illustrates a very good reason why they skipped over the research phase and went right to the public relations phase (Phase 2: Publicity and opinion-making). This kind of work would never get published in a journal reviewed by his fellow scientists, not because of an orthodoxy that refuses to consider alternatives but because it’s shoddy and dishonest. The gaping flaws would be spotted in a moment by someone who knows the field, but by publishing for the public directly they avoid being called on it.

Actually they don’t quite avoid being called on it.

Ed Wrote:

Jonathan Wells’ book, Icons of Evolution, again contained only negative arguments pointing to supposed weaknesses in evolution. His book was literally full of falsehoods and misrepresentations and used all the traditional creationist techniques: out-of-context quotations, oversimplifications, false predictions, evidence distorting, and of course vague insinuations of dark conspiracies among the Darwinian Priesthood to destroy those who dared question them. This is what passes for serious scholarship for these folks, and it illustrates a very good reason why they skipped over the research phase and went right to the public relations phase (Phase 2: Publicity and opinion-making). This kind of work would never get published in a journal reviewed by his fellow scientists, not because of an orthodoxy that refuses to consider alternatives but because it’s shoddy and dishonest. The gaping flaws would be spotted in a moment by someone who knows the field, but by publishing for the public directly they avoid being called on it.

They don’t quite avoid being called on it.

Creo Troll approximately Wrote:

I tried to post this comment 10 minutes ago and it doesn’t show up. As soon as I click Post again I suppose it will appear twice.

(from another thread)

Amen

Posting this in pieces because of submission error…

Salvador Wrote:

I mentioned to the group that the idea of an Intelligent Design College course was being explored and that they could help the process along by helping me conduct a poll of the students. 

To my surprise all of the Freethinkers unanimously supported the teaching of such a course at JMU and are now in the process of helping me conduct a poll at JMU.

I don’t have a problem with a course taught about ID in college either, just so long as it doesn’t just present ID talking points without criticism. But that’s a big difference from mandating ID to be taught in public schools. Here are the differences:

1. College professors are able to create their own curriculum, whereas primary and secondary curricula are determined by state and local school. boards. Hence, I trust professors to come up with a good syallabus far more so than school boards that are made up of politicians who probably have no scientific background.

Posting this in pieces because of submission error…

Salvador Wrote:

I mentioned to the group that the idea of an Intelligent Design College course was being explored and that they could help the process along by helping me conduct a poll of the students. 

To my surprise all of the Freethinkers unanimously supported the teaching of such a course at JMU and are now in the process of helping me conduct a poll at JMU.

I don’t have a problem with a course taught about ID in college either, just so long as it doesn’t just present ID talking points without criticism. But that’s a big difference from mandating ID to be taught in public schools. Here are the differences:

1. College professors are able to create their own curriculum, whereas primary and secondary curricula are determined by state and local school. boards. Hence, I trust professors to come up with a good syallabus far more so than school boards that are made up of politicians who probably have no scientific background.

…continued

2. The students in college are adults and are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they want to take the course. They are also much more able to debate and discuss the issues at hand.

We’re going to teach ID and critical thinking in public school?

OK, can you imagine a homework assigment which requires the following reasonable quesitons to be answwered in this course:

1. Demonstrate the number of myth” texts with similar themes (flood, fall from grace) appearing in the scriptural and epic books of various civilizations demonstrating that the bible is merely one of many and not even a very good story, undoubtedly plagiarized and certainly not inspired.

2. Define Michael Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity

3. List 50 irreducibly complex sytems above the molecular level described in ID literature (from any source).

4. Describe the intermediate steps in the blood clotting mechanism.

5. [50 bonus points] Apply Dembski’s explanatory filter to explain why a spider web is (or is not) intelligently designed and why a fishnet of the same pattern is (or is not) intelligently designed.

6. If you answers to the spider web and fishnet problems above are different, explain how the EF led you to different answers.

7. Discuss how Intelligent Design theory explains the fossil record of horses http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/hor[…]se_evol.html

8. Detail the raelian version of Intelligent design. http://www.rael.org/english/index.html

9. Give 10 reasons why that is more plausible than “biblical based” intelligent design theories.

10. Identify the period or era in shich the bacterial flagellae idetified by Behe first appeared. Why would that occur at that time under Intelligent zdesign theory?

======================

I’m sure people more versed in Intelligent Design and biology can come up with an exam that would be fair to the class but devastating to the current state of ID.

I think you’ll find a number of parents asking for the immediate removal of Intellgient Design from schools after this lesson plan.

11. Compare and contrast the “ID theory” to the digestocraftic theory for the origin of the diversity of all life forms that ever lived on earth.

12. In one paragraph, describe multiple designers theory. In your description, please provide 3 reasons why multiple designers are more likely than a single designer, assuming that one or more designers created all the life on earth.

13. (For ages 7-10) Draw a picture of what you think the intelligent designers looked like when they met to discuss whether to make a duck-billed platypus or a pig-snouted platypus? What do you think the designers were smoking when they came up with that thing?

14. What is the favorite organism of multiple designers? Please explain your answer using only objective criteria (i.e., fitness, survivability, pervasiveness, abundance, etc).

15. How many designers did it take to design the multiple designers?

16. Compare and contrast fundamentalist Christian explanations for the diversity of life on earth with those of the Taliban.

17. According to the illustrious ID theorist Jonathan Wells, what is the best way to dispose of a crucifix?

Man, this is too much fun. Fyi, Salvador, if I ever catch you speaking anywhere in a forum near me, I’m going to be asking you these questions and a whole lot more. Better study up!

Actually, in this as in many other areas, Darwin had it right. There are two possible mechanisms for the emergence of species: Natural selection and special creation. The Origin of Species, especially the last chapter, is an argument in favor of the former as opposed to the latter.

On the ordinary view of each species having been independently created, why should the specific characters, or those by which the species of the same genus differ from each other, be more variable than the generic characters in which they all agree? Why, for instance, should the colour of a flower be more likely to vary in any one species of a genus, if the other species, supposed to have been created independently, have differently coloured flowers, than if all the species of the genus have the same coloured flowers? (p. 446) .…

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created… When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendents of some few beings which lived long befoer the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled. (p. 458)

I would have no quarrel if the evidence for either model were to be considered logically and scientifically. Unfortunately, however, IDC proponents want their model to be considered as a scientific equal to evolution. It isn’t.

Okay, let’s try this again, full version this time:

Salvador Wrote:

I mentioned to the group that the idea of an Intelligent Design College course was being explored and that they could help the process along by helping me conduct a poll of the students. 

To my surprise all of the Freethinkers unanimously supported the teaching of such a course at JMU and are now in the process of helping me conduct a poll at JMU.

I don’t have a problem with a course taught about ID in college either, just so long as it doesn’t just present ID talking points without criticism. But that’s a big difference from mandating ID to be taught in public schools. Here are the differences:

1. College professors are able to create their own curriculum, whereas primary and secondary curricula are determined by state and local school. boards. Hence, I trust professors to come up with a good syallabus far more so than school boards that are made up of politicians who probably have no scientific background.

2. The students in college are adults and are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they want to take the course. They are also much more able to debate and discuss the issues at hand.

3. Public school biology classes typically devote only a week or so to evolution (though it’s integrated with the rest of the course). This is simply not enough time to “teach the controversy” or to bring up all of the DI-style “critcisms”, and then to suitably debunk them, not to mention the exploring all the socio-political ramifications, etc. A full semester college course, on the other hand, is a good vehicle for giving these issues the attention they deserve.

Long story short, colleges are good places to have classes and debates on controversial issues. Grade schools and highschools are not good places. One might reasonably suggest, maybe grade schools and highschools should be more like college, and have a lot more flexibility in the curriculum, fewer demands on the teachers, and a lot more freedom for the students. Well, maybe. But currently they’re not like that. Currently they’re set up to give students a good introduction to basic concepts that they will later explore in detail in college. Scientific subjects are limited to teaching students the basics of what the scientific community currently accepts (and I think a good case can be made for keeping it that way). There is just no room for trying to get them to explore an in-depth issue that the scientific community doesn’t take seriously for the most part, even though it may be noteworthy in our broader culture. I think this is a point that Dean Esmay completely missed.

I have to wonder why the DI types are spending so much effort trying to get ID taught in public school classes when in fact college courses are much more suitable. Especially when it comes to their own “teach the controversy” clarion call. My suspicion is that they don’t really want to change around the public school curriculum to make it more like college courses, in which “teach the controvesy” can actually work. Rather, they want public schools to continue as they’ve always done, they just want their own ideas to be presented alongside evolution in order to create the impression that they are considered of equal merit. Hence, the “brief introductory” method in which public school science classes are taught is what they want a piece of, precisely because it presents ideas as being authoritative.

Okay, let’s try this again, full version this time:

Salvador Wrote:

I mentioned to the group that the idea of an Intelligent Design College course was being explored and that they could help the process along by helping me conduct a poll of the students. 

To my surprise all of the Freethinkers unanimously supported the teaching of such a course at JMU and are now in the process of helping me conduct a poll at JMU.

I don’t have a problem with a course taught about ID in college either, just so long as it doesn’t just present ID talking points without criticism. But that’s a big difference from mandating ID to be taught in public schools. Here are the differences:

1. College professors are able to create their own curriculum, whereas primary and secondary curricula are determined by state and local school. boards. Hence, I trust professors to come up with a good syallabus far more so than school boards that are made up of politicians who probably have no scientific background.

2. The students in college are adults and are able to make up their own minds about whether or not they want to take the course. They are also much more able to debate and discuss the issues at hand.

3. Public school biology classes typically devote only a week or so to evolution (though it’s integrated with the rest of the course). This is simply not enough time to “teach the controversy” or to bring up all of the DI-style “critcisms”, and then to suitably debunk them, not to mention the exploring all the socio-political ramifications, etc. A full semester college course, on the other hand, is a good vehicle for giving these issues the attention they deserve.

Long story short, colleges are good places to have classes and debates on controversial issues. Grade schools and highschools are not good places. One might reasonably suggest, maybe grade schools and highschools should be more like college, and have a lot more flexibility in the curriculum, fewer demands on the teachers, and a lot more freedom for the students. Well, maybe. But currently they’re not like that. Currently they’re set up to give students a good introduction to basic concepts that they will later explore in detail in college. Scientific subjects are limited to teaching students the basics of what the scientific community currently accepts (and I think a good case can be made for keeping it that way). There is just no room for trying to get them to explore an in-depth issue that the scientific community doesn’t take seriously for the most part, even though it may be noteworthy in our broader culture. I think this is a point that Dean Esmay completely missed.

I have to wonder why the DI types are spending so much effort trying to get ID taught in public school classes when in fact college courses are much more suitable. Especially when it comes to their own “teach the controversy” clarion call. My suspicion is that they don’t really want to change around the public school curriculum to make it more like college courses, in which “teach the controvesy” can actually work. Rather, they want public schools to continue as they’ve always done, they just want their own ideas to be presented alongside evolution in order to create the impression that they are considered of equal merit. Hence, the “brief introductory” method in which public school science classes are taught is what they want a piece of, precisely because it presents ideas as being authoritative.

Steve Reuland:

I don’t have a problem with a course taught about ID in college either, just so long as it doesn’t just present ID talking points without criticism. But that’s a big difference from mandating ID to be taught in public schools.

I used one of Duesberg’s early critiques of HIV/AIDS to organize a course on HIV many years ago. I thought it worked out well. It was a graduate seminar course, and it was the job of the students to critique the critique. The idea of teaching high school kids that “there is a lively debate among scientists” about the cause of AIDS, however, surely borders on the criminal.

Salvador Wrote:

The students at JMU want an ID course.

In your proposal, Salvador, what are the requirements to take the course going to be? To do it well, the students should be required to take evolutionary biology, advanced genetics, molecular evolution, developmental genetics, philosophy of science, and probably a course on information theory to prepare them for a course on ID.

One can’t suppress the rising scientific dissent, and the students know something is brewing . …

Did the creationists forget the baking powder?

I don’t take much stock in the argument from authority and I take less stock in the argument from dubious authority

From Reed’s link:

“The Behe argument is as revolutionary for our time as was Darwin’s argument was for his. If true, it presages not just a change in a scientific theory, but an overthrow of the worldview that has dominated intellectual life ever since the triumph of Darwinism, the metaphysical doctrine of scientific materialism or naturalism. A lot is at stake, and not just for science.” ~ Phillip E. Johnson, “The Storyteller and the Scientist”, First Things, Oct. 1996, p.47.

Which is more dubious, morally speaking? Johnson’s statement above, or my hypothetical response to Johnson’s statement, consisting of the placement of a flaming paper bag of dog shit on his front step then ringing his doorbell?

Steve Reuland wrote:

Long story short, colleges are good places to have classes and debates on controversial issues. Grade schools and highschools are not good places.

I’m sympathetic to that position, and surprisingly, it seems the Discovery Institute is as well. They have expressed reservations about mandating the teaching of ID in public schools.

I have to wonder why the DI types are spending so much effort trying to get ID taught in public school classes when in fact college courses are much more suitable.

I’m with you on that.…

I’m doing what little I can to persuade the powers that be that the energies of the DI and Wedge would be well spent promoting ID at the universities.

To that end, I’m trying to let people know that ID courses at Universities will be a real draw to universities and “money maker” courses (so to speak). I would even be so bold to say, if ID were included in biology textbooks as an alternative (not even well-accepted) origins theory, that would be sufficient to cause an explosion of enrollment.

If the textbooks mention it in passing, even a few pages acknowledging these minority theories in a respectful, but non-derogatory way, and if the professor treats the students accordingly, that would go a long way to tapping into a potential well of talent.…

I point to someone who did take a biology course in an ID context, and you can see how much it did to actually stimulate her interest in the field: Student relfections on an ID Biology Course

Even though the high school ratings for science might be low in the US, surprisingly, there is a steady if not explosive growth in the biology curriculums at the University level, particularly bio-tech fields (fields more friendly to ID believers).

There is a tenured professor in bio-chemistry teaching at Paul Gross’s school, UVa, there are medical faculty, there are medical students in the school of medicine, grad students in molecular genetics, biochemistry, PhD physics students who are IDists or creationists at UVa.…

Univerisities are potentially alienatng 40-60% of potential enrollees into biology curriculums by not being more receptive to ID as part of the curriculum. Given that apparently students and faculty members at Paul Gross’s school can make it in academia without personally believing in Darwinism, I think a more open and welcoming environment for IDists will do university biology departments a lot of good as far as enrollment.…

PS great to hear from you Steve Reuland

I think a more open and welcoming environment for IDists will do university biology departments a lot of good as far as enrollment …

I’d rather that the pathetic evangelicals who need to have their “worldviews” coddled simply return to their caves and live out their short self-righteous lives in the intellectual darkness which they demand. What in the world does a fundie who needs to have his “worldview” coddled want with a science education anyway? What possible role could science have in the life of a brainwashed fungelical?

Mr. Cordova said:

To that end, I’m trying to let people know that ID courses at Universities will be a real draw to universities and “money maker” courses (so to speak). I would even be so bold to say, if ID were included in biology textbooks as an alternative (not even well-accepted) origins theory, that would be sufficient to cause an explosion of enrollment.

Courses in the production of hard-core pornography movies, featuring veterans of the business, would probably also be a “money maker” course at most universities.

It would be equal on a moral plain with ID, though, so I suppose we should expect to see Mr. Cordova’s fellow-travelers begin to advocate them, soon.

If “explosions in enrollment” were all we were after, why not beer and circuses?

To that end, I’m trying to let people know that ID courses at Universities will be a real draw to universities and “money maker” courses (so to speak). I would even be so bold to say, if ID were included in biology textbooks as an alternative (not even well-accepted) origins theory, that would be sufficient to cause an explosion of enrollment.

Based on what evidence, precisely, beyond your personal desire to see ID taught? You certainly don’t represent the majority of students on the American college scene; you don’t represent even a large minority among science students. You represent a small, highly-intolerant Christian faction.

What evidence do you have that ID classes would do anything to increase attendance anywhere but at small, science-light Bible colleges?

Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot: you don’t do evidence - just assertion.

I would enjoy a class on ID at the graduate level in biology, just to watch it get ripped to shreds. However, as much as that would delight me (I can just see the biochemistry grads at UCSD going through Behe’s book), I would find it hard to justify the time spent on such an endeavor. My concern is that college courses in biology, while far more suitable to these kinds of discussions than high school classes, are still there to prepare budding biologists with the knowledge they need to enter their chosen field. Since ID doesn’t seem like it will be a relevant field of research any time soon, I can’t justify my whims as part of a larger educational purpose.

Therefore, Mr. Cordova, I would like to know what scientific merit you see in ID, if any, which would justify its being taught at the college level to scientists. In particular, I’m wondering how it can be used to generate testable hypotheses. As an undergraduate college student in biology, I would be more than happy to investigate promising lines of research, but, lacking any indications that ID is the hot new thing, except among a new generation of evangelical apologists (for example the way ID has been put to use by Lee Strobel in The Case for a Creator), I can’t say I see the justification for a college course in ID.

I’m still mulling over what a typical “teach the controversy” high school curriculum might look like.

I live in Southern California. Locally we could organize a field trip to the biology departments of Saddleback College ( a junior college), University of Califronia at Irvine (a state university)and Biola College ( a 4 year bible based college that hosts an annual ID conference)

At the two public institutions we could show high school students the biology labs and ongoing current experiments and research programs using evolution as a basis for the studies.

At Biola, we could tour the biology lab and be shown all of the research programs and experiments identifying and categorizing irreducibly complex biological systems under the ID analytical framework.

Or we could listen to a pin drop.

Either way, the trip would be worthwhile and informative.

Salvador Wrote:

I’m sympathetic to that position, and surprisingly, it seems the Discovery Institute is as well. They have expressed reservations about mandating the teaching of ID in public schools.

I don’t think that’s really the case, at least as far as teaching ID in public schools vs. colleges is concerned. The DI has chosen an approach in which they do not openly advocate the mandatory teaching of ID, but instead call for teaching the “evidences against evolution”, or “evolution plus alternative theories”, or some such semantic contortion. It’s really the same thing under a different name, and appears to be motivated solely by legal considerations. But the fact remains, they are still putting the vast majority of their efforts into teaching ID in public schools.

I have not seen the DI put much effort into getting classes taught at the college level in which ID is critically analyzed. I think a good model for how to “teach the controversy”, in real terms, not just fake terms, is the course at Cal State Fullerton, in which they present the entire creationism vs. evolution debate, including the ID stuff, and all the socio-political aspects to boot. Maybe I’ve missed it, but when exactly has the DI lauded such efforts? Where have they spent time and money trying to get more of these classes at the college level? Why are they spending all (or nearly all) of their effort trying to get ID taught in public school science classes where evolution is given only a brief introduction, for maybe one or two weeks, and there’s simply no time for a thorough analysis of evolutionary science vs. ID/creationism?

Maybe I’m cynical, or maybe I’m prejudiced, but my take on it is that “teaching the controversy” is precisely what the DI doesn’t want. I used to think it was just rhetorical posturing, but now I think it’s a outright sham. Public schools are the target because the DI can put forth a laundry list of assertions without any realistic chance for rebuttal. And they can assume the scientific authority that goes with being a part of such classes. Why would they want students to know that ID isn’t actually accepted among the scientific community? Why would they want students to take the time to critically analyze the claims that the ID movement makes?

To that end, I’m trying to let people know that ID courses at Universities will be a real draw to universities and “money maker” courses (so to speak). I would even be so bold to say, if ID were included in biology textbooks as an alternative (not even well-accepted) origins theory, that would be sufficient to cause an explosion of enrollment.

There may be a niche market for teaching ID, but most aspiring biologists would not rush out to buy the books or take the courses just because ID was in there. From a biological standpoint, ID doesn’t tell us anything, because its advocates have refused to concoct any sort of theory for how living things were designed.

I point to someone who did take a biology course in an ID context, and you can see how much it did to actually stimulate her interest in the field: Student relfections on an ID Biology Course

I would be extremely surprised to find any “ID believer” say that she became less interested in biology because of ID. That would kind of defeat the goal of getting religion ID taught everywhere, which seems far more important to ID believers than advancing our knowledge of biology. A more relevant question is whether or not teaching biology from an “ID perspective” (which as best as I can tell, means nothing more than casting as much doubt on evolution as possible) will give students the most factually sound information, and will accurately reflect the state of knowledge in the scientific community.

Even though the high school ratings for science might be low in the US, surprisingly, there is a steady if not explosive growth in the biology curriculums at the University level, particularly bio-tech fields (fields more friendly to ID believers).

Exactly how are bio-tech fields more friendly to ID believers?

Univerisities are potentially alienatng 40-60% of potential enrollees into biology curriculums by not being more receptive to ID as part of the curriculum.

I’m sure they’re alienating a lot of students by not teaching astrology, or the existence of ghosts, or ESP. All of these things have wide acceptance among the public at large, more than 40-60% in most cases. (Though one hopes that science students know better.) The day that alienating students’ personal beliefs becomes a criterion for deciding science curricula will be a sad day indeed.

PS great to hear from you Steve Reuland

Same to you Salvador. Merry Christmas!

I’m sure they’re alienating a lot of students by not teaching astrology, or the existence of ghosts, or ESP. All of these things have wide acceptance among the public at large, more than 40-60% in most cases. (Though one hopes that science students know better.) The day that alienating students’ personal beliefs becomes a criterion for deciding science curricula will be a sad day indeed.

That’s some of the non-science (nonsense) that American universities were caricatured for in the 1970’s. I remember earnest discussions (usually chemically-enhanced) about the “physics of the paranormal,” and lots of blather about Velikovsky. A horrible time, and one that probably contributed to the appalling lack of scientific literacy among the public, including that shown by ID proponents.

The point, Salvador, is that teaching non-science can lead to popularity, but that isn’t the goal. The goal is understanding, which requires method (before you start in, the EF is not a method).

BTW, I saw no evidence that the goal was achieved from the discussions you pointed to on GMU’s IDEA website. It was no better than the usual undergraduate chat room stuff.

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This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on December 21, 2004 12:09 PM.

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