Is ID Unfairly Censored?

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On the heels of Hugh Hewitt’s foray into the wonderful world of ID, we have the redoubtable Phyllis Schafly, who weighs in with an amusing piece on Townhall.com. Anyone familiar with the evo/cre debate will instantly pick out several egregious errors that are inexcusable for anyone writing a serious piece about evolution. Let’s take a look and see how bad it gets…

Here’s how Schlafly begins…

The most censored speech in the United States today is not flag-burning, pornography or the press. The worst censors are those who prohibit classroom criticism of the theory of evolution.

A lot of people on the far-right fringe have a very difficult time understanding exactly what censorship means. It’s not that difficult really. Censorship means that the government says you can’t purchase or own certain media or that you can’t say certain things in public. It doesn’t mean, for example, that certain ideas are considered inappropriate for public school curricula. Schlafly, in an amazingly unoriginal move, makes the term “censorship” meaningless by applying it to something that it doesn’t apply to at all. No one has said that people are unable to advocate ID/creationism (as they might burn a flag) out in public. No one has denied anyone the right to own and read ID/creationist material in their homes (as they might do with pornography, which Schlafly favors censoring). And no one has banned ID advocates from publishing any dreck they wish, no matter how many blatant falsehoods it contains, including this piece right here written by Phyllis Schlafly. Instead, she’s defining “censorship” as meaning that ID/creationism can’t be taught in public school science classes as being science, or that creationists can’t insert their erroneous “criticisms” into the curriculum. Of course that’s not censorship, and to claim otherwise is not only inaccurate, it’s downright offensive to those who have been victims of real censorship throughout the ages.

Teaching creationism in science class, as everyone should know, was struck down by the Supreme Court because it was ruled to be a religious doctrine in the guise of science. ID, which is basically the same thing but with most of the testable claims stripped out, has yet to meet its day in court, but will likely suffer the same fate. Knowing this, the creationists have once again changed tactics: Claim that instead of trying to teach creationism, or God-free™ creationism (ID), the goal is to teach the “evidences against evolution”. But this is a dishonest shell game. Those criticisms that they proffer are simply creationist arguments intended to bolster support for creationism. This is an example of what’s called “reframing” the debate – changing around the terminology in order to slant perceptions in your favor. (Referring to censorship as “regulation”, as Schlafly does when she’s in favor of censoring things, is another example of framing.) We should never allow fake “criticisms” that have been rejected by scientists to be taught in science class for religious reasons; if the subject were astrology or Velikovskian catastrophism, Schlafly would presumably agree. But when it comes to creationism… why that’s censorship! By the same logic, opposing the teaching of Holocaust denial, UFOlogy, or whatever nutty nonsense one can come up with would also be censorship. We can reframe Holocaust denial by saying that we want to teach the evidence both for and against the Holocaust. Shouldn’t we teach the controversy about the Holocaust? Surely Schlafly doesn’t think that. Unless she believes that keeping these kinds of things out of school curricula is censorship, and thus wishes to allow proponents to stick them all in, then she’s being dishonest.

But the funniest part of Schlafly’s screed is the “criticisms” she thinks should be taught. We’ll get to those in a minute…

A Chinese scholar observed, “In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.”

The “Chinese scholar” is unnamed. That’s not so surprising, because no one outside the original source knows his name. That source would happen to be Jonathan Wells, the guy who dedicated his life to “destroying Darwinism” at the behest of the Reverend Sun-Myung Moon, and who also won’t say who this guy was or why he thought it was reasonable to say what he said. Given that Wells is not exactly known for honesty, we’ll put this one in the “probably made up out of thin air” column.

Polls show that the vast majority of Americans reject the theory of evolution, as have great scientists such as William Thomas Kelvin and Louis Pasteur.

Kelvin and Pasteur were indeed great scientists. Over a hundred years ago. The argument from authority is weak to begin with, but goodness, couldn’t we at least find someone who lived after the Modern Synthesis? Maybe Schafly knew them personally, in which case she should have at least told us what they really thought about evolution. But that’s unlikely, because she screwed up William Thomson, Lord Kelvin’s name.

As for the “vast majority” of Americans rejecting evolution, she screwed that one up too. The latest Gallup poll, while not exactly encouraging, shows that about a third of Americans believe that evolution is well-supported, about a third believe that it isn’t, and about a third don’t know. So the people who reject evolution are not vast majority, they’re a minority.

But we’re still not to the good stuff yet…

The Darwinists have propped up their classroom dominance by the persistent use of frauds and flacks. The fraudulent pro-evolution embryo drawings of Ernst Haeckel littered schoolbooks for 100 years, and it took specific action by the Texas Board of Education to keep them out of current textbooks even after the New York Times exposed Haeckel’s deception.

This one is more confusing than wrong. It’s true that Ernst Haeckel’s embryo drawings were fudged and remained in textbooks presented as authoritative long after they should have. But the New York Times was the debunker? Come on. People had written about the problems with Haeckel for a very long time, most notably Stephen J. Gould back in 1977. And the Texas Board of Education was somehow keeping them out of textbooks? Where does she get this one? Maybe she’s thinking about the Discovery Institute’s attempt to amend the textbooks that the Texas Board of Education would adopt. That would make sense, except for the fact that the their attempt failed. The grain of truth here is that there were a couple of textbooks that replaced Haeckel’s drawings with pictures, but this had nothing to do with the Texas BOE. Of course pictures are just as good, because embryology thoroughly supports evolution, but you won’t read about that in Schlafly’s article.

Many textbooks feature pictures of giraffes stretching their necks to feed high off of trees, but genetics and observed feeding habits disprove that as a basis for evolution of their long necks.

Now we’re to the good stuff.

Phyllis Schlafly, who like many ideologues, operates with a pretense of absolute certainty about the correctness of her views, is completely clueless when it comes to the basics of evolutionary theory. Hint to Phyllis: had you actually read the textbooks you’re so sure are horribly flawed, you’d have found out that what you’re describing is Lamarckian evolution, which mainstream scientists have not believed in for a very long time. It is, in fact, completely at odds with the theory of evolution that Darwin came up with. One could forgive Schlafly for being unable to comprehend anything beyond the pictures, but textbooks frequently present the hypothetical giraffe example in order to contrast Lamarckian and Darwinian theories of evolution. Giraffes didn’t get long necks because their ancestors stretched them, they got them because long-necked ancestors were better at feeding, which meant they were better able to survive and reproduce, which meant that over time, the average neck size grew and grew some more. The point being, the Lamarckian version is wrong and fell out of favor a long, long time ago. I’ll bet Schlafly a billion dollars that not one single textbook currently in use actually presents the Lamarckian version as correct.

Moreover, the striking beauty of the colored pattern on the giraffes illustrates that design, not merely usefulness, is what animates our world.

This one’s just bizarre. Giraffes are indeed pretty (at least on the outside). Most living things aren’t. “Design”, according to most IDologists, can only be inferred when something is functional, not when it’s merely pretty according to our own subjective tastes. What the hell was she thinking?

Continued censorship of criticism invites additional fraud, so evolution has suffered more embarrassments than any other scientific theory.

That being the case, it would be trivial for her to make a long list of them. She follows up with one old and tired example (Piltdown man), and one ridiculous nothing, which together equal exactly one. Regardless, Schlafly is in no position to accuse others of making embarrassing mistakes.

The Piltdown man was a lie taught to schoolchildren for decades, even featured in the John Scopes Monkey Trial textbook…

I’m not going to go into details, but Piltdown Man was a hoax that was laid to rest in 1953, debunked not by creationists, but by evolutionary scientists. (Thankfully Lord Kelvin and Pasteur weren’t alive to suffer through it.) Since then, we’ve found an amazing wealth of genuine hominid fossils, which you won’t read about in Phyllis Schlafly’s article.

Oh, there is one minor detail worth mentioning. Piltdown man was not featured in the textbook used by Scopes. Whoops.

…and only five years ago a dinosaur-bird fossil hoax was presented as true on the glossy pages of National Geographic.

It’s true that National Geographic presented a dino-bird fossil, which was “discovered” by a Chinese farmer, that turned out to be fraudulent. National Geographic embarrassed itself largely because its editors were so excited that they didn’t allow for proper peer-review. (Thank God Townhall.com doesn’t have this problem.) The find wasn’t published in any peer-reviewed journal and was very quickly revealed to be a chimera cobbled together from two unrelated (not fake) fossils. More info here. It amounts to a whole lot of nothing. It does turn out though that we’ve discovered a wealth of genuine dino-bird fossils, but you won’t read about them in Phyllis Schlafly’s article.

If Darwinists want to teach that whales, which are mammals, evolved from black bears swimming with their mouths open, we should surely be entitled to criticize that.

And if creationists want to teach that Darwinists believe that whales evolved from bears, they will be teaching an utter falsehood. This is the problem with these so-called criticisms – they’re just plain wrong. No one believes that whales evolved from bears. The original idea came from Charles Darwin in his first edition of the [u]Origin[/u], but he removed it from future editions after receiving some well-deserved criticism. No one has seriously pushed the idea since. It was first suggested about 120 years ago that whales evolved from ancient ungulates, and while various ideas were batted back and forth since then, it was established about 40 years ago that dental morphology supported the ungulate hypothesis. Since then, this hypothesis has been strongly supported by a wealth of fossil and DNA evidence, which you won’t read about in Schlafly’s article. Ancient whales with legs are ironically some of the most spectacular transitional fossils we have.

I think we’re seeing a pattern here. Phyllis Schlafly hasn’t the foggiest notion what biologists actually think; she’s missed out on every meaningful discovery, every advancement in theory, and every important find for more than a century. She’s nearly 150 years behind on her whale evolution, and even further behind than that on her giraffe evolution. She is clearly speaking of things she knows nothing about. Can you imagine how many blog posts would come spewing forth from, oh say, Hugh Hewitt, if something equally as shoddy were published in the much maligned mainstream media?

What we have here is someone who is arguing that it’s “censorship” not to teach criticisms that are laughably wrong while omitting crucial information. Why should we let someone completely ignorant of evolution dictate how we teach it? We wouldn’t let someone who couldn’t count tell us how to teach math. And if such a person screamed censorship, we’d immediately call them an idiot.

The American Civil Liberties Union claims this is unconstitutional and is seeking out supremacist judges to order classroom curricula to continue the censorship and forbid an open mind about evolution.

Supremacist? I’ll leave that one to our resident legal commentators. Schlafly appears to have written a book with that title, basically demonstrating her contempt for our legal system because it dares disagree with her.

If the theory of evolution were well supported, there would be no reason to oppose open debate about scientific claims.

If ID/creationism were well-supported, its proponents would be able to convince actual scientists, and wouldn’t spend all their efforts trying to pitch their ideas to impressionable school children instead. According to scientific expert Phyllis Schlafly, the local gradeschool is apparently the appropriate place for “open debate” on the most advanced and pressing scientific issues of our time. (But the courtroom, of course, is not.) Never mind the debates that scientists have had for generations, and the conclusions they’ve already reached. Heaven forbid we teach school children about that.

Darwinists know they cannot persuade skeptical adults, so they try to capture impressionable schoolchildren.

Oh, the irony…

To typical schoolchildren full of wonder, we live in a world best described as a marvelous work of art. The snowflakes that grace us at Christmastime typify the artistic beauty that bestows joy on all ages but, like an acid, evolution corrodes this inborn appreciation of beauty and falsely trains children to view themselves as mere animals no more worthy than dogs or cats.

This is another one of those bizarre paragraphs that defies belief. Does Schlafly think that each individual snowflake was “designed” by the Intelligent Designer, or does she believe that natural processes were responsible (whether ultimately caused by God or not)? If it’s the latter, then gee, might it be that the natural workings of our world can produce wonder and amazement after all? (Which is, believe it or not, what drives most of us to study science in the first place.)

And who in their right mind would come up with the notion that children are taught to think of themselves as no more worthy than cats or dogs? Despite taking high school classes in biology, four years of an undergraduate biology degree, and lots of graduate level study, I somehow missed that lesson. Who could possibly think up such offensive nonsense? Oh, that’s right, a person who has utter contempt for honest discourse. A person like Phyllis Schlafly.

4 TrackBacks

Two Great ID Fiskings from Dispatches from the Culture Wars on December 29, 2004 5:13 PM

The Panda's Thumb currently features two essays thoroughly fisking attempts by pro-ID pundits to defend ID. The first post, by Timothy Sandefur, deals with an article from Hugh Hewitt, the religious right talk show host (and ironically, Sandefur's con ... Read More

Update and well worth reading: Also on Panda's Thumb, this post, Is ID Unfairly Censored?, by Steve Reuland, takes a column by Phyllis Schafly apa... Read More

Phyllis Schlafly has suddenly become interested in evolution! She has written the most staggering display of buffoonery on the subject that I've read in a long time. She can't even tell the difference between Darwin and Lamarck--seriously. At least Ste... Read More

Linkage from The Electric Smack Shack on January 11, 2005 10:27 PM

I found some interesting stuff in my long-neglected RSS feeds this evening. The eagles are coming! Oops, there they went.... Medpacks aren't just for first-person shooters anymore. Some helpful research on preventing or alleviating carpal-tunnel syndro... Read More

71 Comments

Epic take-down, Steve!

Wow. That’s one of the best posts I think we’ve ever had. Great job.

Wow. What an ignorant harpy. That article is almost comical. It’s like something an fundamentalist Christian elementary student would write. It would be summarily branded with an “F” by any teacher NOT in a fundamentalist Christian elementary school.

Excellent (if mightily disturbing) post, Steve!

We wouldn’t let someone who couldn’t count tell us how to teach math. And if such a person screamed censorship, we’d immediately call them an idiot.

You would and I would call them idiots, but I’ve come to learn that quite a few other people will argue that such persons are only expressing their understanding of the world in the only way that is consistent with that understanding. I am unpersuaded by these arguments, however, and continue to believe that genuine idiots actually exist!

One could forgive Schlafly for being unable to comprehend anything beyond the pictures, but textbooks frequently present the hypothetical giraffe example in order to contrast Lamarckian and Darwinian theories of evolution. Giraffes didn’t get long necks because their ancestors stretched them, they got them because long-necked ancestors were better at feeding, which meant they were better able to survive and reproduce, which meant that over time, the average neck size grew and grew some more. The point being, the Lamarckian version is wrong and fell out of favor a long, long time ago.

This actually brings up another potential response to the creationist claims of “teaching the controversy” which is that biology teachers already do that with Lamarck’s theory.

Like Lamarck’s theory, creationist theories to explain life on earth also fell out of favor among scientists a long long time ago. It would be possible, if time allowed, to compare and contrast Lamarck’s theory and its fate with a creationist “theory” like “ID” to show how both are useless to scientists and why. Of course, the voodoo aspects of ID theory should be emphasized along with the sleazy means by which attempts were made to peddle the “theory” to the public. That might merit an additional footnote about Lysenkoism and the tragedy of mixing bad science and politics.

I’m sure the ID peddlers will approve of this lesson plan. Ha!

Schlafly has perhaps the silliest anti-evolution arguments among conservative commentators. But I find a bizarre irony in recent years. While science-literate conservatives still mainly accept evolution, the conservative media seems to be getting bolder at making themselves look ignorant of evolution and science. Maybe it’s the high-pressure sales tactics of the ID activists. But as the commentators more boldly suggest that radical Islam is the “evil” religion, they conveniently forget that it is the religion that most solidly embraces creationist pseudoscience.

BTW, is there a length limit on comments? I would like to post my reply to an old Schlafly article, but it may be too long.

Global warming, Abortion-Breast-Cancer, evolution, pollution, sex ed–Conservatives are at odds with science. It’s no surprise that the of the news channel websites, all have a science section but Fox.

Steve Reuland continues to labor under the delusion that since facts matter to him, facts matter to creationists. Even after he has painstakingly demonstrated exactly the opposite, he concludes that Schafly must be dishonest.

Sorry, but it’s just not so. Facts are useful devices for establishing a scientific claim. When the purpose is to reinforce existing preferences, beliefs, and ignorance, facts are a waste of time. Steve probably thinks that cheating matters in war because Steve is honest, so he thinks cheating matters generally. But again, it’s just not so. What matters is winning, and Schafly accomplishes this. She does so, because she understands her audience intimately, and Steve Reuland doesn’t understand them at all.

If creationism were a movie, the title would be Lie Hard.

Flint, your attempts to redefine honesty to include willful ignorance are themselves dishonest, in my humble opinion, insofar as they require us to pretend that the term honesty has different meanings for evangelicals versus the rest of the universe. Frankly, your “insights” on creationist double-speak have never interested me much, although your motivations for excusing bad behavior do.

The terms “dishonesty” and “hypocracy” continue to have meaning, in spite of your attempts to “explain” to us why these terms don’t apply to evangelicals.

Many months ago I explained to you very carefully why these terms apply to most evangelical creationist apologists with their tidy “worldviews” and I don’t recall you refuting arguments then or subsequently.

I believe that Steve Reuland understands his audience at least as intimately as Schafly understands hers. Do you?

GWW, Flint, no use arguing. GWW, you don’t understand Flint. Maybe his point has something to do with Demonic possession, maybe not. You & Flint agree that Schafly is playing her audience quite well. That’s enough.

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Steve Reuland mused…

Maybe Schafly knew them [Kelvin and Pasteur] personally, in which case she should have at least told us what they really thought about evolution.  But that’s unlikely, because she screwed up William Thomson, Lord Kelvin’s name…

She’s nearly 150 years behind on her whale evolution, and even further behind than that on her giraffe evolution.

She is positively antideluvian—if you all will accept such religious description. She may well have known Kelvin and Pasteur personally since she’s been around an awful long time. About 1960 Schlafly penned a breezy book, about 150 pages or so, entitled “A Choice not an Echo”, promoting Barry Goldwater for president. It was as well written and as factually based as this little essay. She’s been preaching to the same choir for close to half a century!

Oh, I should add that I take offense at her conflating Lord Kelvin’s name and title. You see my given name is Kelvin, chosen by my dad, a low temperature physicist. I don’t like to see the name trifled with.

Continued censorship of criticism invites additional fraud, so evolution has suffered more embarrassments than any other scientific theory.

But science hasn’t suffered nearly as many embarassments as religion has from the legions of cross-wielding charlatans who rip people off every day by preying on the willingness of others to believe whatever is fed to them by their “brothers.”

I’m sure it will take years for Christianity to recover from the discovery that many of their crucial artefacts are fake …

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast[…]p/index.html

Museums warned on Bible-era relics Israel says important artifacts may be forged JERUSALEM (AP) – Experts advised world museums to re-examine their Bible-era relics after Israel indicted four collectors and dealers on charges of forging some of the most important artifacts of recent decades.

The indictments issued Wednesday labeled as fakes perhaps the two biggest biblical discoveries in the Holy Land – the purported burial box of Jesus’ brother James and a stone tablet with written instructions by King Yoash on maintenance work at the Jewish Temple – and many other “finds.”

The forgers “were trying to change history,” said Shuka Dorfman, head of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The forgery ring has been operating for more than 20 years, Dorfman said.

Pete:

Yes, you’re very close to what I was trying to say. Unlike GWW, I don’t see Schafly as being ‘wilfully ignorant’, at least not in the same way he does. For Schafly and her audience, what matters is intent and not content. If your heart is in the right place, then God is on your side, and the technical details don’t much matter, except insofar as some can be presented (correct or incorrect, who cares?) as sonic reinforcement, soothing phrases, and symbols of the desired reality.

What GWW can never really understand is that honesty is a technique, to be applied when and if effective in achieving the goal. And while GWW’s goal is an accurate understanding of reality on the part of everyone, Schafly’s goal is to save immortal souls by bringing them to Jesus. Both of these goals require persuasion, and for GWW’s goal honesty is a necessary persuasive tactic. For Schafly’s goal, it is almost surely a tactical blunder in the overall strategy of telling her audience what they want to hear. She doesn’t require knowledge, but merely sincerity and clear intent and the ‘right’ worldview.

But science hasn’t suffered nearly as many embarassments as religion has from the legions of cross-wielding charlatans

So what? Schafly’s point wasnt that evolution has suffered any embarrassments, it was that her target audience wishes to hear that it has. Evolution has been a ‘theory in crisis’ for a century and a half not because it has, but because this is what the Schafly types wish to believe. Christianity ‘used to mean a moral country’ not because it ever did, but because her audience wants to believe this. In the advertising world, this is known as “puffery” (like saying “Our food tastes the very best”) and is not considered dishonest or illegal.

Again, the goal isn’t that Schafly’s audience be informed, but rather that it be unified. It is unified by confecting a congenial reality, and then repeating until done.

Yeah that was a pretty sweet read Steve. TY.

Steve Reuland Wrote:

Giraffes didn’t get long necks because their ancestors stretched them, they got them because long-necked ancestors were better at feeding, which meant they were better able to survive and reproduce, which meant that over time, the average neck size grew and grew some more.

Actually, hasn’t this explanation been augmented with a sexual selection theory of male “necking” competition? Male giraffes with longer necks are more likely to “win” the competitions and therefore more likely to pass on their long-neck traits to the next generation of giraffes. That’s how I understand it.

After reading Schlafly’s piece, I’m wondering whether she is referring to this change in thinking about giraffe neck evolution, and not Lamarckian theory. If she is, she still failed to explain that there is an alternative evolutionary explanation. Either way, she’s totally clueless about evolution. Thanks for the post, Steve.

Great job, Steve. Ironically, I’m from Brazil, an underdeveloped country where in all but one state these ID claims have been laughed at. Still, at the power core of the friggin’ World, people are adressing century-old problems.

It seems as Creationists/ID defenders have a second bible, “How to criticize evolution in ten wrong arguments”. Everywhere I go, it’s the same load of nonsense, as you perfectly outlined here. Great to see people like you and others at panda’s thumb in our frontline!

This is a nice little evisceration– but, since that description is metaphorical, it may not really have the intended effect. Part of the strategy with Schafly and Hewitt and quite a healthy number of ID defenders in general is poisoning the well. It’s a great rhetorical tactic if you can bring it off– it both intensifies your own discourse, and it innoculates those who are already inclined to believe you against any arguments on the other side.

The downside is that it galvanizes the other side, and it may drive away potential sympathizers who are repelled by extremism, character assasination, etc. The strategy is clearly working for them with a certain audience– but I’m feeling pretty galvanized. Perhaps getting it onto a wider stage, together with a vigourous but sober (lo, how am I beset!?) response would help. The Post article Hewitt complains about is a bit of a start– maybe they just need to be (subtly but thorougly) Menkened again…(And there could be some fun in that!)

Jeremy Mohn Wrote:

Actually, hasn’t this explanation been augmented with a sexual selection theory of male “necking” competition? Male giraffes with longer necks are more likely to “win” the competitions and therefore more likely to pass on their long-neck traits to the next generation of giraffes. That’s how I understand it.

:Shrug: Could be, for all I know. I do think there’s little doubt that reaching a food source that’s otherwise unavailable is large part of it, but sexual selection could certainly exaggerate the trait, as it does with lots of things. Either way, the point of illustrating the giraffe’s neck in most textbooks is to contrast Darwin’s theory of natural selection with Larmarck’s theory of aquired characteristics (though Lamarck didn’t come up with it, it was widely believe at the time).

After reading Schlafly’s piece, I’m wondering whether she is referring to this change in thinking about giraffe neck evolution, and not Lamarckian theory.

I don’t think this is the case. She specifically referred to “stretching” the neck as the basis for their evolution. Besides, we can be confident, given what else she wrote, that complexities like sexual selection are far beyond her education on the subject. :)

By the way, thanks everyone for the kind words!

Steve Reuland Wrote:

Besides, we can be confident, given what else she wrote, that complexities like sexual selection are far beyond her education on the subject. :)

Yeah, you’re probably right. I guess I was just trying to give the poor lady the benefit of the doubt, though she obviously doesn’t deserve it. :)

Bryson Brown Wrote:

The downside is that it galvanizes the other side, and it may drive away potential sympathizers who are repelled by extremism, character assasination, etc. The strategy is clearly working for them with a certain audience— but I’m feeling pretty galvanized.

Yeah, that’s pretty much the way it was with me. I would have been happy to ignore creationists, but I got sick and angry at the steady stream of vitriol, lies, smears, hypocrisy, demagoguery, etc. I just can’t help but respond, even though my time could doubtlessly be better spent doing other things.

Frank J Wrote:

BTW, is there a length limit on comments? I would like to post my reply to an old Schlafly article, but it may be too long.

I don’t know. Try posting it and see what happens. If it doesn’t work, email it to me and I’ll see what I can do.

Flint Wrote:

Steve Reuland continues to labor under the delusion that since facts matter to him, facts matter to creationists. Even after he has painstakingly demonstrated exactly the opposite, he concludes that Schafly must be dishonest.

Call it dishonesty, call it a complete disinterest in the truth, either way, it doesn’t matter much to me. I don’t know much about the psychological underpinnings of people like Schlafly (though it would be fascinating to learn about). Whether they are consceintiously dishonest, or are simply unable to recognize that facts matter in public discourse, I believe they suffer from a severe moral failing.

If you search http://groups.google.com for Schlafly and evolution, you will get some of her sons’ creationist mouth drool. Now I know where they got it from. Sad.

Flint’s the first voice I’ve heard get past the smug superiority of the science side in this debate. What he says is right and it urgently needs repeating. The educational system, from before the onset of rational ability in children, reinforces the idea that the wrong answer is always dysfunctional. Just like consensus morality is underpinned by the idea that immorality is dysfunctional. Neither of those truisms hold any water at all as general rules. They’re locally accurate, just like having green scales is beneficial, for a reptile that lives where it’s green. Immoral people with their heads up their lower G.I. tracts run this world. Obviously a dedication to truth and a moral character aren’t always guarantors of success, and just as obviously they often decrease the likelihood of survival. Over time they’re what makes the human species what it is, and over time they’ll make it possible for us to survive, but mutancy can change that. And the mutants won’t see it as a loss. That sense of inevitability is a holdover from the very superstitions most of you deride. Nothing’s inevitable, or it all is. It would be nice if truth, and a dedication to it, gave us an automatic win, but it doesn’t. And what Shclafly and so many others are doing is consolidating, gathering up the collective social power of those who would otherwise be marginalized in a more rigorously truthful world. Evolutionary traits that are superior in every way still don’t guarantee survival. And a bunch of dim-witted credulous nasty brutes all ganged up have just as much a shot at being the core of the human race as any other group does. Including rigorously honest, morally upright compassionate men and women with integrity and self-discipline. It _is_ about winning. That’s the very lesson of Darwin in the first place. And you guys run from it as much as the “creationists” do. Their sense of election comes from spiritual mumbo-jumbo, yours from Cartesian logic and at least a superficial intellectual honesty. Both camps have a sense of entitlement that has no bearing, no foundation in the reality of biological competition. The Darwinian victory’s going to whoever wins the contest for survival, no matter who it is, and no matter how they do it.

Sorry to butt in, but would any of you scientist types like to help a lay-person take on a bunch of Christian Reconstructionists? They’re all fawning over Gary North’s latest piece on Creationism and elitist-Darwinists over at “Business Reform” (a Christian magazine affiliated with WND). Here’s the link to the discussion forum.

Cheers.

What an excellent article. I was so critical of Schafly’s townhall.com article that I bloged my respose and sent it to talk.origins as well. I was quickly advised about her, having never in the past come across her. Being in Australia, I find this conflict in Dover and elsewhere a concern for such a great nation as the US. I grew up with the US Apollo program, and was awed by the developments and future efforts. To think such nonsense is growing in the US makes me think perhaps the scientific excellence in the US is going to slowly ebb away.

I know of knowhere else in teh world that has this problem.

Keep up the good work

What an excellent article. I was so critical of Schafly’s townhall.com article that I bloged my respose and sent it to talk.origins as well. I was quickly advised about her, having never in the past come across her. Being in Australia, I find this conflict in Dover and elsewhere a concern for such a great nation as the US. I grew up with the US Apollo program, and was awed by the developments and future efforts. To think such nonsense is growing in the US makes me think perhaps the scientific excellence in the US is going to slowly ebb away.

I know of knowhere else in the world that has this problem.

Keep up the good work

It’s interesting that if science textbooks don’t incorporate fringe science that hasn’t gone through peer review it’s censorship to conservatives, but if they see any change in how their history book read 50 years ago it’s revisionism. We could probably find as many historians willing to say that Lincoln was gay as research scientists that support ID. (And they have better arguments!) I also think Phyllis needs to test her opening proposal. Get a teacher to burn a flag in their classroom and then talk about ID; let’s see what gets them into more trouble.

This just reinforces my notion that Phyllis Schafly is a fictitous caricature created by left-wing extremists to bring mockery and derision to those on the right. Nobody can possibly be so ignorant, foolish, and mentally incapacitated to really say the crap she does. Well, except maybe my junior Senator.

I heard Simon Conway Morris speak last Spring. It was about the implications of convergence, and not all that convincing to my mind. Afterward, an elderly lady asked him with great sincerity about ID. His reply was that it was a God of the Gaps argument. No surprise there, but the way he delivered it was telling. His demeanor indicated that he was sympathetic, but that sadly, the idea wouldn’t fly.

It was more effective than if he’d bashed her. Bashing is lots of fun but I hope we keep it to ourselves. Schlafly is a devious old (insert epithet here) and deserves what she gets. Many people, however, are genuinely afraid that accepting biological evolution will leave them alone in the universe. They will support ID wholeheartedly out of that fear. Take care not to put them in that box.

Thanks, Steve, for the pointer to the Sutera article. It looks like we’ve got the origin of a modern myth here (that Darwin intended a statement about phylogeny). It apparently started with Gould’s “Hooking Leviathan by its Past” article and propagated via Sutera’s article that relied on Gould as a source.

I’ll be writing this up anon. Once I’ve done that, maybe it can be appended to the Sutera article.

reading her three sons, Andy, Roger and (¿)John(?), is truly an out-of-body experience.

Andy’s Devil’s Tower thread being, IMO, the best example of the genre.

Absolutly wonderful writing, my hat is off to you for demolishing that article that was never structurally sound to begin with. I have just a tiny issue with a point you made in passing:

if the subject were astrology or Velikovskian catastrophism, Schlafly would presumably agree.

I don’t think Velikovsky belongs in quite the same category. His ideas were rebuffed by mainstream science primarily because of the outlandish nature of them. There is actually evidence to support his claims, unlike creationism. I’m not an expert, but James Hogan gives the material a thorough treatment in “Kicking the Sacred Cow” http://www.baen.com

I’m not an expert on Velikovsky, but my understanding is that his ideas never had any credibility with scientists, although, as with creationism, he has a devoted fan base. (Who, predictably, accuses scientists of censorship, dogmatism, etc.)

James Hogan, unfortunately, is not a credible source. If you look through his webpage, you’ll see he supports just about every pseudoscience there is. That includes not only Velikovskianism, but also relativity denial, HIV denial, and yes, ID. I guess he’s an ultra-contrarian who’s convinced himself that the scientific community is a bunch of rotten liars, so he readily buys into any fringe notion which fits with this thesis.

Enigma Wrote:

I don’t think Velikovsky belongs in quite the same category. His ideas were rebuffed by mainstream science primarily because of the outlandish nature of them. There is actually evidence to support his claims, unlike creationism. I’m not an expert, but James Hogan gives the material a thorough treatment in “Kicking the Sacred Cow” http://www.baen.com

Carl Sagan also did a thorough takedown of Velikovsky in Broca’s Brain.

I don’t want to depress anyone too much, but in the latest polls 55% of Americans believe ‘God created human beings in their present form’, 27% believe ‘humans evolved from less advanced life but God guided the process’, and only 13% believe ‘humans evolved without God’. So when given the choice of fudging, many do. This poll is consistent with another in which 15% believe evolution is correct but 26% believe creationism and evolution are ‘both true’.. See http://www.pollingreport.com/scienc[…]Human%20Life

.

Ian Gibson Wrote:

I don’t want to depress anyone too much, but in the latest polls 55% of Americans believe ‘God created human beings in their present form’, 27% believe ‘humans evolved from less advanced life but God guided the process’, and only 13% believe ‘humans evolved without God’. So when given the choice of fudging, many do. This poll is consistent with another in which 15% believe evolution is correct but 26% believe creationism and evolution are ‘both true’.. See http://www.pollingreport.com/scienc[…]20of%20Human

I have seen lots of polls like that, and the numbers have not changed significantly over the years, despite the new ID strategy to get people to deny evolution without necessarily accepting any of the mutually contradictory creationisms. The main problem is that >90% who answer those questions do not understand evolution or “creationism.” Actually the poll question states that 26% believe that evolution and the “Biblical account” (without specifying which of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations, e.g. YEC, day-age, gap, etc.) are both true. Since all of the interpretations deny evolution, >26% do not understand the question, let alone creationism or evolution. Note that most religions have endorsed evolution and concede that the “Biblical account” should not be taken literally.

But really, can we expect any better numbers from a population in which ~50% believe in astrology and >90% cannot describe a molecule? A much more informative statistic is that, among those who understand evolution as science defines it (vice the common false caricature), >99% accept it, and the

To simplify, Phyllis Schlafly has laid an egg!

Wow! This is spectacular evidence of the ignorance of Creationists. I’m gonna print this out, fold it up, and put it in my wallet!

Most of Lamarck’s critics haven’t bothered to read what he actually wrote. The bit about the giraffe, for example, was not a theory – just an off-hand comment. Lamarck devoted only two sentences to the giraffe. Darwin spent a good deal more time discussing how bears that swim around with their mouths open, catching water bugs, might eventually evolve into filter-feeding beasts like whales. At least he had a circle of friends who advised him not to present such a suggestion to the public. If he had, folks would focus their criticisms on that apparent absurdity just as they did with Lamarck’s giraffe.

And by the way, Lamarck did not believe in direct inheritance of acquired changes as the Creationists and Darwinists have claimed. He thought that evolutionary change was imperceptibly gradual – as Darwin did some decades later.

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This page contains a single entry by Steve Reuland published on December 29, 2004 4:33 PM.

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