Is ID unfairly portrayed?

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Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who also happens to have been my Constitutional Law professor in law school, has a post here criticizing a Washington Post article about the Dover, Pennsylvania creationism case.

Prof. Hewitt begins by complaining that the Post "put[s] proponents of intelligent design into a box marked ‘snake-handling yahoos,' and to elevate their opponents to the position of rational science enthusiasts." Well, if the snake fits. . .. But seriously, he bases this complaint on the fact that the Post failed to provide information on the people who replaced those who resigned from the school board following its decision. We know from several articles that Panda's Thumb has linked to, that members of the Dover school board claimed to have repeatedly confronted and pressured by religious activists. Prof. Hewitt doubts this, and claims that it is "just lousy reporting to use ‘several' instead of an exact number [when referring to the number of such confrontations] and to avoid certain key facts like the number of applicants for the vacant positions and the candidates selected to fill them." Failing to report these facts, he claims, makes the articles "blatant agenda journalism, and the agenda is to discredit the Board's action by suggesting that theology won out over science in the appointments to the board."

It would seem to me, however, that a far more reasonable way of establishing that theology won out over science on the Dover school board would be to consult what they in fact did. The school board decided to replace science education on one of the most thoroughly established scientific facts in existence--biological evolution, the foundation stone of the science of living things--and to replace it with a pseudo-theory which alleges that we were all created by an Intelligent Designer, Whose identity is carefully whispered among activists, but Who is, of course, God. The Dover resolution requires that students be taught a religious theory of the origin of species, rather than the scientific one. Whether school board members were exposed to "several" confrontations with snake-handling yahoos or merely "two" or "three" does not change the central fact that students in government-run schools are now going to be taught, in the trappings of a scientific theory, that God created the world, and this to the detriment of actual science. That central fact establishes that theology won out over science. Blaming the Washington Post for calling activists on that fact is to blame the weatherman for the storm. Prof. Hewitt is right that there is a great deal of bias and inaccuracy in the media--particularly with regard to scientific matters and in the portrayal of political conservatives. But in this case, the facts speak for themselves.

More substantively, Hewitt claims that the Dover school board is only an attempt "to assure. . .parents that evolution would not be taught in such a way as to preclude religious belief. Hardly the stuff of Scopes II, but anti-intelligent design professionals and elite media journalists seem intent on making it such." Well, the school board adopted 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. Note: Origins of life will not be taught.

A little while earlier, the school board adopted Of Pandas And People as a textbook--a book which is full of basic misrepresentations of biology and not-so-subtle evangelizing.

This is not an attempt to merely assure parents. This is an aggressive attempt to have the school teach students that evolution is "flawed" science and that creationism by God is a legitimate scientific view. Amusingly, Prof. Hewitt himself acknowledges that the ID creationism movement is not merely an attempt to avoid "preclud[ing] religious belief," when he says that the real reason he objects to the Post's reporting is that "elites generally and legacy media in particular are aggressive marginalizers of people of faith, and rarely miss an opportunity to debunk, mischaracterize, deride and ridicule people of faith." But if the Dover school board's decision was merely an attempt to placate concerned parents about a genuine scientific controversy, then it would not be a matter of "faith in the public square." Is ID creationism a religious matter or not? For Prof. Hewitt, as for other members of the Wedge Strategy, it is when it's advantageous, and it isn't when it's not advantageous. To coin a phrase, "the better to disguise bias, I think."

Of course, Prof. Hewitt is right that there are those who have "contempt for people of faith who express that faith in or near the public square." But the Dover case is not about expressions of faith in the public square. Students, teachers, public officials, talk show hosts, lawyers, and everyone else are free to express faith in the public square at any time--or even in their closets, if they choose to do as Jesus actually taught. What the Dover school board has decided to do is to take taxpayer money from parents, and use it to teach children who have no choice but to attend that God created the world and the animals and so forth. For parents who do not believe this--for atheist parents, for example--this means that their money is being taken from them to support a government putting its seal on a religion which they despise. The controversy here is not about faith in the public square, it is about dissent in the public square--but Prof. Hewitt, who wishes to portray Christians as a persecuted minority, does not give a moment's thought to the concerns of these parents. Their concerns simply do not matter, because they are "secularists." When these "secularists" ask that the state not forcibly teach their children a religious ideology--something which the First Amendment guarantees to these "secularists,"--then Prof. Hewitt complains that his rights are being violated: another instance of assuming a right to govern others, as I've written about before.

Knowing, however, that this attempt to use government schools to promulgate a religious faith is precluded by the First Amendment, Prof. Hewitt and others attempt to portray their religious position as a scientific matter--when it's convenient to do so. And then when they get criticized, they hide behind the shield of religious faith and complain that all criticisms are just "bias" and "misrepresentation" and "discrimination."

There are many other flaws with Prof. Hewitt's post with regard to ID creationism--for example, his routine attempt to shift the burden of proof to an inappropriate party ("while even conclusive proof of evolution wouldn't deny the existence of God, no such proof has yet been offered," he says, ignoring the fact that the onus of proof rests on the person asserting the positive, because it is impossible to prove a negative)--but they have been sufficiently refuted elsewhere. Check out this fine post at Terrestrial Musings and this comment from Jim Lindgren at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Suffice to say that Prof. Hewitt is not a snake-handling yahoo, literally speaking, but he does believe in unscientific assertions which he admits (sometimes) to not having investigated to any serious degree, and he believes in magic. There are a great many people who do not believe in these things, who do not want their tax dollars taken from them to pay to teach their children these things against their will, and who believe that magical thinking deserves ridicule. Newspapers are notoriously bad at reporting on science--the only thing they do worse is report about the law--and there are cases where newspapers have unfairly represented religious people (although I think the instances of this are rarer than Hewitt wishes us to believe). But even if the reports of the Dover situation are exaggerations, it does not change the fact that the Dover school board has chosen to teach theology instead of science, in violation of the Constitution, and in service of an attempt to put a government imprimatur on a particular religious view. And it does not mean that those who ridicule magical thinking are reactionary bigots oppressing an innocent Christian minority. Yes, evolutionary biology and ID creationism can get along--by leaving each other alone. Teach creationism in church where it belongs, and biology in school where it belongs, and your warfare shall be accomplished.

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34 Comments

It’s not impossible to prove a negative. Euclid proved that there is no largest prime, to give just one example. :)

A little while earlier, the school board adopted Of Pandas And People as a textbook—a book which is full of basic misrepresentations of biology and not-so-subtle evangelizing.

Does this mean you’ve read and analyzed “Pandas” for yourself? (Particularly the origin-of-life chapter, which imo is the portion most valuable to allow teachers to hand out to science students as reasonable supplements to balance out the standard sanitized textbook presentations.)

FL

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I’ve responded to FL’s tiresome question before. For more on the Pandas book, consult these helpful resources. One need not taste the whole cow patty to recognize it for what it is.

Timothy Sandefur Wrote:

Whether school board members were exposed to “several” confrontations with snake-handling yahoos or merely “two” or “three” does not change the central fact that students in government-run schools are now going to be taught, in the trappings of a scientific theory, that God created the world, and this to the detriment of actual science.

To preempt any complaing from Hewitt, his point was that there were only two members of the school board who resigned in protest, whereas others resigned because they were moving away. (I’m taking Hewitt’s word on this, not having looked it up myself.) Hence “two” does not equal “several”, and the Post was subtlely misleading its readers by using this one particular word. But I consider this a trivial complaint at best, hardly indicative of “blatant agenda journalism”.

On a more general note, Hewitt’s seeming assertion that the Dover policy is reasonable and not promoting religion (he apparently thinks the word of the school board members is evidence enough, kind of like how Scalia took the creationists at their word when they falsely claimed they had no religious motivations) is refuted by the simple fact that the Discovery Institute is against the Dover policy. You’d think that if the Dover policy wasn’t requiring the teaching of ID, wasn’t religiously motivated, and that these claims could stand up in court, then the Discovery Institute would be all in favor of it. (Getting ID taught in schools is one of the DI’s primary objectives.) But they aren’t in favor of it, they’re against it. Why? Because they know these claims won’t stand up in court. This is not the test case they want.

There are many nonexistence theorems provable in mathematics…

But anyway, I am just being silly. I certainly was not trying to say that everyone has been wrong all these years about where the burden of proof rests, or that ID should be taught in public schools.

(btw, I am a Christian and a theistic evolutionist, and a strong opponent of government sponsored religion)

Is Hewitt arguing that the events in Dover were parent driven? Such a argument would be ignorant of the fact that Board Member Bill Buckingham was the chief lobbyist of the plan.

At least three members have resigned citing the ID policy, the Browns and Yingling.

abc Wrote:

There are many nonexistence theorems provable in mathematics …

What makes mathematics different from empirical science is that in mathematics, you can prove stuff, period. But science depends on induction from empircal observations, and since inductive reasoning is not completely reliable, then “proof” cannot be obtained. Instead we have to make do with varying degrees of confidence.

The problem with Dembskian style ID is that it’s based on deducing that if natural causes cannot have created living things, then ID must be true. So far so good. But the only proffered way to demonstrate the premise is to claim that since we don’t have any good natural explanations (which isn’t true anyway), then we should conclude that no such explanations can exist. In other words, a negative induction. Stating that something doesn’t exist simply because you’ve never come across it is a dangerous game. (This is also true when you’re talking about ghosts or the Lochness monster – we need reasons besides the fact that we’ve never seen them to disbelieve in them.) All it takes is one lone exception to blow it all apart.

The only way around this conundrum is to claim that while ID cannot be established as true in this fashion, it can at least be accepted provisionally with some degree of confidence. Maybe so, but it’s proponents – Dembski especially – are making much bolder claims. Dembski claims his method does not create false positives, which, given that it relies on induction, is impossible. What’s worse is that negative induction of this kind works both ways. All things being equal, we could just as easily claim that since no intelligent designers (prior to humans) can be found anywhere, then we should conclude they don’t exist. Using the same deductive reasoning employed by IDists, that would mean that natural causes must have been responsible for living things. Dembskian ID can be defeated by its own arguments.

In the end what we’re left with is having to judge ideas according to the hypothetico-deductive method. Which is to say, you come up with a hypothesis, ask yourself what we should see if it’s true, and then go out and see if reality matches what your theory predicts. Then you can compare rival theories to see which one better predicts and explains the phenomena in question. ID isn’t even on the same planet as far as that’s concerned. There are no ID theories, no models, nothing that can be used to generate testable hypotheses. (The ID movement can’t even tell us how old the Earth is!) We can’t say what the world would look like if ID were true, because according to its own proponents, the Designer and everything about It is outside the scope of science. Hence, all outcomes are equally possible. This is what we mean when we say that ID isn’t science. It might be true, but we have no way of testing it with empirical evidence. (People can rely on revelation, tradition, or personal epiphany, but again, that ain’t science.) So there is no point of comparison between ID and evolutionary theory, since the former doesn’t say anything other than that the latter must be false.

**

Anyway, I’ve ranted on for far longer than I initially intended. Please don’t take any of that as arguing against your position (whatever it is), it’s just me spouting off.

Hewitt presumes the Post to be a liberal and wrong newspaper. It never occurred to him, it appears, that the reporter may have gotten it exactly right.

Tim, you’ve stumbled onto a major problem some – no, many –conservatives have, in my experience toiling in their vinyards: They just can’t believe the facts when the facts have the temerity not to be what the conservative believes or wishes them to be. Hewitt can’t believe religious bigots in the hinterland could be so stupid …

Plus, Hewitt doesn’t know evolution well.

Twain noted that fiction is harder to write than non-fiction, because fiction must stick to the possibilities.

FL,

Have you read Pandas? Why does the RNA-World model get no explicit mention and just a few dismissive sentences in one part of the origin of life chapter?

See Sonleitner’s discussion of the origin of life chapter in Pandas for starters, and the NCSE Pandas resources page in general.

I’ve responded to FL’s tiresome question before. For more on the Pandas book, consult these helpful resources. One need not taste the whole cow patty to recognize it for what it is.

Oh, I suppose you do find such a question to be tiresome, and I have no wish to tire anybody out here during such a beautiful holiday season.

On the other hand, your response is a bit.…thin. Might as well risk being tiresome, as to let such shallow stuff slide with nary a word of caveat.

In your previous response, you said, “Russell has the right answer to (FL’s response)” but that merely turned out to be:

Well, I haven’t read it either, so I can’t criticize it. Since our library doesn’t own it (which says something, because it’s a pretty big library), I haven’t even glanced through it.

I would say to FL, though, that I don’t have to read every word of a Watchtower tract to recognize it for what it is.

Mighty, mighty thin reasoning, really. I know I could never get away with such lame-osity while trying to criticize or even question pro-evolution books and texts. You would expect me, naturally, to have read and understood the pro-evolution books/materials for myself prior to offering review/criticism. Seems like a two-way street to me.

This dovetails, btw, with the point Salvador made recently about the weakness of many pro-evolution folks / ID critics (even on the PT forum)who just don’t bother to read stuff before offering their criticisms of said stuff (or likewise piggybacking off somebody else’s criticisms.)

This refusal to read Pandas for oneself, appears to be yet another example. A trend (or a cow-patty) worth seriously questioning.

(Shoot, by now you could have answered my “tiresome” question with a flat-out “yes” following our previous exchange of opinion. Surely enough time has passed to have obtained a copy of Pandas.)

I’m not trying (at this time) to do a challenge of your claim that Pandas violates the Establishment Clause, I’m just tossing out a far more basic question: Do you even take the time to read the books you criticize?

I suppose one could simply declare “The NCSE says…”, tack on the usual link, and on that basis declare with an air of finality that Pandas is guilty of this or that (as if you’d actually checked all sides out for yourself and you thereby knew for sure).

Just doesn’t work for me, though. Wasn’t the way I was taught to do research and writing.

Speaking of checking things out, the NCSE has finally gotten around to producing a ramped-up, handy-dandy ~recent~ laundry list of detailed criticisms to try to offset Pandas, largely thanks to Frank Sonleitner. Now that’s an interesting gig to check out.

(Previous to Sonleitner, there were several online reviews/attacks on Pandas, but no ~real~ challenges, imo, outside of Dr. Kenneth Miller’s review, and even then it wasn’t a total attack, as much of the book, especially the origin-of-life chapter, was not challenged. Therefore one could easily argue that some spots needed revising, but not that complete abandonment of Pandas was warranted).

Hence the NCSE tries to ramp things up with recent Sonleitner articles (his criticisms of Panda’s origin of life chapter, for example, have a date of Nov. 24, 2004 at the bottom–virtually brand new.)

But does that mean that all it takes is to plop a link to Sonleitner on the table and thereby put an end to Pandas’ credibility on that basis? Nope, not at all. No textbook is perfect, but no textbook critic is perfect, either.

Let’s take one example-point within Sonleitner’s review of Pandas’ origin-of-life chapter. According to Sonleitner,

Spontaneous generation as “a process of self-organization without outside intelligence” (Pandas, p. 41, 43) is a modern-day creationist-concocted definition.

Sounds definitive, ehh? However, compare Sonleitner’s statement to the following two quotations:

The “chemical evolution” theory assumes that matter and energy somehow self-organized into complex forms without any outside intelligence directing the process. —-Pandas pg 41.

Since Pasteur’s time, countless generations of students have been taught no to believe in spontaneous generation. However, Pasteur’s experiments revealed only that life cannot arise spontaneously under conditions that exist on earth today. Conditions on the primeval earth billions of years ago were assuredly different than present conditions, and the first form of life, or self-replicating particle, did arise spontaneously from chemical inanimate substances. —Volpe and Rosenbaum, Understanding Evolution, 6th Ed., c2000, p. 146.

So, it turns out that Sonleitner is visibly too hasty to dismiss “spontaneous generation” as “a modern-day creationist-concocted definition.” After all, evolutionists Volpe and Rosenbaum’s quoted discussion of spon-gen, very nicely dovetails with the description/assumptions offered by Pandas. So in fact, things aren’t nearly as simple as Sonleitner tries to make ‘em look, eh? Nope, nope, nope.

Furthermore, if you don’t read Sonleitner’s stuff and also a copy of Pandas, there’s stuff you might not catch.

On page 56 of Pandas, for example, Kenyon/Davis make the point that ”…apart from intelligence using selected chemicals and controlling conditions, amino acids have not been collected in the laboratory.” (a point also brought out in detail by Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen in their book.)

This is a point that Sonleitner does NOT engage in his review of the Pandas section “Scientific Case for the Intelligent Design of life. But you’d have to have a copy of Pandas with you in order to know that.

Now, responding to the rest of Sonleitner’s article is a gig requiring a time-consuming commitment to research and respond to every point, every paragraph.

Granted, that’s exactly what needs to be done; it would be bad to ignore Sonleitner’s seriously-written challenges and not offer a complete response to it.

I hope ARN or AIG will do it, (again, this is rather recent stuff, remember), but if they don’t, I would hope that I as a layperson would make the time to do it, even if it took all of 2005 or 2006 to do a complete response. (Can’t promise anything, though. I just have a real desire to do it for myself, and I hope I can act on it.)

But for now, ~the~ point I offer you from this example is that merely tacking on the NCSE laundry list, (even Sonleitner’s new list), does NOT mean that now you can credibly get by without even checking out the primary source (Pandas) for yourself. After all, Sonleitner ~could~ be incomplete or inaccurate on this or that point regarding Pandas; just depends on what the situation is when somebody checks it out.

FL

Mr. Sandefur writes

One need not taste the whole cow patty to recognize it for what it is.

Well put. I’ll add this one to my grab bag.

FL writes

I know I could never get away with such lame-osity while trying to criticize or even question pro-evolution books and texts.

But you could “get away with it” if you were criticizing a Holocaust denial book or a book which claimed that black slaves had it pretty good. Smell the difference, FL? I know you don’t. But it’s still amusing to rub your face in it.

Nick asks,

Have you read Pandas?

Sure. The quotes I offered were (and have always been) hand-typed from the book, not cut-&-pasted.

Why does the RNA-World model get no explicit mention and just a few dismissive sentences in one part of the origin of life chapter?

Well, it should be remembered that Pandas IS a high-school level textbook.

Hey, at least with Pandas, you DO get a little bit of RNA World discussion (granted, it’s not a ringing endorsement!), and a citation (on page 58) that directs the reader to Shapiro’s 1988 book Origin of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere as well as a 1989 article in Science by M. Waldrop.

By way of comparison, in the pro-evolution Miller-Levine 1993 high school textbook Biology, and Glencoe/McGrawHill’s 1998 textbook Biology: The Dynamics of Life, you get NO discussion of the RNA World gig at all. Go figure.

If more detailed RNA World discussion by Kenyon is what you would like to see shared on a supplemental basis with science students in the classroom (hey, I’d like to see that too), then may I recommend the following?:

http://www.arn.org/docs/odesign/od1[…]world171.htm

FL

GWW says,

But you could “get away with it” if you were criticizing a Holocaust denial book or a book which claimed that black slaves had it pretty good.

Except that I have neither endorsed nor criticized any specific book dealing with either topic. In fact, regarding a 2003 book by Duesberg/Rasnick (or whatever it’s spelled) that I mentioned in the thread attempting to link ‘evolution deniers’ to ‘holocaust deniers’, I do remember suggesting that for me, I would have to read the book first before judging it.

Consistency is important to both of us, it seems.

FL

FL,

Um, you didn’t even read the Preface to Sonleitner’s critique if you think it is “new” – it was actually written in the early 1990’s; the only thing that is new is the posting to the website.

As for your reply:

  • You didn’t even attempt to explain why Pandas basically ignores the RNA world, one of the biggest developments in origin-of-life research during the 1980’s.

  • You write,

    On page 56 of Pandas, for example, Kenyon/Davis make the point that “…apart from intelligence using selected chemicals and controlling conditions, amino acids have not been collected in the laboratory.” (a point also brought out in detail by Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen in their book.)

    LOL. Therefore all lab experiments are invalid, and everything from rain to erosion to rust is the product of direct special creation.

    Amino acids are produced under a wide range of experimental conditions – basically all you need is some energy source and oxygen-free (reducing or neutral) conditions. See Figure 1 from Alan Gishlick’s dissection of Icons of Evolution.

    Furthermore, amino acids have been found in meteorites and elsewhere in space, with no labs or intelligent designers to be seen, so obviously natural processes can do it. Sonleitner made this point explicitly.

  • Regarding Pasteur, I think it is highly relevant that the creationist/Pandas version of history (Pasteur versus Darwin) gets it so wrong – Pasteur was actually rebutting a creationist when he did his experiments, according to Sonleitner. This is confirmed in John Wilkins’ review of the matter. Both reference what is apparently the standard history of the subject:

    Farley, John. 1977. The spontaneous generation controversy from Descartes to Oparin. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

    A passing reference to Pasteur and spontaneous generation in an evolutionary book – a passing reference too short to get any of the history very right or wrong – does not counteract the fact that Pandas which devotes considerable time and emphasis to Pasteur, got the very basics of the history wrong.

I do remember suggesting that for me, I would have to read the book first before judging it.

Yes, I suppose you would because, after all, the holocaust might not have happened, blacks might have enjoyed being slaves, the earth might go around the sun, and invisible beings who hear your wishes might have created all the life forms on earth, and the world’s scientist might be deluding themselves for 150 years, and you might just be smarter than all those scientists with their fancy words, and it might be morally correct to exterminate Muslims and Jews. Yes, it’s all one big smelly lump, FL. Love it or leave it. Oh, I forgot: you already made up your mind, you lovable skeptic, you! You need to read those controversial books front to back (or at least pretend that you do) before you can pass judgment. How noble.

Consistency is important to both of us, it seems.

Consistency evidently means nothing to you, unless you are referring to your consistent willingness to propogate baloney and dissemble when your baloney-propogating ways are exposed in public forums.

What’s more important to you, FL, is that your belief in a deity be stroked and coddled by the US government in public science classrooms as if it were no different than my belief that I need food and water to survive. Any desire to be “consistent” on your part quickly takes a back seat to dishonest tale-telling when your li’l “worldview” is revealed to be less than useful in certain contexts.

Once again, my lectures to you come free of charge. If you’d like me to coddle you and the preachers who provide you with your scripts, FL, I’ll send you my PayPal link. $1000.00 for each FL-coddling post seems reasonable.

My reading is that Hewitt personally thinks teaching ID as a competing theory is a pretty good idea. He thinks the Dover school board, in casting the issue in terms of one side (yay!) trying to present all the alternatives to students while the other side (hiss!) wishes students exposed only to THEIR beliefs, is doing a pretty good of framing the issue. He doesn’t seem to think it’s important that ID is faith and not science, because Hewitt thinks ID is *true*, and therefore it can’t possibly do any harm to presented it wherever possible. He thinks science is just a bunch of beliefs anyway.

So he almost surely thinks he’s presenting a “balanced” analysis of the situation. Nothing can possibly be balanced that omits God’s Truth altogether!

I’ve asked it before, I’ll ask it again. What is it about lawyers and creationism?

Lawyers and creationism? Lawyers like things to be fair. Most lawyers have never paid any attention to the case law that clearly shows fairness excludes creationism in the classroom, nor the history of unfairness to science that is represented by creationism and intelligent design creationism.

Lawyers also like to defend the First Amendment in almost all situations. Free speech means almost anything is tolerated. Lawyers rarely stop to think that teachers are government employees. No one really thinks Big Brother is represented by the kindly Miss Brooks in the biology classroom. Lawyers reflexively defend free speech, especially when they don’t have the facts. The facts are that teachers presenting bad science in classrooms is not free speech that is protected or even allowed by the first amendment.

The defenses of this book are really astounding. Here in Texas, where the State Board of Education tends to favor things from the last century, we’ve had no fewer than three updates of the biology textbooks since Of Pandas and People was published. (The publishers, knowing the book could not meet Texas standards, have not submitted it for approval as a text in Texas for at least the last two bidding processes.)

The book was published in 1989. High school biology texts have gone through at least 15 editions since then. The Human Genome Project did most of its work since then. Mammal species have been been discovered since then. The Soviet Union fell since it was written. We’ve had two wars in the Persian Gulf since then. There have been no fewer than three new hominid species discovered and described since then.

The book would have been ancient history, had it been accurate when it was published 15 years ago. Since it was materially and grossly in error in many ways, it is now historical fiction.

The Dover, Pennsylvania school board was guilty of educational and administrative malpractice when they approved purchase of the book for classrooms in 2005. Don’t they have an accounting firm watching the books of the district? Such gross mismanagement is probably a violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. [I only slightly exaggerate.]

ID should stand for Inept Deity Theory. No “Intelligent” Designer would have created Hugh Hooey.

Please, let’s avoid mere personal attacks. Professor Hewitt is a fine teacher, and a good person, with a sincere sense of fairness, who only misunderstands the issues as a result of his religious faith. We may disagree with him and see the fallacies he commits, but we ought not to attack his personality without a far more serious wrong on his part.

We may disagree with him and see the fallacies he commits, but we ought not to attack his personality without a far more serious wrong on his part.

Is he afraid to log on and defend himself here or is he “too busy”?

I see over at http://www.transterrestrial.com, someone posted that the problem with ID is that it is not disprovable and is therefore not a scientific theory. I was wondering if that is the accepted definition of a scientific theory. If so, how could the Theory of Evolution be said to be disproved?

Thanks,

PS I posted more or less the same question over there. This site seems to be more heavy-weigt science though.

FL,

Oops, I missed your second reply there while replying to the first.

If you\’re going to now say that RNA World is too advanced for high school students, then it also follows that the entire Pandas critique of Origin-of-Life studies – which is pointless and misleading without a discussion of RNA World and other modern concepts in Origin-of-Life research – is also beyond high school students. You lose either way.

Why not just drop all attempts at inserting your views into high school curricula, and instead make your case to the relevant experts, like all normal science? Why is the first publication of the ID movement, Of Pandas and People, a high school textbook?

JosephR asked

I see over at http://www.transterrestrial.com … , someone posted that the problem with ID is that it is not disprovable and is therefore not a scientific theory. I was wondering if that is the accepted definition of a scientific theory. If so, how could the Theory of Evolution be said to be disproved?

It hasn’t been. Very briefly, the notion of “disproof,” or falsifiability as a demarcation criterion for a scientific proposition, basically says that in order for a hypothesis or theory to be a scientific proposition, there must imaginable observations that, if actually observed, would contradict it. So, for example, finding the fossil remains of a rabbit unequivocably embedded in preCambrian rocks would contradict evolutionary theory and therefore falsify it. But no such fossil has been found. Finding that the phylogenies constructed from morphological features and phylogenies constructed from molecular data differed substantially would be a potential falsification of the theory of common descent, but the phylogenies constructed from the two different sorts of data agree remarkably well, so again, evolutionary theory passes that test.

ID is not falsifiable because the conjecture of an intellgent agent that designed (and somehow manufactured) life puts no constraints on what might be observed, and thus is not falsifiable.

Once again, this is a brief sketch, and the notion of falsifiability is over-worked as a demarcation criterion.

RBH

RBH, Thanks

In reading the posts today about Hugh Hewitt and the Washington Post story on the Dover school board’s handling of ID and evolution I thought it might be useful to put up a few facts, all sourced from the York Daily Record.

Four members of the nine-member board have resigned this fall, had those resignations accepted and left the board. A fifth also resigned in December but her resignation has not been accepted.

Of the four, two, Noel Wenrich and Jane Cleaver [for a moment I thought we were having a rerun of “Leave it to Beaver”] resigned for “personal reasons” although I seem to remember that both are reported to be moving out of the area. And two, Jeff and Carol Brown, husband and wife, resigned over the ID/evolution issue.

The fifth member who resigned, Angie Yingling, originally voted for adopting the policy favoring ID, but decided in December that the decision was wrong, would cost the district dearly both in money and reputation, and should be rescinded. The rest of the board ignored her, even refusing to accept her resignation.

In late October the remaining board members, five in all, solicited candidates for the four openings. Thirteen applied and were interviewed.

The board’s agendas are on the web but I’ve seen no transcripts of meetings on-line, so I don’t know what questions were asked of the applicants, only what has been related by some of them and others present.

The four chosen to fill the vacancies include Edward Rowand, pastor of Rohler’s Assembly of God Church in Dover; Eric Riddle, a home-schooler who does not send his kids to public school because of his religious beliefs; Sherrie Leber, an insurance agent, and member of Shiloh United Church of Christ; and Ronald Short who has not been otherwise descirbed. According to the York Daily Record, none have any previous experience in any kind of governmental role.

During his interview, Short was asked by then (he’s since resigned that position and been succeeded by another board member) board president Alan Bonsell if he felt he could stand up and fight over the current controversy if he felt it was the right thing to do. Short said he would be outspoken and understood that some people would be unhappy with the result.

Buckingham, the original board member who strongly opposed the biology text the teachers selected (Kenneth Miller’s “Biology”, Prentice-Hall) and pushed for the use of “Of Pandas and People” said the board couldn’t legally come right out and ask about opinions on intelligent design without looking as though they had a litmus test working for choosing new members. “But we can ask general questions and to see what they offer up and evaluate from there,” he said.

No one who adamantly spoke out against intelligent design, one of whom was Bryan Rehm, was selected. During his interview, Rehm told the board “It is a great disservice and fallacy to teach students that a perfectly valid faith constitutes scientific knowledge.” He said the board must allow the curriculum to be developed by the professional educators with expertise in state standards. Rehm said he was speaking from experience. In his resume to the board, he listed himself as a physics teacher with seven years of experience, four of which included writing science curriculum. A former Eagle Scout, he also listed several educational awards and grants he has received to assist him in his classrooms. It is not clear if he still teaches somewhere else in the area.

On a break during interviews, Rehm said he found the questions the board was asking interesting. Like Buckingham’s question, when he asked potential candidates if they will be able to stand up to the left-wing, liberal media when they inevitably misquote and misrepresent them. “Those types of questions have nothing to do with the issues facing our students,” Rehm said. “Too much of this has been fluff questions with fluff answers.” Rehm vowed to run formally for a spot on the school board next year. Rehm said he is not against intelligent design being made available to students at the high school, but said it would be taught more appropriately in a philosophy or comparative religions-type class.

He was also angry that the board voted to destroy the recorded comments from that October meeting [when the vote to add intelligent design to the curriculum was taken] even after members of the faculty and community requested to hear them.

Rehm said it was the height of hypocrisy when in February of this year [2004], the board failed to accept the resignation offered by board member William Buckingham after his public announcement that he was addicted to the prescription drug, OxyContin. “We suspend students for drug problems like that, but the board kept Buckingham,” he said. “Go figure.”

I should also add that the 50 copies of “Pandas” was “donated” anonymously to the school district. I wonder how the board and parents would feel if someone were to donate 50 copies of the Koran, Marx’s communist manifesto, “Mein Kampf”, the works of Immanuel Velikovsky, or tracts from the Flat Earth Society so the students can consider alternatives.

In reading the posts today about Hugh Hewitt and the Washington Post story on the Dover school board’s handling of ID and evolution I thought it might be useful to put up a few facts, all sourced from the York Daily Record.

Four members of the nine-member board have resigned this fall, had those resignations accepted and left the board. A fifth also resigned in December but her resignation has not been accepted.

Of the four, two, Noel Wenrich and Jane Cleaver [for a moment I thought we were having a rerun of “Leave it to Beaver”] resigned for “personal reasons” although I seem to remember that both are reported to be moving out of the area. And two, Jeff and Carol Brown, husband and wife, resigned over the ID/evolution issue.

The fifth member who resigned, Angie Yingling, originally voted for adopting the policy favoring ID, but decided in December that the decision was wrong, would cost the district dearly both in money and reputation, and should be rescinded. The rest of the board ignored her, even refusing to accept her resignation.

In late October the remaining board members, five in all, solicited candidates for the four openings. Thirteen applied and were interviewed.

The board’s agendas are on the web but I’ve seen no transcripts of meetings on-line, so I don’t know what questions were asked of the applicants, only what has been related by some of them and others present.

The four chosen to fill the vacancies include Edward Rowand, pastor of Rohler’s Assembly of God Church in Dover; Eric Riddle, a home-schooler who does not send his kids to public school because of his religious beliefs; Sherrie Leber, an insurance agent, and member of Shiloh United Church of Christ; and Ronald Short who has not been otherwise descirbed. According to the York Daily Record, none have any previous experience in any kind of governmental role.

During his interview, Short was asked by then (he’s since resigned that position and been succeeded by another board member) board president Alan Bonsell if he felt he could stand up and fight over the current controversy if he felt it was the right thing to do. Short said he would be outspoken and understood that some people would be unhappy with the result.

Buckingham, the original board member who strongly opposed the biology text the teachers selected (Kenneth Miller’s “Biology”, Prentice-Hall) and pushed for the use of “Of Pandas and People” said the board couldn’t legally come right out and ask about opinions on intelligent design without looking as though they had a litmus test working for choosing new members. “But we can ask general questions and to see what they offer up and evaluate from there,” he said.

No one who adamantly spoke out against intelligent design, one of whom was Bryan Rehm, was selected. During his interview, Rehm told the board “It is a great disservice and fallacy to teach students that a perfectly valid faith constitutes scientific knowledge.” He said the board must allow the curriculum to be developed by the professional educators with expertise in state standards. Rehm said he was speaking from experience. In his resume to the board, he listed himself as a physics teacher with seven years of experience, four of which included writing science curriculum. A former Eagle Scout, he also listed several educational awards and grants he has received to assist him in his classrooms. It is not clear if he still teaches somewhere else in the area.

On a break during interviews, Rehm said he found the questions the board was asking interesting. Like Buckingham’s question, when he asked potential candidates if they will be able to stand up to the left-wing, liberal media when they inevitably misquote and misrepresent them. “Those types of questions have nothing to do with the issues facing our students,” Rehm said. “Too much of this has been fluff questions with fluff answers.” Rehm vowed to run formally for a spot on the school board next year. Rehm said he is not against intelligent design being made available to students at the high school, but said it would be taught more appropriately in a philosophy or comparative religions-type class.

He was also angry that the board voted to destroy the recorded comments from that October meeting [when the vote to add intelligent design to the curriculum was taken] even after members of the faculty and community requested to hear them.

Rehm said it was the height of hypocrisy when in February of this year [2004], the board failed to accept the resignation offered by board member William Buckingham after his public announcement that he was addicted to the prescription drug, OxyContin. “We suspend students for drug problems like that, but the board kept Buckingham,” he said. “Go figure.”

I should also add that the 50 copies of “Pandas” was “donated” anonymously to the school district. I wonder how the board and parents would feel if someone were to donate 50 copies of the Koran, Marx’s communist manifesto, “Mein Kampf”, the works of Immanuel Velikovsky, or tracts from the Flat Earth Society so the students can consider alternatives.

Thanks for the great post, Keanus.

I wonder how the board and parents would feel if someone were to donate 50 copies of the Koran, Marx’s communist manifesto, “Mein Kampf”, the works of Immanuel Velikovsky, or tracts from the Flat Earth Society so the students can consider alternatives.

Or that slavery apologetics text that Cary Christian in North Carolina was using until someone wised up.

Funny you should ask, because over on the Evangelical Outpost one of the regular “teach the controvsery” apologists was waxing nostalgic over how his school gave him Mein Kampf to read in order to understand how people were lured by Nazism. Sounds like a waste of time to me, unless you find Mein Kampf to be an interesting book (as I recall, Adolf could be a bit loose with the facts). Wouldn’t a half hour spent watching Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will serve the same purpose (accompanied by Anthony Santoro’s excellent commentary on the DVD) and serve the additional purpose of educating students about the terrible power of propoganda (and the extraordinary beauty of 1930s cinema in the hands of a capable director).

But I digress.

What is painfully clear to anyone who isn’t deluded by their extremist fundamentalist beliefs or just plain ignorant of the facts is that, at its core, “ID” versus “evolution” isn’t a debate about interpreting history or choosing a political philosophy to emphasize. It’s a debate about whether the fantasies of some parents need to be coddled in their children’s science classrooms every time that universally accepted natural explanations are provided.

I wonder if Hugh Hewitt, the popular author of books that aren’t worth the paper they are printed on, is intelligent enough to understand this simple point. I doubt it, but I’d love it if he’d come here and explain to me why “the awesomely powerful aliens did it” theory is scientific. But why would he do that and risk losing book sales?

Timothy Sandefur Wrote:

Professor Hewitt is a fine teacher, and a good person, with a sincere sense of fairness, who only misunderstands the issues as a result of his religious faith.

As you surely know, many people of the same faith as Professor Hewitt do not misunderstand the issues. Some of them are quite well versed in evolution and choose to misrepresent it anyway (e.g. some Discovery Institute Fellows). Others choose not to misrepresent it, and in fact defend it, perhaps because their faith commands them not to bear false witness. Giving Professor Hewitt the benefit of the doubt that he truly misunderstands the issues, it seems that, if one could show him where he is wrong about the ID strategy, without any reference to his faith, he might at least concede that ID (or the design-free “critical analysis” as presented by ID advocates and as opposed to a true critical analysis) do not belong in science class. I have not read all of his comments, so is there a chance that he has conceded that already, or if not, is amenable to it?

Timothy Sandefur Wrote:

Teach creationism in church where it belongs, and biology in school where it belongs, and your warfare shall be accomplished.

At this point I usually mention that, while I defend any church’s free speech right to teach creationism or ID, I consider it morally wrong to teach those things even in churches, unless accompanied by a critical analysis, or at least a clear indication that most major religions do not take creationist accounts literally or advocate a god-of-the-gaps approach to their Creator.

It would be cool if someone assembled an info ‘care package’ that could be emailed to people like Hewitt. Like a set of FAQs about evolution, teaching evolution, ID, etc. By people like Hewitt, I mean people of some public status, who are ignorant of the issues, and not irrationally committed to faith over science. It would be very efficient to have a set intro package, so science-oriented people don’t find themselves dealing with each new event like this from scratch.

Apropos of not all conservative Christians marching to the same drummer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on December 27, 2004 published a pointed letter from one such self-professed conservative Christian, Bob Enick, the MacLeod Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, Oakland. He concludes his note thusly…

…intelligent design has no biblical basis. Read the 38th and 39th chapters of Job; you’ll discover that God declares that He has given us absolutely no spiritual insight into how He created anything. Who are we to dictate to God that He could not have let life evolve naturally on this planet if that was His will? That’s why I’m perfectly content to let scientists – even the left-wing, liberal, atheistic ones – tell me how God’s universe unfolded for the past 14 billion years. Their scientific findings are a testament to His glory, even if some of them deny His very existence.

…and makes some equally pointed remarks in leading up to that.

He has little patience for people like the school board in Dover or the folks at the DI in Seattle. You can read the entire letter at

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04362/432824.stm

The comment section for http://www.transterrestrial.com/arc[…].html#004752 contains a rather sorry discussion about falsifiability, though the post itself is clear enough.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on December 28, 2004 10:58 AM.

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