Afore the harvest, when the bud is perfect, and the sour grape is ripening in the flower

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A student note in the latest issue of the Washington University Journal of Law And Policy, while better than the usual anti-evolution law review article (because shorter), is still rotten at the core. The unifying theme of these errors is the author’s unfortunate misconception that there are scientifically valid “alternatives” to evolution. This error infects the rest of the article—as they say, one bad apple spoils the bunch.

David J. Hacker, Warning! Evolution Lies Within: Preserving Academic Freedom in The Classroom With Secular Evolution Disclaimers, 16 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 333 (2004), begins with the claim that “[l]awmakers in Louisiana twice tried to create evolution disclaimers, once with sectarian motivations, and more recently, with secular motivations.” Id. at 334. The problem with this statement, of course, is that there are no legitimate secular motivations for textbook disclaimers about evolution. Evolution is—to put it simply—true; as true as anything we know about the world. Denying it can only be motivated by ignorance or religious faith. Legislators who claim that disclaimers are designed to “disclaim[ ] any orthodoxy and reduc[e] offense to opponents of evolution,” id. at 335, are either victims of, or engaged in, a sham, or are contending that private biases on the part of the general public may be given legal effect for their own sake—a proposition I think is highly flawed.

The blight of scientific illiteracy is more evident in his claim that “[t]he popularity of disclaimers increased in the past three years due to (1) changes in the science of origins, (2) ambiguous law concerning academic freedom, and (3) public pressure to teach alternatives to evolution.” Id. at 341. But only the third is true, and even it isn’t quite accurate. There have been no “changes in the science” challenging evolution’s place as the scientific explanation of the history of life—as Panda’s Thumb so frequently shows; there have only been changes in the publicizing of the weak arguments of creationists—and, simultaneously, an organized strategy to push the teaching of religion in classrooms. The Cobb County evolution disclaimer, for example, was not the result of any scientific doubts as to the origin of species; it was the result of lobbying by religious activists. The law on this issue is not ambiguous: it is patently unconstitutional to teach religion in a government classroom.

Relying heavily on Francis Beckwith (you know—the guy who claims he’s not a defender of ID), Hacker contends that “Intelligent Design is a scientific research program teaching that intelligent agency explains more about complex biological systems than does evolutionary theory,” id. at 342, although he provides no examples of any of the results of this alleged “research.” Indeed, Hacker fails to cite a single scientist in the article at all (except Gould, whom he rightly describes as a believer in evolution). He reveals a lot, however, when he cites a theologian’s “argument against evolution: ‘Suppose a fish evolves lungs. What happens then? Does it move up to the next evolutionary stage? Of course not. It drowns.’” Id. at 342 n. 51. This is the sort of “alternative view” that Hacker would suggest we teach children? Evolution, of course, does not suggest that any single fish ever suddenly “evolved” lungs, within a single instant or a single generation, whereupon it might drown. Rather, it posits gradual change though the inheritance of slightly altered genes: and, in fact, there are fish with lungs—called, get this, lungfish—that do not drown; rather, they can breathe above-surface air. Here is one of the most intriguing branches on the tree of life.

Hacker’s understanding of the religious issues is not much better. Textbook disclaimers, he writes, “relate[] to the secular purpose of promoting academic freedom and actually avoiding any advancement or entanglement with religion.” Id. at 347. He doesn’t explain this last statement, but it may be a suggestion of the oft-heard claim that evolution is itself a religious statement—a silly argument that has been dealt with here.

Mostly, however, Hacker wants to argue that evolution disclaimers are not really religiously motivated.

True purists of academic freedom prefer teaching evolution and its alternatives, and the first step in that direction is for school boards to create secular disclaimers that do not attempt to advance religion. Adoption of evolution disclaimers in public schools will pave the way for students to engage in intellectual arguments about origin theories and enable them to reap the fruits of academic freedom by enhancing their critical thinking skills. With the growing integrity of Intelligent Design, origin theory may be on the brink of a paradigm shift, and evolution disclaimers could enable exploration of the new perspectives. With the current hostility toward teaching anything but evolution, disclaimers ease the transition pains for most educators. Ultimately, the best solution to teaching the science of origins includes teaching many different theories.

Id. at 347-48.

The problem, of course, is that schoolchildren are not equipped to “engage in intellectual arguments about origin theories.” They are in school precisely because they do not have that equipment. The sophomoric plausibility of creationist arguments—like the old “tornado in a junkyard” argument—are enough to distract even many mature adults. But they are only brightly colored berries that give no nourishment. Introducing such misconstructions into biology classrooms can serve no legitimate educational purpose; they can only mislead—and send a message to children that evolution is some sort of atheistic conspiracy to which they need not pay any serious attention.

One might argue with equal plausibility that “true purists of academic freedom” would teach that the earth might be round, and it might be flat—or that phlogiston might be responsible for fire, or it might not be—or that the New World might have been discovered by the Chinese or it might not have been—or that the Holocaust might have occurred or it might not have—and that students ought to make up their own minds. The flaw in such hypotheses is the same: one does not reap the fruits of academic freedom until after they are ripe. And ripening those fruits requires care and attention—and not, unlike real fruit trees, just a load of horse manure.

The real reason for Hacker’s insistence that textbook disclaimers have a secular motivation is simply as part of the ID strategy of camouflaging itself as a scientific enterprise long enough to sneak through the door of a school classroom. This is why no scientific basis for the doubt expressed in such disclaimers is ever produced; vague references to undisclosed scientific bases, combined with arguments for accomodating religious prejudices, is part of a strategy to get us to swallow the seed along with the apple.

Hacker, only sees sour grapes: he concludes that “modern biology education has become a citadel of evolution, impenetrable to all attacks from ideas that may constitute differing perspectives on the origin of humanity.” Id. at 349. This, too, is simply not true. Science remains open to even the most maverick theorist to propose his revolutionary new theory—and support it with evidence. We all wait...but not breathlessly. After a century and a half, evolutionary science has only become stronger with the addition of new and better evidence. The “citadel” is instead a vast and fertile intellectual farmland; one that has sprouted countless theoretical crops, and one with busy highways to other scientific communities—in physics, in medicine, in economics, in psychology, in philosophy. But it is a land where snake oil and medicine shows aren’t very popular. It is understandable, then, that the proprietors of such establishments scorn us as “closed-minded” for ignoring their sophistical arguments.

38 Comments

Wait a minute, phlogiston isn’t responsible for fire? When did this happen? I guess I need to get out more.

Kidding aside, you have to wonder if people like Hacker really believe what they’re peddling.

I wish I had know student notes were not fact-checked. Heck, I could have dumped my undergraduate debate files and published a note a month, at least.

The unifying theme of these errors is the author’s unfortunate misconception that there are scientifically valid “alternatives” to evolution.

Perhaps one of our ID friends out there would be so kind as to tell us what this “scientifically valid alternative” is, and how it can be tested using the scientific method.

Or are IDers simply lying to us when they claim to have a “scientifically valid alternative” . …

Hi Timothy,

Thanks for your review. I’m clueless about the nature of this publication. Is it refereed in any sense, or is there an editor who just picks what s/he wants to publish ? The name “Washington University Journal of Law and Policy” sounds as if it has official ties to the University; is this the case ? (I was alarmed to see a stooge for the DI posting glowing reviews of some ID stuff in the Stanford Review, and then went on to find that SR is just a drivel-sheet for twenty-something conservatives.) Is it considered a respectable journal ?

Anyway, if this is a legitimate publication, I would encorage anyone with a legitimate background (some connection to Wash U, or the legal profession, or some degree of authority as a scholar of evolutionary biology) to write letters of polite but strong objection to the editor of the journal and perhaps the appropriate members of the Wash U administration. It’s very easy to see how intelligent, well-meaning people may be unaware of the status of evolution within the legitimate scientific community, but to make a mistake like this and to persist in it is inexcuseable for anyone in a position of responsibility to their readership.

As for the author (a year out of law school, certainly not a recognized authority on anything), it’s hard to imagine that he is unaware of the “controversy” surrounding evolution; i.e., he’s almost certainly just stickin’ the wedge. Such being the case, I can’t see any possible reason for wanting to communicate directly with him.

Or are IDers simply lying to us when they claim to have a “scientifically valid alternative”

They are preaching. “Scientific” lends tons of cachet. Everyone knows that if something is scientific, it’s good. “Valid” is a formal-sounding word implying right or correct. “Alternative” appeals to the notion that all sides to any issue deserve a fair hearing. Add these words together, and you have a phrase of considerable persuasive power. Combine this power with the difficulty of explaining anything scientific to the American public. People don’t know what science is, but they know it works and that fairness is a virtue. Academic freedom is a Good Thing. That the chief freedom being sought is the freedom to remain ignorant is not immediately visible.

Perhaps we could train people to say “Show me the science” whenever they hear such phrases, but unfortunately we can’t easily train them to recognize whether or not what is shown IS science.

With the growing integrity of Intelligent Design, origin theory may be on the brink of a paradigm shift,…

…or not.

Blimey, does he really, honestly think that scientific paradigm shifts occur in high-school classrooms?

Seems to me that this argument is that because, at some point in the future, intelligent design might become a major player, we need to tell children about it now, before it’s done so. I suppose there’s a good scientific reason why this has to get into school classrooms before it’s established by professionals? Pity he didn’t expand on what that reason might be.

I agree. The theory of evolution was not taught in schools till long after it was accepted by the scientfic community, why shouldn’t ID have to go through the same process? The general consesus is that students should be taught the best accepted theories, why should ID have leeway? Could it be ( Gasp!) religiously motivated? The idea of exposing kids to different ideas and making them judge for themselves is attractive but if it is to be done then surely it should be a comparision between two broadly accepted scientfic theories, i.e Punk Ekk vs the big bad Dawkinsians.

But, Tim, some people aren’t aware of the information supportive of evolutionary theory–I think it’s only fair to give their views a hearing as well. Seeing as these people are at least as numerous as those who do understand evolution, I think that “who knows?” should be given a fair hearing in science classrooms–give students the opportunity to decide for themselves. I think that if you seriously considered the matter yourself, you might find, as I have over the years since I became a Christian, that man’s stubbornness and willful ignorance is more reliable than his fallible thinking.

While this controversy began with the infamous Scopes v. State “Monkey Trial” of the 1920s.

In any antievolution paper, always cite Scopes vs. State of Tennessee When in doubt, call it the monkey trial When any question remains bring up “Inherit the Wind”

Additionally, since the early 1990s Intelligent Design has become a dominant alternative to evolution.

I suspect good old fashioned creationism still reigns supreme. In trying to walk the fine line between the secular and the religious, ID is unconvincing to both. .

Intelligent Design is a scientific research program teaching that intelligent agency explains more about complex biological systems than does evolutionary theory.

If there is a research program, where are the grant applications? Perhaps Senator Santorum would be willing to sponsor legislation to increase funding to NSF.

With the growing integrity of Intelligent Design,

Hacker said that with a straight face?? LOL.

First, while the origins debate has flourished for centuries, [46] it was not divided so clearly until Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species. [47] Darwin’s evolutionary theory caused a paradigm shift in science’s understanding of the origin question, [48] but initial criticisms of his work submerged his theory into a stage of hibernation. [49] However, that winter was short-lived and today most scientists recognize Darwin’s theory as the foundational explanation of heritage and genetics. [50] But not all scientists subscribe to evolution. Skeptics of evolutionary theory posit both simple and religious criticisms. [51] Additionally, since the early 1990s Intelligent Design has become a dominant alternative to evolution. [52] Intelligent Design is a scientific research program teaching that intelligent agency explains more about complex biological systems than does evolutionary theory. [53]

[…]

51. CHARLES COLSON & NANCY PEARCEY, HOW NOW SHALL WE LIVE? 87 (1999) Colson explains that the theologian, Francis Schaeffer, offered an argument against evolution: “Suppose a fish evolves lungs. What happens then? Does it move up to the next evolutionary stage? Of course not. It drowns.” Id.

See, e.g., McLean v. Ark. Bd. of Educ., 529 F. Supp. 1255, 1258–61 (1982) (reviewing the evolution versus creation-science debate that began in the nineteenth century and entered legal debate with Scopes v. State, 289 S.W. 363 (1927)).

52. Francis J. Beckwith, Science and Religion Twenty Years After McLean v. Arkansas: Evolution, Public Education, and the New Challenge of Intelligent Design, 26 HARV. J.L. & PUB. POL’Y 455, 470–77 (2003); see also Francis J. Beckwith, A Liberty Not Fully Evolved?: The Case of Rodney LeVake and the Right of Public School Teachers to Criticize Darwinism, 39 SAN DIEGO L. REV. 1311, 1319 n.47 (2002) (listing academics who propose alternatives to evolutionary theory); DEMBSKI, supra note 46, at 16 (showing that advocates of design theory have existed for at least 2000 years); DeWolf, supra note 47, at 49, 53 & nn.52, 54 (listing a series of articles and books addressing new discoveries in paleontology, systematics, molecular biology, genetics, and developmental biology).

“‘Some fundamental truths about evolution have so far eluded us all . … Far from ignoring or ridiculing the groundswell of opposition to Darwinism that is growing, for example, in the United States, we should welcome it as an opportunity to re-examine our sacred cow more closely.’” House, supra note 3, at 380 (citing BERNARD STONEHOUSE, MICHAEL PITMAN, ADAM AND EVOLUTION 9, 12 (1984)).

53. BECKWITH, supra note 3, at 8. The central think-tank for Intelligent Design theorists is the Center for Science and Culture at The Discovery Institute. Id. at xiv.

(Hacker (2005), “WARNING! EVOLUTION LIES WITHIN,” pp. 341-342.)

Let’s see:

1. Support the statement “But not all scientists subscribe to evolution” with two decidedly nonscientist ID-supporting creationists (Colson and Pearcey, both young-earthers, probably) citing the evangelical theologian, Francis Schaeffer (the guy who was one of the intellectual inspirations of modern evangelicalism, and who directly inspired many of the early IDists) making one of the most ignorant creationist arguments of all time.

Fish with lungs would drown? There’s the “critical analysis of evolution” of the future. Lungfish: http://www.answers.com/topic/lungfish

2. Cite Francis Beckwith, of all people, as if he were an authority on whether or not ID is a credible “dominant” alternative to modern evolution. Heck, Lamarkism has a better shot at revival than does ID.

3. Assert that ID is a “scientific research program” that “explains more” than evolution. But ID doesn’t “explain” anything, the beginning and end of ID is “ID did it, and no further questions are allowed.”

4. Support #3 with a bunch of other scientifically clueless ID law review articles, including the following “listing of academics who propose alternatives to evolutionary theory” from a Beckwith article:

[FN47]. See, e.g., Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (1996) (Behe earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Pennsylvania and is currently a Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania); William A. Dembski, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence (2002) (Dembski earned Ph.D.’s in philosophy and mathematics from University of Illinois and University of Chicago respectively and is currently an Associate Research Professor in the Conceptual Foundations of Science at Baylor University); William A. Dembski, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities (1998); Robert Kaita, Design in Physics & Biology: Cosmological Principle & Cosmic Imperative?, in Mere Creation: Science, Faith & Intelligent Design 385 (William A. Dembski ed., 1998) (Kaita earned a Ph.D. in physics from Rutgers University and now serves as a Principal Research Physicist in the Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University); Alvin Plantinga, An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, in Faith in Theory and Practice: Essays on Justifying Religious Belief 35 (Carol White and Elizabeth Radcliffe eds. 1993) (Plantinga earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Yale University and is now a John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at University of Notre Dame); Alvin Plantinga, Warrant and Proper Function 216-37 (1993); Del Ratzsch, Nature, Design and Science: The Status of Design in Natural Science (2001) (Ratzsch earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is currently a Professor of Philosophy at Calvin College).

(Francis J. Beckwith, “A Liberty Not Fully Evolved?San Diego Law Review, Fall 2002.)

Let’s see, we have:

Behe Dembski Dembski Kaita, Dembski editor Plantinga Plantinga Ratzsch

To sum up this listing, Dembski withdrew/was fired from being an expert witness in the Kitzmiller case, Kaita is a physicist not a biologist, writing an article about cosmology not biology, Plantinga is a philospher whose primary business is apologetics, not a biologist, and Ratzsch is a philosopher who is skeptical of basically all of the ID arguments, and, I think, has no support for the ID political agenda. So, this leaves Behe, assuming he doesn’t follow the recent trend in pro-ID expert witnesses. This isn’t exactly a “list”.

You know, I can’t think of a better argument against “evolution warning labels” singling out evolution for allegedly “critical analysis”, than this article by Hacker. Maybe we should put this article up on the NCSE Selman website.

‘Suppose a fish evolves lungs. What happens then? Does it move up to the next evolutionary stage? Of course not. It drowns.’

Man, that’s some fine critical thinking! But why stop there?

‘Suppose a reptile evolves leglessness. What happens then? Does it move up to the next evolutionary stage? Of course not. It just lies there.’

‘Suppose a mammal returns to the sea. What happens then? Does it move up to the next evolutionary stage? Of course not. It just drowns.’

And so forth.

“get this–lungfish”

My husband and I now have a new catch phrase to make the other one burst into laughter. We’ve had a couple of hours of fun with that one so far this evening.

Dave Cerutti Wrote:

But, Tim, some people aren’t aware of the information supportive of evolutionary theory—I think it’s only fair to give their views a hearing as well.

I don’t understand. You think it’s only fair to give a fair hearing to the views of people who aren’t aware of the information supportive of evolutionary theory? In science classes? Should people who are unaware of the details of the periodic table be given a fair hearing in chemistry class?

Dave Cerutti wrote:

I think that if you seriously considered the matter yourself, you might find, as I have over the years since I became a Christian, that man’s stubbornness and willful ignorance is more reliable than his fallible thinking.

What could this possibly mean? That people who are stubborn and willfuly ignorant are more reliable than people who think?

Maybe Dave Cerutti’s fingers weren’t typing what he was thinking.

I think that this could very well be the start of a really good inside joke. From now on simply typing:

“Lungfish”

Should send us all into hysterics.

I’d also suggest that David J. Hacker change his name immediately and disavow any knowledge or authorship of this article.

Air Bear:

Maybe Dave Cerutti’s fingers weren’t typing what he was thinking.

Or maybe Dave is making fun of creationists by parodying their arguments. I’m leaning towards that, myself. But I admit that, given the average creationist argument, it is difficult to tell.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

“modern biology education has become a citadel of evolution, impenetrable to all attacks from ideas that may constitute differing perspectives on the origin of humanity.”

This has potential:

“Modern physics education has become a citadel of gravity, impenetrable to all attacks that may constitute differing perspectives on falling things.”

“Modern chemistry education has become a citadel of molecules, impenetrable to all attacks that may constitute differing perspectives on substances.”

“Modern history education has become a citadel of causation, impenetrable to all attacks that may constitute differing perspectives on time.”

“Modern physics education has become a citadel of gravity, impenetrable to all attacks that may constitute differing perspectives on falling things.”

Actually, this is an excellent teaching opportunity,

http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/astro-ph/0310572

Also, search for “MOND” on this web-page:

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/week206.html

Lenny Frank wrote:

“Perhaps one of our ID friends out there would be so kind as to tell us what this “scientifically valid alternative” is, and how it can be tested using the scientific method.”

This is the reason that one of the goals of Philip Johnson and the Discovery Institute is to change the definition of science - as the recent hearings by the Kansas Board of Education show. The problem is, when you open the door for one non-scientific concept to sneak in, others come along as well. Crystal healing anyone?

Sorry, with #36053, I meant to say that in science, even theories with highly precise predictions (many decimal points) that have been experimentally verified, are challengeable. Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND) is one such challenge. Here a phenomenological law (i.e., a law created to fit the experimental data) presents a puzzle in the context of well-established theory, and the debates and research are ongoing.

What is illustrated is that if you have evidence, you can get heard respectfully within the scientific community, even if you are challenging the “orthodoxy”. (Yes, yes, I know there are painful instances where people were not given such a hearing.) IDers would do well to see how such a challenge proceeds.

Arun Wrote:

What is illustrated is that if you have evidence, you can get heard respectfully within the scientific community, even if you are challenging the “orthodoxy”. (Yes, yes, I know there are painful instances where people were not given such a hearing.) IDers would do well to see how such a challenge proceeds.

Very nice example, Arun. It is true that in a healthy scientific environment (like say the past 3 or 4 centuries) even the very pillars of orthodoxy can (will) be questioned, tested, and re-considered from different angles. Another nice example from physics is Maxwell’s equations (not all of them due to Maxwell, of course). My understanding is that Maxwell believed very literally that there had to be some kind of material basis for electrodynamics – threaded tubes and cogs or something similar permeating space. As it turned out this was patently incorrect, although the mathematical form (and hence all physics predictions) of Maxwell’s equations remained unchanged. In fact, it was the compelling beauty, or obviousness of Maxwell’s equations which propelled Einstein to posit and formulate Special Relativity. I think most non-physiscists are unaware of this : Einstein’s revolutionary paper was titled “On the Electrodynamics of moving bodies.” So just in this one slice of physics, two tightly held conceptions of the universe –Maxwells mechanistic models, and everyones notions of space and time – were subject to question, doubt, test, refinement, and rejection. And science advanced because of it.

I think this kind of lesson is important for people (you know, those people, as well as the general public) to be aware of. Having done some teaching I know how frustrating it is to think “But I said that already, like a hundred times !”, but maybe it needs even more emphasis in these difficult times : Science is open to change; all that is needed is courage, insight, and something non-crapful to bring to the table.

Since I’m a newbie/amateur at biology and evolution, I’m kind of curious about one case related to this. I came across a book by (Lynn ?) Margulis and have done some reading about her, and it seems to me that she illustrates this point in rather interesting ways. My sense is that she’s rather irritating and stubborn, the kind of person that it might be very easy to shut out and ignore. And some of her ideas (Gaia Hypothesis, prolific horizontal gene transfer, the “moral” superioity of bacteria, …) don’t seem to get a whole lot of mainstream respect. Nonetheless, she made a strong case for mitochondria being an acquired endosymbiont; i.e., at one time they were independently living bacteria outside of cells. In this case, the idea caught on, was tested, and gradually became the orthodox view which is presented in all textbooks. Is this, more or less, how mainstream folks would view her story ? Did the mitochondria idea come first, and then the more controversial stuff, or was she already kind of an “outsider” when she made the case for mitochondria ?

Cheers, Jeff

think that “who knows?” should be given a fair hearing in science classrooms—give students the opportunity to decide for themselves.

I hope your joking correct? Why not carry this over to every subject on every issue. we can raise a nation of idiots. As a matter of fact why not do this in church also. Bring in all sects and religions every Sunday. I mean ‘Who Knows? should definetly be given equal time there.

I think

probably not

that if you seriously considered the matter yourself, you might find, as I have over the years since I became a Christian, that man’s stubbornness and willful ignorance is more reliable than his fallible thinking.

Ahh so you’ve overcome stubborness and willful ignorance. Aren’t you actually showing willful ignorance by allowing ignorance into a classroom to be given equal time with the best scientific theories of the day?

How has your thinking improved since you foudn religion? Do 900 year old people and flying men, carts, and animals seem more acceptable to someone not ‘stubborn or willfully ignorant’ than common descent and the boatloads of evidence that go with it. How is it that you people are so good at absurd rationalization?

Jeff S. asks,

I’m clueless about the nature of this publication. Is it refereed in any sense, or is there an editor who just picks what s/he wants to publish ? The name “Washington University Journal of Law and Policy” sounds as if it has official ties to the University; is this the case ? (I was alarmed to see a stooge for the DI posting glowing reviews of some ID stuff in the Stanford Review, and then went on to find that SR is just a drivel-sheet for twenty-something conservatives.) Is it considered a respectable journal?

Most law reviews, including the most prestigious, are not “refereed.” Some are, and there is often talk about making this more common. Personally, I see little reason for it. Law is not science, and law reviews are more appropriate areas for speculation and debate on social issues than are scientific journals. This is particularly the case with student notes, which are rarely relied upon by scholars or judges.

The titles of law reviews are based on the school where it is published, and does not necessarily imply endorsement. Rumor has it that both Harvard and Georgetown tried hard to stifle conservative law reviews at those schools from using those names. As a twenty something conservative (or something like it) myself, this seems very unfair to me, particularly when one considers the absurd and horrifying drivel pumped out by liberals in law reviews every month.

Dave Cerutti writes,“some people aren’t aware of the information supportive of evolutionary theory.… Seeing as these people are at least as numerous as those who do understand evolution, I think that ‘who knows?’ should be given a fair hearing in science classrooms.” But this is a non sequitur. That people are ignorant of the facts only shows that they need to be exposed to those facts—not that they should be encouraged to debate where no debate can reasonably be had. In A Study in Scarlet, Watson discovers that Holmes does not know the earth orbits the sun. Should he and Watson debate the issue at all, let alone in science classrooms? Of course not. The orbit of the earth, and the evolution of life on earth, are both facts, equally substantial, equally undeniable, except by the ignorant and the sneaky. The former should be instructed; the latter excluded.

Interesting note on Hacker

During law school, Mr. Hacker was an Articles and Notes Editor for the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy and published: “Warning! Evolution Lies Within: Promoting Academic Freedom in the Public Schools with Secular Evolution Disclaimers”, 16 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol’y 333 (2004).

Mr. Hacker is a Blackstone Fellow and clerked with the Pacific Justice Institute after his first year of law school. His involvement with this religious liberties law firm resulted in his receipt of the prestigious Gustavson Scholarship. Mr. Hacker is also active in the Christian Legal Society.

Source

So many lawyers, engineers, mathematicians, among the IDers, so few biologists. Why, it’s almost like ignorance of biology helps you be an IDer…huh…wonder why that is…

steve:

I think your emphasis is slightly misplaced. ID appeals to the masses. The masses include anyone from any profession. Religious fundamentalism may be overrepresented among the uneducated, but it is still very prevalent among those with graduate degrees.

However, some specific knowledge (such as biology) at least seems to be very difficult to digest for someone with fundamentalist beliefs. It would probably be more accurate to say that ignorance of evolution is the default for nearly everyone, fundamentalist and atheist alike. Fundamentalism seems to discourage its believers from going into fields whose knowledge mocks the tenets of their faith. Kind of like the conviction that only ninnies actually believe in sky daddies would discourage me from seeking the priesthood as a profession.

Disbelief isn’t sufficient discouragement to prevent dishonesty in some people though. Hence the tradition of UK church leaders who didn’t believe in the various religions to which they’d signed up but saw them as a means to an end (eg power and money). Also the new tradition of ID/creationists obtaining (buying) fake scientific qualifications or lying about them or cheating on them in other ways. They don’t believe in science but they have to buy into it to subvert it - which really does tell you what you need to know about their moral code (and also their lack of genuine ability in the cases where they decide they need to cheat).

Re “It would probably be more accurate to say that ignorance of evolution is the default for nearly everyone, fundamentalist and atheist alike.”

I’d guess so. Before about 10 years ago about all I knew about evolution was the relationship among the 5 vertebrate classes. But then I stumbled onto the Prodigy Science BB biology forum. Guess what 9/10 of the activity there was.

Henry

I think your emphasis is slightly misplaced. ID appeals to the masses. The masses include anyone from any profession. Religious fundamentalism may be overrepresented among the uneducated, but it is still very prevalent among those with graduate degrees.

Of course, so is belief in Bigfoot, flying saucers, Atlantis, ESP and the Loch Ness Monster.

However, some specific knowledge (such as biology) at least seems to be very difficult to digest for someone with fundamentalist beliefs. It would probably be more accurate to say that ignorance of evolution is the default for nearly everyone, fundamentalist and atheist alike. Fundamentalism seems to discourage its believers from going into fields whose knowledge mocks the tenets of their faith. Kind of like the conviction that only ninnies actually believe in sky daddies would discourage me from seeking the priesthood as a profession.

Flying saucer freaks and psychic hotlines, of course, operate in the same way.

For the same reasons, I suspect.

Lenny,

Yeah, education generally seems a good prophylactic against nutty notions. Also, as we notice, once nutty notions have taken root “education” provides nothing more than ever-more-sophisticated rationalization for preserving those notions. It’s a small minority that can pass true madness out of their system.

Which is why the battlefield is in earlier and earlier grades of public school. It’s a question of which can be caused to take root first. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d have a better-educated public if mandatory public schooling were from birth to age 5, rather than after age 5. If handled properly, idiocy could never set up, and the child would be in a lifelong habit of learning.

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Now I know why the Wedge strategy seems so familiar. It’s the same tactic as that used by the Tobacco companies: Get ‘em hooked early, before they know any better.

This really puts into a different light the ID exhortations to present everything to the kids and “let them make up their own minds.” I can see Tobacco companies and the ID advocates proclaiming, “Hear that, kids? All these so-called experts/parents think you’re too dumb to make up your own minds! How does that make you feel? What are they trying to hide from you?”

Pushers.

Which is why the battlefield is in earlier and earlier grades of public school. It’s a question of which can be caused to take root first.

Whenever anyone proposes early indoctrination into right thinking as a panacea, I hear the sound of boots marching in unison.

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Jeff S Wrote:

Since I’m a newbie/amateur at biology and evolution, I’m kind of curious about one case related to this. I came across a book by (Lynn ?) Margulis and have done some reading about her, and it seems to me that she illustrates this point in rather interesting ways

The endosymbiont example is definitely a good one. Another really good one, not from biology though, is the acceptance of plate tectonics - like evolution before Darwin, plate tectonics was not considered very plasuble until specific evidence of a mechanism was developed.

I’m not that familiar with the details, but two other great biological examples are Barbara McClintock and transposable elements, as well as the discovery of ribozymes (and Steitz? I don’t remember the main investigators) - RNA molecules that have enzymatic activities.

Some of these ideas took longer to be accepted than others, but all of them started out being really outside the mainstream. I don’t think the personality of the scientist was ever the main problem for acceptance for these ideas; they really did shake up conventional thinking. All of them were accepted because the evidence became really convincing, and not through propaganda or political action. None of these people tried to get their stuff taught in public schools - they were clearly concerned about convincing their peers, not the public.

As a twenty something conservative (or something like it) myself, this seems very unfair to me, particularly when one considers the absurd and horrifying drivel pumped out by liberals in law reviews every month.

Hi Timothy, thanks for responding. I didn’t mean to insult twenty-somethings or conservatives – hope it didn’t sound that way. My snipe was at the low quality of the Stanford Review, which soundsed like it was a prestigious journal. (The DI people certainly spun it that way.)

As for law reviews, I guess they aren’t what I had imagined. Maybe that’s because its so difficult to separate law from politics. Sounds like anyone who reads them is pretty much prepared to encounter a good dose of ideology of one form or another. (That’s what’s so nice about neutrinos …)

Some people have asked about the screening process that goes into these sort of things. As an outgoing editor on a student-published law review, I can explain this a little bit.

Most student-edited law journals have 2 types of articles that they publish. One type is “articles,” which are submitted by law professors and practitioners and screened by an articles committee (usually about 5 law students, sometimes with the assistance of professors, but usually not). Some journals are “desperate” for material, while others receive upwards of a thousand submissions every year from which they select ten or so articles. While this selection process is not the same thing as peer review, it helps to screen out some of the chaff.

The other track is “comments” or “notes,” where each journal publishes the work of ITS STAFF MEMBERS. Most journals have about 40 students on staff who are required to write short pieces, and the journals select the best-written pieces of the lot.

Here (http://law.wustl.edu/Journal/16/index.html) is the index for volume 16. Everything above the word “notes” was submitted by lawprofs and practitioners. Off the top of my head, I recognize Martha Minow, Erwin Chemerinsky, and Ted Ruger as respected, legitimate lawprofs, and those articles are probably thoughtful and top-notch.

Everything below the word “notes” was written by members of the journal’s staff. You can match the names up with the listing of the staff for Vol. 15, here: http://law.wustl.edu/Journal/15/0%2[…]rd%20v15.pdf

As you can see, David Hacker is an “Articles and Notes Editor,” which essentially means that he probably had a part in selecting his own article for publication

I mena only to explain the process by which these things are selected for publication… I do not mean this as a disparagement of student-written articles. Some are truly excellent and actually have some influence in legal academia (I think Prof. Eugene Volokh’s student note has done quite well), and others are mediocre and are never read by anyone other than the student’s advisor, editors and immediate family.

Sorry… I didn’t realize that Kwikcode was different from HTML. The line I meant to emphasize in the previous comment was that as a member of the student articles and notes committee on that journal, Hacker probably had a part in selecting his own article for publication

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on June 22, 2005 4:29 PM.

Conflicting Explanations for Withdrawal of Dover Experts? was the previous entry in this blog.

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