NPR, Scopes, and McLean

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The National Public Radio website now has a set of articles up giving a historical perspective on trials concerning evolution and creation.

The entry point is “The Scopes Monkey Trial, 80 Years Later”.

The linked articles include “Timeline: Remembering the Scopes Monkey Trial by Noah Adams “, an audio report on “Echoes of Scopes Trial in Maryland by Barbara Bradley Hagerty”, and a report on “Scopes 2: Arkansas’ Creationism Trial by Jeffrey Katz”.

The last article links to the McLean v. Arkansas Documentation Project. There is some news there: a new member of the McLean Project, Jason Wiles, is in Arkansas this summer, and is collecting various of the materials on the Project wish list. The TalkOrigins Foundation is now providing financial support for the Project. Transcription charges don’t come cheap, so if you’d like to help, please use the donation button at the bottom of McLean Project main page.

13 Comments

The HTML code for the donation button got garbled in translation. I’ve provided replacement code for Wesley to put on the page. If you try to make a donation and get a Paypal error, that’s the problem. Just try again later and it should be working.

The replacement is in.

Reading SJ Gould’s testimony now. Good stuff!

Reading the McLean decision now. Good stuff!

I’ve never read it before and so far it’s great. I highly recommend it for those out there who haven’t.

(tried to post the direct mclean link on talkorigins but it wouldn’t let me)

It’s important that a lot of people read and understand the decision Judge William Overton wrote in McLean. That’s the decision that Francis Beckwith and other Discovery Institute favorites cite as having authorized the teaching of intelligent design.

They insist Overton said criticisms of evolution are good to teach. They keep missing that Overton said science criticisms are okay to teach. Rather than take the time to test their stuff in a lab to qualify it as science, however, they go before school boards misinterpreting what the decision says.

Sadly, few school board members have read the decision, either – they don’t know any better.

Read it and pass it along.

Listening to the piece resulted in a Google search which found a song dating back to the Scope trial:

The song from American Experience (It will automatically play it but it also has the lyrics written down.)

Or go for the sheet music copy.

– Anti-spam: Replace “user” with “harlequin2”

Huh. I thought Scalia’s dissent in Edwards v. Aguillard was more their cup of tea.

The people of Louisiana, including those who are Christian fundamentalists, are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools, just as Mr. Scopes was entitled to present whatever scientific evidence there was for it.

If the Beckwith article being referred to is this one, then Beckwith’s stance is better understood as saying that the McLean decision is inapplicable to attempts to rule out instruction in “intelligent design” rather than that it authorizes the teaching of “intelligent design”.

And, of course, Beckwith has to ignore the fact that “intelligent design” is simply the same corpus of tired old antievolution arguments employed by the “scientific creationists” of McLean with some editing applied. (‘But we didn’t play My Sweet Lord!’)

Of course, Dr. Beckwith may de-lurk and tell us whether he thinks the McLean decision authorizes ID instruction himself.

I found it interesting that in the Maryland discussion on NPR there was only one comment about really teaching evolution, while everyone else talked about the religious aspect of teaching anti-evolution. That segment makes clear that the only people supporting anti-evolution are Christians doing it for exclusively religious reasons. That segment could be played and used as evidence of what ID is all about.

It’s important that a lot of people read and understand the decision Judge William Overton wrote in McLean. That’s the decision that Francis Beckwith and other Discovery Institute favorites cite as having authorized the teaching of intelligent design.

Perhaps Beckwith should have, uh, read the decision first …

Regarding Overton’s decision and the “scientific theory of ID”:

From my website:

in the 1982 Maclean v Arkansas case, the federal court listed the characteristics of what constituted “science”. That list consisted of:

“More precisely, the essential characteristics of science are:

(1) It is guided by natural law;

(2) It has to be explanatory by reference to nature law;

(3) It is testable against the empirical world;

(4) Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word; and

(5) Its is falsifiable. (Ruse and other science witnesses)”

Let’s see how Intelligent Design “theory” measures up to those criteria, shall we?

1. “It is guided by natural law.” Alas, the IDers lose already. Not only is ID ‘theory’ NOT “guided by natural law”, but ID “theorists” explicitly, clearly and plainly REJECT the idea that science SHOULD be based on “natural law”. Indeed, their most fundamental complaint (pardon the pun) is that science in general and evolution in particular are “philosophical materialism” (their code word for “atheism”) and that this, they say, unfairly rules out the IDers’ NON-materialist or NON-natural “explanations”. Hmmm. It sure seems to ME as if the only entity that is even capable in principle of using “non-materialistic” or “super-naturalistic” mechanisms is a deity or god (and if the IDers want to argue with a straight face that the space aliens are capable of using supernaturalistic methods, I’d pay good money to sit in court and watch that). Now I’m no theologian, mind you, but I’m pretty sure that “deities” and “gods” and other “supernatural entities” are religious in nature. I’m no lawyer either, mind you, but I’m also pretty sure that arguing that a supernatural entity or deity designed life using non-materialistic methods, has the intent and effect of advancing religion. Hence, not only is ID “theory” NOT based on natural law, it explicitly REJECTS natural law in favor of supernatural methods. I.e., in favor of religious doctrine. The IDers lose right out of the starting gate.

2. “It has to be explanatory by reference to nature law”. See above. ID loses again. Not only does it NOT explain anything by reference to natural law, it tries to argue that it DOESN’T HAVE TO. What the IDers are complaining about in the first place is that science, they say, unfairly rejects anything BUT reference to natural law – i.e., that science rejects religious explanations. By arguing AGAINST the need for science to be “explanatory by reference to natural law”, the IDers are doing nothing more (or less) than arguing that science should be forced by a court order to accept references to NON-natural or SUPER-natural mechanisms. I.e., they are arguing that science should be forced to advance religion. Like I said, I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure there’s a law against that.

3. “It is testible against the empirical world”. ID loses again. ID ‘theory’ makes NO testible statements. None at all. It can’t tell us what the designer did. It can’t tell us what mechanisms the designer used to do whatever it did. It can’t tell us where we can see these mechanisms in action. And it can’t tell us how to go about testing any of this. ID ‘theory’ consists simply and solely of various random arguments against evolution, coupled with the already-rejected-by-the-courts “two model theory”. ID makes no effort at all to produce any positive arguments on its own that can be tested. Indeed, ID ‘theory’ can’t (or won’t) even make any testible predictions about how old the earth is, or whether humans evolved from apelike primates. The best ID can do is declare “evolution can’t explain X, Y or Z, therefore we must be right”. I.e., the same old “two models” that the courts have already rejected.

4. “Its conclusions are tentative, i.e. are not necessarily the final word”. Well, we don’t know whether ID passes this test, since ID ‘theory” refuses to MAKE any conclusions. As I noted before, ID can’t even give a coherent hypothesis, or even tell us how to form one. What do they think the Intelligent Designer might be? They, uh, don’t know. What do they think it did? They, uh, don’t know that either. What mechanisms did it use? Beats the heck out of them. Heck, ID “theory” can’t (or won’t) even reach conclusions on such basic questions as “how old is the earth” —- billions of years, they say. Or maybe it’s just thousands of years. We, uh, aren’t sure. “Did humans evolve from apelike primates?” Yes. Or, uh, maybe not. Does ID think its conclusions are “the last word”? Well, I guess we won’t know until ID actually MAKES some conclusions.

5. “It is falsifiable”. Well, again, we don’t know if ID’s conclusions are falsifiable, because they go to great lengths to avoid MAKING any conclusions that might be capable of being falsified. I suspect that is deliberate.

However, the core argument of ID ‘theory’, that God – er, I mean “An Unknown Intelligent Designer” – created life, is inherently unfalsifiable. After all, if we know nothing about the Designer, nothing about its nature, and nothing about what it can or can’t do, then there is simply no way we can falsify any statement made about it. If I say that the designer does not have the physical or technical capability of manipulating biomolecules, how the heck could we know whether it really did? On the other hand, if I say that the designer HAS manipulated biochemicals, what sort of evidence could we point to which would indicate that it DIDN’T? The whole idea of ID is unfalsifiable. After all, the entire “argument” of ID boils down to “we think an unknown thing did an unknown thing at an unknown time using unknown methods”. How the heck can anyone falsify THAT? How the heck can anyone, in principle, demonstrate that an unknown thing did NOT do an unknown thing at an unknown time using unknown methods?

So there you have it. ID does not meet ANY of the criteria listed by the federal court in determining what is or isn’t “science”. In every conceivable legal sense, ID simply is not science.

PLEASE, IDers, make this argument in Dover. PRETTY please, with sugar on it.

Of course, Dr. Beckwith may de-lurk and tell us whether he thinks the McLean decision authorizes ID instruction himself.

I’d prefer that Beckwith delurk and tell me why, if there is no scientific theory of ID, the ID movement refers to itself as … well . . the ID movement. Is it (1) IDers want to dishonestly claim all the benefits oif having an “alternative theory” without the liabilities of actually having to PRODUCE any, or (2) IDers want to preach their religious opinions without openly admitting that they are religious opinions, or (3) some other reason.

Oh, and if Beckwith wants to delurk, I’d still like him to (1) point me to any public statement by Howard Ahmanson wherein he repudiates any of the extremist views he has held for the past 20 years, (2) tell me which of his long-held views Ahmanson has NOT repudiated, and (3) why not.

But alas, I suspect that, like all other IDers, Beckwith is lethally allergic to answering direct questions.

Re “(1) It is guided by natural law; (2) It has to be explanatory by reference to nature law; (3) It is testable against the empirical world;”

I wonder if (1) and (2) might be subsets of (3), since “natural law” just means a principle that’s already been thoroughly tested empirically.

Another point that might be mentioned is that a prediction has to be deduced from a clearly stated hypothesis, and not merely something somebody associates with that hypothesis.

Henry

“I wonder if (1) and (2) might be subsets of (3)”

I’m with Henry on this one. I think there’s too much emphasis on insisting on naturalism as an axiom, when the basic scientific method of not talking shit by basing your opinions on fact=evidence and logic consequentially leads to all those restrictions about naturalism

snaxalotl, Re “I think there’s too much emphasis on insisting on naturalism as an axiom,”

Yeah. Imnsho, the “axiom” is that a hypothesis needs to be based on repeatable observations that produce a consistent pattern. Nothing in that about “natural” or “supernatural”, which imo aren’t much if any less vague than “design”, “intelligence” or “I.D.”. As far as I can tell all those terms are relative to current knowledge, and a hypothesis needs something more precise.

Henry

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on July 6, 2005 9:35 AM.

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