Teaching the Fake Controversy on CNN.com

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A new article appeared in the education section of CNN.com. For those following the debate, there’s not much new material here. However, as evidenced by this article, the media seems to be getting better and better at filtering through the IDists’ spin. Gone is all pretence that ID is not based on religion, or has anything to do with science.

This debate of ideas, normally welcome in a classroom environment, is not embraced by instructors such as Terry Uselton, a high school science department chairman in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“It’s not about education or science, it’s about politics,” Uselton told The Associated Press during a group interview of teachers at the National Education Association’s annual meeting. “That’s the problem, and that’s what we have a hard time separating out. Part of it doesn’t have anything to do with the science being right or wrong.

I agree with Terry, but the much bigger problem is that the “controversy” they want taught is a fake one, based on discredited arguments, half-truths, manipulations of the evidence, and logical fallacies – just about everything short of lying. This is not a debate between evolution and ID/creationism, this is a debate between good science and bad science, between real science and fake science. Do parents really want their children taught fake science?

“We want the scientific evidence for and against Darwin’s theory taught. That’s it,” [Bruce] Chapman [of the Discovery Institute] said.

The key word there is “scientific”. The “scientific” evidence for and against evolution is already being taught. Failed, discredited concepts like Irreducible Complexity (IC) have no place in science classrooms. Besides, not demanding ID’s inclusion in high school biology curricula is just the DI’s position du jour. Citizens of Ohio remember well the DI’s initial stance, which supported the teaching of ID. It was only when they realized that they would lose that they evolved to the “Teach the Controversy” approach. And it’s no secret that they want ID taught in the very near future, as they list it as part of their five-year objectives in the infamous Wedge Document, their not-so-secret strategy memo (hint: it’s already been five years).

[Chapman] said intelligent design is not sufficiently developed to be required teaching, but he points to more than 400 researchers who have signed onto a scientific dissent of Darwinism.

What Chapman means is that there is no theory of ID. There is a fake theory of ID, which recognizes that human knowledge is not complete and that supernatural intelligence is capable of doing anything. Therefore, whatever we don’t currently know occurred naturally, the intelligent designer must have done. Also known as God-of-the-Gaps, the only prediction that this theory makes is that as time progresses, and our understanding of the world increases, the role of this intelligent designer will invariably decrease and approach zero. Unlike IDists and creationists, those whose faith is not predicated on scientific ignorance have nothing to fear from science.

NOTE: Chapman mentions that their list of “scientific” dissenters has passed the 400 mark (“scientific” meaning basically anyone with a postgraduate degree). Anybody know how many of these are named Steve? Seriously, I can’t find the list anywhere, anyone know? My guess is 4 or 5. To put that in perspective, as of 7/5/05 there are 576 scientists that support the teaching of evolution and are named Steve.

16 Comments

Yeah, and how many of the “dissenters” are actually biologists? And how many of the Steves are?

WRT your note: How many have asked to be taken off the list of “dissenters?”

I think that the list they are talking about is on the DI site, but I might be wrong and it could be referencing one of several creationist popular vote lists. Everyone knows science is performed by popular vote!

Chapman mentions that their list of “scientific” dissenters has passed the 400 mark (“scientific” meaning basically anyone with a postgraduate degree).

That’s nice. How many of this 400 have a scientific theory of ID to offer? Indeed, how many of these 400 in fact think that ID is a big crock of cow crap? How many of these 400 were told beforehand that their name would be used by fake “ID scientists” as propaganda support for their crap “scientific theory”?

For some odd reason, DI refuses to tell anyone how many of these “400 dissenters from darwinism” actually support ID . … . I wonder why that would be? Maybe it’s the same reason why IDers won’t tell us what the scientific theory of ID *is*, and how we can test it using the scientific method?

IDers are liars. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

I just pulled up my January (2005) version of the DI’s list of roughly 300 dissenters. I found one “Steve”, on page 4:

Steven Gollmer, Ph.D. Atmospheric Science, Purdue University

Awhile ago, Mike Hopkins of TalkOrigins compiled a list of the Steves that appeared on creationist lists. I went through that list in this post, and found 9 Steves. Here they are:

1. Stephen Meyer, Ph.D. Philosophy of Science (Cambridge) Professor of Philosophy at Whitworth College 2. Steven Austin, Ph.D. Geology (Penn State University) 3. Stephen Taylor, Ph.D. Electrical Engineering (University of Liverpool) 4. Stephen Grocott, Ph.D. Organometallic Chemistry (University of Western Austrailia) 5. Stephen Deckard Ed.D. (University of Sarasota), Assistant Professor of Education 6. Stephen Fawl, Ph.D. Chemistry (UC Davis) Professor of Chemistry, Napa Valley College 7. Steven Gollmer, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Physics, Cedarville College 8. Stephen Huxley, Ph.D. Professor of Information and Decision Modelling, University of San Francisco 9. Stephen Crouse, Ph.D. Exercise Physiology (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque) Professor of Kinesiology, Texas A&M

Most of these were pulled off of ICR or AIG lists. I’m not sure if anyone in this list could be considered a biologist. Maybe #9.

I found the Jan. 2005 list Don referred to. It can be found here.

Looking through it, I see Stephen Crouse, Steven Gollmer, Stephen Meyer, and Stephen Sewell. Stephen Sewell is new, so it looks like there are now 10 Steves against Darwin (and 576 for him). To put that another way, in the year since I made the last post, the DI has added 1 Steve and the NCSE 145 Steves.

Also, if you look at the statement that these “dissenters” were asked to sign, it seems almost reasonable.

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

There is no reference as to who has made the supposed claims. I’m not aware on any current evolutionary biologists who believe that random mutation alone, in combination with natural selection can account for the diversity and history of life. This is just another example of the DI’s basic dishonesty. We need to stop letting them define the terms of the debate.

Matt Inlay Wrote:

the role of this intelligent designer will invariably decrease…

Methinks you meant “inevitably”.  (I know, it’s a fussy little nit… but having all of one’s details correct is what distinguishes a scientific theory from nonsense.)

Has anyone analyzed the data from the DI petition? A cursory review shows that an awful lot – that’s deliberately imprecise, because I have not done the requisite analysis – of the signers are from organizations that are explicitly Christian, and make no bones about the fact that this is fundamental (pun intended) to their approach to learning. I’ve also noticed what appears to be a disproportionate representation from some regions of the country, if one looks at the number of schools and not the number of names.

Also – has anyone thought of conducting a poll, asking these people whether they are, in fact, aware that their names are being used to promote DI’s agenda? I suspect that at least some of them thought that they were agreeing to some more innocuous use of their names – if they agreed to anything at all.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 4, column 53, byte 244 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Almost all of the signers are overtly, googlebly christian. I’m fairly certain that every single signer knew exactly what they were getting into, and how the list would be used. The reason why the statement is so watered down is not to get people to sign it, but to make the public think their “dissent” is reasonable. Who wouldn’t disagree with the idea that it’s good to be skeptical of claims, and to critically analyze them?

Incidently, I looked a little closer into Stephen Crouse, who is about as qualified a biologist as you’re going to get in that list. Check out his bio to get an idea of what I was talking about.

Is it just me, or does this person view the world through some fairly thick religious filters? Kinda makes you wonder if there’s an actual person hiding under all that baggage.

Not sure who “this person” in Flint’s post is intended to denote, but I’ll assume for the sake of argument it’s directed at me.

Outside of this “debate”, it would never occur to me even to think about a scientist’s religious affiliation or beliefs, much less address them in argument.

People like Dembski open up religious affiliation as a legitimate issue with i.d. creationism by making statements like “As Christians we know that naturalism is false” (intro to Mere Creation), and other i.d. creationists simliarly open it up by making intemperate remarks about the religious positions of i.d.c. opponents, and citing the establishment clause as a justification for pushing i.d.c. on to science curricula.

A recent example of just such an argument came from John Calvert, the prominent pro-i.d.c. lawyer: “the establishment clause requires government – and that includes the school – to be neutral with respect to religion. And there are 2 kinds of religions, theistic and non-theistic, and naturalism is the fundamental tenet of non-theistic religions – secular humanism, atheism, agnosticism.” (Temple View, WRTI, Philadelphia – see my post on this topic)

If i.d. creationists don’t like heat, they should not lead the discussion into the kitchen. Once there, they have no business complaining about the temperature.

Jon, I believe Flint was talking about Stephen Crouse. After reading his bio myself, I’m wondering the same thing as Flint.

Oops. Sorry, Flint, for (a) misconstruing your intent and hence (b) going off on a tangential rant!

:-}

After reading the bio, I second (or third) your sentiment.

That being said, I stand by my point about the legitimacy of considering someone’s religious affiliation and beliefs in a discussion that’s supposedly about science (even though as scientists we know that i.d.c. is religion). Normally, I think that neither I nor any of the regulars on PT would even think about religious affiliation in such a discussion; we’re given no choice, however, by the rhetoric of the proponents of i.d.c., who make it clear that – however coy they sometimes act about the identity of their “designer” – their agenda is theological in origin and purpose.

John A. Pastor,

I sincerely doubt if there is anyone who thinks the IDC agenda is anything but theological. It seems to be supported by two schools of thought: those who (correctly) label it as straight creationism and want to get Jesus into science classes where He belongs, and those who treat it as a carefully crafted attempt to circumvent the Lemon test by creative misrepresentation.

It should be pretty clear based on how the ID forces maintain their blogs and discussion boards that they are philosophically opposed to “teaching the controversy”. Placed into effective control of public education and without procedural constraints, they would first replace science with creationism, and second enforce this replacement as strictly as they could. Their long-term political goal (stated in several places) is not to blur the line between church and state, but rather to place the state as the administrative arm of the church. Which cannot be done so long as actual science is practiced (as the Muslim world has demonstrated for centuries).

And so I thought Stephen Crouse’s bio clearly illustrated the orientation we’re dealing with. Here he shows himself to be a legitimate scientific type:

Dr. Crouse’s primary research focus is exercise and lipid metabolism as related to cardiovascular disease risk reduction. His research interests also include sports physiology and cardiovascular exercise physiology. He has published numerous peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters, as well as a laboratory instructional manual in exercise physiology.

Yet from his personal story (which you read), we see that the superstructure of his religious faith dominates his thoughts to the point where he probably considers prayer to be the primary means of curing athletic injury. Reading that material, I was unpleasantly reminded of an interview I read with someone who killed a child squeezing Satan out of them. This person was entirely satisfied with the exorcism: maybe it killed the child, but it saved her immortal soul. Some of these people are scary.

I really have no doubt that if lawyer John Calvert had the power to do so, he’d soon discover that the establishment clause only requires government to be neutral toward “religion”, but encourages children to be taught Truth – his faith. His claim that everything anyone thinks is a “religion” (most especially what scientists think) is impressively subtle. At the same time, it attempts to undermine the teaching of science exclusively (and blur the clear border between science and non-science), and it underscores the common conception that all positions are opinions, all opinions are created equal, and that (as I’ve said so often) to the religious person, everything is a religion. Science is simply a false doctrine, like every other doctrine other than their own. So his claims have popular appeal, and offer a rationale to judges who see things as Crouse does. It’s difficult for non-Christians to become judges, and clearly difficult for anyone to see straight when their faith seems under attack.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Inlay published on July 6, 2005 3:24 PM.

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