One Reason Evolutionists Are Losing the PR Battle

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Jacob Weisberg, editor of the online magazine Slate, has posted this piece on the subject of evolution and religion. In it he argues that evolution and religion are fundamentally incompatible. He gets off to quite a good start:

The president seems to view the conflict between evolutionary theory and intelligent design as something like the debate over Social Security reform. But this is not a disagreement with two reasonable points of view, let alone two equally valid ones. Intelligent design, which asserts that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation, may be---as Bob Wright argues---creationism in camouflage. Or it may be---as William Saletan argues---a step in the creationist cave-in to evolution. But whatever it represents, intelligent design is a faith-based theory with no scientific validity or credibility.

See the original for links.

Well said! But rather than simply write an article elaborating on this point, Weisberg feels the need to find some angle to this that makes evolutionists look bad. It's a failing typical of many otherwise sensible pundits. You don't get to look insightful by bashing creationists. No. If you want people to think you're a keen observer who sees past the superficial banalities of an issue, you have to bash scientists.

So from this eminently sensible beginning, Weisberg goes off on a poorly argued rant about the incompatibility of evolution and religion. His article concludes as follows:

One possible avenue is to focus more strongly on the practical consequences of resisting scientific reality. In a world where Koreans are cloning dogs, can the U.S. afford---ethically or economically---to raise our children on fraudulent biology? But whatever tack they take, evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence, and the president is doing that already.

The reference in the final line is to President Bush's recent endorsement of teaching ID in science classes.

While Weisberg is criticizing scientists for suggesting that evolution and religion are compatible, Florida State University philosophy professor Michael Ruse is taking them to task for endorsing atheism. He lays out his views in this interview for the online magazine Salon.

You raise this argument that creationism and evolutionism are essentially two competing religions. That's exactly what creationists say, or at least the sharper ones: “We have two competing belief systems. All we ask is to have our case considered.” One could look at this and say, “Wow, Ruse is saying the creationists are right.”

I am saying that. I think they are right. I want to qualify that immediately by saying that the creationists play fast and loose. Like a lot of us, creationists slide from one position to another according to the kind of argument they want to make. A major theme of the intelligent design people is that theirs is in fact a scientific position, and I think that's a double whammy.

Inasmuch as the creationists want to say openly that both sides are making religious commitments, I have to agree with them on that. I don't think that modern evolutionary theory is necessarily religious. Evolutionary theory was religious, and there's still a large odor of that over and above the professional science. The quasi-religious stuff is still what gets out into the public domain, whether it's Richard Dawkins or Edward O. Wilson or popularizers like Robert Wright. Certainly Stephen Jay Gould. Whether you call it religious or philosophical, I would say these people are presenting a weltanschauung. (Emphasis in original)

So the situation is this: The political Right in this country is pulling out all the stops to introduce a load of religiously motivated nonsense into science classes. They launch elaborate public relations campaigns designed to distort modern science, mislead people about the evidence for evolution, and challenge the integrity of scientists. Their attack is continuous, relentless, and never once interrupted by a moment of self-reflection.

When faced with this assault on science education, Jacob Weisberg believes that the really important issue is that some scientists are arguing that evolution and religion are compatible. Michael Ruse believes that the problem is exactly the opposite, and spends his time dwelling on a handful of popularizers who have dared to discuss theological issues.

Why are evolutionists losing the PR battle? One reason is that some of our best pundits seem more interested in calling attention to themselves than in making a good argument.

I have provided further commentary on the Weisberg and Ruse articles over at EvolutionBlog; Weisberg here, Ruse here.

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” But whatever tack they take, evolutionists should quit pretending their views are no threat to believers. This insults our intelligence, and the president is doing that already.”

Yeah, Bush is definitely an insult to intelligence.

Jacob Weisberg believes that the really important issue is that some scientists are arguing that evolution and religion are incompatible. Michael Ruse believes that the problem is exactly the opposite

Shouldn’t this be vice versa? Or am I confused?

First, who says evolution IS losing the PR battle? Show me. The figures creep up slowly, but there are more people who understand smidgen about evolution at every contretemps. Yes, it would be good if the consciousness rose faster. But that’s not losing.

But second, to the extent that we could do it better, we need to have a few consistent messages and stick to them. That’s difficult to do. Even among textbooks, most of them don’t bother to list the five evolution facts (as Mayr tallies them) that make the foundation of Darwin’s insights plausible and nearly irrefutable. Evolution theory is left to the individual scientist to explain, and to the individual reader/citizen to figure out. Contrast this with Newton’s “Laws of Motion,” or the “Laws of Thermodynamics.”

I recommend we pass out talking points with the five facts of evolution.

Then we need to concentrate on a few easily understood ideas. For example, to rebut “teach the controversy,” we should say “teach the facts first.” Who can argue with the need to have the facts first? Of course, we’ll need to specify what those facts are that need to be taught, but we can do it.

We also need to bring the issue home to people so they understand it. What do I mean?

In Texas, our economy depends on evolution, and intelligent design offers only ways to muck up the economy. What do I mean? One, I mean that the eradication of the cotton boll weevil is essential to our dwindling, but still significant, cotton industry. That eradication process, led the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is based on poisoning boll weevils to eradicate them from specific regions, in doses and ways carefully calculated to avoid forcing the bugs to mutate resistance – it takes a solid understanding of evolution to make the program work.

For a second example, Texas now loses $1.5 billion a year in crop and livestock destruction from the introduced pest, the Argentine fire ant. This pest has evolved several new defenses due to ill-thought-out eradication attempts. Now our only hope of recouping that significant loss is to understand the evolution of the beast, to delay evolved resistance to new eradication attempts. This pest now affects California, Arizona, New Mexico, and much of the southeast. National losses are probably in the $10 billion range. It would be not just folly, but sheer stupidity to abandon our efforts to control this insect – and ALL of those efforts depend on a thorough understanding of evolution theory. Is it wrong? Let ID find a better way to fight this beast that kills farm animals, we’ll let ID have a spot in the high school textbooks. But unless it can do that, quickly, ID just gets in the way and continues the losses.

Third, the Rio Grande Valley’s economy depends a lot on the success of grapefruit as a crop. Need I remind you that grapefruit is a news species that didn’t exist 125 years ago? But for evolution, this crop would not exist at all. Moreover, the current favorite is a variant of red grapefruit. Red grapefruit are the result of sport mutation in the late 1940s – exactly the sort of mutation that intelligent design advocates claim is impossible. In short, the existence of the crop at all is a refutation of intelligent design. According to ID, all Texans are crazy, especially Texas farmers. But the current most popular variety, Rio Reds, were bred by scientists at Texas A&M, using evolution theory, to be resistant to the occasional hard freezes that strike the Rio Grande Valley. So, every aspect of grapefruit agriculture denies the claims of intelligent design, and is dependent on application of the evolution theory intelligent design advocates (and the Dover school board) claim are “just theory.”

Fourth, Texas has a very active medical research community. The disease researchers and healers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who work on heart disease, diabetes and other diseases, and the researchers and healers at Houston’s M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, among others, all use evolution theory to fight disease.

We’re talking billions of dollars at stake. These economic arguments need to be made more forcefully, more often, more clearly, and more locally. Kansas is dependent on wheat, for example – I have a list of publications on how modern wheat farming is dependent on evolution, too. Minnesota has its own crops. California has grapes, artichokes and dairy. Every state has an agricultural, livestock and medical stake in evolution. Every state is, therefore, threatened by intelligent design.

When was the last time you saw someone argue that?

This is going to be effectively lost on Slate soon, so I think I’ll re-post it here as well:

Chemistry hit divine origins concepts hard when it found that life has no vitalist spark to it. Life is physics, and more exactly, mostly chemistry, and it can easily be the result of self-ordering processes such as evolution and pre-biotic chemistry (the former is well attested, however, while the latter is not).

Indeed, this is why ID is so very lame, since instead of being able to show (or even to pretend to show) that life must have been inspirited by god, they resort presently to making god out to be a glorified engineer–and they don’t even care how badly done it was, or how well “designed” human parasites are (not officially anyhow). Paley notwithstanding, the watchmaker analogy was certainly not the religious explanation for life before Newton or thereabouts. Indeed, making god out to be an engineer would have been an affront to religion prior to the triumph of mechanism.

This is why evolution isn’t really the culprit in the decline of religion in people’s lives and in society’s operation, since ID is a very degraded religious notion. I believe this is one reason why many religions have sought compatibility (however well they succeeded) with science, and especially evolution, for they didn’t wish to cast God into a very human mold, that of designer or engineer, rather they have held to the universe as being ultimately a miracle of god, and some will claim this the “soul” is as well (though the latter, too, conflicts with scientific theory and practice).

IDists will often not claim the “designer” to be god, partly in order to obscure their true motives, and partly because on some level they realize that if it’s all just “design”, an alien could very well be the “designer” rather than god. ID is sort of a synthesis of religion and science fiction, with gods and aliens being interchangeable “superior beings” in this pathetic attempt to make religion comport with the Newtonian conceptions of science found in the majority of IDists/creationists, notably Behe and Dembski.

It’s religion without anything really special about god. No longer do we have “he spake and it was done”, rather it’s god the supreme biomolecular engineer. Indeed, we might someday become such gods, though I’m hardly striving for something so mundane (evolution is more interesting and serendipitous in its “inventions”).

William Saletan is thus incorrect in thinking that ID is on the way to actual science, for the IDists have a secular religion which is stuck in pre-20th century physics and the command and control structures of the industrial age. While some who have accepted ID may indeed learn beyond this scientific throwback, most are there now because they have not come to terms with dynamic processes and the abundant evidences left behind by such evolutionary processes. If they don’t believe in the god who spoke, they still adhere to the god who calculated and invented, something that fits with Behe’s conceptions of organic chemistry, and with Dembski’s conceptions of languages (note that the buffoon thinks alien signals would be the result of “intelligent design” and not of the evolution of language and of conceptions–though there are alien designs that could be identified rather directly. The point being that it really doesn’t matter if the complex meanings are evolved or designed just because they are complex and meaningful) and of organisms.

Oh, god is dead in their “religion”, they just don’t know the difference between a living god and their dead one. The ancient religions with their spirituality are hardly likely to trouble science, rather it is the mechanistic evolutions out of once-spiritual religions that menace science. After all, only something as materialistic as “Intelligent Design” could actually threaten something rather less materialistic, the modern conception of evolution as being dynamic, relational, and “idiosyncratic” in its effects. It’s the old physics against the new, while the ancient notions of inspirited life play no part in the “controversy”.

Evolution is indeed incompatible with certain types of religion; those that make specific incorrect claims about the natural world. This does not mean that evolution is incompatible with religion in general.

Any religion that requires adherents to deny reality is not worth believing in.

But then, since I’m an atheist I consider all religions to be not worth believing in.

Anyone who allows themselves to be described as a “pundit” without immediately trying to change their name should be shot out of mercy. As if being described as an “expert” in the popular press hadn’t taught anyone anything.

That evolution and religion are compatible can be confirmed with a glance at one of several books by no less a Christian than C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain, for example, has a lengthy explaination of the Fall story in light of evolution. In short, Lewis believed that biological humans emerged through gradual change, and were then given souls. And he’s probably the most respected theologian of the last century, often cited favorably by fundamentalists.

But then, since I’m an atheist I consider all religions to be not worth believing in.

And as a Taoist I agree with you.

“Above the heavens and below the heavens, I alone am the Honored One.”

If science is a variety of religion, then the Model T was a breed of horse.

The ancient religions with their spirituality are hardly likely to trouble science, rather it is the mechanistic evolutions out of once-spiritual religions that menace science.

Well said. It is important to remember that there are religious people out there who have no problem with evolution or science in general. These people, and I count myself among them, view religion and science as quests for two separate answers. Religion is a search for answers on how to live one’s life, self conduct, moral imperatives, etc. Science is a search to answers of how things work and what is out there.

Or more to the point, if you need help with a difficult personal/moral dilemma, you speak with your Rabbi/Priest/Minister/Imam. If you have a systemic staph infection, you speak to an infectious disease (maybe that’s what ID stands for) specialist.

Unless said Rabbi/Priest/Minister believes God declared the 1/3 of the Earth’s population descended from Ham deserves to be slaves of the descendents of Shem (see Genisis).

Anyone convinced of the infallibility of any human doccument is a bad source of advice on any topic.

Unless said Rabbi/Priest/Minister believes God declared the 1/3 of the Earth’s population descended from Ham deserves to be slaves of the descendents of Shem (see Genisis).

Anyone convinced of the infallibility of any human doccument is a bad source of advice on any topic.

As some may know, Ruse had a bit of a dustup years ago with Laudan on more or the less the same point. Laudan’s argument was the creation science actually did engage in testing hypotheses. The real problem, in Laudan’s view was that creation science had effectively been falsified-at least as much as anything can be falsified.

Ruse objected to this. He argued that evolution was science since it engaged in falsifiable hypothesis formation and revised its theories accordingly. He argued that creation science did not. Hence Ruse, following Popper, drew the bright line of demarcation.

Ruse, writing on 19th century evolutionists views them as a group of metaphysical philosophers who got rescued by the synthesis. In Ruse’s view, it’s not until the synthesis that you get real science.

Enter Dawkins, et. al. who have become prominent spokespeople for “Darwinism” and Ruse sees a group of people confusing metaphysics with the actual science. Thus to Ruse’s point of view, metaphysics and science are logically separable entities. Now Ruse is not denying that scientists have a priori committments or work in paradigms, he’s just saying that scientists should try to distinguish between their testable hypotheses and their metaphysical committments. He thinks that Dennett,Dawkins and Wilson are not doing so, to the detriment of science.

I think Ruse has a point. To the extent that Dennett, Dawkins, Wilson propose Darwinism as an all encompassing ontology, they are promoting Darwinism as a comprehensive world view that is on a collision course with other comprehensive world views.

I think Ruse should now recognize that Laudan actually was on the right track. It makes a lot more sense to see science as a problem solving enterprise, albeit one guided by general ontologies. But trying to draw a hard and fast line of demarcation doesn’t work.

That makes the case against ID and Creation Science more direct. They are just failed research traditions.

Thinking about Ed’s post. It would be pretty spiffy if a Texas proevolution group could put together tv commercials mentioning this to the layman.

“We are in the cotton industry, fighting the Boll Weevil. We are fighting the Argentine Fire Ant. We are Rio Grande Valley’s grapefruit farmers. We are disease researchers at the Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who work on heart disease, diabetes and other diseases. What do we have in common? Our success depends on understanding evolution. Evolution is a tool for understanding these problems, and solving them. Support farmers, ranchers, and doctors. Support evolution.”

The creationists run million-dollar PR campaigns. We should too.

Russell-

Thank you for pointing out my careless phrasing. The error has been corrected.

Ed: Texas owes a lot more of its economy to oil & gas than to cotton & grapefruit, and Texans know it.

Remind ‘em that geologists use the same science for fossil fuels that paleontologists use for fossils. Oil drillers don’t look for places where dinosaurs’ bodies were deposited and covered by a flood 4,000 years ago.

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Actually a surprising number of creationist advocates are/were drillers… maybe they changed careers because they weren’t hitting much? :)

Pierce,

I think they are missing the point and confusing issues.

Darwinism(or really more appropriately Neo-Darwinism) has a very specific and precise meaning. Why do people waste time denying its power and importance as a research tradition (or if you prefer, paradigm)?

My problem with Dennett, Dawkins and wilson is that they confuse the general ontology of Neo-Darwinism with the testable postulates of Darwinism. Dawkins and Wilson both do good science, but in their popular writings they present the philosophical positions of Darwinism as unifying principles for all knowledge. They also confuse reductionism with scientific method, though Wilson does admit that emergence is a possibility.

Materialism is a method that I accept because it works out and the alternative, that evil demons are deceiving me, seems untenable.

At an ontological level, both generic creationism and materialism can coexist. See Dobzhansky’s famous 1973 article “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in Light of Evolution” or his “Biology of Ultimate Concern” for a defense of this position. IT is only when creationism leads you into making specific statements that are easily discredited through valid means of generating warranted claims to knowledge, that materialism has any claim over other world views.

Well, in my opinion, the article is a pack of lies.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no conflict at all between science and my religion.

Some people agree with me.

http://www.mindandlife.org/hhdl.sci[…]section.html

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/ar[…]_19_2002.asp

As far as I’m concerned, conceding this point to the creationists (as the Slate author of this trash does, whatever “side” he supposedly “supports”) is not just illogical. It also demonstrates, without meaning to be insulting, a rather narrow, unsophisticated, and poorly informed view of human history, psychology, and indeed, human evolution, for that matter.

And it’s the dumbest strategic position anyone could take. Essentially, insisting that the public make a painful choice that they don’t really have to make. No wonder creationists and their supporters keep pushing this crap.

I swear, if you went to whatever you consider the most “rational” country on earth, Netherlands or whatever, and set the issue in these terms, science would lose. And it’s just a cheap phoney trap that the creationist branch of the right wing political movement in the US has set for scientists.

I’ll finish this post with one request - and no expectations of having it granted - if you agree with the creationists that this should be a battle between “atheism and religion”, and that the theory of evolution “disproves religon”…

Please define “religion”. And then discuss the experimental approach you plan to take to “disprove all religion”. Let me repeat that for emphasis. If you claim that creationists are right, and we must have a battle between science education and “any or all religion”, DEFINE “RELIGION”. And show a planned experimental approach to “disprove all religion”. Like Lenny Flank, I won’t hold my breath.

No doubt I’ll be heavily criticized, eggregiously insulted, and possibly banned for this post. The creationists (most of whom don’t even believe in their own crap, but merely wish to claim that the Christian God supports policies that violate the teachings of Jesus and the Ten Commandments, in order to jam those policies down the throats of the public) have set a trap. And some people seem to wish, not merely to step in the trap, but to dive into it like a base runner sliding into home plate. So be it. Slide away.

I have to go with Ed here. I don’t think evolution is losing the PR battle. Look at it this way: - the overall number of people who reject the scientific evidence for evolution not any higher than in the past, in fact it’s slightly lower; - among the people with a reasonable level of education, who were exposed to decent biology teaching, acceptance of evolution is at an all-time high; - Creationism has to purposefully disguise itself in order to make itself presentable (some movement flankers have sued the NCSE for having associated them with Creationist material (!)); - with the advent of genomics, evolutionary biology is becoming increasingly economically important, and comparative genomics is one of the fastest-growing biotech fields, from huge companies like Celera, to smaller ones like this one. Also check out the program of the 12th European Biotech meeting). Graduates with good grounding in evolutionary biology and bioinformatics are going to be increasingly sought after in the private sector.

The current uproar about ID creationism is just due to the periodic regurgitations from the fundamentalist movement and a favorable political climate. But political climates change every decade or so, and there is no way ID is going to ride the religious right-wing wave long enough to actually force itself into academia, especially since they are not actually accomplishing anything of substance, and in fact keep embarassing themselves trying to do actual science.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t resist the attempts to introduce religiously motivated anti-evolution and anti-science strategies and notions in schools - we should care about our kids’ education. But panic is really unwarranted.

Steve, you’re right – heckuvan ad.

Pierce, you’re right, too – and ironically, the anti-science side is financed on the results of oil money, a lot. Ide Trotter, Jr., uses his money to fund a pro-ID, anti-evolution bunch (he was the force that got Dembski named to give half the Ide Trotter Lecture at Texas A&M a while back – named after his Exxon-employee father). Geology is one step removed from actual practical evolution application, too. For those two reasons, I left it out.

“Please define “religion”. And then discuss the experimental approach you plan to take to “disprove all religion”. Let me repeat that for emphasis. If you claim that creationists are right, and we must have a battle between science education and “any or all religion”, DEFINE “RELIGION”. And show a planned experimental approach to “disprove all religion”. Like Lenny Flank, I won’t hold my breath.”

See Pascal Boyer, _Religion Explained_. But “disproving all religion” doesn’t make sense given his answer… the central basis of religion is not a set of propositions, it’s a set of practices (inferential and behavioral). Doctrine and dogma develop to explain the inferences and behaviors.

Precedent is what’s frightening. Determining science by politics is a recipe for third world status.

Ask Trofim Lysenko.… *facefaults*

Harold Wrote:

No doubt I’ll be heavily criticized, eggregiously insulted, and possibly banned for this post.

With this whine you’re starting to sound like Jeff Z.

It’s interesting that the usually calm and rational Harold goes ballistic whenever the validity of his religious views is questioned.

Honestly, what does it get our side to claim that evolution is inconsistent with religion?

If you’re an athiest, that’s fine. But don’t insist that you must be an athiest to be rational, or to understand the value and power of science.

You don’t have to say that all religion is wrong in order to argue the position that religions that deny evolution are wrong. The latter is the point we need to make.

Once upon a time, one of the purposes of religion was as a poor excuse for science. Don’t know why the Sun rises and sets? It’s Apollo’s chariot, carrying it across the sky. Well, naturalism has done a remarkable job of explaining how the world works. No, it doesn’t understand everything, but it’s understanding more all the time. Trying to pin your religion on what we don’t currently understand is setting your religion up for future irrelevance (and insane conflicts like Galileo faced, or that evolution is facing today). This is the old “God of the gaps” kind of religion– and it’s clear to anybody who knows what science has done in the last few centuries that this kind of religion is no good.

But that’s not all there is to religion. Not at all. Please, people, try not to drive away the open-minded religious types who are able and indeed eager to understand and accept science. By insisting that all of religion is of the poor substitute of science variety, you’re playing right into the hands of the creationists– who want to substitute their religion for science, and who want to harness the legions of the religious as allies in their cultural war against science. Don’t ceed the point to them.

Religion which does not try to substitute for science– science says nothing about. You don’t have to believe it, but please don’t insist that evolution is inconsistent with it, ‘cause that’s not only false, it’s not going to do anybody any good.

-Rob

“Religion which does not try to substitute for science— science says nothing about. You don’t have to believe it, but please don’t insist that evolution is inconsistent with it, ‘cause that’s not only false, it’s not going to do anybody any good.”

I disagree with your first sentence–religion as it exists is certainly a subject that science can study. I agree with your second sentence–not only is religion not inconsistent with evolution, religion itself evolves, as demonstrated by the ever-changing diversity and distribution of religious beliefs and practices. Even the firmest advocate of any particular religion must admit that the evidence shows this of everybody else’s religion…

I agree with Ed, my approach has been to keep it simple, keep it personal, keep it direct.

Ed has now been immortalized at Uncommon Descent

They are such cowards, they can’t be bothered addressing Ed Darrel over here and instead have to do it over at Dembskis blog, where any counter arguments can be silenced by him so they look good for having no ‘opposition’ to anyone who stumbles along.

Tsk tsk.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/eve[…]sh-2005.html

Jamey,

Antony Flew will be at the 25th Anniversary Conference of the Council for Secular Humanism this year. As for the others you quote where are the publications to back their claims?

Sal,

Oh! The Huffington Post? Is that the latest scientific journal in biology, biochemistry, biophysics?

Comment #42712

Posted by james leslie on August 13, 2005 06:19 PM (e) (s)

The thing that bothers me about most evolutionists is the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists or even to accept that their could be an alternate explanation to the origin of life.

Comment #42767

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 08:48 PM (e) (s)

Hey Steve, you just don’t want to deal with truth in my comments. Be rude all you want, it would just solidify my point even more.

Those links I provided are examples of scientists examining the claims of ID Creationists. They contradict your claim.

By the way, let’s look at this little juxtaposition

Comment #42712

Posted by james leslie on August 13, 2005 06:19 PM (e) (s)

The thing that bothers me about most evolutionists is the absolute refusal to at least examine the claims of creationists or even to accept that their could be an alternate explanation to the origin of life.

Comment #42761

Posted by jamey leslie on August 13, 2005 08:35 PM (e) (s)

…how could you know the scientific community so well that you could speak for it?

Oh! The Huffington Post? Is that the latest scientific journal in biology, biochemistry, biophysics?

No, that was courtesy Jason Rosenhouse from his blog, Harris Weighs In

Jason wrote:

with a round-up of some of the more insightful recent writing on this subject.

He thought the essay was insightful. Now, are you so sure you wanna be so dismissive of that essay now?

What happened to Reverend Flank???? :-)

It appears the good reverend had to say good bye: Reverend Lenny’s farewell

Lenny says:

This is my goodbye, everyone. I am not even remotely interested in all the xxxx-xxxxxx [censored] here.

Gosh, I was waiting for his response about debating me one-on-one. Oh well, we’ll just have to carry on with Reverend Lenny. I do think however he needs to work on his phraseology. Such statements by Lenny are not good Public Relations, you know, especially coming from a man-of-the cloth like the Reverend.

I began examining the claims of creationists way back in college, (I still have a copy of Morris’ Scientific Creationism). After wading through various iterations of reading/debating, I found creationism increasingly untenable. The creationist habit of misquoting evolutionists was pretty strong evidence they didn’t have a leg to stand on. In addition, their arguments consisted almost entirely of attacks on evolution, as opposed to scientific evidence in favor of creationism.

The same thing is true with the “evolved” version of creationism, intelligent design. Even George Gilder had to admit that ID has no content, at least no content capable of being scientifically taught. So Gilder is willing to settle for teaching evidence that evolutionary theory has holes and is not complete – which those studying evolution have never denied.

What most impresses me about evolutionary theory is how hard the creationist/IDers have tried to falsify evolution, failing all the time. They keep trotting out the same old arguments, refitted with the scientific jargon de jour, and keep getting shot down. Meanwhile the science of evolution progresses, not only in theory, but in application as technology.

As a reporter who writes frequently about biotechnology, I’ve seen plenty of examples of evolutionary theory in practice, but I’ve yet to see a single biotechnology company that uses the supposed scientific principles of ID creationism.

It would be truly stunning if evolution were to proven wrong, yet so useful in the applied sciences. If the IDers were to turn their Dembski Filter (which supposedly tells us how to recognize the products of intelligent manufacture) and other related concepts into productive new technologies, then they would have entered the realm of science. But don’t hold your breath. The Dembski Filter will remain what it was invented to be – a debating tactic to give a gloss of science to a religious argument.

So are you too incompetent (stupid and/or ignorant) to understand these things or dishonest in misrepresenting them?

Well, I’m not dishonest, so the reason can’t be that I’m dishonest.

I mean, even arch Darwinist Jerry Coyne says us IDists are honest. Here is my honest quote mine of Jerry Coyne:

Jerry Coyne on Honest IDists

Do these people really believe in intelligent design? There is no reason to think otherwise. They [IDists and Wedgies] are not lying for their cause, but sincerely hold that life on earth reflects a succession of miracles worked by a supernatural agent.

See, us IDists are honest guys. Jerry says so.

Dr. Cordova

Any chance of answering Lenny’s questions. In case you have forgotten what they are, let me remind you.

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? And if you, unlike most other IDers, are not sucking at Ahmanson’s teats, I still want to know if you repudiate his extremist views.

Dr. Cordova

Any chance of answering Lenny’s questions. In case you have forgotten what they are, let me remind you.

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway? And if you, unlike most other IDers, are not sucking at Ahmanson’s teats, I still want to know if you repudiate his extremist views.

“us IDists”

So you are willing to be known indivisibly by the collective attributes of a diverse class? Or you are just hoping to adopt that one, which happens to be false anyway, and pretend it is true for you? Some IDists failing to be dishonest about one particular thing does not make all IDists honest about every thing. Is your grasp of logic really that bad? I suspect it’s more of your dishonesty instead.

Any chance of answering Lenny’s questions.

It’s like the return of Zorro in apprentice form. :-D

What is Salvador T. Cordova a doctor in?

Losing the PR war? Then, explain this:

The initiative begins amid increasing controversy over the teaching of evolution, prompted by proponents of “intelligent design,” who argue that even the most modest cell is too complex, too finely tuned, to have come about without unseen intelligence.

President Bush recently said intelligent design should be discussed in schools, along with evolution. Like intelligent design, the Harvard project begins with awe at the nature of life, and with an admission that, almost 150 years after Charles Darwin outlined his theory of evolution in the Origin of Species, scientists cannot explain how the process began.

Now, encouraged by a confluence of scientific advances – such as the discovery of water on Mars and an increased understanding of the chemistry of early Earth – the Harvard scientists hope to help change that.

“We start with a mutual acknowledgment of the profound complexity of living systems,” said David R. Liu, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard. But ”my expectation is that we will be able to reduce this to a very simple series of logical events that could have taken place with no divine intervention.”

Will you look at that… Scientists at leading universities, not phased at all by the ID movement, choose to explore a naturalistic scenario of OOL rather than give up and declare God-did-it. Meanwhile, IDists are still siting in their armchairs wallowing in pathetic paranoid fantasies of being persecuted, spending money on kangaroo courts, and spinning away their fruitless research program. The real PR that matters is clearly not lost: scientists are still doing science.

Bradley - if you edited and shortened that a bit, I think it make a rather good letter to the editor thingy- esp. the last 3 paragraphs - but you’re a reporter, so you probably have a better feel for that than me. And can probably do a lot more than letters to the editors.

ts seems to behave very differently in different threads. Are there two of them?

We are so gonna lose.

Sal,

It’s OK. We know you folks, neither you, nor your dear leaders have the slightest clue about science. So your failure to answer any of Lenny’s questions is not surprising. All that you guys can do is continue to hire new PR agencies and bleat out “conspiracy”, “academic xxxxism”, etc. Your own base will follow you as long as you pursue their cherished golas. Keep playing to the gallery or else you are going to lose out to the other game in town - good old creationism. Your attempts to sow dissension at PT would be laughable if they weren’t so pathetic. And this anyway being an open forum unlike authority bound forums (factotums only!) that your friends run, debate is the very essence. In case you didn’t know I will clar up confusion - The Huffington is not a scientific journal so please don’t quote out of it like you did with the Harvard Crimson a couple of years back! Do please give us something new to laugh at not the same old things.

Sal,

It’s OK. We know you folks, neither you, nor your dear leaders have the slightest clue about science. So your failure to answer any of Lenny’s questions is not surprising. All that you guys can do is continue to hire new PR agencies and bleat out “conspiracy”, “academic xxxxism”, etc. Your own base will follow you as long as you pursue their cherished goals. Keep playing to the gallery or else you are going to lose out to the other game in town - good old creationism. Your attempts to sow dissension at PT would be laughable if they weren’t so pathetic. And this anyway being an open forum unlike authority bound forums (factotums only!) that your friends run, debate is the very essence. In case you didn’t know I will clar up confusion - The Huffington is not a scientific journal so please don’t quote out of it like you did with the Harvard Crimson a couple of years back! Do please give us something new to laugh at not the same old things.

I’ll ask this again, because he didn’t respond the first time:

Sancho P. Cordova said:

Comment #42729

I mean the author of Origin of Species was really versant in…information theory (NOT),

Well, speaking of that, can you direct me to papers in legitimate Information Theory journals which dispute evolution? Or perhaps an Information Theory conference Dembski was invited to present at?

As far as I know, the only recognized Information Theorist who has commented on Dembski’s claims is David Wolpert, who said Dembski’s stuff was junk. Any recognized IT scientists say otherwise, Sal?

ts seems to behave very differently in different threads.

How so? Perhaps you’re imagining things, though I’d like to think that my behavior isn’t entirely predictable or categorizable.

Are there two of them?

I haven’t seen anything posted under my id that I didn’t post.

We are so gonna lose.

Define “lose”.

SEF Wrote:

“us IDists”

So you are willing to be known indivisibly by the collective attributes of a diverse class? Or you are just hoping to adopt that one, which happens to be false anyway, and pretend it is true for you? Some IDists failing to be dishonest about one particular thing does not make all IDists honest about every thing. Is your grasp of logic really that bad? I suspect it’s more of your dishonesty instead.

From Sal’s same link:

Coyne is setting an example of refraining from ad hominem attacks on IDists, and even presenting IDists as honest and intelligent. Though I obviously disagree with Jerry Coyne

I do too.

Katarina Wrote:

Yes, many of the people I know who find ID attractive got to that point partly because of Richard Dawkins, some mostly because of him. My mother in law is one example

As I said before, such people are particularly silly. I really don’t know what you think this amounts to, other than presenting your mother-in-law as a fool.

but there are others, and I believe some of the main proponents of ID claim they were influenced by him as well. I think it was Mike Behe, but I have to double check on that and I don²t have time right now.

Behe presents himself as a scientist following the evidence. If he had said this, it would reveal that he isn’t.

ts has repeatedly attacked my personal beliefs, which I think was unwarranted.

Let’s suppose that I announce that I believe that 1+1=3 or that George Bush knew of 9/11 ahead of time. How do claims become pretected from challenge (not your loaded “attack”) by being “personal beliefs”? You made a claim about prayers coming true being unlikely; that’s in the same category as a claim the George Bush had preknowledge of 9/11. Your telling me that I’m “unwarranted” in challenging any belief is deeply anti-intellectual.

Didn²t want to shut anybody up, only the way some atheists around here talk and attack, it is not a friendly climate for believers, methinks.

You have repeatedly gone out of your way to engage me, so this is disingenuous. And there’s no reason that there should be a “friendly” climate for false claims, like that prayers get answered.

What do you want me to say ts, thanks for pointing out the logic to me, from now on I²ll be an atheist because you have made it so obvious that there is no other reasonable choice?

If that’s the way it goes for you, then say so; if not, then don’t. You are free to say whatever you wish, as am I.

And the way you have addressed me in this blog makes me think so well of atheists.

Do you know what a hasty generalization is? Your actions don’t cause me think in any particular way about people named Katarina. But they do reflect rather badly on you.

ts, lay off the personal stuff. Whatever your excuse is, get over it.

Hello everyone. I’ve been lurking here for a long long time, and this is the first post I’ve made. I can remain silent no longer.

Regarding the late lamented Rev Lenny, I have been here long enough to remember this:

**begin quote**

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on March 20, 2005 10:24 AM

[Comments]

Lenny Flank is a long-time activist for science education. While Lenny has been a participant in many online fora and owns the Yahoo “DebunkCreation” group, Lenny is not “just talk”. His group’s most recent action was to send a box of books as a donation to the Dover, Pennsylvania High School Library. This has opened a new chapter in the ongoing struggle in Dover over the inclusion of “intelligent design” in the high school science curriculum.

The Dover Area School District is reviewing science books donated by an anti-creationism group to determine whether to add the books to its library.

A group called DebunkCreation in St. Petersburg, Fla., donated 23 books of various scientific interests to the high school’s library. Supt. Richard Nilsen said the books will have to be reviewed either by the board’s curriculum committee, the administration, library personnel or a combination of those groups to ensure the books are educationally appropriate.

Some of the books are written by noted scientists, including Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. All support scientific methods and theories that include Darwin’s theories of evolution.

Lenny Flank, who founded DebunkCreation in 1989, said the donations were made in an effort to “increase knowledge and decrease ignorance.”

(York Daily Record, 2005/03/20, “Dover to review donated books”)

While Joseph Maldonado’s YDR article is informative, it doesn’t list the books, so I asked Lenny which books the “DebunkCreation” group had sent. He graciously sent me the list, his correspondence with Dover officials, and permission to post it all.

Here’s the list of donated books:

Universe in a Nutshell, by Stephen Hawking

The Demon-Haunted World, by Carl Sagan

Pale Blue Dot, by Carl Sagan

Flim-Flam!, by James Randi

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins

The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins

Thread of Life; The Smithsonian Looks at Evolution, by Roger Lewin

What Evolution Is, by Ernst Mayr

This is Biology; The Science of the Living World, by Ernst Mayr

The Ancestor’s Tale, by Richard Dawkins

Climbing Mt Improbable, by Richard Dawkins

The Panda’s Thumb, by Stephen Jay Gould

The Pattern of Evolution, by Niles Eldredge

Black Holes and Time Warps; Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy, by Kip Thorne

Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, by Robert Pennock

Tower of Babel; The Evidence Against the New Creationism, by Robert Pennock

Evolution; The Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer

Finding Darwin’s God, by Kenneth R Miller

Galileo’s Finger, by Peter Atkins

Genome, by Matt Ridley

Evolution, by Mark Ridley

Wandering Lands and Animals; The Story of Continental Drift and Animal Populations, by Edwin H Colbert

The Antiquity of Man, by Michael Brass

That’s a tidy package of material, but I’d have added two other books to the collection: Why Intelligent Design Fails and Creationism’s Trojan Horse. The first details for the lay audience why the various claims of the “intelligent design” advocates don’t measure up to the standards of science, and the second documents the socio-political basis of the “intelligent design” movement. Pennock’s books in the above list are a start, but these two provide the finish.

Dear Mr Nilsen:

Our UPS records indicate that our recent donation of 23 science books for the High School Library was recieved and signed for by a member of the staff at 10:26 am on Monday, March 7. We are happy that our donation has arrived safe and sound.

Recent press information suggests that the decision as to accepting the donation will be made by either the School Board or by the School Superintendant. We would like to inquire as to the time frame within which we can expect this decision to be made, and also what opportunity will be presented for any public input from the community about this decision.

Since the school district has made clear that its sole interest is in teaching ALL sides of the controversy, and not in advancing or favoring any particular viewpoint, I am quite sure that you will agree with us that students should be given access to information on the ENTIRE controversy, including information conerning not only evolutionary biology and other areas of science, but information on the large number of scientific, legal, political, and other criticisms of intelligent design theory and its aims and motives. We are therefore very happy to have the opportunity to help you provide this sort of information to your students, and, in light of recent financial difficulties faced by the library, we are especially glad that we are able to do this without incurring any cost whatsoever to the district.

The books we have donated were written by some of the best scientists and science writers of modern times, and many of these books have spent time on the best-seller lists. All have been the subject of praise and recommendation from literary reviewers as well as scientists and educators.

We hope your students will find them useful and informative.

Lenny Flank, List Owner [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

Dear Ms Harkins:

Hello.

I am the founder of the DebunkCreation email list at yahoogroups which recently donated 23 science books to the Dover Senior High School Library.

In a recent York Dispatch article about the donation, I found this statement:

“Board president Sheila Harkins said the board’s curriculum committee will review this donation the same as it did the “Pandas” donation.”

This doesn’t sound quite right to me .… “Pandas” was donated specifically to be used as a “supplemental text” in the CLASSROOM, and they specifically did not WANT it to be in the library. Our books, by contrast, were donated to the LIBRARY, and are NOT intended for classroom use or as any sort of “supplemental text” for the curriculum. My understanding is that the school board does not have to approve materials donated to the LIBRARY, particularly if they do not involve any district funds, and former board members have confirmed to me that they cannot find any board policies or procedures that would require approval from the board or the curriculum committee for a donation made to the school library.

Can you please point out which specific board policy is being followed by the board, in referring our donation to the curriculum committee?

I am also a little bit mystified by a statement attributed to you in the Dispatch article, to the effect that the books we donated may be “too academically advanced” for students. I would like to point out that these are not textbooks; they are popular works written specifically for a general public audience of non-scientists, and most of these books spent several months on the NY Times best-seller list. I am of course quite sure that you are NOT suggesting that students at Dover Senior High School do not have the education level for reading skills necessary to read and understand some of the best-selling books written in the past ten years, by some of the best science writers in the world, including Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould.

I look forward to clarification from you regarding these questions.

Thanks. :>

Lenny Flank, List Owner [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

And here is the letter I just sent today, in response to statements in the latest news article:

—————————

Dear Ms Harkins:

I am the founder of the DebunkCreation email list which recently donated 23 science books to the Dover Senior High Library.

Statements attributed to you in a recent York Daily Record article have not answered any of the questions I have asked you previously regarding our donation, and have indeed raised some new questions I would like to ask.

In the Daily Record article, you are quoted as saying:

“But Harkins said Friday she would never challenge a donated book based on whether she thought it was too difficult for students. “What I said was that I want to ensure that the books are academically appropriate,” Harkins said.”

However, In an earlier York Dispatch article regarding the donation, you are quoted as saying, “She said the committee doesn’t have set criteria that it looks for acceptable books, but it will make sure they are not “advanced academically beyond anyone’s comprehension.”

It certainly sounds to ME as if “beyond anyone’s comprehension” refers directly to “too difficult for students”. The Daily Record article then goes on to quote Mr Nilsen as saying:

“ Nilsen and Harkins said Dover students are among the smartest anywhere and that “educational appropriateness” has nothing to do with student comprehension.”

I am a little confused; first you say you want to review the books to make sure they are not “academically advanced beyond anyone’s comprehension”; NOW you are saying that your review “has nothing to do with student comprehension”.…..

You would seem to be directly contradicting yourself. Would you mind clarifying this for me, please? What exactly ARE the criteria under which the books will be “reviewed”? They seem to be changing from week to week.

I also note with curiosity this statement:

“Nilsen said Friday that the books had to be reviewed to determine their “educational appropriateness” and to make sure they’re scientifically accurate.”

“Scientifically accurate”? These books were written by some of the best scientists in the world. Is the board seriously suggesting that science works by such people as Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould are NOT “scientifically accurate? Who do you plan to ask to review the books for “scientific accuracy”? The Thomas More Law Center?

I am also concerned because I have STILL not received any explanation from you about who exactly will be “reviewing” the donation. Despite requests, I have STILL not received any explanation from you as to why the curriculum committee needs to be involved in a library donation, and I STILL have not received any reference to which board policies or procedures you are following regarding this donation.

Quite frankly, the impression I have gotten from you so far is that you simply don’t like the books we have donated because they directly challenge your pet ID “theory”, that you want your pet ID “theory” to be protected from criticism, that you are not at all interested in teaching ALL SIDES of the “controversy”, and that you are simply fishing around for a half-convincing reason to reject the donated books.

I hope that impression is wrong.

I am cc’ing this letter to the press, and give them full permission to quote any or all of it in any articles they do.

Lenny Flank, List Owner, [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

Lenny also provided information for people to contact the York papers for submitting letters to the editor. The York Daily Record has a form for this purpose, and the York Dispatch accepts submissions emailed to B. Parkinson.

Lenny made some excellent points in his letters. It will be interesting to see whether the school district goes for hypocrisy or admits Lenny’s donation.

*****end quote***

TS, what have _you_ done to help fight the IDiots, besides ruining this blog with your juvenile antics? It is people like you who make me ashamed to admit publicly that I am an atheist. You are an intolerant mouth-foamer, and you’re not fit to carry the good Rev’s shoes.

As for Sal;

It certainly is brave of you to talk trash now that the Rev isn’t here. I seem to remember, though, that when he _was_ here, you ran away like a little girl. You are a coward, Cordova. A gutless spineless little coward.

This is my first post. It is also my last. I come here for science information, information on fighting the IDiots, and “good conversation”. All of those are now absent. Instead, all I see is endless theological debates, fratricide, and juvenile name-calling. Science doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s religious views, or lack of them. Nor should it. Those here who are trying to change that are, in my humble opinion, no better than the IDiots.

Can anyone suggest another blog where I can go to continue to get good science information, information on how to fight the IDiots, and “good conversation”? This one isn’t worth my time any more.

Hey Joe O’donnel,I don’t care what kind of scientist you claim to be, you don’t speak for the entire scientific community. Brace yourself for the next “evolution” in thinking my friend because it’s coming!

Anyone check out the production “Creation” sponsored by Crystal Cathedral church in Florida? I hear it’s pretty good.

ts, lay off the personal stuff. Whatever your excuse is, get over it.

I love it when people make hostile personal comments about not getting personal.

TS, what have _you_ done to help fight the IDiots, besides ruining this blog with your juvenile antics? It is people like you who make me ashamed to admit publicly that I am an atheist. You are an intolerant mouth-foamer, and you’re not fit to carry the good Rev’s shoes.

Maybe that’s the sort of personal stuff Pete Dunkelberg meant, but he misattributed it.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on August 11, 2005 4:12 PM.

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