ID report from Down Under

| 26 Comments

During my visit to Sydney (Australia), a coalition of 70,000 Australian scientists and educators has published an open letter condemning the teaching of intelligent design in school science classes.

Professor Mike Archer, the Dean of Sciences at the University of New South Wales, seems to have been one of the leading forces behind this initiative.

ABC AUstralia: Scientists, teachers protest intelligent design

Australian scientists have been outspoken about Intelligent Design.

Australia’s world-renowned physicist Paul Davies say ID is codswallop, not science but creationism in disguise.

The Australian September 03, 2005

The letter is a timely contribution to exposing the lack of scientific support for Intelligent Design. While Behe is testifying in Dover that astrology should be considered a valid science under his expanded definition of science, the open letter by the 70,000 scientists and educators warns that

“To do so (teach intelligent design) would make a mockery of Australian science teaching and throw open the door of science classes to similarly unscientific world views — be they astrology, spoon-bending, flat-earth cosmology or alien abductions — and crowd out the teaching of real science.”

The Age, October 21 2005

The letter states in part

The open letter — signed by groups such as the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Science Teachers Association — argues that intelligent design, unlike evolution, does not qualify as a science.

For a theory to be considered scientific, the letter says, it must be testable by experiment or observation, the results should be able to be reproduced and the theory should explain more than is already known.

“But not being able to imagine or explain how something happened other than by making a leap of faith to supernatural intervention is no basis for any science: that is a theological or philosophical notion,” it says.

ID supporters and other creationists are quick to expose the scientific vacuity of their gap based arguments.

26 Comments

Australia’s world-renowned physicist Paul Davies say ID is codswallop, not science but creationism in disguise.

Dang. Don’t tell Heddle. He loves using Davies quotes to support his “Cosmological ID” nonsense.

Interestingly, the day after the open letter was published most of the comments in the papers from members of the public were in support of the scientists. In the Australian News Paper only one of six or seven letters supported ID. If the letters are representative of public opinion (yes, this is arguable) I think it bodes well for us.

ID is pushed by people with a religious agenda. In Australia more fundamentalist sects and evangelical churches may have been growing in recent years but I still think that your average Australian simply isn’t overly religious and tends to be suspicious of the religiously devout. I think it can be attributed to the differing histories of Australia and the US, one was colonized in a deliberate effort by the British while the other was a refuge for persecuted religious groups from Europe (perhaps that’s overly simplistic). For that reason I don’t believe the ID movement will find Australia to be such a fertile ground for its message.

That said I think science groups and others opposed to ID need to tread more carefully. I have a great respect for Paul Davis, he is an excellent science communicator, but I worry that the general public may find the way he calls ID ‘codswallop’ as being arrogant. I think it would be more effective to stress why ID should not be taught in science classes (it is not science because it make not testable hypothesis, ID advocates do no research, it creates a false dichotomy between gaps it naturalistic explanations and the need for a designer, and that evolutionary science can explain some previous examples of supposed irreducible complexity etc etc) rather than calling it names. We shouldn’t be complacent and think we have won after this effort.

the day after the open letter was published most of the comments in the papers from members of the public were in support of the scientists

huzzah!

good to hear.

PvM Wrote:

Syntax Error: mismatched tag ‘url’

PvM, you might want to check your post for that syntax error. You more than likely forget of mistyped the final closing url tag.

Steve S You beat me to it but I think Davies makes a mistake to claim religion is now just a branch of physics. If it were this mud wrestling would not be going on.

In the Australian News Paper only one of six or seven letters supported ID

I’m not sure about that. In the Weekend Australian about 3 of the letter were pro ID and cited the usual creationist arguements (appeal to authority, probability and my favorite that The Origin of Species didn’t have anything to say about how new species came about). In todays Sydney Morning Herald the majority of the letters were for ID. Things aren’t as good as I thought they were. That or some Churches are organising letter-writing campaigns.

meh, i think the only error you made was in thinking that op-ed sections of newspapers correctly reflect prevailing opinion.

don’t you have access to independent polling data on the issue in Australia?

don’t you have access to independent polling data on the issue in Australia?

No. Nobody seems to care about it enough to poll on it. I suppose that is a good sign.

“I’m not sure about that. In the Weekend Australian about 3 of the letter were pro ID and cited the usual creationist arguments.”

You’re possibly right, it may depend on how you interpret the letters. It’s not easy to get a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald in Perth, and I haven’t read the editorials in the West Australian News Paper, so I am not sure what the nature of the public feed back is now. Is the tide swinging against us?

What can we do about this? My first thought was that Catalyst needs to dedicate an episode to evolution and that we need articles about evolution in national papers. Perhaps Mike Archer and Co. should write up a more detailed rebuttal of ID and offer it for inclusion in the papers. However most of the general public probably want watch or read these. Is it worth a few of us writing letters to Australian Papers? Will it make a difference? Last time the ID issue was raised in Perth I wrote to the West Australian News Paper but the letter wasn’t published.

After the show screened on Catalyst on Friday I was arguing with a fellow PhD student about it. He has a science degree with honors and works on plant breeding and quantitative genetics. He is also devoutly religious and a young Earth creationist. He has even uttered the phrase to me “there’s no known mechanism for evolution.” When some one with his level of education in science holds those sorts of beliefs its going to take more than letters and TV shows to change things. I think what we really need is better science education in our high schools and universities. So all we need to do is ask the Australian Education Minister for more money to stop religion sneaking into our science classes, wait, wasn’t he in the news for something else recently…?

I think we’re making a mistake if we think Creationism/ID is a US disease that the rest of the world is immune to. Superstition doesn’t recognize borders.

By the way, I love the term ‘codswallop’. I don’t know what it means, but it sounds like its particularly descriptive of ID.

The abc site had a poll and 66% did not think that ID should be taught in schools (http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/poll[…]/history.htm). However, this may not be representative due to who is the ABC audience, although you would have thought the IDers would have watched and stacked the votes. Personally, I hardly ever talk religion to anybody ever. I went to a catholic school and we learned evolution and nobody jumped up and said it was all a plot. At my kids school a lot of the Anglican parents pulled their kids out of scripture because the scripture teacher was a bit full on (You must love God more than you love your parents).

My feeling is that we have a small number hardcore creationists and a large number that ID should be given a fair go, but don’t give a rats a… anyway. The latter could be educated.

Unfortunately we have a government that apes unquestioningly anything that GW Bush does.

bystander

Nic - www.smh.com.au will get you the Sydney Morning Herald, letters, opinion pieces and pretty much all.

GT(N)T - Bollocks is also a useful descriptor!

@ GT(N)T

And yet there is an ethnic aspect to ID/creationism. Their natural power base is in the Bible belt of the US. Any progress abroad is limited to where there are significant numbers of evangelicals, and this seems to be generally UK, Australia, Canada (not francophone)which have the link of a “common” language and cultural history.

And where there is not a base of religious support, ID has no chance of acceptance as an idea of itself, being vacuous. Excluding the UK, ID has had no impact in Europe. Where Creationism as an idea is spoken about at all in mainland Europe, for example, it is not taken seriously.

I don’t think ID has had a particularly significant impact here. Its main sycophants are the same people who praise pseudoscientific ESP ‘studies’, regressed memory hypnosis, alien abduction, ridiculous interpretations of quantum mechanics, astrology and alternative cosmologies etc. While the number of people who believe in this or that tripe may be quite shocking to those who value science, their chances of getting real swing behind getting any of this rubbish taught as science is fairly low, and frankly we’ve been labouring under mass ignorance regarding science vs the paranormal for quite some time now.

The biggest problem in this regard is the lack of separation between church and state - we have for example The Emmanuelle Foundation, which may or may not currently teach YEC in its schools (and very probably has done in the past.) But then we have state funded religious schools (the government actively endorses, encourages and funds religious instruction,) and the spreading of religion is itself seen as a charitable cause under British law. So while battling ID may one day become a major issue (and one I hope science wins,) we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

-Schmitt.

Creationism in the UK:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/[…]/4398345.stm

Ignorance and superstition are powerful foes, both in the US and around this poor abused world.

GT(N)T

You may have not realised when I was using the term mainland Europe, I was excluding the British Isles.

There does seem to be cause for concern there, though I was heartened by most of the comments following the article you linked to.

Creationism’s also popular in Poland, if I remember correctly.

[Insert your own joke here]

Are the moonies in the big tent? Some Polish acquaintances recently expressed concern about their activities. They had no idea about ID.

Creationism in the UK:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4398

Ignorance and superstition are powerful foes, both in the US and around this poor abused world.

This item appeared on April the First (April Fools day in England) but I don’t think it was a joke - even worse is Tony Blair who with his Christian leanings wants the state to subsidise even more faith schools (despite the problems they have caused with generating sectarianism in Northern Ireland, and poor educational achievement and lack of integration in Islamic Schools). We may be more sceptical here, but there is nothing to prevent teaching of Creationism in schools, although it is a curriculum requirement to teach evolution as science. An evangelical used car salesman who has put up £2million has had this matched with £20million of government money to set up a fundamentalist Christian school where he sets the agenda:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f[…]455237/posts

Alan, you did indeed distinguish between the UK and the rest of Europe. I missed it.

Didn’t the Austrian Education Minister recently suggest try to insert creationism into that country’s curriculum? Sorry, no link.

Yes Brendon Nelson advised that if parents want it taught in school then it should be allowed.

A week or so later he did a bit of a backtrack and said that his comments only related to it being taught in classes on religion, not science and that it should not be a replacement for teaching evolution.

Yes Brendon Nelson advised that if parents want it taught in school then it should be allowed.

A week or so later he did a bit of a backtrack and said that his comments only related to it being taught in classes on religion, not science and that it should not be a replacement for teaching evolution.

On the assumption there are some readers/contributors interested in Origins and in teaching it - send the politico-religious bad manners back where they come from and leave it to the common sense and equanimity of the majority of Australians. Once again, observe the dearth of scientific fact and the prevalence of emotive hoo-ha. If any educators are genuinely searching for an Evolution Teaching Programme that is Mainstream, answers the students’ questions, does not offend either the Pastor’s children or Richard Dawkins, and doesn’t stir people up (WHY should SCIENCE stir people?) simply press on my link and use your totally adequate thinking. Science does not clash with faith.

All us dumb Australians are still waiting for Prof. Archer to explain the unfolding of the species (without this mysterious and marvellous “evolution”, whichever of the gods he may be) and for Prof. Davies to explain why things such as mathematics and entropy no longer apply to Physics. I think it could be proved in a court of law that the Australian Science Teachers’ Association violates basic civil liberties such as free speech. They certainly ban mainstream science. Thank Heaven for freedom of education in this country. Our governments in so far as they have fostered this freedom are commendable. She’ll be right, mate. P.H..

observe the dearth of scientific fact and the prevalence of emotive hoo-ha.

A very accurate and concise description of ID/creationism.

To be more precise the littoral interpretation of Gen.1 and Gen.2

oops sorry wrong thread

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on October 23, 2005 9:40 PM.

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