Teaching the Controversy

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My colleague, Taner Edis, Associate Professor of Physics at Truman State University, sent the following e-mail to a mailing list in which we both participate. The e-mail is reproduced here with permission. Read it carefully before you gloat about the shellacking we think our side is delivering in the Kitzmiller trial.

For some years now, I’ve been teaching a “Weird Science” course where students have to argue about paranormal and fringe-science subjects such as UFOs or ID.

Well, I just finished the few weeks of ID-related discussion for this year, and again, it looks to me that ID has a formidable political edge – as much because of the liberal instincts of my students as the religiously conservative.

I started off by inviting Guillermo Gonzalez (Iowa State is not too far away) to come and present the case for ID. I explained the basics of Behe and Dembski, and explained some of the flaws critics point out in books such as WIDF. I had a colleague from biology over to explain why biologists accept evolution.

In the end, most students (and this is a smart crowd of students, just mostly non-science majors) ended up thinking there is an awful lot of technical stuff being thrown about by PhD’s on both sides, and so we don’t really know [that is, no one knows] whether Darwinian evolution or ID is true. And so in our discussions about the political and educational aspects of ID, their political instincts took over. And those who supported ID being discussed in high school biology classes invariably did so on impeccably liberal grounds – fairness, critical thinking and so forth. “Teach the controversy” sounded very reasonable to them.

No surprises to anyone here, I’m sure. But it hardly inspires confidence, nonetheless.

I met Professor Edis’s class last spring, and I can attest that they were bright and engaged. They would not, I will venture, argue in favor of teaching the controversy between astrology and astronomy. We may recognize that intelligent-design creationism is exactly analogous to astrology, but they evidently do not. The Discovery Institute’s propaganda and disinformation machine is winning.

If you wanted to coin a phrase, you might say that liberalism, by being open-minded to a fault, contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Notes.

WIDF is the book, Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism, edited by Matt Young and Taner Edis, Rutgers, New Brunswick, 2004.

Guillermo Gonzalez is an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Iowa and coauthor of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery, by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, Regnery, Washington, 2004.

105 Comments

In order to keep it simple, the issue is speciation.

May I offer the following for class discussion: In the grand scheme what are the Mule and Hinny? Are they evidence of transition (speciation) — that is, common ancestry? Or Are they poor or faulty examples of “Intelligent Design”? Why?

One question - was ID presented in the usual way? That is, “evolution can’t explain this, that, and the other thing, therefore ID is right?”

If so, perhaps a more appropriate approach would be:

“Here is the evidence that supports the theory of evolution:” [insert your favorite few hundred successful predictions here].”

“Now, here is the evidence the supports ID: [insert sound of crickets chirping].”

Assuming these truly are bright, engaged students, I expect quite a few would reject ID as vacuous (as it is, of course). The fact that they apparently do not suggests that the presentation is biased.

”… liberalism, by being open minded to a fault, contains the seeds of it’s own destruction …”

This is an interesting point. I once had a pretty friendly debate with a staunch but fairly intellectual religious conservative, and it’s a point that he brought up. Let me try to paraphrase exactly what he said:

“All successful societies have a strong religious faith, because only strong religious doctrines can stand the test of time. It’s not just that people need strong unquestioning faith when they are in a time of crisis, or to give them a strong and unambiguous morality. They also need it to resist other faiths. When people give up their religions, they seem to go through a period of open-mindedness. However, what eventually happens is that they are won over by some *other* religion. We saw this in the 1960s, when the open-minded consciousness movement kids eventually all ended up joining political and religious cults. You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology. In the long run, strong uncompromising ideas always win and wishy-washy so-called open-minded ideas always lose. So it is better, even if it isn’t literally true, for people to have a strong commitment to a traditional religion. At least traditional religions have withstood the test of time and have some moderation and perspective built into them.”

That’s paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of it. Note how often he said “strong.” He might have said it even more times in the real discussion. His basic argument amounts to: strong uncompromising ideas will always drive out weak ones. Open-mindedness is weak because it allows rival ideas in the door.

It’s essentially an evolutionary argument. Religious conservatives may not believe evolution, but they often do a much better job *practicing* it than liberals and other secular-minded “modern” folk do. Not only do they play a better Darwinian game in the arena of ideas, but they also tend to have more kids. We seem to accept evolution on theoretical grounds but be tone-deaf when it comes to the implications of evolution. Our “progress myth” that rational ideas will always win is essentially teleological, and specific/rigid teleology is a fallacy in evolutionary thought. Nature does not care if our ideas are rational in the purely logical/scientific sense. Nature cares what does a better job of perpetuating itself. If religious fundamentalism perpetuates itself better than rational modern ideas, then we will all be religious fundamentalists pretty soon.

As you have probably guessed, I consider myself a liberal. Actually I consider myself more of a classical liberal / moderate libertarian, but that’s besides the point. I’m on your side when it comes to scientific stuff like this as well as when it comes to most social issues. However, I also think there’s something very true about the argument that I paraphrased above. Liberals and other secular folk need to stop and think about this argument until it sinks in.

A living thing that decides for so-called rational reasons to refrain from self-perpetuation ceases to exist in future generations. So to remain in existence, rational ideas must defend themselves and perpetuate themselves.

The big challenge is how to harmonize this fact of nature with a commitment to open-mindedness. How can we remain “beyond dogmatic thought” and still defend what we might call our “collective mind” from aggressive dogmas, especially those that use our own liberal beliefs as vectors to spread?

I think part of the solution would be to form a rigid “meta-dogma” in the form of scientific epistemology, and defend that to the death. This is part of the subtext to the defense of science from ID and it’s brethren, as they are essentially attacks on our epistemology.

Perhaps the appeal to fairness could be mitigated if we emphasized more that we aren’t talking about prohibiting classroom discussion or having Pandas in the library. We’re talking about what the state should be endorsing in its curriculum standards.

Perhaps the appeal to fairness could be mitigated if we emphasized more that we aren’t talking about prohibiting classroom discussion or having Pandas in the library. We’re talking about what the state should be endorsing in its curriculum standards.

Perhaps we should just explain that science isn’t a democracy, and scientific truth doesn’t depend upon “fairness”.

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank Wrote:

Perhaps we should just explain that science isn’t a democracy, and scientific truth doesn’t depend upon “fairness”.

Close, but that’s not how I would put it.

Science is a democracy, in that anyone who discovers something new about nature and who explains it rationally is a scientist, regardless of what sort of political connections or credentials they have. If a bum on a the street discovers a new facet of nature and rationally explains it, they are a scientist.

Einstein had no degree, if I’m not mistaken. (I might be… correct me if I’m wrong…)

What isn’t a democracy is the universe. The universe just is. It doesn’t care what we think or what is “fair” or what appeals to our politics. So what should be said is that the universe is what it is irrespective of our beliefs about it.

Another way that science isn’t a democracy is that there is a right way and wrong way to know something. This is a corrolary of the fact that the universe exists independent of our beliefs. If you say that you know something just because it feels good, you are wrong. You might have the right to personally believe this, but you have no right to use our tax money to indoctrinate people with it. Schools should only teach that which is reproducible and independently verifiable, because that is all that we can say exists for certain.

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I tend to think that any arguments that depend on audiences having to absorb complicated scientific facts are doomed to failure. Keep your line of defence simple and confine it to the following talking points:

1. Science is not a democracy.

2. Scientific theories gain credence through dissemination and acceptance in peer reviewed research articles.

3. ID hasn’t had a single peer reviewed research article published yet.

4. Ergo: It is not science. It may become a science in the future (of course, we know it never will, for good methodological reasons, but we needn’t get into that unless asked), but we owe to children to teach them sound science.

State these talking points, rinse and repeat.

Einstein had no degree, if I’m not mistaken. (I might be… correct me if I’m wrong…)

You’re wrong. :>

He had a degree in physics from the Zurich Polytechnic.

It seems to me that one of the reasons why you go to school is to receive insight into what is important and what isn’t important in terms of issues. So why are the students driving the teaching of science?

The problem here is that for the last sixty years, schools have been swarmed with creationists who drop off heaps of comic books which deride the theory of evolution and scientists. What would the originators of these pamphlets do if we started dropping tracts which denounced religion as mind control and chicanery?

That’s the enemy and he’s fighting a Culture War. So do we take up the arms of Reason or do we let him mow us down with his platitudes and his shibboleths?

It’s essentially an evolutionary argument. Religious conservatives may not believe evolution, but they often do a much better job *practicing* it than liberals and other secular-minded “modern” folk do.

Oddly enough, too, the fundies all tend to be strong “social darwinists” with unshakable faith in the “free market”, where, it is assumed, competition produces the fittest, who thus gain their position at the top.

strong uncompromising ideas will always drive out weak ones. Open-mindedness is weak because it allows rival ideas in the door.

Does he know the words to the Horst Wessel song, by any chance?

5. There is no contoversy as far a Science is concerned

6. Re-read point 3. Repeat until the end of time

“If you wanted to coin a phrase, you might say that liberalism, by being open-minded to a fault, contains the seeds of its own destruction.”

One might say the same of democracy, it potentially contains the seeds of its own destruction. People can vote away their vote.

I’m not so sure that “teach the controversy” is wrong. It really depends on how you teach it. If most of the smart non-science students ended up thinking there was an awful lot of technical stuff thrown about by PhD’s who don’t really know whether Darwinian evolution or ID is true then you have to accept the fact that they don’t get it. You failed to teach what you wanted.

It’s not necessarily your fault. You can’t teach a dog quantum mechanics no matter how hard you try and maybe the students who can get it are just few and far between.

Maybe you’ll always have to settle for the rare soul with the intelligence and interest and never get more than that.

Maybe an hour for a couple days a week for a few weeks just isn’t enough time.

Maybe the students don’t care that much.

Maybe you need something more interactive than lectures – let students see evolution at work on a computer.

Maybe this is the best we can ever do because of the nature of the human condition.

“Science is not a democracy.”

I really hate this talking point. The problem with it is that it makes science sound like an argument from authority, and thus makes it sound indistinguishable from religious fundamentalism.

One of the most important things about science is that it is *not* an argument from authority. You don’t have to believe evolution because someone tells you it’s true. You can go see fossils or do experiments yourself if you want. Even if the National Academy of Science or the NSF or the Royal Academy or whatever decides tomorrow that evolution is not a real phenomenon and that the universe was “intelligently designed,” I will still believe that evolution is a real phenomenon because I have seen the evidence myself! If ID papers start passing peer review, I will *still* not believe them because I *understand* how they are intellectually vacuous and, again, I have personally seen and experienced the evidence for evolution.

In this sense science *is* a democracy.

I see this talking point as also having the objective of avoiding what really has to be said: the *universe* is not a democracy. The universe doesn’t care what we believe. It is what it is. It is the cosmos that is inflexible and will not yield to our whims.

People seem to have a hard time saying that… for much the same way as an alcoholic has a hard time saying “I have a drinking problem.” We don’t like to admit the objectivity or impartialness of the universe because it leave us no wiggle room for fantasy or dishonesty.

Sorry to flood the comments, but I have one more point.

Above I wrote: “We don’t like to admit the objectivity or impartialness of the universe because it leave us no wiggle room for fantasy or dishonesty.”

Mystics and religionists like to teach us that they universe *is* governed by consciousness and that we can literally do anything if we want to (or if God permits it).

They say that they are liberating us by teaching us to see beyond the rigidity of the universe. “It is not the spoon that bends… it is yourself…” “Do… or do not… there is no try…”

This view sounds really good to us, but I have come to view it with deep suspicion and contempt. It was sort of a combination of several things, including “trying out” mystical beliefs for myself and also living through the Bush years here in the U.S. and watching how mysticism has softened up our minds to accept fascist political ideology.

The mystics tell us they are liberating us by teaching us that the universe has no fixed nature. In reality they are softening up our reason and our grip on reality to make us easier for them to control. Teaching us that the universe has no nature independent of ourselves (or of some supernatural God or spirit) allows them to substitute their own doctrines for reality in our minds. This is the great bait and switch. The bait is the idea that if we throw out objective reality we can gain access to something higher; the switch is that the “something higher” is the replacement of reality with someone else’s carefully constructed myth. When reality has been replaced with someone else’s myth, you are their slave.

When I hear some scary authoritarian politico or religious fundamentalist commanding us to do one thing or another, I know that I am free and he is impotent because the universe does not care. Next time you hear one of them, go outside and look at the stars and laugh at their impotence.

Adam said

We don’t like to admit the objectivity or impartialness of the universe because it leave us no wiggle room for fantasy or dishonesty.

This is part of the problem The “why” For those who must believe …OK the universe “god” does care about you… stop crying, can we get on and do the science.

Adam Ierymenko Wrote:

It’s essentially an evolutionary argument. Religious conservatives may not believe evolution, but they often do a much better job *practicing* it than liberals and other secular-minded “modern” folk do.

This makes a lot of sense to me. If you considier religions to be existent in meme space, then their continued existence and success implies that they are strong, survivable memetic structures.

Perhaps what is required in response is for us to… intelligently design a competing structure around science in general, and evolution in particular.

You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology.

Sorry, but that is piffle. Manson was “brought up” in various forms of government custody during a period of solid religious and political conservativism in the US. His most solid followers belived he was their messiah. He turned them largely by manipulating their repressed sexual desire. The “Children of God” Christian cult worked the same tricks (pun intended) but avoided drugs and murder. Charlie was created by “strong traditional religion.” L. Ron Hubbard also schemed aginst the liberal ethic by encouraging his followers to feel superior to nonscientologists, and then allowing them to buy more superiority. No need for liberal’s good works, scientology superiority can be had for cash money. And when did Hubbard launch his scam? Thats right, in the solid politically and religiously conservative 1950s.

You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology.

Sorry, but that is piffle. Manson was “brought up” in various forms of government custody during a period of solid religious and political conservativism in the US. His most solid followers belived he was their messiah. He turned them largely by manipulating their repressed sexual desire. The “Children of God” Christian cult worked the same tricks (pun intended) but avoided drugs and murder. Charlie was created by “strong traditional religion.” L. Ron Hubbard also schemed aginst the liberal ethic by encouraging his followers to feel superior to nonscientologists, and then allowing them to buy more superiority. No need for liberal’s good works, scientology superiority can be had for cash money. And when did Hubbard launch his scam? Thats right, in the solid politically and religiously conservative 1950s.

As for Matt and Taner’s concern, Liberal (note capital) is not the same as “soft headed” or even “open minded.” I will listen to nearly any sort of BS from conservative creationists at least the first few dozen times, but there it is not any likelihood that I’ll be conned by them. This is “tolerance,” a Liberal virtue. Those of us who are science activists tend to think that anything short of creationist concession is failure. The error here is not recognizing that religious freedom, which includes ‘freedom from religion,’ is a Liberal -and not a conservative- virtue.

Hmm. If you ask me, science is definitely not a Democracy.

It’s a Republic.

I think there are probably as many approaches to “mysticism” as there are to religion itself – it’s a mistake to consider either concept monolithic. I personally don’t seem to have had a mystical bone in my body at any stage of my life, but I know a number of people, including fellow scientists, who consider themselves to have had mystical experiences. Most of these people take their experiences with the same equanimity that, say, Kenneth Miller has applied to the coexistence of his firm grasp of science and his strong religious faith.

The “fairness” angle is, IMO, a much, much bigger problem, because the popular view of “fairness” means that there are exactly two sides to an issue and both deserve to be heard. This idea has considerable merit in discussions of whether or not to take a specific action, but it’s limited to decisions that are under human control. You can choose whether or not to smoke cigarettes, and if your city is holding a vote on an ordinance that would ban smoking in restaurants, you can choose to vote either for or against the ban. Either you smoke or you don’t. Either the ordinance passes or it doesn’t. But you can’t vote on whether or not smoking causes lung disease. (Or, more precisely, you can if you’d like, but it won’t make a bit of difference to either the smoke or your lung tissue.)

Unfortunately, our society is being sold the idea that every conceivable issue has exactly two sides that deserve equal time and can be judged in debate. This may or may not have given us real fairness, but it has given us “fair and balanced news” as well as other vacuous slogans like “teach the controversy”. This approach sells books and TV viewership, it encourages sponsors to buy airtime, and it’s being skillfully used as a political tool. It also encourages students to conflate the physical world with the world of opinion. That, to me, is frightening. It brings to mind the infamous story of the White House aide who allegedly disparaged the reality-based community.

Incidentally, in competitive high school or college debate, it’s not even necessary to personally support the position you’re promoting in your presentation. The purpose of competitive debate is to hone the debaters’ argumentation skills, and not to establish whether a statement is true. One would hope that argumentation skills alone aren’t considered sufficient for understanding either nature or politics. But, in the popular view, that idea itself has become debatable. Perhaps we should vote on it.

Regarding the “Is science democratic?” question:

I’ve always felt that science, if described as a political construct, is a meritocracy. Optimal and proven choices are promoted while ineffective and disproven choices are demoted. This is how a lot of systems (including nature) work.

However, trying to explain science using political metaphors is probably a bad idea, no matter which metaphor you try to use.

You take away peoples’ traditional religion, and you get Charles Manson, the Raelians, and Scientology.

Reply posted on the Bathroo—uh After the Bar Closes.

I am posting for the first time and have only read a few of the posts for today, so apologize in advance if i step all over the topic like a bull in a china shop.

In my working mode, i am a professional engineer and testify in court fairly regularly on groundwater pollution cases. Basically i fight corporate entities that do not believe that gravity causes pollution to travel through dirt and get into the groundwater (hahahahaha).

Invariably during my testimony I have to say the following: “gravity does not care if you believe in it – it does not care if you know about it or even understand it – gravity does what it is going to do, period end of conversation.”

and i actually use those words (smile).

same with evolution…it is a physical phenomena on this planet. it does not care if you know about it, or understand it, or believe in it…it just happens.

what we are doing is trying to figure out how it happens and when it happens. we do this by looking into the geologic past (fossil records and geologic formation aging) and currently (microbiology/DNA). It is that simple.

Just as the guy whose car slips off the road because he is traveling too fast— and the momentum of his car was greater than the friction forces that would keep it on the road — finds himself upside down in the ditch (and hence did not understand gravity or angular momentum) is probably pissed. but guess what? it did not matter that he believed he would stay on the road – the physical laws of our little planet prevailed.

just so with ID/CR/EV (my abbreviation for the controversy)…evolution just is. no amount of arguing will change the fact that it is occurring and has occurred. but what will happen in our strange little litigious country is that we will find ourselves fighting for truth in science in front of judges and juries that for the most part flat will never understand the science (or they would have grown up to be scientists instead of lawyers). Take it from someone who is in technical hearings all the time — judges don’t get gravity for crying out loud, how are they going to understand 3.4 billion years of evolution?

by the way i am educated in petroleum engineering so have a soft spot for fossils found in the Permian age (smile). and absolutely understand change over time (long long long time).

back to you - k

Actually, in the purest sense, science *is* an argument from authority, the “authority” being the universe.

“Science is not a democracy.”

Science is a democracy, but the citzenship requirements are quite formidable (as they should be). Not as tough as switzerland, though.

Please don’t compare science to any political model.

Firstly, science is not about majority wins. Therefore it is not democratic, not in the sense of election anyway.

Secondly, science is not about might makes right. Therefore it is not autocratic either.

Thirdly, science is about finding the truth, something politics is known to actively avoid. Therefore any analogy between science and politics is bound to be inapt.

Giving “intelligent design” creationism equal time in science classrooms is like giving a couch potato equal time at quarterback for USC. Merit matters in science.

I think we can all agree that science is not democratic in the sense that people can vote on it by raising their hands or marking a ballot – as is implied in those surveys about how many people believe in biblical creationism. As they say on FactCheck.org (quoting I can’t remember who) “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.”

Mona said

Possibly. However, my point was not the necessity of religion per se (tho the jury is still out on that), but rather, a too rapid, disruptive jettisoning of it.

Clémenceau may have been thinking along these lines1 ;)

In any event, you claimed it had been over 50 years since blasphemy was prosecuted in the UK.

I think that was me, when I said “sixties” and it was, as you point out, the”seventies”. Those cases were the death knell for the blasphemy law. Except UK governments like to leave redundant laws on the statute book (you never know when they might come in handy). Once legislators start trying to protect daft ideas such as particular faiths. rather than protecting the rights of citizens to have daft beliefs and not be discriminated against, where does one stop?

interrupted by wife needing computer

Ditto

Mona,

Most charges of Blasphemy, or allegations of the same, over here often relate to portrayals of religious figures as gay - although there have been more threats of pursuing charges of blasphemy than actual cases. “Jerry Springer the Opera” (has that been shown in the US?) with its camp, black, nappy wearing Jesus was challenged by one of our fundie groups - but only when it was shown on TV. I’d suggest that this reflects the fact that we don’t object to religion being discussed or mocked but haven’t quite grown up enough about homosexuality.

UK citizens generally ignore people who cry “blasphemy” and even the most tolerant can recognise the fact that the Koran and the Bible are, by definition, blasphemous to each other. If we took our blasphemy law seriously then every single copy of the Koran would be destroyed as it is a central tenent of the Church of England that Jesus was the ‘son of god’ yet the Koran has him only as a ‘prophet’.

The idea that the blasphemy law would be extended to cover any religion but Church of England is laughable but we’ll keep it on the statue books (just as there’s still a law requiring all cars to be preceded by a man carrying a red flag) because change is to be feared*. Yes the Muslems want the blasphemy law extended - no they’re never going to get it.

What the governement has offered is a law against inciting religious hatred (an extension of our laws against inciting racial hatred) because the courts have ruled that ‘Moselem’ is not a race and therefore is not covered by the present law (unlike ‘Sikh’ or ‘Jew’ which are both religion and race). This is obviously inequitable and had to be addressed (although the proposed law is shoddy and poorly drafted)

Given your track record (spats with Leny aside) I’m surprised at your lack of knowledge of the history of the UK. Your suggestion that mid 19th century England was essentially secular is somewhat erroneous, I’m assuming that the analysis comes from Darwin et al (ironically) but society in general was utterly christian and completely church/chapel driven for the rest of the 19th and most of the early 20th centuries.

We don’t just ‘pay lip service’ to the Crown either - my oath as a member of the Territorial Army (our part-time soliders, a little like the National Guard I think) was to the Queen, not parliament. Mr Blair might have his hands on the levers of power but it’s only by the grace of Her Majesty that they stay there.

The UK avoided a lot of religious strife in part because we’ve had a theocracy and it didn’t work but mainly because a lot of discontented religious were able to ‘flee’ to the Colonies and, later, the United States where your admirable constitution gave them the freedom to practice their religions and develop Creation-science and ID

If I had to suggest why we haven’t have a Stalin or a Hitler - I’d say it’s because of the Monarchy, not religion. If you can’t replace the head of state it’s kind of hard to swing the country around and take control.

*How many Englishmen does it take to change a lightbulb? Change?, Change!?! We’ve had that lightbulb for over a thousand years, why should we change it now?!

If I had to suggest why we haven’t have a Stalin or a Hitler - I’d say it’s because of the Monarchy, not religion. If you can’t replace the head of state it’s kind of hard to swing the country around and take control.

playing devil’s advocate here, I’m sure Mona will bring up France again in this context, or maybe Czarist Russia?

I do believe the UK has had a Stalin/Hitler type leader. His name was Oliver Cromwell. Well; maybe more Stalin-lite.

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Weren’t right wing Protestants complicit in Hitlers rise ?

Catholic’s behind Franco and a bunch of South American states Power and glory go together

Sir TG,

With Oliver Cromwell, I was refering more to his sense of Fun=Evil civil policies. His foul atrocities in Ireland where indeed the norm for his time, during war.

However, on another point. If the “US got it right first time!” Why was there a civil war later?

Is the UK alone in fighting a long and bloody war, to depose a monarchy; only to decide a relatively short time later, to re-introduce it?

actually, i was referring more to the resistance to change in government if it exists as a monarchy.

that’s why the reference to France and Czarist Russia.

These governments had Monarchies that were overthrown.

just a simple point.

… most students … ended up thinking … we don’t really know [that is, no one knows] whether Darwinian evolution or ID is true

Then Dr. Edis badly failed to educate them.

you claimed it had been over 50 years since blasphemy was prosecuted in the UK

Hmmm … is English not the native language of Brits?

As a point of interest, pandasthumb.org is right here. However, pandasthumb.com takes you to a religious site.

So now the fundies are adopting the same tactics as the porn sites.

How appropriate.

Perhaps, but this isn’t an example, as you would know if you had bothered to look. The domain name is for sale, and the links it lists are paid for; most of those at the moment are anything but “fundie”:

Meme Come to the ‘real’ light. Proving there is no God. www.BetterHuman.org

God Without Religion “A commonsense approach [leading] to inner peace.” -Melissa Etheridge www.godwithoutreligion.com

Explore Your Faith When you have too many questions and don’t agree with the answers. www.explorefaith.org

Live Radio Islam Exposed, know the truth. To know, you must understand! www.islamtomorrow.com/

Religion Run Amok 7 Great Lies Of Organized Religion A Hard Look at Past & Present CoffeehouseTheology.com

Oops, I guess Mona’s not a Brit – perhaps that helps explain why she so misrepresents the situation there. But really,

The U.S. is supported by a civil religion that is Xian at its roots, but that incorporates Enlightenment values such as those in the BOR. My point is that a sudden, rapid rejection of that religion is harmful to the compact.

The point is both mistaken and, as has been noted, a strawman. And the first sentence is right wing religious propaganda expressed in a particularly meaningless form – the U.S. is a country, not in the category of things that could be “supported by a civil religion”. And neither American society nor the American legal system rests upon Christianity, regardless of what Roy Moore and his ilk claim.

Morbius wrote, regarding the confusion of Dr. Edis’s students over evolution and ID:

Then Dr. Edis badly failed to educate them.

… but that’s undoubtedly an oversimplification. One person may communicate a subject very well, but still not be able to change student attitudes that are affected by other sources of information (or misinformation). There’s a considerable literature in the field of “student misconceptions”, and it shows that misconceptions aren’t held only by students who weren’t working hard enough, had indifferent teachers, or were exposed to crank science at home. I’ve seen a wonderful film (will try to look up the title on request) which followed a gifted, highly motivated, science-oriented seventh-grader as he studied a science-class unit on photosynthesis, aced the test, and STILL thought that plants gained weight primarily because they extracted food from the soil.

Photosynthesis is counterintuitive in some ways. We have to think hard about how carbon dioxide is incorporated into organic material in plants, because in our casual, qualitative experience, air doesn’t seem to weigh anything. Besides, we’re animals, so we have to make an effort to, pardon the expression, think like an autotroph instead of a heterotroph.

Macroevolution can be equally counterintuitive, especially to someone who has not been encouraged to think about it before. And, no one is out there trying to propagandize against photosynthesis! If you’re a teacher and you think you’re in control of what your students believe, you may be running up against a misconception or two yourself.

… but that’s undoubtedly an oversimplification.

Lack of doubt is not a good approach for scientists. I think there is adequate basis for my statement, which was not absolute – just how badly he failed could be explored. But your comments about intuitiveness are irrelevant – the students reached the conclusion that “we don’t know [that is, no one knows]”’ but this is simply false, “we” do know, whether the students find the basis for this knowledge intuitive or not. One of the ways in which Dr. Edis failed was by presenting this as a “he said, she said”. The presentation of this subject as a one-on-one debate is poor pedagogy.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on October 22, 2005 3:47 PM.

Behe Disproves Irreducible Complexity was the previous entry in this blog.

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