Letter to the St. Petersburg Times on ID Poll

| 99 Comments

The following is a letter to the editor that I sent to the St. Petersburg Times. Maybe they’ll print it, maybe they won’t.

In the St. Petersburg Times “Evolution’s Not Enough” article by Donna Winchester and Ron Matus, only those whose self-report of having at least some familiarity with the issues were part of the numbers reported concerning how “intelligent design” should be taught, if at all. The antievolution literature is a source of anti-knowledge, false things confidently stated as if true, and those whose only or primary familiarity with the issues comes from that source may well believe themselves to have some grasp of the issues while being worse off than those who have not been misled.

The recent decision in the Dover, PA case highlighted how advocacy of “intelligent design” led to the telling of numerous falsehoods by school board members there. And after weeks of expert testimony and sharp questioning by lawyers on both sides, Judge Jones found that “intelligent design” was not science, that it was, in fact, a sham designed to insert religious doctrines into the science classroom. Even the Discovery Institute, leading advocate of “intelligent design”, recognizes that there is no content there to be taught. Instead, the DI urges schools to teach the same old long-rebutted arguments against evolution under new catchphrases, like “teach the controvery”, “critical analysis”, “purposeful arrangement of parts”, “free speech”, or “academic freedom”.

With that knowledge, one can see that the question to be asked is not whether “intelligent design” should be taught, but whether we are willing to tell our science students falsehoods simply because they are popular. “Intelligent design” has been tried and found to be more like “intentional deception”.

99 Comments

I can just see the response letter a week later.

Somebody completely missing the point writes: How dare you reduce free speech and academic freedom to mere catchphrases? You are unpatriotic and unamerican Wesley R. Elsberry!

Even the Discovery Institute, leading advocate of “intelligent design”, recognizes that there is no content there to be taught.

Now this is propaganda. You know for a fact that this is a misleading statement about the DI’s position.

P.S. There is nothing more telling that this letter is reactionary and not thought out than the repetition of an entire paragraph.

Even the Discovery Institute, leading advocate of “intelligent design”, recognizes that there is no content there to be taught.

Now this is propaganda. You know for a fact that this is a misleading statement about the DI’s position.

Actually it is a true statement and (sometimes) it’s not the DI’s public position. That’s a conundrum for you so let me help. The DI knows that they have no scientific content and they knowingly lie about it by taking positions that they know to be false. Of course from time to time that contradict themselves depending on the audience in question. Whether the statement is “misleading” is an intersting question because the DI’s mission is to mislead. Given that the statement is true I don’t believe it can be misleading.

Qualiatative, Since you obviously are more familiar with the position of the DI regarding this issue, could you please link us to where on their site (or anywhere else) they make their position explicit? I believe Elsberry is referring to statements made by Paul Nelson to that effect, whether he was at the time acting as a spokesman for the DI or was simply voicing his own opinion, I don’t know.

Thanks, DS

“No content”. That sounds like the quote from George Gilder.

“Now this is propaganda. You know for a fact that this is a misleading statement about the DI’s position.”

Hey Qualitative. Why don’t you enlighten us as to the DI’s position. Please start with a statement of the scientific theory of intelligent design that should be taught. I’ll give you a hint: There is none. NONE WHATSOEVER. ~Gary

Provoked by a typical “evolution can’t increse no infermashun” letter in the News and Observer, I wrote a nice, tight letter pointing people to talkorigins.org/indexcc. Unfortunately, they chose not to publish it. Which is sad, because it was a much more valuable letter than if I’d just made an argument or two.

Even the Discovery Institute, leading advocate of “intelligent design”, recognizes that there is no content there to be taught. Instead, the DI urges schools to teach the same old long-rebutted arguments against evolution under new catchphrases, like “teach the controvery”, “critical analysis”, “purposeful arrangement of parts”, “free speech”, or “academic freedom”.

Hmm. Looks like exactly what the DI did in March, 2002, when the Ohio State Board of Education asked for the DI to present what would be taught as “intelligent design” in the curriculum. Stephen Meyer and Jonathan Wells instead presented a “compromise”, talking about having teachers “teach the controversy”. One may dredge the DI web site for any of sundry press releases and commentaries where they espouse other catchphrases as well. On their “evolutionnews” weblog, one can easily find the DI “free speech on evolution” campaign page.

Even the Discovery Institute, leading advocate of “intelligent design”, recognizes that there is no content there to be taught.

Now this is propaganda. You know for a fact that this is a misleading statement about the DI’s position.

From the Boston Globe, July 27, 2005, piece on Discovery Institute co-founder George Gilder:

“What’s being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there’s a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content.”

Seems pretty clear to me. And sounds exactly like what Wes said in his letter. (shrug)

Qualitative,

Do you have a new argument to offer in favour of the IDC mentality? Something that hasn’t been trashed at Kitzmiller? You seem to know very little about DI.

The DI may say “teach the controversy,” but Judge Jones recognized that phrase for the Creationist tactic that it is. Also note how frequently Jones, in his decision, referred to Defense’s expert witnesses conceding that no research has been done or evidence produced by Designophiles.

That St. Petersburg Times “Evolution’s Not Enough” article by Donna Winchester and Ron Matus seems to demonstrate, yet again, a link between religious beliefs and belief in ID.

Look at this quote:

“Being Christian, I believe there is a higher power,” said Jackie Shields of St. Petersburg. “I agree (with) intelligent design more than evolution. It blows my mind to think we evolved over time. There’s no such thing.”

Remember, underneath ID is not a scientific argument but a metaphysical argument. The ID proponents are not just “attacking” evolution they are attacking “metaphysical naturalism” (and even trying to rename it as “metaphysical materialism”).

Their metaphysic of teleology rests on the assumption that “intelligence” is not natural but somehow “supernatural,” somehow against “metaphysical naturalism/materialism.” A belief in God seems to require such a metaphysics, a teleological metaphysics – or “metaphysical teleology” to label them like they label us.

This seems to address a question left hanging in a now closed thread if anyone wants to pick it up again.

Now this is propaganda. You know for a fact that this is a misleading statement about the DI’s position.

These statements could only be made in this context by a liar or a dupe–or both.

P.S. There is nothing more telling that this letter is reactionary and not thought out than the repetition of an entire paragraph.

Doublespeak is dishonest. Your use of the word “reactionary”, which in actuality describes the supporters of ID rather than the opponents of ID, is doublespeak. You chose to write doublespeak yourself, rather than arguing from the position of innocently expressing acceptance of a lie you have been told by someone else (there are uneducated people who have little or no discriminatory faculties who are fooled by the cynical lies of the cranks and dissemblers who have put ID out there; when their support is genuine, they try to argue the pseudo-facts they’ve been force fed; when they really deep-down know it is a falsehood but still want others to swallow it, rather like the sellers of alternative medicines who in emergencies go to the hospitals they warn their followers from, they resort to pseudo-scientific babble and doublespeak); this smacks of deliberate fallacy. You wrote doublespeak. Doublespeak and its authors are contemptible.

Science is science. In the case of ID there is no science present; “there is no there, there.” This has been made clear time and again. No honest person with an education, whether that education be formal or by force of reading well and thinking, will conclude otherwise or say otherwise. It is not a matter of an “entrenched science establishment” that for political reasons wants to suppress ID–that is the irrationality of paranoia or the gullibility of ignorance. Scientists dislike ID because it has no place in science education any more than the question of whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare or not; in both, the questions belong in another field of study, not in science class. Anyone who can’t see that this is not a question of science suppressing a competitor is either ignorant or off his or her meds; anyone who argues so is ignorant or off his or her meds or a baldfaced…doublespeaker.

If you are, happily, only ignorant, following this thread will disabuse you of a particle of that. Then it will be time to set down and do some reading and maybe attend some classes at accredited schools. (Most teachers, in colleges that don’t restrict it, will be delighted to have an interested, if unmatriculated, student in their class who sincerely wishes to learn.) You’ve a long way to go. Clues: You’ll need a history of science class and a philosophical logic class; those are better done with the aid of a teacher, particularly the latter.

A school board that sees something unpalatable in providing an education for the children under its jurisdiction is itself unsavory. Supporting the degradation of a group of children’s education is supporting the degradation of those children and the degradation of the nation’s future thereby; these, too, are contemptible.

Shiva, you’re being unfair by correcting Qualiatative’s spelling. It’s not Qualitative, it’s Q-U-A-L-I-A-T-A-T-I-V-E. It’s the most important characterismic of good scientistic data. Show some respect.

P.S. There is nothing more telling that this letter is reactionary and not thought out than the repetition of an entire paragraph.

Good god, please take some writing classes, this sentence is completely incoherent. I had to read it 4 times before I could even make a guess at what you were saying. (And the payoff wasn’t worth that kind of effort.)

Is it possible for us to make a frontal assualt rather than just a defending evolution in court. For example, creating biology text books with chapters that explain why Intelligent Design “theory” is not really science?

These ID people have gotten involved in the writing and choosing of text books on biology – shouldn’t we?

It is often hard to read creationist writing. I had to read that sentence a few times myself. What repetition is he referring to? I don’t see any.

In the end, the goal of professional intelligent design advocates and their financial backers appears to be a replacement of traditional science education with a certain religious indoctrination. The effect this will have on American hegemony in technologial production cannot be stated with certainty, but it’s hard to see how it can be positive in terms of entrepreneurism. The theory of evolution is targeted because it is the most “vulnerable” of well-known scientific theories, not in terms of being poorly documented and researched but in terms of being hated by the general public most of whom want scientific advances but don’t care to know how they are achieved. Most American parents who support intelligent design would be happy if their kids went into science or related disciplines such as engineering or medicine. Why is this apparrent disconnect so prevalent? (trust me,I haven’t done the research but parents who want ID taught want it taught in science classes). There are obviously some who want the apocalypse to come ASAP and don’t want their kid’s minds polluted so that hey get “left behind” with The Pro and Lenny and his pizza delivery boy to fight the antichrist. But this can’t represent the majority of ID supporters most of whom want what’s best for their children and generations to come. These parents are proud Americans and must realize our standard of living has a lot to do with our scientific advances and not just those in warfare. To me the problem lies with basic education where kids are taught scientific topics but have no idea what scientists actually do. Most people have now come to understand that science is a belief system and not a job. I realize that many scientists are philosophical materialists, but it’s important to impress upon our citizenry that this is not a mandate of the scientific method. As people who value scientific education we have to downplay our personal metaphysical beliefs or lack thereof to sell a common goal, the persistence of America’s position in an ever-growing biotechnology market, and education as the means to achieve it.

Is it possible for us to make a frontal assualt rather than just a defending evolution in court. For example, creating biology text books with chapters that explain why Intelligent Design “theory” is not really science?

These ID people have gotten involved in the writing and choosing of text books on biology — shouldn’t we?

My understanding is that biology textbooks have indeed improved greatly over thre past few years. Nearly all of them, as I recall, now speak openly and clearly about evolution.

As for explainign why ID isn’t science, I think it would be more useful to have a general “BS detector” class, in which people are taught critical thinking skills which they can then apply to everything from deodorant ads to flying saucer stories to political campaign speeches, rather than just focusing narrlowly on ID.

But there’s the rub — much of our modern economic and social structure is based largely on BS, and the very LAST thing the powers that be want, is to have a population that is skilled in detecting and pointing out BS when they see it.

And in any case, our education system isn’t geared towards actually educating people or teaching them how to think. It’s geared to give people just enough skill level to do their low-level service sectror job without messing up too often.

Changing that will require a large number of social, political and economic changes which we, as a society, simply don’t want to make. Not to mention the fact that it will also require that we open up our wallets – and we don’t want to do that either.

So I’m pretty sure that things will just continue to go on as they have always gone on. At least until the Japanese or Germans buy us all out.

Hi, steve s:

What repetition is he referring to? I don’t see any.

I had assumed, given the demonstrated acuity of Qualiatative, that he or she didn’t get that clicking on the comments from the originating post will show it again, followed by the comments…or there had been a scrolling problem.…

(Phew! I had entirely missed the misspelling of “qualitative”. Well, one still tries to be charitable.…)

At least until the Japanese or Germans buy us all out.

Lenny, get with the times! The thing we get to worry about now is the Chinese selling off all the US dollars they own.

‘Rev Dr’ Lenny Flank wrote:

My understanding is that biology textbooks have indeed improved greatly over thre past few years.

But do any of them have chapters on why ID is not science?

…I think it would be more useful to have a general “BS detector” class,…rather than just focusing narrlowly on ID.

Maybe, but that doesn’t make my idea unworkable and your’s would be harder to impliment since either another class would be replaced or more time added to schooling.

But there’s the rub —- much of our modern economic and social structure is based largely on BS, and the very LAST thing the powers that be want, is to have a population that is skilled in detecting and pointing out BS when they see it.

That’s a strike against your idea, not mine.

Changing that will require a large number of social, political and economic changes …

Again, a strike against your idea, not mine.

So I’m pretty sure that things will just continue to go on as they have always gone on. At least until the Japanese or Germans buy us all out.

Only because you tried to conflate our different ideas.

P.S. There is nothing more telling that this letter is reactionary and not thought out than the repetition of an entire paragraph.

Qualitative, what repetition are you referring to?

steve s asked:

Qualitative, what repetition are you referring to?

On a very superficial level each paragraph can be summed up as “ID promoters are liars.” I can see a believer in ID not getting past that.

Qualitative, what repetition are you referring to?

I had made a change to the text in the draft, pasted the whole thing in again, and managed to not delete all of the previous version. It is fixed now.

Walter:

Good letter. Well written.

Troll:

Whatever…

Everyone Else:

Haven’t we had enough with the other Troll this week?

steve s Wrote:

Qualitative, what repetition are you referring to?

He was referring to a screw up on Wesley’s part with the original post. Wesley (or someone) went back and fixed the mistake. Since Qualitative wasn’t clairvoyant this comment now sounds ridiculous.

Ah, I see. I have such a godawful hangover I reread Wes’s letter a few times and couldn’t understand what was supposed to be repetitive.

I have to say, writing two consecutive identical paragraphs would qualify as “not thought out”.

;-)

But do any of them have chapters on why ID is not science?

Nope.

But then, I’ve never seen a science textbook that explained why ESP or pyramid power isn’t science, either.

I suppose that texbook authors are more interested in teaching what science is, than what it’s not.

That’s a strike against your idea, not mine.

Um, I know, Norman — that’s why I pointed it out.

your’s would be harder to impliment since either another class would be replaced or more time added to schooling.

Worth every second of the time, I think. And, I think, probably a pretty popular class, since most high schoolers are all interested in flying saucers, ESP, psychic hotlines and all that.

Gotta be more useful than memorizing passages from the Constitution in civics class. (grin)

Lenny:

I think there is no hope left.

Fortunately there are many other countries than the US of A in the world. I live in one of those other countries, we still have hope. You can always leave if it gets too much for you.

'Rev Dr Lenny Flank Wrote:

Heck, in one of our most recent elections, the guy who got the most votes, LOST.

Lenny, didn’t anyone explain our electoral process to you? This isn’t the first time it happened…

Scott, I’ll buy that.

It just seems like, if we take the constitutional literalists’ advice about establishment, then there is no point in being a citizen of the United States in addition to a citizen of one’s particular state. The federal government prohibits itself from establishing a national religion, but the states are free to establish state religions, and it seems the only recourse is to move.

That doesn’t seem very consistent with the American spirit of freedom. Then again, neither was institutional slavery or the disenfranchisement of women. I’m certainly glad that the law has been expanded over the years to better embody that spirit.

And considering that clause of the Texas constitution, the prevailing prejudices against atheists and homosexuals, etc., the task is far from finished.

Lenny:

“I think there is no hope left.”

I often feel that way myself. However, I also remember that these things are cyclical and that people have been bemoaning the end of democracy in America since the early 1800’s, if not earlier.

This too will pass, even though it may hurt like hell while passing.

nobody has said a peep of protest

now, now, you know that is a gross exageration. In fact, why would there be such a large movement of folks calling all the protesters “commie-pinko, anti-US liberal faggots” if there weren’t, uh, protesters.

Fortunately there are many other countries than the US of A in the world. I live in one of those other countries, we still have hope. You can always leave if it gets too much for you.

I prefer to stand and fight.

But a note to the rest of the world —- PLEASE stop us before it’s too late. You are next.

Lenny, didn’t anyone explain our electoral process to you?

Sure, it’s simple. “Rich people win. Poor people don’t.”

This isn’t the first time it happened…

I do hope it will be the last. It’s absurd for the US to puff out its chest about “democracy” when no one in the US even actually votes for President.

That doesn’t seem very consistent with the American spirit of freedom. Then again, neither was institutional slavery or the disenfranchisement of women. I’m certainly glad that the law has been expanded over the years to better embody that spirit.

I’m a little curious as to what Roger Rabbitt thinks about “Fourteenth Amendment Citizenship” …

I doubt anyone else here knows that that means. I’m pretty sure that Roger does.

And that would tell me all I need to know . …

Quite familiar with Amendment XIV. “All persons born or naturalized,” etc. More to the point is the clause declaring that states cannot take away rights granted by the federal government. This modifies the states rights amendments, to put it mildly.

“Originalism” always cracks me up. The men of 1787, having no idea what the world of 1897, 1997, or 2006 would look like wrote a deliberately vague and flexible document. Indeed, that’s why it has endured while more nit-picky constitutions have come and gone. The references “Harold” made to iPods and Britney Spears speak to this.

Someone I know has pointed out that the very fact that the Constitution can be amended blows “originalism” to smithereens.

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on January 1, 2006 3:46 PM.

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