Ecstatic because “critical analysis of X” removed from standards?


William Dembski has joined the fray at evolutionnews with the following non-sequitur:

Ecstatic because “critical analysis of X” removed from standards

Dembski Wrote:

Question: Is there any other field of inquiry — other than evolution, that is — whose advocates become ecstatic when critical analysis of its subject is suppressed?

While Dembski may not be trained in logic, the rethoric can be easily addressed by simply pointing out that people are ecstatic because yet another attempt to introduce Intelligent Design to schools has been stopped not because they object to critical thinking. History shows that the opposition was to the term “critical thinking” because it may lead to the inevitable attempt to ‘teach the controversy’ as promoted by so many ID activists. The fears were not unwarranted because soon a lesson plan emerged which used flawed, misleading or plainly wrong arguments, taken often almost verbatim from creationist resources.

Anyone familiar with science knows that science thrives on controversy and critical thinking.

If Dembski is so worried about ‘critical analysis’ being surpressed, then he would surely not object to provide links on his website to the vaste amount of criticisms of Intelligent Design which show how scientifically vacuous it is? And perhaps Dembksi would not mind addressing the many question that remain unanswered?

Perhaps Dembski can explain his position on school boards recycling the arguments from Wells’ “Icons of Evolution”, many of which have been found more than wanting by the scientific community?

So perhaps one may reverse the question as follow: Is there any science where some insist on teaching concepts or arguments which have been repeatedly shown to be scientifically incorrect, misleading or plain out wrong ?

I can’t think of any other than of course evolution, where creationists insist on ‘replacing’ science with their version of the ‘truth’?

People should really listen to the public comments made during the January 10 meeting to understand why scientists and citizens oppose the standards. Transcripts do not convey the anger in the voices of the citizens commenting on the standards.

Of course I understand the rethorical value of accusing scientists of surpressing ‘knowledge’. Politically speaking this is in line with the Wedge Strategy as outlined. But from a legal, scientific or even pedagogic perspective teach the controversy, often limited to the topic of evolution, is clearly a sham.


Judge Jones Wrote:

… , we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.


Keith Miller Wrote:

The most frustrating aspect of this for me has been the rejection of TEs (evolutionary creationists, continuous creationists) by most in the ID community. The ID supporters state that the object of their critique is materialistic philosophy and the denial of design, purpose, and meaning. Yet they reject the arguments of those like myself who have consistently argued against just such a misrepresentation of evolutionary science. It is the ID proponents who insist on labelling evolutionary theory as “Darwinism” and on defining it as implying a purposeless and meaningless process that denies God. They did this precise redefinition in Kansas against the objections of the standards revision committee, and virtually every scientific and educational organization in the state. Ironically it is the ID supporters who are fighting for an atheistic definition of evolution against the science and educational community. The only reason for this that I can see is that it gives them political leverage to include ID in the science curriculum as the counter to this atheistic science (which they themselves have inserted into the standards).

I understand that in Ohio, much of the lesson plan material came almost verbatim from Wells’ “Icons of evolution”.

Quoting from this resource, showing how the board went from ‘critically analyze’ to presenting discredited arguments lifted from “Icons of Evolution”

There was a snag, however. The following “indicator” was inserted into the standards: “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory.” Taken literally, this statement would require teaching of cutting-edge evolutionary biology. Yet many, including us, were concerned that those who are trying to force intelligent design creationism into the curriculum would claim this statement opened the gate.

So, the board clarified: “The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.”

One might have hoped the matter would have ended there. Unfortunately, this issue has come back with a vengeance. A copy of a draft curriculum approved for field-testing and public comment in the state has been leaked. The Department of Education board approved this draft in September but withheld it from public scrutiny. We now understand why.

Consider the lesson plan associated with “allowing students to critically analyze nine aspects of evolutionary theory.” One might have hoped that the students would be presented with, say, a rousing discussion of the vigorous controversy over how closely related dinosaurs are to birds.

They could then understand how predictions of evolutionary biology produced by the scientific community through decades of hard work and research have met all apparent challenges and led to substantial scientific progress.

Instead, students are required to “debate” each “challenge” as if they were in a government or English class, with some students required to take a position contradicting the results established by decades of sound science. There is little pedagogical value in requiring students to take positions that evidence has shown to be incorrect. Indeed, it is not clear that it is ethical. At the very least it would demoralize any students who took the debate seriously. Imagine forcing some young person to debate that the Holocaust never happened or that certain racial groups are inferior as a way of teaching them the fallacy of these notions.

Equally important, this process sheds no light on how “scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze” evolution. Science does not convene debates about well-established results. Rather, predictions of a theory such as evolution are compared to the data. If apparently anomalous data is uncovered, different groups of scientists will analyze and even debate it to judge if the results really are discrepant. But if they have been shown not to be, as is the case with all nine challenges promoted in the proposed curriculum, we don’t waste our time rehashing old issues. We move on. That’s how science works!

What’s more, the nine supposed “challenges” to evolution come straight out of intelligent design creationism. A main source listed in the curriculum is the discredited book “Icons of Evolution,” by the Rev. Jonathan Wells, one of the Discovery Institute authors who came to Ohio to promote teaching intelligent design.

Now that we know the ‘rest of the story’, it should be clear that Dembski’s comments have little relationship to what actually happened in Ohio.

See for instance the ‘discussion’ on homology (can anyone spot the many errors?)

Brief Challenging Sample Answer: Some scientists think similarities in anatomical and genetic structure reflect similar functional needs in different animals, not common ancestry. The nucleotide sequence of hemoglobin DNA is very similar between chimps and humans, but this may be because they provide the same function for both animals. Also, if similar anatomical structures really are the result of a shared evolutionary ancestry, then similar anatomical structures should be produced by related genes and patterns of embryological development. However, sometimes, similar anatomical structures in different animals are built from different genes and by different pathways of embryological development. Scientists can use these different anatomical structures and genes to build versions of Darwin family trees that will not match each other. This shows that diverse forms of life may have different ancestry.

Or this classic (ID) argument

No new features and no new species emerged. In addition, recent scientific articles have questioned the factual basis of the study performed during the 1950s. Scientists have learned that peppered moths do not actually rest on tree trunks.

The NCSE reports

Facing such criticisms, the proponents of the lesson plan revised it, but only cosmetically – removing the references to creationist publications and eliminating a number of the glaring errors, but leaving intact the basic structure, the choice of topics (which is indebted to the notoriously misleading Icons of Evolution), and the overall goal of instilling scientifically unwarranted doubts about evolution. Even as revised, the lesson plan (PDF) was condemned by the National Academy of Sciences and the Ohio Academy of Sciences, which told Governor Taft that it was “defective because it is not science and has no place in the science curriculum.”

According to board members of Ohio Board of Education, one of the main reasons to change their vote was the realization that an independent group of scientists had described the plan as ‘wanting’.

I have an id ea: A lesson plan which looks at the various “Icons of evolution” and show how evolutionary science explains the data, inform students about commonly flawed interpretations and expose the scientific vacuity of Intelligent Design? How quickly would such a plan end up in court, based on the argument that high schools should not be teaching religion?

Perhaps the following resource can be of help to teachers

This Review Has Three Purposes * Summarize Wells’ claims for each icon and his “10 Questions to ask your biology teacher.” * Summarize the responses from the scientific community to each icon. * Provide teachers with ideas, lessons and resources for providing their students with the background for answering Wells’ questions themselves.

Thus, when the Ohio Board of Education passed the following resolution

Here is the text of the resolution approved by the Ohio Board of Education

Resolved, that the Superintendent of Public Instruction be, and she hereby is, directed to take the following actions immediately:

1) Delete the model lesson plan, Critical Analysis of Evolution, from the state board-approved curriculum and remove its availability from print sources, technology sources, and any other Ohio Board of Education/Ohio Department of Education mechanism that makes it available for use;

2) Delete the following sentences from Grade 10 Life Science Benchmark H: “Describe how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory. (The intent of this benchmark does not mandate the teaching or testing of intelligent design.)”, and delete Indicator 23 in its entirety, and adjust all print sources, technology sources, and any other Ohio Board of Education/Ohio Department of Education documents to reflect the removal;

3) The Achievement Committee of the Sate Board of Education is charged to consider whether the deleted model lesson, Benchmark H and Indicator 23 shoud be replaced by a different benchmark, lesson, and indicator, and if so, to present any recommendation to the entire State Board for adoption;

4) Communicate the fact of the above actions to all public school superintendents and high school principals in Ohio.

it was done for solid scientific and pedagogic reasons. For the text of Benchmark H and indicator 23 and for a page linking to the controversies

The board, motivated by a letter from the Science Standards Adivisory Board revisited their decision and based on good pedagogic and scientific reasons, decided to reject Benchmark H and Indicator 23.

What was it that changed their minds? Members of the Advisory Committee showed how their initial concern that ‘teach the controversy’ would open the door to ‘Intelligent Design’, turned out to be a valid concern when the Board passed the following Lesson Plan

The former ODE science advisors noted that “such wording created an opportunity to teach creationist misrepresentations of science to Ohio’s students.” Referring to the embattled “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson adopted amid controversy in March 2004, the science content advisors told Gov. Taft “indeed, such a lesson tied to this indicator was prepared and accepted by the Ohio Board of Education in March 2004.”


Of the lesson itself, ODE’s own science standards advisory panel members said they found “it to be a pointed attempt to insert old and discredited creationist content in Ohio’s science classrooms. The pedagogy is weak at best, of negative, misleading and debilitating educational value. This lesson is devoid of scientific thinking.”

Noting that some members of the Ohio Board of Education have defended the lesson by claiming it does not contain Intelligent Design, the science advisory group observed that “while the lesson’s authors assiduously avoided using the words “intelligent” and “design,” the lesson embodies intelligent design creationism poorly concealed in scientific sounding jargon. Such cheap ploys are a disservice to Ohio’s children and an insult to the intelligence of its good citizens.”

The “teach the controversy” sham is not limited to Ohio. In South Carolina scientists and educators object to the obvious attempt to open up the door to Intelligent Design Creationism

Most scientists and science educators say “critically analyze” is surrogate language for instruction emphasizing “intelligent design,” whose believers credit a larger intelligence — perhaps a divine hand — with influencing the diversity of life.

Tenenbaum urged the EOC on Monday to reject the adopted recommendation crafted as a compromise by businessman Bob Staton of Lexington.

“‘Critically analyze’ is not just wordsmithing,” Tenenbaum said. “It carries with it a whole campaign against evolution.”

Judge Jones’ findings should have been a warning. Guess the ‘Dover trap’ has been set in yet another state.


I registered at UD and twice posted to that thread that “critical analysis of evolution” wasn’t surpressed - It was a piece of State policy that unfairly and misleadingly singled out evolution over every other scientific field that had been surpressed. Critical analysis of evolution can still be done to their heart’s content, and published in peer-reviewed journals if the criticisms hold water.

Needless to say, neither comment made it past [xxxxxx] Dave. [Needless ad homs deleted, please please please] - JJ

It does not come as a surprise to me. The rethoric is all that the ID activists have left to further their flawed ‘teach the controversy’ approach to introduce intelligent design through the back door. Exposing it, will be countered by the usual surpression of information. Ironically, these are the people that insist on teaching the controversy, as long as it suits their purposes.

If you accept a lesson plan because it says “Critical Analysis,” without checking whether it actually is critical analysis, guess what? You don’t know how to perform critical analysis.

Sigh. The name is the thing, apparently. Bill Dembski, the Aleister Crowley of Information Theory.

Um, you speak of what you very, very clearly know not doodley-squat about, Anton, in befouling the humorously playful Master Therion with a complete ass and villian like, well, ANY of the ID and Creationist mob, so leave Al Crowley out of this!


In physics, I’m sure there are several concepts that are taught wrongly on purpose, only to be superseded. The first one that comes to mind is the concept of Aether. It’s usually introduced sometime when you’re learning E&M/Relativity, and quickly destroyed by experiments that refine our worldview.

Physics is full of quick hacks and cobbled together theories that only approximate the real deal. It is useful and pedagogical to take the student through the logic of these, then show how scientists attempted to confirm them, then adapted their worldview as needed.

I have to say I’m still not convinced that it’s a good idea to wipe “critical examination of evolution” from the curriculum. This is the best chance in decades to educate both students and parents on the scientific method, and is a foot in the door for other rational/materialist explanations [the people who say evolution and Christianity can coexist are wrong, but that’s for another post].

Richard Dawkins said that no other field of science has to fight a rearguard action against the yapping terriers of ignorance. How unfortunately right he is.

It isn’t just Billy Boy’s non sequiturs that are written in jello…his life’s junk work is based on the presuppositions used to calculate the “design inference” with CSI. And as has been aptly demonstrated, those presuppositions are as wobbly as Bill Cosby’s Jell-o Jigglers.

I have to say I’m still not convinced that it’s a good idea to wipe “critical examination of evolution” from the curriculum. This is the best chance in decades to educate both students and parents on the scientific method, and is a foot in the door for other rational/materialist explanations [the people who say evolution and Christianity can coexist are wrong, but that’s for another post].

I agree, one may learn as much from the success as from the failures of science to understand its strengths and limitations. The problem is that ‘teach the controversy’ or ‘critically analyze’ is (often) a sham proposal meant to introduce teaching creationsim (ID) through the back door.

I do not believe that the term ‘critically analyze’ is needed for science to be taught as you propose.

“I agree, one may learn as much from the success as from the failures of science to understand its strengths and limitations. The problem is that ‘teach the controversy’ or ‘critically analyze’ is (often) a sham proposal meant to introduce teaching creationism (ID) through the back door.

I do not believe that the term ‘critically analyze’ is needed for science to be taught as you propose.”

In addition, it is very important to remember the age and maturity of the students this targets. They need basics, not confusion. There are some good examples of “where science was wrong once” that are quick and easy to present to kids, such as the feather and rock falling at the different rates. That is easy to present and then resolve. Another is the Phlogiston Theory, easy to explain using mass gain in combustion and the concept of gas as matter. To try to tackle with young teens some of the claims made by IDists when they know only the bare basics of evolution will overwhelm them. I can see this happening in college, where students can deal with primary literature, reviews, the concepts of a political motivation for challenging a scientific idea, etc. In high school, however, they need just the basics. The history of evolutionary theory is interesting, such as Lamarck’s “acquired characteristics”, but schools often spend so little time on evolution already, so I can’t see them putting in enough time to handle supposed “criticisms” of the theory. (which are not scientific anyway) As for the still unanswered questions of evolutionary theory (and there will always be some), I hardly think that the front edge of genetics, biogeography, microbiology and biochemistry is material for high school.

Dene wrote:

Richard Dawkins said that no other field of science has to fight a rearguard action against the yapping terriers of ignorance. How unfortunately right he is.

This isn’t true. The Kansas mob tried to delete the big bang, age of the earth and whatever else didn’t agree with their YEC beliefs from the Kansas science standards, along with references to biological evolution back in 1999.

The major irony of Dembski’s statement is that ID doesn’t even survive critical analysis by the IDiot scam artists themselves. If it had Dembski, Meyer, West et al wouldn’t have dropped ID as the Wedge and gone with the stupid “teach the controversy” creationist obfuscation scam (as the original post notes this scam uses some of the old creationist obfuscation ploys debunked 20 years ago). Any ID supporter has to face the fact that ID didn’t even survive among the IDiots, and the ID scam artists believe that the old creationist obfuscation scam (without being able to mention why they are obfuscating) is better than ID. If there was a controversy to teach, the first one would be why ID never measured up, and why they relagated ID to being a dishonest smoke screen to make it look like they have some controversy to teach.

Yes, and how about the poor climatologists whose studies on global warming is being attacked on religious, social, political, and economic grounds.

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I like your restating of Dembski’s question, PvM, but how about this one, too: “Is there any other science where people claim that nascent, unproven concepts ought to be presented to high school students to be judged?” I mean, it’s surreal.

Of course, IDists would say (and I’ve read this a couple or three times), “The Darwinist establishment blocks and brainwashes potential ID researchers, so we have to get to them young in order to plant the seeds of a future ID revolution.” Conspiracy theories are great, because they preemptively explain away any contradictory evidence. Kind of like invoking an unseen, unknowable designer.

You state, “I can’t think of any other than of course evolution, where creationists insist on ‘replacing’ science with their version of the ‘truth’?” I’d argue that creationists– depending upon the version– also seek to replace large sections of geology and physics, and even history.

Seems like the same old game. Let’s rename creationist dogma “science”, so long as our funding source knows what we’re talking about, so that we can claim schools are refusing to teach science. If the courts make that illegal, rename the doctrine “critical analysis”, let the funding sources know what that means, and claim schools are prohibiting critical analysis. We already tried calling it “freedom of speech” and that didn’t fly.

It’s not that this game is actually fooling anyone, rather the goal is to provide plausible deniability to anyone in authority who WANTS to be fooled (i.e. Scalia). The underlying task is to get such people elected, or elect people who will appoint them, as necessary. Dembski is reading from the script, with a target audience of voters.

Climatology, Forestry, fisheries biology, Air/water Quality Data, economics that argues with Freidman, the list goes on. It is disturbing the parallels with AMericas gov’t No?

Hmmm. I just noticed I was writing like PhishyPhred. Oh well, someone else might be able to add to this list.

Ohio Sends Postcard to Jed Horse

On the “Intelligent Design the Future” website there is a piece titled “Horse Sends Postcard (from Cancun) to Ohio Citizens for Science” ([…]nc.html#more).

Here is a reply:

Stopping by the barn the other day, I was asked to take a postcard to the mailbox. It read: Jed, why the heck are you off in Cancun?! I hope that “filly” you say you’re with isn’t Dawn again. She’s no filly: she’s a real fossil! Her family name’s Equidae or Hyracotherium (I’ve heard her called both; forget which is the actual family name). You are millions of years ahead of her, and not at all compatible. Even that Mexican cutie Dinohippus isn’t your type.

We still have to repaint the repaired barn door. It still says “Ohio” above the door in those huge letters, but the “1803-2003” got destroyed. Somebody spray-painted “Long Live Paley’s Design, No to Darwin’s Temple of Nature” over the date 1803. Such silliness… if they want to diss Darwin’s theory they should at least understand it first. That was Grandpa Darwin in 1803, not even the real Darwin. They don’t understand evolution at all! Peter Gordon knew better.

I appreciate your offer to pay for repairs to the barn door, but I’m still trying to understand how it got busted. Whoever did it actually tore down not only the door but a section above the door as well. They must have drug something tall into that barn!

Anyway, the door is fixed, and finally locked. Last night, when I checked, I didn’t have the key, so I peeked into a window. It was dark inside, but I saw a large figure next to a pile of forage. Looked too big to be a horse, and was bear-like in shape. So I shouted out “Who are you?” and heard what sounded like “Neigh-Neigh.” That’s horse talk all right, but it still sounded funny—like a Chinese accent. (Is it a name, maybe?) The big critter then ambled over to the window, completely blocking the light; all I could see was its front paw, which didn’t look like a hoof, but more like a carnivore paw, except that it had a kind of funny extra thumb. Did you invite anybody suspicious into the barn before you left?

So, Jed, come back to Ohio. You’re a farm animal, not a Mexican race-horse. You can’t just paint yourself a different color, or re-label yourself. Sometimes disguises just don’t work. You can try to assume a new identity, but your ID may leave a paper trail showing its origin. And it is impossible to hide the signs of your evolutionary history, and your family breeding as a draft animal. Even your unguarded comments may betray your origin, as when Liza Doolittle blurted out—in full Cockney—-at the Ascot Races to her horse, “Dover, move your bloomin’ arse!” Dover turned out to be a very important lesson! And you’ve still got ticks, Jed! They need to be removed; a tick bite can be the thin edge of the wedge leading to serious disease. Here at Ohio State we’ve got some of the leading experts in this, but what are they gonna do in Cancun?—-outdated science, or some supernatural quack remedy?

That’s the postcard. It’s dated “Ides of ODE” and addressed to “Jedidian Horse, Cancun Mexico.” Wondering who Jedidian Horse is, I googled the internet and found several entries. He is listed as a creationist scientist (1761-1826) on a number of creationist websites, including Answers in Genesis (though AiG has since changed theirs). The name is in fact an amusingly garbled version of “Jedidiah Morse,” the minister, geographer, and father of Samuel Morse. Typical creationist research.

When I got to work yesterday (I’m a reference librarian), a bright, science-curious 16-year-old public high school student came in seeking help. He found two books on our shelves, one advocating Intelligent Design, and—right next to it—a book refuting ID. He said he heard on the Internet that he wasn’t allowed to discuss the first book in science class. I assured him this was erroneous; that nothing in Ohio law or state education policy prevented mere discussion of controversial ideas. Where do people get these ideas?

I do not believe that the term ‘critically analyze’ is needed for science to be taught as you propose.

I don’t have a problem with that term – I have a problem with lying about what the term, ‘critically analyze,’ means. ID arguments do not really ‘critically analyze’ evolution. They set up straw men and tear them down. It’s not the phrase ‘critically analyze’ that’s the problem, it’s what they’re trying to hide underneath that label.

It seems to me that a really good way to teach evolution would be to teach kids what’s wrong with ID and compare and contrast. I think we have to acknowledge that kids are going to be coming to school with ID concepts already in their heads and we will have to deal with them.

There are a number of laughable ironies here.

First of all, Dembski’s site is the ultimate example of actual rejection of critical analysis. All skeptical comments are literally censored out!

Second of all, whenever science is taught, evidence and deduction are discussed. There is ALWAYS an implicit critical analysis, just by virtue of the fact that evidence is presented. It’s customary to compare the theory of evolution to so-called “Lamarckism”, as an alternate view. However, while “Lamarcksim” may be an ill-named straw man position, it is a view that many people tend to sincerely hold, and it is more or less a testable hypothesis (“Lamarckism” refers to the idea, expressed in modern terms, that the germline DNA of an organism can mutate in highly specific ways in response to environmental conditions, so that offspring will be more “adapted” - a longshoreman’s germline DNA might mutate specifically to promote stronger muscles in his offspring, for example).

However, singling out one area of science for special “criticism” is silly and disingenuous. Such language should, of course, be deleted from standards.

It seems that someone wants to start the “evolution and Christianity are not compatible” fight yet again. Instantly revealing him or herself as either an obsessive, proseletyzing, “fundamentalist atheist”, or a stealth creationist. Far more likely the latter. A fundamentalist atheist would usually declare that “science” or “reason” was incompatible with Christianity. Specific use of the term “evolution” points to stealth creationism.

Over on the “Flock of Dodos” thread, someone commented:

Finally it’s important to avoid making this a liberal/conservative deal.

… which reminded me of a point I meant to highlight.

I’m pretty sure that all 3 of the board members most active in challenging the DI on this are Republicans.

(You might think that, in Ohio, that’s not much more surprising than the fact that they’re all mammals. But in fact, I believe there are a few non-Republicans. In the end, they too voted for sanity, but they didn’t take the initiative.)

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on February 17, 2006 12:18 PM.

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