Creationist Evolution in Texas: Updated

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Update above the fold

The Texas Freedom Network sent a memo to journalists and bloggers today with some additional information (original TFN blog post about the creationist claims). TFN identifies specific instances where Don McElroy McLeroy, Chair ot the Texas State Board of Education, claimed that neither he nor any member of the Board supported the teaching of intelligent design creationism and that their machinations over the science standards has nothing to do with religion. For example, McElroy McLeroy claimed

I don’t know of a single board member that has ever advocated teaching creationism, teaching ‘intelligent design’ or teaching supernatural explanations in the science classroom.

(Audio of the November 19 hearing, Committee of the Full Board Part D, at around 1 hour 45 minutes.) That’s flatly contradicted by the “Strongly Favor” responses McElroy McLeroy and the other creationist Board members gave to the Free Market Foundation’s questionnaire.

More incredible given McElroy McLeroy’s claim above, as recently as August of this year McElroy McLeroy himself explicitly argued for the inclusion of supernatural explanations in science. In an opinion piece in the Austin American-Statesman on August 2. 2008, McElroy McLeroy argued (pdf):

For the supernaturalist, the phrase ‘natural explanations’ does not just undermine his view of science but actually excludes it by definition. If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth–not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.

Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.

And so it has: McElroy McLeroy seems not to have noticed that the testable claims of supernaturalism have been uniformly contradicted by the evidence. For example, creationist claims about the age of the earth are false (McElroy McLeroy is a young earth creationist).

I can’t decide if McElroy McLeroy knows he’s lying or is simply incapable of remembering his own claim made in writing just a few months ago. But then, is anyone surprised? Lying in the service of what is perceived as a higher purpose is evident in the circles he frequents, and I suppose that after a while it becomes so routine as to be unnoticeable to oneself.

Late edit In a comment below Joshua Zelinsky notes that he blogged on another more recent McLeroy example.

Original Post below the fold

This semester I’ve been teaching an undergraduate seminar on the history of the religious and cultural controversies surrounding the theory of evolution. Over the semester we’ve been working our way through what might be called the macro-evolution of creationist positions, with the honesty and genuine scientific knowledge of a William Paley slowly giving way to the prevarications of young earth creationism of the Ken Ham variety and the obscurantist fog of the modern intelligent design movement. We’ve noted the consistency of the core arguments underlying superficial changes in terminology over the years.

It doesn’t take decades for creationist evolution to occur, though. Just today the Texas Freedom Network (TFN) unearthed a lovely example of creationist evolution playing itself out in a matter of only a few years. TFN noticed that the Free Market Foundation, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, published voter guides for the Texas State Board of Education elections over the last several election cycles. Each of the guides has information on what candidates thought about teaching evolution.

In 2002, Board candidates McElroy McLeroy (current President Chair of the BOE), Lowe, Bradley, and Leo strongly favored teaching intelligent design plainly labeled as creationism:

Creationism: Present scientific evidence supporting intelligent design, and not just evolution, and treat both theories as viable ones on the origin of life.

That’s not some wimpy “teach the controversy” copout or the critical analysis of evolution “compromise” that was pushed by the Disco Dancers in Ohio in 2002-2003. That’s the good old creationist “two models” approach.

By 2006, the voter guide shows that candidates McElroy McLeroy, Dunbar, and Mercer strongly favored something brand spanking new:

Intelligent Design: Present scientific evidence in our public schools supporting intelligent design, and not just evolution, and treat both theories as viable ones on the origin of life.

Old wine, new skins. It appears they hadn’t yet got the memo from the Kitzmiller trial.

By 2008 the transformation was complete. Candidates Leo, Bradley, Cargill, and Lowe said they strongly favored teaching

Evolution Weaknesses: Biology textbooks which do not teach both the strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution must be rejected by the Board.

So there you have it: A lovely example of evolution in action. Of course, McElroy McLeroy and his cohorts deny that they want to teach creationism, intelligent design, or anything resembling them. Nope. Not at all. As TFN notes:

An “intelligent design” supporter today is a creationist with a thesaurus.

Hat tip to Glenn Branch

(Repeated misspelling of McLeroy corrected)

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Romania Jumps the Shark from Submitted to a Candid World on December 7, 2008 5:38 AM

They had a good run. But this past week, Romania decided to abandon the teaching of evolution in its public schools, and formally adopt creationism as a key component of the curriculum. This is big news. After years of merely hypothesizing what great d... Read More

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There’s scientific evidence for Intelligent Design?

Has anyone told the people at the Discovery Institute, yet?

I’m always somewhat amazed when anti-evolutionists can Pandas And People themselves so blatantly and still think that they’re doing good, moral work by being completely dishonest.

Stanton said:

There’s scientific evidence for Intelligent Design?

Has anyone told the people at the Discovery Institute, yet?

If we did find evidence for Intelligent Design the Discovery Institute would likely oppose the evidence for some sectarian reason and would go on to deride the methodological naturalism which discovered the evidence. I have no difficulty imagining that DI members sincerely believe that science is the tool of Satan and will not trust any discipline which claims to derive any truth outside of the bible.

On an unrelated serious note.

While the TFN findings are interesting, it would be much more informative linked with a discription of the methodology FMF used to arive at their rankings. If FMF wanted to get me elected to the SBoE, would they put me down as ‘strongly favoring’ creationism despite the later stroke of rage it would cause me?

I’m don’t see how this discovery elucidates the beliefs of the school board members. Of course, I appreciate that we can document evolution of creationist rhetoric in response to court decisions.

Richard,

Does any of the material in your course explore the underlying misconceptions and misrepresentations of various fundamental scientific concepts that have flowed from creationism to the current arguments of Intelligent Design and onward to the “strengths and weaknesses” shtick?

I have found these to be among of the most interesting and unifying sets of “genes” running through the evolutionary progression of this ID/Creationist creature.

No matter what they try to throw at the public to disavow any genetic relationship to their earlier ancestors, those fundamental scientific misconceptions remain the same, and are simply reapplied to some other phenomena. They simply cannot get those scientific concepts right and still maintain sectarian dogma and their political “big tent”. They have no choice but to maintain the misconceptions and misrepresentations and hope their followers won’t notice.

Larry Bow asked

While the TFN findings are interesting, it would be much more informative linked with a discription of the methodology FMF used to arive at their rankings.

They asked the candidates. As I understand it, the opinions reported at the linked TFN post and in the voter guides linked from there were based on candidates’ responses to questionnaires sent by the FMF.

Mike Elzinga asked

Does any of the material in your course explore the underlying misconceptions and misrepresentations of various fundamental scientific concepts that have flowed from creationism to the current arguments of Intelligent Design and onward to the “strengths and weaknesses” shtick?

Sure, though we’re just getting to the latter period.

I meant the “honesty and genuine scientific knowledge” reference to Paley. He really was operating on the best scientific knowledge available at the time. But his fundamental argument – the analogy from a watchmaker – obviously tracks right through to yesterday, with no recognition on the part of the creationists that design can be accomplished by natural processes like natural selection operating on random variation. And “It’s too complicated to have evolved” showed up just as soon as Darwin published, of course.

It’s also been interesting to trace the history of the various anti-evolution organizations in the 20th century. Almost without exception they’ve been riven by theological schisms. Several collapsed on that account. And it’s apparent why. There’s no generally agreed methodology for resolving conflicts in theology. Contrast that with science, where it is agreed that the appeal is in the end to empirical evidence. Even when scientists disagree on the interpretation of currently available evidence, they will agree on the nature of new evidence that will settle the issue.

In general, the creationist organizations have tried two methods to prevent schisms. One is to enforce theological orthodoxy. So, for example, organizations like the Institute for Creation Research and the 7th Day Adventist Geosciences Research Institute have pretty strict specifications of beliefs that must be signed on to. That has resulted in ‘apostate’ members being forced out on occasion to maintain theological purity.

The other method is to consciously play for a “big tent” as the intelligent design movement has tried to do. The first to do that was the American Scientific Affiliation, which was originally founded as an anti-evolution organization, but metamorphosed into a broader membership. Now, though, it’s mainly in the progressive creationist to theistic evolutionist range. It has had young earth creationists as members – Henry Morris, for example, was an ASA member for some years before and after he founded ICR – but my impression is that most have left it. So while it wasn’t as spectacular as some of the wrecks (e.g., the Religion and Science Association lasted about a year before dissolving) even the ASA has seen schisms.

My basic contention is that if the ID movement succeeds in defeating naturalism and the Enlightenment and institute some sort of “theistic science,” the very next day the purges will begin and blood will flow in the aisles and over the pews as they fight it out over purely theological issues. Phillip Johnson thinks they’ll have a grand time debating the age of the earth. Baloney. They’ll have a bloody fight over it.

These voter guides is a fascinating study in cognitive dissonance. As another example, what is the meaning of demanding both

3. Sexual Orientation: Add a law protecting students from sexual orientation discrimination.”

and

12. Homosexuality: School counseling or teaching about homosexuality.”

Singling out a sexual behavior, such as homosexuality, conflicts with a goal of protecting from such discrimination; and proposing “counseling” for (or, more probably, against) displaying it disembowels the goal altogether.

You could claim that [some] behaviors needs extra support or information. (But what about, say, cross-dressers - or priests that sit on potatoes? :-P ) It would still conflict with the proposed law, unless it is folded into a general support or educational resource.

Weird.

[I assume the point 3, unless prompted by some genuine feelings for the general “family”, highly unlikely given the other points, is really hiding an attempt to protect the organization’s preferred sexual behavior by excluding contact with other such. But IMO it still makes it a weird list, whether based on real or proposed cognitive dissonances.]

RBH said:

The first to do that was the American Scientific Affiliation, which was originally founded as an anti-evolution organization, but metamorphosed into a broader membership.

Ah, that’s why they display so many creationist resources!

I noticed that earlier, but regarding their “about” statements was led to believe it was a religious organization where these books or “treatises” crept in through uncritical procedures of apologists. But I guess it makes sense that it could also start out as an uncritical fundamentalist organization. Either way, the “Scientific” handle is revealed as a claim to shame (as it was or is a misnomer).

djlactin said:

Shovels to get rid of them.

Man, I’m glad to live in an environment that isn’t as exuberantly productive!

Of course, sometimes when you walk in our mountains you can have your own cloud of mosquitoes, so we have our pests too.

Henry J said:

They should be called wordology and bugology

I like that!

Then you can easily split off subjects such as “weirdwordology” for funny terms (entomology, perhaps: “Etymology: French entomologie, from Greek entomon insect (from neuter of entomos cut up, from en- + temnein to cut) + French -logie -logy”; it seems to be a joke about “cut up” and insect’s three parts somewhere in there) and “bigbugology” for giant beetles.

I can think of other subjects in need of modernization as well. For example astronomy could be called “starology”, high-energy physics could be “accelerator-techno-logy” (or “acceleratorology” for short), logics should either be “logic-and-illogicology” or “yes-and-or-no-logy” - and perhaps some modern computer research should be “blogology”?

Sorry, disregard last comment; wrong window/thread.

Creationist evolution is merely in their mating displays. Beneath the surface they’re still paleocreationists. What else do they have?

Pete Dunkelberg said:

Creationist evolution is merely in their mating displays. Beneath the surface they’re still paleocreationists. What else do they have?

The unyielding truth of the written word of the King James’ Translation of the Holy Bible in face of the insidious lies of reality and science.

Good grief! Not just the three current board members but ALL the board of education candidates shown on the sample vote guide pages provided by the TFN are either undecided (U), favor (F), or strongly favor (SF) teaching creationism or evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses” in Texas public schools.

How do you get a gig like that? Now I know what I want to be when I grow up.

Hi RBH,

Just wondering if you’ve gone as far back as the 19th Century to look at American Fundamentalist Protestant Christianity’s initial reactions to Darwin and his theories of evolution? Apparently widespread opposition from these Christians didn’t occur until during World War I, as a political and cultural reaction to Imperial Germany’s atrocities committed against the Belgians and other occupied peoples.

Am delighted to see that Glenn Branch provided you with ample assistance on this.

Regards,

John

Wheels said:

I’m always somewhat amazed when anti-evolutionists can Pandas And People themselves so blatantly and still think that they’re doing good, moral work by being completely dishonest.

Thats the beauty of elections: a candidate that wants to win single issue creationist voters is likely going to have to publicly claim a pro-creatinist stance to do it. The system forces you to publish your opinion for posterity or risk losing the voters you’re trying to win.

But you may be doing them a disservice by being amazed. This is a “hindsight is 20/20” problem: while it may be clear now that advocating teaching ID was a legally bad strategy, this wasn’t clear before December 2005 (though I wonder why TFN didn’t modify their 2006 survey in, say, January 2006. Chalk it up to printing schedule?).

In order to not ‘Pandas and People’ themselves, candidates would have to be able to predict and avoid catchphrases that will prove illegal or bad strategy in the future. This is hard for anyone, but its particularly hard for creationist candidates because they have the DI sitting over their shoulder proclaiming that the current DI strategy (whatever it happens to be) is perfectly legal. Asking the DI for legal advice on an educational position is like asking a stockbroker whether its smart to put money in their latest stock choice. Whatever their past record, they’re absolutely sure this one is a lock. :)

RBH Wrote:

My basic contention is that if the ID movement succeeds in defeating naturalism and the Enlightenment and institute some sort of “theistic science,” the very next day the purges will begin and blood will flow in the aisles and over the pews as they fight it out over purely theological issues. Phillip Johnson thinks they’ll have a grand time debating the age of the earth. Baloney. They’ll have a bloody fight over it.

Indeed, the fragmentation and sectarian warfare among these various organizations seems to exactly reflect the sectarian warfare that has been going on for centuries.

One would think that someone in their organizations would notice this amazing contrast with the scientific enterprise. Apparently religious dogma clouds thinking.

As I am typing this, I am listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross on National Public Radio. She is talking with a lobbyist and a religious blogger for the evangelical movement(s). The conversation is ranging over this last election as well as the changes that seem to be taking place within these movements. There are large generation differences. But there are still theological and doctrinal links that separate them from everyone else. For example, most think President Elect Obama should stop calling himself a Christian because he doesn’t match their strict sectarian dogma.

What I find interesting is that some of these divisions within the evangelical movements seem to be strongly linked to how much in-touch with objective (scientific) reality they are. The ones that actually are aware of things like global climate change, world economics, and the findings of science tended to vote for Obama. The more traditional ones were unified by and voted for the McCain/Palin ticket.

“If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth–not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense. Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations.”

Um… exactly how does a scientist test for a supernatural explanation?

If the hypothesis is “An object at rest will remain at rest as long as Inertia, Goddess of Momentum, is appeased with a blood sacrifice,” what the heck does the lab report look like?

Science doesn’t really have a problem testing extraordinary claims. It simply hasn’t verified any. Randi’s million dollars seems safe.

Cash said:

Um… exactly how does a scientist test for a supernatural explanation?

“Science should incorporate the concept of supernatural interventions.”

“How do you define ‘supernatural interventions’?”

“Events that are absolutely and forever unexplainable by science.”

“Ah.” Just TOO easy, isn’t it?

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwin.html

Cash said: If the hypothesis is “An object at rest will remain at rest as long as Inertia, Goddess of Momentum, is appeased with a blood sacrifice,” what the heck does the lab report look like?

A lot like the intercessory prayer publications (overcomplicated studies with no control of outside variables conducted by people with questionable backgrounds), but with knives.

Science doesn’t really have a problem testing extraordinary claims. It simply hasn’t verified any. Randi’s million dollars seems safe.

What bothers me most about the pro-supernatural “science must change” arguments is that no change is necessary. This is a capitalist country. If you think you have a great idea, find an investor and go to it. No one is stopping venture capitalism in theistic science. No one is stopping private universities from doing research according to its rules (whatever they are). There’s plenty of money out there - DI spends between $1-2 million on “research” every year.

The truth is that the strongest “supporters” of theistic science don’t invest any (zero, nada, zilch) resources in it. No philosophical proof is more damning than that simple economic fact.

Cash said: If the hypothesis is “An object at rest will remain at rest as long as Inertia, Goddess of Momentum, is appeased with a blood sacrifice,” what the heck does the lab report look like?

Never mind the lab report. I want to see the grant application.

Richard B. Hoppe wrote: More incredible given McElroy’s claim above, as recently as August of this year McElroy himself explicitly argued for the inclusion of supernatural explanations in science.

I was hoping someone else would point it out because I hate to be a nit-picker, but his last name is spelled “McLeroy” not “McElroy.”

Jeremy Mohn said:

Richard B. Hoppe wrote: More incredible given McElroy’s claim above, as recently as August of this year McElroy himself explicitly argued for the inclusion of supernatural explanations in science.

I was hoping someone else would point it out because I hate to be a nit-picker, but his last name is spelled “McLeroy” not “McElroy.”

Ack. Thanks.

McLeroy has specifically mentioned creationism much more recently. Not to be too self-promotional but I discussed this in a recent blog entry: http://religionsetspolitics.blogspo[…]lure-by.html In an October 19 op-ed in the Waco Tribune on October 19th (which is now behind a paywall) he explicitly talked about challenging claims of evolution “by creationists”.

Since I don’t have a very large quote in the blog post in question and so people don’t need to go click over (although it is nice to get the traffic spike), I’m pasting below the relevant section of his op-ed:

Don McLeroy said:

Texas is adopting new science standards. Scientists representing evolutionists and calling themselves the 21st Century Science Coalition say that creationists on the State Board of Education will inject religion into the science classroom. Should they be concerned? No. This will not happen.

They also say that the board will require supernatural explanations to be placed in the curriculum. This will not happen.

The National Academy of Sciences in its recent booklet Science, Evolution and Creationism, 2008, defines science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.” This definition should be acceptable to both sides.

But, the coalition also makes claims about evolution that will be challenged by creationists.

He then goes on to list a few standard anti-evolution talking points.

Cash said:

If the hypothesis is “An object at rest will remain at rest as long as Inertia, Goddess of Momentum, is appeased with a blood sacrifice,” what the heck does the lab report look like?

Bloody.

Richard B. Hoppe Wrote:

I can’t decide if McElroy McLeroy knows he’s lying or is simply incapable of remembering his own claim made in writing just a few months ago.

Maybe this can help. Excerpt:

Following Phillip Johnson, in his talk McLeroy portrayed “intelligent design” as a “big tent,” explaining, “It’s because we’re all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you’re a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it’s all in the tent of intelligent design.” He urged his listeners, biblical inerrantists like himself, “to remember, though, that the entire intelligent design movement as a whole is a bigger tent. … just don’t waste our time arguing with each other about some of the, all of the side issues.” Yet he described theistic evolution – which is opposed to naturalism – as “a very poor option,” continuing, “no one in our group represents theistic evolution, and the big tent of intelligent design does not include theistic evolutionists. Because intelligent design is opposed to evolution. Theistic evolutionists embrace it.”

I know that I have no hard evidence (no one does when it comes to private beliefs of others), but my strong suspicion is that McLeroy is not a “biblical inerrantist” but one who believes that the masses need to be – whichever of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis it takes, as long as it rejects evolution.

Probably more than anyone outside of the DI, McLeroy has been clued in on their scam.

Joshua Zelinsky Wrote:

He then goes on to list a few standard anti-evolution talking points.

Lemme guess. He conveniently omits the refutations to those points, of which he is undoubtedly aware?

Call me a stodgy old conservative, but one would think that one who argues for “equal time” (or whatever buzzword has replaced it) would be more than glad to give the last word to those who did 99.99+% of the work.

The thread has been cleaned up and the postings by ‘PvM’ which did not originate with me have been removed. It is sad that someone has thought it necessary to ‘borrow’ someone’s alias. The management has taken appropriate actions.

Why is it that the people who moan and bitch about how “naturalistic materialism” {sic} unfairly excludes all other potential explanations, namely supernatural explanations, have absolutely no desire to learn anything in the first place?

Is talking about “the evils of naturalistic materialism” Creationist newspeak for “lobotomies for Jesus”?

Why is it that the people who moan and bitch about how “naturalistic materialism” {sic} unfairly excludes all other potential explanations,[…]

Methinks they don’t realize that “natural” has simply come to mean the phenomena that have turned out to be testable. It wasn’t an a priori exclusion of anything; essentially, if something is testable, then that something is effectively natural; any exclusion is due to lack of testability, not to any presumed status as supernatural.

Henry

FL said:

My basic contention is that if the ID movement succeeds in defeating naturalism and the Enlightenment and institute some sort of “theistic science,” the very next day the purges will begin and blood will flow in the aisles and over the pews as they fight it out over purely theological issues.

Whoa, whoa there. Just now seeing this statement, and yes I am surprised to see it, even though this is PandasThumb.

I for one, would like to see some peer-reviewd social-science research that actually supports this kind of alarmist rhetoric.

FL

Read the history of religiously-based “scientific” organizations. Start with the Religion and Science Association (crashed and burned over theological issues) and the Deluge Geology Society (ditto). There is not a single one that has survived without either (a) rigidly enforcing theological commitments (e.g., ICR, AIG, Geoscience Research Institute) or (g) informally evolving to what amounts to an association of evolutionary creationists and theistic evolutionists (ASA) when the young earthers migrated away to organizations like ICR over (you guessed it) theological issues.

The problem for the supernaturalists is that they have no generally accepted way of resolving conflicts except raw force or schism. So split they do, over and over. And the same will occur – ecumenism among the various stripes of creationist has never worked. The Disco Institute is young yet, and is an unstable alliance that will not last judging from the past form of such organizations. The “big tent” isn’t really big enough for all the factions currently inside it. Sooner or later the various theological positions will tear it apart. That will come when some of the “fellows” finally decide that their theology is worth more than the checks from the Disco ‘Tute.

PvM said:

The thread has been cleaned up and the postings by ‘PvM’ which did not originate with me have been removed. It is sad that someone has thought it necessary to ‘borrow’ someone’s alias. The management has taken appropriate actions.

Gack. I was out most of the afternoon and evening and didn’t see them. Sorry, Pim.

No problem we all have lives. It’s just disappointing to see how some people seem to lack a sense of decency and respect for discussion.

RBH said:

PvM said:

The thread has been cleaned up and the postings by ‘PvM’ which did not originate with me have been removed. It is sad that someone has thought it necessary to ‘borrow’ someone’s alias. The management has taken appropriate actions.

Gack. I was out most of the afternoon and evening and didn’t see them. Sorry, Pim.

Stanton said:

Why is it that the people who moan and bitch about how “naturalistic materialism” {sic} unfairly excludes all other potential explanations, namely supernatural explanations, have absolutely no desire to learn anything in the first place?

I have reflected upon this without finding any potential solution.

When I was an undergraduate (1972–1976) the humanities students would come up to science students like me and accuse us: “You’re trying to remove the wonder and poetry from the world. You’re trying to turn the whole universe into science!” I would explain: “No, not at all. There are vast domains outside of science: great questions of right and wrong, of love and hate, of justice and inhumanity, as well as little questions of whether to cook chicken or tofu for dinner tonight. These questions are forever outside the purview of science.”

And now these same sorts of incomprehending people, people like Ben Stein and John Calvert and the 2004-2005 Kansas State Board of Education, are saying “We’ve got to expand science outside of its little box of purely naturalistic answers.” To which I give the exact same reply.

Jeff said:

The powers that be have declared the acceptable view of Reality. All who dare to question or interpret differently are branded “heretic,” or worse.

The last time I was in the National Academy of Sciences building, I looked for the torture chambers where they imprisoned those who dared to question or interpret differently. I never found them, but I heard occasional muffled screams and moans so I know they’re there.

On the other hand, it could just be that they needed to maintain their heating system.

Stanton said:

Why is it that the people who moan and bitch about how “naturalistic materialism” {sic} unfairly excludes all other potential explanations, namely supernatural explanations, have absolutely no desire to learn anything in the first place?

Its not just education that suffers, work output does too. Creationists are claiming they have a superior methodology for research. A rational person making this claim would proceed to follow their own methodology to demonstrate that it produces superior results (if you know a better way to boil eggs, you use it to actually boil eggs). But in this case the reverse seems to be true - learning the ‘superior’ method of theistic science apparently reduces one’s research output to zero.

Miller’s “research” consisted of him asking his students to come up with all the things they could do with a mousetrap if they began removing parts, and they arrived at the following: – nose ring, fish hook, toothpick, tie-clip, refrigerator clip, clipboard holder, doorknocker, paperweight, kindling block, catapult, and nutcracker.

Noticeably missing from this list is MOUSETRAP. How does this fact escape an educated person involved in a scientific critique of an idea? The argument from Behe was if you take away the parts, you do not have a functioning whole…which is what Miller’s “research” proves. This is a perfect example of dogma getting in the way of common sense and clear thinking. The statement on the slide says: “Individual parts of a supposedly irreducible (sic) complex machine are fully functional for different purposes.”

I just had to comment on this one … he’s falling into the same trap as Behe.

Evolution requires precursors to be functional. It does not require that function never changes. A precursor to a mousetrap that serves any function at all is a functional precursor to a mousetrap.

You should get some education before disparaging your opponents for their alleged lack thereof.

Dan said:

When I was an undergraduate (1972–1976) the humanities students would come up to science students like me and accuse us: “You’re trying to remove the wonder and poetry from the world. You’re trying to turn the whole universe into science!” I would explain: “No, not at all. There are vast domains outside of science: great questions of right and wrong, of love and hate, of justice and inhumanity, as well as little questions of whether to cook chicken or tofu for dinner tonight. These questions are forever outside the purview of science.”

And now these same sorts of incomprehending people, people like Ben Stein and John Calvert and the 2004-2005 Kansas State Board of Education, are saying “We’ve got to expand science outside of its little box of purely naturalistic answers.” To which I give the exact same reply.

I like this story and the poignant observations therein. May I use it in future discussions?

Henry J said:

It wasn’t an a priori exclusion of anything; essentially, if something is testable, then that something is effectively natural; any exclusion is due to lack of testability, not to any presumed status as supernatural.

In a sense, the supernatural, very literally by definition, excludes itself. Given some scientific mystery, the sciences ask: “We don’t know what’s going on here. What’s the explanation?”

THE EXPLANATION IS THAT IT IS SUPERNATURAL.

“So … how do you define the term ‘supernatural’?”

IT MEANS THERE IS NO TECHNICAL EXPLANATION. IT JUST MAGICALLY HAPPENED.

“Well, we don’t have an explanation now, to be sure, but are you saying we never will have an explanation? Absolutely never?”

CORRECT.

“But … how can we prove that we won’t find an explanation tomorrow, or in 10,000 years? How would we prove that?”

NOT MY PROBLEM.

“We really don’t see how this explains anything.”

IT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.

“Or maybe it just explains anything.”

INDEED. THAT’S WHY IT’S THE PERFECT ANSWER.

Of course in practice what you hear is a very waffly definition of the term “supernatural” – fuzzily confusing it with the notion of “unknown natural causes”, which is, ah, a bogus exercise.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

When I was an undergraduate (1972–1976) the humanities students would come up to science students like me and accuse us: “You’re trying to remove the wonder and poetry from the world. You’re trying to turn the whole universe into science!”

I think when that objection is made they are complaining more about understanding the universe which can make things less romantic (i.e. stars are massive balls of gas etc.) There’s a Feynman quote about this:

“What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter as if he were like a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?”

I also suspect that some people who make this sort of complaint do so also because they aren’t very good at science or don’t understand it well and so would like to condemn it.

Seems to me that if we ignored the trolls, there would be hardly any discussion at all, just a few congratulatory posts, a few thoughtful additions, and then a long string of troll-posts. Not that it would be necessarily a bad thing…

iml8 said:

In a sense, the supernatural, very literally by definition, excludes itself. Given some scientific mystery, the sciences ask: “We don’t know what’s going on here. What’s the explanation?”

THE EXPLANATION IS THAT IT IS SUPERNATURAL.

“So … how do you define the term ‘supernatural’?”

IT MEANS THERE IS NO TECHNICAL EXPLANATION. IT JUST MAGICALLY HAPPENED.

“Well, we don’t have an explanation now, to be sure, but are you saying we never will have an explanation? Absolutely never?”

CORRECT.

Hmm. Describing magical thinking as “bad theory” (i.e. no theory at all) is of course correct, but it is also unnecessary weak.

As science can’t exclude anything before observation, not even bad methods, my own description is that “magic”, potentially demonstrable exceptions from natural processes, disappeared, as if by magic, when natural philosophers started to build the more powerful testable theories. (Aka “natural theories”.)

As a certain scientific genius recently said:

“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.”

Oh, and she also said that accidentally having “toad eyes slotted into your newt eye grid” is bad.

[Actually, after hundreds of years of testable science without these putative demonstrable exceptions, it is pretty clear that there are no supernatural explanations for anything - you could say that it is a testable hypotheses on natural systems that have held up. This absence of The Dreadful Gap (as it is quite all right with the outcome “we don’t know yet” in science) is a larger empirical problem for creationist magical thinking.]

“Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.”

Oh, an Agatha Heterodyne fan! Have YOU got big points in my book! I was thinking of working that quote into my post but I couldn’t figure out how. Didja see the cute little Chibi Agatha, in a witch’s costume sitting on a pumpkin, Kaja Foglio did for Halloween?

Actually, after hundreds of years of testable science without these putative demonstrable exceptions, it is pretty clear that there are no supernatural explanations for anything - you could say that it is a testable hypotheses on natural systems that have held up.

That’s always been my puzzled rejoinder on the obligatory Darwin-basher sniping about abiogenesis: YOU HAVE NO EXPLANATION AND IT IS OBVIOUS IT ABSOLUTELY HAD TO BE A SUPERNATURAL EVENT.

“Well OK, I will admit that we don’t have a solid handle on the matter yet but I am puzzled as to why the supernatural option would be obvious. Ah, I know – it’s because of the long list of other things that have been determined to be due to supernatural causes. You’re right, you got me, with so many precedents, I would be in complete denial not to accept it.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Yet, these same people simultaneously readily dismiss supernatural explanations for less arcane topics, like gremlins impairing the function of their cars’ engines, or trusting in domovoi to make breakfast for them. iml8 said:

Actually, after hundreds of years of testable science without these putative demonstrable exceptions, it is pretty clear that there are no supernatural explanations for anything - you could say that it is a testable hypotheses on natural systems that have held up.

That’s always been my puzzled rejoinder on the obligatory Darwin-basher sniping about abiogenesis: YOU HAVE NO EXPLANATION AND IT IS OBVIOUS IT ABSOLUTELY HAD TO BE A SUPERNATURAL EVENT.

“Well OK, I will admit that we don’t have a solid handle on the matter yet but I am puzzled as to why the supernatural option would be obvious. Ah, I know – it’s because of the long list of other things that have been determined to be due to supernatural causes. You’re right, you got me, with so many precedents, I would be in complete denial not to accept it.”

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Stanton said:

Yet, these same people simultaneously readily dismiss supernatural explanations for less arcane topics, like gremlins impairing the function of their cars’ engines, or trusting in domovoi to make breakfast for them.

Well, I was a technical troubleshooter for a big corporation for a long time, and I will admit that the temptation to believe in gremlins can become overwhelmingly strong at times.

Think along the lines of Terry Pratchett’s “anthropomorphic personifications” … if reality is giving me a hard time, there’s a inclination to figure out somebody to blame it on.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Well, you’re treading dangerous water when you’re going to put your trust with domovoi: while they are very competent house spirits, they’re hypersensitive, and are infamous for murdering those who have taken them for granted in gruesome ways (either flayed with their talons or throttled)

iml8 said:

Stanton said:

Yet, these same people simultaneously readily dismiss supernatural explanations for less arcane topics, like gremlins impairing the function of their cars’ engines, or trusting in domovoi to make breakfast for them.

Well, I was a technical troubleshooter for a big corporation for a long time, and I will admit that the temptation to believe in gremlins can become overwhelmingly strong at times.

Think along the lines of Terry Pratchett’s “anthropomorphic personifications” … if reality is giving me a hard time, there’s a inclination to figure out somebody to blame it on.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Bill Gascoyne said:

Seems to me that if we ignored the trolls, there would be hardly any discussion at all, just a few congratulatory posts, a few thoughtful additions, and then a long string of troll-posts. Not that it would be necessarily a bad thing…

We should give them all one Q&A round, and hold out hope for those rare deluded but intellectually honest types who will actually consider the evidence we present. But once they start the repetition, or the wild goose chase bouncing from subject to subject, then ax em.

I find those “thoughtful additions” you mention to be frequently educational, and hope the lurkers do as well.

Wheels said:

I like this story and the poignant observations therein. May I use it in future discussions?

Certainly.

I emailed Mr. McLeroy regarding these recent comments myself. He basically said he had forgotten about those early voter’s guides. You can read more about it on my blog if interested. http://airtightnoodle.wordpress.com

Nicely done. Like you, McLeroy’s response leaves me wondering what, exactly, he was “strongly favoring” if not intelligent design.

(Actually I don’t wonder, IMO he does favor teaching ID in school and just doesn’t want to admit it. My wonder is really about how he would answer the question “so what were you strongly favoring, then?”)

Airtightnoodle said:

I emailed Mr. McLeroy regarding these recent comments myself. He basically said he had forgotten about those early voter’s guides. You can read more about it on my blog if interested. http://airtightnoodle.wordpress.com

eric said:

Nicely done. Like you, McLeroy’s response leaves me wondering what, exactly, he was “strongly favoring” if not intelligent design.

(Actually I don’t wonder, IMO he does favor teaching ID in school and just doesn’t want to admit it. My wonder is really about how he would answer the question “so what were you strongly favoring, then?”)

Thanks, Eric. You (or anyone else) is certainly welcome to take the torch and run with it and go ahead and ask McLeroy that question. Unfortunately I simply don’t have the time to pursue any lengthier conversation with him at the moment. :)

D’oh…that should say “you ARE certainly welcome”…not “you is”…gosh, I’m tired. :)

But this past week, Romania decided to abandon the teaching of evolution in its public schools

In place of evolution, kids are taught more about human ecology and the environment.

———- this is a bad thing??

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 1, 2008 9:15 PM.

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