Freshwater Day 10: The History of Creationism

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Day 10 of the Freshwater hearing was devoted entirely to direct and cross examination of Dr. Patricia Princehouse. Princehouse is a lecturer in philosophy and evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University. She has degrees in anthropology (B.S.) and biological anthropology (M.S.), and earned a doctorate in the history of science from Harvard. At Harvard she studied with (among others) Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, and she also did some field work with the Leakeys in Africa.

Princehouse’s testimony covered two main topics. First she provided a detailed analysis of several handouts and a video that have been entered into evidence and were allegedly used by Freshwater in his 8th grade science class. Second, she gave a substantial overview of the history of creationism.

This report will be relatively brief because parts of my notes are fragmentary; I watched Princehouse’s powerpoints too attentively and didn’t always take good notes. Fortunately, she was good enough to send me her ‘history of creationism’ slides. So I’ll be summarizing some stuff rather than giving a blow-by-blow description ot her testimony on direct examination. See also Pam Schehl’s story in the Mount Vernon News.

More below the fold

Princehouse direct examination

Under direct examination Princehouse first walked the hearing through handouts, the “giraffe” handout, the “woodpecker” handout, and the “Dragon” handout. Analyzing each item in turn, she showed that they misrepresent evolutionary theory in that the first two in particular suggest that an animal (yes, it used the singular) had to “realize” or “decide” to evolve in order to adapt. That is, they attributed conscious intentions to giraffes and woodpeckers, and claimed that their intentions were causal variables in evolution. She identified their apparent source as the All About God site that Charles Adkins testified the day before that he and Richard Cunningham had also identified as the source. Princehouse concluded that she could see no valid pedagogical reason for using the handouts. Referring to a question on the worksheet about “ID”, Princehouse said it was a theological concept and not a scientific concept.

She also had reviewed the Watchmaker video, and quoted William Paley’s famous ‘watch on a heath’ paragraph to show the antiquity of that argument. She also concluded that it was pure creationism, and identified the source as the ‘kids4truth’ creationist site.

Princehouse also reviewed Jonathan Wells’ “Survival of the Fakest” document used by Freshwater, and came to the same conclusion, identifying it as a summary of Wells’ equally deficient book Icons of Evolution. It’s worth noting that Freshwater used the same article as part of his supporting material when he unsuccessfully tried to get the Board of Education to incorporate ID creationism into the science curriculum in 2003.

Asked by David Millstone, the Board’s attorney, what characteristics genuine scientific theories have, Princehouse testified that they propose natural causes for natural phenomena, they propose testable hypotheses, they address ‘how’ questions rather than ‘why’ questions, seek proximate causes rather than ultimate causes, and are subject to Occam’s Razor.

Princehouse testified that the apparent source of a number of the documents and videos shw was asked to review was various creationist sites. Specifically, she quoted Jonathan Wells’ Father’s words statement for why he got his biology Ph.D. She identified the author of Refuting Evolution, a book observed in Freshwater’s room, as Jonathan Sarfati, a young earth creationist. She Identified Kent Hovind, whose video “Lies in the Textbooks” was found in Freshwater’s room, as a young earth creationist.

Princehouse then gave a roughly 45 minute talk, with powerpoint, on the history of creationism. She began with the discovery of deep time, citing Hutton’s famous remark “No vestige of a beginning, no prospect of an end.” She outlined the two main Christian apologetic attempts to reconcile Scripture with deep time, gap theory and day-age theory. Gap theory is the view that there is an indefinitely long interval between Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”) and Genesis 1:2 (“The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”) Day age theory doesn’t interpret the “days” of creation as literal 24-hour days, but rather treats them as indefinitely long periods on the “a thousand years is as a day” mention in Peter. She also briefly noted the ‘appearance of age’ argument, better know as the Omphalos notion.

Foreshadowing a more detailed history to come, Princehouse described the the rise of young earth creationism in the U.S., describing Henry Morris’ founding of the Institute for Creation Research. Morris was heavily influenced by George McCready Price, a Seventh Day Adventist “geologist” who almost single-handedly kept the YEC fires burning during the first half of the 20th century. She noted that ICR’s dominance has been challenged of late by creationist organizations with different creationist philosophies, including the Discovery Institute, Reasons to Believe, and Answers in Genesis.

She then described Progressive Creationism and Theistic Evolution. Progressive creationism accepts deep time and the succession of species, but invokes special creation to account for the appearance of new species. Theistic evolution sees new forms as deriving from old, accepting most of modern evolutionary biology, but in various forms invokes something like front-loading, or perhaps God intervened at some point specifically in the human lineage. She noted that the vast majority of religious working scientists in the U.S. are theistic evolutionists of some sub-variety.

Finally, she mentioned the old ‘Satanic tampering’ view, which acknowledged the appearance of deep time and evolutionary progression, but attributed that appearance to the machinations of Satan. (See Lewis Black’s NSFW video for a contemporary version.)

Quoting St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great from the 4th century, Princehouse explained that theologians had long ago thought that Genesis could not be taken literally. She also quoted Martin Luther to that effect.

Princehouse then gave a capsule history of creationism from the mid-19th century to the present. She covered the accommodations reached with deep time and evolution by late 19th century Christians, the publication of The Fundamentals in the early 20th century, the rise of young earth creationism and Flood geology with its roots in Seventh Day Adventist literalism as interpreted by George McCready Price. Ellen White, prophetess of Adventism, once claimed to have had a vision in which she was supposedly transported back to creation week and claimed that it was in fact a single week of 24 hour days. Price took White’s visions nearly as seriously as he took the Bible.

She covered the evolution of creationism, as first prohibition of teaching evolution was struck down in 1968 in (Epperson v. Arkansas, then equal time requirements were struck down in 1987 in Edwards v. Aguillard, and finally intelligent design creationism getting smacked down in 2005 in Kitzmiller v. Dover. She showed the famous search and replace graph from Barbara Forrest’s Kitzmiller testimony.

In a very telling moment, she quoted a sentence from Judge Jones’ decision:

It is ironic that these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks.

She left that slide up for several delicious moments.

She showed Dembski’s “Intelligent design theory is the logos theology of John’s gospel rewritten in the idiom of information theory” quotation, and quoted Phillip Johnson’s quotation about the strategy of the ID movement:

The objective [of the Wedge strategy] is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to ‘the truth’ of the Bible and then ‘the question of sin’ and finally introduced to Jesus. (From Church and State Magazine, 1999.)

Princehouse cross examination

R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s attorney, first asked Princehouse if she was aware of the context in which Freshwater used the handouts. She replied that she was asked to evaluate their content. Hamilton asked if there was any other information that would have been useful to her. She replied that she had some other information, that the handouts had been used in class.

(Parenthetical note: This question, along with some others asked of previous witnesses) is apparently aimed at introducing the notion that the witnesses don’t know how Freshwater actually used the material, and – this is implicit, not explicit – that he might have been using creationist material in order to show its invalidity. That’s pretty weak on several counts, most notably that previous testimony had established that Freshwater used the handouts, which were “fill in the blanks” worksheets, as “bell ringers” – something to zoom through when there were only a few minutes until the end of class bell rings. That gives no time for any context to be established by the teacher. I suspect we’ll hear more of this when Freshwater’s case in chief is put on after the Board’s case is concluded.)

Hamilton asked if Princehouse had reviewed previous testimony in the case. She replied that she had, that she’d read some things about it. Hamilton didn’t pursue this line of questioning. (Afterward Patricia told me it was my Panda’s Thumb posts that she’d read, along with some newspaper articles on the hearing. And I can call her “Patricia”: I’ve known her for 5 years in the context of the Ohio State BOE wars.)

Hamilton asked if her presentation of the history of creationism was a red herring. She replied it was not. He asked if it is possible she doesn’t know the full context. She replied that she doubts that anyone ever knows the full context (emphasis in her vocalization).

Hamilton asked if she knows more about the issue than Freshwater. I didn’t hear her reply.

Hamilton remarked that she seemed heavily invested in this issue, and asked if one has to admit to potential personal bias in order to have a rational discussion of evolution. She responded that was the case for any rational discussion.

Hamilton asked if the several handouts could be considered to be metaphysical statements. After some back and forth about what “metaphysical” means in this context the question sort of got lost; at least I never heard it actually answered.

Hamilton asked if one’s worldview affects one’s acceptance of science. Princehouse agreed that it does. Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview. Again, Princehouse agreed that it can. (This, of course, is the great fear of creationists: that children will learn a new “worldview” if they learn science or if science can’t be discredited. That’s Freshwater’s core strategy: discredit science so children won’t leave the fundamentalist religion of their fathers.)

We spent a little time on concrete and abstract thinking. Recall that Joseph Faber, expert witness on Day 9, raised that distinction in cross examination.

Princehouse had mentioned some time in her testimony that she had visited a creationist museum called Truassic Park with students from her history of science course at Case. Hamilton asked if direct exposure other views is educationally beneficial. She agreed that it was. Hamilton asked if she took students in her evolution course to Truassic Park. She replied only if they also happened to be in her history of science course, that she didn’t specifically take the evolution class. (I’ve been to Truassic Park. Several of us from Ohio Citizens for Science, including Patricia, went there on a ‘field trip’ several years ago. It has some of the hoariest chestnuts of creationism there are, including (IIRC) some of Ed Conrad’s “Man Older Than Coal!” claims. Old timers in this game will remember Ed and the late lamented Internet Infidels “Ed Thread” with … erm … amusement). Anyway, this question is again laying a basis for the notion that Freshwater may have been using the creationist materials merely to illustrate bad science.

Hamilton asked if the various handouts were not found on the same creationist site. Princehouse agreed that they were not. He asked if they are religious in nature. Princehouse replied that they are. He asked if they were created to attack evolution, and she replied that they were apparently designed “to discourage people from taking evolution seriously.”

Hamilton asked if Princehouse had ever considered that the materials were intended to challenge creationism or evolution or to illustrate the approach. She replied perhaps in a history or philosophy of science course.

Redirect

On redirect Millstone asked Princehouse to describe the Tuskegee experiment (that had been mentioned earlier in connection with “bias”). She provided a capsule description of that case (see here for that sad and unjustifiable story).

Millstone asked whether hydrosphere theory was a young earth creationist notion. Princehouse replied that it is, that it’s linked with Flood geology.

There was no recross.

The hearing adjourned until Wednesday, Jan 14. We’re scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, and it is certain the hearing won’t conclude Friday unless Freshwater throws in the towel, which is a very low probability event. Hence we’ll be going on past Friday of this week.

41 Comments

If the board is going to have key players as expert witnesses, what are the chances that Freshwater will be parading some creationist celebs? Could end up being the closest we’ll ever see Dembski debating Dr. Princehouse. Maybe they’ll show the “Inner Lives of a Cell” clone. Or maybe all the rats have already bailed on this one like Dover. This is the same anticipation I have for the last episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Just how disappointed am I going to be.

Come now, do you really expect to see any of the ID “key players” taking the stand? Unlike actual scientists, they seem allergic to having their views exposed in the full light of day.

No, there won’t be any creationists put on the stand.

Those Darwin-bashers who actually have a clue know that (a) Freshwater is toast and (b) he’s more useful as a martyr, anyway. They won’t lift a finger for him, any more than the DI did for the Dover School Board. Betcha they’re already cranking up the noise machine about how he’s been expelled, sob, the evilootionists have trampled his rights, boo hoo, he only tried to be true to his faith, waah.

On the other hand, the rubes who don’t have a clue won’t be there, either. They have only one role in the creationist movement, which is to send money, and in any case no defence attorney in his right mind would let any of the real mouth-breathers within a mile of the witness stand.

It’d be fun, mind you, but it isn’t going to happen, unless they actually do go barking mad. Which may indeed be possible, in fact.

I found this little gem Richard, posted by a cretin on the UK’s Premier Radio forum:

http://agoodchoice.blogspot.com/200[…]shwater.html

Following the election of a devoted and dedicated Marxist to the office of president [ see how many days remain until Obama leaves office: http://obamaclock.org/ ],

The President of the United States a commie ? God Forbid, and I thought McCarthyism had died out a long time ago.

Also:

Both the largely liberal Columbus Dispatch and the local Mount Vernon News newspapers have consistently had reporters present during the four days of hearings this week. Since I was not present I am relying on those accounts for much of the background information. One of the writers, Richard Hoppe, on the Panda’s Thumb weblog has also had a series of articles which have covered much of the hearings. He has also been present during the hearings.

This case is all about whether our government schools really want our children to learn or whether they are more interested in indoctrinating our children to a particularly politically correct, agenda-driven liberal worldview. Why else would they be so adamant in getting rid of an outstanding teacher, one who was loved by his students and one who in turn loved his students? Why is it seemingly illegal or “’disastrously unfair’ to science students” or “very damaging to learning process” or “damaging to science education” to challenge or even question the deeply flawed theory of evolution in the public classroom? The movie, Expelled, sheds light on the answer to that question.

I thought the case against Freshwater was primarily about him using an electro-static device to burn what looked like a cross, on a number of students arms ?The fact that he’s a YEC has really just come out in the wash.

Okay, another one for the list. Apparently attempted mutilation of your students makes you an “outstanding teacher”. Who knew?

Mike Wrote:

Could end up being the closest we’ll ever see Dembski debating Dr. Princehouse.

To date I have not seen any comment from Demsbki or any other DI person about this case. I keep checking ID sites (whatever I can find quickly) and “asking around” (like here, hint, hint…) but there seems to be dead silence.

I suppose that the DI might offer vague support of Freshwater after the verdict, but right now I think the DI wants to distance itself as much as possible from such blatant promotion of Biblical creationism (apparently Freshwater has no problem promoting YEC and OEC, despite contradictions).

Remember that Dembski even ducked Dover, which was about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of creationism that he does endorse.

Richard:

You point out that you and Patricia Pricehouse have been active for a long time in the “Ohio State BOE wars”. I have a question arising from that 2002 matter.

In that matter, the group “Science Excellence for All Ohioans” argued for the “teach the controversy” approach.

I remember reading a newspaper article (perhaps from an Akron area newspaper? – I’m not sure) back in 2002 that Dr. Robert P. Lattimer, founder of SEAO, initially got involved in curricular matters when he noticed that his grandchildren were being taught American history with a “think about it yourself” approach. Lattimer said that they ought to be taught using a “great men,” and “America is always right” approach.

I’d like to be able to cite this as an example of Lattimer’s fundamental dishonesty: Where there isn’t a controversy, he wants to “teach the controversy.” Where there is a controversy, he wants to indoctrinate into one side only.

But now I can’t find the article that I recall. Do you know anything about this?

See it and spread the news: MAJERUS, M. E. N. Industrial Melanism in the Peppered Moth, Biston betularia: An Excellent Teaching Example of Darwinian Evolution in Action. Evolution: Education and Outreach. In: ://www.springerlink.com/content/h7n4r6h026q1u6hk/fulltext.html>

… no defence attorney in his right mind would let any of the real mouth-breathers within a mile of the witness stand.

And yet, doubtless Freshwater will testify.

Richard’s accounts are excellent and I thank him for the time he’s taken to attend the hearings and to produce highly comprehensible reports on them. It also would be fun to have a transcript of Freshwater’s testimony and cross because there is something I find particularly delicious about the slow-unfolding of disaster, as at Dover.

Peter Henderson said:

I found this little gem Richard, posted by a cretin on the UK’s Premier Radio forum:

http://agoodchoice.blogspot.com/200[…]shwater.html

Following the election of a devoted and dedicated Marxist to the office of president [ see how many days remain until Obama leaves office: http://obamaclock.org/ ],

The President of the United States a commie ? God Forbid, and I thought McCarthyism had died out a long time ago.

That blog has a link to http://supportfreshwater.com/ where they will forward your letters of “support” to Freshwater. What to say, what to say.

Frank J said:

Mike Wrote:

Could end up being the closest we’ll ever see Dembski debating Dr. Princehouse.

To date I have not seen any comment from Demsbki or any other DI person about this case. I keep checking ID sites (whatever I can find quickly) and “asking around” (like here, hint, hint…) but there seems to be dead silence.

I suppose that the DI might offer vague support of Freshwater after the verdict, but right now I think the DI wants to distance itself as much as possible from such blatant promotion of Biblical creationism (apparently Freshwater has no problem promoting YEC and OEC, despite contradictions).

Remember that Dembski even ducked Dover, which was about the “don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of creationism that he does endorse.

In 2003 Benjamin Wiker, a senior fellow of the Disc ‘Tute, came to a Mt. Vernon BOE meeting to support Freshwater’s proposal to include ID creationism in the science curriculum. His main contribution was to flourish a stack of papers that are the Disco ‘Tute’s Bibliography of Supplementary Resources for Science Instruction first introduced by Meyer and Wells in March of 2002 at the panel discussion at the Ohio State Board of Education. Wiker then identified himself as a fellow of the Disco ‘Tute. He’s in Ohio, so I suppose it’s possible he’ll surface at the hearing.

Dr. Patricia Princehouse = Total smack down. BAM! (I think I have a new role model - Sorry PvM -)

In Canada, Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry is a military regiment.

In Ohio, Dr. Patricia brings the heavy artillery.

Nothing like an open presentation of the history of creationism to show the game for what it is. Keeping Judge Jones’ quote about lying and covering tracks up for the audience to savour is priceless.

RBH, thanks for another great post!

RBH Wrote:

Wiker then identified himself as a fellow of the Disco ‘Tute. He’s in Ohio, so I suppose it’s possible he’ll surface at the hearing.

Thanks!

I’m not surprised that the DI would supply material to anyone who wants to teach “something other than evolution.” But I’d love to hear what Wiker (or any DI fellow) says about how Freswater handled that and other anti-evolution material. As well as the “X” on the student’s arm.

Truassic Park

You have logged on to the official website for Akron Fossils & Science Center and Truassic Park.

Fossils! Science! It all sounds so educational, and so sciency.

We are a museum and science center devoted to teaching Creation Science and Intelligent Design models in contrast to Evolutionary models.

Or maybe not.

gabriel said:

In Canada, Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry is a military regiment.

In Ohio, Dr. Patricia brings the heavy artillery.

Nothing like an open presentation of the history of creationism to show the game for what it is. Keeping Judge Jones’ quote about lying and covering tracks up for the audience to savour is priceless.

RBH, thanks for another great post!

My one regret about that incident is that Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, had an asthma attack and had to leave the hearing room before it went up on the screen.

RBH said: My one regret about that incident is that Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, had an asthma attack and had to leave the hearing room before it went up on the screen.

Are you sure it was asthma and not a fit of conscience?

Paul Burnett said:

RBH said: My one regret about that incident is that Freshwater’s pastor, Don Matolyak, had an asthma attack and had to leave the hearing room before it went up on the screen.

Are you sure it was asthma and not a fit of conscience?

Naw, it’s genuinely asthma.

Maybe a Thesma re-coil? :-)

I confess to some consciencefucion here. Amongst the posts on PandaThumb is another one on Freshwater Sticklebacks. Is that just one more case of mistaken intelligence? Or does the boney armor protect the poor fish against eviltricity?

RBH said:

Paul Burnett said: Are you sure it was asthma and not a fit of conscience?

Naw, it’s genuinely asthma.

Asthma is just another of the many examples of unintelligent design.

Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview. Again, Princehouse agreed that it can.

In my experience it didn’t. But then, I’ve never been a young Earth creationist. I’ve been told often enough though, that science makes no statements on the supernatural.

I would also add that it was the geology I learned at school, from a very enthusiastic teacher, that has prevented me from becoming a YEC:

http://www.habitas.org.uk/es2k/brea[…]stnews7.html

Brian Black then provided a fascinating account of his uncle Herbert, from a family perspective. Instead of the driving (and drinking) force remembered by many Society members, Brian gave us an insight into a still more eccentric character - someone apparently capable of ‘selling the family silver’ to pay for his legendary summer-long trips to the Alps with his wife Pauline. Brian also seemed somewhat daunted by the prospect of receiving back the residue of Herbie’s vast collection of 35mm colour slides, now that the Ulster Museum has completed its selection and cataloguing of some 16,000 images.

The early success of the Belfast Geologists’ Society was due mainly to the work of a remarkable individual - Herbert S Black. ‘Herbie’ was a schoolmaster by profession and it is no exaggeration to say that the Society was his whole life. For nearly four decades he ran the Society almost single-handedly. Herbie was not only a wonderful organiser but also a character in every sense. Anyone who ever met Herbie - whether a member of the Society or one of his pupils at Belfast Model or Annadale - acquired a fund of Herbie anecdotes

Peter Henderson said:

Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview. Again, Princehouse agreed that it can.

In my experience it didn’t. But then, I’ve never been a young Earth creationist. I’ve been told often enough though, that science makes no statements on the supernatural.

I don’t think its just about supernatural beliefs. I think its also about teaching a non-authoritarian method of learning. Teaching a kid that they can use empirical observation to evaluate the truth of an authoritative written statement is far more devastating to fundamentalism, in the long run, than simply disputing the factual truth of some specific fundamentalist claim.

Learning and experience in general ought to influence how one views the world, unless it’s genetic to some extent. We all know the same family’s children can have such different personalities, including attraction or not to authoritarianism and fixed answers. Sometimes you’d almost think it’s due to different alleles, but I’ve never heard of Mendelian data supporting this. It must be some hard to spot environmental influence, unless it’s polygenic.

What a stupid question:

Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview.

That’s kinda the point of education, isn’t it?

GuyeFaux said:

What a stupid question:

Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview.

That’s kinda the point of education, isn’t it?

That’s my (world)view. :)

RBH Wrote:

In 2003 Benjamin Wiker, a senior fellow of the Disc ‘Tute, came to a Mt. Vernon BOE meeting to support Freshwater’s proposal to include ID creationism in the science curriculum. His main contribution was to flourish a stack of papers that are the Disco ‘Tute’s Bibliography of Supplementary Resources for Science Instruction first introduced by Meyer and Wells in March of 2002 at the panel discussion at the Ohio State Board of Education.

Oy vay! Not that bibliography!, which the NCSE analysis of 2002 noted:

NCSE sent a questionnaire to the authors of every publication listed in the Bibliography, asking them whether they considered their work to provide scientific evidence for intelligent design.”[5] None of the 26 respondents (representing 34 of the 44 publications in the Bibliography) did; many were indignant at the suggestion.

Even more interesting is that the 2004 DI article about it that you cited says:

The publications are not presented either as support for the theory of intelligent design, or as indicating that the authors cited doubt evolution.

What are the odds that that disclaimer was added in response to the analysis? I could not find the original bibliography, nor did I see any acknowledgement of NCSE’s analysis in the 2004 version. And what are the odds that Freshwater read and understood that disclaimer?

As usual, I don’t want RBH to take any time away from his excellent work to pursue this tangent, but some of the rest of you might be interested.

Paul Burnett said:

RBH said:

Paul Burnett said: Are you sure it was asthma and not a fit of conscience?

Naw, it’s genuinely asthma.

Asthma is just another of the many examples of unintelligent design.

No Kidding! (I’m an asthma sufferer.) But sometimes emotional issues can trigger asthma attacks. I wonder if an overload of cognitive dissonance might do the same?

Athsma attacks may be triggered by anxiety. Indeed, it’s a common cause.

If I were the pastor of an evangelical church, but I’d accidentally acquired an education somewhere (yes, I know it’s unlikely, but some of these guys actually read stuff, and some have been to a real college; work with me here) the sight of an actual scholar on the witness stand would certainly make me anxious. Avoidance behaviour would, most likely, be my only option.

GuyeFaux said: What a stupid question:

Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview.

That’s kinda the point of education, isn’t it?

And that’s precisely why the fundagelicals are so terrified of education, and precisely why they go to such great efforts to sabotage it. They’re trying to cancel the Age of Enlightenment and drag everybody back to the Age of Endarkenment…er, the Dark Ages.

Paul Burnett said:

GuyeFaux said: What a stupid question:

Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview.

That’s kinda the point of education, isn’t it?

And that’s precisely why the fundagelicals are so terrified of education, and precisely why they go to such great efforts to sabotage it. They’re trying to cancel the Age of Enlightenment and drag everybody back to the Age of Endarkenment…er, the Dark Ages.

Apparently, fundamentalists either don’t care, or think that everyone would be happier living in a time where, at most, only 1 out of every 20 persons could read and write, and that the leading causes of death were famine, disease, starvation, diarrhea, war, not being pious enough and speaking one’s mind.

Paul Burnett and Stanton:

Not to defend fundamentalism in any way, but I think that only a small minority of American fundamentalists really want to go back to a pre-Enlightenment age. The rest are just misled about the nature of science; they like the “toys” that science gives us as much as anyone, and would object if they’re taken away. Like Michael Egnor (if he really believes his nonsense), however, they are convinced that science and technology can proceed as usual if we dismiss any facts and explanations that we don’t like.

Furthermore, a lot of distrust of science, and fascination with postmodernism and pseudoscience comes from non-fundamentalists. That probably helps anti-evolution activists peddle their nonsense even more than fundamentalists who crave it.

eric said:

Peter Henderson said:

Hamilton asked if learning science can affect one’s worldview. Again, Princehouse agreed that it can.

In my experience it didn’t. But then, I’ve never been a young Earth creationist. I’ve been told often enough though, that science makes no statements on the supernatural.

I don’t think its just about supernatural beliefs. I think its also about teaching a non-authoritarian method of learning. Teaching a kid that they can use empirical observation to evaluate the truth of an authoritative written statement is far more devastating to fundamentalism, in the long run, than simply disputing the factual truth of some specific fundamentalist claim.

I’ve seen this, arguing with fundies, they seem to be utterly incapable of understanding that it is actually possible to look at things in the real world and draw conclusions based on observations. They cannot accept the idea that any knowledge can be obtained by any means but revelation, and just declare their own revelations as from god and everything else as demonic. The very idea of evidence is anathema to them. This makes it impossible for them to modify their beliefs based on the facts, they just keep repeating the same bullshit no matter how many times it’s exposed as bullshit.

The very idea of evidence is anathema to them. This makes it impossible for them to modify their beliefs based on the facts, they just keep repeating the same bullshit no matter how many times it’s exposed as bullshit.

They have to.

Almost every demonstrable fact about the biology, geology and astronomy undercuts their story.

Facts, and the science that provides them are a real problem if your side has nothing to put on the table.

Physics and maybe chemistry are neutral, I suppose, so they are “good” science, you never see anybody complaining about them.

Everything else is simply either wrong or actively the work of the devil, so lying to keep it away from the kids is OK, so long as you’re “Lyin for Jesus”™

Hamilton asked if one’s worldview affects one’s acceptance of science. Princehouse agreed that it does.

The correct answer is: only if the term “worldview” means a belief that objective reality does not exist.

Otherwise, no. It’s not Freshwater’s “worldview” that affects his acceptance of science. Freshwater accepts science, like nearly everyone who isn’t institutionalized for a severe mental illness. Rather, Freshwater’s fear of being punished by his deity leads him to actively deny that certain events events happened, i.e., lie, no matter fucking what.

That’s all there is to it. See, e.g., Casey Luskin.

I’ve seen this, arguing with fundies, they seem to be utterly incapable of understanding that it is actually possible to look at things in the real world and draw conclusions based on observations.

Not true. In fact, fundies almost universally acknowledge the same sets of facts and propositions that every sane adult acknowledges. They have to, or they’d be dead in a week.

Rather, they just insist on lying about certain things, no matter what, because they have been told that if they don’t they will end up in hell and won’t be able to play with their mommy and daddy and doggie in heaven when they croak.

I think it comes down to disassociated mental processes. People of a scientific cast of mind generally believe that once one sees that ideas are mutually incompatible, the conflict will be resolved rationally; a new synthesis will replace the old one. This is not necessarily the case. Ideas can be compartmentalised and disassociated, and thus be retained even though they are mutually exclusive.

Thus, fundamentalists can enjoy and exploit the ‘net and still believe that scientists are a cabal engaged in a monstrous deception. They can agree that the advance of modern medicine, with its ability to improve life and relieve pain, is amazing, and still believe that the fundamentals of all biological theory are satanic. They can state with total sincerity that they live by the bible, while overlooking any part of it they don’t like. Hell, they can see the obvious contradictions, and still ignore them. And this is not due to some nefarious decision to lie. They actually believe these contradictory things, not quite at once - just under different conditions.

I have never seen clearer proof of the proposition that the human mind is indeed a kludge, a workaround. It manages reality pretty well. But not very well.

I think it’s very telling the way creationists or IDists complain about textbooks being “laced with Darwinism” or presenting it as a fact when it’s “just a theory” but don’t apply the same critiques to other aspects of biology. Biology textbooks are also laced with the cell theory, germ theory, various ecological theories and models etc. I guess they’re OK because they don’t happen to conflict with most religious beliefs.

When people talk about teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution I always naively think: why just evolution?

why just evolution?

My guess is that it’s because those others don’t generate a strong negative emotion, so preachers can’t use them as effectively to get their listeners all riled up about something. But that’s just a guess.

Henry

Just a minor point–bellringers are assignments that are usually given at the beginning of class to get students thinking and activate prior knowledge. Which probably makes it more damning as Freshwater undoubtedly talked about the assignments after they were completed.

Probably right there, Henry.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on January 12, 2009 11:57 PM.

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