May the government fund scientific research on evolution?

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“She said we could give ourselves airs and get ourselves all rigged up and we were like race horses and we were just mules in horse harness and we didn’t fool anybody.”-Scarlett O’Hara

Not content with his outright lie in his previous post, to the effect that I believe schoolchildren in government schools ought to be taught that there is no God–something I do not believe and have never advocated–Dr. Egnor has now moved on to argue that the Establishment Clause forbids the government from funding research in evolutionary biology.

His latest post is really a scattershot of typical religious right stuff that I’ll get to in a second, but the overall point appears to be that my interpretation of the Establishment Clause (which he calls “angst” for some reason I can’t cipher out) is inconsistent because I believe that the government may conduct research on evolutionary biology but may not teach religion in schools. Or, rather, as he puts it, scientists may receive government funds to go dig up transitional fossils, but cannot “teach those same questions to students.” This assertion is typical of the distortion, vagueness, and rhetorical manipulation which is Dr. Egnor’s stock in trade.

53 Comments

Did he miss the entire stimulus debate? Or did he see it and is trying to make you mad by accusing you of supporting government funding?

BTW: I’m enjoying this Sandefur vs. Egnorance theme we have going on.

I think there’s no end to what Egnor has missed.…

I suppose Egnor is opposed to funding research on drug-resistant strains of TB and HIV/AIDS, since that would be government funding for research on evolution. Still find it incredible that he’s a member of the Stony Brook University medical school. If only he kept quiet, I’m sure that his colleagues would love to ignore him completely…

Egnor’s is a remarkably incoherent article.

But never mind that, his primary idiocy/ignorance is the typical IDiot’s mischaracterization of what is being researched. He’s pretending that people are being funded to “explore the weaknesses” in evolution, when all they’re doing is fleshing out the known processes and pathways. Egnor writes:

Yet he sees no Establishment Clause problem with the public funding of research in evolutionary biology that asks the same questions that he believes are constitutionally proscribed in public schools.

No one is asking whether or not tetrapods evolved from fish when he is out looking for transitional fossils. That’s been demonstrated, both genetically and via other transitional fossils. The reason Tiktaalik was found was in order to study what forms the transitional organisms took, particularly with regard to evolution of the shoulder. Unfortunately, even PBS and other usually good sources of information more or less bungled the reasons for finding Tiktaalik.

Of course they’re not asking the pig-ignorant questions that Egnorant wants to be “asked” in public schools. They’re asking intelligent questions involving the specifics of an evolution that they know occurred.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

I can’t wait to see what Egnor-ant takes out of context next.

Actually Glen, Tiktaalik is an excellent example of making a valid scientific prediction based on evolutionary theory. Vertebrate paleobiologist Neil Shubin knew where to look in the geological time scale to find a “fishapod”, and where it could be found (in suitable Devonian sedimentary rocks on Ellesmere Island), having searched for suitable exposures of Devonian sedimentary rocks of the right age in North America from extensive geological maps. He also had available enough published data on comparative anatomy as deduced from suitable fossils found in North America and Europe to frame a reasonable hypothesis regarding what a “fishapod” might look like, and he found it in Tiktaalik:

Glen Davidson said:

Egnor’s is a remarkably incoherent article.

But never mind that, his primary idiocy/ignorance is the typical IDiot’s mischaracterization of what is being researched. He’s pretending that people are being funded to “explore the weaknesses” in evolution, when all they’re doing is fleshing out the known processes and pathways. Egnor writes:

Yet he sees no Establishment Clause problem with the public funding of research in evolutionary biology that asks the same questions that he believes are constitutionally proscribed in public schools.

No one is asking whether or not tetrapods evolved from fish when he is out looking for transitional fossils. That’s been demonstrated, both genetically and via other transitional fossils. The reason Tiktaalik was found was in order to study what forms the transitional organisms took, particularly with regard to evolution of the shoulder. Unfortunately, even PBS and other usually good sources of information more or less bungled the reasons for finding Tiktaalik.

Of course they’re not asking the pig-ignorant questions that Egnorant wants to be “asked” in public schools. They’re asking intelligent questions involving the specifics of an evolution that they know occurred.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

Did I miss something? I couldn’t find a link on Tim’s page to the Egnor article he’s quoting.

I have a slighty different opinion from Tim on a lot of the specific activities that Egnor cites as examples of the government supporting religion. But like Tim, I find none of them convincing arguments - heck, most aren’t even relevant arguments - as to why the government *should* fund the teaching of creationism.

Money printing, the pledge, and court swearing: its ironic that Egnor cites these as cases of the government supporting religion, because the courts have basically said that these are instances where the support of religion is so weak and meaningless as to be a nonissue. Here comes Egnor saying its not weak or meaningless. Well, he’s obviously not understanding the court’s rulings, because if he ever succeeds in getting the courts to agree with him its liable to shoot him in the foot.

Tombstones, speeches, court swearing, and military counselors: these are cases where the government funds people who are allowed some choice in their conduct (usually within practical resource limits), and most choose religion. But others don’t. You don’t have to swear on the bible, you can put a variety of things on your tombstone, Presidents can say whatever they want in their speeches, and soldiers can access a wide variety of counseling. The problems come - particularly with military counselors - from inequal access when resources are limited. If there’s only one counselor per 1000 soldiers, and that one insists on talking about Jesus to the muslim and atheist soldiers, you have a problem. Now, if that counselor can be a mullah to the muslim and a humanist to the atheist, I see no problem with employing him. (Another chaplaincy problem comes when a large majority of the soldiers insist on a chaplain who’s views prevent that chaplain from serving others. I think the answer to this should be cut and dried: you don’t employ him, the army does, and the army employs him to lend counseling to all the unit’s soldiers. So we won’t hire a guy like that, any more than we would let you choose what goes on your neighbor’s tombstone. Get over it.)

Tim wrote:

Or, rather, as he puts it, scientists may receive government funds to go dig up transitional fossils, but cannot “teach those same questions to students.”

Right. The government can fund expeditions to find fossils, but when the fossils they find turn out to be obviously transitional they can’t then tell students that transitional fossils don’t exist. That is what he is arguing against! If you didn’t already know that the fossils that you were going to find would be transitional, then why on earth would you want to prevent anyone from looking for them?

Look, if this guy really thinks that printed money is an example of the government endorsing religion then the solution is clear, take “In God we trust” off of the money. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “in some Gods some of us trust at least some of the time”. The solution would not be to inject religious beliefs into science classrooms.

If Egnor really believes that funding research on evolution is unconstitutional then he can always sue in federal court and see how far he gets. Of course he would have to pay his own court costs, but then again that would be poetic justice.

Tim: I thought it was immoral, harmful, unnecessary, and unconstitutional for the government to fund science research at all? Unless something has changed, you don’t believe the government should fund research on evolution either; you just go farther in saying they shouldn’t fund anything else.

Wheels said:Tim: I thought it was immoral, harmful, unnecessary, and unconstitutional for the government to fund science research at all? Unless something has changed, you don’t believe the government should fund research on evolution either; you just go farther in saying they shouldn’t fund anything else.

Looks to me like Wheels didn’t bother to read the whole piece Sandefur linked to at Freespace. While I disagree with Sandefur on the issue, Wheels’ comment is irrelevant to that piece. In fact, in it Sandefur writes

Government funded science classes exist to advance science at public expense. I actually think that’s a bad idea—but nothing in the First Amendment forbids it. (italics in the original)

So there’s no implicit inconsistency there.

Well, according to Egnor, the government shouldn’t fund any science that might possibly challenge anyone’s religious beliefs. Funny position for a doctor to take when they depend on the most current medical research in order to even try to do their job.

I suppose this guy would also be against the government funding research to develop an AIDS vacciine because AIDS was God’s will or something.

RBH said:

Looks to me like Wheels didn’t bother to read the whole piece Sandefur linked to at Freespace. While I disagree with Sandefur on the issue, Wheels’ comment is irrelevant to that piece. In fact, in it Sandefur writes

Government funded science classes exist to advance science at public expense. I actually think that’s a bad idea—but nothing in the First Amendment forbids it. (italics in the original)

So there’s no implicit inconsistency there.

I’m not saying he’s being inconsistent in his defense of keeping science education secular, nor in calling out Egnor for mischaracterizing him and his politics. I just found it odd that Egnor would argue an interpretation of the 1st Amendment used by Sandefur to keep ID out of public schools would also rule out government funded research into evolutionary biology, when he actually opposes such funding of research for completely different reasons altogether.

I must not be understanding some essential component of Timothy Sandefur’s argument, because he says that “The First Amendment does not forbid…teaching students bad science or untrue facts!” But he then he goes on to write “But it does forbid the government from taking a position on the truth of a religious claim. It may teach any and all facts that might lead a student to conclude that there is no God; the only thing it may not do is actually teach that there is no God.”

So if the government may teach any and all facts that might lead a student to conclude that there is no God, then it stands to reason that the government may teach any and all facts that might lead a student to conclude that there is a God. And since he already said the First Amendment does not prohibit teaching untruths, then it seems Sandefur is saying creationists can legally teach lies to children that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that God exists so long as they don’t take the position that God’s existence is factually certain. And in fact, this exact strategy has lain behind the entire Intelligent Design from the start.

So Sandefur seems to be saying teaching ID in public schools is constitutional. I’m certain he doesn’t believe that though, so what am I missing?

H.H. said:

I must not be understanding some essential component of Timothy Sandefur’s argument, because he says that “The First Amendment does not forbid…teaching students bad science or untrue facts!” But he then he goes on to write “But it does forbid the government from taking a position on the truth of a religious claim. It may teach any and all facts that might lead a student to conclude that there is no God; the only thing it may not do is actually teach that there is no God.”

So if the government may teach any and all facts that might lead a student to conclude that there is no God, then it stands to reason that the government may teach any and all facts that might lead a student to conclude that there is a God. And since he already said the First Amendment does not prohibit teaching untruths, then it seems Sandefur is saying creationists can legally teach lies to children that would lead any reasonable person to conclude that God exists so long as they don’t take the position that God’s existence is factually certain. And in fact, this exact strategy has lain behind the entire Intelligent Design from the start.

So Sandefur seems to be saying teaching ID in public schools is constitutional. I’m certain he doesn’t believe that though, so what am I missing?

You don’t have to say, “it’s factually certain that God exists” to endorse a God-having religion. That’s why jurisprudence has established means to determine if certain actions violate the Establishment clause. Take the prongs of the Lemon Test concerning legislation, for example:

1. The government’s action must have a secular legislative purpose;
2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive government entanglement” with religion.

Wheels said: You don’t have to say, “it’s factually certain that God exists” to endorse a God-having religion.

Ok, the nail in the coffin for the ID movement may very well have been it’s clear history back to the Christian creationist movement (cdesign proponentists). But what if another theistic movement springs up without any tangible connections to an organized religion? If a loosely banded group of theists wanted to teach lies to children that suggested the existence of god, what could stop them? It looks like number 2 in the Lemon test is my answer: “The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion.”

“Primary effect” is important. Depending on the religion in question, simply teaching that the Earth is round could “inhibit” religion, or at least infringe upon a religious claim. But that would not be the government’s primary purpose for teaching such a fact. It would be taught because it’s the scientific consensus. Same with evolution. Combine that with the “secular purpose” clause and I think schools are pretty safe, assuming the courts would consider any god-claim to be religious in nature.

Of course, one way for theists to get facts taught that support the existence of god would be to actually uncover some. Somehow I don’t see that happening.

H.H. Wrote:

But what if another theistic movement springs up without any tangible connections to an organized religion?

Hindsight is 20/20, but I often wonder why anti-evolution activists since the very beginning of the “scientific” creationism movement (1960s) didn’t just eliminate all references to Creators and designers and just stick to “the nuts and bolts” of “what happened, when, and how.” Even if they were not confident that the evidence supported a young earth or independent origin of “kinds” they could have at least focused on the “weaknesses” of evolution and let the students infer what happened instead.

Egnor’s latest antics may shed light on why they didn’t do that (which might have avoided everything from “Epperson v Arkansas” to “cdesign promonentsists”). Quite simply, they will try anything that they think they can get away with. They know that their most desperate followers do not care that, over the years various activists have tried to defend YEC and OEC (at the very least both can’t be true), that evolution is unfalsifiable and falsified (another “both can’t be true”) and some have even plainly conceded common descent.

While that ~25% of the public will forgive them no matter how much they lie, concede to science, or contradict each other, there’s another ~50% (mostly non-fundamentalists) that gives them some slack. That’s what we need to work on changing.

While I can see Timothy Sandefur’s argument for government saying out of science from a “purist viewpoint” it seems untenable. I personally am a strong supporter of science and research, but the fact remains that a lot of research, while critical for the advancement of knowledge and perhaps profitable in the long term, may not show ANY short term or even middle term profit. Thus to the average stockholder a lot of research looks like a waste of time and money. Some of the good things to come out of research are also unpredicted serendipity, and how do you justify THAT in advance. So while I see his point I’m afraid that private funding could VERY easily be worse.

H.H. said:

Ok, the nail in the coffin for the ID movement may very well have been it’s clear history back to the Christian creationist movement (cdesign proponentists).

The first and primary nail in the coffin for Intelligent Design Theory is that it is not science, that its proponents never intended it to be science in the first place, and that its proponents never intended it to do science with it in the first place.

Hence the appalling paucity of Intelligent Design-themed research, and the Discovery Institute’s fanatical focus on PR spinning and schmoozing their political allies to the point of purposely ignoring science.

Reading through this mornings comments I just wanted (needed?) to make one point about the “so called” government support through court swearing.

I was a police officer for 17 years in 3 different jurisdictions - actually 3 different states. The only place I have seen a Bible in a court room and heard the “…so help me God” thing is on TV

I am not saying that some jurisdictions don’t do this - but in all of the court cases I’ve dealt with, I’ve never seen this. I suspect that it is not as common as most people think.

I know this is slightly OT but kind of a pet-peeve of mine.

Next target: The National Weather Service, because they look for natural causes for the weather when it’s really God that causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

Frank J said: Hindsight is 20/20, but I often wonder why anti-evolution activists since the very beginning of the “scientific” creationism movement (1960s) didn’t just eliminate all references to Creators and designers and just stick to “the nuts and bolts” of “what happened, when, and how.”

Well, three reasons as I see it.

The first you already mentioned - hindsight. Historically it was not clear that they would lose this battle. And a lot of them are still or at least or started off very honest. So they initially took the high road of very honestly and explicitly laying out what they wanted to teach. Only after the long series of court failures did the movement change its approach to be more deceptive.

Second, because the movement is not primarily anti-evolution, its primarily pro-religion (and only one religion, at that). Teaching a 6,000 year history of the earth catastrophically changed by a flood is just a means to the end of religious conversion, and any education that teaches students the nuts and bolts but doesn’t send them down the path of Christianity is not useful to creationists. After all, acceptance of a worldwide flood without the proper religious context could lead one to Hinduism, which also has a flood story. We can’t have that!

Lastly, because the entire collection of nuts and bolts, considered together, are so obviously Christian theology they can’t pass the 1st amendment test even absent references to a designer. If, for instance, you look at the 5 “inferences of Creation Science” that creationists put forward in McLean in 1982, none of them talk about designers or God. But the court shot down all of them as obvious references to the Genesis story with no scientific merit. [See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mcl[…]rkansas.html, Section III]

Jeff Webber,

From the start a lot of what the government spends money on for research is clearly a waste of time and money. This is a problem associated with one of the key weaknesses of government: the concentrated interests and dispersed costs problem. It is also in significant part why we have very bad policies like agricultural subsidies.

H.H. raises a decent point, but it’s just one of the many paradoxes that arises from the fact that the Establishment Clause forbids government from endorsing the truth of a religious claim. There are other such paradoxes (e.g., government cannot convict faith healers of fraud on the grounds that faith healing is a fraud, which it is.) Yes, the government is constitutionally free to teach students untrue things, and if those untrue things tend to lead a child to believe in God, then them’s the breaks. But goverment may not endorse the truth of a religious claim. So if a plaintiff can prove that the government is teaching untruths as part of a pattern with the purpose of conveying to students that God exists (or is of such and such a nature) then that would be a violation of the First Amendment. And, as H.H. observes, that’s just what happened in the Kitzmiller case or in the Cobb County case. The school was teaching untruths to children (that there are “weaknesses” in evolutionary science) with the wink-and-nudge intention of endorsing a religious message. That’s what was unconstitutional.

Government is free to teach any other kind of untruth. There would be nothing unconstitutional about a school putting a disclaimer on textbooks that said that Abraham Lincoln never existed, or reading kids a statement that says that 2 + 2 = 4 is really just a theory and encouraging them to look into alternative maths. The only thing it may not do is teach a religious claim as true (or punish an individual for freely exercise his or her religion in a non-disruptive manner).

Seward said: Jeff Webber,

From the start a lot of what the government spends money on for research is clearly a waste of time and money. This is a problem associated with one of the key weaknesses of government: the concentrated interests and dispersed costs problem. It is also in significant part why we have very bad policies like agricultural subsidies.

Seward,

Traditionally science funding programs avoid that key weakness by separating the authority over the “how much” question from the authority over the “who gets it” question. e.g. Congress decides how much money the NSF should give out, but qualified NSF personnel rack & stack the research submissions. The COI problem you discuss only arises when Congress takes a direct hand in choosing projects, or when scientists are given control over how much money should be spent on research. But that is not how science funding works most of the time.

I also take issue with your use of the word “clearly.” Again using NSF as an example, NSF and other agencies use top scientists in each field to assess which research requests to fund based on merit, which is a combination of researcher competence, facility capability, risk, and expected payoff. Now sure, its still an educated guess as to which basic research projects will pay off and which won’t. And sure, its hard to gather a group of experts that don’t know some of the submitters. But I think its armchair quarterbacking at its worst for someone who hasn’t reviewed the project proposals, facilities, or resumes to out of nowhere say some funded research is ‘clearly a waste of time and money.’

Seward said:

Jeff Webber,

From the start a lot of what the government spends money on for research is clearly a waste of time and money.

This is not clear to me.

Jeff Webber,

Say I grant you your statements about the NSF … I would just note there is a whole slew of research that goes on outside the confines of the NSF. Indeed, NSF is probably a very small recipient in comparison to other receivers of money for research. Consider, for example, how much money was spent on things like “remote viewing.”

The COI problem you discuss only arises when Congress takes a direct hand in choosing projects…

That’s not what several decades of research* into the workings of iron triangles, etc. has taught us. Interest groups and government agencies are as likely to be the progenitors of the COI problem as Congress critters are.

*I realize that some folks might think that political science is a joke, but bear with me.

More on remote viewing and the Stargate Project here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_viewing

Government is free to teach any other kind of untruth. There would be nothing unconstitutional about a school putting a disclaimer on textbooks that said that Abraham Lincoln never existed, or reading kids a statement that says that 2 + 2 = 4 is really just a theory and encouraging them to look into alternative maths.

Yes, it’s ironic that Casey Luskin got all huffy when an NPR reporter asked him something to the effect whether or not we should “teach the controversy” about whether or not the Holocaust happened. Basically, he blithered and whined that he’s a Jew and is very offended at the notion–as if he himself isn’t offensive to most other Jews. And yet, there’s nothing unconstitutional about teaching untruths about the Holocaust, while it is unconstitutional to teach religious untruths regarding evolution.

In a different climate, then, Casey might be aiding and abetting the teaching of the “controversy” of Holocaust denial, since theoretically it’s quite legal. Yet his particular untruths would (at least we hope) continue to be ruled unconstitutional. Fortunately, all of his lawyerly BS is very unlikely to result in the teaching of Holocaust denial, but that’s due to the fact that there are many people better than the loathsome Casey Luskin.

Nevertheless, it is not wise for anyone to be making the case for teaching lies to children, as the DI and Luskin do. We have to rely upon the good sense of people not to end up having non-religious lies about the Holocaust not being told, instead of counting on the Constitution for that. And Luskin is doing his best to destroy the science and good sense that are all that stand in the way of including any number of odious prevarications from being included in the instruction of children.

Glen D

http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

Seward said: I would just note there is a whole slew of research that goes on outside the confines of the NSF.

True. NIH works the same way. As do most governmental science funding programs. Even DOD, the 800-lb gorilla of government funding sources, follows a similar procedure for most of their work. Which brings us to…

Indeed, NSF is probably a very small recipient in comparison to other receivers of money for research. Consider, for example, how much money was spent on things like “remote viewing.”

The CIA and the Army made some enormously bad mistakes with their Stargate project. That and the many other secret programs that were fiascos certainly seem to indicate that secret research has a higher risk of being crap because it avoids the open peer review necessary for good science. And I doubt you will find a scientist that disagrees about the importance of open peer review to good science.

But your example does not in any way support your contention that the federal government, as an entity, is bad at doing research. You are confusing a bad “how” with the “who.”

eric,

Even DOD, the 800-lb gorilla of government funding sources, follows a similar procedure for most of their work.

I’m sorry, but if that were the case then we wouldn’t have bought such items as the F-22. I would of course also note that much of the defense budget cannot even be traced, because it is basically lost. Remember when that scandal broke in the early part of this decade? Or as I heard at a conference recently via podcast, do you think that those $500 hammers from the 1980s went away or are they just hiding their purchasing of such better? I have no doubt that the DoD isn’t the only area of government where similar things occur.

But your example does not in any way support your contention that the federal government, as an entity, is bad at doing research.

I don’t think we could possibly know outside the area of anecdote actually. So what we are left with is what we know from the past and our gut instinct on such things.

Isn’t this the same failed rationale that was shown to be bogus in Jeanne Caldwell’s frivolous lawsuit against Berkeley and the NSF?

http://www.citmedialaw.org/blog/200[…]hment-clause

Seward said:

From the start a lot of what the government spends money on for research is clearly a waste of time and money.

Seward said:

I don’t think we could possibly know outside the area of anecdote actually.

First Seward claims he knows and that it’s clear, then he claims that we could not possibly know.

Which is it?

Seward said:

From the start a lot of what the government spends money on for research is clearly a waste of time and money.

When asked to justify this claim of “clearly a lot of waste”,

Seward said:

More on remote viewing and the Stargate Project here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remote_viewing

According to Seward’s source, the Stargate Project spend about $20 million over a period of about 20 years, for an annual expenditure of $1 million.

In contrast, the federal government spent $126,601 million on research and development in 2005

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf07[…]pdf/tab2.pdf

Thus Seward has shown that about 0.0008% of the federal research budget was wasted. This is not “a lot”. I wish my household budget were this clear of waste.

eric Wrote:

Lastly, because the entire collection of nuts and bolts, considered together, are so obviously Christian theology they can’t pass the 1st amendment test even absent references to a designer.

It could have passed the 1st amendment test if it had evidence to back it up. There is no evidence, of course, so the combination of no evidence and “just happening” to match one of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis spelled doom. With a little more “creativity” than the naive activists of old, the DI might be able to get away with at least an old-earth version. The successor to “Pandas” has a reference to the “naturalistic” alternative of Christian Schwabe, so they might try to teach that, at least a brief mention now that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach is tainted by association. But I do think that a strictly negative “weaknesses” approach from the beginning would have given them the greatest chance at success. Mentioning Schwabe is a big risk for the DI, not only because he makes falsifiable claims, but because discussing his work will alert some students to the false dichotomy that the DI has worked so hard to cultivate.

Dan,

First Seward claims he knows and that it’s clear, then he claims that we could not possibly know. Which is it?

Both. We are aware that a problem exists, but due to the general lack of transparency it is difficult to assess just how big the issue. I would note that throughout the 2008 election there was a lot of talk about the need to make government funding more transparent than it is. So it is more than little old me that thinks there is a problem.

Doing a short bit of web surfing on transparency in NSF funding I came across this abstract: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conte[…]9/183?ck=nck

How much have things changed since 2002?

Frank J said:

Hindsight is 20/20, but I often wonder why anti-evolution activists since the very beginning of the “scientific” creationism movement (1960s) didn’t just eliminate all references to Creators and designers and just stick to “the nuts and bolts” of “what happened, when, and how.”

The reason is there are different kinds of Creationists. Sometime back we divided the “genus” Creationist into three species, vulgaris, ignoramus and predatori. The leadership at the top of the food chain is the C predatori who are after the money and political power they get by persuading the C vulgaris to listen to them. The C ignoramus are the local leaders and school board members and such people who vouch for the “credentials” of the C predatori. The C ignoramus usually dont benefit financially, and they get prestige and bragging rights to be called “leaders”.

The dilemma faced by the C predatori is that if they really make it bland enough to win court battles, it is not strong enough to inflame the C vulgaris. The real agenda of the C predatori is not to get schools to teach creationism. All they want is money and votes, and if they lose in court battles that gives them more more ways to rail against the judge-o-cracy.

We need to educate the vulgaris, show to them evolution does not pose a threat to their religious freedom etc etc. We need to show the true colours of the C predatori to the C ignoramus to drive a wedge between them. Only way we can control the population of C predatori is by reducing its habitat and food sources. At some point, the C predatori will decide to drop the evolution battle and switch to some other schtick that does not involve tax payer money to promote their brand of religion. At that point, we can call it a truce and let them do what they want with their own money and time. It is their right infact.

Ravilyn Sanders said:

Only way we can control the population of C predatori is by reducing its habitat and food sources.

But C preditori is also driven by lust for power and extreme paranoia about any attempts to limit its grabs for that power.

So reducing its habitat and food sources will be seen as a threat that will set off a chain of paranoid thoughts, greatly increase the dopamine levels in its brain, and incite C predatori into a furious, warlike rage that could lead to killing and plundering.

It might be better to associate C preditori with snake-oil salesmanship and all the sleaze that comes with that. If its true revolting nature can be highlighted, we might be able to starve it to death by taking away what it wants most; adoring worship.

First, Seward claimed that the problem was that government-funded scientific research was wasteful.

(Although the only example he gave was a minute DoD program that is not a “scientific research” program.)

Then he claimed that we couldn’t tell whether government-funded research was wasteful.

Now he claims that the problem is lack of transparency in government.

(Personally, I think the problem is a lack of transparency in Seward’s claims … )

Well, Seward, here’s a list of every NSF-sponsored research project in science or engineerying from 1989 to the present, including amount, principal investigator, dates, abstract, institution, field of specialty, etc.

How much more transparency do you want? Are you willing to make your claims as transparent as these programs?

First, Seward claimed that the problem was that government-funded scientific research was wasteful.

No, that is not was not what I claimed.

With that I can ignore you.

Just so everyone is clear is on this, this was my original statement on the matter:

From the start a lot of what the government spends money on for research is clearly a waste of time and money.

Seward said:

Dan,

First Seward claims he knows and that it’s clear, then he claims that we could not possibly know. Which is it?

Both. We are aware that a problem exists, but due to the general lack of transparency it is difficult to assess just how big the issue.

Well then Seward, you will be pleased to know that the FDA is attempting to make research value more transparent. You see private drug development companies are not obligated to reveal the results of ALL their tests to the FDA; they currently only reveal the results they want the FDA to see. Which is why we have so many drugs on the market that tend to underperform their test results; the reported test results are actually for only the best test out of N performed, where N is unknown.

The FDA has been pushing for new regulation in this area, to make a rule whereby any test that a drug company wants to count towards showing efficacy or safety must be registered with the FDA before it is performed. That way N becomes known, and the FDA can request the results of any test registered to see if a company is biasing their results.

Its unclear whether this effort will be successful; there is a lot of pushback from industry and its unclear whether the FDA has the resources to track so many tests even if they wanted to, however I’m sure that with all of your previous complaints about poor quality research being hidden from the public, you will heartily agree that government regulation of private research in this case is an excellent solution. Yes?

Seward, if that’s true, you should have no trouble pointing out to us the waste of time and money from the list in the link Dan just provided.

So reducing its habitat and food sources will be seen as a threat that will set off a chain of paranoid thoughts, greatly increase the dopamine levels in its brain, and incite C predatori into a furious, warlike rage that could lead to killing and plundering.

It might be better to associate C preditori with snake-oil salesmanship and all the sleaze that comes with that. If its true revolting nature can be highlighted, we might be able to starve it to death by taking away what it wants most; adoring worship.

That is correct. Associating them with snake-oil merchants and sleazeballs is what I meant when I said we need to expose their true colors to C ignoramus, and drive a wedge between C p and C i. The C i are unwittingly recruited to run for school boards and other lower echelon positions and they do the bulk of the work of delivering the C v during the election time and organizing fund raising etc.

We also have to make it very clear to C p that we are not out to prevent the exploitation of C v. Some of us might want to do that, but that is not part of the common agenda of visitors of PT. All we want is to stop their shenanigans to get tax payers to fund their religious propaganda. Educating the C v about the true nature of evolution, stopping them from being exploited etc are all things some of us might want to do, but not all. Anyway that is a far too big a job. At some point C p might realize “If I give up my quest to mess up the high school science education, most of the opposition will vanish and I can continue to suck the blood of the flock quietly without attracting attention”. That might stop, at least some of them, from getting enraged.

One thing is clear, we must stop treating all creationists as the same. We need to understand the inner workings and dynamics of that ecosystem much as we would study the corn borer beetle or a similar pest, find the critical parts of the life cycles and symbiots and attack it scientifically.

eric,

Well, the FDA should have no authority over drug approval. That ought to be up to me. Indeed, it is rather clear from the econometric work on the subject that the drug approval process in the U.S. is way too slow. The drug approval process also insulates drug companies from competition far too much (all regulation does this which is why large companies love regulation which they can influence generally*); it creates far too higher barriers to entry than what would normally be the case in other words. That is a bad thing from a number of perspectives. A good first step would simply be to get rid of the efficacy requirement; that is one of the biggest clogs in the system.

*And they’ll always be influencing it; agency capture has been and will continue to be a problem in the American regulatory system so long as it is structured like it is today.

fnxtr,

I don’t see any link.

fnxtr,

Oh, I see. I thought you meant a link by eric.

ravilyn sanders said:

One thing is clear, we must stop treating all creationists as the same. We need to understand the inner workings and dynamics of that ecosystem much as we would study the corn borer beetle or a similar pest, find the critical parts of the life cycles and symbiots and attack it scientifically.

:-)

Well said. There is clearly a symbiotic, and in the case of C. p. a parasitic, relationship among these sectarians.

I personally don’t have many ideas about how to encourage their church leaders to do a better job vetting leaders and information in their churches. Many of their leaders engaged in contorted word games to influence their followers, playing on fear and paranoia about the vaguely specified “Enemy”. But that leads to an inability to make careful distinctions among concepts. It also makes it impossible for most of them to understand the difference between objective evidence and constantly shifting meanings of words.

So C. p. has tapped into this style of communication in order to make its parasitic link to these churches. This appears to appeal to the surly young males gunning for power and influence within these sects. The passive followers are manipulated into being afraid of getting any of their information from legitimate secular sources.

Seward said: Well, the FDA should have no authority over drug approval. That ought to be up to me.

Now wait a second. You were all about required, aka regulated transparency a moment ago. Now you are advocating a no-transparency-whatsoever model? I think you are still arguing for different rules based on who is doing the research when all of your stated complaints are about how research is done. If your concern is really about how, then I suggest that it would be far more rational to apply the same transparency rules to all market actors, both public and private. But I don’t think your real complaint is about how government conducts research at all; I think your real complaint is that government is doing research with your tax dollars in the first place, and no amount of discussion about how it is done or how quality is assured is really going to sway you. You’re making a sham argument; you really have no interest in discussing how government research should be conducted properly, you simply want to use that strawman to argue against government research per se.

eric,

…aka regulated transparency a moment ago.

I think government spending should be transparent; I also think it should be significantly curtailed. Indeed, the latter reinforces the former.

If your concern is really about how, then I suggest that it would be far more rational to apply the same transparency rules to all market actors, both public and private.

Market actors can’t force me to spend money; the government can; therein lies the difference. There is also of course the moral argument I should be able to ingest into my body what I wish to. I would note that the pressure groups associated with such diseases as HIV, various cancers, etc. have themselves made a similar argument in face of delays of drug approval and they have from time to time carried the day despite the regulations which stood in the way of them and a potential drug which might benefit them. I would guess that the orphan drug exception came about for similar reasons.

But I don’t think your real complaint is about how government conducts research at all; I think your real complaint is that government is doing research with your tax dollars in the first place, and no amount of discussion about how it is done or how quality is assured is really going to sway you.

Actually, my real complaint lies with both. I mean, rationally I understand that we won’t be getting of our government induced cartelized system of doing things, and though in my heart of hears I’d love to be rid of it, I understand one is stuck with reforming things around the edges. So it isn’t a “sham.”

BTW, you may want to check out what Canada is doing re: drug regulation; it looks like it will be far better than anything we are doing in the U.S.

eric,

Here’s the concept paper re: Canada and progressive licensing: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/homo[…]cept-eng.php

Seward said: Market actors can’t force me to spend money;

No, but they can lie to you. If you think the capitalist solution (suing them after the damage is done and not buying anything more from them) is the best solution, more power to you. I tend to think verifying their claims before they hurt people is worth a few tax dollars. And I think the current mess should make it apparent that market “punishment” of a company does not guarantee that the individuals who acted badly ever have to pay for their individual deception. So while market forces may do a good job of discovering bad products quickly, it provides no deterrent against the production of more bad products by unscrupulous individuals.

I am not sure why you pointed me to that paper. It talks about how government should regulate, it is certainly not an abolition of the authority to regulate. In particular they endorse the idea of “continuous monitoring and reassessment of potential safety, quality, efficacy and therapeutic effectiveness information.” That sounds very much like it includes giving the FDA the authority to monitor clinical trials. I am amazed you support this framework. Indeed it seems a move from single-point-of-assessment to constant-reassessment, which is more regulation, not less.

eric,

I tend to think verifying their claims before they hurt people is worth a few tax dollars.

And I tend to think that the deaths associated with years worth of trials associated with FDA approval are not worth it. These regulations have significant costs associated with them, and some of those costs can be counted in lives as well as pain and suffering.

And I think the current mess should make it apparent that market “punishment” of a company does not guarantee that the individuals who acted badly ever have to pay for their individual deception.

I would just note that government loan guarantees, bailouts, “too big to fail” policies stretching back to the 1970s, etc. do not indicate a regime of market punishment. If we had such a regime, then GM and Chrysler would have gone bankrupt and been sold off roughly ten years ago. To borrow a quote from someone else (I forget who), government is a meta-problem.

I am not sure why you pointed me to that paper.

Because it appears to be a better system than what we have in place today. Like I wrote - and apparently have to write again - reform is better than nothing.

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This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on April 14, 2009 12:36 PM.

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