Is ID Unfairly Censored?

On the heels of Hugh Hewitt’s foray into the wonderful world of ID, we have the redoubtable Phyllis Schafly, who weighs in with an amusing piece on Anyone familiar with the evo/cre debate will instantly pick out several egregious errors that are inexcusable for anyone writing a serious piece about evolution. Let’s take a look and see how bad it gets…

Here’s how Schlafly begins…

The most censored speech in the United States today is not flag-burning, pornography or the press. The worst censors are those who prohibit classroom criticism of the theory of evolution.

A lot of people on the far-right fringe have a very difficult time understanding exactly what censorship means. It’s not that difficult really. Censorship means that the government says you can’t purchase or own certain media or that you can’t say certain things in public. It doesn’t mean, for example, that certain ideas are considered inappropriate for public school curricula. Schlafly, in an amazingly unoriginal move, makes the term “censorship” meaningless by applying it to something that it doesn’t apply to at all. No one has said that people are unable to advocate ID/creationism (as they might burn a flag) out in public. No one has denied anyone the right to own and read ID/creationist material in their homes (as they might do with pornography, which Schlafly favors censoring). And no one has banned ID advocates from publishing any dreck they wish, no matter how many blatant falsehoods it contains, including this piece right here written by Phyllis Schlafly. Instead, she’s defining “censorship” as meaning that ID/creationism can’t be taught in public school science classes as being science, or that creationists can’t insert their erroneous “criticisms” into the curriculum. Of course that’s not censorship, and to claim otherwise is not only inaccurate, it’s downright offensive to those who have been victims of real censorship throughout the ages.

Teaching creationism in science class, as everyone should know, was struck down by the Supreme Court because it was ruled to be a religious doctrine in the guise of science. ID, which is basically the same thing but with most of the testable claims stripped out, has yet to meet its day in court, but will likely suffer the same fate. Knowing this, the creationists have once again changed tactics: Claim that instead of trying to teach creationism, or God-free™ creationism (ID), the goal is to teach the “evidences against evolution”. But this is a dishonest shell game. Those criticisms that they proffer are simply creationist arguments intended to bolster support for creationism. This is an example of what’s called “reframing” the debate – changing around the terminology in order to slant perceptions in your favor. (Referring to censorship as “regulation”, as Schlafly does when she’s in favor of censoring things, is another example of framing.) We should never allow fake “criticisms” that have been rejected by scientists to be taught in science class for religious reasons; if the subject were astrology or Velikovskian catastrophism, Schlafly would presumably agree. But when it comes to creationism… why that’s censorship! By the same logic, opposing the teaching of Holocaust denial, UFOlogy, or whatever nutty nonsense one can come up with would also be censorship. We can reframe Holocaust denial by saying that we want to teach the evidence both for and against the Holocaust. Shouldn’t we teach the controversy about the Holocaust? Surely Schlafly doesn’t think that. Unless she believes that keeping these kinds of things out of school curricula is censorship, and thus wishes to allow proponents to stick them all in, then she’s being dishonest.

But the funniest part of Schlafly’s screed is the “criticisms” she thinks should be taught. We’ll get to those in a minute…

A Chinese scholar observed, “In China we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America you can criticize the government but not Darwin.”

The “Chinese scholar” is unnamed. That’s not so surprising, because no one outside the original source knows his name. That source would happen to be Jonathan Wells, the guy who dedicated his life to “destroying Darwinism” at the behest of the Reverend Sun-Myung Moon, and who also won’t say who this guy was or why he thought it was reasonable to say what he said. Given that Wells is not exactly known for honesty, we’ll put this one in the “probably made up out of thin air” column.

Polls show that the vast majority of Americans reject the theory of evolution, as have great scientists such as William Thomas Kelvin and Louis Pasteur.

Kelvin and Pasteur were indeed great scientists. Over a hundred years ago. The argument from authority is weak to begin with, but goodness, couldn’t we at least find someone who lived after the Modern Synthesis? Maybe Schafly knew them personally, in which case she should have at least told us what they really thought about evolution. But that’s unlikely, because she screwed up William Thomson, Lord Kelvin’s name.

As for the “vast majority” of Americans rejecting evolution, she screwed that one up too. The latest Gallup poll, while not exactly encouraging, shows that about a third of Americans believe that evolution is well-supported, about a third believe that it isn’t, and about a third don’t know. So the people who reject evolution are not vast majority, they’re a minority.

But we’re still not to the good stuff yet…

The Darwinists have propped up their classroom dominance by the persistent use of frauds and flacks. The fraudulent pro-evolution embryo drawings of Ernst Haeckel littered schoolbooks for 100 years, and it took specific action by the Texas Board of Education to keep them out of current textbooks even after the New York Times exposed Haeckel’s deception.

This one is more confusing than wrong. It’s true that Ernst Haeckel’s embryo drawings were fudged and remained in textbooks presented as authoritative long after they should have. But the New York Times was the debunker? Come on. People had written about the problems with Haeckel for a very long time, most notably Stephen J. Gould back in 1977. And the Texas Board of Education was somehow keeping them out of textbooks? Where does she get this one? Maybe she’s thinking about the Discovery Institute’s attempt to amend the textbooks that the Texas Board of Education would adopt. That would make sense, except for the fact that the their attempt failed. The grain of truth here is that there were a couple of textbooks that replaced Haeckel’s drawings with pictures, but this had nothing to do with the Texas BOE. Of course pictures are just as good, because embryology thoroughly supports evolution, but you won’t read about that in Schlafly’s article.

Many textbooks feature pictures of giraffes stretching their necks to feed high off of trees, but genetics and observed feeding habits disprove that as a basis for evolution of their long necks.

Now we’re to the good stuff.

Phyllis Schlafly, who like many ideologues, operates with a pretense of absolute certainty about the correctness of her views, is completely clueless when it comes to the basics of evolutionary theory. Hint to Phyllis: had you actually read the textbooks you’re so sure are horribly flawed, you’d have found out that what you’re describing is Lamarckian evolution, which mainstream scientists have not believed in for a very long time. It is, in fact, completely at odds with the theory of evolution that Darwin came up with. One could forgive Schlafly for being unable to comprehend anything beyond the pictures, but textbooks frequently present the hypothetical giraffe example in order to contrast Lamarckian and Darwinian theories of evolution. Giraffes didn’t get long necks because their ancestors stretched them, they got them because long-necked ancestors were better at feeding, which meant they were better able to survive and reproduce, which meant that over time, the average neck size grew and grew some more. The point being, the Lamarckian version is wrong and fell out of favor a long, long time ago. I’ll bet Schlafly a billion dollars that not one single textbook currently in use actually presents the Lamarckian version as correct.

Moreover, the striking beauty of the colored pattern on the giraffes illustrates that design, not merely usefulness, is what animates our world.

This one’s just bizarre. Giraffes are indeed pretty (at least on the outside). Most living things aren’t. “Design”, according to most IDologists, can only be inferred when something is functional, not when it’s merely pretty according to our own subjective tastes. What the hell was she thinking?

Continued censorship of criticism invites additional fraud, so evolution has suffered more embarrassments than any other scientific theory.

That being the case, it would be trivial for her to make a long list of them. She follows up with one old and tired example (Piltdown man), and one ridiculous nothing, which together equal exactly one. Regardless, Schlafly is in no position to accuse others of making embarrassing mistakes.

The Piltdown man was a lie taught to schoolchildren for decades, even featured in the John Scopes Monkey Trial textbook…

I’m not going to go into details, but Piltdown Man was a hoax that was laid to rest in 1953, debunked not by creationists, but by evolutionary scientists. (Thankfully Lord Kelvin and Pasteur weren’t alive to suffer through it.) Since then, we’ve found an amazing wealth of genuine hominid fossils, which you won’t read about in Phyllis Schlafly’s article.

Oh, there is one minor detail worth mentioning. Piltdown man was not featured in the textbook used by Scopes. Whoops.

…and only five years ago a dinosaur-bird fossil hoax was presented as true on the glossy pages of National Geographic.

It’s true that National Geographic presented a dino-bird fossil, which was “discovered” by a Chinese farmer, that turned out to be fraudulent. National Geographic embarrassed itself largely because its editors were so excited that they didn’t allow for proper peer-review. (Thank God doesn’t have this problem.) The find wasn’t published in any peer-reviewed journal and was very quickly revealed to be a chimera cobbled together from two unrelated (not fake) fossils. More info here. It amounts to a whole lot of nothing. It does turn out though that we’ve discovered a wealth of genuine dino-bird fossils, but you won’t read about them in Phyllis Schlafly’s article.

If Darwinists want to teach that whales, which are mammals, evolved from black bears swimming with their mouths open, we should surely be entitled to criticize that.

And if creationists want to teach that Darwinists believe that whales evolved from bears, they will be teaching an utter falsehood. This is the problem with these so-called criticisms – they’re just plain wrong. No one believes that whales evolved from bears. The original idea came from Charles Darwin in his first edition of the Origin, but he removed it from future editions after receiving some well-deserved criticism. No one has seriously pushed the idea since. It was first suggested about 120 years ago that whales evolved from ancient ungulates, and while various ideas were batted back and forth since then, it was established about 40 years ago that dental morphology supported the ungulate hypothesis. Since then, this hypothesis has been strongly supported by a wealth of fossil and DNA evidence, which you won’t read about in Schlafly’s article. Ancient whales with legs are ironically some of the most spectacular transitional fossils we have.

I think we’re seeing a pattern here. Phyllis Schlafly hasn’t the foggiest notion what biologists actually think; she’s missed out on every meaningful discovery, every advancement in theory, and every important find for more than a century. She’s nearly 150 years behind on her whale evolution, and even further behind than that on her giraffe evolution. She is clearly speaking of things she knows nothing about. Can you imagine how many blog posts would come spewing forth from, oh say, Hugh Hewitt, if something equally as shoddy were published in the much maligned mainstream media?

What we have here is someone who is arguing that it’s “censorship” not to teach criticisms that are laughably wrong while omitting crucial information. Why should we let someone completely ignorant of evolution dictate how we teach it? We wouldn’t let someone who couldn’t count tell us how to teach math. And if such a person screamed censorship, we’d immediately call them an idiot.

The American Civil Liberties Union claims this is unconstitutional and is seeking out supremacist judges to order classroom curricula to continue the censorship and forbid an open mind about evolution.

Supremacist? I’ll leave that one to our resident legal commentators. Schlafly appears to have written a book with that title, basically demonstrating her contempt for our legal system because it dares disagree with her.

If the theory of evolution were well supported, there would be no reason to oppose open debate about scientific claims.

If ID/creationism were well-supported, its proponents would be able to convince actual scientists, and wouldn’t spend all their efforts trying to pitch their ideas to impressionable school children instead. According to scientific expert Phyllis Schlafly, the local gradeschool is apparently the appropriate place for “open debate” on the most advanced and pressing scientific issues of our time. (But the courtroom, of course, is not.) Never mind the debates that scientists have had for generations, and the conclusions they’ve already reached. Heaven forbid we teach school children about that.

Darwinists know they cannot persuade skeptical adults, so they try to capture impressionable schoolchildren.

Oh, the irony…

To typical schoolchildren full of wonder, we live in a world best described as a marvelous work of art. The snowflakes that grace us at Christmastime typify the artistic beauty that bestows joy on all ages but, like an acid, evolution corrodes this inborn appreciation of beauty and falsely trains children to view themselves as mere animals no more worthy than dogs or cats.

This is another one of those bizarre paragraphs that defies belief. Does Schlafly think that each individual snowflake was “designed” by the Intelligent Designer, or does she believe that natural processes were responsible (whether ultimately caused by God or not)? If it’s the latter, then gee, might it be that the natural workings of our world can produce wonder and amazement after all? (Which is, believe it or not, what drives most of us to study science in the first place.)

And who in their right mind would come up with the notion that children are taught to think of themselves as no more worthy than cats or dogs? Despite taking high school classes in biology, four years of an undergraduate biology degree, and lots of graduate level study, I somehow missed that lesson. Who could possibly think up such offensive nonsense? Oh, that’s right, a person who has utter contempt for honest discourse. A person like Phyllis Schlafly.