Irony, thy name is ID

By Phil Plait | April 5, 2006 9:16 am

I just got an email from a friend who is a teacher, scientist, and fighter of creationism. The email was about a press release from a group calling itself Integrity in Academics, and so you know right away this is yet another in a long line of ironically-named groups whose intention is exactly the opposite of its name.

The press release says:

On Tuesday evening, the Board of Trustees of the Lancaster [California] School District took a bold step into the future of science education by adopting on a unanimous vote a “Science Philosophy” Policy that encourages classroom discussion of questions regarding Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and other scientific theories. The policy declares that “science never commits itself irrevocably to any fact, hypothesis, or theory, no matter how firmly it appears to be established,” and that Darwin’s theory of evolution in particular should not be taught as “unalterable fact,” as is so often the case in America’s classrooms. The policy also declares that “Discussions that question the theory [of evolution] may be appropriate as long as they do not stray from current criteria of scientific fact, hypothesis and theory.”

If only. Of course creationism/Intelligent Design advocates don’t care if the discussion strays from fact; in reality they want it to. If they stuck with facts, everyone would know they are wrong.

Turns out the release also quotes Larry Caldwell, a well-known anti-science ID guy (and — irony alert! — president of a group called "Quality Science Education for All"). Check this out:

Added Caldwell, “Unfortunately, there is a kind of ‘Taliban’ in the scientific establishment that seeks to suppress any criticism of Darwinism in the classroom. It is refreshing to see school officials willing to stand up against Darwinian fundamentalists to give their students a science education rather than a science indoctrination. After all, effective science education is all about teaching students to ask meaningful questions and follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

That is pure fertilizer, from top to bottom. Scientists want criticism, they invite objections, they seek out ways to falsify hypotheses. But these criticisms, objections and falsifications must be logical, they must be self-consistent, and they must be scientific themselves. ID is none of these. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: ID is crap. It’s a lot of things, in fact, but the most important thing it is is wrong, and the most important thing it isn’t is science.

And to have someone like Caldwell calling scientists "a kind of Taliban" is making my irony gland swell to epic proportions. He even uses the word "fundamentalist"!

Bang! That was my irony gland exploding yet again. Good thing it heals so quickly.

After what that bloviating ID goon Dembski did just a few days ago, this is that much harder to take. The lies, the misleading tactics, the propaganda… it’s hard to believe these people consider themselves to be moral leaders.

Lying to children who are trying to learn is perhaps the greatest sin I can think of. And these guys are professionals at it.

Comments (72)

  1. TJ

    I don’t know what to say. What the hell is the appeal of of teaching evolution as ‘just a theory’? Are these ignorant folks so frail in their belief system that they think convincing someone else of it will make it more credible?

    *sharpens blade*

  2. Zclone

    On a side note… if you haven’t seen this weeks Sopranos episode, please do… interesting “TV entertainment” take on Science vs. Anti-science.

  3. Lying to children who are trying to learn is perhaps the greatest sin I can think of. And these guys are professionals at it.

    You’re just daring us to think of a worse sin, aren’t you, Professor? (sighs)

    The really sad part is that these cretins are professionals, in the most literal sense. They bloody well make a living by distorting truth and dumbing down the species, all because the world doesn’t square with the garbled folklore in a book cobbled together when — to speak with knowing irony — we were still in danger of being eaten by dinosaurs.

    You know, that whole Garden-of-Eden story has bothered me for years. If human beings really were made in God’s image, then before the Fall we had to be godlike beings, right? The point of the story is to explain evil and human misery and all that by saying that we fell from grace. But in that state of Grace, we screwed up and ate a piece of fruit. For a moment, lay aside how totally out-of-proportion God’s response was (hundreds of generations of misery for one piece of fruit?). Doesn’t the Genesis story mean that God would have done the same thing in Adam and Eve’s place?

    If the natural act of a Godlike being is to eat the forbidden fruit, then God Himself would damn well have eaten that fruit, unless He screwed up in making human beings. Which is better, a God who does wrong or one who makes mistakes? Perhaps the inanity of Dembski’s lot and the furor they provoke over trifles is just a small reflection of how greatly the Lord God blew His top when His pets started munching where they shouldn’t!

    Frank Zappa said it right: “And in the Book, He says He made us all to be just like. . . Him. So if we’re dumb. . . then God is dumb. . . and maybe even a little bit ugly on the side!”

  4. And to continue my theme of nit-picking, Professor BA. . . did you mean to type “Irony, they name is ID” or “Irony, thy name is ID“?

  5. scubajim

    It is the whole ends justifies the means mentality.

    They are frightened that their myth isn’t the truth. That the only way something can be true is if enough people join the club and believe in it. Sorry folks, if 40 million people believe a falsehood then 40 million people are wrong; it doesn’t change the fact.

    Knowledge is difficult to obtain and can be painful. (see Cave Analogy in Plato’s Republic)

    I do think science needs to do a better marketing job. I know that sounds silly, but that is what they are doing. We need to market what we do better. Why? The truth is important and it is important for the public to understand that the truth isn’t based on an opinion poll but is based on years of hard work and research. It is based on open debate and presentation of evidence. (Although in some academic circles there are certainly instances of disingenous research. We are human after all and egos can be fragile. In the long run truth can win out.)

  6. writerdd

    “I do think science needs to do a better marketing job. I know that sounds silly, but that is what they are doing. We need to market what we do better.”

    This is not silly at all. It is right on the mark. Scientist and science writers need to learn how to talk to regular people, and how to use stories to touch the emotions of readers. Laying out a bunch of facts and data points may be interesting to a few of us, but to ignore the power of emotion and personal experience is to make ourselves powerless to persuade the masses. Preachers, politicians, and pseudo-scientists know this very well. But it’s something scientists and skeptics are slow to understand. Until we learn to use emotion and personal experience to communicate, our message will fall on deaf ears. It doesn’t matter how many facts and statistics we have to prove our point if no-one listens when we talk.

  7. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRG!

  8. Michelle Rochon

    My brain hurts. I can’t believe these… darn, I think the only word fitting is “cretins”. Unfortunately. They miss the point by so many miles that it hurts. And comparing that to Talibans? Very nice. Very mature.

    By the by, it seems that your main page only displays the PREVIOUS post now instead of the latest…

  9. Eighthman

    Re: Sopranos

    The HBO-less can catch the clip here:
    http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/04/05.html#a7793

  10. Nigel Depledge

    The clue about ID proponents spouting nonsense in reasonable tones is that they always target Evolutionary Theory. They never say, “we want students to question atomic theory, ot the theory of gravity”, oh, no, precious.

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they really, genuinely did want people to question what they are taught?

  11. Ben

    Caveat: I’m a conservative Catholic Republican, big into free markets and free people, self-determination, and open inquiry.

    And despite all of that, I find the “intelligent design” pushers to be (and I’m being charitable here) well-intentioned people who fundamentally do not understand what constitutes science. I have gone through their gauntlet of straw man arguments and torn them all apart before. There is simply no justification, on any grounds, for teaching ID in a science curriculum. You can make arguments for it elsewhere. Topics about morality and ethics are certainly appropriate for a science class. Among the many dangers of our general trust of science is the ease with which we can be mislead by dishonest scientists. But this danger exists in any forum in which the uninformed must trust the informed. I don’t see that religion is somehow exempt.

    ID commits a serious error. It wishes not to teach ABOUT a scientific theory, it wishes to teach a religious belief AS a scientific theory. You see, there is a place for religion in science. We can talk about the Church vs Galileo. We can talk about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning, and even stem cell harvesting. We can talk about issues that are not at all scientific in a science class. But what we do NOT do is teach those issues as scientific theory. ID is not falsifiable. It’s no more worthy of scientific inquiry than somebody challenging you to prove that there is NOT an invisible man standing next to them that nobody else can see or hear. It may be worth of philosophical, theological, or even sociological inquiry, but not scientific.

    Darwin isn’t without its shortcomings. But I don’t see the ID people challenging relativity because it cannot answer all questions. I fully support the examination of all theories. The very purpose of science is to prove things wrong. And when we cannot, we begin to think we might have proven something right. ID cannot be proven wrong. Evolution could be, given enough data.

  12. Nigel Depledge

    Blake, I like your take on the Garden of Eden story.

    I’ve often wondered about it. “Okay, Adam, here’s this wonderful garden for you to live in. And a companion for you – just a moment, this is gonna sting like crazy…. OK, Adam and Eve, you can eat anything … birds, armadilloes, fruit, roots, anything. Oh, but, you see that huge tree slap bang in the middle of the garden? Yes, the one with all that ripe, delicious-looking fruit on it. Well, don’t eat any of that.”

    You get the picture, I hope.

  13. Nigel Depledge

    writerdd, you said:
    “Scientist and science writers need to learn how to talk to regular people, and how to use stories to touch the emotions of readers.”

    What you suggest is actually really, really difficult. The BA is good at it, so he makes it look easy, but it isn’t.

    Communicating the latest scientific research is very hard. If I were to tell you that, for instance, antisense RNA technology was on the verge of becoming a cure for cancer (it isn’t by the way, this is just for illustration), I would then need to think about how to explain the mechanism by which antisense RNA works to a lay audience. I think I could do it, but not in less than about 2000 words.

    The ID / creationism side has convenient, bite-sized arguments. The dumbing-down of the media has led us to a society in which the average attention span is too short to convey any real science.

    Here’s an example. Thirty-some-odd years ago, my brother had a children’s encyclopaedia of science and technology. I remember very little of it, but I do recall being impressed (at the age of maybe 6 or 7) by the diagram of a water molecule. This diagram had the nuclei (with different-coloured balls for protons and neutrons) and the electrons depicted with lines representing their orbits. I now know this was an oversimplification, and the scale was wrong, but can you imagine kids of that age these days being presented with such information? I sure can’t.

    What this means is that a simplistic argument wins more minds in a few moments than any amount of science. Science is hard, and a lot of people seem disinclined to make any effort to learn.

  14. Nigel Depledge

    Ben said:
    “And despite all of that, I find the “intelligent design” pushers to be (and I’m being charitable here) well-intentioned people who fundamentally do not understand what constitutes science.”

    Ben, your charity is very noble. Unfortunately, some ID proponents have demonstrated that they know very well that they are pushing a religious agenda as science. Have you heard of the wedge strategy?

    Look here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

  15. Geoff

    This of course reminds me of an old Dave Allen joke.

    The creationist says to the darwinian…

    “A darwinian is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.”

    The darwinian replies …

    “A creationist is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there too — only difference is you’ve found it.”

  16. In a fit of irony, I note that the word cretin derives from the Latin word christianus, meaning “Christian”. This odd and mildly disquieting etymology goes back to sixteenth-century Switzerland, where people suffering from iodine deficiencies in their diet developed thyroid problems, leading to severe goiters and in some cases congenital mental retardation. Swiss priests called the helpless victims of these diseases “crétins“, meaning “Christians”, as a term of pity and charity, much the way we might say “poor souls”.

    In an era before people were aware of different religions the way we are today — when the next county over was foreign territory, and everyone you knew was Catholic — the word “Christian” had a different meaning, much closer to “person” or “human being”. Consider, for example, the everyman hero of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, who is named Christian much the way we might name a character “John Doe” today. Calling the unfortunate victim of a thyroid disorder a “cretin” was a way of reminding people that these sufferers were also human beings.

    This little history was one of many things I learned out of Isaac Asimov — I think it’s in Opus 100 — and it shows up on the Net, too, here for example.

    There really isn’t a better word for the ID crowd, is there? Creationists are cretins in the modern sense, and the deplorable behavior we keep seeing is ample evidence of that; their ineptly disguised religious agenda makes the original meaning of the word painfully relevant. Yet that bit about the “everyman” is worth thinking about too. Isolationism, intellectual xenophobia and the desire to cling to comforting ideas are all, regrettably, characteristic traits of the human species. We’ve behaved this way since the time H. sapiens arose and even earlier. But as the late, great Bill Hicks said, “Evolution did not stop with us growing thumbs”, and it’s well past time to move on.

    This concludes my fuzzy happy thought of the day.

  17. scubajim

    Yes, communication is hard. I host Japanese exchange students each year. (high school age) They all have trouble writing English. It isn’t because they are stupid. (they are not, au contraire) It is because communication is hard. It is hard to do it well in your native language.

    I recently attended a fasinating lecture by Sir Roger Penrose and he did a fantastic job of explaining his theory. But I am an avid reader and I love science and read stuff all the time. If my wife went to it – a fine person, but not with a science bent, she would have been lost.

    We must keep making the communication attempts. It is hard, but it is so worth it. (so is science, very difficult but so worth it)

  18. Irishman

    The problem is that if you read the policy statement, it sounds reasonable.

    >Students should learn that science never commits itself irrevocably to any fact, hypothesis, or theory, no matter how firmly it appears to be established. Evolution, then, should be taught as theory, as opposed to unalterable fact. Discussions that question the theory may be appropriate as long as they do not stray from the current criteria of scientific fact, hypothesis and theory. Science instruction must respect the private beliefs of students, but discussion in this regard should not be part of the science curriculum.

    This is placed within a broader list of statements reflecting how to present and approach science education. On the face of it, the premise seems valid. The problem comes when they single out Evolution as a specific case. By stating that Evolution should not be taught as unalterable fact, they are simultaneously conflating the Theory with the Results, as well as implying that science educators routinely teach Evolution as unquestionable. They are promoting the ID false idea that evolution educators are ideologically committed to Evolution based not upon evidence, but upon dogma. They imply that students aren’t allowed to ask questions about Evolution. But that’s just not true. Children can question Evolution at any time, using “the current criteria of scientific fact, hypothesis and theory.” The problem is that the children (primed by their parents and churches) want to question Evolution using the criteria of belief, supposition, faith, and false evidence.

    This looks to me to be the next end run approach. Rather than mention Creationism or even ID directly, just avoid specifically identifying the source of the objections and loosely state “objections” as if there is any legitimate evidence against Evolution.

    Hey, we all knew it wasn’t dead.

  19. writerdd

    Nigel Depledge Says:
    “Scientist and science writers need to learn how to talk to regular people, and how to use stories to touch the emotions of readers.”

    “What you suggest is actually really, really difficult. The BA is good at it, so he makes it look easy, but it isn’t. Communicating the latest scientific research is very hard.”

    I know it’s hard. But it’s worth the work. BA does a GREAT job at it. And so do many others. It’s something we have to keep working on more and more, and to try to get published in more and more places. Unfortunately we in the US have newspapers written at a 4th grade reading level, which makes it even more challenging. If you think simplifying science for adults is hard, try writing for children!

    “The ID / creationism side has convenient, bite-sized arguments. The dumbing-down of the media has led us to a society in which the average attention span is too short to convey any real science.”

    Well, I think we have to find a way to dumb down the science message as well. We have to be able to have soundbites that catch people’s attention. We have to be able to have catchy phrases (like evo devo!) that can get picked up by pop culture. That’s where the “marketing” ideas come into play. The challenge is to do so without distorting the facts. I don’t know if this is possible, but if it’s not, then science will continue to lose ground to superstitious nonsense.

  20. Wow, I think my spellchecker “fixed” the title to “they”. I refixed it. :-)

  21. PK

    My first thought when I read this entry was one of exasperation: Not again! But after counting to 100 and back, followed by reading all the comments so far, I have regained my calm.

    It seems to me that the most important thing to do is to convince potential victims of ID that evolution does not equate immorality or atheism. The difference between science and pseudo-science is something most people do not care about (get out of your little social circle, look around you, and stop the wishful thinking), but they care deeply about the fate of their immortal soul.

    The best way to communicate is to put yourself in the position of the audience. For that, you need to recognise your own preconceptions and prejudices.

  22. Leon

    Seems to me we need some really good well-known spokespeople. Carl Sagan was great at that–his “Cosmos” series reached right down to the schoolkids’ level and made science fun (at least, it worked for me). I think part of our problem is we’ve lost a lot of our best voices.

  23. Phlegm of Discontent

    I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe we SHOULD teach ID in schools, though not in the way that the ID supporters suggest. I would propose teaching ID alongside evolution and showing exactly where ID fails and where evolution succeeds. Evolution may “only” be a theory, but it is far closer to reality than ID and creationism.

  24. Actually, God didn’t make Adam and Eve godlike. He made them innocent and without the knowledge of good and evil. (Of course, if they didn’t know that, then their disobedience isn’t quite, is it?) In fact, the reason they were banished from Eden was because, having eaten of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, all that was lacking for them to become as gods – as God and his buddies pointed out to each other (yes, this is the Genesis story with the plural Gods) – was that they eat of the OTHER forbidden tree, the tree of life. If they ate that, and lived forever and never died, then they would be “as gods”. Can’t have that – drive them out!

    Now – along with the small problem of the plural gods and the slightly less small problem of if eating that tree would stop them dying, wasn’t there death before they sinned? That was, after all, the threat God used to stop them disobeying, though since they apparently didn’t know what death was it didn’t work – the real problem with this story is that the only one in the whole story, God included, who told the truth is the Serpent.

  25. Leon

    LOL! That’s great stuff, Karen! I missed those observations when I read Genesis.

  26. Leon

    Hey, in light of the title of this thread, maybe ID should really stand for Ironic Design…

  27. The real agenda of ID seem to be the original; to stop us from eating the fruits from the tree of knowledge….

  28. I do quote ” a poster on this thread:

    ” I do think science needs to do a better marketing job. I know that sounds silly, but that is what they are doing. We need to market what we do better. Why? The truth is important and it is important for the public to understand that the truth isn’t based on an opinion poll but is based on years of hard work and research. It is based on open debate and presentation of evidence. (Although in some academic circles there are certainly instances of disingenous research. We are human after all and egos can be fragile. In the long run truth can win out.)”

    Please! REMEMBER Ernest Mach:

    Mach was also a great thinker/philosopher and influenced the theory of relativity dealing with frame of reference. In 1863, Ernest Mach (1836 – 1916) published Die Machanik in which he formalized this argument. Later, Einstein was greatly influenced by it, and in 1918, he named it Mach’s Principle. This was one of the primary sources of inspiration for Einstein’s theory of General Relativity.

    Mach was both a philosopher and scientist. Now-A-Days the man on the street does not dig Science or “philosophy”. To sell Science takes more than big NASA bucks our media stories. You have to hit people where they live. If the specialists in the scientific domain can get the word of their work out to the general masses without confusing them, then, mabey their hard labor will not be perceived as being egotistical or foolish esoteric knowledge. Beware of the Savant Syndrome. Some people see the “absent minded professor” as a fool. We here in this blog know different. Yet, to sell Science to the masses is a science in itself… :*)

  29. P. Edward Murray

    Ben & PK I think that you are both correct.

    Intelligent Design and the young Earth Creationists
    do not understand what science is and is not.
    Furthermore, I believe that they really do not have a good
    grasp of their religion either. They have trouble comprehending that God could have created both science and religion and the truths mined by both disciplines are correct.

    I refer back to what the Director of the Vatican Observatory wrote here:

    http://www.catholic.org/national/national_story.php?id=18504

    And of course, at least some of them, are concerned about how they live
    their lives in accordance with the belief of Eternal Life which “Some” but not all scientists have trouble with.

    In other words, we must meet them on their ground on their level, being careful to talk up and not down to them.

  30. PK

    Indeed Ed, I thought of the Vatican’s position just after I wrote the comment, thanks.

    But also, in talking to people that are on the fence about ID, do not try to convince them that there is no God, and that they should not vote for Bush and his buddies. All you’re trying to do is to point out the flaws of ID and their proponents. This may sound rather trivial but it is not: In trying to persuade others you often push your complete world view. And that is too much to swallow in one go. Remember that people are much more likely to accept things from like-minded people.

    Keep it light, stay calm, and point out that

    1. Evolution does not equal atheism.
    2. The Vatical is against ID (this reinforces point 1).
    3. The theory of evolution is the result of more than a century of experimenting and adjusting, and it is not a conspiracy to lead sinners astray.
    4. How can the study of God’s creation ever be wrong?

    So all you atheists out there, swallow your pride and use that rhetoric gland! Pose as a Christian if you have to…

  31. Beskeptigal

    I have seen this Irony before but the name was Newspeak.

    Ben says:
    “…Darwin isn’t without its shortcomings. …. ID cannot be proven wrong. Evolution could be, given enough data….”

    Irishman Says:
    “….Rather than mention Creationism or even ID directly, just avoid specifically identifying the source of the objections and loosely state “objections” as if there is any legitimate evidence against Evolution….”

    Nigel Depledge Says:
    “…Scientist and science writers need to learn how to talk to regular people, and how to use stories to touch the emotions of readers….
    The ID / creationism side has convenient, bite-sized arguments. ….”

    Ben, just which shortcomings are you referring to? If people who support evolution aren’t fully convinced then how are we to convince those who do not yet support it?

    Irishman, of course they don’t mention evolution’s shortcomings. The real question is when are we going to start mentioning irreducible complexity’s shortcomings? Ignore ID supporters attempts to change the issue to open minded science. Change it right back to the real issue. ID claims evolution stops short of transitions from one species to another. Genetic science shows exactly how species transitions occur.

    PK and Nigel have some good communication points. If it’s religion stopping people from understanding evolution, don’t ignore that. PK lists some ideas. If it’s sound bites people need, use sound bites. But the message has to answer the challenge that science is keeping ID out of classrooms. The message has to say any evidence supporting ID is welcome, there just doesn’t happen to be any evidence. The news media especially needs such comments. People who don’t understand evolution certainly aren’t going to understand why science doesn’t deal with designers. And the news media in their typical style of wanting to air “both sides” follows the IDers lead and covers open science instead of bad science.

    And yes, I am repeating myself.

  32. PK

    For sound bites, you can use the TV show CSI (the Las Vegas one, not the inferior spin offs): They always go on about “the evidence”. So tell people that this is what science is about, and that there is no evidence supporting ID. Simple and true.

  33. beeb

    I think we need to send this lnk to all the I D folks out there.
    beeb
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/science/06fossil.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

  34. Irishman

    Beskeptigal,

    They began with “It’s Creationism!”. But Creationism was outlawed.

    So they said, “No, it’s Creation Science“. Nope, same story, different hat.

    Okay, “It’s Intelligent Design.” Sorry, new hat, same old thing.

    Okay, okay, okay, “We’re not pushing a philosophy, just look at the counter evidence.” No label, no “underlying philosophy” to pin down, just rejection of the evidence. But it’s the same old rejections for the same old reasons.

    As for us pushing the flaws in ID, already doing it. Yes, we need to counter their rhetoric that science is closed and dogmatic with the refutation of their evidence, not closed rejection of the questions.

  35. BJN

    Errr, Oscar? Quite the image of outrage you painted. Please stay away from Darwin’s and Galileo’s tombs.

  36. prowler67

    I used to be a devout beliver in Id, even to the point of reading books countering evolution. Luckily for me the shroud of ignorance has been lifted off. Although I am not sure about evolution, I do not agree with Id at all. I was taught both in school. Evolution in science class, and Id in a bible class. The bible class came with the disclaimer that we were studying a peice of liturature and that was all. Coming from a background of believing in Id, and looking back to how I used to think, I belive they have the human need of everyone believing as they do.

  37. Gary Ansorge

    Karen, excellent point about the serpent. In many mythologies, the serpent is seen as a symbol of wisdom. I guess in the Christian myth, wisdom is seen as EVIL!!!

    Bummer!

    Now, here is an pbservation, gleaned from the history of governments and that old manipulator, Machiavelli.

    When in doubt,,,lie.

    Or, as another infamous manipulator said, “If you tell a big enough lie, yell it out loud enough and long enough, people WILL believe it.”

    THAT’S what all this hullabaloo is really about, controlling people with lies and subterfuge. It’s really what organized religion has been about since we invented this hiararchic civilization. You can’t CONTROL people with the truth. They end up making their own decisions and how the hell can I get rich when they’re doing that???

    Think about it!

    Gary 7

  38. writerdd

    “4. How can the study of God’s creation ever be wrong?”

    This is an excellent point.

    In fact, throughout much of the history of science, this very idea was the reason for studying the natural world… scientists were learning about God’s creation.

    We can certainly study the details of the physical world without ever talking about whether or not there was an ultimate supernatural origin. The problem is that the literalist Christians cannot do this. They throw out any evidence that does not match their interpretation (although they claim not to *have* an interpretation) of the Bible creation story.

  39. writerdd

    “4. How can the study of God’s creation ever be wrong?”

    This is an excellent point.

    In fact, throughout much of the history of science, this very idea was the reason for studying the natural world… scientists were learning about God’s creation.

    We can certainly study the details of the physical world without ever talking about whether or not there was an ultimate supernatural origin. The problem is that the literalist Christians cannot do this. They throw out any evidence that does not match their interpretation (although they claim not to *have* an interpretation) of the Bible creation story.

  40. DBG

    This latest Lancaster School District Board of Trustees act
    is just one more attempt to undermine the teaching of Evolution in the
    appropriate science classroom by introducing Intelligent Design as
    an alternative theory. Though there are still many unanswered
    questions concerning evolution, much work continues
    by some of the most dedicated scientists world wide, and advances
    continue, both for the origins of life as well as for the beginnings
    of our universe itself.

    Proponents of ID, on the other hand, foist the ID artifact upon the
    educational process by repeated bashing of evolutionary theory.
    As long as ID adherents find gaps in the scientific discovery
    of evolution, no attempt to provide any scientific proof of a
    “prime mover” need be offered. This is NOT SCIENCE; rather
    this is a back door approach to introducing religion into the
    science classroom.

  41. Leon

    prowler67, thanks for keeping an open mind and going where the evidence leads you. It seems you’re actually doing what the ID crowd claims and specifically fails to do!

    writerdd says:

    They throw out any evidence that does not match their interpretation (although they claim not to *have* an interpretation) of the Bible creation story.

    That itself is a good point. How you can claim to be taking the Bible literally on everything makes little sense when the Bible contradicts itself in several places. YEC in particular! Genesis gives TWO different accounts of the Creation, one in the first and another in the second chapter. This is the order of how He created things:

    Chapter 1
    Heaven & Earth
    Water & dry land
    Plants
    Animals
    Man and woman “created he them”

    Chapter 2
    Heaven & Earth
    Water
    Man
    Plants
    Animals
    Woman

  42. L. Fuller

    >> I think we need to send this lnk to all the I D folks out there.
    beeb
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/06/science/06fossil.html?_r=1&th&emc=th&oref=slogin

    The ID people will claim it is either a type of croc, a type of fish, or a specie that was designed and just never seen before but not one or the other … and just went extinct. But they will never admit that this is a transition between sea animals and land. IDers see Evolution and the Evolutionary Model (which I personally prefer saying instead of Evolutionary Theory) as direct attacks against their religious faith(s). IDers point out that the original Darwinian model has its shortcomings, which is easy to do since the Theory at that time was still new and being tested. The Evolutionary Model has been refined since Darwin’s time to overcome those shortcomings almost entirely.

    Some IDers point to the hoaxes that have taken place with a very few fossils which other scientists exposed and say that all fossils are then suspect… I would say that the fact that the hoaxes were exposed prove the strength of scientific method and inquiry. Those of us who are (or were in my case) scientists have seen this evidence in the field under conditions that cannot be fabricated. We know we are not part of a scientific conspiracy (at least, I have never received an invitation to it if there is one).

    We, as scientists, have already addressed every objection that I know of that the IDers have brought up and have done so in many forums. Still, IDers claim we are misleading people.

    My own brother (who has a Bachelors in Fine Arts and a Masters in Fine Arts Education) poses as an expert on evolution and ID (he has read Behe after all) and is happy to speak for hours about ID and the conspiracy behind the Theory of Evolution … but raise an objection, no matter how civil or reasonably one does so, and he erupts into a tirade involving brimstone and hell-fire. It is people like him that fuel this ID nonsense… they are the ones that instill fear of scientific theory in to their children and peers. I cannot leave him alone with my children for an instant before he starts trying to convince them that Evolution is false. It is people like him that won’t be moved by whatever we say. If my children want to take a philosophy class or biblical studies class in which ID is introduced, I won’t stop them… but I do not want to see biology, geology and other courses diluted by such material.

    We need to be able to reach those who can still learn to reason on their own, but it is this anti-science peer-pressure that will be difficult to overcome, even with education.

  43. Jim Hammond

    The Lancaster School Board of Trustees material was mentioned on KNX news: http://www.knx1070.com/pages/18276.php where the supposed “author” of the policy, Howard Sundberg is quoted : “”Sure, kids can question things, but once you start crossing the line into beliefs or religion, that’s not something that’s appropriate for science,” said Howard Sundberg, Lancaster’s assistant superintendent of educational services.” What’s with this? I think the Board of Trustees got flummoxed by the so-called “group”, Integrity in Academics, which appears to be one 22 year old who designs web pages for a living (not that there is anything wrong with that.)

    It was also mentioned in an article in the Antelope Valley Press (a local paper in Lancaster) wherein Glenn Branch of NCSE was quoted. The AV Press link is no longer any good and I don’t have the article but it was quite balanced (not that that is a good thing in this case).

  44. DCB

    As one of those uneducated lay people out there, a member of the “masses” who has lived 70+ years, this blog is a breath of fresh air. Thank you every one who contributes your comments and clarifications. If I am soaking in every word, then there must be more out there who do not speak but are also soaking in every word. Keep up the good work! Every time you speak or write you are contributing to education. You are reaching those who truly want to be educated. I believe there are still (as hopeless as it seems sometimes) those who are not formally educated but who have inquiring minds.

  45. Irishman

    Gee, Oscar, such nice language for a page available to children to read.

  46. prowler67

    I am not educated in science. I have a question. If a scientist had a peer look at his work and his peer sait his theory was wrong, would he not ask why and look at the all the evidence again and correst it if he were wrong? I just don’t see these Id “scientists” doing this.

  47. L. Fuller

    Basically other scientists read the results of scientific research and make comments and/or try to reproduce results. Research is made public for just this reason. If results are not reproducible then yes, that seriously undercuts the original research, or if the procedure, hypothesis or whatever is shown to be flawed. This sharing of information and testing of research is what moves science forward.

    Scientific theory is testable and this is where ID really fails to classify as science. It has not been able to produce a singe testable hypothesis, though their “papers” try to make it sound otherwise. Their main criteria for the “proof” of ID is actually showing Evolution to be false…. totally failing to see that proving Evolution false in no way proves the theory of ID. In fact, their most pointed argument, “irreducible complexity”, was actually Darwin’s own criteria for proving his Theory of Evolution was not correct. To date, every example of “irreducible complexity” that the IDers have come up with have been shown not to be irreducibly complex, or there isn’t enough information as yet to show that it is irreducibly complex. Take for example the following link that shows that “flagella” are not irreducibly complex as Behe claims in his book: http://www.health.adelaide.edu.au/Pharm/Musgrave/essays/flagella.htm

  48. Irishman

    prowler67 Said:
    >If a scientist had a peer look at his work and his peer sait his theory was wrong, would he not ask why and look at the all the evidence again and correst it if he were wrong?

    In an ideal case, that is what would happen, and what does happen. In reality, scientists are humans, and become attached to their ideas and hypotheses, which can blind them to the flaws in their data just as much as anyone can become blind to evidence that disagrees with them. Also, being people, personalities come into play, and someone can achieve a personal grudge over professional review. Part of the practice of science is not only peer review, but anonymous peer review. The potential publisher submits it to reviewers that the author is not aware of who they are. This allows the reviewers to be critical without fear of repercussions (which can happen, for instance, if the reviewer is a post-doc student and the author is a well-known and highly published researcher). The balance is that since the reviewers can be candid, they can also be unfair (sometimes). Of course, then it falls upon the publisher to combine the responses from all reviewers and filter out the meaningful from meaningless. Also, the author is given the feedback and allowed (required) to alter the article to meet the standards that the publisher demands. In practice, it’s the most fair way developed for allowing critics to be open and honest without fear of reprisal while restraining critique to the work and not the personalities involved. It isn’t perfect, but then nothing is perfect.

    >I just don’t see these Id “scientists” doing this.

    Here’s a predicament. No, the ID scientists aren’t doing research and publishing their results through peer review. They are publishing their results through popular media.

    However there is a trick they haven’t quite picked up, but pseudoscientists have. Peer review each other’s work and publish in your own journals. The problem with that is that the folks reviewing aren’t reviewing critically – they aren’t using the established methods of checking for testing flaws, analysis flaws and poor logic, abuse of the data, etc. This is a problem because they can claim “peer review”, and scientists are left arguing “That’s not real peer review.” That may be a true statement, but it sure sounds like sour grapes, especially to the uninformed.

    I think it’s a problem for our side that we keep harping and emphasizing “peer review” without qualifying what makes adequate peer review. It’s not enough to have someone that agrees with you read your work.

  49. Evolving Squid

    SOmetime back I said that I wondered how the whole ID controversy was pretty much limited to the USA… well, I guess I spoke too soon.

    It has finally migrated to Canada. In the past week, a researcher in Quebec was denied a grant to study the detrimental effects of intelligent design “theory” on the population (that’s simplifying the study subject a bit, but it was the essential premise). Apparently, when they denied him, they said that he didn’t justify the need for such a study and that people SHOULD be taught competing theories to evolution since evolution has so many flaws.

    Lovely. Just lovely.

    I guess stupidity is subject to the principles of osmosis as well, since borders are semi-permeable.

  50. Mark

    Scientists invite criticism of research results? Haven’t we heard of a number of anti-global warming believing scientists that have been personally smeared because they dared to say “That is not what the evidence indicates”?

  51. Nigel Depledge

    Mark, the preponderance of evidence does actually indicate that (a) global warming is happening, and (b) the most likely cause is emission of greenhouse gases by humans. Some scientists do pick at individual parts of the evidence, and some of the studies that found anthropogenic global warming have been flawed, but, overall, there is too much good science supporting anthropogenic global warming for anyone to be able to dismiss it.

    This is one of the arenas (that Irishman mentioned) where personalities have overridden rational analysis.

  52. The Gospel according to Mark says: “Haven’t we heard of a number of anti-global warming believing scientists that have been personally smeared because they dared to say ‘That is not what the evidence indicates’?”

    The “environmental crisis” has proved to be a great boon to researchers who now how to game the system. A friend of mine is a senior aero engineer at NASA-Dryden. They wanted to do some studies on what it would take to fly an airplane on Mars where the pressure is about 10 mBar and the temperature about -100°C. This was during the Clinton administration when NASA was supposed to be conducting a “Mission to Planet Earth.” So, rather than asking for money for some vague future mission to Mars, they instead said that they were developing an autonomous aircraft to study the depletion of the ozone layer over Antarctica where the pressure is about 10 mBar and the temperature about -100°C.

    They got the money.

    Using the research, Aurora Flight Systems in Virgina built some gliding prototypes that flew successfully:

    http://www.aurora.aero/science/MarsFlyer.html

    There used to be a really cool video from the on-board camera showing the wings and boom unfolding after being dropped from the balloon at 110,000 feet (34 Km), but it seems to be gone.

    – Jack

  53. Irishman

    Mark Said:
    >Scientists invite criticism of research results? Haven’t we heard of a number of anti-global warming believing scientists that have been personally smeared because they dared to say “That is not what the evidence indicates”?

    There are documented cases of scientists loudly poo-pooing a new idea and getting nasty about it, only to later be shown wrong. Wegener and Plate Tectonics comes to mind. Another is the “Clovis First” theory on the populating of North America. As I said, in reality science is carried out by humans, with all their human foibles intact. Fortunately, the system of publishing and peer review is set up to accommodate those foibles.

  54. RAD

    There is a mud catfish that can walk across land for a considerable amount of time, even with having only fins. I don’t know of the skeletal structure of this fish but this “croc” could also have been able to do this. It does appear to be a transitional fossil but it could also just be another “created” form of animal gone extinct.I STILL think when you find evidence it can go both ways. You will all argue this here becasue you firmly believe in evolution, but IDers will also argue the evidence points to some other end because they firmly believe in creation. There is still no mention of how creation takes place even in the bible. If you believe in creation you don’t have to automatically disagree with evolution. The bible doesn’t even give a clue as to “how” things were created. How can the bible creation story be taken literally when all it says is that God created stuff? There must be some method to creation that a supreme being follows. Maybe evolution is a tool of a creator? There isn’t one slice of evidence, Biblically against evolution. I do believe we are the creations of God, how he did it I don’t know nor does anyone else. As far as religion goes for the end you seek of eternal life, it doesn’t make any difference how we got here. It’s what you do while your here that leads you to eternal life. The bible has been handed down through many generations of scholars who changed and removed information they didn’t consider important. These were human beings so whats the chance they made some mistakes? The Adam and Eve story has been referenced here. The tree of life was their forbidden tree and if they ate they were to experience death. This act brought about phisical and spritual death, both necessary for God’s plan. We need to be here away from God’s presence(spiritual death) to be tested on our obedience. The true test of a person is how you are when no one is around to check on you. The serpant did lie becasue he said they wouldn’t die but become as the Gods knowing good from evil. He was right in the sense they would know good from evil, and thus no longer be innocent, but also wrong in the sense they did experience death, both spiritual(they were continually in the presence of God in the garden and upon leaving could no longer be in his presence) and then later physical death. So unfortunatley the serpant did lie and God didn’t. We are all his creations regardless of how he created us.

  55. prowler67

    If god is all knowing why would he have to test us? He should already know the answer.

  56. RAD

    He does already know the answer but what does that have to do with us? We are the ones who need to learn not him.

  57. At the risk of alerting the Homeland Security people to my admittedly out there ideas, why can’t some bright boy or girl come up with a virus that eliminates people who can’t think straight but who insist on forcing others to submit to their views. Solves the I.D. problem, issues of cartoon burners, irrational bosses, etc. in one fell swoop, and does wonders for the evolution of our species populationwise. Or was that the defunct show ‘Prey’?

    Mind you I’m not advocating the notion myself- as with the aliens from ‘The Abyss’- its ‘just a suggestion’.

    Jess Tauber

  58. Irishman

    RAD said:
    >The serpant did lie becasue he said they wouldn’t die but become as the Gods knowing good from evil. He was right in the sense they would know good from evil, and thus no longer be innocent, but also wrong in the sense they did experience death, both spiritual(they were continually in the presence of God in the garden and upon leaving could no longer be in his presence) and then later physical death. So unfortunatley the serpant did lie and God didn’t.

    God says, “The day you eat from the Tree of Knowledge is the Day you will die.” Yet Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge and lived many long years afterward. Ergo, God lied.

    As far as “spiritual death” and continually being in God’s presence in the Garden of Eden, what does that even mean? God kicked them out of the Garden, yes. He kicked us all out of the Garden for the mistakes of our ancestors. Not very fair, holding us guilty for their actions. But equating that with death is pretty far-fetched. As for continually being with God, then why did God have to come looking for them? If they were with him continually, he watched the events unfold. Now maybe he didn’t want to intervene so they could display their free will, and maybe he quizzed them as some rhetorical device so they would admit their errors, but that interpretation sure doesn’t fit the direct reading of the text. The direct reading of the text does not support that they were “continually with God”, or “spiritual death”.

    And that doesn’t even begin to address the morality of threatening Adam and Eve with death for disobedience, when they didn’t yet have a knowledge of Good and Evil, so were unable to understand the concept of disobediance.

  59. RAD

    Sure seems like alot is missing from the bible andwe are left with not much to go on to understand. I didn’t actually say the were continually in Gods presence but he did talk with them directly and that is clear in the text. One they left the garden they had to pray to God and were no longer able to talk to him face to face. I guess it actually is refered to as the second death. What could that be? Revelations 21:8, Rev 20:6 both use this term speaking of those who will be banished forever from gods presence. Second death meaning spiritual death, Also they would have lived indefinatly in the garden with out ever experiencing death so they had to be removed from the garden for death to be able to eventually claim them, ergo God didn’t lie becasue they most certainly experienced second death(spiritual) and much later the first death(Physical). Like I said it had to be that way to give us the true test of our faith. I wonder if they would have ever actually had children in the garden of eden because they didn’t even realize they were naked. Innocent like a child maybe not knowing how to multipy until their eyes were opened. Part of repentance is acknowledging the sin first then asking forgiveness. I believe God asking them what they did, even though he knew perfectly well what had happened, was giving them the opportunity to begin the repentance process. I believe they were forgiven for the first sin. As far as the direct text, we have millions or billions of years condensed into 2 chapters of text, what are the chances the are a few things missing? The scriprures are all about eternal life which everyone will experience regardless af their actions, Hitler,Hussein, the Pope, ect… Eternal life with God is something only a few will achieve. Second death having no hold over those who repent and sin no more. Choices all have consequences, good or bad, while it may seem pretty harsh to threaten Adam and Eve with death if you look at it with that punishment being removing them from his presence so they could prove they can live worthily and return to God on day maybe makes it not so harsh at all but even necessary for God’ purposes.

  60. Scott Mooney

    There’s a word that describes all that rationalization: “Setup”. If the tale of Adam and Eve actually, literally happened, then God as described is a sadist of the worst sort. An irrational, completely out of porportion curse to disobedience…lasting not only their entire lives but for all the lives of all their descendants.

    But this is supposed to be about ID.

  61. RAD

    No one would have ever been born in the garden of eden so for us to exist it had to be that way. What curse are you referring to? Cal it rationalization or setup or whatever you want it is what happened.

  62. Irishman

    Also they would have lived indefinatly in the garden with out ever experiencing death so they had to be removed from the garden for death to be able to eventually claim them,

    Couple of problems with that. The biggest is that the Garden contained a second Tree, the Tree of Eternal Life. They were kicked out of the Garden so they wouldn’t Eat of that tree. But wait, they didn’t have death before getting kicked out of the Garden? There’s some serious story inconsistency.

    Cal it rationalization or setup or whatever you want it is what happened.

    Or, it is a story, made up to bond a community and serve a different purpose than describe factual events.

  63. Scott Mooney

    Precisely. A creation myth made up to explain why things were the way they were by a people who didn’t have anthropology, biology, geology, and in-depth astronomy to learn otherwise. Relying on it to be an accurate description of real events is foolishness…something that the ID proponents excel at.

  64. RAD

    What purpose does it serve then? That makes it sound to me like just one more lie God told. Maybe we should have all followed lucifer.

  65. RAD

    I may be going in the wrong direction here but I will atttempt an explination. Adam and Eve were following godsplan for our salvation by first eating of the fruit of the tree and being expelled from the garden of eden. Eve herself mentioned that they couldn’t have followed Gods comandment to multiply the earth until after they had gained a knowledge of good and evil, they were innocent. While yes it is true that i can see the inconssistancy in tree of life and them already living forever ods plan requires us to live, commit sin, learn from our mistakes, remove sin from us through Christ’s attonement, live worthily(endure) to the end, be ressurected from physical death, and if all done correctly live with God in the celetial kingdom. All will live forever after the ressurection, that is on gift given to us from Christ overcoming the bonds of death. All will not live in the Celestial Kingdom with God unless we partake of the attonement of Christ. That is a pretty small nutshell of Gods plan for our happiness. They (Adam and Eve) weren’t commanded to not eat og the tree of life but it became a problem after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge. I beleive this to be because they would have then lived forever in sin without the ability to recieve forgiveness from their sins but that I will have to study futher as I am not really sure that is the correct answer.

  66. Irishman

    What a load of illogical gibberish.

    God intended for them to have knowledge of good and evil, so he created them without it? Then he put a tree in the garden and told them, “Don’t eat of that tree,” because he expected them to eat of it? And that was so he would be justified in punishing them for disobedience, when they had no understanding of the concept of disobedience because they didn’t know right and wrong? That’s called a plan? And God is still considered moral and good?

  67. RAD

    He knew all of us would sin that was the reason for a savior. The savior had that role before the world was so that says to me there is a plan for our redemption from sin. Because God gave us the way through his son Christ to return to himI would say that is moral and good. I admit that it does sound as you put it and surely its thought of by many in the same light. There are plenty of bible stories that sound pretty far fetched for sure.

  68. dzd

    Eh, face it, there’s no point applying logical analysis to these people. They work on exactly two rules:

    1) God is always right.
    2) If God ever does anything that doesn’t make sense or seems like it might be wrong or counterproductive… see rule 1.

  69. RAD

    Right because anyone would hate to try and clear up any misconceptions

  70. Irishman

    RAD said:
    >He knew all of us would sin that was the reason for a savior. The savior had that role before the world was so that says to me there is a plan for our redemption from sin. Because God gave us the way through his son Christ to return to himI would say that is moral and good.

    So God knew we would need a savior from the beginning, that is why he wiped out the Earth and all humans but Noah and his direct family. Wait, why didn’t he send Jesus sooner? Those sinners could have used a savior instead of annihilation.

    You’re force fitting the answers to meet your preception.

  71. dzd noted :thesepeopel work on two rules :

    1) God is always right &
    2) If God doesanything thatseems contradictory etc .. see rule 1

    Actually its more like “God moves in mysterious watys” & “Some Things Are NOT Meant for Man (sexist but so are they generally) to Know!”

    Or in short form Don’t Ask, don’yt try tofind outr and you should understand God but just do what He (read I) say.

    Which can be pretty hard when you compare the Holy commands :
    I) Thall Shalt NOT suffer a witch to live!”
    with
    II) “Thou Shalt NOT kill!”

    as another example of Biblical inconsistency…

    If you see someone who is a witch you’ve got to kill them but the 10 Commandmants says you can’t so..??!

    Sorry to say BA but the Church commits far worse crimes / sins against children than enforcing ignorance and encouraging unquestioning obedience to 2000 year old fables. The words rape and physical assault spring to mind.

    As far as worse sins go in general deliberate cruelty to kids and animals is ahead (if that’s the word) on my list of “worsts”

    The Church has alot toanswer for -both in terms of evil and good whether one outweighs theother is a hard thng todetermine and depsdns alot on personal subjective judgement.

    Personally I _would_ teach ID for maybe five minutes in science class – alongside ‘phlogiston’ as an example of an outmoded non-scientific, so-called “Theory” that isn’t science at all. I’d teach kids why its non-science and plain wrong in breif terms then I’d teach them Carl Sagan’s set of critical thinking rules from “The Demon-Haunted World”.

  72. Argh! Typos!

    AAAAAARRRRRGGHHHH!!! Religious fundamentalism. :-(

    Hope you can follow what I’m trying to say anyway.

    Para. 4 above should read :

    Or in short form ‘Don’t Ask’, “Don’t try and find out’, and ‘You shouldn’t try tounderstand God – just do what HE (read ‘I’) says!”

    Or problem is all these religious extremists all claim that they and they _alone_ know What /Who God is & Speaks for Her /Him / it anyone who says otherwise is a heretic who deserves severe punishment .. and you only have their word to take for that.

    Personally, I’m not willing to believe in a God who won’t talk to me but will happily converse all day every day with some child-abusing, sexist, bigot down the road instead.

    Sorry if that’s too strong but … Arrrgghhh!

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