Louisiana: even more doomed

By Phil Plait | January 17, 2009 3:21 pm

Last year, when creationist/exorcist Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal signed the creationist-enabling academic freedom bill into law, I said "Keep fighting, people. Because I guarantee this victory for the bad guys in Louisiana will embolden them."

Man, I hate being right all the time.

This past week, Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted a policy that allows teachers to use outside materials to teach scientific theories deemed controversial. What theories do you think those would be? Gravity? Boyle’s law? Quantum mechanics?

Yeah, right. This is an incredibly thinly veiled policy to let creationists use their own materials in the class, materials that would otherwise not be allowed due to that pesky First Amendment. Creationists changed their tune to talk about Intelligent Design when they got caught violating the Constitution, and they got caught again at the Dover trial when an ID book was found to be a creationist book with a handful of word changes.

So they changed tactics again, now claiming that teachers need "academic freedom" to discuss controversial theories. The thing is, evolution isn’t controversial. Not among real scientists, that is. It’s a manufactured controversy, with reality on one side, and antiscience creationists making stuff up on the other.

The ultimate irony of all this is that the last thing the creationists want is academic freedom. What they really want is for children to learn only their errant beliefs, and get no real science education.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt have to say it again and again: if you live in Louisiana — and really, just about every state is vulnerable to this — make your voice heard. The creationists rely heavily on people simply not knowing what they are up to. The first step is to get aware, and the second is to do something.

Go do something. Write letters, make phone calls. Vote when the chance comes. Because Louisiana has already taken steps over the cliff, and the only lifeline is an educated populace… something the creationists fight to prevent.

Louisiana: doomed

Comments (86)

  1. Dallas

    I live in Louisiana, and before the “academic freedom” bill was passed I wrote a letter to Jindal. I never expected a response, but I did receive one in the mail a few months after he signed the bill explaining why he signed it. It was a pretty generic letter that they sent out to everyone who wrote to him, and it didn’t have any logical rebuttals to any of the issues that I brought up in my letter or anyone else’s letters either most likely.

    I don’t have any illusions that I can make in impact on our government here. People have been talking about Illinois being corrupt lately, but we’re really much worse down here. Nevertheless, I’m dedicated to helping students receive a proper education in science and evolution, and so I do my best to go to high schools around here and give presentations with my large skull and bone collection and emphasize evolutionary processes.

  2. Adrian Lopez

    Unfortunately, as with the “academic freedom” law and depending on how it’s worded, this could mean parents will have to sue for each specific instance of teaching creationism rather than sue over an unconstitutional policy. The language of the law is supposed to sound reasonable, but in fact it’s designed to support unreasonable objections to reasonable scientific theories.

    Is there any way to attack these laws, considering what we know what they are designed to enable is not necessarily what a judge would interpret it to enable?

  3. justcorbly

    I’m reading a history of one aspect of the conflict between pro- and anti-slavery groups in the runup to the Civil War. It’s interesting to see the parallels in strategy and tactics of Southern slaveowners and today’s fundamentalist right wingers. It’s ironic that, while slaveowners eventually broke the Union and brought the nation to war, no one would really care what today’s wingers do in the privacy of their churches, homes and head so long as they leave the rest of us alone, too.

  4. holastefan

    This all seemed somewhat humorous back when Kansas gave rise to the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”, but with every new episode of this horrible sitcom called “Reason vs. Fantasy”, it’s getting less and less funny each time.

    Thanks for being a beacon of reason, Phil. These kinds of posts are (hopefully) causing some people out there to come out of the darkness.

  5. So they’re basically specifically allowing for some of John Freshwater’s activities (without, perhaps, the electricity experiments – they must be reserving those for the next law).

  6. It deeply saddens me that this has happened. Real science, whether they agree with it or not, is fundamental for all children in this country. For God’s sake, evolution doesn’t even insinuate that life is meaningless-it tells us what life IS. God help us….it’s war of the worlds. One word adheres to logic, the other to fervent dogmatism. Lord….

  7. Nigel Depledge

    Academic Freedom is completely inappropriate for a high school. Teachers should stick to the syllabus (state standards, guidelines, requirements – whatever they call them in your neck of the woods), deviating only where it assists understanding of what is being taught.

  8. Too bad for Louisianna,and, I’m afraid, too bad for the rest os the states. Youre going into the black hole of superstition, while the rest of the world lease uou in the gutters. Your only consolation is that with the US ability to be trendmakers, you’re going to leave to second dark age half a decade ahead of the rest of the world.

  9. Richard

    Next up, the Scientific Theory of Everything, by the fine folk who brought you Scientology. Oh, also, the Vedics’ Guide to Biology.

    *sight*

    This is why kids need a course in critical thinking.

    Imagine a misguided teacher and a critically thinking student:
    Teacher: “Okay, students, I have brought you some literature to show you the controversy over the so-called ‘theory’ of evolution. Uh, yes Timmy?”

    Timmy: “Teacher, I looked this over and I just gotta ask,”

    Teacher: “Yes, dear child.”

    Timmy: “How does this Intelligent Design work? I keep looking over it but I can’t find anything.”

    Teacher: “Well, it’s simple. Life is too complicated to have just happened by chance.”

    Timmy: “Yeah, I read that, but what else is there?”

    Teacher: ” Well, the flagellum is like an out-board motor.”

    Timmy: “Oh, so there were many badly designed ones, ones that worked better than others but weren’t good enough, and some that worked just well enough to go on?”

    Teacher: “Well, I wouldn’t say ‘badly designed’ ones.”

    Timmy: “But some were discontinued?”

    Teacher: “Well, I supposed.”

    Timmy: “So, then this Intellligent Designer did something like that with life?”

    Teacher: “I don’t see where you’re going with that.”

    Timmy: “So this ‘Intelligent Designer’ puts together these species, but a whole lot of them weren’t put together well enough. This ‘agent’ somehow had enough knowledge and resources to put these things together, but not enough to know what would work and what wouldn’t work?”

    Teacher: “I think you’re taking this a little too far, Timmy.”

    Timmy: “Hold on. So, this designer makes single-celled animals?”

    Teacher: “Yes.”

    Timmy: “Bacteria?”

    Teacher: “Uh, yeah.”

    Timmy: “And viruses?”

    Teacher: “I suppose.”

    Timmy: “So, this designer puts together people, animals, and plants, but doesn’t make them right. And makes microbes, too, and probably not right either. And some of these microbes because of a few mistakes kill or cripple people, animals and plants, right?”

    Teacher: “Well, Timmy, I don’t think the designer makes mistakes.”

    Timmy: “So then you’re saying the designer makes those microbes to intentionally kill or cripple?”

    Teacher: “Well, that’s, kinda,…”

    Timmy: “And this designer kills kids, too.”

    Teacher: Um, Timmy, that’s, uh,…”

    Timmy: “Two more questions, when do we get a real science teacher and do we dump these in the recycling bin?”

  10. gopher65

    IVAN3MAN: I hadn’t seen that before. That’s awesome:).

  11. Elmar_M

    Sigh, it is amazing to see that in a country like the US, there are still people living that have not mentally evolved past the 15th century…
    I am sure Governor Jindahl would lovingly burn witches if he only had the legal basis for it. In fact I can see that coming next: have teachers teach about the controversy of whether burning witches is good or bad and of course the heretics too! And then why stop with the heretics, the gays and the jews certainly burn pretty well too… That guy might get the nobel price for turnig time back 500 years…

  12. IVAN3MAN

    @ gopher65,

    Thanks! You can always count on The Onion for topical satire.

  13. Joe

    Good grief. Is all this for real? Is there some reason so many ardent supporters of teaching the theory of evolution so convinced that sanctimonious arrogance and the deliberate maligning of the thoughts and intentions of others is something unique only to religious people? As Christian, I see nothing wrong with the teaching of the theory of evolution. As long as it remains unproven by any means other than colossal refusal to respect any one who does not embrace it it is still a theory, so far as I am aware, unproven by science other than in the microbial sense. The funny thing about the constitution is that some of you seem to respect it only so far as it supports what you want it to support, which to me would be not just your right to teach my children, to to make them over in your own sanctimonious image. When that same constitution gives others the right to resist such, you call them names and insult their intelligence. I suppose you would call that “critical thinking”. I would call it dogmatic non-thinking claiming intellectual honesty that does not exist.

  14. MadScientist

    @Richard:

    I think the Monty Python folks summed it up best with “All things dull and ugly” (all things small and beautiful) – it’s a great response to ID.

    http://www.lyricsdepot.com/monty-python/all-things-dull-and-ugly.html

  15. Reed

    Joe

    so far as I am aware, unproven by science other than in the microbial sense.

    “Microbial sense” ? What is that even supposed to mean ?

    In any case, unawareness of the evidence is something that you can remedy. Try http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ for a start.

  16. scottb

    Joe,

    I think you’ve missed a few major points:

    A scientific “theory” is not the same as the common or non-scientific use of the word. In other words, as some religious people like to argue, it doesn’t mean “wild-assed guess”. A scientific theory is backed by observations (i.e facts). It doesn’t become “proven” some day – it will always be called a theory just like the Theory of Relativity or the Theory of Gravity. Would you like to teach those as controversies too?

    Science classes are for teaching science, not religion. When ID starts proposing testable hypothesis and doing experiments, then it can be taught as science. Until then, it’s religion and should not and can not (via the Constitution) be taught in public schools as science.

    It seems to me that the “sanctimonious” are the ones who deny reality and are attempting to legislate their brand of faith onto everyone. And why only Christianity – why not Buddism or hold on, I’m gonna say it, everyone get ready…. Muslim doctrines as science? And don’t say “because this is a Christian country” because it’s not – not in the sense that Christianity is the foundation and approved religion.

  17. And they keep insisting reality change in order to confirm with their philosophy… I suppose we need to somehow figure out a way to place the earth at the center of the universe to satisfy them… *groan*

  18. Ben

    Is anyone else getting tired of posts like these? Despite how ridiculous these people are, I came here to read about astronomy, or at least something scientific. I don’t care at all about these people or what they are doing. Why don’t we mind our own business and get back to why we read this blog in the first place.

  19. José

    Is anyone else getting tired of posts like these?

    I am. But there’s a disease that’s spreading. If we don’t keep on top of it, more and more of the world will become infected. Soon, telescopes (sometimes called “devil eyes”) will be outlawed. Then even our precious astronomy posts will be gone.

  20. Joe

    Scottb,

    Defending the teaching of evolution (which I do not have a problem with) you say:

    “A scientific theory is backed by observations (i.e facts).”

    In regards to intelligent design you say: “When ID starts proposing testable hypothesis and doing experiments, then it can be taught as science.”

    I am not aware of any testable hypothesis that prove evolution. Is the ‘theory’ of evolution based on observation? Are you saying that observation equals fact? If so, they why does not the observable universe prove that there are far to many coincidences sustaining this planet and its life for it all to be an accident?

    Perhaps the truth is that some observe similarities in life forms and conclude evolution is a fact and other observe the precision of the universe, our solar system, our planet, and conclude an intelligent creator. The first set of people are called scientist. The second set are called religious nuts, lunatics, ect.

    It may surprise you to know that I do not believe the heavens and the earth were created in 6 literal days. I also do not have much problem with the “big bang” “theory” of creation (I am aware that the big bang idea is being questioned by some scientist even now) Lightning makes a big bang, we call it thunder. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” Seems to me that by anybody’s reconing, scientific or religious, there certainly was a big bang and it happened “in the beginning”. I see no conflict on the big bang.

    As I said, I have no problem with the teaching of evolution, so long as it is taught as theory, not as fact (until it becomes proven by science, not by observation). I agree, a school science class is not a place to teach religion. However, I submit that if in fact the universe is the result of intelligent design (neither proven nor unproven by science, same as evolution but an idea supportable by observation, same as evolution, it just depends on what one chooses to make of observations) then a disservice is done to true science as well as students by not presenting both ideas.

    Finally, I fail to see how an intelligent mind can embrace the concept of “natural selection” without knowing that such a concept, in order to function, would require some type of driving or guiding force. One might say the driving or guiding force for natural selection is nature itself. To me, that is a bit like standing on a plank, bending over and picking yourself up with the plank. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Certainly, what ever information, ideas, theories we have on a given subject are the ones that must be taught to up and coming scientist. Question: At what point does science become so absolutely sure it has defined reality that any ideas or theories to the contrary must of necessity be ignored or assumed to be false, even foolish? Isn’t that exactly what religionist have done down through the ages”

    It seems to me that true ‘critical thinking’ not only would have no objections to both sides creation thought being taught, but also that if either scientist or religionist would be honest, they would be required to at least acknowledge the possibility that the other side may have some genuine merit. After all, it is said that whenever two disagree there are only two possibilities: either one is right and one wrong, or BOTH are wrong. Personally, I think there is a third possibility: Neither is entirely right or entirely wrong.

  21. hehe, to repost a sentiment from the anivax thread (with some slight edits):

    Reading some of the “fundamentalist” type replies from the anti-evolution crowd here, I can’t help but be struck by how their irrational adherence to something parallels fundamentalist religious thought. As a matter of fact, the current US “fundamentalist” movement reminds me a lot of another swing towards fundamentalism…

    Remember how the Islamic world was the height of math and science way back during the dark ages? Look at the state of most “fundamentalist” muslim countries now… Is that the way you want the US to go? The parallels are frightening!

  22. Joe,

    How do you feel about the THEORY of gravity? :P

  23. DrFlimmer

    The theory of gravity is a controversy as we clearly see in the “AAS #5″ post ;) I love irony!

    Btw: This is really depressing. I am a Christian and I believe in god – but this has something to do with belief! And science not. But this little difference is not known to many folks out there.
    And it remains true: “America, the place of endless possibilities!” – for good or for bad!
    If those guys are already here in good old Europe they are not really getting any attention! If theybecome any, I will stand up, promised, (although I believe in god – but that is probably my advantage for fighting them!)!

    Keep fighting!

  24. DrFlimmer

    >>If they GET any…<<

    sorry!

  25. UNDERCOVER

    Doomed after doomed after doomed!

    It makes you ask yourself who’s next!

  26. uselesstwit

    Does anyone else love that Joe says observation does not equal science on an astronomy blog?

  27. It is critically important to absolutely honest and scientific about this if you intend to claim that you are only interested in the integrity of science, so distortions, embellishments and outright lies are not acceptable rhetoric against the actions of creationists unless you just want to throw your hand up and admit that you’re really just playing politics, which you won’t.

    “Keep fighting, people. Because I guarantee this victory for the bad guys in Louisiana will embolden them.”

    The vote was a bi-partisan 94-3, in the Louisiana�s House of Representatives, and 35-zip in the Senate, so I guess that you figured that a little more noise would change all that in a state where even the Democrats are Southern Baptists… lol@duh

    Man, I hate being right all the time.

    Let’s see, they’ve essentially had the same law in effect in Texas for about the last twenty years, and boy, those creationists were just in and out of court all day long, weren’t they?

    This past week, Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted a policy that allows teachers to use outside materials to teach scientific theories deemed controversial.

    That’s is a lie, and you are a crackpot or a politician, so take your pick, as long as you don’t call yourself an honest scientist…

    And I’m an atheist.

  28. Sman

    Joe, there are theories to explain the fact of evolution, but the fact remains-evolution occurs. As an analogy, I was in New York last summer. Now, I am in Kentucky. There are many theories that would explain how I made the journey, but the fact remains- I made the journey.

  29. Justin Olson

    Joe said,

    “I am not aware of any testable hypothesis that prove evolution.”

    ——> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk <——

  30. justcorbly

    Science should be taught in public schools. That includes imparting the notion of what science is, teaching the scientific method, and, among much else, explaining what a theory is. The theory of evolution is part of all that.

    The Christianist community’s attack can only succeed by refuting the very nature of a theory, which, in turn, is an attack on the nature of science and the power of reason itself.

    Faith is not part of science and is not a product of reason. By definition, anything believed as an article of faith cannot be proven because, once proven, it enters the realm of reason and science. E.g., prove that God exists and there is no longer a need to believe in the existence of God, anymore than there is a need to believe in the existence of Mount Rushmore or Saturn or the Ohio Turnpike. Faith is not needed to sustain belief in the existence of something that reason understands and knows.

    Teaching the tenets of different faiths, in a comparative religion exercise, might be appropriate for public schools if treated in an academic fashion, i.e., minus the proselytizing, but I question the ability and intent of most schools to do that.

  31. I believe in encouraging logical rational thought, I believe in teaching and encouraging the scientific process to help us understand the World around us.

    I also know that the Universe was created by the one who calls himself I AM WHO AM. He is our God, our Father.

    It is far from logical and trendy to deride the things we do not understand. It is not only unscientific, it is downright arrogant and deeply ignorant to assume all that exists we either understand or at least are aware of.

    We don’t really understand gravity, we certainly can’t control it yet, but we do not doubt it’s existence.

    We only see what we want to see. As the old addage goes: There are none so blind as those who WILL not see.

    One day everyone who doubts that God even exists, let alone loves us will have all the proof you need, with scientific apparatus in your hands you can measure the One who created you.

    You will stand before Him and with your arm’s out-stretched you will be able to place your fingers in the palm of His hands and like the disciple Thomas you will be able to look at the One who created you and KNOW that you are before your God, The Almighty.

    http://smugscientists.dontexist.com

  32. scottb

    Joe,

    You didn’t comprehend anything I said…

    Observations are facts. Observations support theories. The Theory of Evolution is not a fact. IT WILL NEVER BE A FACT. IT’S A THEORY THAT EXPLAINS OBSERVATIONS. Got that?

    The Theory of Evolution is supported by mountains of facts. It has changed dramatically since Darwin. It is getting refined all the time as we learn more. Evolution is observed all the time in short-lived organisms where we can see many generations. Why do you think we have a looming antibiotic crisis? Because bacteria evolve resistence.

    Please read a book that explains evolution in far more detail. I suggest anything by Carl Zimmer or Donald Prothero or if you want something more hardcore, read Gould or Dawkins.

    As a matter of fact, if you check out Carl Zimmer’s blog, you will find a recent series of guest articles by biologist Ken Miller (a Catholic) who dismantles the Discovery Institute’s promotion of Behe’s intelligent design arguments.

  33. scottb

    I left out a critical part:

    The theory of evolution is a testable theory unlike intelligent design. In other words, it can be falsified by observation. For example, if we found certain fossils that we believe are ancestors of other fossil organisms in an later strata, that would be a serious problem.

    In fact, the theory was recently used to correctly predict the discovery of the Tiktaalik transitional form.

  34. Elmar_M

    Actually to me evolution has passed being a teory since Watson and Crick. Modern genetics and genetic engineering have been actually putting evolution to work in their vials for a long time now. Thats why modern genetics is probably the most hated and feared science ever. It simply destroys any claims on ID without even bothering to actively do so and not just ID, the behaviourists (skinner and co) are also going down with ID (so awesome!). Same with those that have twisted the humanist ideal of “everyone is born with the same rights in front of the law” to “everyone is born the same” (yepp you guys are a goner too!!!). All of them are still trying to undo the discovery of the DNA, or they simply do not talk about it, or they are trying to slander genetics wherever they can (by painting horror pictures into the media, e.g.). Since if they can not win it, they can make it look like “devils work”.
    Sigh

  35. Adrian Lopez:

    While the law is hardly a good thing, there are some aspects of it that could actually be favorable to those who want to prevent creationism being taught in science classes. As Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, has said, teachers have always had the right to use supplemental materials and, if numerous polls are correct, some significant percentage of them have been injecting creationism into science classes anyway. This law makes it incumbent on the local school board to pre-approve such materials and gives the State Board of Education the power to ban inappropriate materials (and, perhaps, depending on your reading of the law, the duty to review all such material prior to its use). This means that the local school boards and especially the State Board can be, relatively easily, made constitutionally responsible for what individual teachers are doing in their classes. It is much easier to sue those bodies and successful suits will have a more widespread legal effect than is the situation when dealing with individual teachers. Taking action against them can be extremely difficult, as shown by the John Freshwater case that is taking months and tremendous legal expenses to resolve.

  36. MartinM

    I am not aware of any testable hypothesis that prove evolution.

    Then read a book, for goodness sake. Your ignorance proves nothing but your own lack of intellectual curiosity.

  37. island: I am either a politician or a crackpot? False dichotomy much?

    I got my information from the article and other sources I found. How is that a lie? Even if what I said was wrong — and I don’t think it is — then that is not a lie. And I note that you make several statements in your comment without backing them up with data or links.

  38. SLC

    Re Joe

    I am not aware of any testable hypothesis that prove evolution. Is the ‘theory’ of evolution based on observation?

    First allow me to correct a misconception of Mr. Joes. There is not such thing as proof in science. No scientific theory in the history of science has ever been proven. What there is is evidence for a scientific theory or evidence that falsifies it.

    Second, allow me to refute Mr. Joes’ claim that evolution has no testable hypotheses, in particular the notion that humans and chimpanzees are related and have a common ancestor. However, rather then my undertaking a lengthy explanation of a testable hypothesis that falls out of this notion, let me link to a video by a real biologist and devout Roman Catholic, Prof. Ken Miller of Brown Un.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi8FfMBYCkk

    Finally, I fail to see how an intelligent mind can embrace the concept of “natural selection” without knowing that such a concept, in order to function, would require some type of driving or guiding force.

    If this is Mr. Joes’ position, then he must also fail to see how an intelligent mind could embrace the theory of quantum mechanics. Such quantum phenomena as radioactivity do not have a driving force but are random in nature. If Mr. Joe thinks that natural selection is difficult for an intelligent mind to embrace, try quantum entanglement as an exercise.

  39. Joe

    Scottb,

    I know that micro-organisms such as viruses do evolve immunity to antibiotics. I also know that they remain single celled organisms. I know that man is able to manipulate DNA. Where is the provable evidence that larger animals, such as human beings evolved from ‘lower primates’ into their current state? I know much is made of archeological discoveries but I also know such lines of ‘proof’ are full of holes and gaps. I remember the so-called “missing link” and so far as I am aware the greatest, most obvious attribute of the missing link is that it is still missing. So, it was necessary to do away with the missing link concept.

    I do not believe that mans ability to manipulate DNA proves anything but the genius of men. It neither proves nor disproves evolution nor intelligent design. If evolution happens because of “natural selection” and then new things are created by mans manipulation rather than by nature does not prove “natural” evolution. It only proves man acted upon a thing or two.

    As for observation, how is it that our planet revolves around the sun at exactly the right distance to sustain life on earth? That it has exactly the right tilt in its axis to make the seasons happen as they do? That the temperature of the sun is exactly right? That the moon is stable in it’s orbit and orbits correctly to do what it does with the tides? What brought about the exactly perfect conditions on this planet that would allow life to exist ans sustain itself? It seems to me that time plus matter plus chance is no easier to believe than “in the beginning God”

    Why does ‘observation’ not suffice to conclude that someone or something knew what they were doing but observation proves all things to those who reject the idea that someone or something knew what “it” was doing? Scottb, maybe I missed your point entirely, but it seems you also miss mine.

    I do not argue against evolution as if it is a complete impossibility. I have no idea what the ‘first cause’ of all things was. I am simply saying that to accept one concept and reject the other out of hand while basing the accepted one on observation and refusing the observational conclusions of the others is not ‘critical thinking’. It is (I hate to use this phrase, ich, ich, ich,) ‘prejudicial thinking’. I find it somewhat narrow minded.

    This has been fun, but I am afraid the demands of my job will keep me from continuing. At present, today has been my only day off for a while and I do not expect another one for a month or so. It has been fun. Perhaps some day the genius of man will prove that it is the only genius that exists, or that there are multiple genius life forms throughout the galaxies, or who knows, perhaps we will someday discover that sharp as he is, man is not quite the genius he likes to think he is. I suppose you will not agree, but it seems to me that one would have to have an open mind and actually be thinking with that mind to consider all those possibilities and that not to consider all those possibilities is to be somewhat close-minded.

  40. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I am not aware of any testable hypothesis that prove evolution.

    Well, Louisiana is doomed whether crackpots display their ignorance or not. But it is an easy task to ascertain that the very basis of biology is a tested science, by rummaging through a couple of peer-reviewed journals or asking your national science office: there are hundreds of tests published every day, leading to new tests, and on that display of a very fertile science people estimate that evolution is the best tested theory ever.

    But it is also easy to extract a prediction and verify it for yourself. For example, evolution is most widely defined as common descent, i.e. changes are inherited. Then we should see nested hierarchies, i.e. when a trait is established by evolutionary mechanisms it will henceforth be inherited. (It may eventually disappear, but it will again be a nesting – the descendants will display a lack of the trait.)

    These nested hierarchies is what enables us to make phylogenetic trees of fossils. If they didn’t nest, didn’t make trees, the very definition of the observed process of common descent would fail a basic prediction.

    But it gets much, much better than that! Phylogenetic trees are, as all observation, characterized by uncertainty. There will be a set of plausible trees, not always a single definitive one.

    Despite that, this set with its handful of remaining possibilities is so small compared to the set of all possible nestings that you can say that making the universal tree out of all fossils corresponds to the most precise measurement there is:

    Nevertheless, a precision of just under 1% is still pretty good; it is not enough, at this point, to cause us to cast much doubt upon the validity and usefulness of modern theories of gravity. However, if tests of the theory of common descent performed that poorly, different phylogenetic trees, as shown in Figure 1, would have to differ by 18 of the 30 branches!

    In their quest for scientific perfection, some biologists are rightly rankled at the obvious discrepancies between some phylogenetic trees (Gura 2000; Patterson et al. 1993; Maley and Marshall 1998). However, as illustrated in Figure 1, the standard phylogenetic tree is known to 38 decimal places, which is a much greater precision than that of even the most well-determined physical constants.

    For comparison, the charge of the electron is known to only seven decimal places, the Planck constant is known to only eight decimal places, the mass of the neutron, proton, and electron are all known to only nine decimal places, and the universal gravitational constant has been determined to only three decimal places. [My bold.]

    (Quote from the talkorigin link already given by other commenters.)

    Note 1: Also, this tree is robust, i.e. new discoveries tends to change details, not the overall topology. This is what we should expect from a reliable theory.

    Note 2: If we should heed the creationists, the success of the theory is all the more remarkable, since the creationist set of possible trait assortment is combinatorial, not a binary tree from speciation. I.e. since creationists refuse to, really can’t, make predictions anything goes, and observed patterns are mysteries that can’t be explained. One could say that design is impotent by its own device. ;-)

  41. scottb

    Joe, one final comment and then I’m done as well. It is clear from your comments that you really don’t understand what evolution is. Please do some research before arguing against it.
    Also, your comments about the earth, moon, and orbits has zero to do with evolution so if that’s part of your evidence against it, you are completely mistaken.

    “Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out” (Carl Sagan, I believe).

  42. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Ah, I see that, as expected, the creationist slunk away without looking at the descriptions of observational tests he asked for.

    On the contrary he never explained what constitutes his own ‘observations’, and how they test his ideas. Imagine that.

  43. Elmar_M

    Joe…
    Please read up on genetics, read up on DNA, read up on gene therapy. For once instead of reading the bible for the 100th time, take another book (a science book) and read it. If you dont want to spend the money, read online,read wikipedia (not always the best source, but better than nothing), or one of the many science publications online, like New Scientist, Science Daily, etc. There is plenty of content there on all these topics to provide you with reading material for months.
    Also read up on the similarities in genetic code between humans and other species. In fact, we have parts of our ancestors in our genetic code (dormant/non- coding genes).
    It is amazing to me that 56 (!) years after the discovery of the DNA, followed by breakthrough after breakthrough (not just in microbes, even living breathing humans)people are still so ignorant to all this.
    It is one of the most undertought sciences there is (while having the potential to being one of the most beneficial to mankind). If it was going after me, they would teach this stuff in high school (and you cant start with this to early, can you?), but noone ever asks me anyway…
    And if you want to see something that will blow your mind (I would call it “a revelation of biblical proportions”) then watch this.
    http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/health/2008/09/26/dnt.mo.stem.cell.cure.kmbc?iref=videosearch
    This is a testament to the understanding that we have of how evolution works, how stem cells work and how we were not “created from mudd”.
    The discovery of the DNA basically proofed one of the predictions made by Darwin and co, that there has to be a means for storing information about the building plan of species in every living being.
    But if all this is to complicated for you, then go on a farm. All cattle, cows, corn, wheat, etc you see grow on any farm in the world came about via evolution. It was not natural selection in this case, but human selection. Still none of these creatures and plants existed a few thousand years ago. It is genetic engineering as well, just with more primeval means.

  44. Joe

    I see no point in further discussion. Some of you folks arrogantly assume that I am stupid, evidently, that I am incapable of reading. Granted, I may not have read everything you have read but I have not come on here and insisted that you read the bible, nor claimed myself to have read it a hundred times. you folks are arrogant, condescending and frankly, in this discussion I feel a bit like a dog chasing his own tail. around and around we go and you folks simply will not think it possible that a person could have a differing opinion and be anything but stupid and unlearned. Adios

  45. SLC

    Re Joe

    Did Mr. Joe bother to go to the Ken Miller link I posted that totally discredited his claim of no testable hypotheses from evolution? I thought not.

    Re Torbjörn Larsson

    In short, creationism has no predictive power.

  46. justcorbly

    Nonscientist that I am, I’ll have a go at some of Joe’s assertions:

    Where is the provable evidence that larger animals, such as human beings evolved from ‘lower primates’ into their current state?

    One of the misconceptions surrounding the whole “evolve” thing is, I susect, is that many people take it to mean that members of oen species start changing into something else. One day apes wake up as apes, and a few days late they wake up as accountants and soccer moms. Unh-unh. New species appear, perhaps by chance genetic modification. Successful, i.e. the fittest, species manage to survive in whatver ecological niche they find themselves. Hence, fish live in water, polar bears don’t live in Brazil, and alligators don’t like Finland.

    I do not believe that mans ability to manipulate DNA proves anything but the genius of men.

    Radiation can muck about with your genetic structure with no intervention by anyone at all. The universe has been full of all kinds of radiation since it began.

    …how is it that our planet revolves around the sun at exactly the right distance to sustain life on earth?

    Pure chance. The only life we know about is life on this planet, but life is certainly possible on other planets at all sorts of distances from their star. Few who are paying attention would be totally surprised if life is found on or in Mars, Europa, Triton, or even Enceladus. In fact, because the components of living organisms are found throught the universe, the pesence of life on this planet may suggest that life will take root in any conducive environment. (And it isn’t “exactly the right distance to sustain life.” It’s “a” distance.)

    Why does ‘observation’ not suffice to conclude that someone or something knew what they were doing but observation proves all things to those who reject the idea that someone or something knew what “it” was doing?

    Accepting that “someone or something knew what they were doing” is a matter of belief and faith, not of human knowledge or reason. There is no evidence of a god or any other outside actor directing events in the universe. Nor can there bem because as soon as real evidence might appear, it is no longer a matter of belief and faith. Science and other products of human reason pose no threat to anyone’s beliefs.

    I have no idea what the ‘first cause’ of all things was

    Why does there need to be a first cause?

  47. justcorbly

    Some of you folks arrogantly assume that I am stupid, evidently, that I am incapable of reading.

    We saw a lot of this in the presidential campaign as many folks, especially Palin supporters, complained about being put down by arrogant people who might actually know what they’re talking about. I didn’t nootice anyone referring to Joe as stupid. I saw several people take the time to prepare cogent and lengthy responses, and advising Joe that if he wants to understand modern genetics and biology that he really ought to do some reading in those areas. No arrogance there. Those are specialist areas, not amenable to understanding via our daily routine and the application of common sense. I no little about ancient Chinese history, but I wouldn’t feel insulted if someone told me that I needed to study up if I wanted to understand it. Nor would I attempt to tell historians of China that they had it all wrong because I happened to believe something else.

  48. nosmokes

    The failure of our education system to teach even the basics (i.e: scientific theory v general theory) of science in thirteen years of schooling is a sad and damning indictment of our society. The fact that it is being actively undermined by a rather large percentage of our churches and places of worship should give us all, including the religious among us a very real cause for alarm. What is the motive behind the church’s fervor in the resurrected crusade to get creationism taught in the schools? I grew up in Alabama in the sixties and seventies and I don’t believe the thought of trying to teach creationism ever entered the minds of my science teachers. The only reason it can possibly be an issue now is power in the secular and political world. Ideology is a great way to govern so long as it agrees with facts. When the facts prove the ideology wrong, not so much.

  49. scottb

    Joe, once again you distort or ignore what people are saying.

    in this discussion I feel a bit like a dog chasing his own tail. around and around we go and you folks simply will not think it possible that a person could have a differing opinion and be anything but stupid and unlearned. Adios

    Wrong, Joe. You came here and posted factually wrong information – not opinions – facts. And when people called you on it, your reply is to take your ball and go home cuz you don’t want to play anymore.

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  50. SLC

    Re Joe

    By the way, Mr. Joe seems to think that commentors on this thread have been beastly towards him. Actually, they have been both polite and patient because Dr. Plait discourages rudeness and foul language. Had he posted his comments over on Ed Braytons’ blog, he would see what real beastliness is as Mr. Brayton has no problem with rudeness and foul language.

  51. Ah, sorry. I updated the post above with a link to the exorcism thing. Incredible.

  52. SLC

    By the way, it should be noted that Governor Jindel has a bachelors’ degree in biology from Brown University.

  53. scottb

    By the way, it should be noted that Governor Jindel has a bachelors’ degree in biology from Brown University.

    And it should also be noted that several of his old professors and fellow Brown alumni (Ken Miller) wrote open letters to him asking him not to sign the bill. He signed it anyway.

    Cognitive dissonance in action!

  54. Richard

    To be fair, I often ridicule myself. It’s part of the self-examination process. If you don’t examine yourself, then you can’t possibly understand the results of examining someone else. So, if you haven’t properly examine yourself, then try to get a goodly part of a nation to fall in line with what you call the “Truth,” then don’t be surprised when a small minority starts to examine those beliefs and you.

    In short, wanna get your faith entangled in politics? The price is scorn and ridicule.

    One of the Founding Fathers of this great nation openly scorned and ridiculed Christianity. He no less took scissors to the Bible and cut out all the things he thought preposterous: miracles and such. He kept the good bits, like “Love thy neighbor.”

    The fact is that humans made the United States of America from the philosophical foundations of the Age of Enlightenment. They saw that those who ruled with “Divine Right” were quick to inflict evil. One of the results of this new construction was the minority’s right to speak out against the majority. Don’t like what the handful of atheists are saying? Tough. They can’t help it if your deity of choice is too impotent to do anything to the unbelieving laugh-mongers.

    I think Phil makes fun of himself quite often. As many of us commentenators do.

    But, Joe pointed something out. I was making fun of ID. He was offended that people were making fun of beliefs. Am I too conclude, then, that ID is in fact a belief and not science? This is using his own arguments. And that’s without the fact that ID is little more than shoddy, outdated philosophy. I mean, “the first cause”? Might as well ask what the final cause will be, ’cause that’s a lot of infinity.

    I like making fun of ID. I also like to make fun of astrologers, goober hunters,…I mean ghost hunters, and snake-oil sales men. In this nation, they are free to speak whatever nonesense comes to mind, but we have the right to point out their shenanigans. Don’t like it? Tough.

    The best thing a citizen can do is to poke fun at politicians. An even better thing to do is lay to ridiculous waste pundits. In fact, pundit bashing should be mandatory.

    In conclusion, ID is still a steaming pile of excrement. Don’t like that opinion? Tough. There hasn’t been anything of value (data, testable observations, predictions, or even a crude hypothesis) from the ID camp to even remotely resemble a high school science fair, much less a reliable science. If you’re gonna be science, then show us the science and not the slight-of-hand from washed up philosophical arguments.

    Oh, and treat your mini-poodle well. ‘Cause deep down inside, he is still a gray wolf. Talk about mutable. A “well-designed” species should never have become such a walking cartoon. Just goes to show that any “Intelligent Designer” is its own argument against itself.

  55. DexX

    This will get really fun when someone on the left decides to use the conservatives’ stupid law against them, bringing Dawkins and Myers materials into the classroom to not just teach evolution but actively teach AGAINST creationism.

    They’ll squeal about it and demand the teacher be sacked, but their own laws will justify it.

    Give it a few months, I am certain it will happen.

  56. Darth Robo

    Folks, pay no never mind to “island”. PZ’s blog has a “banned” list for those who are a real pain in the b, or are really out there – and he’s on it. He may not be a creationist, but he’s certainly out there. He stopped posting on Topix since he didn’t enjoy the verbal slaughtering he received. Anyone who doubts me can take a look at his own blog.

  57. Elmar_M

    left, right, yawn. I hate this distinction. I have seen as much, if not sometimes more ignorance towards science from the so called “left wing” here than from the right.
    Here the socialist and green party “left wing” consists mostly of ultra left, stalinistic, marxistic, dialectic materialism preaching, tabula rasa preaching, anarchistic hippies. In their phantasy world “everyone is born the same” and “its all societies fault” and “everyone can be tought to be a good person” (what ever that is). They also believe in stuff like “creatures evolved by adaption” (behaviorism by Skinner and Lamarque) versus selection. They think that people can be educated to be a certain way and of course in reintegration of even the worst criminals into society (utopic).
    In their idealistic vision of life and mankind in particular, reality is as present as it is in the creationist christian mind (not at all).
    They even tend to crowd up with the christian party here… Excellent match!

  58. Julian

    “I have seen as much, if not sometimes more ignorance towards science from the so called “left wing” here than from the right.”

    I actually know a few self-proclaimed Liberal Creationists. All family members. All vote straight Democrat. None can tell me the party’s platform.

  59. Nigel Depledge

    Joe said:

    As long as it [evolutionary theory] remains unproven by any means other than colossal refusal to respect any one who does not embrace it it is still a theory, so far as I am aware, unproven by science other than in the microbial sense.

    This illustrates your own colossal ignorance of how science works.

    Science never proves anything. Proof only exists in mathematics. Instead, science disproves wrong explanations.

    There comes a point, however, when the sheer quantity of evidence that supports one theory and refutes all the alternatives to have been proposed so far leads the body of scientific opinion to consider that one theory a fact.

    It is disingenuous in the extreme to claim that, since evolution is “only a theory”, you will still consider alternatives. There are no credible alternatives. Evolution is a fact: populations of biological entities change over time. All of the mechanisms cthat are encompassed by evolutionary theory have been observed in nature. The only open questions that remain are: have we found all of the mechanisms that operate to bring about biological change? and what contribution do the various nechanisms make in any given situation?

    The funny thing about the constitution is that some of you seem to respect it only so far as it supports what you want it to support, which to me would be not just your right to teach my children, to to make them over in your own sanctimonious image.

    Who’s sanctimonious?

    The person that clings to a dogmatic representation of the world despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, or the person that wants all the nation’s children to be taught to think for themselves?

    When that same constitution gives others the right to resist such, you call them names and insult their intelligence. I suppose you would call that “critical thinking”. I would call it dogmatic non-thinking claiming intellectual honesty that does not exist.

    Hey, here’s an idea: how about you go away and get some clue of what the reality of this debate is about, then come back and join in once you are able to state an informed opinion? Try the NCSE as a starting point, then move on to TalkOrigins.

    If all you want to do is state an opinion founded on ignorance, don’t be surprised if someone calls you to task for it.

    The “academic freedom” issue is a simple fabrication to get creationist ideas into science classes. It serves no other purpose. Academic freedom has no legitimate place in the high school, because, with all due respect to them, high-school teachers are not at the cutting edge of scientific research. It is up to the scientific community, through the process of doing science, to determine what we do and do not know about the way the world works. Once something is known with a high degree of confidence, it should be taught in high-school science classes.

  60. Grammarian

    Your blog loses instant credibility when in the first paragraph, you misspell the name of Gov. Jindal. How can I trust the accuracy of what you write when you can’t even get a simple last name correct?

  61. Doomed! Doomed ! Doomed!

    Channeling Marvin the paranoid android (?) :

    Louisana doomed? yeah, we’re all doomed if we wait long enough …

    Eventually, the Sun will become a red giant and wipe us all out ..

    [Insert caption /image "Earth --Doomed!" - cat & mouse both look up united as the Sun swells and reddens in the sky ..]

    But even then I get the feeling the last rationalist will be telling the last creationist : look evolution really is real y’know!” and pointing back through aeons at this blog post .. and the last creationist will still be chanting away with fingers in ears going : “Lalalalalala! gooddit goddit! goddit! Lalalalalala!”

    Sigh.

    Then the Milky Way will run out of gas, the stars will fade away, the only stars left being dim red dwrafs, the Sun’s stellar corpse will be back to being yellow – having cooled down so far from being a white dwraf (& astronomers here know that’s a very, ve-ery, v-eee-eeee-rrrrr-yyyy, loo-oong time.)

    And yet, even then I get the feeling the last rationalist will be telling the last creationist : look evolution really is real y’know!” and pointing back through aeons at this blog post .. and the last creationist will still be chanting away with fingers in ears going : “Lalalalalala! goddit goddit! goddit! Lalalalalala!”

    Then finally *all* stars will have gone out, the last of dimmest red dwarfs will have faded to blackness, our Sun will have decayed away or fallen into
    a black hole, the universe will be 0.000000000000000000000000000000001
    degree from absolute zero – or colder and even protons will have decayed past their half-lives … No life will be possible. Everything will have stopped ..

    Except ..

    … Amazingly, even then I get the feeling the last rationalist
    (a galaxy-sized AI perhaps?)
    will be telling the last creationist
    (a faulty AI witha malfunctioning program perhaps?)
    : “look evolution really is real y’know!” and pointing back through aeons at this blog post .. and that last creationist will still be chanting away with fingers in ears going : “Lalalalalala! gooddit goddit! goddit! Lalalalalala .. Uh.!”

    (Everything stops. The universe ends. The last point of light vanishes like an old TV screen fading to that central point. Doom overtakes evry thing.)

    Ah so very tired.

    As Isaac Asimov quoted Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ saying :

    “Against Stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.”

    Creationism /ID *is* Stupidity and sometimes crazy and dull and deluded as it is, I’m getting this weary “why do we bother” feeling that it just ain’t never going away. :-(

    Everybody : Doomed!

    … So lets party on & enjoy what we’ve got while we’ve got it?! Eat drink and be merry, for .. tomorrow we’ve got this same tediouser and tediouser debate all over again..

    Who knows having this outta my system, I may be more cheerful then! ;-)

    Maybe that longer term outlook puts being “Doomed!” into perspective ..?

  62. Nigel Depledge

    SciFi Si said:

    It is far from logical and trendy to deride the things we do not understand. It is not only unscientific, it is downright arrogant and deeply ignorant to assume all that exists we either understand or at least are aware of.

    But it is neither arrogant nor ignorant to conclude that we are unable to make conclusions about something that cannot be seen, heard, measured, recorded etc. The scientific conclusion about God is: we have no way of knowing (not even “we don’t know” – we actually have no way of finding out).

    However, logic requires parsimony. Since we can explain how the universe works just as well without God as we can with God, it is therefore illogical to insist on the existence of God.

    We don’t really understand gravity, we certainly can’t control it yet, but we do not doubt it’s existence.

    Because we can all observe and measure its effects.

    We only see what we want to see.

    This is easy to say, but I challenge you to demonstrate it. Can you prove that scientists (or atheists) are ignoring valid evidence?

    As the old addage goes: There are none so blind as those who WILL not see.

    Yeah. To whom do you refer exactly?

    One day everyone who doubts that God even exists, let alone loves us will have all the proof you need, with scientific apparatus in your hands you can measure the One who created you.

    Unless, of course, the atheists were right all along, in which case you’ll feel rather foolish.

    What you have not recognised is that we do not know and we cannot know.

    You will stand before Him and with your arm’s out-stretched you will be able to place your fingers in the palm of His hands and like the disciple Thomas you will be able to look at the One who created you and KNOW that you are before your God, The Almighty.

    Sez you. Show me the evidence.

  63. Mt Molehill TeacupStorm

    Come on! How many kids pay attention at school anyway ..?

    Lets try asking your average highcschooler if they give a cup of cold excrement about what the teacher ..any teacher says ..

    Kids learn more from outside school than in I’d reckon.

    The bright ones know enough and are smart enough not to be fooled by ID Claptrapism.

    The dumb ones .. are “doomed” by their own dumbness anyway. perhaps they’ll still have halfway happy lives if they’re lucky, perhaps not. Perhaps a few of the dumbest ones will be taken in & if so, well their not going to make things _that_ different are they?

    The dumb leading the dumber – that’s how creationism has always worked. Show me a creationist whos an intellectual dynamo and super-intelligent and I’ll show you an invisible unicorn! ;-)

    Yeah, Creationism/ ID / whatever-they-call-it-next is rubbish. It shouldn’t get taught, but it probably will. In a few states to a few classes that, let’s be honest, won’t care or recall it five minutes later anyhow.

    But somehow I really don’t think this debate is anything but overhyped and overflogged. All were doing here is wasting time …

    Nwhich is fine by me .. I’m doing some dull work and and have time to kill so I’m okay but really ..Don’t you brighter people here – & Dr Phil Plait don’t you esp. – have better things to do than rehash all this sh–
    –ivering load of codswallop yet again? Sigh.

    I know your blog but can I just request some more astronomy and less stale ID-crement content please?

  64. Yes, Grammarian, because of a typo all the points I make in the article are negated. Brilliant.

    FWIW a guy I went to grad school with had a similar last name with an “h” in it, which is why I sometimes make that error. I usually catch it before the post goes up though.

  65. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The scientific conclusion about God is: we have no way of knowing (not even “we don’t know” – we actually have no way of finding out).

    You can’t make that conclusion before you define the observations and the problem. And science is by its nature open-ended.

    Actually, it is easy to see that religions are based on superstition, that their respective god concepts mutually exclusive, and that their empirical predictions such as miracles and creators are nowhere to be seen. So unlikely by social science, or by bayesian standards on observation, or by competing mechanisms such as physics, or by testing of the nature of creative mechanisms/agents (which predictively always starts out simple, then evolves).

    By your own words: “There comes a point, however, when the sheer quantity of evidence that supports one theory and refutes all the alternatives to have been proposed so far leads the body of scientific opinion to consider that one theory a fact.”

    [Now, personally I don't think beauty contests and robustness are absolute - but as all methods they are testable and come up likely. So I would agree on that basis, and then argue that this is a done conclusion by usual empirical standards.]

  66. Mark Hansen

    @ Grammarian,
    Your sentence loses credibility if you can’t word it correctly. “Instant credibility”? Do you add water or milk to it to get credibility? Perhaps you meant to open your statement with “Your blog loses credibility the instant you misspell the name…”

  67. Darth Robo

    I think it goes something like: Attack the blogger by making irrelevant points instead of dealing with the issues at hand.
    ;)

  68. “I fail to see how an intelligent mind can embrace the concept of “natural selection” without knowing that such a concept, in order to function, would require some type of driving or guiding force. One might say the driving or guiding force for natural selection is nature itself.”

    FATAL FLAW OF UNDERSTANDING!

    NOTHING drives evolution… Evolution is pureley reactional. As all ID arguments, this is totally BACKWARDS from reality… I think that’s why people dismiss you so casually Joe… As rightly they should if you can’t even be bothered to understand the basics.

  69. Nigel Depledge

    Mt Molehill TeacupStorm said:

    Come on! How many kids pay attention at school anyway ..?

    Lets try asking your average highcschooler if they give a cup of cold excrement about what the teacher ..any teacher says ..

    Kids learn more from outside school than in I’d reckon.

    The bright ones know enough and are smart enough not to be fooled by ID Claptrapism.

    The dumb ones .. are “doomed” by their own dumbness anyway. perhaps they’ll still have halfway happy lives if they’re lucky, perhaps not. Perhaps a few of the dumbest ones will be taken in & if so, well their not going to make things _that_ different are they?

    The dumb leading the dumber – that’s how creationism has always worked. Show me a creationist whos an intellectual dynamo and super-intelligent and I’ll show you an invisible unicorn!

    Yeah, Creationism/ ID / whatever-they-call-it-next is rubbish. It shouldn’t get taught, but it probably will. In a few states to a few classes that, let’s be honest, won’t care or recall it five minutes later anyhow.

    Well, maybe and maybe not.

    You obviously did not have good teachers in high school. I was luckier – I went to schools that had teachers that inspired me, and I recall some of what they said quite vividly, despite the intervening … years.

    Your comment touches on a question that has not been asked: what is the purpose of education? In my view, it is to enable each individual to become an informed member of society, with enough knowledge about the world to understand the issues faced by the complex society in which they live.

    Consider antibiotic resistance as a good example: doctors sometimes prescribe antibiotics for ailments that they have no hope of treating (e.g. viral infections such as colds and flu). IIUC, sometimes patients insist on this. However, over-use of antibiotics is taking us down the path towards having no effective antibiotics, becauise of the evolution of resistance in pathogens. If the population at large (including some doctors) is able to understand the relationship between antibiotic over-use and resistance, they can help to prevent the spread of resistance by (a) not pressuring the doctor to prescribe antibiotics; (b) question the doctor if antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately; or (c) at least accept the doctor’s word if (s)he says that antibiotics are not appropriate.

  70. Todd W.

    @Nigel Depledge

    question the doctor

    But, but, but…doctors know stuff. Who are we to question them?

    accept the doctor’s word

    Pffft! Doctors don’t know anything. They just guess most of the time. Why should we take their word? Huh? Huh?
    :P

  71. Nigel Depledge

    Nice quote-mine, Todd. I lol-ed. :rofl:

  72. Nigel Depledge

    Justcorbly said:

    E.g., prove that God exists and there is no longer a need to believe in the existence of God, anymore than there is a need to believe in the existence of Mount Rushmore or Saturn or the Ohio Turnpike

    Wait, what? Are you saying the Ohio Turnpike is real?
    ;-)

  73. Then Again

    @ the BA :

    “So they changed tactics again, now claiming that teachers need “academic freedom” to discuss controversial theories. The thing is, evolution isn’t controversial. Not among real scientists, that is. It’s a manufactured controversy, with reality on one side, and antiscience creationists making stuff up on the other.

    Hmm …

    So you are saying that the only *real* science is the science you agree with? That anything you disgrree with isn’t “true science?”

    Isn’t that the “No True Scotsman” fallacy?

    Saying the other side is making things up also smacks to me of the ‘ad hominam’ or “attacking the person not their argument” fallacy.

    If the case for evolution is overhwelming then why are scientists so scared of putting it up for debate alongside an alterative?

    What is so wrong with bills for ‘academic freedom’ that allow even eccentric minority views (or mainstream commonly held ones for that matter) to be discussed and compared with conventional scientific views?

    And on a slightly related note if teaching religion is banned why is teaching atheism – a form of religious belief or at very least a personal belief about the matter of religion – made compulsory? Just because we’ve got church state separation preventing the compulsion of any *single specific* religion over the numerous others does that necessarily require the mandatory teaching of the *single specific * & minority atheist belief by default as it were?

    Don’t flame me, please, I’m just asking nicely.

  74. Then Again

    Would it not be a reasonable interpretation of the “Congress can make no law regarding religion” rule to say that it does NOT make teaching religion forbidden or state that the US must be legally atheist and godless but rather that what religion is taught at state level must be non-specific and non-denominational?

    Or that while people cannot be discriminated against because they are say, Catholic or Lutheran or Hindu or whatever they still have their role to play in society and shouldn’t be restricted from believing and discussing their beliefs either .. wherever so they wish?

    It appears plausible to me that atheists have been – perhaps – misinterpreting and exploiting the amendment to exclude rather than include and to compel their own dogma of “No God” as opposed to allowing all people the freedom to decide for themselves what their religious beliefs are.

    I don’t think the way in which atheists have been interpreting the Church / State separation is the same way the founding fathers of America intended that rule to run. In fact, I think it is likely the direct opposite of what the founders (who lets not forget were – with few exceptions – religious devout Christians escaping from European religious intolerance) would have wanted.

  75. Then Again

    Again, I’m just raising the point nicely for contemplation NOT attacking evolution or anyone here.

    Please don’t reflexively accuse me of being a troll or flame me just for thinking differently to you or at least arguing oustide the atheist herd here.

  76. Todd W.

    @Then Again

    To respond to some of your points:

    1) Not sure what schools you’ve been looking into, but I don’t recall any schools actively teaching atheism. Point me to a school that is actively saying “There is no god” instead of just not addressing whether or not god exists.

    2) Scientists are not afraid of putting evolution up for a debate against an alternative. At present, there are no scientific alternatives to explain the diversity and change of life over time. When a scientific alternative surfaces, then let’s talk. Keep in mind, this requires that the alternative has actually come up with testable, falsifiable theories, evidence which supports those theories, makes predictions, finds evidence based on those predictions, and so forth.

    3) Saying that the “other side” is making things up is only an ad hominem if it is not supported by evidence. It can be shown that they have made stuff up. It’s fact. Therefore, no ad hom.

    4) More than just a few of the founding fathers were not Christians. If you do a little research, you’ll find that some of the more prominent men that devised the wording of the Constitution and the amendments were likely Deists and possibly atheists. Even some of the ones who were Christians were greatly in favor of a separation of church and state, due in large part to the antagonisms between the different sects of Christianity. No one wanted to see a rival sect gain too much power. Therefore, for the sake of both government and religion, they wanted to keep religion out of the government.

  77. José

    @Todd W.
    Not sure what schools you’ve been looking into, but I don’t recall any schools actively teaching atheism. Point me to a school that is actively saying “There is no god” instead of just not addressing whether or not god exists.

    You’re forgetting that organisms committing suicide after determining there is no god is one of the main selecting forces in evolution. How else can you explain all the trilobite fossils found with open bottles of sleeping pills next to them?

  78. José

    @Then Again

    Or that while people cannot be discriminated against because they are say, Catholic or Lutheran or Hindu or whatever they still have their role to play in society and shouldn’t be restricted from believing and discussing their beliefs either .. wherever so they wish?

    There’s nothing that prohibits discussing religion in school. History class would be pretty full of holes if it was. And you can certainly believe whatever you want. You just can’t teach religion. If a student brings up creationism/ID in science class it’s not like everyone has to cover their ears and pretend it didn’t happen. Any real science teacher would be happy to explain why creationism/ID is not science.

  79. Darth Robo

    Yeah, what’s wrong with “academic freedom” and teaching “alternative views”? This is all those mean *atheists* fault!

    BONG!!!!!

    Another fundie deconstructs their own arguments in just one post. And the amazing thing is, they just keep on doing it…

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