Sorry, Texas. You're still doomed.

By Phil Plait | July 14, 2009 7:00 am

So Texas Governor Rick Perry withdrew his nomination of decided not to nominate the far-right ultra-religious Planter’s sampler Cynthia Dunbar for head of the state Board of Education, but, as predicted, he has instead nominated another creationist: Gail Lowe.

She is yet another in a long series of ill-qualified religious ideologues on the Texas BoE: she wants to insert "strengths and weaknesses" into the curriculum (the weaknesses to which they refer don’t really exist; they really mean false creationist attacks on evolution), she wants to make classes more political, she wants to remove other solid scientific reasoning from science classes.

I find it interesting indeed that you find none of this when you go to her website. Instead you find vague claims about her stances which give almost no real information. Of course, her record is pretty clear.

So the head of the BoE is once again someone with antiscience beliefs. I wonder if they’ll appoint Jenny McCarthy as head of their Department of Health?

And so, as usual…

Texas: doomed

Comments (135)

  1. Sir Eccles

    No no, you’ve missed her point. There is no detail on her website because she realizes how important it is to get a consensus opinion rather than stick to the facts.

    “The treatment of evolution in textbooks has drawn much public comment. I would invite interested constituents to provide their written statements on the subject to me by Sept. 1.”

    I say everyone should write in and let her know what the scientific consensus really is.

  2. I thought Texas promised they were quitting even before Palin did. ???

    I wish they would go already. Really… don’t let the door hit you…

  3. Doug Little

    The treatment of evolution in textbooks has drawn much public comment. I would invite interested constituents to provide their written statements on the subject to me by Sept. 1.

    Since when should the public have any say on what is taught in science class, science is NOT a popularity contest, these cretins just can’t seem to get that through their thick, reality denying gray matter. Instead of calling for comments from the public she should be talking to scientists about what the strengths and (creationist perceived, strawman, non scientific) weaknesses are.

  4. Ryan

    Yeah, the only democrat I voted for last year was Gail Lowe’s opponent. That obviously didn’t happen.

  5. Jimmy McInturff

    Get your facts straight. Rick Perry did not withdraw any nomination. He never nominated Dunbar. You lose all credibility.

  6. Rob Lee

    @Sir Eccles — “I say everyone should write in and let her know what the scientific consensus really is.”

    I second this motion — I for one will be sending her a message outlining some key points of evolution as well as different sources to turn to for more information. Not that I think it will help, but I would like to give her at least a certain degree of the benefit of the doubt and just assume that she is simply ignorant and could potentially be swayed by a massive outpouring of feedback. Not that I really think that this is the case, but it is entirely possible to not encounter anything but the fake Creationist strawman version of evolution, only to be floored by the real thing. We should at least try to get the word out instead of just complaining in the comments section of an Astronomy blog, you know?

  7. If we do not get control of our state away from these Republicans, I was going to say Nutty Republicans but in Texas it does not need to be said, we are real trouble down here. The schools are just the tip of their nutburg

  8. Now, now, Phil. She’s not totally anti-science. I mean, from the “About Gaily Lowe” page we find that:

    Lowe attended the University of Alabama. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in 1978.

    See? Bachelor of Science! She knows what science is. Granted, it doesn’t say what her BS is in, but we can speculate.

  9. LuanneO'Neill

    In her case, I don’t think B.S. stands for Bachelor of Science, however…

  10. Nigel Depledge

    * Sigh *

    One day, maybe someone with the power and nous to do something about it will read Richard Feynman’s essay about his experience on a school text book selection panel.

    I would have thought it obvious that science education (including textbook selection) is above such things as popularity contests and consensuses (consensi?). After all, there is only one reality, right?

  11. Nigel Depledge

    @ Todd W (7)…

    Your quoted words from Gail Lowe’s website have confused me:

    Lowe attended the University of Alabama. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University in 1978.

    If she attended the University of Alabama, what was Louisiana State University doing awarding her a degree? IIUC, these are in separate (albeit neighbouring) states, right?

  12. I think your Jenny McCarthy comment pissed of the interesting people at AoA..there is a post up now…”wrestling with pigs at bad astronomy”…interesting indeed…but then again, delusional thinking always is…:)

  13. Cindy

    She could have gotten her B.S. in business. It’s funny, but I’m the only one in my family with a B.A and I majored in Astronomy. My dad was an engineer, my mom got her B.S. in medical technology (she was a lab tech), my older sister got her B.S. in business, and my older brother got his B.S. in geology. Where I went to undergrad, the college of arts and sciences only granted B.A. degrees.

    Sigh, I’ll apologize again because my great-great-great-great-grandfather helped negotiate Texas becoming part of the US. But I do have one sane cousin who lives in Texas.

  14. “Lowe appointed David Barton — head of WallBuilders, a far-right organization that opposes separation of church and state”

    Great…

  15. CJ

    “So the head of the BoE is once again someone with antiscience beliefs.” “these cretins just can’t seem to get that through their thick, reality denying gray matter”

    Wow…I would expect real scientists to stick with scientific data and facts. I know this has become frustrating, but name calling is NOT elevating your argument. Try conceding that there are some things that are unknowable and then promoting the policy of teaching only those facts that have been proven and hypotheses that can be tested.

    String theory started out nearly as “hare brained” as creationsim, but now has many strong adherents (me included) despite the extreme difficulty of testing it. Yet string theorists are not regularly described as cretins.

    You may completely disagree with Creationism/Intelligent Design/etc (and consider them naive or even idiotic), but you only serve to heighten the political nature of the debate when you attack the messengers and their religion/political affiliation rather than stick to the science. You begin to sound like Galileo and Copernicus’s critics (The sun is NOT the center of the universe! It goes around the Earth. We can see it with our own eyes! You’re just a stupid blasphemer who ignores our established dogma!!!!) Clearly, name calling, threats, and refusal to allow the presentation of alternative theories (no matter how stupid) didn’t defeat the truth.

    Why allow yourself to sound like the ones who don’t have truth on your side. The best disinfectant is sunlight. Allow Creationism to be mentioned alongside evolution and be confident it will not hold up in comparison. Take on all dissenters and defeat them with truth, not attacks!

  16. @CJ

    Allow Creationism to be mentioned alongside evolution and be confident it will not hold up in comparison.

    Present the science behind creationism, the scientific evidence that establishes it as a theory, rather than just a religious belief, and then we’ll talk.

  17. @Nigel Depledge

    If she attended the University of Alabama, what was Louisiana State University doing awarding her a degree? IIUC, these are in separate (albeit neighbouring) states, right?

    Yeah, I wondered about that, too. For some unspecified reason, it would seem she did not complete her studies at Alabama.

  18. Mitch

    Such tolerant educated people here. How can you see the stars when you look down your nose at everybody that doesnt have the same point of view. I dont like religious freaks but damn, you people are just as bad as they are cloaked in your own brand of self righteousness.

  19. ThatPirateGuy

    The high school science classroom is not where fringe “scientific” ideas should be decided. Noone is stopping the creationists/ID proponents from attempting to convince scientists that they are correct. They have merely failed.

    Should we teach the HIV deniers perspective in health class? Perhaps we should let the Alternative medicine crowd in to dispute the germ theory of disease?

    String theory while currently untestable does not contradict the rest of physics. In addition it is not something that high school students are taught.

  20. papageno

    CJ:
    You may completely disagree with Creationism/Intelligent Design/etc (and consider them naive or even idiotic), but you only serve to heighten the political nature of the debate when you attack the messengers and their religion/political affiliation rather than stick to the science.

    There is no science behind creationism & co. Creationists are not interested in promoting a scientific theory, they are only interested in teaching schoolkids their pet religion and they use political means to do so.

  21. TK

    CJ “Allow Creationism to be mentioned alongside evolution and be confident it will not hold up in comparison.”

    Do you mean in the classroom? Because if so…

    No.

    There is nothing to be gained by lying to children, or having religious creation myths in the science classroom.

  22. @kathleen

    I posted the following over there. Let’s see if they let it through moderation:

    I find it interesting that when asked for scientific evidence to support any of your claims, Mr. Heckenlively, you failed to produce any quality evidence. You were full of magazine articles, appeals to authority, studies that did not address the vaccine-autism claims and quotes from uncontrolled phone surveys.

    Instead, you come here to bemoan your reception and the reactions you got. Why not simply produce the blinded, randomized, well-controlled and well-designed studies that support your claims?

    I think that Kent’s feathers were ruffled a little by the reception he received in the comments. People wanted, y’know, scientific evidence to back up his claims, and he didn’t provide any.

  23. CJ

    @Todd
    “Present the science behind creationism, the scientific evidence that establishes it as a theory, rather than just a religious belief, and then we’ll talk.”

    I think you miss my point. The lack of science in Creationism will be apparent when presented alongside evolution. I’m not promoting Creationism. I’m promoting the idea that name calling and dogmatic opposition has reenforced this as a political/religious issue when it should be a SCIENCE issue.

    The proponents of Creationism believe they have scientific arguments and nothing you say will change their mind. You’re not going to win the argument with someone who “believes,” so make your point to their audience. Fight this as a political/religious battle, and the audience (students) will treat it as such. Refuse to allow Creationism to be presented, and the students will assume you are afraid of the debate. If you instead let evolution and Creationism be seen side by side as a scientific debate, the lack of science in Creationism becomes apparent to the audience.

  24. Steve in Dublin

    @CJ

    Allow Creationism to be mentioned alongside evolution and be confident it will not hold up in comparison.

    Yeah, like that’s going to work. Give the kids a choice and let them make up their own mind?! That *might* work once they get to university with a firm science background behind them (and hopefully some critical thinking skills). But at elementary and secondary school levels, we’re supposed to be *teaching them science in the science classrooms*, not some right-wing nutcase’s religious/political agenda.

  25. @ Todd W.- getting through moderation…that’s the trick. AoA is big on moderation..especially when it is oppositional. It is a very scary site.

    As for teaching creationism in the classroom-it goes against the separation of church and state.

  26. If you read her About Gail page you can see she is involved with New Covenant Church. Checking out their website you find two telling items:

    1) “Jesus Christ’s rule (government) will literally be established in the earth.”
    2) “Man does not come from an animal or single cell amoeba.”
    Source- http://newcc.org/portal/WhatWeBelieve/ArticlesofFaith/tabid/110/Default.aspx

    I find it odd that her site would say that she is “involved” with as opposed to saying Member or Parishioner of the church. Perhaps she does not want excessively identified with a Creationist church?

  27. papageno

    CJ:
    The lack of science in Creationism will be apparent when presented alongside evolution.

    How many other non-scientific notions would you like to be presented in a science class?
    Santa Claus? Hindu mythology? Aborigenal mythology? Greek mythology? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? The invisible pink unicorn?

    There many such notions: how much time should be devoted to this, instead of actual science?

  28. Yoeman

    I’m certainly glad both my sons have graduated High School, as the textbooks tend to come from Texas, for whatever reason. Perhaps someday mankind can outgrow the need for religion, at least we would stop killing one another over it.
    What is AoA?

  29. @CJ

    Such comparisons are the realm of Philosophy of Science, which I doubt most el-hi schools offer. Some schools may have an advanced placement course or two that might cover such topics, but, as papageno points out, which version of Creationism do you choose? How much time do you spend on it? If you exclude other forms of nonsense, why not this one?

    And then, if it is mentioned, what of those science teachers who are creationists, themselves? If the curriculum is worded tightly enough to control such teachers, it may inadvertently overly constrict good teachers. If loose enough to allow academic freedom, then the creationist teachers have an “allowance” as it were to teach in a manner that supports Creationism and sows seeds of doubt about evolution. And the majority of the kids probably won’t know enough, at that point, to dismiss the woo.

  30. @Yoeman

    Textbook editors tend to cater to the Texas market because, well, there are a lot of people there. It’s a huge chunk of the revenue pool. So, change the demand in Texas, change the textbooks for a good portion of the nation.

    As to AoA, it is Age of Autism, an anti-vaccine blog. It’s off-topic to this thread, but pertinent for the “Jenny McCarthy: spreading more dangerous misinformation” thread.

  31. CJ

    Ok, let me try a different tack because I personally agree with the idea that Creationism doesn’t belong in the classroom (note my original post about presenting only proven facts and testable hypotheses). I also think that Intelligent Design isn’t worthy of classroom teaching either. But ID has brought up some interesting questions which would not be ignored if they had been brought up by a non-religious group. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging areas that have been challenged. Certainly, there’s no time to present EVERY challenge to evolution, but refusing to address ANY challenges furthers the impression that this is dogma, not science.

    For instance, in the classroom, mention the challenge of irreducible complexity. I’m not an expert on this, but I believe this has been refuted. So, present the evidence that irreducible complexity simply isn’t a problem. Frankly I’d find that pretty interesting if I was a student (in fact, I’m going to go research it just for fun).

    You don’t actually have to present Creationism and ID to address a few criticisms of evolution. It seems to me that every theory (like string theory) is MORE impressive when you learn the challenges to it and how those challenges were resolved rather than ignoring the challenges altogether.

  32. TK

    CJ “Refuse to allow Creationism to be presented, and the students will assume you are afraid of the debate.”

    The science classroom isn’t a debating society. The time and energy of the teachers and students shouldn’t be wasted on debating every crackpot theory that comes along. And IIRC, in the US, teachers in public schools should not be discussing religion with their pupils in a science class.

    It could also have the reverse effect of the one you imagine — not all children have developed critical thinking skills at this point, and the very fact it’s mentioned in the context of a science class could send a pretty messed up message.

  33. TK

    CJ” But ID has brought up some interesting questions which would not be ignored if they had been brought up by a non-religious group.”

    Like what? I honestly haven’t noticed any such interesting questions in ID.

  34. @CJ,

    I agree with Todd and kathleen. Creationism, by your own admission, is not science. It does not belong in a science classroom. Period. We do not need to discuss non-scientific hypotheses in a science class. Period.

    If you want to discuss creation in a philosophy or religious studies class, that is fine. However, you would have to teach all creation myths, Christian, Muslim, Aboriginal, etc. with equal time, otherwise, you would appear to be promoting one specific religion in a public school, which the Constitution prohibits.

    As to the name calling, Phil calls them like he sees them. The Texas SBOE has a majority of anti-science, pro-Christian members, and they have been very vocal in promoting their religious agenda. They have abused their authority, they have ignored the recommendations made by the scientific experts regarding the wording of science textbooks, and they have brought proponents of “Intelligent Design” to all of the public hearings in an attempt to legitimatize their position on evolution. The board members are the ones who politicize the issue and try to create a debate where there is none, and if their actions and words can be described as despicable, then that is what you can call them.

    8)

  35. papageno

    CJ:
    You don’t actually have to present Creationism and ID to address a few criticisms of evolution.

    Do you think that criticisms to evolution cannot be addressed already?
    Do you believe that excluding non-scientific notions from science class, will prevent the discussion of scientific criticism to a theory?

    Anyway, criticisms from creationists and ID proponents are based on misconceptions, misrepresentations and lies: why waste time with them? Why not deal with the actual science?

  36. Oh no, and for her second act will it be rounding off pi to 3 because that .141526 is just too complicated?

  37. Sorry about the confusion over the nomination; I wrote this late last night after getting back from TAM. :) I corrected the text. And Jimmy McInturff (#5): actually, you fail at logic. I made one error; that does not negate the point of the post which is that the Texas BoE is packed with people grossly unqualified to make decisions on the education of children.

  38. KLH

    I have to go with CJ here. Being offensive/dismissive will not win friends to your cause. I came to this blog from Cambrian Sky, thinking to find well-reasoned critiques of bad science. Instead on the front page I find an article that talking about Texas’ Board of Education. “Interesting” I say to myself, since I live in texas and hadn’t heard of the nomination. Then I go on the read the comments, of which about half are of the form “Wow, all Texans are idiots!”.

    Now if that isn’t a logical fallacy, I don’t know what is. I had a perfectly good education in the Texas public school system, thank y0u very much. Anyone who pays attention in school here will have a firm grasp of the scientific method by the time they leave grade-school (not that everyone pays attention, of course, but that’s another issue).

    The fact that our sleazy-politician governor is nominating a moron bureaucrat for the BoE is no reason to denigrate the population or education system of Texas generally. Its called critical thinking, people. I learned it in 3rd grade.

    A good blog is a community driven as much by its commenters as by its authors. Please think before you post.

    All that said, I think this is just Perry trying to make some press. I am _extremely_ doubtful that the TX Legislature will let this go through.

  39. KLH

    Clarifying…I was agreeing with CJ on the namecalling/rudeness side of things. Don’t give Intelligent Design the time of day in a science class. Creationism you can talk about…in History class.

  40. CJ said,

    “But ID has brought up some interesting questions which would not be ignored if they had been brought up by a non-religious group.”

    Please name one scientific question brought up by ID that has not already been weed-whacked down.

    “Certainly, there’s no time to present EVERY challenge to evolution, but refusing to address ANY challenges furthers the impression that this is dogma, not science.”

    Nonsense. We don’t address the Flat Earth theory in Geography, or discuss Fire, Earth, Air and Water as the four elements in a Chemistry class, and yet somehow I don’t hear anyone calling the periodic table dogma. There ARE challenges to specifics in evolution (for example, finding a living member of a species previously believed to be extinct,) but just like every other field in science, the challenges are brought forth by EVIDENCE and the scientific process. Not religious interpretation.

    “For instance, in the classroom, mention the challenge of irreducible complexity. I’m not an expert on this, but I believe this has been refuted. So, present the evidence that irreducible complexity simply isn’t a problem. Frankly I’d find that pretty interesting if I was a student (in fact, I’m going to go research it just for fun).”

    I think that’s a great idea. Please research irreducible complexity and tell us what physical evidence there is to support that hypothesis. Then, if you would please, tell us how you can test that hypothesis, since that is a major part of the scientific process. Then tell us how “IC” in any way contradicts the 150 years of data we’ve collected and analyzed that support the modern theory of evolution. And you have to make sure you cover all the fields: biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy, physics, etc. which all independently support a 4.5billion year old earth evolving on its own without any outside tinkering.

    8)

  41. CJ

    For the record, my middle school science textbooks took great pains to explain the evolution of our understanding of atoms and the flaws and challenges at each stage. I learned all about the persecution of scientists who challenged the Earth’s position at the center of the universe as I learned all about our understanding of the solar system. Again, I learned the scientific flaws and challenges at each stage. In high school I even learned that Newton’s laws were imperfect, and eventually that Einstein’s General Relativity was incompatible with quantum mechanics (of course, we weren’t taught quantum mechanics until college).

    In fact, in my textbooks, the only glaring example of a scientific theory that had no presentation of the flaws and scientific challenges (and refutation of challenges) was evolution. I learned of the Scopes trial, but I never heard of ANY challenges to the actual science.

    I just looked up irreducible complexity on Wikipedia (I know, not the most rigorous academicly reviewed website…). Anyway, in one paragraph, they capture the essence of the problem of irreducible complexity. And also in one paragraph they manage to describe the evolution of the eye (my personal favorite example). It’s pretty cool to see how that could happen. It’s fascinating to learn about how supposedly irreducible complex biological structures can develop, and I think high school students could benefit from it. It would only take up two pages in a text book and it IS a legitimate (if already resolved) question!

    As I keep saying, ignoring the challenges in the classroom only leads to the impression that this is a religious/political debate and not a scientific one.

  42. ndt

    CJ, what you are advocating is what we are already doing. You’re making the mistake of thinking Gail Lowe and her cronies are reasonable people arguing in good faith. They’re not. They’re liars who are trying to keep people ignorant.

  43. TK

    CJ “As I keep saying, ignoring the challenges in the classroom only leads to the impression that this is a religious/political debate and not a scientific one.”

    If they were scientific challenges there might be some validity to this (although I personally wasn’t taught much about the history of science in science lessons, some of that came up in history. I went to school in the UK, though, and it may just not have been in our specific syllabus).

    But in the US, it isn’t okay for teachers to talk about religion in the science class. Your assertion that ignoring Creationism in the science classroom makes it seem less a science debate and more a religious/political debate doesn’t make much sense as far as I can see. Allowing it in the classroom might create exactly the idea that Creationism has something to do with science, the very thing you say you want to avoid.

    It’s pretty simple. Science in the science classroom. Not religion or religious debates.

  44. First sentence: “far right” is not the problem. “Ultra-religious” is the problem. Once you have said that, anything else is superfluous. The left-right political axis has little to do with critical thinking skills or belief in “woo”. (of course that one-dimensional axis really isn’t very good for categorizing something that is at *least* a 2-dimensional thing anyway, as others have already addressed — see http://www.theadvocates.org/quizp/index.html — graph utilized by Michael Shermer without attribution in his talk at TAM7 by the way)

  45. CJ

    I admit it’s kind of fun seeing the reactions to my posts. I don’t mean to rile people up, and I hope others have found it as enjoyable as I have. So now I will reveal that I am firmly in the evolution camp. I don’t believe in Creationism or ID or anything else. But I would like to point out how many have assumed I must. Greg said: “I think that’s a great idea. Please research irreducible complexity and tell us what physical evidence there is to support that hypothesis.”

    In fact, I was saying it would be interesting to see the evidence that irreducible complexity isn’t a problem (and THAT’S exactly what I went looking for on Wikipedia…I’ll find a proper science article on it later because it REALLY is interesting)

    But it’s this defensive stance in the scientific community that perpetuates this as a political/religious debate. If I had said, “mention the challenge of proving the existence of a multiverse to promote string theory,” you would not have assumed I was some sort of crackpot. Instead, students would have learned of the single photon light interference patterns. Again, fascinating (and scientific) stuff. Only challenges to evolution seem to bring out the name calling and refusal to acknowledge challenges (and refute them) in the classroom.

  46. Jason

    “One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.” – Thomas Paine.

    Sadly, in this case we have a would-be priest as a schoolmaster. And to keep in line with a man who helped incite Americans to the cause of liberty like the crazy liberal hippie he was…

    “The study of theology, as it stands in Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on nothing; it proceeds by no authorities; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing and admits of no conclusion.” – Thomas Paine once more

  47. TK

    CJ “Only challenges to evolution seem to bring out the name calling and refusal to acknowledge challenges (and refute them) in the classroom.”

    You’re confusing two issues – scientific challenges and challenges based on religion and belief. It’s the nature of the challenge that means Creationism shouldn’t be taught in science classrooms. It’s the same reason we don’t have Creationism as part of a class on cosmology, or geology or any of the other sciences that contradict Creationism. But it’s evolution as a subject that gets Creationists riled up when it’s taught in the classroom. It’s they who are defensive and so focussed on this one area of science. It’s not something odd about the position of evolution within science, or in the class room.

  48. @CJ

    TK hit the nail on the head. All those other examples you brought up of challenges to scientific hypotheses and theories have something in common: they all have some basis in the science of the day, and the problems/weaknesses that are mentioned already have sound science behind them to show what the problem was, why the solution works and so on.

    When discussing Creationism/ID, there is no scientific basis. Your comparisons are apples and oranges.

    I understand the point you are trying to make, but, as others have pointed out, why only when discussing evolution? If there were any actual science to Creationism/ID, it would be a challenge to just about every field of science. So why not discuss it as it relates to cosmology/astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology and so on?

    If, and this is a big if, Creationism/ID were to be taught in public elementary and high schools, its place is in social studies, humanities, philosophy (if a school has such courses) and so on. And even then, to avoid violating the 1st Amendment, other ideas of creation should be discussed: Native American, Greek, etc.

    It is a social, political and religious movement, not a scientific one. As such, the place to address it actually is in the social and political arenas (or possibly classes), not the science classroom. We do not teach astrology during astronomy lessons. We do not teach phrenology or homeopathy in health class. In fact, most of the bunk stuff that was discussed in class as I was growing up was in social studies and humanities. Science dealt with science, not woo woo.

  49. @CJ,

    We only seem defensive to you because you haven’t been here for several years listening to religious fanatics attack science. Despite your claims to accept evolution and reject creationism, you are making the very same arguments that creationists make. You think you are helping science by suggesting that creationism deserves equal time in a science class, but that is incorrect.

    Considering how many times Phil and the others here have had to argue these same points over and over again, I think the responses here have been extremely calm and civilized. You can certainly imagine the frustration of those who have had to repeatedly answer questions that have already been answered a hundred times.

    “Only challenges to evolution seem to bring out the name calling and refusal to acknowledge challenges (and refute them) in the classroom.”

    Um, well, when was the last time a religious zealot challenged the atomic model, or the rotational periods of the planets, or the current flow of electrons thru a copper wire? Why, do you think, we never hear a debate from the State Board of Education questioning electricity and magnetism?

    8)

  50. Rob Lee

    @CJ — Questions about IC and the like should be left up to the students to ask, it does not belong in the textbook at all. If it were a legitimate challenge that scientists had to research and wrap their heads around to figure out, it might have a place. It is not, however, anything of the sort. It is a baseless statement made by a blathering idiot (Michael Behe) that can be dismissed immediately upon hearing it by ANYONE with an elementary knowledge of evolutionary biology. We knew long before the time of Behe (or Darwin for that matter) that there are animals with less complex eyes than we have. A partially formed eye would still have evolutionary benefits to an animal, and it is certainly not irreducibly complex. If you took the lens out of an eye, for instance, it would still be preferable to no eye at all and would still increase the host organism’s chances of survival.

    Evolution is certainly not dogma, if there were any legitimate challenges to it they would be addressed. The problem for ID is that they have not come up with anything that legitimately challenges evolution. They spout nonsense and pseudoscience which is extremely harmful to the development of the noncritical mind.

    Finally, I don’t feel that we need to be polite to these fools or respect their “beliefs”. If you are believing something which is demonstrably untrue, and then continue to believe it after it is proven that it is untrue, you are insane (not you CJ, I got your previous post about not being amongst the legion of idiots). That is a dangerous mental condition and needs to be addressed and treated as such. We need to stop pussy-footing around the issue and really cut to the core of it. These fools need to be publicly lambasted and ridiculed. We NEED the population to know that you are not entitled to your own facts. Society NEEDS to demand evidence in all things, lest we find ourselves in the dark ages. It will be scary for some and painful for others, but our society needs to cast off these ancient crutches and proudly stride into the future.

  51. Dr. Bob

    Oh and it is getting worse for my home state (Glad I am not educating my children there anymore). Now they are out to deliver a full broadside on history. Check out the following link from the Wall Street Journal:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124753078523935615.html

    I fear they are truly doomed.

  52. ndt

    CJ, it is a political/religious debate. The scientific debate was settled decades ago.

  53. Cindy

    CJ

    I understand what you’re trying to say that showing how evolution answers certain questions could strengthen the case of it – such as the evolution of the eye. Good teachers will already do it. However, the problem is when you have teachers who aren’t up on all the details (either due to gaps in their background or their own prejudices/misconceptions). Then the opposite may happen and instead of showing how the eye evolved, the teacher may end up confusing the kids more or reinforcing misconceptions/prejudices.

    The main problem with trying to do something like this at a state level is that those who are not fully scientifically literate (or those with a religious agenda) may not be sophisticated enough to understand the rationale and subtleties of what you are proposing. The end result would probably be the opposite of what you propose.

  54. CJ

    @TK
    “You’re confusing two issues – scientific challenges and challenges based on religion and belief.”

    I disagree (obviously). The statement “Evolution fails to explain the evolution of such irreducibly complex structures as the eyeball,” is a scientific challenge, not a religious one. I’m positive that if this challenge were presented by Al Gore and Isaac Newton, it would be considered a scientific challenge. We’ve got to stop attacking the messenger.

    It IS an interesting scientific question that would be of interest to a high school science student. How does evolution account for the development of a complex structure? The eyeball system consists of a lens, cornea, fovia, optic nerve, rods, cones, associated part of the brain to process images, etc, each of which appears useless without the remaining parts (I’m simplifying to make a point). How could tiny mutations develop all of those individually useless parts and maintain them until the whole structure was complete (and finally useful) after millions of years? Well, it turns out the system is not as complex and the individual parts not as useless as they appear (again, check out the Wikipedia article).

    It takes only a few minutes to lay out the challenge and explain the answer. This BOLSTERS evolution theory, but covering it in a classroom is resisted with (dare I say it) religious intensity, by the scientific establishment. Present the challenges and refutations (and admit the unresolved areas while showing the progress toward resolution), and you suddenly have a solid science presentation rather than a dogmatic political argument.

    Never forget, it takes two to tango. Continue to attack your opponents’ politics and religion and it will remain a political/religious issue. Call them names rather than acknowledge that science has not yet explained everything (but is making progress), and you’ll continue to add fuel to the fire. Ever wonder why a smart student who happens to be a devout Christian will dogmatically refuse to believe in evolution? It’s because you continue to tell him he’s stupid for believing that silly Christian mythology.

    Stop publicly insulting his religion and just present the science with calm refutations of interesting challenges, and you’ll be surprised how many “silly Christians” will stop worrying about you trying to “poison their children’s minds.”

  55. Rob Lee

    @CJ — “I disagree (obviously). The statement “Evolution fails to explain the evolution of such irreducibly complex structures as the eyeball,” is a scientific challenge, not a religious one.”

    Irreducible complexity is NOT a scientific challenge in that anyone with any sort of knowledge of evolutionary biology can immediately refute it, it is simply incorrect. A scientific challenge would be a challenge based on a thorough analysis of the evidence and finding inconsistencies in the theory based on FACTS not opinion. Nobody making a legitimate scientific argument against evolution would bring up irreducible complexity because they know that it is BS. The only reason anyone would even consider that nonsense is if for one reason or another they want to believe that evolution is false. Why would someone want to believe that evolution is false? The only reason I can think of is that they disagree with it on religious grounds. The danger of things like irreducible complexity is that they are shrouded in sciency sounding language that can easily ensnare those who are less well versed in science. This post is a bit rambling, but the point is that irreducible complexity is NOT a scientific argument, it is ENTIRELY religious in nature.

  56. CJ

    I think most have understood my point and I guess we’ll continue to disagree. I guess that good people with the same goal can have differing ideas on how to get there.

    I will never support the idea that public ridicule is the way to defuse a politically and religiously charged debate, and I fear that’s where the science community has gone. Much of science seems to have become political/religious (evolution, global warming, stem cell research, etc). Blame the other side for starting it, but take note that the science community’s current tactics haven’t managed to end or seriously curtail the opposition. In my opinion this is because science has embraced rather than avoided the politics.

  57. CJ,

    Have you ever heard of “the wedge” approach? The people who want to teach Creationism in the classroom tried to push teaching “God created the heavens and the Earth” years back. They were struck down by the courts for trying to inject religion into the public schools. So they changed their approach and pushed for teaching about an “Intelligent Designer.” For the most part, they were struck down here too as most people recognized the code wording. So they regrouped and now try to “teach the controversy.”

    By raising doubts about Evolution’s validity (the thin side of the wedge), they hope to be able to be able to slowly push in Intelligent Design, then God Did It, and finally The Earth Is Only 6,000 Years Old. Their ultimate goal is pushing science completely out of the science classroom and replacing it with This Is What The Bible Says (At Least Our Version As We Interpret It).

  58. Stuart Van Onselen

    CJ, are you actually reading all the responses? All your points have been covered. Several times. And new ones raised, such as “What other nonsense from other religions should we include? What’s so special about Christian nonsense?”

    Furthermore, no-one is suggesting that teachers insult creationists in class and call them silly. They just have to tell them they’re wrong. Challenges can be raised by students and answered by well-prepared teachers, there is no need for teachers to bring up the subject of Creationism at all.

    And for the love of the FSM, will everybody stop assuming that the heated emotional discussion on this board is the same technique that we expect teachers and science popularisers to use! This is a different atmosphere, a different audience, and thus a different tone!

    It’s not like we’re all going out into schools, barging into classes, and calling all the Christians “silly”.

    They’re just wrong.

  59. CJ

    @Rob
    I stand by the statement that if Al Gore or Isaac Newton had raised the question of irreducible complexity, you’d consider it a scientific challenge. And for the record, the fact that a challenge can be refuted doesn’t mean it’s not worth addressing in a classroom. I am still fascinated by the stories of how paleontologists have finally proven that birds ARE descended from dinosaurs. When you present science only as a list of facts currently accepted and ignore the fact that challenges have been raised (and refuted), you turn an incredibly exciting field of study into a dull and tedious chore. You also stifle future challenges which may enhance our understanding of science.

  60. James

    Will someone please rescue me from this state! I was born here and work in Houston but can’t wait until I can leave these stupid people behind. I have too good of a job but if I ever lose it I am out of here and moving to Vermont.

  61. TheBlackCat

    @ CJ: The problem is that good science teachers already do this. Darwin himself explained how the eye could have evolved, and his prediction ended up very close to our current understanding. ID did not bring up any valid criticisms that were not dealt with decades before.

    Where I think you are failing is mixing up creationist/ID arguments with explanations of how evolution works. No, science teachers should not bring up irreducible complexity, but they should explain how evolution can co-opt structures for new purposes, modify existing structures, and lose redundant structures. And the teachers should explain how these processes fit into the overall process that forms new systems.

    If you understand that, then irreducible complexity is trivially easy to explain and is not worth even mentioning. Bringing it up gives the impression that the ID folks came up with a legitimate criticism of evolution that no one had dealt with before, when in reality it was never a problem for evolution to begin with. Mentioning irreducible complexity as a criticism of evolution gives people a false and twisted impression of the history of evolution. It is the same with the rest of the ID arguments, the solutions to the supposed problems brought up by ID far predate the ID movement. I don’t think students should be given the impression that ID proponents had anything remotely interesting or original to say or that their arguments were ever even a minor problem for evolution. They should be taught how evolution works, they should be taught some of the interesting and perhaps not immediately obvious repercussions of these processes. If that is done and done properly, then understanding why ID arguments are fundamentally flawed will be no problem. I know they were for me.

    Now there were legitimate problems for evolution. Darwin’s proposed mechanism of inheritance, for instance, was fundamentally wrong. Darwin and his contemporaries grossly underestimated the speed of evolution. Things like sexual selection were considered, but not given as much weight as we now know they should have. Genetic drift was not even considered, since the mechanism was not known at the time. Embryonics and epigenetics are proving to be much more important than originally anticipated. There are plenty of changes and mistakes in the history of evolution that can be discussed without lying to students about the value of ID and creationist arguments.

    You said you weren’t taught any of this, and somehow conclude that this is a fundamental flaw with how scientists want evolution taught. You don’t seem to consider the possibility that you simply had a bad teacher that didn’t do a good job at teaching evolution for whatever reason. I know I covered many of the issues I brought up before in my high school biology courses (epigenetics did not become popular until after I graduated). Of course scientists want the history of evolutionary science taught, and if teachers aren’t doing that then they aren’t doing their job very well. What we don’t want is creationist and ID lies and misconceptions taught in classrooms, and we don’t want ID and creationism taught as though they had anything criticisms that were even remotely valid at the time they were presented.

    It is hard to find a good analogy, since I am not aware of any other situations appropriate for high school where a major group brought up supposedly new scientific criticisms of a scientific theory decades or even a century after they were refuted. But I’ll do my best. Imagine if a group today rose up to try to disprove chemistry. In order to do so, they complain that nobody can explain why the periodic table has the shape it has. Of course scientists explained it decades ago, and is covered in some high school chemistry courses or at the latest beginning college chemistry courses (lets assume for this analogy that it is, or at least should be, a normal part of the HS chemistry curriculum).

    Of course, you could bring up that group, explain their criticism, and explain why they are wrong. Or you could just go straight into what you should be teaching anyway, the role of electron orbitals in the structure of the periodic table. Any good chemistry teacher will explain the importance of electron orbitals to the periodic table over the normal material in the course. It is a basic part of the material and had been for decades, if they want their students to understand they need to cover it anyway. Why legitimize the group by bringing up their criticism as though it was anything new when just teaching the course properly is enough to show why they are wrong? It adds nothing to the discussion, gives a misleading view of the history of the field, and wastes time bringing up criticisms that are normally answered in the course anyway.

    If this issue was brought up before we knew about electron orbitals, then I would definitely consider it a scientific criticism. But if it was brought up now by an overtly political group that wishes to eliminate chemistry education in this country, then no I would not consider it a scientific criticism because it refuses to acknowledge that an answer has already been provided and thoroughly studied by the field. The criticism ignores the existing science in the field, and therefore cannot be considered scientific.

  62. ndt

    CJ, Al Gore is not a scientist. Nobody here cares what he says about anything.

    Keep in mind that one of Lowe’s allies on the state Board of Education, Don McLeroy, referred to the non-creationists members of the board as the “pagan left”. Lowe’s camp does not view mainstream Christians as Christians at all. It baffles me when mainstream Christians defend people like Lowe.

  63. Rob Lee

    @CJ — If Isaac Newton or Al Gore (?) raised the irreducible complexity question it would be as silly and as much of a non-issue as when Behe raised it. That would be like if I questioned the theory of gravity on the grounds that birds and airplanes can fly — that issue would not be any sort of a scientific challenge whatsoever, it is immediately explainable by anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of physics. See, what makes the challenge invalid is that no work needs to be done to refute it. The assertion is simply wrong. The eye (nor any of the other biological systems mentioned) is not irreducibly complex so the point is worthless. If it was a question that made biologists think, and required them to go back to the drawing board and do more research it would be a challenge. It was not. The statement was demonstrably false well before he said it. Is this clear enough or do you need me to explain this further?

  64. CJ

    @Stuart
    I’ve tried to read all of the posts, and I agree that most of my points have been responded to, but my opinion hasn’t changed (I’m sure you’re surprised). I still disagree with the idea that the solution is to publicly ridicule the messengers and refuse to acknowledge any challenge (especially the refutable ones) in a classroom environment.

    I would say that Dawkins is the most vocal and visible public proponent of evolution, and his rhetoric and insults are well beyond the intensity of posts on this blog. Dawkins is certainly the extreme case, but I think too many in science have spent their time furthering the political nature of the argument.

    For the record, I think the discussion on this blog has been relatively respectful (mostly) for a blog. But I think the insults (even on an informal website) show that most are treating this as an issue of crackpots vs the truly intelligent. That’s a recipe for continuing the political nature of the argument. If Stephen Hawking suddenly decided to support the teaching of Intelligent Design (not that he ever would), would that mean he had suddenly gone insane, or could you accept that he might disagree with you on this one issue?

    Treating your opponent as an uneducated, brain dead rube virtually guarantees you have underestimated them.

  65. John Foudy

    “I am still fascinated by the stories of how paleontologists have finally proven that birds ARE descended from dinosaurs. ”

    What really interesting is why early paleontologists decided that Dinosaurs were purely and solely reptiles and stuck by it unwavering fro 100+ years (the dinosuar = bird hypothesis was raised early on in the 19th century- and summarily rejected for unclear reasons ).

    In any event recent genetic studies have shown that living crocodilians are as closely related to some living birds as they are to some living reptiles. A finding which should not have been as surprising as it was given the similarity of crocodilian skeletal structure (especially hip joints) with that of birds, the similarity in the set up of their digestive systems, gizzards etc., the similarity in certain parts of their skin structures (compare the unfeathered legs of an Emu with the unarmored part of the skin on a crocodilian)., the similarity in nesting and egg laying behavior (which is largely unlearned behavior and hence inherited genetically).

    Fun stuff

  66. ZERO

    If I had my way, I’d be prosecuting them for antiscience! >:-(

  67. ndt

    CJ says:
    But I think the insults (even on an informal website) show that most are treating this as an issue of crackpots vs the truly intelligent.

    That’s exactly how we’re treating it, because that’s exactly what it is.

  68. @CJ

    If Stephen Hawking suddenly decided to support the teaching of Intelligent Design (not that he ever would), would that mean he had suddenly gone insane, or could you accept that he might disagree with you on this one issue?

    You seem to misunderstand what we’re saying. It doesn’t matter who it is saying that Creationism/ID/irreducible complexity has validity or whether comparing them against evolution in science class would show the former to be baseless. If Stephen Hawking were to support ID, he would get the same reaction as anyone else that supports it: “Okay, show me the science.”

    The problem is that there is no science to Creationism/ID. It is merely religious belief (and bad theology, at that). If there were even a shred of science to it, then, yes, talk about the science in science class as part of the curriculum.

    I’m curious about what your response is to the questions raised by others: if we address this issue, then why not bring up astrology in astronomy class? Why not bring up the phrenology, homeopathy or even “the humors” in health class?

  69. CJ

    @John Foudy
    I agree that’s fun stuff. I was actually teaching at NC State when one of the professors there made another interesting dino discovery. (I wasn’t involved and never even met her, but it was still fun to be around)

    However, you bring up the point that paleontologists unwaveringly stuck to an incorrect idea for 100+ years. Science is not infallible. Never forget that School Board issues are public issues. The public is aware that science has been wrong in the past. When you treat evolution opponents with such disdain, many in the public see scientists dogmatically sticking to an idea that may eventually be proven wrong. Show the public (yes even in the schools) that you are not simply dismissing Creationism and ID as stupid and unworthy. Instead, science has refuted them.

    Most of the public is only partially informed about Creationism and Intelligent Design. Refusing to refute them publicly, and resorting to insults allows the most vocal proponents to maintain their credibility. You don’t destroy someone’s credibility by insulting them. You destroy their credibility by defeating their argument. And not just in science journals. The general public isn’t reading science journals.

  70. Rob Lee

    @ CJ — “If Stephen Hawking suddenly decided to support the teaching of Intelligent Design (not that he ever would), would that mean he had suddenly gone insane, or could you accept that he might disagree with you on this one issue?”

    Yes — if Stephen Hawking starting spouting ID I would have no choice but to believe that he had gone insane. If he (or anyone else) pointed out a legitimate discrepancy in the data I would be forced to consider it, but ID as it is now has nothing to add to science. Not that it would matter who the individual spouting the nonsense is, you seem to think that arguments from authority work on scientists — they do not and are the antithesis of real science. When someone shares an idea we consider A) If it needs to be given further consideration (ID does not, it was all disproven long before they were calling it ID) and if so, we need to (B) do further research and find out where the truth is.

    “But I think the insults (even on an informal website) show that most are treating this as an issue of crackpots vs the truly intelligent.”

    I hate to say it CJ, but that is what it is. If you refuse to acknowledge facts that have been well know for well over a century, you are a crackpot. We have no problem calling Flat Earthers crackpots, nor do we have a problem lambasting Holocaust deniers as such. There is no outcry for these views to be given time in the classroom. Both are as plausible as ID. None of the above are based on science, they all simply stem from religious (or ideological) blindness and wishful thinking.

  71. ndt

    Show the public (yes even in the schools) that you are not simply dismissing Creationism and ID as stupid and unworthy. Instead, science has refuted them.

    We are dismissing Creationism and ID as stupid and unworthy because science has refuted them. Scientists have been showing that publicly for decades.

  72. John Foudy

    “The problem is that there is no science to Creationism/ID. It is merely religious belief (and bad theology, at that). If there were even a shred of science to it, then, yes, talk about the science in science class as part of the curriculum.”

    That’s basically it. Essentially ID is a subterfuge, an attempt to get a very peculiar Protestant/Fundamentalist religious belief into public classrooms.

    If you let ID in, what about Hindu creation myths?
    Zoroastrian creation myths?
    Amerindian creation myths (and there are quite a few too, that will eat up the curriculum).

    What the young earth creationists really want is to have evolution expelled- that’s more important to them than getting ID heard. They have a literal view of the [protestant]* bible- and anything that casts doubt on that literal belief is very threatening to them.**

    *Yes I know the Catholic church prosecuted Galileo, but that was then, this is now, catholics are not taught that the bible is meant to be taken “literally” the way certain protestant denominations do. In fact certain self professed Catholics such as Jim Santorum would undoubtedly be quite surprised if he found out that Catholic theologans in general do not believe in YEC, rather “belief” in the Big Bang theory and biological evolution is not incompatible with Catholic doctrine- Catholic theologans regard YEC as a Protestant oddity.

    ** I knew a VERY devout Baptist as an undergraduate- so devout that he took latin and greek classes so he could read early versions of the bible directly- which lead him to being traumatised (really) when he realized- by himself- that the translators of The King James Bible had taken liberties with the text (mostly for poetic reasons I would think actually)- the realization that my less elegantly written Catholic Bible was less “inaccurate” literally reshaped his world view (he had always been taught that Catholics were a cult which had twisted and distorted the bible) . From age 1-18 his intellectual up bringing had been very narrow- but he somehow at age 19-22 still had an open mind- I strongly suspect that wherever he is now he is no longer a baptist literalist.

  73. Stuart Van Onselen

    CJ:

    Did I, or did I not specifically say the exact opposite opposite of: “…the solution is to publicly ridicule the messengers and refuse to acknowledge any challenge (especially the refutable ones) in a classroom environment.”

    Has anyone here said anything of the sort?

    I am officially writing you off as a concern-troll. Have a nice life. But have it somewhere else.

  74. TK

    “I’m positive that if this challenge were presented by Al Gore and Isaac Newton, it would be considered a scientific challenge. ”

    Of course it wouldn’t. Science isn’t based on argument from authority. It’s based on the scientific method. A religious argument is still religious if it comes from the mouth of a scientist (and Newton was a very religious man). Creationism is creationism even if scientists say it’s science — which is what happened with ID.

    I would strongly recomend the very readable ruling by Jones in the Dover school trial:
    http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf

  75. CJ

    @Todd
    This will be my last post, as I actually have something resembling work to accomplish…

    My response to teaching astrology, phrenology, etc is twofold.
    1. I concede we should not be teaching Creationism or Intelligent Design. But I do think it worthy of some time to address the challenges they raise (even if you think those challenges are beneath you).
    2. Sad as it sounds, current events can give relevance to classroom topics – even “dead” ones. The fact that homeopathy is such a strong movement in this country prompted devoting a full class period lecture on the subject in a medical course I took less than a year ago. It was actually in the textbook! (and for the record, it was summarily debunked simply by presenting solid medical science).

    I’m sure your response would be “then cover Creationism in philosphy class.” You think you’re separating the two into their appropriate environments, but instead you’re simply allowing information to be presented during seemingly unrelated classes and the students could then end up believing both are true or worse – the only relationship they see between the two would be in the media and they would then return to their chosen political/religious position.

    You can say all you want that you would have the same reaction if Stephen Hawking proposed addressing Irreducible Complexity or Intelligent Design in the classroom. I’m convinced your attitude would be different, but unfortunately, it’s an untestable hypothesis.

  76. ndt

    For the last time, neither creationism or intelligent design raise any challenges, other than the “challenge” of dishonesty.

  77. TheBlackCat

    @ CJ: Adding to what I said in post 61 (which I gather you have not read), beyond the fact that bringing up ID ideas as a legitimate criticism of evolution is fundamentally dishonest, it will also be presented by ID proponents as a validation of their ideas. They will say “look, they are teaching about us in science classrooms, they admit that we are on to something!” The fact that they are only being brought up to be torn down again will not be mentioned, because they are extremely dishonest and consistently twist everything to make it seem to either be legitimizing their ideas or a part of an evil secular scientific conspiracy. But as I said, if students are taught evolution properly then the flaws in ID arguments are self-evident.

  78. TK

    CJ”You can say all you want that you would have the same reaction if Stephen Hawking proposed addressing Irreducible Complexity or Intelligent Design in the classroom. I’m convinced your attitude would be different, but unfortunately, it’s an untestable hypothesis.”

    People with scientific qualifications put forward ID. Behe was a scientist. It was still religion. The judgement I linked to goes through that. You see, it really isn’t the messenger that counts. It is the message.

  79. CJ

    Ok, I lied. This will be my last post. I realized I failed to comment on TheBlackCat’s earlier post #61. I haven’t changed my position, but I wanted to acknowledge that I really enjoyed your well thought out post.

    It is possible that I had a bad biology teacher. Still, I’d like to see the science community dial down their insults and dismissive attitude. It perpetuates the political “controversy,” and drives less informed people to “choose a side” based on politics rather than science.

  80. TK

    CJ”It perpetuates the political “controversy,” and drives less informed people to “choose a side” based on politics rather than science.”

    You’re missing out the big one — religion.

    And I’m always amazed that in the face of death threats and abuse, those concerned with keeping lies out of the classroom are as civil as they are.

    You see, if people were picking sides based on civility, science would win hands down.

    You might get a better idea of the true tone of the debate on both sides from this:
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/id/program.html

    People don’t believe in Creationism because of scientists, they believe it because of their specific religious interpretation and ignorance. Teaching science well is the best solution to that, not allowing lies into the classroom or crackpots on school boards.

  81. John Foudy

    ““I’m positive that if this challenge were presented by Al Gore and Isaac Newton, it would be considered a scientific challenge. ”

    Of course it wouldn’t. Science isn’t based on argument from authority. It’s based on the scientific method. ”

    Well you know this isn’t quite true, forget Al Gore (politician/celebrity) and Issac Newton (long dead mathemetician and physicist), if Stephen Jay Gould were still alive, and he proposed addressing Irreducible Complexity, then yes some evolutionists/biologists would look into a bit more, before re-proclaiming that it was nuttery, than if Joe Schmoe said the same thing.

    The fact that [most] scientists are aware that “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacy does not mean they are immune from its effects.

  82. @CJ

    I can’t speak for others, but I would still like to see the scientific evidence if Hawking were to suggest that ID has something to it.

    On a side note about that OT bit kathleen brought up, I’m actually surprised that my posts are making it into the comments at AoA, though painfully slowly.

  83. CJ Said,

    “I’ve tried to read all of the posts, and I agree that most of my points have been responded to, but my opinion hasn’t changed (I’m sure you’re surprised).”

    I’m not surprised. This is typical crackpot behavior. You pretend you are in favor of evolution, but you really are not. You raise questions that have already been answered, and you admittedly refuse to accept the answers.

    Additionally, you ignore the direct questions presented to you:
    What scientific evidence is there for irreducible complexity?
    Why should anyone discuss non-scientific (especially religious) topics in a science class?
    Which version of creation should be discussed (if any) in any public school classroom?

    If Stephen Hawking suddenly decided to support the teaching of Intelligent Design (not that he ever would), would that mean he had suddenly gone insane, or could you accept that he might disagree with you on this one issue?

    Treating your opponent as an uneducated, brain dead rube virtually guarantees you have underestimated them.”

    Strawman argument. If Stephen Hawking became a nutter, then yes, it would be safe to call him a nutter. Treating your opponent as a nutter because he refuses to accept the facts when they are given to him over and over is not underestimating him. Call a duck a duck.

    “However, you bring up the point that paleontologists unwaveringly stuck to an incorrect idea for 100+ years. Science is not infallible.”

    You fall under the false assumption that scientific facts are unchangeable, when the exact opposite is true. Facts do not equal beliefs. The scientific community held to an incorrect conclusion until there was sufficient evidence to say otherwise. That is the way science works. Until Galileo used a telescope to look at Jupiter, there was no scientific data to support the idea that planets had their own moons. That does not mean astronomers 2,000 years ago were incorrect, it means they did not have the same data as we do today. Does that make any sense? The same thing can be said for evolution. We did not have the same data 200 years ago to support the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs. Again, you are trying to equate scientific facts with beliefs, when the two are not the same.

    “This will be my last post, as I actually have something resembling work to accomplish…”

    Typical crackpot behavior. You are losing the argument, so instead of accepting the facts, you choose to bail out. Keep those fingers in your ears.

    “I still disagree with the idea that the solution is to publicly ridicule the messengers and refuse to acknowledge any challenge (especially the refutable ones) in a classroom environment.”

    Do you still think this is ridicule? To point out to someone when they are wrong? To try to explain how and why they are wrong? To bend over backwards to try to help them see where they are wrong?

    And you still haven’t provided an example of a refutable scientific challenge to evolution.

    8)

  84. Aaron

    It’s obvious believing in a supreme being that was responsible for our existence is a sign of intellectual inferiority or mental defect. All those who believe in such fantasy should be institutionalized. The sooner these delusional Jews, Muslims and Christians are removed from society the better we’ll all be. After all the truly advanced nations on Earth, past and present, all have rejected religion such as the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and Germany during the 1930’s.

  85. I'd_rather_be fishin'

    My sympathies to the science teachers of Texas. We don’t have the same problem here in Alberta yet. Whether Stephen Hawking or any other proposed Irreducible Complexity or Intelligent Design wouldn’t guarantee his ideas would be accepted. The evidence and quality of the arguments would be the important factors. (In a perfect and educated world.) His name would most likely get him noticed more quickly and by more people though.

    Can a teacher in Texas be brought up in front of a ‘human rights’ tribunal if he or she teaches evolution (or any other topic) that violates (upsets, ticks off, is contrary to) a parent’s religion?

    In Alberta, the legislature passed a bill that allows parents to do so. The bill also allows parents to remove their child from a class on topics such as religion and sexuality. Considering that many fundamentalists believe that the bible is the literal word of god, that makes my job of teaching physics a little harder. Afterall, God did stop the sun in order to let the Hebrews finish a battle before sunset… Can anyone say “Scopes Monkey Trial-Canadian Style”?

  86. @Aaron,

    Who here said believing in a supreme being was the sign of a mental defect? You are making an argument that nobody here has suggested.

    What we have said is that to ignore 15 decades of evidence in favor of an idea with zero evidence is not scientific. Secondly, to attempt to teach a religious viewpoint in a public school science class is, in fact, prohibited by the Constitution of the United States.

    Where in any of that do you see a personal attack on religion? The closest example I can see is where we’ve said to ask for evidence and then ignore it based on personal beliefs is indeed silly. Is that what you mean?

    8)

  87. ndt

    Aaron, we’re not making fun of Gail Lowe because she believes in a “Supreme Being”. We’re making fun of her because she thinks the earth was created in 6 days 6,000 years ago, and she wants that taught in science classes.

    Why do moderate believers insist on defending the crackpots? Believe me, if the situation were reversed, they would not defend you.

  88. @I’d_rather_be fishin’,

    It is indeed a challenge for school teachers in Texas (and probably many other states) to feel comfortable teaching scientific facts that contradict certain religious beliefs. If I understand correctly (and I will ask my friend who is also a science teacher) their best bet is to stick to the facts and to the curriculum.

    That is why this is such a hot issue. The SBoE wants to inject religion directly into the state’s curriculum for the next 10 years.

    8)

  89. Doug Little

    @CJ

    Your concern is noted!

    Now we have that out of the way, it is the creationist side that is politicizing the issue. If the creationists had anything of scientific merit then science would be interested in what they have to say. As it stands the creationists are either a) blindingly ignorant of science or b) liars for jebus. There really is no nice way to put it, they are being dishonest and will use any and all means to promote and progress their agenda. this is what is deserving of ridicule and quite frankly needs to be ridiculed. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

  90. Doug Little

    After all the truly advanced nations on Earth, past and present, all have rejected religion such as the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and Germany during the 1930’s.

    Epic fail.

  91. I'd_rather_be fishin'

    @Greg in Austin

    According to the bill that was passed, a teacher would have to send a letter home before the topic of evloution/age of the the earth/fission/planetary motion/etc., etc., came up EVEN IF it was in the curriculum. And still the teacher could get hauled in front of a tribunal. The only difference between the tribunal Galileo faced and Alberta’s version is that he only had the Inquisition to face. We would have *lawyers*.

    This bill is beyond the curriculum and the school boards here. The local school board is a group of reasonably sane and educated people that can be counted on to make logical (or almost) decsions. The curriculum was developed by non-politicians working for the department of education, likewise a usually reasonably sane and (generally more) educated group.

    We have to keep fighting the good fight.

  92. Davidlpf

    There are people with science degrees that beleive in creation. My first year in college there was a guy who came from the University of Toronto with a degree in science in geography. Almost on a nightly basis we got into a discussion on evolution vs creationism. The agruement he used was I got a degree from UofT therefore I am right. The reason why he was at the University of New Brunswick is he could not get into a teachers school in Ontario.

  93. Teach gods in church, mosques, synagogue.
    Teach science in science class.
    meine zweiten pfennig.

  94. I'd_rather_be fishin'

    @Doug #90

    “After all the truly advanced nations on Earth, past and present, all have rejected religion such as the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and Germany during the 1930’s.”

    “Truly advanced?” You were joking I hope; genocide, planned famines, mass executions and just wholesale slaughter of opponents/perceived opponents/potential opponents do not make an advanced nation. These nations replaced an organized and existing religion with autocratic cults of personalities.

  95. Doug Little

    @I’d rather be fishin’

    I was blockquoting Aaron, sorry for the confusion, The only comment I made was the epic fail one, I should have explained myself a bit better by adding that trying to make a point by building and then smacking the bejesus out of a strawman is an epic fail.

  96. TK

    Aaron, your argument is disingenuous. Many scientists are religious, for example Kenneth Raymond Miller, who was a witness for the plaintiffs in the Dover Trial, and a Roman Catholic.

    The problem for Creationists isn’t just that science shows their wrong, it’s also that vast numbers of Christians — and people of many other faiths — also disagree with their interpretation of the Bible and creation.

    Creationists don’t just want religion in the science classroom, they want their specific religious beliefs. It’s not just atheists and agnostics who want them to stay out of there, it’s anyone who doesn’t want them indoctrinating their children, and who cares about the constitutional separation between church and state.

    And science.

  97. ndt

    We all already know this, and I’m sure Aaron does too, but the Nazis most certainly did not reject religion, they embraced it. Remember the words stamped on their belt buckles?

  98. TK

    @John Foudy”if Stephen Jay Gould were still alive, and he proposed addressing Irreducible Complexity, then yes some evolutionists/biologists would look into a bit more, before re-proclaiming that it was nuttery, than if Joe Schmoe said the same thing.”

    Sure, I’d go with that. But at least it was his field. And I bet he would have gone with the whole peer review thing.

    But I’d contrast this with the behaviour of scientists like Behe.

    “The fact that [most] scientists are aware that “appeal to authority” is a logical fallacy does not mean they are immune from its effects.”

    Yep, I was probably a bit absolute there, but the whole process of peer review and scientific method, while not perfect, does a lot to combat the effect of the fallacy. Which is why scientists like Behe avoid it.

  99. Some simple statements to make right before getting into a discussion about evolution. Feel free to just copy and paste this list to any forum or web page you choose to discuss evolution on. Stand by for more updates as we continue to build this page.

    * It’s just a theory.
    Yes, just like gravity is “just a theory”. Anti-evolution types tend to not understand what “theory” means in a scientific context. It means that the idea started out as an hypothesis, based on observation; that researchers made predictions based on the observations and the hypothesis; that they collected more data, tested those predictions and re-examined the original ideas, and that this process has been done over and over and over until the idea is supported by so much evidence that it is as close to fact as science can come. Further, like any theory in science, it can be falsified if some new data comes along showing it to be wrong. Contrast this with the “theory” (and I use the quotes on purpose, there) of Intelligent Design or Creationism. ID consists pretty much only of questioning evolution. It makes no predictions. It has no research testing any ideas. It cannot be falsified. The “evidence” provided of supposed irreducible complexity does not rule out evolution of the structures examined, nor does it show how such a structure may have been designed and created as is. In short, though evolution deniers claim that ID is a theory, it is not.

    * There are no transitional fossils.
    Every fossil, and indeed every living creature, is transitional between an older form and a newer (or yet to come) form. We have a pretty good collection of fossils that show a transition from older forms to newer forms, such as the transition of large land mammals to whales. Scientists using the Theory of Evolution have even predicted a transitional form and where to find it. This transitional fossil, tiktaalik, was found based on these predictions. http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14952

    * Evolution denies god(s).
    Nothing in the Theory of Evolution denies the existence of god (or any other deity). At best, it merely contradicts a literal interpretation of either of the two biblical creation stories (and any of the countless other creation stories from other religions/cultures). All that the theory of evolution does is show how everything came to be the way it is without the need for god(s).

    * Evolution says that life just sprung out of nowhere.
    Not true. The Theory of Evolution says nothing about the origins of life. Rather, the theory examines how life changes over time and across environments after it already exists. There is a branch of science, however, that is examining the origins of life: abiogenesis. But, that is currently separate from the ToE and is still in its infancy, scientifically speaking.

    * Why not teach the controversy?
    That’s just the thing, there is no real controversy! The only controversy is that which has been manufactured by creationists and intelligent design proponents. Sure, there may be specific elements where one scientist may dissagree with another scientist, but those are specific mechanisms and particulars of the theory, not the entire theory itself.

    * Evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics
    This statement not only highlights a poor understanding of evolution, but also of all physics. First of all, the earth itself is not a closed system. The sun provides a great deal of energy for order to be built from. Not only that, but given how the volume of the universe is increasing by an order of three dimensions, and entropy is generally a linear equation, the “room” for order is actually constantly increasing in the universe (which is really beyond the scope of this discussion). Suffice it to say that all in all, denyers of evolution consistently show a poor understanding of nearly all aspects of science.

    * What about the list of scientists that disagree with Evolution?
    This list is probably one of the most dishonest pieces of propeganda out there. It was put together by the “Discovery Institute” (an organization with no credentials and fewer scruples). The list of “scientists” generally are not scientists, and if they are, most are not in any way qualified to talk about biological evolution. Also, the initial statement as presented to some scientists was twisted as to project a meaning different from what the actual reputable scientists contend. Just because a certian aspect may be in question, the entire theory is in no danger of suddenly falling out of favour. This video may give you some insight into the nature of that list.

    * Do you honestly think that all this came about by chance?
    Again, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding and denial of basic chemisty, physics, and even biology. While there are certian “random” elements involved in evolution and pretty much every natural process, keep in mind that the “room” for order in the universe is increasing. Not only that, the majority of processes are not at all left to chance, but rather follow very natural and orderly constraints of the universe.

    * What about the “Irriducible Complexity” of the eye, blood, flagellum, etc.?
    Well, first of all, “irriducible complexity” is a non-sense term invented by creationists and intelligent design proponents. All it really says is that they can’t possibly understand a particularly complex mechanism, so therefore something else did it. The basic premise behind irriducible complexity is to take a well designed item, remove a part to break it, and proclaim that it’s broken… The problem is that it’s entirelly backwards thinking, and doesn’t take into account how something was actually built up. Every single item of irriducible complexity has an answer, however creationists and intelligent design proponents will keep throwing out examples of complex systems until they hit upon one that their debate opponent may not have all the facts on. As soon as they find that one thing that someone may not know the answer to, they proclaim victory for their entire side, totally ignoring all the other instances where their argument was trounced.

    * What about the woodpecker’s tongue, the panda’s thumb, the whatever’s thingy, etc.?
    Again, this is all part and parcel of the “throw enough poo at your opponent, and eventually you’ll hit on something they don’t know” strategy. Most of the things that creationists and intelligent design proponents will throw out are horrid missunderstandings of the basic biological mechanisms at work, so not only are you debating evolution with them, but you need to correct them on how whatever strawman they have thrown out is wrong from the sense of basic biology, not only from an evolutionary standpoint.

    These are only some of the more common and oft repeated arguments. Those who deny evolution are really denying nearly ALL science that has been conducted in the past 200 years, and the sheer amount of education needed to catch them up to reality is nearly insurmaountable. Many other authors have attempted to get to the root of the arguments, and we have reproduced a couple of them (with the author’s permission) in the sub-menus for this page. Please read those as well. I also encourage folks to read the works of Victor J. Stenger. Many of his works deal with a lot more detailed science that even more handilly refute the rediculous notions of those who deny evolution.

  100. Copyright Scientific American and John Rennie, July 2002. Used with permission.

    When Charles Darwin introduced the theory of evolution through natural selection 143 years ago, the scientists of the day argued over it fiercely, but the massing evidence from paleontology, genetics, zoology, molecular biology and other fields gradually established evolution’s truth beyond reasonable doubt. Today that battle has been won everywhere–except in the public imagination.

    Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy. They lobby for creationist ideas such as “intelligent design” to be taught as alternatives to evolution in science classrooms. As this article goes to press, the Ohio Board of Education is debating whether to mandate such a change. Some antievolutionists, such as Philip E. Johnson, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and author of Darwin on Trial, admit that they intend for intelligent-design theory to serve as a “wedge” for reopening science classrooms to discussions of God.

    Besieged teachers and others may increasingly find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism. The arguments that creationists use are typically specious and based on misunderstandings of (or outright lies about) evolution, but the number and diversity of the objections can put even well-informed people at a disadvantage.

    To help with answering them, the following list rebuts some of the most common “scientific” arguments raised against evolution. It also directs readers to further sources for information and explains why creation science has no place in the classroom.

    1. Evolution is only a theory. It is not a fact or a scientific law.

    Many people learned in elementary school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty–above a mere hypothesis but below a law. Scientists do not use the terms that way, however. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution–or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter–they are not expressing reservations about its truth.

    In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The NAS defines a fact as “an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as ‘true.'” The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling.

    All sciences frequently rely on indirect evidence. Physicists cannot see subatomic particles directly, for instance, so they verify their existence by watching for telltale tracks that the particles leave in cloud chambers. The absence of direct observation does not make physicists’ conclusions less certain.

    2. Natural selection is based on circular reasoning: the fittest are those who survive, and those who survive are deemed fittest.

    “Survival of the fittest” is a conversational way to describe natural selection, but a more technical description speaks of differential rates of survival and reproduction. That is, rather than labeling species as more or less fit, one can describe how many offspring they are likely to leave under given circumstances. Drop a fast-breeding pair of small-beaked finches and a slower-breeding pair of large-beaked finches onto an island full of food seeds. Within a few generations the fast breeders may control more of the food resources. Yet if large beaks more easily crush seeds, the advantage may tip to the slow breeders. In a pioneering study of finches on the Gal pagos Islands, Peter R. Grant of Princeton University observed these kinds of population shifts in the wild [see his article “Natural Selection and Darwin’s Finches”; Scientific American, October 1991].

    The key is that adaptive fitness can be defined without reference to survival: large beaks are better adapted for crushing seeds, irrespective of whether that trait has survival value under the circumstances.

    3. Evolution is unscientific, because it is not testable or falsifiable. It makes claims about events that were not observed and can never be re-created. This blanket dismissal of evolution ignores important distinctions that divide the field into at least two broad areas: microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution looks at changes within species over time–changes that may be preludes to speciation, the origin of new species. Macroevolution studies how taxonomic groups above the level of species change. Its evidence draws frequently from the fossil record and DNA comparisons to reconstruct how various organisms may be related.

    These days even most creationists acknowledge that microevolution has been upheld by tests in the laboratory (as in studies of cells, plants and fruit flies) and in the field (as in Grant’s studies of evolving beak shapes among Gal pagos finches). Natural selection and other mechanisms–such as chromosomal changes, symbiosis and hybridization–can drive profound changes in populations over time.

    The historical nature of macroevolutionary study involves inference from fossils and DNA rather than direct observation. Yet in the historical sciences (which include astronomy, geology and archaeology, as well as evolutionary biology), hypotheses can still be tested by checking whether they accord with physical evidence and whether they lead to verifiable predictions about future discoveries. For instance, evolution implies that between the earliest-known ancestors of humans (roughly five million years old) and the appearance of anatomically modern humans (about 100,000 years ago), one should find a succession of hominid creatures with features progressively less apelike and more modern, which is indeed what the fossil record shows. But one should not–and does not–find modern human fossils embedded in strata from the Jurassic period (144 million years ago). Evolutionary biology routinely makes predictions far more refined and precise than this, and researchers test them constantly.

    Evolution could be disproved in other ways, too. If we could document the spontaneous generation of just one complex life-form from inanimate matter, then at least a few creatures seen in the fossil record might have originated this way. If superintelligent aliens appeared and claimed credit for creating life on earth (or even particular species), the purely evolutionary explanation would be cast in doubt. But no one has yet produced such evidence.

    It should be noted that the idea of falsifiability as the defining characteristic of science originated with philosopher Karl Popper in the 1930s. More recent elaborations on his thinking have expanded the narrowest interpretation of his principle precisely because it would eliminate too many branches of clearly scientific endeavor.

    4. Increasingly, scientists doubt the truth of evolution.

    No evidence suggests that evolution is losing adherents. Pick up any issue of a peer-reviewed biological journal, and you will find articles that support and extend evolutionary studies or that embrace evolution as a fundamental concept.

    Conversely, serious scientific publications disputing evolution are all but nonexistent. In the mid-1990s George W. Gilchrist of the University of Washington surveyed thousands of journals in the primary literature, seeking articles on intelligent design or creation science. Among those hundreds of thousands of scientific reports, he found none. In the past two years, surveys done independently by Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University and Lawrence M. Krauss of Case Western Reserve University have been similarly fruitless.

    Creationists retort that a closed-minded scientific community rejects their evidence. Yet according to the editors of Nature, Science and other leading journals, few antievolution manuscripts are even submitted. Some antievolution authors have published papers in serious journals. Those papers, however, rarely attack evolution directly or advance creationist arguments; at best, they identify certain evolutionary problems as unsolved and difficult (which no one disputes). In short, creationists are not giving the scientific world good reason to take them seriously.

    5. The disagreements among even evolutionary biologists show how little solid science supports evolution.

    Evolutionary biologists passionately debate diverse topics: how speciation happens, the rates of evolutionary change, the ancestral relationships of birds and dinosaurs, whether Neandertals were a species apart from modern humans, and much more. These disputes are like those found in all other branches of science. Acceptance of evolution as a factual occurrence and a guiding principle is nonetheless universal in biology.

    Unfortunately, dishonest creationists have shown a willingness to take scientists’ comments out of context to exaggerate and distort the disagreements. Anyone acquainted with the works of paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University knows that in addition to co-authoring the punctuated-equilibrium model, Gould was one of the most eloquent defenders and articulators of evolution. (Punctuated equilibrium explains patterns in the fossil record by suggesting that most evolutionary changes occur within geologically brief intervals–which may nonetheless amount to hundreds of generations.) Yet creationists delight in dissecting out phrases from Gould’s voluminous prose to make him sound as though he had doubted evolution, and they present punctuated equilibrium as though it allows new species to materialize overnight or birds to be born from reptile eggs.

    When confronted with a quotation from a scientific authority that seems to question evolution, insist on seeing the statement in context. Almost invariably, the attack on evolution will prove illusory.

    6. If humans descended from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?

    This surprisingly common argument reflects several levels of ignorance about evolution. The first mistake is that evolution does not teach that humans descended from monkeys; it states that both have a common ancestor.

    The deeper error is that this objection is tantamount to asking, “If children descended from adults, why are there still adults?” New species evolve by splintering off from established ones, when populations of organisms become isolated from the main branch of their family and acquire sufficient differences to remain forever distinct. The parent species may survive indefinitely thereafter, or it may become extinct.

    7. Evolution cannot explain how life first appeared on earth.

    The origin of life remains very much a mystery, but biochemists have learned about how primitive nucleic acids, amino acids and other building blocks of life could have formed and organized themselves into self-replicating, self-sustaining units, laying the foundation for cellular biochemistry. Astrochemical analyses hint that quantities of these compounds might have originated in space and fallen to earth in comets, a scenario that may solve the problem of how those constituents arose under the conditions that prevailed when our planet was young.

    Creationists sometimes try to invalidate all of evolution by pointing to science’s current inability to explain the origin of life. But even if life on earth turned out to have a nonevolutionary origin (for instance, if aliens introduced the first cells billions of years ago), evolution since then would be robustly confirmed by countless microevolutionary and macroevolutionary studies.

    8. Mathematically, it is inconceivable that anything as complex as a protein, let alone a living cell or a human, could spring up by chance.

    Chance plays a part in evolution (for example, in the random mutations that can give rise to new traits), but evolution does not depend on chance to create organisms, proteins or other entities. Quite the opposite: natural selection, the principal known mechanism of evolution, harnesses nonrandom change by preserving “desirable” (adaptive) features and eliminating “undesirable” (nonadaptive) ones. As long as the forces of selection stay constant, natural selection can push evolution in one direction and produce sophisticated structures in surprisingly short times.

    As an analogy, consider the 13-letter sequence “TOBEORNOTTOBE.” Those hypothetical million monkeys, each pecking out one phrase a second, could take as long as 78,800 years to find it among the 2613 sequences of that length. But in the 1980s Richard Hardison of Glendale College wrote a computer program that generated phrases randomly while preserving the positions of individual letters that happened to be correctly placed (in effect, selecting for phrases more like Hamlet’s). On average, the program re-created the phrase in just 336 iterations, less than 90 seconds. Even more amazing, it could reconstruct Shakespeare’s entire play in just four and a half days.

    9. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that systems must become more disordered over time. Living cells therefore could not have evolved from inanimate chemicals, and multicellular life could not have evolved from protozoa.

    This argument derives from a misunderstanding of the Second Law. If it were valid, mineral crystals and snowflakes would also be impossible, because they, too, are complex structures that form spontaneously from disordered parts.

    The Second Law actually states that the total entropy of a closed system (one that no energy or matter leaves or enters) cannot decrease. Entropy is a physical concept often casually described as disorder, but it differs significantly from the conversational use of the word.

    More important, however, the Second Law permits parts of a system to decrease in entropy as long as other parts experience an offsetting increase. Thus, our planet as a whole can grow more complex because the sun pours heat and light onto it, and the greater entropy associated with the sun’s nuclear fusion more than rebalances the scales. Simple organisms can fuel their rise toward complexity by consuming other forms of life and nonliving materials.

    10. Mutations are essential to evolution theory, but mutations can only eliminate traits. They cannot produce new features.

    On the contrary, biology has catalogued many traits produced by point mutations (changes at precise positions in an organism’s DNA)–bacterial resistance to antibiotics, for example.

    Mutations that arise in the homeobox (Hox) family of development-regulating genes in animals can also have complex effects. Hox genes direct where legs, wings, antennae and body segments should grow. In fruit flies, for instance, the mutation called Antennapedia causes legs to sprout where antennae should grow. These abnormal limbs are not functional, but their existence demonstrates that genetic mistakes can produce complex structures, which natural selection can then test for possible uses.

    Moreover, molecular biology has discovered mechanisms for genetic change that go beyond point mutations, and these expand the ways in which new traits can appear. Functional modules within genes can be spliced together in novel ways. Whole genes can be accidentally duplicated in an organism’s DNA, and the duplicates are free to mutate into genes for new, complex features. Comparisons of the DNA from a wide variety of organisms indicate that this is how the globin family of blood proteins evolved over millions of years.

    11. Natural selection might explain microevolution, but it cannot explain the origin of new species and higher orders of life.

    Evolutionary biologists have written extensively about how natural selection could produce new species. For instance, in the model called allopatry, developed by Ernst Mayr of Harvard University, if a population of organisms were isolated from the rest of its species by geographical boundaries, it might be subjected to different selective pressures. Changes would accumulate in the isolated population. If those changes became so significant that the splinter group could not or routinely would not breed with the original stock, then the splinter group would be reproductively isolated and on its way toward becoming a new species.

    Natural selection is the best studied of the evolutionary mechanisms, but biologists are open to other possibilities as well. Biologists are constantly assessing the potential of unusual genetic mechanisms for causing speciation or for producing complex features in organisms. Lynn Margulis of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and others have persuasively argued that some cellular organelles, such as the energy-generating mitochondria, evolved through the symbiotic merger of ancient organisms. Thus, science welcomes the possibility of evolution resulting from forces beyond natural selection. Yet those forces must be natural; they cannot be attributed to the actions of mysterious creative intelligences whose existence, in scientific terms, is unproved.

    12. Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.

    Speciation is probably fairly rare and in many cases might take centuries. Furthermore, recognizing a new species during a formative stage can be difficult, because biologists sometimes disagree about how best to define a species. The most widely used definition, Mayr’s Biological Species Concept, recognizes a species as a distinct community of reproductively isolated populations–sets of organisms that normally do not or cannot breed outside their community. In practice, this standard can be difficult to apply to organisms isolated by distance or terrain or to plants (and, of course, fossils do not breed). Biologists therefore usually use organisms’ physical and behavioral traits as clues to their species membership.

    Nevertheless, the scientific literature does contain reports of apparent speciation events in plants, insects and worms. In most of these experiments, researchers subjected organisms to various types of selection–for anatomical differences, mating behaviors, habitat preferences and other traits–and found that they had created populations of organisms that did not breed with outsiders. For example, William R. Rice of the University of New Mexico and George W. Salt of the University of California at Davis demonstrated that if they sorted a group of fruit flies by their preference for certain environments and bred those flies separately over 35 generations, the resulting flies would refuse to breed with those from a very different environment.

    13. Evolutionists cannot point to any transitional fossils–creatures that are half reptile and half bird, for instance.

    Actually, paleontologists know of many detailed examples of fossils intermediate in form between various taxonomic groups. One of the most famous fossils of all time is Archaeopteryx, which combines feathers and skeletal structures peculiar to birds with features of dinosaurs. A flock’s worth of other feathered fossil species, some more avian and some less, has also been found. A sequence of fossils spans the evolution of modern horses from the tiny Eohippus. Whales had four-legged ancestors that walked on land, and creatures known as Ambulocetus and Rodhocetus helped to make that transition [see “The Mammals That Conquered the Seas,” by Kate Wong; Scientific American, May]. Fossil seashells trace the evolution of various mollusks through millions of years. Perhaps 20 or more hominids (not all of them our ancestors) fill the gap between Lucy the australopithecine and modern humans.

    Creationists, though, dismiss these fossil studies. They argue that Archaeopteryx is not a missing link between reptiles and birds–it is just an extinct bird with reptilian features. They want evolutionists to produce a weird, chimeric monster that cannot be classified as belonging to any known group. Even if a creationist does accept a fossil as transitional between two species, he or she may then insist on seeing other fossils intermediate between it and the first two. These frustrating requests can proceed ad infinitum and place an unreasonable burden on the always incomplete fossil record.

    Nevertheless, evolutionists can cite further supportive evidence from molecular biology. All organisms share most of the same genes, but as evolution predicts, the structures of these genes and their products diverge among species, in keeping with their evolutionary relationships. Geneticists speak of the “molecular clock” that records the passage of time. These molecular data also show how various organisms are transitional within evolution.

    14. Living things have fantastically intricate features–at the anatomical, cellular and molecular levels–that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are the products of intelligent design, not evolution.

    This “argument from design” is the backbone of most recent attacks on evolution, but it is also one of the oldest. In 1802 theologian William Paley wrote that if one finds a pocket watch in a field, the most reasonable conclusion is that someone dropped it, not that natural forces created it there. By analogy, Paley argued, the complex structures of living things must be the handiwork of direct, divine invention. Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species as an answer to Paley: he explained how natural forces of selection, acting on inherited features, could gradually shape the evolution of ornate organic structures.

    Generations of creationists have tried to counter Darwin by citing the example of the eye as a structure that could not have evolved. The eye’s ability to provide vision depends on the perfect arrangement of its parts, these critics say. Natural selection could thus never favor the transitional forms needed during the eye’s evolution–what good is half an eye? Anticipating this criticism, Darwin suggested that even “incomplete” eyes might confer benefits (such as helping creatures orient toward light) and thereby survive for further evolutionary refinement. Biology has vindicated Darwin: researchers have identified primitive eyes and light-sensing organs throughout the animal kingdom and have even tracked the evolutionary history of eyes through comparative genetics. (It now appears that in various families of organisms, eyes have evolved independently.)

    Today’s intelligent-design advocates are more sophisticated than their predecessors, but their arguments and goals are not fundamentally different. They criticize evolution by trying to demonstrate that it could not account for life as we know it and then insist that the only tenable alternative is that life was designed by an unidentified intelligence.

    15. Recent discoveries prove that even at the microscopic level, life has a quality of complexity that could not have come about through evolution.

    “Irreducible complexity” is the battle cry of Michael J. Behe of Lehigh University, author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. As a household example of irreducible complexity, Behe chooses the mousetrap–a machine that could not function if any of its pieces were missing and whose pieces have no value except as parts of the whole. What is true of the mousetrap, he says, is even truer of the bacterial flagellum, a whiplike cellular organelle used for propulsion that operates like an outboard motor. The proteins that make up a flagellum are uncannily arranged into motor components, a universal joint and other structures like those that a human engineer might specify. The possibility that this intricate array could have arisen through evolutionary modification is virtually nil, Behe argues, and that bespeaks intelligent design. He makes similar points about the blood’s clotting mechanism and other molecular systems.

    Yet evolutionary biologists have answers to these objections. First, there exist flagellae with forms simpler than the one that Behe cites, so it is not necessary for all those components to be present for a flagellum to work. The sophisticated components of this flagellum all have precedents elsewhere in nature, as described by Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University and others. In fact, the entire flagellum assembly is extremely similar to an organelle that Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague bacterium, uses to inject toxins into cells.

    The key is that the flagellum’s component structures, which Behe suggests have no value apart from their role in propulsion, can serve multiple functions that would have helped favor their evolution. The final evolution of the flagellum might then have involved only the novel recombination of sophisticated parts that initially evolved for other purposes. Similarly, the blood-clotting system seems to involve the modification and elaboration of proteins that were originally used in digestion, according to studies by Russell F. Doolittle of the University of California at San Diego. So some of the complexity that Behe calls proof of intelligent design is not irreducible at all.

    Complexity of a different kind–“specified complexity”–is the cornerstone of the intelligent-design arguments of William A. Dembski of Baylor University in his books The Design Inference and No Free Lunch. Essentially his argument is that living things are complex in a way that undirected, random processes could never produce. The only logical conclusion, Dembski asserts, in an echo of Paley 200 years ago, is that some superhuman intelligence created and shaped life.

    Dembski’s argument contains several holes. It is wrong to insinuate that the field of explanations consists only of random processes or designing intelligences. Researchers into nonlinear systems and cellular automata at the Santa Fe Institute and elsewhere have demonstrated that simple, undirected processes can yield extraordinarily complex patterns. Some of the complexity seen in organisms may therefore emerge through natural phenomena that we as yet barely understand. But that is far different from saying that the complexity could not have arisen naturally.

    “Creation science” is a contradiction in terms. A central tenet of modern science is methodological naturalism–it seeks to explain the universe purely in terms of observed or testable natural mechanisms. Thus, physics describes the atomic nucleus with specific concepts governing matter and energy, and it tests those descriptions experimentally. Physicists introduce new particles, such as quarks, to flesh out their theories only when data show that the previous descriptions cannot adequately explain observed phenomena. The new particles do not have arbitrary properties, moreover–their definitions are tightly constrained, because the new particles must fit within the existing framework of physics.

    In contrast, intelligent-design theorists invoke shadowy entities that conveniently have whatever unconstrained abilities are needed to solve the mystery at hand. Rather than expanding scientific inquiry, such answers shut it down. (How does one disprove the existence of omnipotent intelligences?)

    Intelligent design offers few answers. For instance, when and how did a designing intelligence intervene in life’s history? By creating the first DNA? The first cell? The first human? Was every species designed, or just a few early ones? Proponents of intelligent-design theory frequently decline to be pinned down on these points. They do not even make real attempts to reconcile their disparate ideas about intelligent design. Instead they pursue argument by exclusion–that is, they belittle evolutionary explanations as far-fetched or incomplete and then imply that only design-based alternatives remain.

    Logically, this is misleading: even if one naturalistic explanation is flawed, it does not mean that all are. Moreover, it does not make one intelligent-design theory more reasonable than another. Listeners are essentially left to fill in the blanks for themselves, and some will undoubtedly do so by substituting their religious beliefs for scientific ideas.

    Time and again, science has shown that methodological naturalism can push back ignorance, finding increasingly detailed and informative answers to mysteries that once seemed impenetrable: the nature of light, the causes of disease, how the brain works. Evolution is doing the same with the riddle of how the living world took shape. Creationism, by any name, adds nothing of intellectual value to the effort.

  101. 25 Creationists’ Arguments, and 25 Evolutionists’ Answers

    “Copyright 1997 Michael Shermer, reprinted with permission from the author and http://www.skeptic.com

    1. Creation-science is scientific and therefore should be taught in public school science courses.

    Creation science is scientific in name only. It is a thinly disguised religious position espousing the doctrine of special creation, and therefore is not appropriate for public school science courses, any more than calling something Muslim-science or Buddha-science or Christian-science would require equal time. The following statement from the Institute for Creation Research, the “research” arm of Christian Heritage College and to which all faculty members and researchers adhere, is proof of their true beliefs. There is nothing scientific about “creation-science”:

    “we believe in the absolute integrity of holy scripture and its plenary verbal inspiration by the holy spirit as originally written by men prepared for god for this purpose. The scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are inerrant in relation to any subject with which they deal, and are to be accepted in their natural and intended sense . . . all things in the universe were created and made by god in the six days of special creation described in Genesis. The creationist account is accepted as factual, historical and perspicuous and is thus fundamental in the understanding of every fact and phenomenon in the created universe.”

    Administrator Comments: By that same logic, mental illness for example could be demon posession, not a sickness treatable by drugs.

    2. Neither creationism nor evolutionary theory is scientific because “science only deals with the here-and-now and cannot answer historical questions about the creation of the universe and the origins of life and man.”

    This, of course, undermines the entire superstructure of “creation-science” and argument #1, but is untrue anyway because science does deal with past phenomena, as found in the historical sciences of cosmology, geology, paleontology, paleoanthropology, and archaeology. There are experimental sciences and historical sciences, using different methodologies but equal in their ability to understand causality, and evolutionary biology is a valid and legitimate historical science. If this statement were true, much of science, not just evolutionary theory, would be sterile.

    3. Since education is a process of learning all sides of an issue, it is appropriate for both creationism and evolution to be taught side-by-side in public school classrooms. Not to do so is a violation of the philosophy of education, and of the civil liberties of creationists. I.e., we have a “right” to be heard. Besides, what is the harm in hearing both sides?

    The multiple sides of issues is indeed a part of the general educational process, and it might be appropriate to discuss creationism in courses on religion, history, or even philosophy, but most certainly not science, any more than biology courses should include lectures on American Indian creation-myths. Not to do so violates no rights, since nowhere in nature or the Constitution does it say everyone has a right to teach creationism in public schools. Rights do not exist in nature. Rights are a concept constructed by humans to protect certain freedoms, but have degenerated into pleas for special privilege by nearly every group and individual in America who want something they do not have. Finally, there is considerable harm in teaching “creation-science” as science because it is an attack on all the sciences, not just evolutionary biology. If the universe and Earth are only about 10,000 years old, cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, paleontology, et al, would be invalidated. Creationism cannot even be partially correct. As soon as supernatural causation is allowed in the creation of even one species, they could all be created this way, and the assumption of natural laws in nature is voided and science becomes meaningless.

    4. There is an amazing correlation between the “facts” of nature and the “acts” of the bible. It is therefore appropriate to cross-reference creation-science books with the bible, and to look to study the bible, as a book of science, along with the book of nature.

    The true stripes of the creationists can be seen in the following quote from Henry Morris, head of the Institute for Creation Research, that reveals his preference for faith in authority over any possible contradictory empirical evidence (and thus demonstrating their lack of scientific methodology):

    “The main reason for insisting on the universal Flood as a fact of history and as the primary vehicle for geological interpretation is that god’s Word plainly teaches it! No geological difficulties, real or imagined, can be allowed to take precedence over the clear statements and necessary inferences of Scripture.”

    It would be ludicrous to imagine professors at CALTECH, for example, making a similar statement of belief in Darwin’s Origin or Newton’s Principia, such that no difficulties could take precedence over the authority of the book.

    5. The theory of natural selection is tautological, or a form of circular reasoning. Those that survive are the best adapted. Who are the best adapted? Those that survive. Likewise, rocks are used to date fossils, and fossils are used to date rocks. Tautologies do not make a science.

    Creationists have a very simplistic and naive understanding of the workings of natural selection and geological forces. First of all, natural selection is by no means the only mechanism of organic change (e.g. Darwin wrote an entire book about sexual selection). Second, population genetics demonstrates quite clearly, and with mathematical prediction, when natural selection will and will not effect change on a population. Third, one can make predictions based on the theory of natural selection, and then test them, as the geneticist does in the example above, or the paleontologist does in interpreting the fossil record.

    Natural selection and the theory of evolution are testable and falsifiable. Finding hominid fossils in the same geological strata as trilobites, for example would be evidence against the theory. The dating of fossils with rocks and vice versa could only be done after the geological column was established. The geological column exists nowhere in its entirety because strata are disrupted, convoluted, and always incomplete for a variety of reasons. But strata order is unmistakably non-random and chronological order can be accurately pieced together using a variety of techniques only one of which is fossils.

    6. There are “only two explanations for the origins of life and existence of man, plants and animals: It was either the work of a creator or it was not.” Since evolution theory is unsupported by the evidence (i.e. it is wrong), creationism must be correct. Any evidence “which fails to support the theory of evolution is necessarily scientific evidence in support of creationism.”

    Beware of anyone who says, “there are only two . . .” It is the classic mistake of logic known as the either-or fallacy, or the fallacy of false alternatives. If A is false, B must be true. Oh? Why? Plus, should not B stand on its own regardless of A? Of course. So even if evolutionary theory turns out to be completely wrong and the whole thing was a big mistake, that does not mean that, ergo, creationism is right. There may be alternatives C, D, and E we have yet to consider. There is, however, a true dichotomy in the case of natural v. supernatural explanations. Either life was created and changed by natural means or it did not. Scientists assume natural causation, and evolutionists debate the various natural causal agents involved, not whether it happened by natural or supernatural means.

    7. Evolutionary theory is the basis of Marxism, communism, atheism, immorality, and the general decline of the morals and culture of America, and therefore is bad for our children.

    In this argument we begin to see the cultural background of creationism as a social and political movement, not a scientific one. This is, in part, why they have turned to the legal system to try to get the state to force their “science” on students. But legislation cannot make a belief system scientific; only scientists can do that.

    The theory of evolution in particular, and science in general, is no more the basis of these “isms” than the printing press is responsible for Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The fact that the science of genetics has been used to buttress racial theories of the innate inferiority of certain groups does not mean we should abandon the study of genes. There may well be Marxist, communist, atheist, and even immoral (however defined) evolutionists, but there are probably just as many capitalist, theist (or agnostic), and moral evolutionists. As for the theory itself, it can be used to support Marxist, communist, and atheist ideologies, and it has; but so has it been used (especially in America), to lend scientific credence to laissez-faire capitalism. Linking scientific theories to political ideologies is tricky business and we must be cautious of making connections that do not necessarily follow.

    8. Evolutionary theory, along with its bed-partner secular humanism, is really a religion, so it is not appropriate to teach it in public schools.

    To call the science of evolutionary biology a religion is to so broaden the definition of religion as to make it totally meaningless. Science is a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed or inferred phenomenon, past or present, aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation. Religion – whatever it is – is certainly not “testable,” nor is it “open to rejection or confirmation.” Similarly, the “secular” of secular humanism expressly means “not religious,” and therefore cannot be considered a religion. In their methodologies science and religion are 180 degrees out of phase with each other.

    9. Many leading evolutionists are skeptical of the theory and find it problematic. E.g., Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge have proven that Darwin was wrong through their theory of punctuated equilibrium. If the world’s leading evolutionists cannot agree on the theory, the whole thing must be a wash.

    It is particularly ironic that the creationists would quote the leading spokesman against creationism – Gould – in their attempts to marshal the forces of science on their side. Creationists have misunderstood, either naively or intentionally, the healthy scientific debate amongst evolutionists about the causal agents or organic change. They apparently perceive this normal exchange of ideas and self-correcting nature of science as evidence that the field is coming apart at the seams. Of the many things evolutionists argue and debate about within the field, one thing they are certain of and all agree upon is that evolution has occurred. Exactly how it happened, and what the relative strengths of the various causal mechanisms are, continues to be discussed. Eldredge and Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium is a refinement of and improvement upon Darwin’s larger theory of evolution. It no more proves Darwin wrong than Einsteinian relativity proves Newton wrong.

    10. “The bible is the written Word of god…all of its assertions are historically and scientifically true. The great Flood described in Genesis was an historical event, worldwide in its extent and effect. We are an organization of christian men of science, who accept Jesus. The account of the special creation of Adam and Eve as one man and one woman, and their subsequent Fall into sin, is the basis for our belief in the necessity of a Savior for all mankind.”

    Such a statement of belief is clearly religious and not scientific. This does not make it wrong, but it does mean that creation-science is clearly creation-religion and to this extent breaches the wall separating church and state. In private schools funded or controlled by creationists, they are free to teach whatever they like to their children. But one cannot make the events in any text historically and scientifically true by fiat, only by testing the evidence, and to ask the state to direct teachers to teach a particular religious doctrine as sience is unreasonable and onerous.

    11. All causes have effects. The cause of “X” must be “X-like.” That is, the cause of intelligence must be intelligent. Also, regress all causes in time and you must conclude that there was a first cause – god. Likewise with motion (all things in motion proves that there must have been a prime mover, a mover who needs no other mover to be moved – god); and purpose (all things in the universe have a purpose, therefore there must be an intelligent designer).

    If this were true, should not nature then have a natural cause, not a supernatural cause?! But it is not true: causes of “X” do not have to be “X-like.” The “cause” of green paint is blue mixed with yellow paint, neither one of which is green like. Animal manure makes fruit trees grow better. Fruit is delicious to eat and is, therefore, very unmanure-like! The first-cause and prime-mover argument, brilliantly proffered by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 14th Century and still more brilliantly refuted by David Hume in the 18th century, is easily answered with just one more question: who or what caused and moved god? Finally, as Hume demonstrated, “purposefulness” is often illusory and subjective. “The early bird gets the worm” is a clever design if you are the bird, not so good if you are the worm. Two eyes may seem like the ideal number, but, as Richard Hardison notes with levity, “wouldn’t it be desirable to have an additional eye in the back of one’s head, and certainly an eye attached to our forefinger would be helpful when we’re working behind the instrument panels of automobiles.”

    Purpose is, in part, what we are accustomed to perceiving. Finally, not everything is so purposeful and beautifully designed. In addition to the problems of evil, disease, and deformities that creationists conveniently overlook, nature is filled with the bizarre and seemingly unpurposeful. Male nipples and the Panda’s thumb are just two examples that Gould is fond of flaunting as purposeless and poorly designed structures. If god so graciously designed life to fit neatly together like a jigsaw puzzle, then how do you explain these oddities?

    12. Something cannot be created out of nothing, say scientists. Therefore, from where did the material for the Big Bang come? And, from where did the first life forms originate that provided the raw material for evolution? And the Stanley Miller experiment of creating amino acids out of an inorganic “soup” and other biogenic molecules is not the creation of life.

    Science is not equipped to answer certain “ultimate” type questions, such as: “what was there before the beginning of the universe?” “What time was it before time began?” “Where did the matter come from for the Big Bang?” These are philosophical or religious questions, not scientific ones, and therefore are not part of science. Evolutionary theory attempts to understand the causality of change after time and matter were “created” (whatever that means). As for the origins of life, biochemists do have a very rational and scientific explanation for the evolution from inorganic to organic compounds, the creation of amino acids and the construction of protein chains, the first crude cells, and so on. (And Miller never claimed to have created life, just some building blocks of life.) While these theories are by no means robust and still subject to lively scientific debate, there is a reasonable explanation for how you get from the Big Bang to the Big Brain in the know universe.

    13. Population statistics demonstrate that at the present population and rate of growth, there were only two people living approximately 6,300 years before present, or 4,300 B.C. This proves that humans and civilization are quite young. If the earth were old, say one million years, over the course of 25,000 generations at 1/2% rate of population growth and an average of 2.5 children per family, the present population would be 10 to the power of 2100 people, which is impossible since there are only 10 to the power of 130 electrons in the known universe.

    As Disraeli observed (and Mark Twain reiterated), there are three types of lies: “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” But if you want to play the numbers game, here are a few: by this analysis, in 2,600 B.C. there would have been a total population on Earth of around 600 people. We know with a high degree of certainty that in 2,600 B.C. there were flourishing civilizations in Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus River Valley, China, etc. Giving Egypt an extremely generous 1/6th of the world’s population, for 60 people to have built the pyramids, not to mention all the other architectural monuments, they most certainly would have needed a miracle or two, or perhaps the assistance of ancient astronauts! The fact is, populations do not grow in a steady manner. There are booms and busts, and the history of the human population before the Industrial Revolution is one of prosperity and growth, followed by famine and decline. As humans struggled for millennia to fend off extinction, the population curve was one of peaks and valleys as it climbed steadily, though uncertainly upward. It is only since the 19th century that the rate of increase has been accelerating.

    Administrator’s Comment: This silly statement is disproven by recorded history. In the 13-14th centuries the Black Plague killed as much as two-thirds of the population of Asia/Europe and that doesn’t even include plagues that ripped through the Roman Empire in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This is the misuse of linear progression again to distort the facts.

    14. Natural selection can never account for anything other than minor changes within species-microevolution. Mutations used by evolutionists to explain microevolution are always harmful, rare, and random, and cannot be the driving force of evolutionary change.

    I shall never forget the four words pounded into the brains of us students of evolutionary biologist Bayard Bratstram at California State University, Fullerton-“Mutants are not monsters.” His point was that the public perception of mutations at the county fair-two headed cows and the like-is not the sort of mutations evolutionists are discussing. Clearly it would be unreasonable to argue that these sorts of mutations are beneficial. But most mutations are small genetic or chromosomal abberations that have small effects. Some of these small effects may provide benefits to an organism in an ever-changing environment. Also, the modern theory of “allopatric speciation,” first proffered by Ernst Mayr and integrated into paleontology by Eldredge and Gould, demonstrates precisely how natural selection, in conjunction with other forces and contingencies of nature, can and does produce new species.

    15. There are no transitional forms in the fossil record, anywhere, including and especially humans. The whole fossil record is an embarrassment to evolutionists. What about Neanderthals? These are all diseased skeletons-arthritis, rickets, etc., that create the bowed legs, brow ridge, and larger skeletal structure. Homo erectus, and Australopithecus, are just apes.

    Creationists always quote Darwin’s famous passage in the Origin of Species in which he asks: “Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.” One answer is that there are plenty of examples of transitional forms that have been discovered since Darwin’s time. Just look in any paleontology text. A second answer was provided in 1972 by Eldredge and Gould when they demonstrated that gaps in the fossil record do not indicate missing data of slow and stately change; rather, it is evidence of rapid and episodic change. Using Mayr’s “allopatric speciation,” where small and unstable “founder” populations are isolated at the periphery of the larger populations’s range, they show that the relatively rapid change in this smaller gene pool creates new species but leaves behind few, if any, fossils. The process of fossilization is rare and infrequent anyway. It is almost nonexistent during these times of rapid speciation. A lack of fossils is evidence for rapid change, not missing evidence for gradual evolution.

    Administrator’s Comments: Ever hear of lungfish? Monotremes (egg laying mammals) such as the duck-billed platypus and spiny anteater are a clear living transitions between reptiles/birds/mammals. That doesn’t even include genetics tests and the fact all life on earth uses the same left-handed chemical structure and are composed of the same 20 or so amino acids, etc.

    16. The Second Law of Thermodynamics proves that evolution cannot be true since evolutionists state that the universe and life moves from chaos to order and simple to complex, the exact opposite of the entropy predicted by the Second Law.

    First of all, on any scale other than the grandest of all-600 million years of life on Earth-species do not evolve from simple to complex, and life does not simply move from chaos to order. The history of life is checkered with false starts, failed experiments, small and mass extinctions, and chaotic restarts. It is anything but the Time/Life-book foldout from single cells to humans. But even in the big picture, the Second Law allows for such change because the Earth is enveloped within a system that includes a constant input of energy from the sun. As long as the sun is burning, life may continue thriving and evolving, just like automobiles may be prevented from rusting, burgers can be heated in ovens, and all manner of things in apparent violation of the Second Law’s rule of entropy may continue. But as soon as the sun burns out entropy would take its course, and life would cease. The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to closed, isolated systems. Since the Earth receives a constant input of energy from the sum, entropy may decrease and order increase (though the sun itself is running down in the process). Thus, the Earth is not strictly a closed system and life may evolve without violating natural law. In addition, recent research in chaos theory is demonstrating that order can and does spontaneously generate out of apparent chaos, all without violating the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Evolution no more breaks the Second Law of Thermodynamics than one breaks the law of gravity by jumping up.

    17. Even the simplest of life forms are too complex to have come together by random chance. Take a simple organism consisting of merely 100 parts. Mathematically there are 10 to the power of 158 possible ways for the parts to link up. There are not enough molecules in the universe or time since the beginning to account for these possible ways to come together in even this simple life form, let alone human beings. The human eye alone defies explanation by the randomness of evolution. It is the equivalent of the monkey typing Hamlet, or even “to be or not to be.” It will not happen by random change.

    Natural selection is not “random” nor does it operate by “chance.” Natural selection preserves the gains and eradicates the mistakes. The eye evolved from a single, light-sensitive cell into the complex eye of today through hundreds if not thousands of intermediate steps, many of which still exist in nature. In order for the monkey to type the first 13 letters of Hamlet’s soliloquy by chance, it would take 26 to the power of 13 number of trials for success. This is 16 times as great as the total number of seconds that have elapsed in the lifetime of the solar system. But if each correct letter is preserved and each incorrect letter eradicated, the process operates much faster. How much faster? Richard Hardison constructed a computer program in which letters were “selected” for or against, and it took an average of only 335.2 trials to produce the sequence of letters TOBEORNOTTOBE. This takes the computer less than 90 seconds. The entire play can be done in about 4.5 days!

    18. Hydrodynamic sorting during the Flood explains the apparent progression of fossils in geological strata. The simple, ignorant organisms died in the sea and are on the bottom layers, while more complex, smarter, and faster organisms dies higher up.

    Not one trilobite floated upward to a higher strata? Not one dumb horse was on the beach and drowned in a lower strata? Not one flying pterodactyl made it above the Cretaceous layer? Not one moronic human did not come in out of the rain? Speaking of absurd arguments, consider how a ship 450 feet long by 75 feet wide by 45 feet high could house two each of the 10 to 100 million species on Earth. Even creationists have trouble with this one, so they claim it was only 30,000 species, the rest “developing” from this initial stock, making creationists the greatest proponents of rapid evolution! In addition, how do you feed 60,000 animals for 371 days? Still more complicated, how do you keep 60,000 animals from feeding on each other? Worst of all, who was in charge of clean up?

    Administrator’s Comments: This has been tested and has been proven false if not outright silly. Since coal and oil are the remains of past life, if we didn’t have a long progression in time as depicted by evolution, we would be using charcoal for steel production and still burning whale oil in lamps. The other absurd explanations from fundamentalists is Satan stuck fossils in the ground to fool the faithful or the earth magically appeared in 4004 BC, just as it is today. The only problem is Jericho is older than that. Another lie from Satan?

    19. The dating techniques of evolutionists are inconsistent, unreliable, and wrong. They give false impressions of an old Earth, when in fact it is no older than 10,000 years, which is proven by Dr. Thomas Barnes from the University of Texas at El Paso, who demonstrates that the half-life of the Earth’s magnetic field is 1,400 years.

    First of all, Barnes’ magnetic field argument falsely assumes that the decay of the magnetic field is linear when in fact geophysics demonstrates that it fluctuates through time. In addition, it is amusing that creationists dismiss all dating techniques with the sweep of the hand, except for those that purportedly support their position. The various dating techniques, however, are found not only to be quite reliable, but there is considerable independent corroboration between them. For example, there are radiometric dates for different elements from the same rock that all converge on the same date.

    Administrator’s Comment: Total nonsense. Linear progression really doesn’t work in earth sciences (except for radioactive decay) and is often used by the environmental lobby and fundamentalists to confuse and distort issues. A good example of this is hot water. Water at 1000 degrees is 100% fatal to one million people. So at 100 degrees (one-tenth the temperature) it’s fatal to one-tenth of one million people or 100,000 deaths. This is asinine because a hot bath doesn’t kill anyone unless they drown.

    20. Classification of organisms above the species level is arbitrary and man-made. Taxonomy proves nothing.

    The science of classification is indeed, man-made, like all the sciences. But its grouping of organisms is anything but arbitrary, even though there is an element of subjectivity to it. The very goal of cladistics, in fact, is to make taxonomy non-subjective. Nested hierarchies of classification is one of the strongest sources of evidence for evolution. There is nothing arbitrary, for example, about a separate classification of humans and chimpanzees. No one gets them confused. An interesting cross-cultural test of this claim is the fact that western-trained biologists and native peoples from New Guinea identify the same types of birds as separate species. Such groupings really do exist in nature.

    21. If evolution is gradual, there should be no gaps between species, and classification (taxonomy) is impossible.

    Evolution is not always gradual. It is often quite sporadic. And evolutionists never said there should not be gaps. Gaps do not prove creation any more than blank spots in human history prove that all civilizations were spontaneously created.

    22. “Living fossils” like the coelacanth and horseshoe crab prove that all life was created at once.

    Then what about all the extinct species? Are these god’s mistakes? Living fossils (organisms that have not changed for millions of years) simply means that they evolved an adequate structure for a relatively static and unchanging environment, good enough to maintain a niche.

    23. The incipient structure problem completely refutes natural selection: a new structure that evolves slowly over time would not provide an advantage to the organism in its beginning or intermediate stages, only when it is completely developed, which can only happen by special creation. E.g., what good is 5% of a wing, or 55%? You need all or nothing.

    A poorly developed wing may have been a well-developed something else, like a thermoregulator for ectothermic reptiles (who depend on external sources of heat). And, it is not true that incipient stages are completely useless. It is better to have partial sight versus complete blindness, or the ability to glide, even if you cannot sustain controlled flight.

    24. Homologous structures (the wing of the bat, flipper of a whale, the arm of man) are proof of intelligent design.

    By invoking miracles and special providence, of course, the creationist can pick and choose anything in nature as proof of god’s work, and then ignore the rest. Homologous structures, on the other hand, make no sense from a special creation paradigm. Why should a whale have the same bones in its flipper as a human has in its arm and a bat has in its wing? The answer is: none whatsoever. Surely an intelligent designer could have done better than that. These structures are indicative of descent with modification, not divine creation.

    25. “The whole history of evolutionary theory in particular, and science in general, is a history of mistaken theories and overthrown ideas. Nebraska Man, Piltdown Man, Calaveras Man, and Hesperopithecus are just a few of the blunders scientists have made. Clearly science cannot be trusted and modern theories are no better than past ones.”

    Again, it is paradoxical for creationists to simultaneeously draw on the authority of science and attack the basic working of science. Furthermore, this argument reveals a gross misunderstanding of the nature of science. Science does not just change. It constantly builds upon the ideas of the past, and is cumulative toward the future. Scientists do make mistakes aplenty, and in fact, this is how science progresses. The self-correcting feature of the scientific method is one of its most beautiful features. Hoaxes like Piltdown Man and honest mistakes like Hesperopithecus are, in time, exposed. Science picks itself up, shakes itself off, and moves on.

    As Einstein said, science may be “primitive and childlike,” but “it is the most precious thing we have.”

  102. Stacy Kennedy

    CJ@ “But it’s this defensive stance in the scientific community that perpetuates this as a political/religious debate.”

    You’re arguing from a false premise, as a brief review of the history of this controversy would show. The creationists will not give this up. They are the ones trying to insert religion into science class, and no amount of evidence will dissuade them. They are the ones perpetuating this debate.

  103. MadScientist

    I don’t think that image is appropriate anymore. You need one where the kitteh’s got the mouse in its mouth.

  104. Steve Morrison

    Instead of Hawking or Newton supporting irreducible complexity, consider another hypothetical: what if a renowned astronomer had equated evolution with a tornado assembling a 747 by blowing through a junkyard? How seriously do you think we would have taken that statement? ;-)

  105. I'd_rather_be fishin'

    I once heard a well known physicist describe particle physics as trying to figure out music by rolling a piano down a flight of stairs and looking at the parts.

  106. José

    @CJ
    Most of the public is only partially informed about Creationism and Intelligent Design. Refusing to refute them publicly, and resorting to insults allows the most vocal proponents to maintain their credibility.

    What? Who refuses to refute them publicly? If you followed the Texas Board of Education fiasco, you’d know that the creationist arguments have been repeatedly been trounced publicly. The the most vocal proponents of creationism maintain their credibility because their constituents aren’t interested in scientific truth. Their goal is nothing less than making sure their Biblical views are forced into science class.

  107. Nigel Depledge

    Whoa, this thread has exploded since last I visited it.

    Anyhoo, trying to address comments in some kind of order…

    Mitch (18) said:

    How can you see the stars when you look down your nose at everybody that doesnt have the same point of view.

    Actually, Mitch, this is false. Science thrives on rational dissension. Without dissent, science cannot make rapid progress.

    However (and it’s a really big “however”), once the evidence is sufficient to achieve a consensus, science moves on. The theory of evolution (which is something that all creationists disagree with) was pretty contentious for some time after it was first published, but as evidence to support it accumulated, it became the scientific consensus. As new evidence came to light, evolutionary theory was modified and adapted so that the parts of it that were right were kept, and the parts of it that were wrong or incomplete were either replaced or modified. If anything, Darwin’s core ideas (that species arise through descent with modification) are even more compelling today than they were in 1859 because of the evidence we have that supports them.

    So, for anyone to claim that evolutionary theory as taught in schools is wrong or uncertain or one-sided is plain wrong. Claims like this have been wrong since they surfaced in the 1960s, and they are still wrong.

    Notice that Phil derides Gail Lowe for her reported beliefs about science, not anything else. She should acknowledge her ignorance and leave science and science education to people who know what they are talking about.

  108. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (23) said:

    The lack of science in Creationism will be apparent when presented alongside evolution. I’m not promoting Creationism. I’m promoting the idea that name calling and dogmatic opposition has reenforced this as a political/religious issue when it should be a SCIENCE issue.

    As far as science is concerned, the questions have been raised and examined and the evidence still favours evolutionary theory for exactly the same reasons it did before. The objections are not rational, neither have they any philosophical merit. As far as science is concerned, the issue (i.e. the objection to evolutionary theory raised by creationists) is closed. Over. Finito. Let’s move on, there’s nothing more to see. Been there, refuted that, got the T-shirt. Etc.

    Classroom time is too precious to waste with refuting crackpot ideas.

    The proponents of Creationism believe they have scientific arguments and nothing you say will change their mind.

    Actually, many of them probably only pretend to believe the claptrap they espouse. Do you think Billy Dembski would have backed out of testifying in the Kitzmiller v Dover case in 2005 if he genuinely believed he was right?

    You’re not going to win the argument with someone who “believes,” so make your point to their audience.

    Unfortunately, it is the audience that is largely the problem. The main proponents of the crackpottery have confused a lot of ignorant people into believing that there is a genuine issue. Confirmation bias does the rest. The audience are the ones who “believe”.

    Fight this as a political/religious battle, and the audience (students) will treat it as such. Refuse to allow Creationism to be presented, and the students will assume you are afraid of the debate. If you instead let evolution and Creationism be seen side by side as a scientific debate, the lack of science in Creationism becomes apparent to the audience.

    Well, this would be a very good idea for a class on philosophy or comparative religion, but it would still not be right for a science class. If the students are open-minded, they will be swayed by the evidence for evolutionary theory without a demolition of creationism alongside. If the students’ minds have already been corrupted by their parents, then they won’t listen anyway.

    Besides, which version of creationism would you select to demolish?

  109. Nigel Depledge

    Yoeman (28) said:

    I’m certainly glad both my sons have graduated High School, as the textbooks tend to come from Texas, for whatever reason.

    It’s because Texas is so large. It and California, I believe, as the most populous states, define which textbooks the publishers will produce in large quantities. Other states then have almost no choice, as the textbooks produced for Texas and Ca are so much cheaper than alternatives.

  110. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (31) said:

    I personally agree with the idea that Creationism doesn’t belong in the classroom (note my original post about presenting only proven facts and testable hypotheses). I also think that Intelligent Design isn’t worthy of classroom teaching either.

    Actually, ID is a form of creationism.

    But ID has brought up some interesting questions which would not be ignored if they had been brought up by a non-religious group.

    The questions have not been ignored. They have been examined and addressed. The problem is that the IDists failed to use logic and they failed to understand the theory (and the evidentiary basis for it) for which they were suggesting an alternative.

    There is nothing wrong with acknowledging areas that have been challenged. Certainly, there’s no time to present EVERY challenge to evolution, but refusing to address ANY challenges furthers the impression that this is dogma, not science.

    This depends.

    At high-school level, is it more appropriate to teach the outcome of science or to teach the various options that have been disproven by observation and experiment?

    In an ideal world, we would, of course, teach both for every aspect of science that is currently in a high-school curriculum. But do you think it possible to get about 1/3 – 1/2 of every week’s timetable devoted to science?

    Additionally, all of the challenges to the core points of evolutionary theory have been addressed and discarded about 100 years ago. What is the point of bringing them back?

    For instance, in the classroom, mention the challenge of irreducible complexity. I’m not an expert on this, but I believe this has been refuted.

    Irreducible complexity is a red herring, though, because it never really existed. Every example that Behe came up with (such as bacterial flagellae or the mammalian blood-clotting cascade) was shown to not be irreducible. Flagellar proteins have largely been shown to have arisen through gene duplication from a Type III Secretion System.

    So, present the evidence that irreducible complexity simply isn’t a problem. Frankly I’d find that pretty interesting if I was a student (in fact, I’m going to go research it just for fun).

    To teach a refutation of Behe’s poster child (flagellae) would require that we first teach the students quite a substantial amount about the biochemistry of protein sysnthesis and the way in which DNA encodes genetic information, and IIUC this is usually not taught at high school level. Perhaps this is why Behe specifically chose these examples – because high-school students almost certainly won’t have the requisite knowledge to challenge Behe’s view.

    You don’t actually have to present Creationism and ID to address a few criticisms of evolution. It seems to me that every theory (like string theory) is MORE impressive when you learn the challenges to it and how those challenges were resolved rather than ignoring the challenges altogether.

    Yes, perhaps this is so. I am not sure what objections to evolution that you could teach without venturing into creationist propaganda. Darwin himself addressed many potential objections in TOOS. Pretty much all of the others were addressed within the next 50 years or so. All of which was a century or more ago.

    Would you advocate also teaching how to refute objections to the Periodic Table? Or Special Relativity? Or Ohm’s Law?

  111. Sometimes I wish the Texass governor really was serious about succession …

    And no, I did not misspell Texass.

  112. I'd_rather_be fishin'

    One problem some creationists have with evolution (the few that are still speaking to me) is they see unanswered questions as proof that evolution can’t be correct. They labour under the idea that any science topic in a textbook is completely understood, that we know everything about it. This is partly the fault of textbook authors but mostly the fault of teachers (I know, I’m somewhat guilty of this too).

    One part of basic science education must focus on the idea that scientific research never stops, that new experiments and discoveries often cause theories to change or to be replaced.

  113. @TomJoe,

    What magical fantasy world do you live in? Are you telling us that your local, county or state government doesn’t have its fair share of religious nutters? ;)

    8)

  114. http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/07/new-chair-texas-state-board-education-004905

    On July 10, 2009, Governor Rick Perry (R) named Gail Lowe to chair the Texas state board of education. Lowe replaces Don McLeroy, who failed to win confirmation from the Texas Senate on May 28, 2009.

    Does this mean that Lowe is the chairman, or just that she has been nominated for the post?

  115. Darth Robo

    Anybody come up with a theory for IDCreationism yet? No?

    Darn.

    :(

    But I suspected as much…

  116. Nigel Depledge

    TomJoe (111) said:

    Sometimes I wish the Texass governor really was serious about succession …

    And no, I did not misspell Texass.

    But you did misspell “secession”. ;-)

  117. Nigel Depledge

    Darth Robo (115) said:

    Anybody come up with a theory for IDCreationism yet?

    Yeah, there is a theory of IDC:

    Some higher being (or committee of higher beings) designed some of Earth’s biological stuff at some point, somehow.

    Is that not good enough for you?

  118. Nigel Depledge

    Iain Park (36) said:

    Oh no, and for her second act will it be rounding off pi to 3 because that .141526 is just too complicated?

    Obviously, because pi is 3.1415926…

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist) ;-)

  119. Nigel Depledge

    KLH (38) said:

    I have to go with CJ here. Being offensive/dismissive will not win friends to your cause. I came to this blog from Cambrian Sky, thinking to find well-reasoned critiques of bad science. Instead on the front page I find an article that talking about Texas’ Board of Education. “Interesting” I say to myself, since I live in texas and hadn’t heard of the nomination. Then I go on the read the comments, of which about half are of the form “Wow, all Texans are idiots!”.

    You seem to be conflating the blog entry with the content of the comments.

    Phil does not limit the content of comments (although comments containing hyperlinks will have to await moderation before they appear). Are you saying that Phil is responsible for the content of the comments?

  120. Nigel Depledge

    Greg in Austin (40) said:

    Then tell us how “IC” in any way contradicts the 150 years of data we’ve collected and analyzed that support the modern theory of evolution.

    Actually, you’ve reminded me of something: IC was predicted using evolutionary theory about 70 – 80 years ago.

  121. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (41) said:

    In fact, in my textbooks, the only glaring example of a scientific theory that had no presentation of the flaws and scientific challenges (and refutation of challenges) was evolution. I learned of the Scopes trial, but I never heard of ANY challenges to the actual science.

    Erm … OK, what are the historical scientific challenges to evolutionary theory? I’m not aware of any genuine challenge to the core ideas that was not addressed in the very early days. It is true that the peripheral commentary has changed (for instance, Darwin was completely wrong about inheritance), but what about speciation through descent with modification?

    Darwin thought long and hard about potential problems and addressed them all, even in the first edition of TOOS.

    I just looked up irreducible complexity on Wikipedia (I know, not the most rigorous academicly reviewed website…). Anyway, in one paragraph, they capture the essence of the problem of irreducible complexity.

    No, they capture the essence of the IDists’ sound-bite. IC is only a challenge if you rule out the commonest mechanism whereby relatively simple systems become more complex (i.e. gene duplication and co-optation).

    And also in one paragraph they manage to describe the evolution of the eye (my personal favorite example).

    Yeah. Did you know this was in the first edition of TOOS?

    It’s pretty cool to see how that could happen. It’s fascinating to learn about how supposedly irreducible complex biological structures can develop, and I think high school students could benefit from it. It would only take up two pages in a text book and it IS a legitimate (if already resolved) question!

    The question was resolved in 1859 by Darwin himself, because he anticipated that critics would see the vertebrate eye as a problem for the theory. He looked into the situation and proposed a plausible series of changes by which the seemingly complex vertebrate eye could evolve from humble beginnings. And all of his proposed intermediates actually exist in nature.

  122. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (54) said:

    The statement “Evolution fails to explain the evolution of such irreducibly complex structures as the eyeball,” is a scientific challenge, not a religious one.

    But it isn’t a scientific challenge, because irreducible complexity, as expounded by Behe, does not exist. The actual scientific challenge was answered in TOOS.

    Behe’s original definition of IC (which, IIUC, actually changed twice after his first publication of the concept) was something like “a system comprising interdependent parts to perform a function”, but there were no specifics of how one might define “system”, “part” or “function”. Behe argued from example (which is a parallel to argument by analogy) because his argument was fundamentally flawed.

    Take the bacterial flagella (BTW, there are literally hundreds of these, so there is no “the” bacterial flagella). Behe defined its parts as a rotor, a motor and a tail, but what’s to stop me from defining its parts as the individual protein molecules of which it is composed? Or even amino acid residues within those proteins? Or individual atoms? Clearly, by changing the definition of the parts, I can instantly remove its irreducibility. Yet Behe did not even address this. His parts are obviously chosen in such a way as to emphasise or create the “problem” of irreducibility.

    Additionally, he does the same thing with function. The flagellae evolved from a Type III secretion system, so if I remove the “tail” of the flagella, it can still secrete other molecules from the cytosol, so I still have a function. Only by considering one solitary function does the definition of IC hold up.

    Then there’s the question of relevance. How relevant is Behe’s process of evolution to reality? According to Behe, a system is irreducibly complex if you can remove one of its parts and cause a loss of function. However, as noted above, he fails to address the fact that most biological multi-molecular systems serve more than one function. He also fails to address the fact that evolution never proceeds by simple addition of one piece to another to end up with a final working unit. Yet he needs evolution to be defined thus for IC to be a challenge to it. The entire concept is a strawman.

    He blatantly dismisses what he terms “indirect” evolutionary paths in one sentence (this is his most heinous argument from personal incredulity). Yet, according to modern evolutionary theory, “indirect” paths are the most common means of achieving a new molecular or physiological function.

    Thus, the challenge from IC boils down to this:

    If I look at a biological or biochemical process, and consider the molecules that make it happen, I can define “parts” of that “system” so that removal of one “part” destroys the “function”. Furthermore, if I only allow evolution to progress by a process of step-by-step building, I can make a case that proves this is impossible.

    Thus, Behe’s work is dismissed by scientists as deliberately manufacturing a “weakness” for evolutionary theory that does not really exist. If high schools were ever to start teaching pure logic, you could use this as an example of how not to do it, but otherwise Behe’s IC simply has no place in the classroom.

  123. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (54) said:

    It takes only a few minutes to lay out the challenge and explain the answer.

    Well, yes this is true, but it has nothing to do with irreducible complexity. I believe many biology text books for the appropriate level do indeed use the example of the eye for the evolution of a complex structure through a series of selectable intermediates.

    From what you appear to be calling for, the only thing missing from the text books is the term “irreducible complexity”. And it is right that this misleading term be absent, for it adds nothing to anyone’s understanding of evolution.

  124. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (59) said:

    I stand by the statement that if Al Gore or Isaac Newton had raised the question of irreducible complexity, you’d consider it a scientific challenge.

    Well, I would not. Certainly not if it is anything like Behe’s idea of “irreducible complexity”. The reason for this is that it is not a scientific concept. It is a set of terms that attempt to hide an argument from personal incredulity.

    And for the record, the fact that a challenge can be refuted doesn’t mean it’s not worth addressing in a classroom

    Quite correct. However, the fact that the “challenge” is peurile and scientifically empty is sufficient to exclude it from worthwhile classroom discussions.

  125. Nigel Depledge

    Rob Lee (63) said:

    The eye (nor any of the other biological systems mentioned) is not irreducibly complex so the point is worthless.

    I would go further than this. Irreducible complexity is an illusion. It has no real meaning, and the term merely muddies the water.

    And it is an illusion that was predicted to occur, using evolutionary theory.

  126. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (64) said:

    I still disagree with the idea that the solution is to publicly ridicule the messengers and refuse to acknowledge any challenge (especially the refutable ones) in a classroom environment.

    I don’t think anyone here suggested that this is a solution.

    The IDC nonsense should not even be mentioned in the classroom, unless brought up by a student. And, if time allows, the teacher should take the opportunity to show exactly how pathetic the supposed objection to evolutionary theory is.

    The tricky bit about refuting creationist claims is that the claim can be uttered in a few seconds (one of their major successes is the catchy soundbite), but the refutation may take 50 times as long.

  127. Nigel Depledge

    CJ (69) said:

    Science is not infallible. Never forget that School Board issues are public issues. The public is aware that science has been wrong in the past.

    Perhaps so, but science is a process of learning. And very few wrong beliefs are clung to these days, because there is actually less respect for authority in science than there was 100 years ago.

    When you treat evolution opponents with such disdain, many in the public see scientists dogmatically sticking to an idea that may eventually be proven wrong. Show the public (yes even in the schools) that you are not simply dismissing Creationism and ID as stupid and unworthy. Instead, science has refuted them.

    Have you ever heard of the Gish gallop?

    This is when a creationist comes up with 2 or 3 ludicrous claims, and staunchly defends them. Then, when the scientist / sceptic has gone to the time and trouble to refute the ludicrous claims one by one, the creationist moves on to 2 or 3 different but equally ludicrous claims. The goalposts never stay still. After 3 rounds of this, the creationist goes back to the original claims.

    Engaging creationists with science generally serves no purpose (I daresay there are exceptions to this), because they never accept a refutation.

    Now, if a teenager in a science class has been sufficiently well prepared by creationist parents, they can keep a less-than-perfectly-prepared teacher busy answering stupid claims for the entire time that the teacher was supposed to be teaching evolution.

    Most of the public is only partially informed about Creationism and Intelligent Design. Refusing to refute them publicly, and resorting to insults allows the most vocal proponents to maintain their credibility. You don’t destroy someone’s credibility by insulting them. You destroy their credibility by defeating their argument. And not just in science journals. The general public isn’t reading science journals.

    In the more general field, the claims of the creationists have indeed been refuted with logic and science. Over and over and over again.

    They simply churn out more books with slightly different emphases.

  128. Nigel Depledge

    TK (74) said:

    Creationism is creationism even if scientists say it’s science — which is what happened with ID.

    Actually, the only ID proponent with any scientific credentials was Mike Behe (his qualifications are in chemistry and biochemistry, and he has published work on DNA structure). All the others were lawyers and theologians and what have you, many of whom were smart enough in principle to have anticipated where ID would end up. All Mike Behe has done is destroy his scientific credibility (although I daresay he has made a few bucks in the process).

  129. Nigel Depledge

    Aaron (84) said:

    It’s obvious believing in a supreme being that was responsible for our existence is a sign of intellectual inferiority or mental defect. All those who believe in such fantasy should be institutionalized. The sooner these delusional Jews, Muslims and Christians are removed from society the better we’ll all be. After all the truly advanced nations on Earth, past and present, all have rejected religion such as the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and Germany during the 1930’s.

    OK, I get that you are being sarcastic here, but the point you are trying to make is not clear.

  130. Nigel Depledge

    Doug Little (90) said:

    After all the truly advanced nations on Earth, past and present, all have rejected religion such as the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cuba and Germany during the 1930’s.

    Epic fail.

    But probably for reasons other than the rejection of religion (although, of course, the absence of freedom to practise religion was and is one of several less-than-ideal aspects to those administrations).

    Interestingly, the USSR also officially rejected Darwinisn evolution, adhering instead to the strange ideas of Lysenko (look him up on Wikipedia). This is often cited as a reason for widespread crop failures in the USSR in the 50s (or 60s?).

  131. Nigel Depledge

    TK (98) said:

    @John Foudy”if Stephen Jay Gould were still alive, and he proposed addressing Irreducible Complexity, then yes some evolutionists/biologists would look into a bit more, before re-proclaiming that it was nuttery, than if Joe Schmoe said the same thing.”

    Sure, I’d go with that. But at least it was his field. And I bet he would have gone with the whole peer review thing.

    Plus, he would also have thought long and hard about exactly what he was proposing. Most probably he would have seen the inherent weakness of the argument before trying to publish.

    But I’d contrast this with the behaviour of scientists like Behe.

    There are no other scientists like Behe. Behe should have known better, because his education would have included knowledge of a great deal of the evidence that demonstrates common descent. He also knowingly bypassed the peer review process by publishing his ideas in books rather than in science journals (where, of course, his ideas would have been utterly panned in peer review).

    There are no other biological scientists who support ID as expounded by the DI.

  132. Nigel Depledge

    Larian LeQuella (99) said:

    * What about the woodpecker’s tongue, the panda’s thumb, the whatever’s thingy, etc.?
    Again, this is all part and parcel of the “throw enough poo at your opponent, and eventually you’ll hit on something they don’t know” strategy. Most of the things that creationists and intelligent design proponents will throw out are horrid missunderstandings of the basic biological mechanisms at work, so not only are you debating evolution with them, but you need to correct them on how whatever strawman they have thrown out is wrong from the sense of basic biology, not only from an evolutionary standpoint.

    Ah, yes, but what about the duck-billed platypus? That has got to be evidence for design-by-committee, right? ;-)

  133. Buzz Parsec

    Nigel –

    The reason Texas has so much influence on school book content is that the state selects the books for *all* the school districts and centrally purchases and distributes them. In most states, the decisions about which books to use and when to purchase new ones is made by the local school committee and the teachers. Publishers can hear the cash registers go “ching” every time Texas selects one of their books, so they want to meet whatever random requirements it sets.

  134. Nigel Depledge

    @ Buzz Parsec (133) –

    OK, thanks for the extra info. Thus, we see the bizarre situation whereby the Texas state board of education pretty much decides what will be in a nation’s text books.

  135. Hunk

    Oh guys, you in USA , REALLY are still debating over creationism, hell and heaven??? Ahahahaha
    And really have politicians that promote it? it’s not a joke? Are you serious?
    Reading about the Rick Perry thing reminds me of some third category horror film of the 70′

    I think neither in third world countries, or maybe in stupid fanatic religious crazy muslim countries, people are so mentally backward!

    I’m European and this is reeeally ridiculous. How can someone in 2012 believe in creationism? (or even believe in any religion by the way)
    Americans must be stupid as is said, then.

    How can you have NASA and Silicon Valley?
    I feel sorry for those who are not so stupid and barbaric as religious and republicans.
    Hope that mental sane people will react to this crazyness.

    Grow up people, middle ages is passed (by a lot!) hehehe

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