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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

ACLU vs. school district over evolution

Can we sue the ACLU for meddling? They are taking the Dover, PA school district to federal court to try to stop them from teaching “alternate views" on evolution, which apparently refers to ID.

Schools can teach all kinds of nutty things and call it education (which in some cases it is), yet the ACLU thinks that teaching an alternate view of scientific data, as well as evidence that may not support evolution, violates the separation of church and state. Just because the alternate view hold that there is an intelligent designer. In other words, they want to limit education!

They fear that teaching ID along with evolution might establish religion. Sheesh!

This move is as dumb as scratching references to God from lesson plans when teaching the history of Thanksgiving. You mean mention of God offends some people? We’ll just pretend history was different. Ack!

I know there are those who claim that science which does not support evolution is “bad science,” and maybe in some cases it is, but there’s also data claimed to be supportive of evolution that’s itself suspect.

I’m encouraged that the Dover school district (which is close to where I grew up) supports presentation of differing views and evidence concerning the origins of life. Kids need to be taught how to evaluate information of all kinds and to draw their own conclusions, rather than be spoon-fed or indoctrinated. I hope the district prevails.

10 Comments:

  • I think you undersell the argument. There is no good science for ID at all, and what little pseudo-science that it does contain constitutes an argument that the intelligent designer cannot be the Judeo-Christian god.

    In contrast there is a huge body of evidence supporting evolution, along with a few items that have been wrongly used to support it, or that have been demonstrated to be false on further study (normally by other scientists).

    I only have one objection to teaching ID in school, which is why single out ID? There are dozens of creation myths equally lacking in scientific credibility. Any one of them *might* be true, of course, but science doesn't yet have any means of showing it. So perhaps just a standard mention along the lines of "There are many creation myths. You may choose to believe any of them, but none of them belong in a science class at the moment."

    Incidentally, is it meddling when the ACLU supports the right of children to worship as they see fit when their school tried to stop them? Sorry, can't google up the link right now.

    By Blogger Paul, at 2:19 PM  

  • There is no good science for ID at all Depends on who you talk to.

    I only have one objection to teaching ID in school, which is why single out ID? There are dozens of creation myths equally lacking in scientific credibility.I don't think that the purpose for teaching ID in schools is, or should be, teaching myth. My understanding is that what is to be taught is differing interpretations of scientific evidence.

    Of course there is belief, or philosophy, or myth (or all three) behind any human interpretation of evidence. Stephen Jay Gould admits as much in The Panda's Thumb, which I would quote if I had my copy handy. (I quoted from this book somewhere -- I think on Rusty's blog)

    Perhaps "meddling" is too harsh a term...the ACLU is, after all, suing on behalf of a group of parents from the Dover school district. The motive is questionable, however, at least in my mind. Here is the link from the ACLU website.

    I think that there are two separate issues involved: 1) the theory of evolution and 2) theory of life's origins. The statement that the Dover district wants read in 9th-grade biology classes blurs this distinction. It should be rewritten.

    The article doesn't specify what else the district wants to teach along the lines of ID besides the reading of this statement, therefore, I don't know what the actual content of the proposed ID instruction entails.

    From the article linked: "[ID] is an assertion that an intelligent, supernatural entity has intervened in the history of life. The lawsuit argues that such an assertion is inherently a religious argument that falls outside the realm of science."

    This is why I question the lawsuit. What, exactly, is any more inherently "religious" about ID than any other explanation? It comes down to definition of terms, which can be confusing, which can be used to advantage by those who wish to spin things certain ways (not just by the ACLU or Dover parents).

    Saying that a supernatural entity intervened in the history of life represents an assumption that life is somehow separate from this supernatural entity, rather than the originator, which is itself belies a certain belief.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 6:05 PM  

  • "Depends who you talk to" - true. If you talk to scientists, they'll tell you there is no science there. If you talk to non-scientists, they'll tell you there is. I know who I'd trust to make that judgement.

    "differing interpretations of scientific evidence" - again, there are dozens of creation myths that have exactly the same scientific basis as ID. So why ID? And given that, if ID is accepted as science, it 'proves' that the Judeo-Christian god isn't the intelligent designer, why would you support it?

    "What, exactly, is any more inherently "religious" about ID than any other explanation?" - primarily the fact that the idea of an intelligent designer, as laid forth by ID, is untestable. Something that is untestable isn't science, it's philosophy. Now taking that a step further to religion is slightly less obvious, but given that some major figureheads of ID believe that its purpose is to prove the existence of god, it's not a big leap. (e.g. http://www.stcynic.com/blog/archives/2004/12/accuracy_in_med.php)

    By Blogger Paul, at 9:16 AM  

  • What exactly is testable about the fossil record?

    I think as far as ID being proof of the existence of God, there's an attempt to speak on the terms of those who believe He doesn't exist, using the same language used to prove He doesn't exist to argue that He does exist.

    I'm not convinced of the efficacy of that, however, because the real problem doesn't lie in empirical issues, on either side of the fence. It lies in what can't be proven by scientific method. It's clear to me that people see what they want to see, believe what they want to believe, and define (or subtly re-define) terms in ways that suit them. In the face of challenge to their "sacred cows," people will resort to any number of tactics to refute it, and expend huge amounts of energy doing so. No one wants their security boat rocked.

    Ed's post is disappointing, because I believe he's capable of much better analysis than the sloppy, generalizing, glossing-over he's done. He makes no effort to examine or try to understand what is actually being said in those quotes he lists. If someone so much as puts a term favorable to religion in the same sentence as ID or evolution or science, "look!" he says, "they're linking religion and science!"

    And so what?? Doesn't change science, doesn't change the limitations of science.

    Let's say that a baby calms when rocked. There may be various explanations offered as to why, some of which may claim survival or evolution as a basis, and others which may claim design. Doesn't change the fact, which may be testable, that the baby calms when rocked, given all other factors that may influence calmness are constants.

    So, it seems to me, the debate isn't really about science, or religion, but rather philosophy. Which is honest, and which is allowable in public school science classes. Nevermind that religion may influence philosophy, and vice-versa. As I said, some terms need to be more clearly defined, like religion, for example.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:06 AM  

  • What's testable about the fossil record? Well, you could come up with a theory based on how, say whales evolved, and when a new whale-like fossil comes along you could see if it fits that theory. That's what evolutionary theory has done for countless species.

    I don't think the article quoted is particularly disappointing. If anything it's a little gentle, as it doesn't highlight the Wedge Strategy document from the Discovery Institute that lays out how to reintroduce religion into scientific discussion through ID.

    As to the philosophy side of your comment, I think that has some merit. Evolutionary science can lay out a strong explanation for how creatures evolved into their current states, citing a huge range of evidence in a wide range of fields. ID can say "oh, there are some holes in their arguments, so god must have done it". Which one of those you want to side with is a philisophical decision, and makes for a fascinating discussion. It's not, however, a scientific decision. Unless you take the view that science has merit only so long as it doesn't contradict your view of your god. We can ask the Catholic church of the the middle ages how that idea worked out.

    By Blogger Paul, at 5:53 PM  

  • Paul, I'm not sure you're quite getting my point about interpretation of scientific evidence.

    In my limited research, I haven't gotten the impression that the evolutionary picture of new fossils fitting into the existing theoretical pattern is quite as cut and dry as you make it sound.

    As to what I said about the post you linked: for example, Ed quotes Dembski,

    "[A]ny view of the sciences that leaves Christ out of the picture must be seen as fundamentally deficient." (Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology, 1999, p. 206)

    Note that Dembski says that any view that... is deficient, not that any science that... is deficient. There's a difference! Dembski is not making a statement about science, he's making a statement about views regarding science.

    And the next quote,

    "Intelligent design readily embraces the sacramental nature of physical reality. Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." (Touchstone Magazine, July/August 1999)

    Great! Still doesn't affect science in and of itself. It's a view, an understanding.

    Let's say you observe a person's reaction to an event you both witness. Does your observation automatically make you privy to understanding the reason for the person's reaction? No. You may surmise, and be close to correct. But this still has no bearing on the strictly observable events of the reaction.

    On Phillip Johnson, (quote),

    Admitting that not bringing up God and the bible is strictly a strategic choice: "So the question is: "How to win?" That’s when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the "wedge" strategy: "Stick with the most important thing"—the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, "Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?" and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do." (Touchstone Magazine interview, June 2002)

    Johnson's strategy appears to be a way to "be heard," in the same way that anyone wishing to be understood may discern and discriminate the proper choice of words in accordance with whom they are speaking. You don't want to use words that are going to raise a barrier for understanding. You don't want to "push buttons" or send off someone's touchy points, because then you won't be heard. Just ask my husband ;-)

    At any rate, the use that some may want to make of ID for religious purposes does not mean that ID is itself inherently religious, any more than an orange is inherently religious.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:01 AM  

  • Paul, there's some interesting posting at Imago Dei on the issue of ID and falsifiability. They are saying similar to what I am, only much better :-)

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 12:56 AM  

  • I think the Imago Dei post makes a point that ID proponents would have us believe very well. There is no contradiction between a theory having evidence against it, and being unfalsifiable. A good example outside this field is hard to find, but let's say that I claim to have got up at 3am. As far as you're concerned that's unfalsifiable, because you weren't here. You have evidence against it (most people don't get up that early, I'll even tell you that I never do, I didn't reply here until a little after my normal waking time, etc), but it's still unfalsifiable. Perhaps a better example would be almost every jury trial - the guilt/innocence of most defendents is ultimately unfalsifiable, but we can vreate sufficient evidence against them that we feel confident locking them up forever.

    It's not unlike the point I made earlier about ID proving that your God isn't the Intelligent Designer. ID isn't science, but if it is then one of the conclusions inherent in it is that there was almost certainly more than one Designer. That might seem like a contradiction, but it isn't either.

    Incidentally, I agree that ID isn't inherently religious, any more than a crucifix or a menorah are. But if that's how pretty much everyone who uses it sees it, then it is religious. And given the Wedge Strategy document, I think it's reasonable to assume that this was its original intent.

    By Blogger Paul, at 8:14 AM  

  • Oh, about your point of the 'cut and dried' nature of the fossil record. I didn't want to suggest that it is straightforward. I don't know what the percentages are, but I imagine for every fossil find that neatly fits the existing jigsaw, there's more than one that needs us to modify the existing model slightly, and less often there will be one that requires a more major shift. Each of these strengthens the ultimate argument being made.

    By Blogger Paul, at 3:06 PM  

  • I think the Imago Dei post makes a point that ID proponents would have us believe very well. There is no contradiction between a theory having evidence against it, and being unfalsifiable.Paul, I don't think this was the point exactly. I thought the point was that evolution is as equally falsifiable as ID and vice-versa. If something cannot be determined due to insufficient evidence, then, by its nature, it cannot be unfalsifiable. Like your 3am waking example.

    It's not unlike the point I made earlier about ID proving that your God isn't the Intelligent Designer. ID isn't science, but if it is then one of the conclusions inherent in it is that there was almost certainly more than one Designer. That might seem like a contradiction, but it isn't either.Please explain.

    Incidentally, I agree that ID isn't inherently religious, any more than a crucifix or a menorah are. But if that's how pretty much everyone who uses it sees it, then it is religious. And given the Wedge Strategy document, I think it's reasonable to assume that this was its original intent.Ah, a falsifiable statement ;-) How do you know that "that's how pretty much everyone who uses it sees it"? Besides, majority opinion is no indicator of truth. (I think that's a logical fallacy, but can't remember which...) And, original intent or not, again, that has limited relevance to the truth of what ID actually is. There are theistic IDers (can't remember what they're actually called either & am too tired to look it up!) as distinguished from plain ol' IDers.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:52 PM  

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