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« Let's Get Some Perspective on the Quran Desecration The RantsStem Cell Research and Willful Ignorance of the Facts »

How Many Licks Does it Take to Get to the Center of a Creationist?
2005.05.19 (Thu) 22:32

Over on AlterNet, Stan Cox has an article which gives a play by play (found via Panda's Thumb) of the current Kansas Board of Education hearings, which will determine if "intelligent design" (creationism's cleanly-shaven cousin) can be injected into the formerly healthy science standards in the state. Stan Cox is a Kansas citizen with a PhD in plant breeding and cytogenetics, and after reading this article, we can also safely say he's a wonderful writer.

Throughout the article, Dr. Cox presents a number of quotations from the various ID witnesses at the hearings. In a marvelous show of journalistic dignity, he refrains from commenting on the sheer stupidity of so many of these statements — we're not going to be so kind.

Ohio biology teacher Bryan Leonard testified that he helped write a state lesson plan called "Critical Analysis of Evolution." He said he knows it's a "good product" because of the overwhelmingly positive reaction from students: "The key is to find out what students want and teach toward their interests."

Right, Bryan Leonard. And how about if the students "want" to be taught that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were the only presidents of the United States ever? (Saves quite a bit on memorization.) Or that π is, oh, basically 3-ish? (Saves on all that pesky arithmetic with decimals.) Or that you can't get an STD as long as you hold your breath during sex? (Saves a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on condoms.) Because there is just as much evidence for any of these assertions as there is for "intelligent design." But hey, if the students want it that way, we guess that's what teachers are really supposed to be doing; certainly not educating the students, but rather pandering to their every whim. How about classroom catering? Final exam pajama parties? Free reign to leave class whenever they feel like it? Students want a lot of things, asshole; that doesn't mean the educational system is supposed to forego valuable standards to accommodate them.

Daniel Ely, professor of biology at the University of Akron, praised the Ohio plan, saying that when students are presented a subject in the form of a controversy and are permitted to argue one side or the other, they "take ownership" of the subject. "When I was a kid, we learned about Communism," he said. "You have to understand both sides."

Yes, you learned about communism, a socio-economic model, in history or political science classes. What you probably did not learn, Daniel Ely, was "all the flaws and holes" in the democratic model, and how they could be fixed by introducing communism. Communism has simply failed to be a viable form of government, as evidenced by historical events. "Intelligent design" has simply failed to be a valid form of science, as evidenced by...well, a total lack of evidence.

More to the point, like communism, "intelligent design" is an ideology — not a science. So if you'd like to teach students about it, add a bit to the history or political science curricula. It isn't science; it doesn't belong in a science class.

Philosophy professor Warren Nord of the University of North Carolina, declaring himself a "liberal in every sense," explained that justice demands inclusion of religious groups in classroom discussion, just as it has ensured that "women and blacks" are included.

Hey, guess what? The "hard" subjects — like science and math — are historically free of prejudice such as the kind you imply against "women and blacks." If a woman or a black person (or anyone else) came up with a valid theory or formula, it is taught. The source of the information is not the point. (The historical fact that many minorities were barred from making contributions is a socio-political factor, not a factor inherent to science or mathematics.) It is only in the "soft" subjects — like literature and history (and philosophy, Professor Nord) — that a push was needed to include the valuable contributions of minority figures. So go ahead — preach your peculiar form of "liberal" tolerance in those classes, where "intelligent design" can be introduced as a political movement...which is exactly what it is.

John Sanford, Courtesy Associate Professor of Horticulture at Cornell and co-inventor of a "gene gun" for incorporating DNA into cells, said that as he sees it, evolution through natural selection is "amazingly not true, which is very exciting."

As we see it, John Sanford is amazingly a total ass, which is very boring. On behalf of the world at large, we would like to offer our condolences to horticulturalists who suddenly find themselves lumped in with this deluded man.

For three days, witnesses delivered a message of openness, fairness, and democracy, declaring that when it comes to biology in the classroom, "you have to let students follow the evidence wherever it leads."

Okay! So stop trying to introduce "intelligent design," which provides no evidence of its claims. Provide evidence, if you have any (which you don't), and "let students follow" it wherever it leads. If that was the goal of the IDiots, they would be working hard in the field and in the lab, rather than in court and in legislation. Here's a hint: real scientists work hard to have their ideas accepted by other scientists and scholars — they don't try to force that acceptance through the legal system.

This was how witness James Barham, "independent scholar" and Ph.D. candidate at Notre Dame, introduced his testimony: "I was a convinced atheist Darwinist for 20 years. Slowly, it dawned on me that my interest in the spiritual side of humanity could not be reconciled with my study of science."

Jill Gonzales-Bravo: "At Kansas State University I learned quickly that anyone who believed differently [from evolution through natural selection] was not a true intellectual. I became part of the liberal movement and went into the Peace Corps. But I had children and my worldview changed." She came to see that "evolution takes from students the belief that they are here for a purpose."

Oh, woe! James Barham had a crisis of faith! And Jill Gonzales-Bravo squeezed out some puppies and found Christ! (In the afterbirth?) Both of which so logically lead to the conclusion that "intelligent design" is a valid science. Do fuck off. (And once again, anyone who refers to those who understand evolution as "Darwinists" hasn't got a fucking clue.)

John Sanford: "Most of my career I was an atheistic evolutionist. Then I became a theistic evolutionist and finally a biblical Christian. My belief in evolution had been based solely on authority. To the atheist, there is no alternative hypothesis."

Right, John Sanford, your belief in evolution was "based solely on authority." But you came up with the story of Christ all by yourself, right? Then you read the bible and — wow! It was just as you'd discovered on your own! No, no beliefs based "solely on authority" for John Sanford!

Hey, folks, as we've always said, your beliefs are your beliefs. But if you're going to go around spouting nonsense like "intelligent design is scientific" or "my religious beliefs weren't handed down from a millennia-old authority" — just shut up.

[Attorney Pedro Irigonegaray] asked James Barham, as he did several of the witnesses, if teaching evolution to Kansas children was equivalent to teaching materialism and atheism. "That depends on how it's interpreted by the child," said Barham. "But that is the framework. Teachers who disagree with that framework should be allowed to teach as they feel is right."

And teachers who think that every tree and rock has a spirit, and you should leave little bowls of milk out for the Dairy Fairies, should be allowed to teach as they feel is right...right? Or maybe we should just draw a fucking line with strong knowledge supported by verified evidence on one side, and pure bullshit and faith-based frothing on the other. As is typical, the problem these IDiots (and many religionists) face is the simple question: why are all other faith-based beliefs unworthy of your "teach the controversy" support? Don't you realize how transparent your goal — to push your own religion on everybody else — actually is? Because we all see through it quite clearly.

During the two days of hearings that I attended, Irigonegaray began his cross-examination of each witness with the same three questions. In response to the first, "What, in your personal opinion, is the age of the earth?" nine witnesses cited the widely accepted figure of around 4.5 billion years.

Other witnesses bowed at least somewhat to biblical orthodoxy. Gene-gun inventor Sanford put the earth's age at "maybe 10,000 years" but "not as young as 5,000." Pressed for an answer, Roger DeHart finally concluded that "I'm fine with" an estimate of 5,000 to 100,000 years. Daniel Ely and Nancy Bryson gave themselves plenty of room for maneuver, putting the earth's age at somewhere "between 5,000 and 4.5 billion years."

Nice of them to give us a ballpark figure to work with.

Irigonegaray's second and third questions went to the core of what ID proponents call "the controversy." He asked each witness if she or he agreed that life as we see it today is the result of "common descent" (that is, that species evolve from other species through purely natural causes) and that humans are descended from pre-hominid ancestors. Eleven of 13 witnesses rejected both statements, with varying degrees of force.

Pressed to provide an alternative explanation for the origin of the human species, some witnesses declined, while others offered earnest responses:

Oh boy. Ready? Here we go...

"Design, which implies a designer, but we don't go there."

Parry! Riposte! Lunge, and...no, sorry, no touch.

"A creator, but I wouldn't expect the State to teach that."

So you want the State to teach that, "hey, something happened, but tune in this Sunday at church to find out what"? What an incredible lesson plan you've discovered! Of course! that's so simple! And in our math classes, let's teach that the circumference of a circle is equal to the diameter multiplied by π — but go ask your parents what the value of π is.

"An intelligent designer, based on my theistic views."


"God, by special creation."

But, uh, this whole thing has nothing to do with religion. Man, what pathetic witnesses.

"Humans and the non-human living world have qualitatively different features that are very mysterious."

Ah, the psychic/medium defense! It's, um, all really mysterious and unpredictable, so we can't, uh, really pinpoint exactly what it is or how it works — but it's there! Really, truly!

Irigonegaray asked [Warren Nord], "Is it important to have religion taught in economics class?"

Nord: "Yes."

Irigonegaray: "What about math class?"

Nord: "I can make a case for that."

Of course you can. (Palm...forehead...smack.)

...only one of [the witnesses] was explicit about being a non-Christian. Mustafa Akyol of the International Dialogue Platform in Istanbul, Turkey argued that opening biology classes to ID in the United States would do wonders for our relations with the Muslim world. Muslims today, he said, are alienated by the West's materialism, which "includes atheistic philosophy."

Awww...that's so sweet! We should teach "intelligent design" because then a bunch of religious zealots would like us. Oh...not the ones we have here, the ones on the other side of the world. No, the religious zealots here would probably still hate us.

Apparently, Calvert had invited Akyol in order to demonstrate that the ID camp pitches a big tent. But Akyol himself may be more of a small-tent kind of guy. The week of the hearings, Kansas City's Pitch Weekly reported that Akyol is associated with a cultish organization called Bilim Arastirma Vakfi, which has harassed, threatened and slandered Turkish academics who teach evolution.

Lovely. We must have him over for tea.

A biology teacher...might well be asked by students, "So, tell me, who or what did the designing?" At the hearing, most witnesses wanted to discuss only design, not a designer. That often required some fancy footwork. Here is Irigonegaray's exchange with Russell Carlson, professor of biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Georgia:

Irigonegaray: "The intelligent designer is God?"

Carlson: "Well, yeah, I'd agree with that."

Ding! We have a winner.

Irigonegaray: "Science should be neutral with respect to religion?"

Carlson: "Yeah."

Irigonegaray: "But intelligent design places faith in ... "

Carlson: "No, the designer is neutral."

"I mean, well, not neutral, more like lawful neutral, with lawful good tendencies, oh, and also sometimes he just gets totally chaotic on your ass and floods the world or asks you to kill your kids. But, you know, basically neutral."

Carlson: "We shouldn't discuss the identity [in the classroom]."

Irigonegaray: "We should keep that a secret?"

Carlson: "When children have questions about the materialist explanation, we now send them to their parents or pastors. Instead, design should be offered as an explanation."

Carlson later added that if a child asks about the identity of the designer, that is the point at which he or she should be sent to a parent or pastor.

Following Angus Menuge's testimony, I asked him what should happen when children ask, "Who's the designer?" Menuge said, "You should cut off discussion at that point, and pursue it in a forum other than the classroom."

"Students, if you'd like to know the more precise value of π, ask your parents, or see me after class."

During an intermission, I asked board member Kathy Martin whether, as Menuge suggested, a teacher should cut off discussion of the designer's identity.

"Oh, no," she said. "If a student wants to have that conversation, there's nothing wrong with the teacher discussing that. It's all about the students' needs, and as you know, they have a lot of needs these days. I was a teacher myself. If, say, a student's puppy has been run over by a car, the student and I might pray about it together, privately. It's not about religion -- it's about helping the student."

Praying isn't about religion? Apparently not. You know, since we atheists pray all the time. But we call it "talking to ourselves."

Connie Morris, another pro-ID school board member, told me, "No, we can't mandate intelligent design or creationism in the school standards..."

Oh! Well, then, guess the hearing's over! Let's go home.

"...But as the fellow from Ohio said, we have to let students go where the evidence leads. I'll give you an example. Did you know there is evidence now that prayer is beneficial in treating cancer?" I asked if teachers should be able to teach about that. Morris, her eyes brightening, said, "Absolutely!"

People, it's called actually reading the "studies" you cite. Educate yourselves.

Finally, Dr. Cox presents John Calvert's big ol' legal strategy, the oh-so-clever "logical" argument for incorporating "intelligent design" into school curricula.

His legal argument, which had been implicit in all of his questioning of witnesses, goes like this:

(1) Evolution as it's now taught in Kansas schools is based on methodological naturalism, that is, the search by science for explanations only in the natural world.

Yeah, that'd be science. By definition, it looks for natural explanations of natural phenomena.

(2) Methodological naturalism always implies philosophical naturalism, the belief that there is nothing beyond the natural world. (This, say anti-ID scientists, is the fatal flaw in the argument.)

And of course it's a flaw. We can see a huge error here: employing methodological naturalism means that you will strive to explain what you can observe in the natural world using natural hypotheses. You can easily still believe (although we don't) that there is something more — but because it is supernatural, and because science by definition deals with natural phenomena and explanations, that "something more" is simply beyond the scope of science. Therefore, it shouldn't be in a science class.

(3) Philosophical naturalism is atheistic.

(4) Atheism is a religion. (Needless to say, this is a proposition not universally accepted.)

And not collecting stamps is our hobby. We have an awful lot of hobbies, if you look at it that way.

(5) Therefore, religion is already being taught in Kansas biology classes.

Wrong. See above.

(6) So religious fairness requires that evidence for intelligent design and against evolution through natural selection also be allowed in the classroom.

Wow, that's flawed.

Wrapping things up, Dr. Cox quotes a scientist from the Kansas Citizens for Science:

One KCS scientist provided this understated assessment of the hearings' outcome: "Looking around at the audience in there, I realized that we do have a communication problem."

Yes, it's hard to communicate when one party is presenting rational, reasonable arguments, and the other is spouting incoherent gibberish.


— • —
[  Filed under: % Creationism  % Government & Politics  % Greatest Hits  % Religion  ]

Comments (8)

% Trackback » 2005.05.23 (Mon) 15:55
"Putting the "ID" in "IDiots"" from Spin Dry

Fine. Can we send the PhDs in to teach real science at your church during Sunday school? What...? We can't? But, if you're teaching religion and if atheism is a religion, then it's unfair to exclude our "religious" viewpoint from your school, isn't i... [More]

% Trackback » 2005.05.23 (Mon) 15:57
"Putting the "ID" in "IDiots"" from Spin Dry

Fine. Can we send the PhDs in to teach real science at your church during Sunday school? What...? We can't? But, if you're teaching religion and if atheism is a religion, then it's unfair to exclude our "religious" viewpoint from your school, isn't i... [More]

Moliere, 2005.05.24 (Tue) 13:45 [Link] »

Why only ID? Why not go into every creation story from every religion and culture from all over the world? Why shouldn't they get equal time in the science classroom if the ID folks didn't have a personal agenda?

The Two Percent Company, 2005.05.24 (Tue) 16:01 [Link] »

Keep it under your hat, Moliere, but we're with you. We think the ID folks do have a personal agenda. Shocking, we know.

MBains, 2005.06.12 (Sun) 20:47 [Link] »

The key is to find out what students want and teach toward their interests.

If'n my High School'd done that, Chemistry 110: Mixing Methamphetamine would've been packed every quarter!

"evolution takes from students the belief that they are here for a purpose."

I must not be that evolved then since I've learned that my "purpose" is whatever I decide it is.

But you came up with the story of Christ all by yourself, right?


And, holy crap! We should teach "intelligent design" because then a bunch of religious zealots would like us. I'm losing it here dude! LOL!

And the coup de gras!

(4) Atheism is a religion. (Needless to say, this is a proposition not universally accepted.)

That was Awesome! Thank you very much!

Grendel, 2005.06.21 (Tue) 10:12 [Link] »

I got a major league giggle out of the Raelian endorsement of Intelligent Design. As part of the PR overhaul that is Creationism morphed into ID, the IDiots have been careful not to identify trhe designer as God, but when these Raelian whackjobs jumped on board citing an alien identification as the Designer, hooooo-boy! That will not do, no, not at all! Funny as hell. So to speak.


Emanuel Goldstein, 2005.11.11 (Fri) 08:02 [Link] »

Foul mouthed perjoritives and ad hominems by the "scientists" are a sign that they are not as certain as they pretend.

Futher, personal attacks insure that the fight goes on and no understanding is reached, or even attempted.

After all, if the evidence is "overwhelming" just state it and quit whining.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.11.11 (Fri) 16:31 [Link] »

See, here's the problem, dipshit: the overwhelming evidence has been stated many, many times. The thing is, the creationists are too stupid and/or stubborn to accept or even understand it. If you aren't aware that the overwhelming evidence for evolution is readily available, and has been for quite a long time, then you probably shouldn't be opening your mouth about the subject in a public forum.

There can be no "understanding" between science and any pseudoscience like creationism. It's that simple. In fact, no one is even looking for an "understanding," so we don't know where you're getting that idea from. Scientists are hoping the creationists will just stop trying to propogate their bullshit, and creationists are hoping to force their bullshit through the courts; which is, of course, where all science gets done, right?

By the way, insults aren't a sign of uncertainty; they are a sign of anger and/or frustration. In this case, dealing with morons and con artists who make the same flawed arguments over and over because they can't be bothered to educate themselves can easily lead to such a response. Your argument that true scientists only show emotion if they are losing ground is asinine.

Finally, an ad hominem argument is one that dismisses evidence or reasoning because of an irrelevant personal characteristic. It isn't an ad hominem to call a person an ignorant moron if you are simultaneously demonstrating why that person really is an ignorant moron, by debunking their supposed "argument." Case in point, the reply we are writing at this very moment.

Now do us a favor, Emanuel — either educate yourself, or piss off.

Hmm, 2006.03.05 (Sun) 17:24 [Link] »

You guys are morons. Do you even know who John Sanford is? Do some research before you go mouthin off.

The Two Percent Company, 2006.03.05 (Sun) 23:13 [Link] »

Oh, well-played, Hmm. You are undoubtedly a Master of the Ancient Art of "Are Too, Am Not."

We're aware of who John Sanford is. As his existence pertains to this Rant, what is it about him that you feel we should take under consideration? His courtesy professorship (what, was he downgraded from associate professor in 1998?), his 75 publications, his 25 patents, his inventing awards...or the fact that he testified in court that evolution through natural selection is "amazingly not true"? His current work "looking at the theoretical limits of mutation/selection" would seem to paint that last in an even clearer light.

Whatever else John Sanford may be, Hmm, he is either a dishonest fraud or an ignorant fool — there is very little else in the way of explanation for a scientist holding the belief that evolution, through the mechanism of natural selection, has neither occurred in the past nor continues to operate in the present. Feel free to throw his "theoretical limits" research up on the boards at the Panda's Thumb, where it will be shot down within the space of a few days.

We stand by our assessment: John Sanford is amazingly a total ass.

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