Oh ffs are they serious?

Mindy, regular commentor

Ralph Magazine planned to give away free inflatable boobs with their next issue. Unfortunately the shipment seems to have been lost at sea. How sad.

On another topic, I really shouldn’t have let myself watch the SBS special in Intelligent Design and the Dover School Board because I have never wanted to slap sense into so many people at once, in my entire life. What part of “it’s not science” don’t they understand. Teach it in church if you want to, or in comparative religion class, but it has no place in the science classroom as the poor science teachers were arguing.

If you didn’t watch it, basically what happened was a heap of people who believed in ID got voted onto the Dover School Board and introduced a text book about ID. Science teachers protested, and eventually some parents had to take it to the court to win the case against teaching Intelligent Design. After a lot of argument, the court decided it was not a science, it was badly wrapped creationism which can’t be taught in public schools, as science, because it’s against the constitution.

My take on intelligent design and those who believe in it, including some high profile scientists, is this (this is what I think they think):
1. I am an intelligent person
2. I cannot see how this thing/system/whatever could have evolved naturally, but
3. I am an intelligent person, therefore it must have been designed otherwise I would have been able to understand how it evolved.
4. There is no way I came from a monkey.*
So basically, it all comes down to pride and the inablity to admit that hey maybe you don’t know everything. Oh, and a desire to make everyone believe in your warped world view.
* I think this is actually a misreading of what Darwin said. I think he said that humans came from the same branch line as apes, but that humans separated out a while back and that branch line went on to produce apes, and further branches off it produced the different types of monkeys etc. I may be wrong, feel free to correct me (nicely please) in comments.

Categories: education, ethics & philosophy, religion, Science

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29 replies

  1. You’ll be thrilled to see this article in the SMH today then. *bashes head on keyboard*
    School in clear over teaching creation

  2. If I sent my child to a religious school, I’d expect that there would be some discussion of creationism. I have no problem with that. I do however, have a problem with teaching creationism in science class. It so undermines critical thinking. Which I think is the point.

  3. Mindy your take on the ‘descent’ issue is generally correct. Humans did not ‘descend’ from apes but evolved from a common ancestor as a separate hominid concurrently with apes and chimpanzees.
    Grendel’s last blog post..How many?

  4. I’ve read two books on Kitzmiller v. Dover: Edward Humes’ Monkey Girl, and Matthew Chapman’s 40 Days and 40 Nights. Both come highly recommended by me if they’re available in Oz–really engaging and interesting.

  5. I *went* to a religious school and while we were taught a whole load of codswallop (their views on sex, for example), this, thank goodness, was not among it. Only total whackjobs think that god and evolution are mutually exclusive and that the creation story in the bible should be read literally.

    Our religious education basically said the bible was metaphor and not to be taken literally (except for sometimes when it was about Jesus, and then it was to be taken literally).

  6. Even if someone or something was responsible for designing a Platypus, I’d be hard pressed to describe it as ‘intelligent’…

  7. Humans did not ‘descend’ from apes but evolved from a common ancestor as a separate hominid concurrently with apes and chimpanzees.
    That doesn’t really make sense, because both humans and chimpanzees are apes. The gist is fine: humans have a common ancestor with chimps, orangutangs, and so on. Of course, the whole point of evolution (“The Origin Of Species”) is that humans have a common ancestor with every living thing out there, if you go far enough back; the only thing that makes monkeys and chimps “special” as far as humans are concerned is that we have a relatively recent common ancestor.
    Re. the Dover thing — there’s an excellent interview with John Jones, the judge who reached the (correct and forcibly phrased) judgement in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, 2004 It’s in PLoS Genetics, see it here: http://www.plosgenetics.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1000297

  8. The only bit of evidence presented in that article is this:

    “I still want to know whether it is appropriate for a science teacher to exhort his or her students to consider what God’s revelation through his scripture shows you, so that you can come to some clear understanding about your view of evolution.”

    I’d want to know a lot more context before considering this to be “teaching creationism”. It sounds like a similar attitude to my (Christian, in a Christian school) high school biology teacher, who taught an absolutely brilliant and detailed course on evolution based around her own photographs taken in the Galapagos Islands. Her take on Genesis was that it was a beautiful allegory, and that the author “even got the order just about right”.

  9. Speaking as a scientist… clowns like this give ID a bad name. There’s at least some rationale behind ID, and it’s an interesting counter point to classical evolutionist thinking in a Kuhnian sense (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kuhn). So I’d be happy to hear that it was being taught on that basis in science.
    But as I say, clowns like this take the notion of intelligent design and totally confuse science and religion and act like idiots. Creationists have ever been like this – but please understand, they are apostate: their religion is creationism itself, not to serve Jesus.

  10. “There’s at least some rationale behind ID”

  11. Even if someone or something was responsible for designing a Platypus, I’d be hard pressed to describe it as ‘intelligent’…
    Work experience kid ;p

  12. Nice one Purrdence. Or maybe they let a couple of kids loose with the “Playschool useful box”.

  13. Or had one of those flip books where you turn the pages to make different strange animals.

  14. All you guys bagging platypi…. fits it’s mission purpose admirably. Almost like it was designed 😉

  15. Almost as if it evolved in a particular environment and adapted over millennia to exploit a particular niche…

  16. ID could potentially be very useful in science class: as a way to demonstrate what is and isn’t science. In order to become a theory a hypothesis has to be testable and theoretically disprovable, should the right (wrong) evidence turn up. Is ID testable? Would its adherents accept evidence that disproves it (like, oh say, all the gazillion features of the natural world that run counter to what would be the most effective/efficient design)? No? Oops, guess it’s not a theory then and it can go join the four humours and the earth-centred universe in the dark ages corner.

  17. I am to this day eternally grateful that I managed to get a religious (Catholic) high school which never mentioned creationism at all. Like, someone brought it up in fifth-form science and our teacher was very, “Um, not science”.
    So of course we then brought it up in Religious Education and got a nice lesson about the difference between literal fact and “religious truth”.
    Add in the breathtakingly comprehensive sex ed and I occasionally wonder if I hallucinated the entire thing.

  18. Orlando, you need to differentiate between the narrow meaning of ID as a theory, and the wider application of it in creationism. As a narrow theory, ID says that there may be some things that could not have evolved, and there may be proof of this. At this level it’s amenable to proof and disproof to some degree. Like evolution, which I regard as not real science, since it’s not subject to experimental proof. ID as proof of creationism – for the same reason evolution isn’t subject to experimental proof, it’ll never be any better. btw, mis-design is only proof against ID if you assume 2 things: an omnipotent designer, and an omnipotent assessor of the design. We know that the second does not exist 😉

  19. Rebekka said… “I went to a religious school”
    Me too, but the religious education teacher was a theology prof emeritus… and introduced a syllabus that did a year on Buddhism, a year on Islam, etc. The courses were sympathetic to those religions, so over a few years you got a decent comparative religion course.
    And “ID”…. you and your commenters say it all, but I do have to respond to DEM re the platypus.
    It’s not only the platypus, but the knee of humans is just ugly, as most footballers and netballers can attest. These and other stuffups prompted us to joke “God didn’t create the world in 7 days…. he farted around for 6 and pulled an all-nighter”
    Actually, the other big stuffup is metabolism of urea (highly soluble) and urate (bugger-all solubility) – so we humans ALL have an inbuilt metabolic disorder (which leads to gout VERY easily), which any creator must have put in by design just to be nasty to us humans, because many other animals don’t have the problem (especially desert mice). Either that, or as apparently last animal created, the all-nighter effects were showing! Therefore the creator was either stupid or malicious!

  20. Oz Ozzie: ID is not and never was a theory. It was a strategy designed by a particularly unintellligent creator to discredit evolutionary theories which are scientific theories by the way and are amenable to disproof, I don’t know why you think they aren’t. Just because there are speculative theories around mechanisms of evolution that are acknowledged as currently without any evidence countervailing or otherwise does not mean that evolutionary theories are inherently untestable.

  21. “Like evolution, which I regard as not real science, since it’s not subject to experimental proof”
    Oz Ozzie, this is just plain wrong. There are experiments that have been done (and are being done) that help confirm the basic tenets of evolution. Such as this one for example.

  22. I’m quite familiar with that experiment and others. They show what they show: that there will be mutations, and that some may be successful. But they do not demonstrate the scope of change due to mutations hypothesized to have occured through history. I hope that the stimulus of the ID challenge will at least encourage scientists to progress this problem (not that it is not a widely recognised problem).

  23. Good catch, Shaun. I missed that errant claim.
    I find that people making that particular classic claim often have a superficial “pop” understanding of what evolutionary theory actually claims and how well supported by various evidence (including but not limited to experimental proofs) the tenets of the theory are. Indeed, many such people are still stuck on what “theory” actually means to scientists. Hint: a single word can indeed refer to both a fact (observed phenomenon) and a theory (explanation of mechanism resulting in the observed phenomenon) in science.

  24. We crossposted, Oz Ozzie. Evolutionary biologists have not yet fully determined the mechanisms by which evolution occurs, sure. That has nothing to do with whether evolution is a fact.
    Although Einstein’s theories of gravity replaced Newton’s theories because it predicted future events more accurately, the mechanism of gravity is not yet fully understood, and much debate rages amongst physicists as to exactly how gravity is generated. Yet the phenomenon of gravity does not depend on our understanding of how it occurs: apples are not about to start floating in the air tomorrow.

  25. I hadn’t intended to get trapped here…
    gravity is subject to experimental proof. In fact, anyone can do it 😉
    Evolution the “fact” – what’s the fact exactly? There is a set of known observations – we can take them as fact. And then there is a grand theory for explaining them. Is that fact too? I think it’s history, and we know how slippery history is (and history is not subject to experimental proof). Per your reference, I admit to not differentiating between the two concepts – but I think that the set of facts is a lot narrower than Stephen J Gould makes out.

  26. gravity is subject to experimental proof. In fact, anyone can do it 😉

    What experiments have determined the mechanism for gravity, Oz Ozzie? You’re claiming that evolution can’t be a science if experimental proofs of its mechanisms don’t exist – why the double standard?
    Genetics provided experimental proof of the fundamental tenets of Darwin’s theory right from when Mendel the monk was working with peas. (ETA: Indeed, the power of Darwin’s theory was that it predicted that something like genes must underly the varying inheritance of physical traits) The physical mechanisms of inheritance and inheritance with variation are now very well understood.
    What mechanism do you propose exists that would prevent variations accruing over time to produce evolutionary changes and branching of species?

  27. The difference arises through the historical aspects, and only becomes a double standard if you draw too much from it. Which I try not to.
    I propose no mechanism to prevent evolutionary changes and branching of species per se. But no proposed mechanism that I know of explains the development of complex systems that require substantial investments of energy, and that only pay off when the system is complete (and that may involve developments in multiple different genetic lines). I don’t know of anything that prevents such developments in theory though.
    It’s easy to mock such a statement – and I’m sure it will happen – but I have read no serious treatment of this problem that resolves the issue. Happy to pointed at something serious.

  28. “but I have read no serious treatment of this problem that resolves the issue.”
    You are right that it is easy to mock such a statement. That is because it is a collection of strawman arguments. Therefore, no “serious” treatment of the “problem” is needed.

  29. But no proposed mechanism that I know of explains the development of complex systems that require substantial investments of energy, and that only pay off when the system is complete (and that may involve developments in multiple different genetic lines)

    This I think is where your fundamental misunderstanding lies – you’re arguing as if evolution has a goal. Each organism either survives to reproduce or not – that’s it. There is no “substantial investment of energy” other than what is normally required for growth to a sexually mature organism.
    If an organism with an variant genome matures and reproduces, that variant genome can then recombine with other variant genomes to accumulate variances over generations. “Bad” combinations that impose burdens on the organism will not be passed on as frequently as “good” combinations. As “good” combinations accumulate and further recombine, then you see populations that are distinctly different from the parent population.
    That’s all it takes.

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