Wesley R. Elsberry's blog
As reported on the Panda's Thumb, the Ohio State Board of Education killed off Resolution 31 on Tuesday. The apparent Intelligent Design advocate strategy was to keep the Achievement Committee pondering the issue assigned to it last February until after the November elections. This strategy backfired when the full board met and decided to take direct action. They moved to close discussion on Resolution 31 permanently and remove the Achievement Committee's authority to do anything about it. They then voted to take up the motion as an emergency measure. That passed by a substantial majority. Then they voted on the motion itself, again passing by a wide margin. The margin would not have been quite so wide but that two of the ID advocates on the board were absent from the meeting.
Another BBC report, and this one is big: Academic Societies Around the World Support Teaching Evolution. 68 societies joined in putting out this statement via the InterAcademy Panel on International Issues:
IAP STATEMENT ON THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION
We, the undersigned Academies of Sciences, have learned that in various parts of the world, within science courses taught in certain public systems of education, scientific evidence, data, and testable theories about the origins and evolution of life on Earth are being concealed, denied, or confused with theories not testable by science. We urge decision makers, teachers, and parents to educate all children about the methods and discoveries of science and to foster an understanding of the science of nature. Knowledge of the natural world in which they live empowers people to meet human needs and protect the planet.
South Carolina's The State gives a question and answer article about the just-adopted state science standards and their coverage of evolution. The changed standards include language that says, "Summarize ways that scientists use data from a variety of sources to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory."
South Carolina has been lauded nationally for its science standards. How will this affect the state’s rating?
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a conservative think tank that advocates school choice and charter schools, does evaluations of teaching standards. South Carolina’s science standards earned an A from the foundation in December 2005.
In February, The State newspaper polled five scientists who reviewed those standards on the proposal to alter S.C.’s biology standard to include the “critically analyze” phrase. All five said it would weaken the state’s science education.
It is precisely the "critically analyze" language that is at issue there. Based on the response from the antievolution advocates, one might be confused as to how adding something about "critical analysis" can weaken science education. The answer is that "critical analysis" is antievolution Newspeak for putting the same old bogus arguments against evolution into school classrooms.
The following is my script for the fifteen minute presentation I gave at the SMU debate on April 25th. I hope to do some more with this, but I need to check with the organizers to make sure I won't step on any toes, if they plan to sell audio or video from the event.
Tonight I am considering a public policy question. That question is, "Should intelligent design be taught as science in the public schools?"
The short answer is, of course, no. I'm going to give some background, and come back to elaborate on the short answer.
[Not could be slide]
First, you have to recognize that "intelligent design" (or ID for short) is a recognizable body of arguments. This is not about what ID could be, would be, or even should be. This is about what ID demonstrably has been. We first saw it systematically used and defined as a phrase in the Dallas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics's supplemental high school textbook, Of Pandas and People. Remember that. We'll come back to it.
To understand "intelligent design" or any modern religious antievolution, you have to know that it is based on a two-model view of the world, one I heard expressed in March of this year by ID advocate William Dembski, that ID and evolutionary causes were mutually exclusive and exhausted all the possibilities between them, therefore evidence against evolution counted as evidence for design. This is about as convincing an argument as, "Yo momma!" But this is what religious antievolutionists are stuck with, to simply attack evolution and trust to cultural literacy that people will then fall into their camp.
Jonathan Witt has an article up at "ID the Future". Darwinism: From Strength to Strength purports to find a contradiction in pro-science activism, between what was argued in Pennsylvania and then in Ohio. Following that, Witt proceeds with an uninformed screed about what "Darwinists", whoever they are, might be up to in the future. Since PZ Myers has dissected the latter part of Witt's offering quite nicely, I'll just make a few points about alleged contradictions.
The Darwinist reversal worked like this:
In Dover, they insisted that physical evidence presented against their theory wasn't an argument for intelligent design. Darwinist Kenneth Miller made this argument on the stand and the judge concurred. But in Ohio they wanted to scare people into thinking that simply teaching students the scientific evidence for and against Darwinism was somehow legally dangerous. Since it isn’t, the Darwinists had to get creative, had to change their story. So now they asserted that simply exposing students to the evidence against Darwinism constitutes the teaching of intelligent design. Thus, their Ohio position flatly contradicts their Dover position.
To sell both required a propaganda machine of extraordinary skill and nerve. Bravo!
Contradiction has a very specific meaning in logic. What Witt has uncovered is not contradiction, but rather consistency. In making the statement quoted above, Witt is lying. I use the word advisedly. I don't know with certainty whether Witt is lying to us about his ability to utilize logic and his familiarity with the relevant data, or whether he is lying in claiming that a contradiction exists where none does. One of those two alternatives, though, does apply.
A column by S. Michael Craven at Crosswalk.com aptly demonstrates how one can come to an entirely inverted view of things starting from false premises and a false inference. The lead paragraph (below) begins with a false premise (that state science standards prohibit concepts from being presented in classes) and proceeds to a wildly false conclusion (that science teachers somehow are prevented from teaching material that is already in their textbooks).
I got home late Saturday night from attending a lecture by William Dembski held on the UC Berkeley campus, under the auspices of the Berkeley IDEA Club student group. This was the second lecture Dembski gave for the IDEA Club; he had one Friday night on the "scientific status of intelligent design". I spoke with him briefly after the lecture on Saturday and met his young daughter Chloe. Dembski is a personable guy.
But personal interactions are not really relevant to the issues. What's of importance there is the content that was provided in the two talks. And there I have to take issue with many of Dembski's claims and arguments.
So my first effort is going to be to provide the notes that I took at these two lectures. These will go up in very rough form, complete with typos and unmarked contractions of longer words. (I was typing in notes on an old Palm PDA that I have a fold-out keyboard for.) The Berkeley IDEA Club is selling CDs of the two lectures, and will be providing the recordings of the question and answer sessions on their website, so if you want to hear it for yourself, you can with a bit of effort. As I get time, I will work on cleaning up the notes. I will also start commenting upon and critiquing the content a bit later on. Tomorrow, though, requires attention be paid to Rusty, since it is the last day of rabbit season for the 2005-2006 hunting calendar.
On Friday, Feb. 3rd, I was able to pose a question to Greer-Heard Forum headliners Michael Ruse and William Dembski. Here's a transcript of that segment:
WRE:Actually I'm interested in a public policy aspect of this whole thing. Last month, I got on the Web of Science database search and looked up the term "cold fusion" and it came up with 900 papers there. "Cold fusion" is the poster child for the "not-ready-for-prime-time" physics theory, something that is not ready for going into 9th grade biology, no, physics textbooks. We see the process of science in things like plate tectonics, and the endosymbiotic theory, the neutral theory, and punctuated equilibria, these are things that have earned a place in the textbooks, because the people put in the work, they convinced the scientific community that they had a point, and that's why they're in the textbooks. So, what I'd like to hear from both of you is, is there a justification for giving intelligent design a pass on this process?
Dembski: That was short, but I think I can expand on that a little bit. A few years back, I wrote a paper, in fact I think I delivered it at a conference that I think that you attended, what was the title, Becoming a Disciplined Science, Pitfalls, Problems, various things confronting intelligent design, and in that paper I addressed what I thought a real concern for me that intelligent design would become in instrumental good used by various groups to further certain ends, but that the science would get short-shrifted, and I argued that the science was the intrinsic good, and indeed that's my motivation, ultimately. I could make my peace with Darwinism if I had to, and I'm sufficiently theologically astute to do the fancy footwork, but it's the science itself that I don't think holds up, and that's what motivates me to critique Darwinism and develop intelligent design. But as I argued in that paper, intelligent design has to be developed as a scientific program, otherwise you, you can't get a pass, I'm with you on that. And I was not a supporter of this Dover policy. Once it was enacted, once the Thomas More Law Center was going ahead with it, I did agree to be an expert witness there, but I think it is premature.
(From "The Austringer":)
In a clearly-argued decision, Judge John E. Jones III ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District case.
Back in 2004, Casey Luskin and I had lunch. One of the topics of conversation was the legal status of "intelligent design" and how a court case might turn out. Casey argued that since ID had no explicit mention of the identity of the "designer" as God and no explicit use of scripture, it would have no trouble in court. I argued that the history of commonality with creationism and the identity of the arguments between the two would be found to put ID in violation of the establishment clause. I'm happy to report that Judge Jones concurs with me and not Casey.