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Barbara Forrest Speaks Out on Texas Education Agency Actions

Professor Barbara Forrest of South Eastern Louisiana University wrote a strong statement concerning recent actions of the Texas Education Agency in forcing the resignation of director of science curricula Chris Comer.

Forrest concludes,

The incident now involving Ms. Comer exemplifies perfectly the reason my co-author Paul R. Gross and I felt that our book, Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, had to be written. (http://www.creationismstrojanhorse.com) By forcing Ms. Comer to resign, the TEA seems to have confirmed our contention that the ID creationist movement -- a religious movement with absolutely no standing in the scientific world -- is being advanced by means of power politics. In December 2005, Judge John E. Jones III validated our contention that ID is creationism, thus a religious belief, when he ruled in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/kitzmiller/kitzmiller_342.pdf) that the teaching of ID in public school science classes is unconstitutional. Judge Jones recognized that ID has nothing whatsoever to do with science; its proponents are merely using public education -- the public education of other people's children -- as the vehicle for their plan to undermine the teaching of evolution.

The one thing that should not be forgotten in this episode is that Ms. Comer herself has been injured, and Texas children have lost a valuable advocate for quality science education. I regret deeply that the TEA chose to use my work as an excuse to hurt Ms. Comer. Even more, I am incensed by it. However, what happened to her may be just the tip of the iceberg. This country has reached a sorry state of affairs when one of the largest, most prominent departments of education in the country fires a public servant for doing her job. But while I regret that the information I related in my presentation in Austin and in my book has been confirmed in such a sad way, my co-author and I have every intention of continuing our efforts as scholars and citizens to inform the American people about the threat that the intelligent design creationist movement continues to pose to public education and to the constitutional separation of church and state.

Viewpoints on Evolution, Creation, and Origins

(This essay was originally posted around 1998.)

People have different opinions.  The issue of origins and evolution is no different in having a wide range of opinions expressed.  I want to introduce you to how I classify this diversity of opinion in a fairly simple classification scheme.  Here comes a Venn diagram to help illustrate things:


E stands for those who accept evolutionary change in the sense of common descent of life on earth.
C stands for those who believe in a creator.
A stands for those who reject evolutionary change or evolutionary mechanisms.
S stands for "scripturalists", who base their beliefs upon their interpretation of some text they hold sacred.

This gives me six categories to explain.  Some of them may appear inconsistent at first glance, but I hope to convince you that there really people who occupy each of the categories.

Change in Appearance

I ran into a problem with some of the options for user permissions. One thing led to another, and I ended up having to upgrade the CMS software in order to get back to a functioning permissions system. That, unfortunately, meant that the old theme no longer worked. So I'm back to the "Pushbutton" theme with a small tweak until I can get some time to consider Drupal 4.7 themes.

If someone already knows their way around the Drupal 4.7 theming system and would like to contribute a 3-column theme for AE or a 2-column theme for TalkDesign, let me know.

The Templeton Foundation Distances Itself from "Intelligent Design"

The Templeton Foundation, the deep pockets people for science and religion studies, says that its stance has been misconstrued on "intelligent design" in letters to the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street journal.

Pamela Thompson, Templeton Foundation spokesperson, says in her letter to the LA Times:

We do not believe that the science underpinning the intelligent-design movement is sound, we do not support research or programs that deny large areas of well-documented scientific knowledge, and the foundation is a nonpolitical entity and does not engage in or support political movements.

Kansas Will Reconsider Its Science Standards

A summary box on the Wichita Eagle notes that the new, moderate State Board of Education has put a vote on revisions of science standards on the agenda for February. The revised standards remove the antievolution arguments inserted by the former SBOE.

More about the former Kansas science standards.

Ohio Ditches the Discovery Institute

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.

Academies of Science Around the World Support Teaching Evolution

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.

Weaker Science Education in South Carolina

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."

QUESTION:

South Carolina has been lauded nationally for its science standards. How will this affect the state’s rating?

ANSWER:

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.

Script of SMU Presentation

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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.

====

[Question]

Tonight I am considering a public policy question. That question is, "Should intelligent design be taught as science in the public schools?"

[Short answer]

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.

Are ID Advocates Required to Lie Once a Day or More?

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.

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