Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Poll finds over half of Britons support teaching Creationism and Intelligent Design along with Evolution

From IBTimes:

"A Mori poll has found that over half of Britons believe Creationism and Intelligent Design should be taught alongside Evolution in science lessons.

The poll, which was part of a worldwide study into attitudes to the teaching on the origin of life on earth, saw 1,000 Britons questioned on the subject.

Around 54 per cent of those who responded said they thought teachers should talk about “alternative perspectives” to the Theory of Evolution, however only six per cent said they felt Creationism or Intelligent Design should be taught instead of Evolution.

Just over one fifth of respondents said that only the Theory of Evolution should be taught, as is currently the case under the national curriculum
." Read more...

Guardian article here.

What explains these statistics, and what if anything should be done?

76 comments:

Joril said...

Ok, that's disturbing.

I guess better education would improve the situation.
Could we say bad education leads to worse education?

Cut down on American Media?
Make denying Evolution a crime?

wombat said...

"What should be done?"

Nothing wrong in teaching about alternate theories in any field. It provides historical context to examine the route by which successful theories come to supercede their predecessors. It is a useful springboard to encourage people to think about the shortcomings of theories and how to go about improving them and when to discard them.

I remember biology and chemistry lessons being peppered with such alternates. A few examples:

Lamarck's theories and why they fell from favour.

Why Goose Barnacles are called that?

How modern biological taxonomy developed from Aristotle to medieval bestiaries through Linnaeus and now uses genetic knowledge to determine relationships between species?

How the germ theory of disease developed from ideas about miasmas, humours and the like.

How old ideas about spontaneous generation of life such as maggots from meat or mice from hay were wrong and how sterilization could prevent spoilage of food.


A few minutes early in life showing what the faults are with ID might do wonders to nail this canard. There is a world of difference between "being taught" and "being taught about".

More pressing is what to do about the teachers who believe ID is fact. May I suggest we confine them to music,maths, metalwork and PE?

Giford said...

I agree with Wombat - actually geting ID into schools could be the biggest own goal the Creationist movement makes *provided* there is no 'equal time' language, i.e. teachers are not forced to teach ID on a par with Darwinian evolution.

Gif

Matt M said...

According to the Guardian article, 54% agreed with the statement that

Evolutionary theories should be taught in science lessons in schools together with other possible perspectives, such as intelligent design and creationism.

What were the other statements they could choose from?

I want to see ID and creationism taught in schools, but - ideally - in Religious Education classes. If that wasn't an option, then I'd be okay with them being given some time in science classes - as long as teachers are allowed to point out the numerous flaws and absurdities.

wombat said...

Matt - "I want to see ID and creationism taught in schools, but - ideally - in Religious Education classes."

No way!

It is not part of the religious tradition of any mainstream religion as far as I can tell.

It is a theory about the world so it belongs in science. All the evidence for and against it is derived from the consideration of the natural world.

Or perhaps we should insist that students taking RE also have to take biology so they have the necessary background.

Matt M said...

It is not part of the religious tradition of any mainstream religion as far as I can tell

It would probably just be an addendum to a lesson on creationism: "First people believed this, then evolution came along, now some people have shifted to ID."

Then if it came up as a question in a science lesson, the teacher would - hopefully - be able to explain why it isn't a proper theory.

Billy said...

I wonder if this indicates that most of the population does not know that ID is not a valid scientific pursuit. If we teach that, then we might as well include astrology and crystal healing.

It should only be taught on the basis of its scientific credentials (ie none!). You dont include non scientific ideas in science classes.
I got precious little evolution taught at school. Why waste the little time it gets on religious nonsence.

It was not an understatement when Dobzhansky said "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution"

Kosh3 said...

There is in general* no sharp or categorical distinction between science and pseudo-science or non-science. The idea of such a demarcation line is long since out of favour amongst most philosophers of science.

It won't do then, as many do try to, to try and keep intelligent design out of science classes by claiming that it is non-scientific.

What we have is simply areas of inquiry that are simply more or less scientific. My thinking is that intelligent design falls much more naturally into a philosophical category than a scientific one for primarily two reasons (it seeks explanation in terms of agency, and practical difficulties with bringing such explanations under lawlike descriptions), and that thus if it is to be discussed, it should be in philosophy classes rather than science classes.



*I say in general, because there are certain things that can be cleanly separated from science because they are purely a priori - e.g. logic and maths.

Kosh3 said...

Incidentally, for those interested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECE77Imki9M

Dawkins and O'Reilly discussing whether evolution and ID should be taught side by side in science classrooms.

Bill said...

I guess it depends on how you think they should be taught. I feel ID and creationism are demonstrably ludicrous. If we have taught our children to think first (and this is probably the greatest failure of the education system), then teaching ID and creationism as alternatives, with all the evidence for (!) and against, and evolution should equip the children to critically evaluate everything they are presented with.

On that basis, I would respond, go ahead and teach it.

But if it was taught that both ID and creationism are intellectually as valid as evolution, then I would have to object, because it would be confusing to the developing, critical analysis ability of the children.

In the end, I guess this shows how useless such surveys are, because they don't delve into the thinking behind the responses.

wombat said...

Kosh3 - "..it seeks explanation in terms of agency, "

Yes but it claims that the agency is at work in the natural world. It makes a claim that the effect of this action is distinguishable from chance or alternative non-agent based natural phenomena. It's fair game - we have developed pretty good methods for detecting subtle effects behind a lot of things. Statistics should show it in action. Remember ID is offered up as an alternative to another scientific theory about the world like Lamarckian inheritance once was and should be judged on its success in that light.

Science can deal with agents and does so all the time in psychology (even in economics these days!), in the study of animal behavior and so on. We have actually given a bit of thought to how to recognize intelligence at work - after all who wouldn't be thrilled to find another intelligent species?
At the very least we tend to stop eating them!

Kosh3 said...

"Science can deal with agents and does so all the time in psychology (even in economics these days!), in the study of animal behavior and so on."

Yes, but in the case of psychology you have repeatable experiments based on large numbers of individuals using ideally quantifiable assessments. Even then, there is a not uncommon opinion that psychology is a 'soft' science. In any case, how such an equivalent could work for the moment of creation is something of a mystery to me.

Paul P. Mealing said...

I disagree with Kosh3. There are huge differences between philosophy and science. Fundamentally, science often deals in right and wrong answers and philosophy often does not.

To quote from Bertrand Russell's The Problems with Philosophy:

"Thus, to sum up our discussion of the value of philosophy; Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its question, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves..."

Whereas, even the most esoteric science, like quantum mechanics for example, is completely dependent on finding answers.

Psuedo-science can pose as philosophy, but it can't pose as science. People may like to call it fringe science or speculative science, but ID is more politically motivated than scientifically motivated, which makes it especially suspect.

Genesis-based creationism should be taught as mythology, along with all the other creation myths from all the various cultures from around the world, to put it in its true perspective. This was seriously suggested in Australia a few years ago, when some ill-informed politicians were suggesting that ID should be taught alonside evolution. As I pointed out on an earlier post (in response to Wombat), when mainstream theologians said it wasn't science, it disappeared off the political agenda. Note: it was never on the scientists' agenda at all.

ID is arguably a philosophical position, which is not supported by known science. It's actually supported by ignorance: life at a cellular level is too complex for us to comprehend, so ID explains it. In other words, ID is a defacto position for what we don't know or understand. This is not the way to do science. It actually stops science and is why it is called a science-stopper.

Regards, Paul.

Timmo said...

Wombat,

Nothing wrong in teaching about alternate theories in any field.

Certainly, teaching students how to think critically is an important goal in education. To this end, it is often argued that students should 'make up their own minds' about the theory of evolution. However, it is important to recognize whether one is competent to answer certain questions, even if critical thinking is brought to bear. Students and the public generally are simply not properly trained and experienced enough to make a credible judgement about the theory of evolution and the body of evidence supporting it.

Bertrand Russell proposed three rules to avoid intellectual rubbish:

(1) When the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain.

(2) When they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert.

(3) When they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary person would do well to suspend judgement.

Here (1) is applicable. The case for teaching ID in public schools so that students can 'make up their own minds' or be exposed to rival theories is misguided. When the experts (in this case, the scientific community) are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain (by a non-expert).

anticant said...

"If we have taught our children to think first (and this is probably the greatest failure of the education system)..."

Because there aren't all that many teachers below university level who know how to think critically.

This may even be deliberate government policy. In the early 1980s, I was at a think tank meeting where someone said: "I was at the Department of Education yesterday, and a senior official said to me 'We don't want too many highly educated people in this country, do we? They cause too much trouble!'"

wombat said...

"ID is arguably a philosophical position, which is not supported by known science."

The conclusion of most of its supporters
"...and the designer must be God!" is the philosophical bit isn't it. It's rather weak. There is nothing that supports this above (i) any other set of gods (ii) existence of other supernatural designers (iii) existence of other natural designers e.g. really clever aliens.

The observation of (possible) design is science. It is certainly relevant in archaeology. Was that funny looking rock really a tool?

Experiments in the "add test tube A to test tube B" sense are impractical but there are huge numbers of data points available. Every living thing is full of them, every fossil too.

ID is at least in part a scientific position which is not supported by evidence.

Martin said...

Darwin once believed "the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible" so he too seems to have been a Creationist in his early years. Clearly it didn't hold him back from becoming a brilliant scientist.

Are you sure that the shock expressed that people can take Intelligent Design and Creationism seriously isn't indicative of a lack of faith in the scientific method?

Giford said...

I don't think that the problem is with teaching ID per se. Rather, I think that the issue is a lack of teaching of what constitutes good science.

It was only biology A-level where the question of what actually constitutes a scientific theory was even considered. Physics and Chemistry didn't even discuss it.

Of course... it would be ironic if that was because Creationism was such a threat to Biology...

Gif

Kosh3 said...

"I disagree with Kosh3. There are huge differences between philosophy and science. Fundamentally, science often deals in right and wrong answers and philosophy often does not."

I never said there were not differences between philosophy and science; what I said was that there is no sharp distinction between science and other things - its all on a scale, not in different categories.

Secondly, many philosophers would disagree with Russell's characterisation of philosophy as holding its importance in terms of acts of questioning (to the exclusion of finding answers).

Paul P. Mealing said...

In response to Kosh3, there is an intersection between science and philosophy, and people often go between scientific and philosophical arguments in the same discussion without realising the distinction. ID is a case in point: if more people appreciated the difference between science and philosophy, then this argument wouldn’t exist in its current form. ID is a philosophical position, it’s not a scientific one. So the distinction is important.

ID is an attempt to use science to prove God’s existence, but this is a question science can’t answer. People on both sides of the argument use science to support their philosophical positions, but this doesn’t turn philosophy into science. If science could emphatically prove God doesn’t exist then ID wouldn’t be so persistent, but it’s not a scientific question. Arguably, it’s a psychological-social-anthropological question, but that’s another discussion altogether.

In fact, science is an atheistic pursuit by necessity, because bringing God into science is a 'science-stopper'. This is something that ID proponents never understand, but that's another argument again. Once you bring God into science you are effectively saying we can't learn any more: we've come to the end of science.

People forget that the only reason ID exists (at all) is because it’s a political attempt to get past the American Constitution to allow religion to be taught in American schools under the veil of science. It’s not science, and that’s the whole point. At best, it’s philosophy, but it’s political context effectively means that it’s not even that.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Paul gets into a terrible muddle about whether ID is science or not. This reminds me of a South Pacific cargo cult I heard about once. The islanders obtained a table, set it up in a hut and made themselves busy by passing pieces of paper one to another, and inscribing meaningless marks on them. Was this a bureaucracy or not? Who knows, is the distinction important in any case? At the end of the day the white settlers thought the proceedings were nonsense, the islanders felt they were doing something useful.

Daniel Dennett says the ID "campaign is a hoax and dishonest to the core". I think Dennett is probably wrong about the dishonesty, and definitely wrong about the hoax. To know that IDers were being dishonest he would have to know their intentions, and that isn't within his gift. Given the effort that IDers put into their cause it seems far more likely that they are misguided but genuine.

If IDers were perpetrating a hoax, one would have to expect at some point they would pull back their masks and say "Gotcha!" But Dennett isn't really expecting this to happen any day soon. Hoaxers do something knowingly silly, for the fun of pulling off the trick. What evidence do we have that IDers are just having a lark? You'd have to hand it to them if it were true that they are able to play deadpan to a "T".

Paul's muddle in part is because he talks about ID in the abstract, as if there were some general consensus as to what ID is. In keeping with the hotch-potch of nonsense which is, there's hardly likely to be any agreement about what ID really is. Certainly the first ID website I looked at claimed that ID is a science (and incidentally lead me to Dennett's letter). I'm no scientist, but their explanation of the theory of ID seemed highly flaky to say the least. However every time ID gets under the skin of serious philosophers like Dennett or serious scientists like Dawkins then more people will get interested in it. Yes it's an itch, but do you really have to keep scratching?

Timmo said...

Paul,

I do not understand what the distinction between 'science' and 'philosophy' is supposed to be here. I take ID to be something like the following claim:

(ID) Given what is known about organisms by experiment and observation, the best explanation for their variety and existence is that they have been intentionally designed by some rational agent.

This proposition (ID) is a statement about the natural world and offers an explanatory theory for certain phenomena (namely organisms and their variety) in that world. What makes this 'philosophy'?

Paul P. Mealing said...

To me, ID is dealt with simply. If I met an ID proponent, I would ask him one question: does ID replace evolution or does it complement evolution?

If it replaces evolution then it's creationism under another name. If it complements evolution then it's a 'God of the gaps' argument. Either way, it's not science. I don't believe I'm in a muddle at all.

Dennett argues that it's a hoax because it's well known that proponents (I don't know what or who the organisation was) produced a document where they replaced 'creationism' with 'intelligent design', so it was creationism in disguise. It was called by their own people a 'wedge' strategy (to get religion into US shools). This document was produced as evidence in court, in the Denver school case (was it Denver?) against the ID proponents.

It's a hoax (to use Dennett's term) because they dress it up as science when it's really religion, and what's more, they know it is. It's no different to the Japanese pretending that hunting whales is for 'scientific research'. We know and they know that's not true, but they pretend otherwise.

It's the same with ID: we know and they know that it's not about science, it's really about religion, but they pretend otherwise. So fraud is probably more accurate than hoax (intellectual fraud). My dictionary's definition of fraud: 'deliberate deception'. That's exactly what it is, and there is a document presented in court, and on television, to prove it.

To answer Timmo, it's not science because ID implicitly brings God into science, which, as I pointed out in my previous comment, is a 'science-stopper'.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Sorry Paul, but when you say "I don't know what or who the organisation was" and "was it Denver?" I infer you that you are pretending to have greater knowledge about the subject of ID than you actually have.

I don't claim any special knowledge here, but I do assert that arguing from specific examples has greater authority when there is little evidence of an orthodoxy.

Terms like "hoax", "fraud" and "deliberate deception" all rely on you proving intention. But you bring nothing to the table to demonstrate that you know IDers intentions. Yes they are a political movement, a religious movement and they claim scientific respectability. But can you prove fraud? Just saying you don't like their arguments doesn't cut the mustard here. You must show that one or more truly are insincere, not just irritating. On the other hand, I am asserting that their level of activity and organisation indicates they are sincere, and it is my own judgement of their material that it is misguided.

It's always an error to underestimate your opponent. Hurling accusations at people doesn't win anyone over. Incidentally, if you say something is a "science-stopper" you are making a philosophical point, and a scientific one, which in turn undermines your assertion that ID is not scientific.

wombat said...

Well what about the other part of the original post - Creationism?

What do people understand by this? Is there an orthodox Creationist view?

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Martin,

Sorry for being vague. It was the Dover Area School District School Trial (not Denver). The document I refer to was genuine - I saw a copy of it on a TV programme that covered the trial. I can't remember details of names and organisations because I didn't keep a copy of the programme (I didn't record it). In the document you could see literally where the term 'creationism' had been replaced by 'intelligent design' so it was 'deliberate deception'.

I believe the organisation was The Discovery Institute. You can read about the trial here, and you will see that a key issue was about whether "a ruling that intelligent design was religious..." because it would circumvent the American Constitution on the separation of Church and State, specifically about teaching religion in schools.

Creationism had already been ruled out of schools on these grounds so if ID was the same as creationism it pretty well shot their case down in flames. It wasn't the only argument in the trial, but the it's why ID proponents claim that ID is science and not religion.

You can read about the 'Wedge Strategy' here. To quote Wiki: "The Wedge metaphor... represents... an aggressive public relations program to create an opening for the supernatural in the public’s understanding of science." The key word here is 'supernatural'. There is no place for the supernatural in science as an explanation for something that we don't understand.

Bringing God (the supernatural) into science is a 'science-stopper'. Once you have God as an explanation you stop doing science. That's the whole reason that ID is not science. Most scientists appreciate this point, and it's why scientists and science educators oppose it so strongly.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Paul, a short thought experiment for you to try:

Imagine a time in the future when the Earth and all life on it has been swallowed up by a black hole. By some gravitational fluke the moon survived, and ended up orbiting another planet.

An alien life force becomes interested in the moon, and eventually discovers the wrecked remains of the Lunar Crater Observer and the Sensing Satellite. An Intelligent Design controversy emerges. A small number of aliens believe the probes were intelligently designed, the vast majority of alien scientists say the structures have been naturally created, not designed.

Given that the alien IDers are correct, what weight should we give to their theory being declared "a hoax", "unscientific" and even "illegal"?

Billy said...

I don't know what or who the organisation was) produced a document where they replaced 'creationism' with 'intelligent design', so it was creationism in disguise.

It was the book "of Pandas and people"

Martin said...

It almost certainly breaks the British Council's copyright, but I found the full results for the quoted survey here, via Evolution News, an ID news rag for the Discovery Institute:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/MORI Education Data Tables - Creationism Survey FINAL.pdf

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Martin,

The analogy with the 'Lunar Crater Observer and the Sensing Satellite' is like Paley's watch argument. If the discoverers invoked God to explain it then it wouldn't be very scientific.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

I haven't included any reference to God in my thought experiment. We know the designer is NASA. I don't think it bears any relationship to the teleological argument of Paley's watch. Why do you suggest it has?

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Martin,

Aliens discover a man-made object on the moon; Paley discovers a man-made object while walking on a heath - see the similarity?

No, you didn't evoke God, I did to make the thought experiment relevant to the original argument. Logically, the aliens would think the object was made by an intelligent species that existed in the same universe as them, not one outside the universe. Don't you agree?

Regards, Paul.

Kosh3 said...

Just a quick comment re: god and 'science stopping':

if this is reason enough to reject the god-hypothesis, we should also reject symmetry breaking (since it is, by the same accord, a 'science-stopper' regarding the particular values of physical constants).

Martin said...

But in my case most aliens believe the object occurred naturally, so there is a great dissimilarity.

I thought you might have been invoking God to create a "science-stopper", but I can see I was wrong now.

You fail to differentiate between the two groups of aliens I suggested so I fail to follow the logic of your argument.

Paul P. Mealing said...

To answer Kosh3, I first came across the term 'science-stopper', in the context of God and science, being used by Stephen Jay Gould, though I don't know if he coined it, and the argument I use to defend it is mine.

It has no relevance to symmetry-breaking. Constants found in nature are always contingent on future discoveries, like everything else in science.

To Martin.

So your thought experiment is an argument between those who believe the object is 'natural' and those who think it's 'man-made'. God doesn't come into it, so it's irrelevant to the ID argument, which is an argument between something being 'natural' and something being 'created' by God. So I accept that your thought experiment is not relevant to the original argument.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Kosh3, thanks for mentioning the symmetry-breaking argument. I am in no position to judge its usefulness here. It does however help me with a problem which has puzzled me for a long time, which is if the universe was constructed from a singularity, why isn't it utterly symmetrical.

Paul, my argument was to show that something could be intelligently designed without a supernatural cause, the theorem declared "unscientific", yet still be perfectly true. Wombat hints at a similar argument when he says: "Was that funny looking rock really a tool?"

The above discussion has cleared up my own thinking on the ID issue. The objections to the theory of ID should be based around whether the proposition is falsifiable. It would be a good exercise for science students to study whether phrases such as "best explained by an intelligent cause" and "a design theorist is able to determine whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof" are falsifiable statements. If they can't, don't let them loose with a test-tube. Only 54 per cent of the Great British public believe science students should have a firm grounding in theory at the start of their scientific careers.

Kosh3 said...

"It has no relevance to symmetry-breaking. Constants found in nature are always contingent on future discoveries, like everything else in science."

According to symmetry breaking, the values of several fundamental physical constants were not determined, but arose spontaneously as energy levels in the universe dropped below a certain point. There is no cause, on this account, to the particular values being what they are. It does not make sense to try and see why they are what they are - they just are (so it is said).

If you are claiming that some future theory could become accepted which says differently, or that the theory could be falsified, then I am not sure how this helps what you are saying. What you are saying in that case is that symmetry breaking is an abandonable theory - but so is the god-hypothesis. In fact, the hallmark of the god of the gaps criticism is precisely that god is retreating out of explanation for various diverse physical phenomenon.

So, in short, you have me confused.

Froggie said...

I could never figure out just what it would be that they would teach about creationism.

Ken Ha's version? Hugh Ross' version? Disco institute version? Frncis Collins version?

All I've ever seen of ID is the attack on valid evolution and bad science.

I can envision the module on I.D.

"OK children, today we will discuss ID. God did it. Now on to math."

The Celtic Chimp said...

Martin,

Your aliens must be a right bunch of retards to think the lunar lander was naturally occuring. ID would suit them down to the ground. :P

Calling creationism ID is just an attempt at getting around the constitutional problem of teaching religion. It is so blatantly obvious that this is the case that the only excuse for not noticing, apart from having the deductive reasoning skills of a severely retarded lab rat, is possibly having no exposure to the major proponents of this nonsense.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Thanks Celtic Chimp - you have got it exactly right, though I think 'severly retarded lab rat' is a bit harsh.

Hi Kosh3.

I misconstrued your point. What you are pointing out is that symmetry-breaking is at the limits of our knowledge and theories, and we don't know how nature's constants came to be. The point is that there are always things in science we don't know because every resolution of a problem reveals new mysteries - it's a neverending process. The concomitant point is that invoking God to explain a mystery - any mystery - stops science progressing any further, because we are effectively saying that we've come to the end of science.

Hi Martin.

"Paul, my argument was to show that something could be intelligently designed without a supernatural cause..."

Precisely, and ID is an argument for a 'supernatural cause' so your argument is not relevant to the ID argument. It actually rejects the ID argument, by inference, but I don't think that's what you intended.

Since you raise falsifiability, the 'God hypothesis' is not falsifiable by the way, which is one of the reasons it's not a valid scientific theory. The God hypothesis explains everything by default no matter what, so you can't falsify it. This is why it is called pseudo-science. Popper introduced the falsifiability criterion to get rid of pseudo-scientific theories, like Freud's, because they explain everything no matter what the evidence. The God hypothesis (therefore ID) explains everything no matter what the evidence. So it's not falsifiable.

Regards, Paul.

wombat said...

Re: retarded aliens

Well I think I'd forgive them a little.

After all neither side is arguing for the supernatural which makes them one up on us
and lets face it the Lander is probably just a pattern of rust at this point.

Seriously though I must confess to a mistake here. I was certainly under the impression that the ID "wedge strategy" was to argue first for a designer to open the way for a "...it was God!" without necessarily implying supernaturalism (at first). If, as Paul avers, it implies this from the start, it is a different lab rat entirely. I that case I think a more philosophy based approach is warranted.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Wombat,

My understanding of the 'wedge strategy' was to get it into schools as science, when what they really wanted to do was to get religion into schools, but the American Constitution doesn't allow that. They coined the term 'intelligent design' because it had less religious, and, specifically, less biblical connotations than 'creationism', hence the need to replace one term with the other.

It was a 'wedge strategy' because it starts off as science and becomes religion. It's education by stealth effectively.

Regards, Paul.a

anticant said...

You mean miseducation by stealth.

Whateverman said...

Matt M wrote want to see ID and creationism taught in schools, but - ideally - in Religious Education classes.

That makes sense to me. I think I also agree with Wombat's post in that discussing the controversies surrounding the theory of evolution is appropriate.

However, even if I thought Creationism should be taught alongside the ToE, the curriculum couldn't handle the flood of alternate religious theories. Not only would ID have to be taught, but ideas from dozens of other religious sources - a course in biology would become a course in theology, and this can not be tolerated.

I have no problem with explaining the controversy as balanced as possible. But in a science course, science is and should always be the focus.

PS. although I mourn for you Brits (in regards to this story), I guiltily admit I'm happy to read that other modern societies have to deal with this problem too.

Debunkey Monkey said...

I always assumed the high percentage of people wanting creationism and evolution being taught equally in science classes are two fold.

1. People generally like being fair. After all, equal rights is engraved in western culture.

2. People don't put much time and energy understanding the issue. If most people understood that creationism wasn't science, I'm sure the percentages would drop.

Luckily, it's not up to a vote among the public which decides a student's science curriculum. People with a solid understanding of biology make such decisions.

John Doyle said...

the Lander is probably just a pattern of rust at this point.

Irrelevant to the discussion at hand, but I presume that the Lunar Lander is made of aluminium (which does not rust) and there is no oxygen on the moon so no reason for any material to oxidise anyway.

photosynthesis said...

Martin,

I think that at some level you are not even trying to understand:

Given that the alien IDers are correct, what weight should we give to their theory being declared "a hoax", "unscientific" and even "illegal"?

The aliens have not been trying to put a stop in the teaching of evolution to defend a religion, nor have they failed and then tried the case for equal time for the creationist theory, nor have they failed again when creationism was clearly declared religion that could not be taught in public schools and then attempted to re-package the creationism creed as intelligent design ... The aliens had the idea that those things in the moon look designed after examining them. The creationist movement has first declared that God did it, thus everything must be designed, now let us make the case. Let us not forget that if the case for a natural process exist we have to ignore it.

It is quite easy. It is not science if you try hard to fit everything on a preconceived, supernatural, frame with no allowance to entertain that these things could actually be natural.

Yes, they try hard to come to something that sounds somewhat scientific. They even try to truly be scientific. But even the best-meant among them ends up being obviously dishonest (I have talked personally with some of them, and they "accidentally" ignore lots of data, and present only the bits that seem to agree with their ideas). They are trying to take evolution out of school because it conflicts with their religious beliefs. That they developed a scientific-sounding piece of crap to start "wedging" into the system makes no difference. As such, this is a hoax, a fraud, unscientific, and illegal.

G.E.

Martin said...

Celtic Chimp - so abusing aliens is OK now? That's just political in-correctness gone interstellar.

Paul, I'm happy to be identified as being in the "rejects ID" camp (whilst on Earth). Had you assumed I belonged to the other lot?

"the 'God hypothesis' is not falsifiable" - curious to know if that statement in itself is falsifiable.

Photosynthesis, when I said "Yes it's an itch, but do you really have to keep scratching?" I was suggesting against engaging with proponents of ID. I think it's utterly futile to try to argue the detail with religious nutjobs. I have only ever suggested that scientists and philosophers should be clear about the reasons for rejecting the premises of the ID argument. Furthermore, I reject labelling them hoaxers, because that depends wholly on knowing someone else's intentions and so it's not in fact scientific.

"not even trying to understand" - sounds like one of my old schools reports. I still haven't changed my ways.

Re: Material from which Lunar probes are made. I've always understood the moon to be made of cheese. Wouldn't the structure have corroded either way?

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Martin,

'Paul, I'm happy to be identified as being in the "rejects ID" camp (whilst on Earth). Had you assumed I belonged to the other lot?'

Actually, I thought you'd got yourself into a muddle.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

All the talk of "God" was clouding the issue. By taking God out of the equation I hoped to clarify the arguments. Forgive me for saying it, but I've noticed that some participates find this type of discourse a little bit alien.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Okay Martin.

Don't lose your sense of humour.

I'm calling it quits.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Paul, I can understand your desire to call a ceasefire, but I can't work out the terms of our truce.

You say I'm in a muddle, but you don't have the courtesy to highlight which part of my argument is false. All your talk of relevancy doesn't add up to a hill of beans. I'm afraid you are the one who has invoked God at every turn, presumably because your arguments just don't stack up.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Martin,

I’ve been extraordinarily patient with you. This is not a truce; you have been roundly defeated, but you don’t have the nous to know it.

Your thought experiment, because it doesn’t invoke God as the ‘Intelligent Designer’, has absolutely no relevance to ID at all, but you can’t even see that. The aliens believe the object was designed by an intelligent species - yes, we know that. Some believe it's natural - so what? There is no supernatural cause. Right, you just kicked your own argument into touch. Game over.

The Celtic Chimp and Photosynthesis have both demonstrated how much you don’t know, but you refuse to acknowledge that they have answered your questions concerning the motivations and intentions of ID advocates, all of which are political and religious, not scientific.

Your last throw of the dice: ‘"the 'God hypothesis' is not falsifiable" - curious to know if that statement in itself is falsifiable.’

You don’t even know the difference between a philosophical statement and a scientific theory, so, by your own criterion, I hope that no one ever lets you near a test tube.

The worst part about ignorance is that the ignorant party is always unaware of how ignorant they are. You are living proof.

Regards, Paul.

Kyle said...

Paul,

I think you're being a bit unfair. There are legitimate worries here.

I don't see why it's obvious that design by an alien species couldn't be analogous to design by God. After all, most religions will regard much of God's activity (communicating etc) as being analogous to human activity.

Furthermore, you are making too much of the intentions of ID proponents, for 3 reasons:

1. It is often difficult to determine what a person's motives are.

2. There is no reason to think that the inference from 'some ID proponents just want to get religion into schools' to 'anyone who advocates ID just wants to get religion into schools' is a good one.

3. Even if ID proponents have 'bad' motives it does not mean that we cannot simply assess the merits of their theories. I take it that this occurs all the time in science - I'm sure that lots of scientists are motivated by money, or fame or nobel prizes rather than scientific motives (whatever they are).

You should take a look at some of Brad Monton's work: http://bradleymonton.wordpress.com/

He is an atheist, and believes that the arguments of ID fail, but argues that there is no reason why they shouldn't be regarded as part of science.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Kyle,

You and I have had this argument before.

"I don't see why it's obvious that design by an alien species couldn't be analogous to design by God"

'It's obvious', because a hypothetical alien species would be a product of the natural universe, like us, whereas God is supernatural and not part of the natural universe. That's the fundamental difference and also the fundamental argument for ID.

ID is not part of science because it invokes God as the explanation for a natural phenomenon, and as I've said here many times already, once you bring God into science you stop doing science. Because, and this is the really important bit: you are saying science can't explain this phenomenon, therefore we are saying we have come to the end of science. And that's why bringing God into science is a 'science-stopper' to quote Stephen Jay Gould.

ID advocates raise the valid issue that complexity at a cellular level, and at the DNA level, is still largely a mystery to science. But saying the only explanation is God is saying that the mystery can never be solved. History has shown that many mysteries of the natural universe, previously considered intractable, have since been solved. For example: the motion of the stars and planets, once thought to be evidence of God, are now explained by gravity and cosmology.

Discoveries in science are being made all the time, and only future generations will know how ignorant the current generation is, as we now know how ignorant past generations were. Darwin and Wallace didn't know anything about genes, DNA or mutations, yet their theory of natural selection was validated by these future (in their time) discoveries. That's how science works. But if everyone had said it could only be understood by God, then we would have stopped looking for answers.

Regards, Paul.

Mike said...

The assertion that science is "by necessity" an atheistic pursuit and that God is a "science stopper" is absurd. Religion certainly didn't stop Kepler, Newton or Faraday. They seem to have gotten quite a bit of science done despite the fact that each of them essentially believed in "intelligent design."

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Mike,

I'm not saying that scientists have to be atheists; I'm not an atheist, though I'm not a scientist either.

But you can't use a belief in God to support a scientific theory. Likewise, I don't believe that science can prove that God exists or not, though many disagree.

There are many scientists who are not atheists. Freeman Dyson comes readily to mind and I believe Stephen Jay Gould wasn't either (whom I quote). But neither of them would have used God to support a scientifc theory or hypothesis.

Regards, Paul.

Mike said...

I am an atheist, Paul, so I don't think God supports anything. My point is that (contrary to your earlier statements) the idea of God does not necessarily "stop" science.

Paul P. Mealing said...

It's a small point, Mike, but not a minor one.

I agree that a belief in God, or the idea of God, doesn't stop one from doing science. But bringing God into science does. It's a subtle difference but a very important one.

It's one of the reasons that I argue that there is a difference between science and philosophy.

Regards, Paul.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Mike,

Saying that science, by necessity, is an atheistic pursuit, is not the same thing as saying that all scientists, by necessity, must be atheists.

I probably should have clarified that point when I originally said it, but it wasn't the focus of the argument (whether scientists are atheists).

I agree that many scientists are not atheist, so obviously their idea of God doesn't interfere with their science, but it would if they introduced it as part of a hypothesis, which ID does.

Regards, Paul.

Kyle said...

Paul,

Why is God a science stopper? Why can't someone say 'I think God's action is the best explanation of phenomenon X, but I'm going to keep looking into the issue to see if I'm wrong'?

You seem to be suggesting that that would be impossible.

Newton claimed that the orbit's of the planet were occasionally corrected by God, but cosmology did not stop at that point.

'It's obvious', because a hypothetical alien species would be a product of the natural universe, like us, whereas God is supernatural and not part of the natural universe. That's the fundamental difference and also the fundamental argument for ID.

I agree that it is a difference, but it takes more that pointing out a difference to show why an analogy fails - after all, if there were no differences it wouldn't be an analogy, it would just be repetition. Both God and this alien species are capable of design, why isn't that enough to make the analogy successful?

You seem to present a strange view of science. You seem to believe that 'God designed the universe' could be true, but since since accepting this proposition would stop science from asking questions, science should never accept it. This presents science as being more interested in asking questions than in the truth; which is a poor science.

Kosh3 said...

"Newton claimed that the orbit's of the planet were occasionally corrected by God, but cosmology did not stop at that point."

Indeed, the world would have to wait for Laplace until an adequate non-god account of the secular variation of the planetary orbits was found.

Following Lakatos, one can say that, far from being harmful to science in this case, god was actually beneficial (securing up a hole in the theory).

Martin said...

Paul: "In response to Kosh3, there is an intersection between science and philosophy, and people often go between scientific and philosophical arguments in the same discussion without realising the distinction."

is inconsistent with,

Paul: "It's one of the reasons that I argue that there is a difference between science and philosophy."

Paul: "The worst part about ignorance is that the ignorant party is always unaware of how ignorant they are. You are living proof."

Kettles, pots.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Kyle,

This analogy you refer to is the same as Paley's watch analogy: we can design complex machines, therefore God can design complex organisms. Yes, you can believe that but it doesn't help us understand nature very well.

Einstein often talked about trying to understand or comprehend God's secrets or God's plan in order to understand nature. Whether he was talking metaphorically or not, he never said: I can't understand this so God is the explanation. Do you understand the difference?

At the moment we don't know the origin of life, though there are a number of 'tentative' theories. But saying that God created life and therefore we can never know is not one of them.

Regards, Paul.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Martin,

You quote me: "...people often go between scientific and philosophical arguments in the same discussion without realising the distinction." Yes, and I'm one of those who tries to make the distinction, because I think it's important.

And yes, I'm ignorant of many things. I won't argue with that.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Paul, but you won't defend your inconsistency?

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Martin,

There is no inconsistency, so there's nothing to defend. 'I' and 'people' are not the same subject: one is first person and one is third person.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Paul, if you don't understand the difference between saying two things intersect, and saying they are distinct, there's probably nothing more we can usefully discuss.

Kyle, thanks for link to Bradley Monton's blog. Just had the chance to give it a perusal. Atheists challenging Intellegent Designers arguments on an intellectual level, whatever next!

Paul P. Mealing said...

Okay Martin, point taken.

I will give an example: quantum mechanics has some very interesting philosophical ramifications. In fact I've said on previous occasions that quantum mechanics is where science and philosophy collide, and philosophy is still all at sea.

But it's important to understand that the philosophical implications are still up in the air, whereas the science of quantum mechanics is not - it is the most successful empirically tested theory ever. So there is a distinction (even where they intersect) and it's important to appreciate that in my view.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Paul, let me try to summarise. I hope you don't mind me adding one or two metaphors of my own, to help the flow:

Science and philosophy can collide like particles. Philosophy is at sea like a wave.

Philosophy is still in the air, so it can also fly for long periods of time. Quantum mechanics is not in the air, so (perhaps) it is weighed down by gravity. It is the most successful empirically tested theory ever. {A ∩ B} = ∅ and {A ∩ B} <> ∅, in your view.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Hi Martin,

According to your little logic equation, if I read it correctly, you see 'intersection' and 'distinction' as contradictory.

I'm not going to get into an argument over semantics. The example of quantum mechanics I've given demonstrates that there is no conceptual contradiction whatever language or metaphors you or I want to use.

There is a relationship between science and philosophy, in quantum mechanics, that is unavoidable, yet they are distinct.

Regards, Paul.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Martin,

Since you seem to like logic, you do realise that 2 things need to be distinct in order to intersect in the first place, and that 2 things need to be distinct to have a relationship. So where's the inconsistency in a sentence that includes both words?

This can include concepts as well as physical entities.

Now you might say that the boundaries get lost after they intersect, but that's exactly my point. I think it's important to know what the boundaries are and to keep them in mind. That is possibly the difference in our perspectives.

Regards, Paul.

Martin said...

Paul, I'm glad we've established that your quantum mechanics example was mostly twaddle and 1 part nonsense. It makes me feel my patience with you has been to good effect.

"According to your little logic equation..." - I prefer "succinct example from set theory", for reasons of style.

Can you now explain if philosophy and science are distinct, or intersect?

If they do both, can you demonstrate where the boundaries lay in language which doesn't include phrases like "In fact I've said on previous occasions" (self-referencing) or "in my view" (subjective).

Paul P. Mealing said...

You're not a good loser, are you?

Martin said...

Paul, are you ever able to debate the merits of your argument, or do you always resort to personal abuse in the end?

Paul P. Mealing said...

I'll let others be the judge.