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"Truth in Science" Anything But


  06:23:03 am, by Nimble   , 2064 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Religion, Science

"Truth in Science" Anything But

When I heard recently that the Scottish Qualifications Authority was considering Intelligent Design in any way, shape or form for science curriculum, I got hopping mad. America, I can see. Scotland, my homeland, even with its Calvinist past should know better.

From the article:

Scientists have already expressed fears that ID theory is entering science classrooms. An organisation called Truth in Science (TiS) sent teaching resource packs to every head of science in Scottish schools in September 2006. The material critiques the Darwinian theory of natural selection and promotes the idea that biological mechanisms are best explained by the idea of an intelligent designer.

"Truth in Science", hmmm? What do you think we will find if we look more closely?

True to Intelligent Design 'Theory' being precious little more than casting aspersions, we are presented with this excuse for a wedge:

For many years, much of what has been taught in school science lessons about the origin of the living world has been dogmatic and imbalanced. The theory of Darwinian evolution has been presented as scientifically uncontroversial and the only credible explanation of origins. This is despite the National Curriculum which states:

Pupils should be taught…
how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example, Darwin's theory of evolution)
The National Curriculum for Key Stage 4 Science (Sc1: Scientific enquiry)

I would consider the key words to be "scientific controversies", emphasis on the scientific. Make no mistake about it: as usual, there is a religious controversy and a political controversy, but the very language is desperate to cloak it in scientific terms.

How do they accomplish this? Let's see, we have articles by Dr. Marc Surtees, whose agenda can be made plainly clear on his own website, Paradigm Shift:

For more information about origins, visit the web site of the Biblical Creation Society at http://www.biblicalcreation.org.uk/.

We also have selective quotes from the most controversial figures in biology, like Alan Feduccia. However, if you take a look at Feduccia's views, you won't find support for intelligent design.

Then you have damning sounding quotes about biology from scientists... that are not biologists, like Physics Nobel Laureate Robert B. Laughlin. They excerpt from a quote in his new book:

Most important of all, however, the presence of such corollaries raises the concern that much of present-day biological knowledge is ideological. A key symptom of idealogical thinking is the explanation that has no implications and cannot be tested. I call such logical dead ends antitheories because they have exactly the opposite effect of real theories: they stop thinking rather than stimulate it. Evolution by natural selection, for instance, which Charles Darwin originally conceived as a great theory, has lately come to function more as an antitheory, called upon to cover up embarrasing experimental shortcomings and legitimize findings that are at best questionable and at worst not even wrong. Your protein defies the laws of mass action? Evolution did it! Your complicated mess of chemical reactions turns into a chicken? Evolution! The human brain works on logical principles that no computer can emulate? Evolution is the cause! Sometimes one hears it argued that the issue is moot because biochemistry is a fact-based discipline for which theories are neither helpful or wanted. The argument is false, for theories are needed for formulating experiments. Biology has plenty of theories. They are just not discussed - or scrutinized - in public. The ostensibly noble repudiation of theoretical prejudice is, in fact, a cleverly disguised antitheory, whose actual function is to evade the requirement for logical consistency as a means of eliminating falsehood. We often ask ourselves nowadays whether evolution is an engineer or a magician - a discoverer and exploiter of preexisting physical principles or a worker of miracles - but we shouldn't. The former is theory, the latter antitheory.

That goes to show that no matter what Laughlin's physics mojo, he is a embarrassing retard when it comes to evolution, and in particular to presuming, as the tone indicates, that shouting "evolution!" is somehow the entirety of what they do. Presumably, this would be news to the folks who run the Chicken Variation Database, who do things like the following:

To facilitate the application of our data to avian genetics and to provide a foundation for functional and evolutionary studies, we implemented the Chicken Variation Database (ChickVD) timely. ChickVD hosts the high-quality sequence variation data, variation analysis in the context of chicken genes, cDNAs, chicken orthologs of human disease genes, genetic markers, quantitative trait loci (QTLs) etc .

Back to our illustrious "Truth in Science" folks:

By making it seem as if the debate over evolution is purely one of science versus religion, textbooks are promoting a common caricature which is simply not true.

What's not true? The word "purely", because it's actually science versus religion-with-politics-and-truth-bending? "Religion" instead of "specific religions"?

We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be given fair and accurate presentations of alternative views.

That's quite the doublespeak. In particular, the last sentence, because it has three meanings, one for each of three different audiences.

For people in general, being unfair and inaccurate is one of the worst things you could be. Of course we would want to rectify that. Let's be fair. Let's be accurate.

For those who know that Intelligent Design is disguised religious hogwash, the statement is true, in a very cynical manner. If students are to be given presentations, then they should be fair and accurate ones. Students should thus be informed that Intelligent Design is disguised religious hogwash.

For those who are guiding the Intelligent Design movement, the statement must ring the least true. "Fair" is code for getting time to preach, and "accurate" is code for saving children from the despair of materialism even if you have to bend the truth.

They also complain about the way evolution versus other possibilities is portrayed in what I think is the most astounding display of irony imaginable:

Textbooks commonly give pupils an all-or-nothing choice over evolution. They can either believe that all of life has evolved from a common ancestor, or they can believe that no evolution occurs, and species have not changed at all since they were created.

This is rich, coming from the camp that believes that any aspersions they can cast on evolution makes their own specific explanation correct.

This all-or-nothing approach is false. It is entirely possible to believe that the basic types of organism are highly dynamic, yet that all life has not evolved from a common ancestor. Indeed, this perspective is arguably more parsimonious than the hypothesis of a universal phylogenetic tree.

"Arguably" more parsimonious, is it? In what way? The universality of the genetic code, replication, metabolism, body plan (Hox) genes, conservation of genetic markers between similar creatures... special creation or creation of types is only "parsimonious" when it makes no attempt to explain any of the above.

Note the use of "basic types". These are the "kinds" of Genesis, make no mistake about it, in the Genesis "And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so." type of sense.

The basic complaint is that textbooks claim that creationism dictates no evolution, when in "fact" creationists, faced with things like different dog breeds, are willing to admit to "microevolution", but that a dog is a dog, and could never become or come from anything other than a dog, or wolf... or maybe hyena... or coyote...

So I suppose the textbooks should update their section on creationist tactics?

The site summarizes... but I am going to take a brief break on style here and put quotes around every word that is incorrectly used:

The ways in which some textbooks present evolution and its alternatives are neither "fair" nor "scientific". Rather than teaching pupils to think "critically", these textbooks are "indoctrinating" them using "poor" arguments. School children should be given the opportunity to "properly" understand different views on our origins, so that they can come to "well informed" conclusions about this important issue.

"Fair" if you consider that science classes keeping out teaching frankly unproven views as fact "unfair". "Scientific" if you consider every opinion to have equal weight. "Critically", if you think that using bad science to criticize good science to be a valuable skill. "Poor", if adhering to a literal reading of Genesis or a poorly-defined "intelligence" is the sole weight by which information is to be judged. "Properly", if this is twisted to mean taking ID proponents at face value, and "well-informed", if this is taken very cynically to mean, "confused enough about evolution to be ripe for the picking".

Some of the quotes they have appear in the upper right are very telling:

The truth is that once you embark on Darwinian nihilism there is no resting place. If there is no point in life, everything in the end has to go — duty, laws, arts, letters, society — and you are left with nothing, except 'proceeding'.

Paul Johnson

Now wait a minute. "Darwinian nihilism"? Why would this sort of quote be remotely relevant if you are just about teaching science?

That's simply because it's not just about teaching science. This is such an annoying retread of the old Christian Fundamentalist saw that a lack of God, their particular version of God, creates "despair", because all your purpose and morals is contingent on this. One particularly foam-at-the-mouth commenter on the original article captures this sentiment beautifully. Amazingly, too, he's not fooled by pretenses that this is all about science:

Who cares if Scotland has become an atheist hellhole? You had over a thousand years in the light, far longer than most societies; it’s someone else’s turn now. Do you really think Jesus cares if Scotland is added to the list of countries he will conquer when he returns? Who knows or cares if Scotland prefers burning incense to Vladimir Lenin or John Lennon, rather than Jesus? Who cares if this group of sophisticated atheist materialist intellectuals currently controlling the sciences ridicules and ruin as superstitious fools anyone who believes anything supernatural is real, including intelligent design? Who cares if the atheist materialists’ are genuine scientists or are they part of the despair subculture that are street gangs with spray paint defacing the sciences like they have vandalized every other part of our culture? Who cares if atheist materialists taking control of sciences developed by deeply religious people and forcing everyone to deny credit to their true source, and give undeserved credit to atheist materialists as the only ones who could possibly understand science and who are the true protectors of the sciences? Who cares if none of the scientists who made significant scientific advancements in the history of the world, who were atheist materialists, including Darwin? Who cares if scientific advancement becomes impossible due to people who have an atheist materialist world view? Who cares if the skepticism of the atheist materialist world view suppresses everyone’s creativity? Who cares if your boys would rather put a gun in their mouths than endure the mind numbing lies of atheist materialists attempting to explain everything in the world without reference to God and traditional religion?

It's Three Stooges slap-yourself-in-the-face mind-bogglingly bizarre. Children would rather put guns in their mouths than sit through biology class. Yet this is the archetypal thinking underpinning the likes of Paul Johnson's quote. Won't somebody please think of the children?!?

It's all the same warmed-over tripe as is par for the course for the Intelligent Design movement in the United States. Unfortunate to the umpteenth degree that it is bleeding into cracks in the UK as well.

I'm not the first one to the plate in critiquing these folks, not by a long shot. BCSE has a rather long page dedicated just to 'Truth in Science'. It shows a track record of the people involved, and shows that 'Truth in Science' is rather more starkly creationist, despite the thin veneer, than even the likes of the Discovery Institute whose "Big Tent" policy also happens to include people who think the Earth is billions, instead of thousands, of years old.

Charlatans, all. May they be exposed for the peddlers in untruth that they are.


Comment from: Cynthia [Visitor]  

Sounds like the Creators of “Truth in Science” are simply engaging in wishful thinking–not to mention the magical thinking of IDers! Plus, “Truth in Science” seems nothing more than a spinoff from “Teach the Controversy"…

07/08/07 @ 17:30
Comment from: Nimble [Member]  

There doesn’t, strangely enough, seem to be a lot of original thought in terms of strategies and appropriate doublespeak coming out of the UK. Most of it seems to be imported from people, organizations or in some cases parent organizations in the US.

It’s tough to remember sometimes that there’s no real equivalent of Edwards vs Aguillard or Kitzmiller cases UK-side (well, I don’t think so, at least, judging by the lack of any such types of quotes by officials), so you get this duplicitous, shameless talking out of both sides of their mouths. In the US, the organizations pushing for intelligent design at least try to cover their tracks and admit more people under their tent, and they’re nominally separate from the bald-faced creationists.

I would call the UK effort more “honest", but no, shameless, not honest, is the more appropriate term, because it’s not open and refreshing, it’s galling and, when it comes to dealing with educators, sneaky. To the extent that they use Intelligent Design speak, and keep God out of literature, it’s strictly in a cynical, utilitarian sense. They don’t feel the need to hide their motives otherwise.

It’s all very… creepy.

08/05/07 @ 15:59