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Correction and Orthodoxy

A Creationist blasts a town for not keeping a school board that voted in favor of intelligent design There’s a quirk to such a criticism that one should really think about: Creationism as Robertson and many other would define it defines even intelligent design out of the picture. Why does he mourn the school board’s rejection?

The answer lies in the philosophy behind Intelligent Design, not the theory. Ask William Dembski, author of Intelligent Design what one of his purposes is, and he might include this: to break the monopoly of naturalistic materialism; that is,the notion that nature works according to certain dependable laws that are sufficient to explain all natural phenomena in the universe.

This is why opponents of Intelligent design really don't like to give quarter- an inch on this issue, and scientific discipline goes out the door. This is a bad thing, for those of you who assume otherwise, because the main purpose of science as a discipline is to put pressure on theories until they crack, and then examine what remains for signs of why it went wrong. Introduce a religious premise in there, and you introduce an element that cannot possibily be calibrated, verified or otherwise sort out. How do you interrogate God on a scientific level?

Intelligent design is a prosthetic at best, a foreign object grafted to the reliable discipline of scientific materialism by people looking for things driven by faith. Now don't get me wrong, I have no problem with faith. I am a man of faith myself. However, faith deals with an object- that is, God (or whatever), who is beyond even indirect empirical study, and who, even by the bible's standards has ways and thoughts beyond ours. You're not going to understand God fully, or perceive him.

The subjects of the sciences are different. Though not everything is directly observable in science, much can be observed and inferred by disciplined, precise, and accurate study of things. The methods of science are more important than it's current theories, or it's observations. Both of those can be wrong, and will be wrong to one extent or another. So too, can scientific methods be. Nothing here is perfect. However, the intention of the scientific methods is to use logic and evidence to check the validity and soundness of one's conclusions. If one corrects well enough, one's predictions about how the world should work mesh better with how it does work.

Because Intelligent Design puts divine intervention into the picture, and opens up the field to non-natural explanations, it upsets this system of checks and balances, breaks down the discipline. What people believe becomes more important than what they can find out, and how they justify the explanations they provide for the way the natural world works. This isn't a slippery slope, it's just a sloppy selection of criteria for what proves a theory right or wrong.

The problem is, people look at science merely as power. They see how fast and how effectively its worked to change things, and assuming they know the truth of how nature works, they try and take hold of things and bend the rules their way. I don't doubt they believe what they're saying, but in science whether you believe the theory is not the important part of whether it's right. A theory is a map of the way the world works at some level, and it's more important that it corresponds to that world. This, not social acceptance, is what gives a scientific theory its power. Darwin's theory works not because a bunch of biologists believe it. It could very well not work despite that. Darwin's theory works because it describes the way species change and become new species very well.

In my experience, most objections to Darwinism are made in ignorance of its true natural mechanisms, or without the right frame of reference. Some people cite Steven Jay Gould's notion of punctuated equilibrium to shoot down evolution, despite the fact that Gould's theory is a variation on Evolution, not a rival to it. Some talk about the social consequences of evolution's implications, as if a theory should be discarded if some idiots or moral degenerates take it as an excuse to misbehave. Some talk about evolution in terms of 747s being assembled by tornadoes, without thinking out that such a hypothetical tornado would be doing everything in one fell swoop, while evolution's changes would take tens of thousands to millions of generation, each an event to itself, to be carried out.

They miss that essentially evolution is breeding done by other means than human intelligence. We human beings have shown great skill in making many different kinds of creatures from basic species. Look at cattle, at horses, at Dogs and Cats. Look at all the Fruit, Vegetable, and flower varieties we have made. Generation by generation, mankind has been able to use selective breeding and other means to give creatures and plants desired attributes. We ourselves have been the selector of successful genes, the ones deciding what lines move on to the next round. The genes of these creatures, though, react to our intervention no differently than they would to any other intervention- that of a predator, of a disease, of an accident created by clumsiness, or the effect of climate and weather on survival.

That's the key, really. Those creatures that survive to become attractive mates and reproduce pass on their genes. Those that fail to do that, or don't do that as well, don't pass on their genes. Because genes do a great deal to shape development, the interaction between the creature that develops and the outside world is in some large part determined by genetics. But what genes are appropriate is decided by geography, the creature's place among other creatures, and the processes that go on in a creature's body.

It's an ongoing interaction, neverending. It's not Aristotle's chain of being, with each successive creature becoming more advanced, it's every creature developing on an ongoing basis to fit the evironment it's in. How you define survival of the fittest has a lot to do with what fits in an environment.

This is not the deeply flawed theory in need of replacement that so many view it as. It is a very well put together theory. The biggest flaw for many is that it requires huge amounts of time for it to work. Because of that, it's therefore one of three theories on the deep-time hit-list for creationist: That includes the Big Bang Cosmology and Continental Drift. Next biggest is that it does not fit into the Young-Earth Creation doctrine in terms of it's sequence. After that it's the plain fact that it doesn't make a special place for man among all the other creatures. After that? There's no inherent morality in it.

For literal interpreters of the bible, it's a huge problem. The question is, whose problem is it, ours or theirs?

I don't believe its ours. I believe that if these people had the nation to themselves, they could take the scientific step backwards as they like, but as a people of diverse backgrounds, with a public interest in well taught science, we have an obligation to teach science by the fairest means possible: by teaching our kids the most accurate picture of science, not only in terms of the consensus of modern knowledge and theory, but also in terms of the methods and disciplines associated with it. If folks don't want to believe it, or want to teach their children to disregard it, that's fine with me. That said, we should teach it anyways. At the very least, the children can learn what it is their parents want them to object to, and in the fullness of time make up their own minds about it.

Pat Robertson doesn't want it to be that way. He doesn't want to have to compete with other theories, other lifestyles, other points of view. He wants control. Unfortunately, with science, the control over what theories can be theorized is not the same as control of what theories work in the real world. Republicans must realize that the choice between a bad theory and a good one is not made by people, but by the real nature of the things they study, so allowing just any theory to be taught to our children, simply for the sake of "balance", is recipe for lousy education.

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at November 13, 2005 6:08 PM
Comments
Comment #92577

Stephen:

I think you guys might be missing something in this debate, which is why I don’t believe you have anything to worry about on this issue. I believe in Intelligent design. I hold a Master of Divinity from conservative seminary. I was also on a school board for 10 years and never would have even considered introducing or supporting Pat Roberston’s viewpoint.

When you are an elected official who do you represent? Yourself? The people who voted for you? OR your district? I always believed the latter. I believed I represented all the people of the district.

Second question is what job are you elected to do? You are elected to use the communities financial resourses through taxation to educate students well enough to meet the states requirments for graduation. The community hires you to do a job, and the job is to improve test scores and keep the district out of negative news stories. (Don’t embarass the family).

The school board was wrong on two accounts. First of all, they took a mole hill (evolution/creationism) and did their best to create a mountain. The mountain is reading, writing, math, etc etc. They distracted the community from core curriculum. Instead of using their positions to focus attention on core curriculum, they used their office to move the communities attention toward anything BUT what they should be focused on.

Secondly, they embarassed the family. If you have either Pat Roberson on the right or Jesse Jackson on the left commenting in the press about your school district you have flat failed as a school district. Someone’s head is going to roll.

In spite of the fact that I believe in intelligent design I would have fired every one of the Board members up for election who were pushing this because I hired them to fix the plumbing and they are working on electricity.

And another thing, (enjoying being on a soap box). When board members approve curriculum, it should be certified by leading authorities recognized by the state legislature. In this case, the one to vote for is the scientific views supported by the larger body of scientists. If the view were split 70/30 or something then I could see a board saying “scientists are split” on this issue. You cant just put anything in curriculum. When using TAX PAYERS money to educate, you have to use widely recognized certified research. I would be hard pressed to find a state university (back to taxpayer $$) who would sign on and say intelligent design is what we certify.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at November 13, 2005 5:39 PM
Comment #92598

Craig-
You make quite a few valid points on the issue, especially in terms of the certification of leading scientific authorities, The duty of the school board towards all parents and the students.

I do disagree, however, about one thing: The sciences. It is no longer an option in this day and age, it is a necessity, if for no other reason than the highly advanced technology we deal with every day. Biotechnology and modern medical science ensure that it’s more important than ever that kids coming out of high school have a firm understanding of biology.

But to make sense of modern biology, you must have a firm understanding of evolution, because it doesn’t make sense without it.

Other than that, I agree with most of your points.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 13, 2005 8:39 PM
Comment #92604

Stephen:

I agree with your points. You have to “sit in the chair”. I can imagine me sitting there with the curriculum you are describing coming before the board.

Here would be my questions:

“What does the general body of the scientific community recommend being taught in our schools”.

“In order to prepare our college bound students what do major universities recommend that we teach?”

“What are the requirements of the State, and how does this curriculum line up with these requirements”.

“Our students will be required soon to pass the state tests for science, in order to graduate from High School. Demonstate to me how this curriculum is the best choice to help our students pass the required test and graduate.”

One of the key ways to measure school board members is to see if they have personal agendas or can look
past their own beliefs to make decisions for the whole community. Private agenda people from the left or the right need to be shown the door.

What I tried to do, as a Christian was preach with my mouth closed. Somedays are better than others, but you try to be more loving, and kind and understanding. I tried to listen hard, and put myself in the other persons shoes. I worked very hard at being bottom up, meaning in the schools listening to the kids, teachers and parents. There were a few times when I had to say “here I stand”, but each time I had the community behind me because I was representing them and not my personal agenda.

I don’t see that style of leadership very much on the national scene. These board members were very poor examples of educational leaders. Pat Robertson is just a kook. It must be nice knowing what God thinks every day.

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at November 13, 2005 10:05 PM
Comment #92616

The attempt by some religious conservatives to force their beliefs into public school science classes is pretty ridiculous, and I think the vast majority of mainstream conservatives don’t support it anyway. But it’s not as though science of any sort is being taught in our public schools. Despite spending the most, our schools rank near the very bottom in math and science among industrialized nations.

The worst part of this debate from a conservative point of view is that those on the religious right pushing are providing cover for the education bureaucracy and the teacher’s unions, who are only to happy for a controversy which distracts focus from where it belongs—their own total inability to do their jobs.

Posted by: sanger at November 13, 2005 11:18 PM
Comment #92618

Stephen,

This is an excellent well written article and I also appreciate Craig’s response. It is nice to see a Christian quietly live their faith, in stead of trying to push it down other peoples throats. We tend to notice the ones who try to push their faith down our throats and to forget that there are millions of good Christians out there just quietly living their faith and minding their own business. Science education is important. It would be fine to teach intelligent design in an elective comparative religion or philosophy class. But not in science - because it is not science. I agree that so called Christians like Pat Robertson have a slimy underhanded agenda. For example, they try to present intelligent design as just another scientific theory - just something to consider - but when the school board shoots it down - then Pat calls God down on the town - and says that they have voted God out of their town. Just another scientific theory… really - not faith based - not connected to religion… really… but to vote against it is to vote against God? Which side of his mouth is he talking out of? For Pat Robertson and others to play such a manipulative underhanded sneaky slimy game is an insult to the faith of real Christians and to the intelligence of us all.

Posted by: Ray G. at November 13, 2005 11:35 PM
Comment #92626

Sanger,
I have children in school and they are being taught by union teachers. They are doing quite well,thank you and I am impressed with the caliber and dedication of their teachers.

Posted by: Bill at November 14, 2005 3:07 AM
Comment #92673

Stephen,

I was right with you up to the very last paragraph, and then I take only a small exception with it:

You said—

“Republicans must realize that the choice between a bad theory and a good one is not made by people, but by the real nature of the things they study, so allowing just any theory to be taught to our children, simply for the sake of “balance”, is recipe for lousy education.”

Please strike the word Republicans and put in its place Creationists or believers in intelligent design. I know quite a few Republicans that are believers in the scientific paradigm and would never advocate abadoning it in our schools.

If you argree to do that, I’ll agree to never make the statement, “Democrats want to dismantle capatilism,” just because some of their brethen on the far left flank would be in favor of it.

Posted by: Rob at November 14, 2005 9:01 AM
Comment #92684

It’s staggering that you guys are having this debate decades after it’s over in the rest of the civilised world.

Please focus on how to rein in those fundamentalists roaming free in your country or you’ll end up being another Afghanistan, and that would be sad.

So-called Intelligent design is not even a theory, it merely qualifies as an hypothesis, albeit one that cannot lead to a testable theory. It’s based on the belief in a Higher Being or beings or entities. Beliefs and science don’t go together, they can’t. They are complementary, at best. In a secular country like the US, how can this debate even exist?

Faith needs to be kept in the church and out of the lab and classrooms.

Posted by: German at November 14, 2005 9:39 AM
Comment #92711

Ya, Stephen, you are going to have to give Rob his point… we don’t want him to go off and say that we “want to dismantle capitolism”… that would be just wrong…

Posted by: Ray G. at November 14, 2005 11:00 AM
Comment #92714

Stephen,
That was a fantastic article, simply wonderful. I personally am not an avocate of ID because it would be taught in science classes. If there were only a way to have it as a philosophy class, that were optional, and that included all religion, (or at least a majority) then I belive that would be a wonderful addition to schools. That sadly though is something that will never happen.

-Einghf

Posted by: Einghf at November 14, 2005 11:06 AM
Comment #92750

Intelligent Design proponents made a mistake when they tried to add it to the science curriculum. There will always be dissent when it comes to religion in public schools. But, the argument against ID in public schools is substantially weakened when you remove it from the realm of science and make it part of elective courses. ID proponents should have taken baby steps and just focused on getting the idea in the door. All or nothing, all at once, will rarely work.

Posted by: JayJay Snowman at November 14, 2005 12:24 PM
Comment #92760

Rob-
On consideration, I’d say you’re right about part of it. I shouldn’t tar all Republicans with that brush. On the balance, though, I think Creationist and ID folk are perhaps the last people I’d seriously aim at. They’d dismiss my argument, most of them at least, in a heartbeat.

No, I think the better audience are those who are tempted by the arguments of fairplay to allow students to be taught there’s a scientific controversy where one really doesn’t exist. It’s not fair, in fact, for a theory to be touted as legitimate when it’s failed the tests of the discipline. It’s essentially a case of working the refs, rather than playing the game honestly. Good science supports itself.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 14, 2005 12:41 PM
Comment #92786

Terrific article.
Good replies all around.

Robertson’s latest comment:
“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God. You just rejected him from your city.”

What minister would ever tell people not to turn to God?
Oh yeah, the same kind of minister who would say:

“If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him [Hugo Chavez], I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”

Robertson is not a minister. He isn’t even remotely a man of God. Instead, he is insane and dangerous.
And yet, he also has a direct line to the Whitehouse, and our president’s willing ear. Scary.

Posted by: Adrienne at November 14, 2005 1:41 PM
Comment #92935

I think that Stephen was quite correct in labeling Republicans as ID proponents. Y’all can correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t some of the more prominent republicans (this includes the president) proponents of ID in science class? I can’t recall any coming out and firmly stating that they were against it. Once again, correct me if I’m wrong.

I believe there was a poll a couple of months ago that showed that a slim majority of people wanted ID in science class. I seriously think that this might be a winning issue for republicans - just wait ‘till ‘06. This is far from over.

Posted by: Nikita at November 14, 2005 6:07 PM
Comment #93006

When are the people of this world going to wake up and see that their BELIEF in a GOD which is ALL KNOWING, ALL SEEING, OMNIPOTENT and just happen to always be there before anything else in the Universe existed is the number one problem the planet has to overcome. If there is only one GOD, then no matter what name we use or how we debase ourselves before it, it really doesn’t matter. What is there in a name anyway? Want to return to the Dark Ages? Be my guest, but don’t try to drag me down there with you. What ever happened to the American ideal of Freedom of (and from) religion? We all know that the sun orbits around the earth and that the earth is truly flat. That we never sent a man to the moon, because those lights in the sky are only holes in the curtain. Man could not have descended from the apes, even though my Uncle looks like one. That would mean that God must look like an ape also as we are made in its image. Right! People, get over it all. Religion has been the bane of civilization throughout human history. How dumb can we really be? Faith: the belief that there is something higher in which we can believe and blame for our shortcomings and problems. Enough already. Time for the human race to stop running in circles and grow up. There is no one to blame but ourselves. Now if you will excuse me, IT has just given me new orders for the destruction of the world. Say bye, Gracie!

Posted by: Tatoo49 at November 14, 2005 9:37 PM
Comment #93085

Tatoo49-
I don’t think religion is a bad thing. I think people have irrational sides to them that are irrevocably connected to their rational ones.

I believe science teaches us how to manage our rational side, avoid coming to conclusions that are logically beautiful, but utterly wrong. Religion teaches us how deal with our less rational side, the side that is too complex for some equation or logical scheme to manage.

If God did not exist, in my view, we would be compelled to invent him, and for good reason. We want the universe to have a oneness to it, not simply be a collection of unrelateable truths. we want the meaning of our experiences to gel, and for the ultimate insight to saturate our ever curious minds. We want to be swept up in something that’s beyond us.

Unfortunately, we can often do that with things that are of this world, things that do not deserve such devotion. Religion, when properly applied, acts to let us be more human, more humane. The problem that we have to look out for is when folks, through humanity’s flawed nature, come to once again fixate and worship people and things in this world, but now with the lack of inhibition that comes with believing you’re really focusing on something beyond that.

The thing to remember in all this is that we are all human, and irrevocably so. In the parlance of my religion, we are all sinners, all somewhat separated from what is good and right in the universe. Our mission in life should be to reach back towards what is good and right, despite ourselves. Sometimes, though, that takes a moment where we let ourselves be open to the insight of God, rather than the insights and dogmas of man.

In the end, it is important to realize that whether we seek the irrational dreams of faith, or the rational studies and reasoning of science, we need to be willing to admit when we are wrong, and anticipate that we can be wrong in how we reason and how we express our faith in our daily actions.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 15, 2005 8:31 AM
Comment #93116

Religion, and the basic teachings of the so-called messiahs look great on paper and sound good as ideals, but lets face reality. Nobody really seems to give a damn what the prophets (profits?) really had to say. Come on now, stuff like “What kind of car would Jesus drive”, and “God is on OUR side”, are a load of crap. Religious teachings have always been about one thing. POWER. By giving ourselves over to leaders that have direct lines to GOD we become the sheep being led to the slaughter. People need to get off of their butts and take responsibility for their own deeds. Not out of guilt or fear of retribution after death, but because it is the right thing to do NOW. We humans love to think of ourselves as the pinnacle of civilization and evolution (excuse me Intelligent Design) while we are still just stupid animals that have the ability to create tools and destroy our selves and our entire environment. The dinosaurs (which some KNOW never really existed) ruled the planet for millions of years before they were forced to move out. We puny humans have been here for less than a million years (or about 6,000 if we believe the bible). Lets get over ourselves, give up our superstitions of things that go bump in the night, take the ultimate responsibility for our deeds and consider that each and every one of us is GOD. Not some figment living outside of everything we know to be true, but ourselves as the ultimate reality. We, the human race, will most likely wipe ourselves out much sooner than we wish to think about as we have no real care for life no matter how much we preach GOD’s commandments and what GOD wants us to do. And, if this isn’t enough, we have political parties taking the helm of GOD’s army to control and scare the majority of people. Atheism may be a dirty word to many, but to me it is the description of someone or group that takes responsibility and does the right thing because it IS the right thing. Not because of being watched and judged. If there is a GOD, then let IT judge me without some priest, politician, neighbor telling me what they believe I should be doing. I am an adult and religion may surround me, but I reject a system that kills or segregates anyone that doesn’t believe in a faith-based way. If only everyone could feel the same we could have a much better world. Facts have shown that countries that have a very strong religious base have more violence and hate than those that reject the Church’s control. Get a grip on yourselves and do what is right just because it is right.

Posted by: tatoo49 at November 15, 2005 10:56 AM
Comment #93182

Nikita — Prominent Democrats believe that abortion should not be a woman’s right. So I guess that means that Democrats are against a woman’s right to choose. Prominent Republicans believe that women should have the right to choose, so that means that the Republican Party is pro-life. Of course not. Believe it or not, this issue is something that Republicans don’t agree on. It is to the best of my knowledge, not part of the Republican Party platform. Regardless of the polls, I think that the issue is a snoozer for the ‘06 elections because there is not much that the Federal Government can do about it. Those of us that believe in the scientific process will have to fight on our local levels.

Tatoo, You said a mouthful but let’s start with this one since the article is about the scientific process “facts have shown that countries thst have a very strong religious base have more violence and hat than those that reject the Church’s control” which ones. Anything that proves causation outright or just correlation. Anecdotally, those on the other side of this argument could point out Stalin as a prime example of how this isn’t always true.

Posted by: Rob at November 15, 2005 2:47 PM
Comment #93289

Tattoo you sound like me on a really bad day with one exception. I decided a long time ago not to throw the baby out with the bath water. ie throw God out with the nuts.

That said, I will not go to any organized religion’s service. Most people who consider themselves religious of any type I stay far far away from. I also believe most who are religious negate any responsibility for the future or they’re behavior. That is why here in the south they poison the water with battery acid from batteries they leave to drain, leave dead animals in sinkholes and run raw sewage pretty much where ever they want to. They also mistreat animals horribly, cut down trees willy nilly and don’t try to slow down erosion at all.

They cover this behavior with one of 2 beliefs. They are the top. God made them best and they can do what they like. The earth and all animals are here to serve them.

When that fails they say it doesn’t matter because the rapture is coming and they will be going to heaven anyway.

Totally arrogant and actively ignorant. They are in the news at all because they have votes. Votes the Republicans need to get and stay in power. That’s the only reason.

To German: That is also the answer to your question to why the United States is discussing something so laughable. 20 years ago we laughed and said the Moral Majority was a fringe bunch of kooks. Well don’t look now but the kooks are running the show.

Posted by: cass at November 15, 2005 11:41 PM
Comment #94231

Hi Craig,

“The mountain is reading, writing, math, etc etc. They distracted the community from core curriculum.”

My objections to teaching the ID curriculuum is that it involves lying to students about what science is. I don’t see this as a philosophical/ideological matter it’s a simple matter of teaching science vs. teaching lies about science.

Posted by: LouisXIV at November 19, 2005 2:51 PM
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