Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Texas: Parallels with Dover?

An article in the York Daily Record (the county in which the Dover School Board trial took place in 2005) suggests that the same battles may be starting over in Texas:
Those involved on the plaintiffs' side of the Dover lawsuit said it all sounds too familiar. "It just seems to be the next way to bring creationism back in, but they're not so blunt about it," said Tammy Kitzmiller, the plaintiff whose name was listed first on the lawsuit."It's definitely a backdoor approach. It's understated. It's re-worded. It's going to fly under the radar for a lot of people."

Kenneth Miller also suggests that there is more than superficial similarity :
Ken Miller is the co-author of the most widely used biology textbook in Texas, and was one of the plaintiffs' expert witnesses in the Dover trial.

"(The standard's authors) say 'All we really want to do is propose critical analysis of evolution,'" said Miller, a professor at Brown University. "But then you look at their critical set of arguments, it's the same thing they were saying about intelligent design."

The standard requiring students to critique "explanations concerning complexity of the cell," Miller said, parrots the concept of "irreducible complexity," one of intelligent design's main tenets. Another standard says students must analyze scientific explanations concerning any data of "sudden appearance," which Miller called an element of intelligent design. In the Dover trial, the plaintiffs showed manuscripts for an unreleased textbook in which the phrase replaced "intelligent design."

To this, of course, Casey Luskin of the DI had a response:
He said experts like Miller are being disingenuous when they describe sudden appearance as if it's solely associated with intelligent design.

"This is bullcrap," Luskin said. "Terms like abrupt appearance, sudden appearance, you can find them in the mainstream literature.

"We have to get past these bluffs from the evolution lobby or scientific research will just be shut down."

Michael Behe, the Lehigh University biology professor who is a proponent of intelligent design, said the Texas standards simply ask students not to treat evolution as an "icon that cannot be questioned."
A few things in that passage are worth commenting upon. First, if there is disingenuosness going on, it is on both sides. Casey Luskin uses terms like "abrupt appearance" and "sudden appearance" to argue that evolution doesn't occur and that evolutionary theory cannot explain these things. That's malarkey. When people like Gould and Eldredge use those terms, they use them in a way to explain that evolution proceeded very quickly in these stages through punctuationalism. All fossil forms go through stasis at one point or another in their history. They also go through rapid evolutionary phases. Despite what Don McLeroy might say, stasis is evolution.

It is also notable that he regards proponents of evolution as a political force, rather than educators, calling them "the evolution lobby." This is the modern DI strategy—politicize the debate so that the focus shifts from what the real evidence is for evolution to how it is being taught in schools. It also conveniently side-steps the lack of evidence for Intelligent Design.

The other item that caught my eye is where Michael Behe describes evolution as an "icon that cannot be questioned." This recalls the language of fellow DI writer Jonathan Wells, who wrote the book Icons of Evolution, in which he got just about everything about evolution wrong. There is a scathing review of that book here by the NCSE's Alan Gishlick.

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