Ellis is responding to an NPR post, which is supportive of evolutionary theory, and he is critical of the post writer, Barbara King, for her position that evolutionary theory should be taught uniformly throughout primary and secondary institutions.
First, the NPR post. King writes:
Watching the NBC Nightly News broadcast on a Friday earlier this month, I gaped as the last segment aired.Astounded that the Ark Encounter showed humans and dinosaurs coexisting, despite the fact that dinosaurs had been extinct for some 60 million years before our ancestors arrived on the scene, she wondered how to best respond to this misinformation.
Kevin Tibbles was reporting from the site of Kentucky's Ark Encounter, constructed by Christian fundamentalist, young-Earth creationist and Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham. At the time, Ark Encounter was set to open to the public the following week.
Tibbles described Ark Encounter as telling "the Old Testament story of Noah, the animals and, of course, the flood." He interviewed Ham and closed out the 2-minute piece by noting Ham's hope that people will come in droves "to study the story of Noah for generations to come."
*Speak out and speak up to school boards. Parents can insist that biology teachers in public schools be well-qualified to teach evolution; currently, many are not. In a related vein, check in with the "Take Action" page of the NCSE.
*Let the media know when they do a poor job of covering evolution-related issues or, conversely, a good one. The week after the NBC Nightly News segment, CBS News aired a report from Ark Encounter. Correspondent Mark Strassmann talked to Ham — and to a visitor who confirmed her belief that dinosaurs and people "walked hand-in-hand" a few thousand years ago on Earth. But he went on also to interview Jim Helton from Tri-State Freethinkers and science communicator Bill Nye "The Science Guy" as well, who stood up for evolutionary science.
*Read science- and evolution-based books to, and with, your children. Even young kids may enjoy and learn from age-appropriate writing that gets across concepts of evolution. Last year, I wrote here about Grandmother Fish by Jonathan Tweet and illustrator Karen Lewis. Another example is Evolutionary Tales by Matt Cubberly and illustrator May Villani, a short book that invites children to think about adaptive features of animals like the sugar glider, tarsier and pileated woodpecker.
*Ask evolution-related questions of political candidates and their staff. Science is, of course, a big issue in presidential campaigns. It's clear that the Hillary Clinton campaign accepts anthropogenic climate change as a serious risk to the world that requires science-based policy initiatives, whereas the Donald Trump campaign does not. But on evolution, it's much harder to find evidence of questions asked and answered. (An attempt to reach Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller this week did not produce a reply; even asking evolution-related questions may be valuable, though, because they let staffers know what voters care about.)It should be pointed out that this column came out before Trump named Mike Pence as his running mate, a man who has not shown support for evolutionary theory in the past.
So....what did John Ellis of PJ Media have to say about Barbara King's suggestions? Well, one can get a pretty clear idea from the title of the column, which is “NPR Writer Having a Meltdown Because YOUR Children Might Learn About Noah's Ark.” Actually, King only mentions the Ark Encounter as a lead-in to promote the teaching of evolution. As noted above, she correctly points out that there are 65 million years in between modern humans and dinosaurs, a geological point firmly established by many lines of evidence. Beyond that, though, her point, and it is a very good one, is that the general public is woefully uneducated about basic evolutionary theory, a theory that underpins all of modern biology. That is her target.
Ellis goes on:
Last week, NPR treated us to a condescending and science-worshipping article written by Barbara King, an anthropology professor whose latest book is titled How Animals Grieve. If King had stopped at the usual scientism slurping, that would have been bad enough. King, however, took the extra step and demanded an obeisance from parents and the complete sacrifice of their children to the god of contemporary science.First off, this column kind of surprised me coming out of PJ Media. This is the kind of thing I would expect to read from the Discovery Institute, the intelligent design think tank out in Washington state. Who is John Ellis? If you click on his name, you are greeted with this:
Taking aim at young earth creationism as manifest by Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, Barbara King scolds reporters who give any positive attention to, in King's words, "anti-science creationist discourse." She goes on to explain how society has failed our children by allowing them to be exposed to anything but evolution. After a series of proposed remedies, King concludes her condescending rant by declaring that, "Our children must be taught about evolutionary science in order to be science-literate."
Having spent the majority of his adult life as a theatre artist throughout the Southeast, John now lives in the DC area with his wife and two kids. Besides writing, he works on the staff at his church. Prior to writing for PJ Media, he was a columnist for No Depression and regular contributor to Bearded Gentleman Music.In other words, he has no scientific training whatsoever. He is a musician and writer (and not of science). Here is what he writes next:
Since scientism is a faith-based religion, and a faith-based religion that has the entire trajectory of science history undermining it, scientism's adherents have to forcefully clear the worldview deck in order for their religion to flourish. In the marketplace of ideas, the weaker ideas are going to need some handicapping, so to speak.There are numerous problems with this column. Ellis uses phrases like "the usual scientism slurping" as if such were a common thing in scientific discourse, yet does not define or explain in any satisfactory way what "scientism" is or why Dr. King's writing should be characterized as such. Further, his use of the phrase "god of contemporary science," suggests that he holds the scientific enterprise in very low regard. Given his background, one wonders what qualifications he has to write this column and who green lighted it in the first place.
The thing is, next to no one is attempting to keep children from learning about evolution. Creationists that have any sway over policy want children to learn options. There is a concerted effort, however, to frame worldview discussions in a manner that eliminates any worldview that doesn't bow down to the current, most-privileged group-think. In other words, Barbara King isn't really concerned that your children be science-literate; she wants to make sure that your children aren't exposed to ideas that threaten her larger worldview. She wants control.
Controlling the education of children is one of the front lines in the battle of worldviews. Barbara King realizes that for her religion of scientism to flourish, children's education has to be devoid of competing ideas.
He mentions "taking aim" at young earth creationism. This is, perhaps, because young earth creationism is an easy target at which to take aim. There is no defensible science that supports the young earth position. We have known for almost a hundred years that the earth is not 6,000 years old and the evidence for the young earth position gets weaker every day. Consequently, defense of young earth creationism, by people like Ken Ham and others, has begun to focus on how acceptance of an old earth and evolution amounts to "compromising the biblical message," that, as Christians, we should know better than to accept evolution, or how evolutionary thought leads to the gross evils of mankind (despite the fact that evil has been around considerably longer than evolutionary theory). This is a blatant move to appeal to the emotions of supporters and to their religious perspectives. After all, if the Bible clearly says that the earth was created in six literal days (and that is really big IF), then modern science MUST be wrong.
He speaks derisively of Dr. King's statements that we must teach evolutionary biology to kids to keep them science-literate and that the difference between creationists and evolutionists is that creationists don't worship science. It is hard to combat an argument like this because it is so lazy. How do "evolutionists" worship science? He doesn't say. Evolutionary biologists don't worship science, they practice it. He says that the strength of creationists is that they are not "threatened by competing views."
Would he make the same argument that we should teach our kids alchemy, instead of modern chemistry? What about teaching the various theories of gravitation prior to our modern understanding? There are, after all, people that still subscribe to those. What about geocentrism? How about the Flat Earth Society?
Anyone that tried to seriously teach these would be laughed at, and rightly so. Why, given that modern young earth creationism has no scientific support, should we treat it differently? Why, if evolution has more support than most scientific theories, does teaching it constitute sacrificing school kids to "the god of contemporary science?" If competing views have been shown to be false, why should we teach them?
He writes that scientism (once again, undefined) is faith-based and that it has the entire history of science undermining it, therefore, promoters of scientism need to "handicap" the weaker ideas. News flash: that is what science does. It weeds out the weaker ideas. Back to my initial point: science is not democratic. Ideas that have no empirical support get put in the dustbin of history. Science does and must proceed this way or we have no way of understanding the world and universe in which we live.
He writes that no one is trying to keep people from learning evolution. This simply isn't so. One of the principle findings of the Dover trial in 2005 is that the defense witnesses lied repeatedly about why they wanted an alternative to evolution taught. Most of the defense witnesses could not even identify what Intelligent Design was. When pressed, it became clear that they wanted creationism taught.
Recent reports from other places in the country indicate that, almost uniformly, attempts to "teach the controversy" or "teach the full range of ideas" are smokescreens for getting young earth creationism (and hence, anti-evolution) into the classroom (For example, see here, here, here, and here). Most of these bill supporters would like nothing better than to have evolution stripped from the curriculum of public education. That they have not been very successful so far is not for lack of trying.
This is a very poorly-written article. While blasting what he calls "scientism," Ellis makes no effort to explain why we should teach creationism in its place. Further, he makes no effort to explain why the teaching of evolution should not happen, simply that he thinks it consists of a "world view." If teaching evolutionary theory constitutes teaching a "world view" then guess what? Most of what we teach as science entails a "world view."
Heliocentrism is a "world view" and we teach that. When Galileo confirmed Copernicus' finding that the earth was not in the center of the universe, it sent shockwaves throughout the church, such that the work of Copernicus was banned. Much like the modern struggle against evolution, it literally changed their "world view" in such a way that they couldn't incorporate it into their understanding of scripture. Does any educated person today doubt that the earth is not in the center of the universe?
Gravitational theory changed our understanding of the universe and introduced us to black holes, quantum mechanics and string theory. Plate tectonic theory changed our understanding of how our earth works, why earthquakes and volcanoes happen where and when they do and why most natural disasters happen. Science News has a great little article on the Top 10 Revolutionary Scientific Theories, every one of which changed our "world view." Ellis is just upset because King's world view differs from his. The catch is that there is empirical support for her world view and there is none for his. As such, his argument that her promotion of evolutionary theory constitutes "scientism" fails.