Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Drawing the Line

Benjamin Dowling-Sendor writes for the American School Board Journal on "Drawing the Line Between Science and Religion." I can't link to it because it is behind a vendor subscription but I will provide a few items that did not make their way out of the general Kitzmiller recaps.

Dowling-Sendor reminds us that the wording of the revised disclaimer on the textbooks read

Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of Life is not taught.

The connection that he does not make here, though, is that the "reference book" Of Pandas and People (which I reviewed bit back) goes out of its way to teach origins of life questions. And it does it badly.

Dowling-Sendor also boils down one of the consequences of ID thought that was picked up by Judge Jones:

Second, Jones observed that intelligent design rests on "a false dichotomy, namely that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed."

This is the age-old argument that "creation science" attempted (badly, again) to address in the 1960s: just because your theory is wrong, doesn't make my theory right. What also wasn't widely reported was a much more damning allegation:

He noted, for example, that two board members expressly and repeatedly pushed the other members of the board and school officials to inject creationism into the science curriculum, and that those two board members secretly arranged for the donation of 60 copies of Of Pandas and People to the high school.

Few people like to be snookered, especially by people espousing the value of Christianity. As Dowling-Sendor notes:

In a board election held during the trial, all eight incumbents on the nine-member board who were up for election were defeated.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Update on Lubenow

I am still plowing through Lubenow's Bones of Contention. So far, there are some trends to report. He systematically:
  • misinterprets fossils
  • gets basic scientific concepts wrong
  • makes inappropriate leaps in logic
  • makes false analogies

It is difficult to know where to begin. As I noted earlier, there is a problem with EVERY page of the book. More later.

The Archbishop of Canterbury weighs in

The Grey Lady puts out a story in which the Archbishop of Canterbury has come down on the opposite side of ID. NYT login may be necessary. The cleric states:

I think creationism is, in a sense, a kind of category mistake, as if the Bible were a theory like other theories. Whatever the biblical account of creation is, it's not a theory alongside theories. It's not as if the writer of Genesis or whatever sat down and said, 'Well, how am I going to explain all this?'

He also noted that opposing creationism in a curriculum is not the same as talking about how creation came about. Good article.

Update: It seems that NYT has since placed this article behind its "Times Select" wall and it is no longer accessible. That is too bad.

Light Posting

Sorry the posting has been light. I have been slammed with getting two anthropology courses finished. I will try to do better.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Dover, the Movie?

This might be a spoof. One would certainly hope so. Someone apparently thinks that the Dover school board ruling would make powerful cinema. Seems they will make a movie about anything these days.

Hat tip to Marilyn Savitt-Kring

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Yes, we are still evolving

Nicholas Wade reports in the NYT of research that demonstrates that we are still evolving. This is not really news. We know that tooth size has dropped an average of 11% since the neolithic period. I am curious to know why the authors have singled out only selection for these traits and not drift coupled with selection, since selection will act more quickly on smaller populations where drift has occured and more slowly on larger populations where there is little drift.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

An Uphill Battle Indeed

Kirk Johnson of the Grey Lady reports on the failure of an "Origins of Life" bill to be passed in the Republican-controlled Utah House of Representatives. According to Johnson:

The Origins of Life bill, in its initial form, would have required teachers to issue a disclaimer to their students saying that not all scientists agree about evolution and the origin of species. It did not mention any alternative theory to Darwinism, but was viewed by some supporters and opponents as part of the drive to encourage the teaching of intelligent design, which says that life is too complicated to have evolved without an architect.

That the bill did not pass in a state as conservative as Utah was seen by Americans United for Separation of Church and State as a considerable victory. A spokesman for that organization, Joe Conn, was quoted as saying:

"If the creationists can't win in a state as conservative as Utah, they've got an uphill battle."

Hat tip to R.L. Macklin

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Evolution on Campus

Nathanael Blake, a columnist on Townhall has written a two-part (so far) column on evolution and evangelicals. Here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2. He argues something that I have long thought true--Christians need to make their peace with evolution. Evangelical Christianity made a mistake of incalculable proportions in the 1920s when they chose to reject evolution. This was the time when natural selection was being merged with mathematics, genetics and population biology to form the synthetic theory that we have with us today.

He makes an especially good point that ID exists only to tackle evolution.

Attempts to provide a detailed I.D. position would fracture the coalition into myriad squabbling factions. However, even this tenuous unity is enough to make I.D. into a mighty force in the culture wars. Combating evolution is one of the main goals of the Christian right.

It is almost as if ID proponents simply cannot help themselves. Evolution is too tempting a target. The problem is, as Mr. Blake notes, they don't have the necessary scientific background to tackle it successfully. I am currently on page 90 of Bones of Contention by Marvin Lubenow and it is horrific.

He also notes:

Interpreting Scripture is difficult and given to some uncertainty. Hence there is a lure to fundamentalism, which eliminates doubt by defaulting to the most literal view possible, regardless of whether the text should be read that way.

While the certainty this confers may be comforting, it makes for sloppy theology and horrible science.

Read both posts. He writes very well.


Sorry for the lack of posts. I have been slammed at work and my wife pulled a muscle in her back so i have been looking after the kids at night. Things are better now.