Utter IDiots

Leon H. at RedState writes in Intelligent Design (The Debate Isn’t Helping):

In other words, my feeling about Krauthammer, Derbyshire, et al is
basically this: if you wish to denigrate ID and insult its proponents,
go find an ID discussion board (they are legion) and do so there -
don’t use the pages of NR or your token space in the WaPo to do it
in. What possible benefit to the cause of conservatism could come
about by you propounding your opinion on a topic which is neither your
calling nor your area of expertise, and which will insult a
significant portion of the Republican coalition?

What a load of disingenuous crap this is!

I’m not a conservative, myself, and dislike conservatism for many reasons that I have written about elsewhere. But I can sympathize with conservatives who desire to put distance between themselves and the ID movement, which combines purblind stupidity with dishonesty about its actual aims in a way I’ve previously only seen in gun-control proponents.

The ID movement’s claim that it’s not about end-running the First Amendment and turning schools into instruments for the propagation of Christian dogma is just as transparently specious as most gun-grabbers’ claims that they don’t aim to render the Second Amendment a dead letter. Both gangs are enemies of liberty and the U.S. Constitution, and for precisely the same reasons. It’s hardly startling for anyone, conservative or otherwise, to want to avoid being associated with any movement that lies wholesale about its objectives.

And that’s before addressing the numerous gaping logical holes in the “intelligent design” argument. U.S. District Court Judge John E. Jones, deciding Kitzmiller vs. Dover on December 20th, nailed many of these in his opinion. To actually buy the ID argument requires either a complete inability to do critical thinking or a zealot’s refusal to exercise it.

“What possible benefit to the cause of conservatism” he asks. Maybe…just maybe…Krauthammer and Derbyshire would like to demonstrate that there are some conservatives who are neither liars, religious zealots, nor plain-and-simple idiots.

69 thoughts on “Utter IDiots

  1. I get pretty uncomfortable with ID as I think it’s horrible theology and denies faith. If you can create an experiment that will falsify it, or portions of it, those falsifiable portions should be considered science, associations with creationists not withstanding. I’m pretty uncomfortable in distorting the scientific method in the service of anyone’s political agenda, whether they’re friendly or hostile to Jesus Christ.

    Irreducible complexity can be tested and falsified, by brute force if nothing else. That makes it science according to the standard criteria. Go to the labs and prove it, one way or another, but don’t lie and say that it can’t be done. If an irreducibly complex system is ever actually discovered (and proving its irreducibly complex is not easy at all, you need to demonstrate that there are *no* intermediate mutation paths that can produce it) evolutionary theory is going to have to provide an explanation for that reality.

    ID should have gotten a “that’s an interesting idea”, been banished to the labs, and it should be a battle of papers in Nature and Science discussing experiments for the next 20-30 years. It shouldn’t be handled in k-12 education, courtrooms, or press conferences that are remarkably science free. It’s sad that it won’t ever be discussed in the journals because the journals have a political attitude to such papers and won’t publish them for non-science reasons. I don’t despair for the future of science when some preacher gets it wrong. When a major science journal starts getting political, that’s worrisome. Peer review it and publish it if its worthy, that should be the only criteria. Sadly, it’s not as the recent Smithsonian controversy has proven.

  2. TM Lutas:

    The problem with treating ID as “possible science” is that it wasn’t created as science. It’s a set of statements deliberately constructed to avoid the encumberances on explicit creationism, advanced as “science” by people who simply see political advantage in calling it such. If you really look at the claims being advanced, they’re trying hard to straddle both sides of the falsifiable/not falsifiable line, in order to put some (any) claim out there without the danger of it being refutable. When ID proponents call that science, ESR is right to call them liars. When they choose also to lie about their social motivations, he’s right to call them scum (though of course I’m paraphrasing here).

  3. I don’t really pay close attention to the loonies, so when I first heard about “Intelligent Design,” I thought it meant, “Science as normal, G*d to explain the rest.” That seemed relatively harmless, and, well, I had other stuff going on in my life then, so I ignored it, for the most part. However, it kept resurfacing in my viewscreen, so I had to pay attention to it.

    It was surprising to see that “Intelligent Design” was actually creationism gussied up in fancy-shmancy terminology which is designed to mislead and confuse the issue. The only thing “intelligent” about the whole thing is the way the argument is constructed with misdirections and emotional appeals and things that *seem* logical to the less-than-sharp scientific mind.

    I haven’t been following the issue closely, but since I’ve heard what it really is all about (and have had at least a few debates with a friend who just parrots their arguments–they quickly become tiresome), I’ve been concerned.

    They’re attempting to insert themselves into the red states’ school systems. Do you figure that they’re trying to get a lawsuit process going so they can move up to the Supreme Court, citing “religious equality” as their main argument, thus making that doctrine mandatory across the nation? Granted, “religious equality” is NOT in the Constitution, but when has that stopped any recent court?

  4. Two things the Trotskyists still remember:

    1. Stay on message, message, message, message, …

    2. Democratic centralism. Once something (like creationism) has become part of the official party line, no one is allowed to speak against it. Leon H. was just issuing a warning to that effect.

    In general, I’d say that neither their overall goals nor their tactics have changed, only their short-term strategies.

  5. Hmmm.

    Frankly I don’t really see the problem here. The issue isn’t that a bunch of people want to teach your kid creationism, they want to teach their kids creationism, but they’re prevented from doing so by the legal process. So they’ve found a means of circumventing the legal process in order to achieve that goal.

    *shrug* really the solution is to enable more charter schools and school vouchers, allow parents to choose which schools their kids will go to and what they’ll be taught and then let the chips fall where they will. If parents choose to teach their kids useless crap, and I got taught quite a bit of that as a schoolboy, then so be it.

  6. >The issue isn’t that a bunch of people want to teach your kid creationism,

    Wrong. That is in fact the issue. Read the judge’s opinion.

  7. Then the judge isn’t making sense. Creationists get upset by evolution being taught to their own kids, not evolution being taught to other peoples’ kids. Hence the desire to have I.D. taught in their schools.

  8. I have to agree with ed — if you want your child learning ID, then campaign for school vouchers. If you live in a district that considers ID real science, then campaign for school vouchers.

    Aside from that, let your voice be heard through the democratic and legal process.

  9. >Then the judge isn’t making sense.

    Au contraire. The judge makes perfect sense. It’s the creationist/ID types that don’t make sense — until you realize that their actual goal is to see that everyones’ children (and not merely their own) gets their particular kind of religious indoctrination.

  10. FWIW, you can count me as a conservative who considers ID about as unscientific as a theory gets – after all, science is not about throwing your hands in the air and saying “there is no explanation, so we give up!” – and I’d cheerfully throw its proponents over the side.

  11. Wonderful discussion.
    I’ve written two lengthy posts now, and have deleted them both before posting them.
    Apparently I can’t seem to write anything that would be helpful in this discussion. This is one of those subjects where people vehemently disagree, and seem to forget the real issue. This isn’t an issue of our personal beliefs, it’s an issue of interpretation of the Constitution. Is it a violation of the Constitution to teach the theory of Intelligent Design? Obviously this judge thinks it is. Perhaps I’m not up on the details, but shouldn’t it depend on how it is taught? I mean, our children learn about the Greek Gods in public school and nobody considers it establishment.
    Our kids learn about Islam as well, and nobody considers it establishment.
    So should the real issue how this material is being taught, and not the material itself?
    Is it being taught that: “some people believe this theory, and others this theory … let’s look at them both” or is it “some fools think we came from monkeys, but really we’re all intelligently designed…. now bow your heads and pray with me” I would have a problem with the latter, and would easily see it as imposing on children’s fragile minds. The first example though seems perfectly acceptable, and could even include the caveat “some don’t consider this to be real science, and here’s why …” What’s wrong with this?
    Shouldn’t we teach our kids HOW to think, and not WHAT to think?
    Take it out of the science room, that’s fine with me, and take out anything else that isn’t purely scientific.
    Teaching science should be teaching a methodology of theory and investigation. Not a memorization of eons worth of data.
    I’m not asserting that ID should be taught. Nor am I saying it shouldn’t be.
    I don’t see why it can’t be taught as a viable theory, and not be considered establishment of religion.

    All that aside though… (as I said, this shouldn’t be an issue of personal beliefs)
    Why can’t we have different schools subscribing to different teaching methodologies?
    As was said earlier, perhaps vouchers and charter schools are the answer.

  12. Having once been involved in face to face debates with the anti-evolutionists I recall taking great comfort in a quote from Thomas Paine.
    “Argument with those who have renounced reason is like feeding medecine to the dead.” (Forgive me if I don’t have that quote word for word correct.)
    My favorite refrain that they would issue again and again was, “But evolution is just a theory.” To which I would respond, “So is electromagnetism. Does that mean you don’t believe in a light bulb?”
    A quarter century ago when I was in those debates I became utterly convinced that the discussion had nothing to do with logic, reason, or even science or reality. It had to do with POWER. It’s even more obvious today that the attempts to teach creationism in public schools is just a way to harness the power of the state to spread religious dogma.
    One idea I have seen suggested is that a biology SAT be instituted. You don’t know the basic facts of biology right, you don’t get into the good university. Given the level of inability to deal with demonstrable reality that the anti-evolutionist / ID crowd demonstrate, I would not be at all surprised if they have trouble with little things like balancing their checkbook, or remembering which color traffic signal means “Go” and which means “Stop.”

  13. ESR is right on this one.

    My high school science teacher showed Kent Hovind tapes in class, without anyone’s authorization, in a blue state. All of the fundies I know — all of them — are trying to get their message into public schools, to as many secular kids as possible, by whatever means they can find. This usually means either unauthorized activity by teachers, or preachers posing as motivational speakers and then starting to talk about Jesus once the microphone is in their hand.

    Whether you win or lose the political end legal battles, fundamentalist teachers are going to teach some of our children dogma without the oversight of their school boards.

  14. Ethan Price – Sorry, there’s no “but he’s a fundie so we don’t have to pay attention” rule in science. Gregor Mendel was a monk. The Jesuits have run an official Papal observatory for the pope for a long, long time. Do you want to bet that if you look carefully, beyond even the conventional religious figures, you’ll find all sorts of religious nuts publishing properly peer reviewed papers on all sorts of things for centuries? I’ll be happy to take your money.

    The Big Bang was resisted, in part, by some, because it was seen as too friendly to christian cosmology. That was shameful. The cure to ID as religion sneaking in by the back door is to insist that before it goes into the K-12 curriculum, there are actually legitimate scientific papers published in peer reviewed journals of significant reputation in the science community. If the ID people can actually prove it, what’s wrong with teaching it? Even if they can’t prove it but can identify at least one irreducible complexity example that withstands a decade of debunking efforts, (they haven’t yet) that’s worth a minor mention in the science curriculum.

    Again, the cure is actual science using the scientific method. I don’t think the ID people can carry the burden but I would hope that their papers would be published if they do prove something.

  15. Do you have kids? Have you seen the stuff they are teaching them these days? Things like “Oh, it is good to recycle.” Really? Prove that. Global Warming. Multiculturalism. “Tolerance.” There is an endless stream of leftist dogma, and I have yet to find the individual freedom loving people in the school system. The stuff they teach is just dogma, and they leave out important things like hard science and conceptual thinking. Better not let children understand that kind of thing, they might think for themselves.

    As an atheist, I sympathize with the ID/Christians/whatever. They view their culture as being appropriated by a new cultural view, who knows if it is any better. Meanwhile I do NOT want my children learning about intelligent design, except as an artifact of some strange cultural abberation arising from the insecurity there are ideas obviously more likely in science.

    My solution is to do away with public schools as we know them and replace them with vouchers so people can elect to choose the school that matches their cultural affiliation. If you want to believe in ID, fine. It will work itself out in the marketplace.

  16. “… turning schools into instruments for the propagation of Christian dogma”

    Well, it’s hardly “Christian dogma”. And, never mind the “conservatives”, I’m agnostic myself but I’d hazard a guess that Christian theologians must be more embarrassed by this affair than anyone else.

    Secondarily, I think it is embarrassing for Americans, because it is hard to imagine this debate, which was effectively closed a very long time ago, taking place in any other Christian/post-Christian country. Anyone proposing anything like this would be laughed to scorn in the UK, for example.

  17. Let me start by making it clear that I am a atheist and I don’t think that religion should be taught in public schools. I don’t think there is anything in the US Constitution that specifically prohibits it, but that’s a separate matter. The current political climate prevents it and that’s fine with me. What’s not fine with me is that the current political climate also prevents Theology from being taught. The historical and sociological impacts of the World’s religions (omitting the spiritual impact) cannot be studied or discussed in public schools!! I just think that’s intellectual Fascism.

  18. TM Lutas:

    ‘Ethan Price – Sorry, there’s no “but he’s a fundie so we don’t have to pay attention” rule in science.’

    Indeed there is not, and so I haven’t said that. However, there is a “He’s using slippery definitions to present as falsifiable something that is not, so we can presume he’s entirely dishonest” rule. Take a real look at what they’re saying with, for example, vision – there was a claim that eyes couldn’t “just develop” and must have been designed, which was easy to refute, since even right now in nature there are eyespots and photosensitive cells of varying complexity; so now the claim is that the concept of vision itself is irreducibly complex. The argument pattern goes like this:

    IDiot: I assert that X is irreducibly complex.
    Scientist: X has developed from Y and Z, which are easily attested to in nature.
    Idiot: I assert that Y and Z are irreducibly complex.
    [repeat]

    The actual values of X, Y, and Z don’t matter, because there’s no actual scientific argument there, only the carefully staged appearance of one. That’s what the problem is, not any lack of science (there’s plenty and it doesn’t support the concept of irreducible complexity).

  19. I like Larry King’s view of evolution: “Hey, if evolution is true, how come there are still monkeys?”

    And for those who think other countries are far more advanced than the US in keeping to scientific principles in science classrooms, just look at the Amazing Randi’s website now and then. Stupidity is universal. In Britain, the National Health Service runs 5 hospitals based on “homeopathic principles”! Acupuncture practitioners are about to become state-licensed in Canada. Etc., etc.

  20. >“Hey, if evolution is true, how come there are still monkeys?”

    I hope Larry King meant that as a joke, because if he doesn’t it is an astonishingly stupid thing to say.

    *shudder*

  21. I’d again suggest to look at the motivaition. Early proponents of ID tried to convince people the Bible is true, with a motivation that if the Genesis can be proved true, then people might also accept the Ten Commandments etc. But I think nowadays hardly anyone tries to imply the Genesis to be true. Modern ID-ers just try to prove there is “a” God, and not that there is “the God of the Bible” as it is too obviously false. So where do they want to go? What if they win? Let’s suppose they win and everybody accepts there is “a” God, there is “a kind of” ID. It would surely does not prove the biblical version of God. And then what? They’d got to write a new Bible and found a new religion that would suck out believers from Christian churches and the old churches would collapse faster you can say “Paul”. So what do they actually want?…

  22. Perhaps Intelligent Design can and should be taught in science class. Here is what the syllabus should cover:

    Which scientist(s) first proposed ID?

    How does ID fit into the current body of scientific knowledge?

    Like many new ideas, ID has been rejected by the scientific establishment. What specific scientific objections exist to ID and are they valid?

    What testable predictions does Intelligent Design make?

    What experiments have been performed to prove or disprove ID and what have the results been?

    What other experiments have been proposed? Who are the leading researchers exploring ID and what avenues of investigation are they pursuing?

    Was the intelligent designer itself a fabricated being or was it a product of a natural process? If the IDer was designed/fabricated, what was its designer?

    If the IDer created life intentionally the IDer was clearly incompetent or sadistic or both. What was the IDer’s intention? If it created life by accident what was its true intention?

  23. What’s not fine with me is that the current political climate also prevents Theology from being taught. The historical and sociological impacts of the World’s religions (omitting the spiritual impact) cannot be studied or discussed in public schools!

    Public schools don’t teach anything that weighty anyways.

    Hey, if evolution is true, how come there are still monkeys?

    The answer we got in sunday school? “Because only the biggest and strongest monkeys got to become humans.”

  24. Protestant superstitiousness, especially the “convert or annihilate” mandate you so eloquently documented elsewhere, is an integral part of the American polity; again, you are likely to have an easier time separating Internet Explorer from Winders. Mock the French and the Canadians all you like; in their postmodern cynicism they at least have managed to almost completely secularise their society (if not secure it against the encroachment of Islam).

  25. Stephen Jay Gould said in one of his essays that the “Why are there still monkeys?” question was one of the commonest kinds of confusion he heard in letters from his public. Fortunately, it’s also the easiest to straighten out.

    (Most monkeys, certainly all other apes, are stronger than we are.)

    As for His Noodliness, he is undoubtedly sitting back somewhere (or everywhere), His Tentacles shaking with laughter.

  26. if a significant portion of republicans believe creationist hogwash should be taught in schools, i don’t want to be a republican.

  27. Warren: You get bizarre pseudoscience from both sides. Vote libertarian.

  28. The simple solution is to homeschool your kids. The argument about subjecting your kids to creationism, ID or evolutionary theory seems to put the cart before the horse. If the public school system can barely teach kids reading, writing and arithmetic, why would you want to let your kids stick around long enough to see how they teach anything else?

  29. Chris, the problem with public schools (less than University level) teaching Theology, is how they will do it. I had a history teacher in Alabama (*shudder*) who, while teaching ‘Alabama History’, felt the need to veer-off into religion for some inexplicable reason. His understanding of Catholicism was non-existant, and he felt the need to mention that Catholics sacrifice babies. For those who have never had the pleasure of living in an extremely red state, the south has a strong anti-catholic bias.

    If the teacher is a yahoo, and the principal is a yahoo, and the school board is full of yahoos, then who is going to make sure that Theology class doesn’t devolve into one religion’s view on how terrible all other religions are? Do we now need an office within the Department of Education that will draft the official curriculum on Theology? How do you *force* a Baptist teacher to tell students that Hinduism, Satanism, and Wicca are just alternate paths?

  30. Warren: David McCabe is correct. The left-wing equivalent of creationism is “global warming”.

  31. ronan, you mean you had a history teacher with an agenda? Unbelievable! But they still teach history, don’t they. Yes, I agree that theology is a study better left to post-secondary studies, But that’s true for most subjects. Most public school curricula, particularly history and literature, are very simplistic, basically by necessity.

    The very existence of religion can hardly even be acknowledged by public education. I find that incredible. Something that has had such a profound impact on history and the current human condition, and remains a huge part of most peoples lives, is simply dismissed as taboo. Being an athiest, I don’t really have much of a problem with it, but I’m pretty sure if I were a person of faith, I’d have a huge problem with it.

  32. Most high school history teachers don’t have much of an axe to grind with the ‘official history’ that they are supposed to be teaching. However, most of the teachers who would be tapped to teach Theology class, will have their own religious beliefs which can easily interfere with their objectively teaching a class that compares many religions.

    You say that if you were a person of faith, you would have a problem with religion *not* being taught? I would say just the opposite. If you hold certain matters of faith to be of salvation/damnation importance, then you will be even more angry if any teacher offers ‘alternative’ religious beliefs to your children. Before you assume that religious people really want teachers to teach their religious beliefs to other peoples’ children, remember that there are public school teachers who are Wiccan. What’s going to happen when little Billy Joe Jim Bob comes home from school talking about The Goddess?

  33. To ESR: you are right on global warming as pseudoscience. But what do you think of overpopulation? Do you accept it as a very imminent disaster lurking at the next corner (for the world, not for America) and might as well ruin the world quite fast ?

    To Ronin: I think schooling is one of the cases where the libertarian way might work well. It seems there ain’t any facts, just opinions. So it seems that is natural for every parent to have their children educated in a way that 1) reflect those opinions they consider as facts 2) however, show other opinions that the children might choose as their choice of facts when they grow up. For example, I am Buddhist and I am quite convinced that the law of cause and effect (karma) works in everyday life. If I had children, I’d like to have a school for them where the teachers would remind them of karma if they happened to, say, torture the weak boys in the class, and all the usual stuff. We have around 3000 Buddhists here in Hungary so I think we could support one or two Buddhist elementary schools on our own, without any goverment money. On the other hand, if I had children, I would like to have them study materialism and Christianity so they should have the educated choice to become a materialist or a Christian. I think it is a natural wish of keeping our rows clean: I want Buddhists who truly understand it, I don’t want ones who just believe because they were told to.

    So for schooling I generally believe the libertarian way:

    1) Communities who make their own schools.
    2) But these schools should not be dogmatic and show other opportunities as well.

  34. >You say that if you were a person of faith, you would have a problem with religion *not* being taught?

    >It seems there ain’t any facts, just opinions.

    I specifically said in my first post, not Religion, but Theology. Not an indoctrination of what one should beieive in, but a discussion of the cause and effect of peoples’ beliefs throughout history and in current events. No such discussion is possible.

  35. I find it alternately amusing and troubling to hear people call global warming a myth when arctic sea ice is now so scarce that polar bears are drowning while trying to swim to the next floe.  How long has that species been around?  How long have they been able to depend on the sea ice to guarantee both their food supply and resting places?

    Getting back to IDiocy, it is lawful for schools to teach the Bible as literature, as part of comparative religions (which is anathema to exactly the faction which wants ID taught as biology), and a host of other things.  It is against the First Amendment for a public school to endorse religion.  It is not against the First Amendment for a school to teach facts which contradict particular religious dogmas; for instance, Christian Scientists can’t get the teaching of modern medicine banned and Biblical literalists who believe in platygeanism can neither get their nonsense into the classroom nor get conventional geology and geography thrown out.

    Ditto with “Intelligent Design“.  It has no actual theory, no testable hypotheses, just an endless religiously-motivated series of negative assertions about evolution.  The Discovery Institute has enough money to establish labs and conduct research, but they do neither.

    TM Lutas:  Note that “endless series”.  A legitimate scientific theory makes positive predictions, and a single contrary finding refutes it.  ID-related nonsense like “irreducible complexity” makes no general positive assertions; it is scientifically sterile, with no refutation of any of its negative assertions sufficing to kill the Hydra.

    Incidentally, the Big Bang was considered shaky until the discovery of the CBR.  The CBR was predicted as a necessary consequence, but radiotelescopes weren’t sufficiently sensitive to detect it until the early 1960′s; as soon as that was clinched, the Steady State hypothesis was out the door (it had no explanation for the CBR).

  36. ” find it alternately amusing and troubling to hear people call global warming a myth when arctic sea ice is now so scarce that polar bears are drowning while trying to swim to the next floe.” And I find it amusing to hear all this screaming about global warming when the fields in southern Greenland where Norsemen pastured their cattle a thousand years ago are buried in several yards of snow and ice year-round.

  37. Religious works are a major part of our cultural heritage, and it certainly is possible to cover them without pushing any religious doctrine. It just takes good teachers. I was in the school orchestra for a while; most of the classical music we learned started out as church music, but it didn’t offend my atheism. Nor did it bother me to read Cotton Mather’s sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in high school; IIRC, this English teacher was a believing Congregationalist (the modern descendant of Mather’s New England Puritan church) and a seminary graduate, but he could still teach this as literature without trying to convert us.

    On the other hand, I was quite offended at my son’s kindergarten graduation ceremony at a school in rural Oklahoma. (Why have a kindergarten graduation ceremony, anyway?) The minister they brought in for the benediction turned it into a 45 minute hell-fire and brimstone sermon that reminded me of Cotton Mather. That was offensive and undoubtedly a violation of the Establishment clause.

    The problem isn’t just “Yahoos” running the schools; stupid liberals will do just as badly as stupid conservatives, and seem to be a lot more common nowadays. Education majors come disproportionately from the college entrants with the lowest SAT scores. Teaching religious literature, art, and music without teaching or denigrating religion requires both intelligence and an understanding of the issues. There are very bright and dedicated teachers out there, but the median public school teacher is neither bright nor intellectually curious, and the administrators seem even worse.

  38. Engineer-Poet

    The way I understand it, it is impossible to argue against global warming per se. The world is getting warmer, and that is provable. Just as the world got colder for the Little Ice Age.

    The pseudoscience comes in with discussions about *why* the world is getting warmer, and what will happen in a warmer world, and what we should do about it. That’s where you see most of the handwaving and the fudging the numbers.

    Let’s see. Temperatures have been on the rise since the early 1900s, but greenhouse gases have been on the rise since the 1950s or so. Hmm. Is there a link?

    We put together a computer simulation with rising greenhouse gases. We had to plug in how much higher greenhouse gas levels would affect the temperature. We found out that the world simulated suffered from global warming. Hmm. Does that prove global warming?

    ***

    You also have the Left opposed to science that involves animal testing, but supportive of embryonic stem cell research. Where’s the consistency?

  39. Ethan Price – Since the subcomponents of X, your Y and Z are going to be less complex, demonstrating that they are not irreducibly complex is going to be an easier task. At the end of the series, you get to subsystem XbG is a single (or double) gene trait and can arise spontaneously from spontaneous mutation. At that point, the chain ends and what do you have? You have an actual explanation of how a system arose via evolution. If you can’t get to that point, maybe design did happen and (contrary to my own faith) God did leave detectible fingerprints on his Creation.

    From what I can tell, this objection to ID is that ID is an attempt to make evolution proponents show their work instead of just bowing and scraping to the unproven conjectures of current theory. Well, scientists *should* show their work and prove their theories and when things don’t work according to present theory, new theories are worked out to explain the discrepency. Newtonianism was tested to destruction and now Einsteinian physics rules the roost around the edges where newtonian rules didn’t work. I don’t think that present day ID is going to work out as well as Einstein but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to do the hard lab work of actually proving things.

    I think that Behe’s description of irreducible complexity is describing something but I think that he doesn’t quite grasp what he’s got ahold of and he’s not doing the lab work necessary to flesh out this something into a proper theory that eventually should be in the K-12 curricula. Somebody is going to have to sort this out. As a matter of science, it should properly be sorted out in labs, scientific debates, and by presenting peer reviewed papers. That’s not what’s happening and it’s a tremendously bad thing for science that we’re not forcing “almost theories” to greater rigor so that they *become* legitimate science that is proven or disproven by actual lab work.

    What I’m saying is that even if you’re right about all the things you say, you’re still proceeding in an unscientific manner by going for suppression instead of pressing for the refinement of theory so that it’s testable and then test the thing, prove it or disprove it, and then teach k-12 accordingly. Keeping ID out of k-12 is easy if you just say that it has less evidence than a laundry list of other theories out there that are also excluded. In science, that should be enough.

    Engineer-Poet – I have laid out how to kill irreducible complexity via a large series of brute force experiments on single celled creatures on my own blog. In short, you test the fitness of all intermediate permutations and determine whether there’s a reasonable evolutionary stairstep out there for the irreducibly complex candidate system. Do that for all the candidate systems and you’ve killed irreducible complexity. As science, that pretty much kills ID. What keeps ID alive as science is that nobody seems willing to put in the effort to kill it off properly.

    A universe where we’re the rats in the maze and have no way to conduct experiments on the Creator makes it extraordinarily difficult to make positive predictions of his behavior in a scientific manner. Assume Christianity is correct. How do you make positive, testable scientific statements about it? Do you see the difficulty? No religion that I’m aware of has a clockwork God that can be tested. In fact, most theological frameworks that I know of feature gods that are downright touchy about being put to tests by humans.

    Finally, I hope that you agree that resisting the Big Bang because, incidentally, it was comforting to believers in Christian cosmology was always wrong both before and after the discovery of the CBR.

  40. As a matter of science, it should properly be sorted out in labs, scientific debates, and by presenting peer reviewed papers. That’s not what’s happening and it’s a tremendously bad thing for science that we’re not forcing “almost theories” to greater rigor so that they *become* legitimate science that is proven or disproven by actual lab work.

    What I’m saying is that even if you’re right about all the things you say, you’re still proceeding in an unscientific manner by going for suppression instead of pressing for the refinement of theory so that it’s testable and then test the thing, prove it or disprove it, and then teach k-12 accordingly.

    The trouble with ID is, no finite amount of lab work will disprove it. It’s great if biologists show their work, but that won’t shut up the ID people, because they’ll simply pick some other system and assert that that system is irreducibly complex, to infinity.

    On the other hand, if I had children, I would like to have them study materialism and Christianity so they should have the educated choice to become a materialist or a Christian. I think it is a natural wish of keeping our rows clean: I want Buddhists who truly understand it, I don’t want ones who just believe because they were told to.

    1) Communities who make their own schools.
    2) But these schools should not be dogmatic and show other
    opportunities as well

    That would probably work well for a Buddhist school, if Buddhists share your views. The problem is not schools run by the reasonable and open-minded. The problem is schools run by the fundamentalists, the extremists, and the ignorant. A Buddhist school might teach its children about Christianity and materialism, but a Christian school certainly will not teach its children about Buddhism. Because belief is a matter of life and death for them, they would like nothing better than kids who believe just because they were told to. Ignorance poses the lowest risk to their souls.

  41. TM Lutas wrote:

    I have laid out how to kill irreducible complexity via a large series of brute force experiments on single celled creatures on my own blog. In short, you test the fitness of all intermediate permutations and determine whether there’s a reasonable evolutionary stairstep out there for the irreducibly complex candidate system. Do that for all the candidate systems and you’ve killed irreducible complexity. As science, that pretty much kills ID. What keeps ID alive as science is that nobody seems willing to put in the effort to kill it off properly.

    There was a logical problem with this which got me hot under the collar, but it took me a while to put my finger on the precise reason.  Some cooler meditation pinpointed it:  it’s a blatant example of burden-shifting.  TM Lutas has his favored explanation which has no evidence whatsoever to suggest that it’s true, and he demands exhaustive proof from others before he’ll accept that some other explanation is even the most likely.

    He’s a smart guy and ought to be able to see through this nonsense, but it’s got him anyway.  There must be some reason he’s pushing it.  I might as well say that there’s an invisible purple demon standing behind his left shoulder, whispering subliminal illogical suggestions into his mind.  I could demand that he do an exhaustive analysis of his own neurological processes to prove that his anti-scientific position is actually derived from his own endogenous thoughts (for which we ought to castigate him) instead of a variety of possession (which merits an exorcism instead).

    My demand would have exactly as much merit as his:  none whatsoever.

    In short, what steams me is that his position is blatantly hypocritical.  He would never accept such a ridiculous burden of proof laid on him, but he feels justified in doing so to others.  The worst part is that this is probably not a position he arrived at on his own, but cribbed straight from Dembski:

    You’re asking me to play a game: ‘Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.’ ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.

    Here’s what Lenny Flank has to say about that:

    Alas, Dembski’s math is all just a fancy argument for “god of the gaps”. Boiled down to its essentials, Dembski’s argument is “if not chance, if not law, then design”. I.e., “if we can’t explain it, it must be designed”. I.e., god of the gaps.

    I have often asked Dembski apologists why the, uh, Isaac Newton of Information Theory doesn’t switch his formula round to say, “If not design, if not law, then chance” or “if not chance, if not design, then law”. Answer? Because the forumula he puts forth is the only one that allows Dembski to avoid making ANY prediction, test or evaluation for “design”.

    In the real world, science has much more important things to do than disproving the anti-scientific claims of creationists.  Evolutionary science is busy deciphering old mysteries, creating new things, and keeping us away from catastrophes such as pesticide-resistant cotton bollworms and untreatable tuberculosis (with varying degrees of success).  If creationists (excuse me, IDiots) want science to give credence to their ideas, let them confirm examples of Intelligent Design.  Let them describe the Designer, the mechanisms used, the purposes carried out, the specific points of intervention which are not explainable by current biological theory… and let them prove, though exhaustive search, that conventional explanations don’t work.

    This is going to be mighty hard to do without paying researchers to work in labs and publish papers, none of which is on the agenda of the IDiots.  Their agenda is all about publishing and selling popular books (printed by religious presses… funny, that), lobbying legislatures and school boards to get their stuff into science curricula (before they’ve done any science), and outright preaching.

    The lying of some of the defense witnesses in the Dover trial received scathing comments from Judge Jones, and I’ve seen hints that there may be prosecutions for perjury.  If these are the people that TM Lutas wants to support, this says some very unflattering things about him.

  42. Max L.:  Your comment about animal testing proves my point; your “skeptic” position is political, not scientific.  The issue is completely irrelevant to ID and global warming, but you brought it up because you thought it was something you could tar me with politically.  (Unfortunately for you, I have about as much sympathy for leftist positions as ESR.  I’ve made a post at The Ergosphere just to discuss the politics vs. science of global-warming denialism, and direct you to where you can score points that count.  I invite everyone to move that issue away from here and leave this thread for ID.)

  43. I was educated in the sciences (chemistry) and maybe disqualifies me. I mean, it is much easier to declare what is a “pseudo” science when one is looking at it from a political perspective. But FWiW, and strictly for open minds … a lot of “science” can obviously be done on and surrounding global warming. Conjectures can be made (and modeled) and they can be tested against real-world results (past, present, and future). I mean, if you can construct a rational scientific criticism of a specific conjecture, or of it’s support, go for it.

    But don’t become what you decry. There is way too much of that. People chant “pseudo” without much science to support their own position.

  44. David McCabe – I think you are conflating two things, ID as science and ID as theology. ID as theology is not going to get shut up because of work in a lab. You’re absolutely correct. ID as science will get shut down as the number of viable irreducibly complex systems turns out to be zero and previously “sure thing” candidates are demonstrated to not be irreducibly complex after all. However, if you’re looking to shut down ID as theology, you should be honest and admit that what you’re promoting is atheism and that you’re misusing the scientific process to do so.

    A side note, the first quote is mine, the second is not mine. It would be helpful if you distinguished who you’re battling.

    Engineer-Poet – It is utterly a matter of indifference to me who does the work, whether it’s the pro or contra side that does the work to prove or disprove ID. In proper science, you can do the work from either perspective and achieve the same results, the truth.

    In fact, for ID to legitimately come to the K-12 classroom, the burden of proof is on the proponents. However, if you want to justify drumming someone out of his job based on his belief in ID, I think the burden of proof is on the opponents. If one publishes a properly peer reviewed article that is pro-ID, to keep your job should merely be a matter of demonstrating that you actually followed the proper review procedures. Proving ID itself should not be a requirement to avoid being hung out to dry an defamed.

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster is close to the proper response for ID’s premature inclusion into curricula. It doesn’t quite get it. There are other alternatives to conventional evolution beyond ID, some of which have more evidence than ID to support them. Make the politicians understand that the ID people need to do actual research and you’re likely to see a new round of proponents willing to go into the labs. The defeat of conventional creationists spawned ID. I don’t see why the defeat of ID wouldn’t create a third wave who are willing to go into the labs.

    Engineer-Poet, I think that I’ve been very clear that I’m not supporting or opposing personalities in this. I certainly do not support perjury. There’s been quite enough lying all around, in my view, to justify tightening up the perjury laws and increasing penalties as a general social corrective for the United States of America. General social correctives, though, are not applied selectively, but rather generally. If perjury charges are brought, they should be within well established (prior to the Dover case) rules that are applied fairly. Otherwise it’s one more bit of partisan ugliness.

    The ID proponents and opponents are not mortal enemies as Islamist terrorists are of America. There’s no need to draw bright lines and create harsh penalties for being in one camp or another and to wallow in mccarthyite guilt by association games. I refuse to be stampeded into supporting journal censorship and career destruction of scholars who dare to submit ID papers and editors who dare print them. Journal censorship seems to be going on in global warming, ID, and likely in several other areas that I’m yet unaware of. It should all go and scientific merit should once again be the sole criteria for publication. Can we at least agree on that?

  45. Engineer-Poet – In your article on global warming (linked above), you claim that discussion on your site is pointless and that you’ll be following the discussion on the Realclimate.org board. Realclimate. org is an advocacy site. I’ve personally had calm, fair comments deleted without warning or explanation, and I’ve seen hot, alarmist, flat out unscientific statements stay up as long as they toe the antropogenic forcing temparture model line.

    I flat out refuse to comment there anymore because of these biases and I would hope that you would be similarly uncomfortable with that kind of behavior.

  46. My comment on the primary topic – I think one could do some honest science on the topic of “intelligent design” (small letters). Compare it to some honest science in ice cores or glacial sediments. Contrast it with any political movement. Strictly as my personal opinion, ID (capital letters) looks more like a political movement. The most alarming thing from a scientific standpoint is that it seems to have a concensus-goal among its researchers. The politics and science of global warming, while they certainly do get confused at times, do not map quite so 1:1.

    Guys go get ice cores because they like ice cores, not to validate their own … er … core beliefs.

  47. You probably broke one of RC’s rules, like this one:

    The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.

    The shortcomings of Real Climate as a debating forum does not make my point any less true (The Ergosphere is not suitable due to the lack of climate experts), and this place is mostly an echo chamber (which I appreciate on certain issues – and admit that I’m much more comfortable yakking about shooting among the Armed and Dangerous than the various stripes of gun-banners).

    If you’ve got a better place to find expert opinions by working scientists, something akin to The Panda’s Thumb but for climate, point the way.

  48. My comments are still in the moderation queue, but it strikes me that when they pop out someone might ask about “honest science” for “intelligent design.” I’d answer that the famous Miller-Urey (primordial soup) experiment was one. Of course, it gave an answer supporting self-organizing systems …

  49. Hmmm.  TM Lutas hasn’t appeared at Real Climate and hasn’t suggested an alternate forum where real scientists hang out.

    BTW, anyone who wants to see the ID position dissected in all its vacuity should go browse The Panda’s Thumb for a while.  Lenny Flank’s questionnaire for the people who claim that either ID or creationism is science (and other question for anyone who claims their religion ought to inform public policy) is something that the believers ought to at least try to address.

  50. Engineer-Poet – The enforcement of rules at Realclimate.org when I was there was tilted. You had to point out when comments on the pro-warming side had violated the rules for the moderators to step in but they rigorously enforced the rules on the antis without any outside prompting and with greater strictness than against the pro side. If that’s the kind of forum you’re comfortable with, no point in further discussion. My contributions, similar to my ones on ID, are a plea for even handed and honest treatments of all viewpoints and a commitment to taking the evidence and applying the scientific method to draw proper conclusions, also similar to my position on ID.

    Your comment that I haven’t “appeared at Real Climate” is unclear to me. Are you saying that I didn’t return to a biased forum I quit long ago or are you saying that I’ve never been there. If the latter, just type in lutas into Real Climate’s search box. The great majority of my comments are still there. If the former, why would I bother? They’re a tainted forum in my eyes, not worth my time, no matter the scientific credentials of the participants with publishing rights. If you care to wallow there, that’s your decision. I do not encourage it.

    odograph – I happen to agree that a large chunk of ID adherents are political/religious. There is an ID as theology that does not try to use the scientific method at all and is, frankly impervious to science. ID as science, to a great extent, is also sloppy in its current form. There are some gems there, though. If the marks of design really were out there, and rigorous scientific testing demonstrated it, the research would be real science. We should not be throwing the baby out with the bathwater and engaging in a boycott of papers that use the term even when they are eminently worthy of publication on the merits.

    Miller-Urey is interesting in that those and subsequent experiments provide ammunition for both sides of the argument. Why do all those experiments produce 50/50 left and right handed amino acids while all life is exclusively using left handed ones? You’re right that self-organizing systems are supported by M-U but they don’t seem to be the type of systems that we actually have. How do we get from an M-U world of 50/50 amino acids to the one we actually have? Is there an Intelligent Designer intervening or is there a naturalistic explanation? The jury is out still. Scientists should be comfortable with that uncertainty while striving to eliminate it. Instead, too many seem to a priori reject ID because they’re personally uncomfortable with the idea of being someone’s creation.

  51. The enforcement of rules at Realclimate.org when I was there was tilted.

    I asked you to suggest another form where climate scientists discuss matters with the public.  I see no value in holding a “debate” where nobody has a good enough grasp of the facts to come to trustworthy conclusions.

    You should at least read the responses in this comment in that discussion.  It might change the way you look at the process involved.

    … too many seem to a priori reject ID because they’re personally uncomfortable with the idea of being someone’s creation.

    You mean instead of it having no evidentiary support, and thus not being science?  That’s one of the things that believers are supposed to take on faith, isn’t it?

    All you’re doing is restating the “evolution=atheism” lie.

  52. It’s an odd tradeoff that both sides have chosen to make. The IDers and the modern Darwinists could very easily come to a compromise agreement: If you let me be the one to decide what my kids learn, I’ll return the courtesy. Instead, both sides opt for something that I can only call downright perverse: I will risk having my child taught what I believe to be nothing other than lies and deception, if by taking such a risk I can get a chance at contolling what your kids are taught. Maybe the schools could use this as a segway into teaching expected utility theory to the brighter students in high school economics classes. My guess, based on my own recollection of being in the ninth grade, is that most of the ninth graders who would be affected by this see right through the controversy anyway.

  53. Engineer-Poet – Find your own forum or create your own. I went to realclimate.org, I saw people being treated badly, I complained and when I started to suffer from comment deletion (twice) I stopped commenting. I have no obligation to either fix their lacks or provide a substitute forum. I’ve got a life outside these debates. Regarding the thread you listed, comment #17 is exactly what I was talking about. If you’re on the disfavored side, you have to threaten to go nuclear to get a moderator intervention. If you’re on the favored side, no action is necessary.

    as for the second portion of your 1:47AM post above, why yes, that’s exactly what I meant. I have no problem with somebody saying that ID does not have enough evidence to be included in curricula. What I have a problem with is declaring that you can *never*, no matter what the reality of the Universe is, no matter what lab studies you do, ever have a scientific study on ID. That’s a priori rejection and itself unscientific. It’s arrogant as hell to think that we understand enough to make such statements and totally unjustified by the evidence gathered.

    We don’t know what came before the Big Bang. We don’t know a great deal about how life came to be, especially in non-fossilized portions of the problem like internal cell biochemistry. The evidence for any theory out there is very weak (though once the ID challenge started to be taken seriously, an increased amount of good work on biochemical evolution seems to have been done and so far evolution has the upper hand).

    There is a difference between evolution = atheism (which I have not said) and evolution is taken advantage of by atheists to state that it is proof of God’s inexistence (which I do maintain). The latter phenomenon does occur, is a distortion of science, and should be defended against by all scientists who respect their field. It is not and that is wrong. Do you admit that such distortion exists and is wrong?

  54. There is a difference between evolution = atheism (which I have not said) and evolution is taken advantage of by atheists to state that it is proof of God’s inexistence (which I do maintain).

    I can’t be arsed with reading Dawkins when he isn’t strictly talking about biology any more. Christianity (or at least Catholicism) is said to have reconciled itself to evolution with Teilhard de Chardin, though what he wrote ain’t exactly science.

    Censoring comments is pretty lame, though.

  55. “That would probably work well for a Buddhist school, if Buddhists share your views. The problem is not schools run by the reasonable and open-minded. The problem is schools run by the fundamentalists, the extremists, and the ignorant. A Buddhist school might teach its children about Christianity and materialism, but a Christian school certainly will not teach its children about Buddhism. Because belief is a matter of life and death for them, they would like nothing better than kids who believe just because they were told to. Ignorance poses the lowest risk to their souls.”

    I’m certainly no fan of Christianity, but surely there must be some (or perhaps even many) Christian schools and teachers that are open-minded and reasonable to the same extent as said Buddhist schools (or any other religious or atheistic school for that matter), just as there are plenty of closed-minded and unreasonable people and institutions outside of Christianity. Let’s not forget that in large part, Christianity and its intellectual traditions are/were one of the foundations of secular traditions that came later in the west.

    That, I think is part of the problem — that everyone is so worked up about discussing anything controversial or meaningful for fear of offending someone or being seen to push an agenda that kids come out of school unable to string a coherent line of thought together, let alone several, and critical thinking is as rare as hens’ teeth. This seems to have wider implications for society. Anyhow, I don’t see how many of the arts and humanities can be taught at any level other than rote learning without a discussion and evaluation of the very significant role of Christianity in the west. The fundamentalists may indeed be wrong and pushing a dubious agenda, but the juvenile anti-Christian paranoia by many is absurd. Why not just go in for teaching every subject purely as dates and names and be done with it then?

  56. “The fundamentalists may indeed be wrong and pushing a dubious agenda, but the juvenile anti-Christian paranoia by many is absurd. Why not just go in for teaching every subject purely as dates and names and be done with it then?”

    It’s the “polarized America” thing, isn’t it? I grew up in a time and in a church that didn’t take a stand on evolution. The schools taught science, the church taught the Bible, and we were left to integrate the two. Maybe that’s a bit of an intellectual’s church, and required a little thinking, but I thought it worked. Now we’ve got (some) Christians coming at the science, and (some) scientists (militant atheists) coming at the churches. Both are offering “complete” answers to those comfortable with a less “defined” middle ground.

    Like other things in America, the extremists make us feel under attack. It’s really sad, because I never had a problem learning science, and maintaining the self-identity of a Christian … but now the “fundamentalists” have got me thinking about “those Christians” … which isn’t good.

    Maybe if the militant atheists had as much political power I’d be thinking “those scientists” right now instead.

  57. Adrian – Teilhard de Chardin was not such an innovator. One shouldn’t forget that Galileo was convicted for his theology (the Church *must* promote heliocentrism as a matter of fidelity to scripture), not his science. The Catholic position of the day, even then, was to interpret scriptures to not close down any possibility and shift interpretation as the evidence comes in. Galileo was insistently unsatisfied with that neutrality and infuriated all to the point where he was convicted. It wasn’t until much, much later (the 1800′s in fact) that the last significant scientific objection to heliocentrism was overcome. The great majority of christianity has long recognized that God made the world as he made it and it’s a good thing to find out the details, it just doesn’t necessarily help with salvation, the core purpose of christianity. Is it right to throw your theology behind a scientific theory that may get radically revised or entirely overturned in the near future? The consequences of guessing wrong are distinctly unpleasant.

  58. I’m certainly no fan of Christianity, but surely there must be some (or perhaps even many) Christian schools and teachers that are open-minded and reasonable to the same extent as said Buddhist schools (or any other religious or atheistic school for that matter), just as there are plenty of closed-minded and unreasonable people and institutions outside of Christianity.

    You’re missing my point. My point is that the existence of schools which expose their students to multiple world-views does not mitigate the evil and the danger of those schools that do not.

    While I generally agree with libertarian ideals, education is one problem that I haven’t the faintest idea how to solve. On the one hand, compulsory state education is a violation of basic freedoms. On the other hand, leaving children in the hands of their parents, for many children, is the most abominable thing you could do to them. We do a decent job of reparenting children who are physically abused or neglected; but what of the home-schooled child left in utter ignorance? What of the community school that teaches hate and myth? Who can provide each child with the intellectual framework needed to be a free individual? Not the state, not their communities, not their parents. It’s a hard problem.

  59. odograph: Indeed. I grew up with a father who was at turns fully immersed in fundamentalist Christianity and at others completely disillusioned with the whole thing. I also went to a private Christian school that was pretty wishy washy really (although we had weekly religion classes and chapel services) and meanwhile pushed its students hard into the sciences for academic reasons (and where I don’t think religion was once mentioned in science class). At the end of the day, I don’t think religion was crammed down my throat, despite being supposedly surrounded by it, and I was able to explore it at my own leisure and make up my own mind on it.

    “You’re missing my point. My point is that the existence of schools which expose their students to multiple world-views does not mitigate the evil and the danger of those schools that do not.”

    Of course it doesn’t, but it’s absurd to think you can stop people from being exposed to evil. Actually, I would say it’s bad not to be exposed to it for two reasons. The first is that wrapping kids in cotton wool doesn’t prepare them for the real world. The second is that (and perhaps this is my own perspective here) without being exposed to other ideas that test one’s own convictions, one can never really claim strength in anything. Without temptation there can be no abstinence so to speak. The dilemma you pose is indeed a big one, but I think that ultimately, people need to be able to make their own decisions, for better or worse. I think that’s a big part of why the west has been so successful — the free pursuit and challenge of ideas.

    As to the schools serving to prevent utter ignorance, I don’t know about that. Look at pretty well every subject taught in high school and look at how much of it is learnt by the average high school student or graduate. Most people in English speaking countries can’t speak another language unless their parents are immigrants. They can’t play musical instruments. They are barely literate, couldn’t break down a sentence into its parts, and couldn’t begin to tell you about great authors or works of literature. Their numeracy skills are at the level of an eleven or twelve year old, if that (for example, there are plenty of people who can’t work with fractions or decimals). They know next to nothing about science. They couldn’t begin to outline the major historical figures, periods, events, and philosophical or artistic movements in the west (let alone anywhere else). They’d have trouble showing you five or ten foreign countries on a map. Most would struggle to name five national leaders from their own country, let alone five current leaders in other countries. What exactly does school teach? Given that people spend over a decade in formal education and come out this ignorant, I’d say they probably couldn’t do much worse in another setting.

  60. Oh, God. They do a lot worse. I don’t know how to explain to you how ignorant some of these kids are, whose parents keep them at home all day and teach them nothing. This happens, today, in America, in blue states, in large numbers.

    Anyways, I must be expressing myself poorly, because you’ve missed my point again.

    Of course it doesn’t, but it’s absurd to think you can stop people from being exposed to evil. Actually, I would say it’s bad not to be exposed to it for two reasons. The first is that wrapping kids in cotton wool doesn’t prepare them for the real world. The second is that (and perhaps this is my own perspective here) without being exposed to other ideas that test one’s own convictions, one can never really claim strength in anything.

    I am not in the least concerned about schools that expose children to other ideas, even evil ones. The evil I mentioned is that of not exposing them to any ideas at all. We can hope that many schools take a reasonable view such as you have just described. But many will not, and that is why I think that compulsory education might be a lesser evil than not.

  61. “Oh, God. They do a lot worse. I don’t know how to explain to you how ignorant some of these kids are, whose parents keep them at home all day and teach them nothing. This happens, today, in America, in blue states, in large numbers.”

    Evidently not. One of several sets of statistics taken from http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200410250.asp gives us the following:

    “In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families was released. It was entitled, “Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America.” The study demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects. A significant finding when analyzing the data for 8th graders was the evidence that homeschoolers who are homeschooled two or more years score substantially higher than students who have been homeschooled one year or less. The new homeschoolers were scoring on the average in the 59th percentile compared to students homeschooled the last two or more years who scored between 86th and 92nd percentile.”

    Or from http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/article_main_page/0,1703,A%253D153566%2526M%253D200131,00.html we get:

    “The impact of homeschooling in these academic competitions goes beyond students who win. Although homeschoolers make up approximately 2 percent of the U.S. school-age population, they made up 12 percent of the 251 spelling bee finalists and 5 percent of the 55 geography bee finalists. Three of the past seven spelling bee winners have been homeschooled. Last year’s homeschooled winner of the geography bee was 10 years old, the youngest in that event’s history.”

    Your idea that homeschooled children are locked away in some closet somewhere and force fed nothing but fundamentalist Christianity is clearly not supported by practical results. Maybe, just maybe, there are a whole bunch of people (Christian, atheist or anything else) who actually want their kids to learn something worthwhile (such as basic spelling and geography) instead of spending the whole day making a paper-mache figurine representing their apology for being descended from a white slave owner (even if their ancestors were Polish immigrants at the turn of the 19th/20th century and thus, never owned a slave, not to mention that they never owned a slave themselves in this day and age). For every homeschooled kid getting Christian dogma crammed down his throat without any room for discussion, there are a hundred publicly schooled kids getting the equivalent with the current PC sacred cows.

    Maybe the parents also don’t want their kids being exposed to mass-marketing, overt sexuality and rampant bullying at the age of ten. Who knows, maybe the parents don’t believe in warehousing kids and actually want to take an active role in their formative years. I’m sure there are lots of reasons, and keeping kids at the intellectual level of a medieval serf probably isn’t high up on anyone’s list.

    Finally, although I couldn’t say for certain, I’d hazard a guess that homeschooled kids (who are out performing publicly educated children in areas of knowledge) are probably just as thirsty for ideas as they are for knowledge. Also, given the nature of their learning (which is often more independent and student focussed than in a formal setting), it would seem strange to me if they didn’t encounter a whole lot of ideas on their own.

  62. Eric, you have a pernicious tendency to state as fact what is strictly a matter of your own (often misinformed) opinion.

    The leftist equivalent to creationism is, as Jaron Lanier got right, new age sentimentality, not belief in global warming.

    Anthropogenic global warming is backed up by the best empirical evidence we have from the best climatologists we have. It is at least as factual as evolution.

  63. I just read the most fascinating article describing Richard Dawkins’ latest attempt to enrage the religious. He’s going to attempt to prove that religion is the root of all evil. Part 2 of 2 will show how private religious schools are a deliberate infection of children with a virus and constitute child abuse.

    No doubt there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the religious. How much will there be in the scientific community? Is an atheist abusing science to lay the groundwork for seizing children from religious parents going to be denounced by the mainstream scientific community or is that sort of treatment only reserved for the faith based knuckle draggers in Dover et al? If the precis is right, this guy’s gone way over the line here and unlike a local school board member, he’s at the heart of the scientific community and should know better than to make such claims unsubstantiated by research and published in a refereed/peer reviewed journal.

    We’ll see how things develop over time but I anticipate a distinct lack of outrage from the white lab coat crowd. I hope to be surprised.

  64. There is a paper on a study of global warming due out this year that posits increased solar output.

    Which is in line with the global warming observed on Mars.

    BTW we are still living in the aftermath of the Little Ice Age. Temperatures have yet to return to “normal”.

  65. I would say just the opposite. If you hold certain matters of faith to be of salvation/damnation importance, then you will be even more angry if any teacher offers ‘alternative’ religious beliefs to your children.

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