Tuesday, January 01, 2008

More on my Evil plan to disrupt the nation's science curriculum

Evil Bender, who made numerous claims as to what I believed, despite not actually knowing what I believed, admitted (sort of) that his prediction of what I would say about whether ID was science was not quite accurate. For that I congratulated him.

But, having been disabused of the notion that I think that ID is definitely science, he has now uncovered another of my (imaginary) evil plans to push ID in science classrooms:
If he doesn’t know whether ID is science, then why is Cothran so concerned about whether scientists attack it as non-science? If he’s not sure himself, why wouldn’t he defer to the experts, or at least admit he doesn’t have anything substantial to add? Because this is all part of his elaborate dodge, an attempt to get ID into science classrooms without having to actually respond to demands that he explain why ID should be taught as science. You see, he wants to “teach the controversy”...
at which point he repeats my statement that I support neither a ban on teaching about ID in classrooms nor a mandate to teach it.

Now I find it rather strange that he would ask why I don't "defer to the experts". Actually, on the issue of what should be taught in science classrooms, I think that's exactly what I did. The experts on teaching science in classrooms are people who teach science in classrooms, and I deferred to them, saying I think they should make the determination.

So what's the problem? The problem is that I don't fit his stereotypes and it upsets him. If he got out more, he would probably find that a lot of people who disagree with him don't fit his stereotypes.

And since when am I "so concerned about whether scientists attack it as non-science"? I really don't lose any sleep over it. I just happen to find the whole controversy interesting as a matter of cultural debate and expressed my opinion about it. It's my own private form of amusement--a form of amusement that is particularly amusing when the people who accuse me of being "so concerned" are themselves so concerned that they start inventing opinions for me. And the only reason I have posted as much about it as I have is that there appear to be so many other people interested in it, as evidenced by the number of comments I get on it when I make a comment about it.

In fact the people who seem to be "so concerned" about it are people like Evil Bender and some of the other posters on this blog, who blow a fuse every time I post my opinion. Not only that, there are even people, like Evil Bender, who blow a fuse about things they imagine I believe, but which I have never actually said and which, in fact, I do not actually believe. Another case in point:
I look forward to seeing Cothran publicly state, then, that it’s a good thing that the teachers in the Dover school district no longer have to let a disclaimer about ID be read in their classrooms, since the administration forced that on them against their will.
Is this another challenge? These are getting really easy. Okay, here goes: I think the Dover policy was a stupid idea. In fact, Discovery also took the position that mandating the teaching of ID was a bad idea. Now I'm sure Evil Bender will explain to us that Discovery's statement that ID should not be mandated is all part of an evil conspiracy to have it mandated. It makes sense, doesn't it, that people would publicly say that they are against the very thing they're really for? It's just a way of fooling the rest of us.

But what I think is an even poorer idea than the Dover policy is to use such a policy to justify a broad declaration that teaching ID is somehow illegal. The Dover ruling was the legal equivalent of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. A stupid school board policy (of which there are many) are not half as harmful as stupid court decisions.

If good science is somehow furthered by court mandates and anathemas, I think I missed that in reading about the history of science. In fact, seems to me I've heard the exact opposite (from the same kind of people who have supported the Dover decision): that science progresses best in an environment of free inquiry.

Then there is the problem of outright denial:
First of all, no “Darwinists” have ever shut down an ID program. Baylor did demand that Dembski’s “lab”–which existed only in web-page form, and didn’t do any science–not be associated with the University, and I’m not thrilled with the way Baylor handled some aspects of that issue. But scientists are clamoring for ID to do real research, to publish real papers. Furthermore, if ID did any of that, if it demonstrated its scientific credibility, made testable, useful predictions, scientists would accept it. If ID could demonstrate its merit as science, scientists would happily see it included in classrooms.
Okay, so if Baylor didn't act to impede the process of allowing ID to prove itself in at least some respect, then what did it do? If I were a rabid opponent of ID, I would say, okay, go ahead with your program (at Baylor or anywhere else). Let's see what you can do. Instead, they pull shenanigans like that at Baylor which do nothing but cast a pall on ID opposition and call into question the motives of the people who disagree with it. Then there is the Sternburg episode, which ID opponents are still in denial about.

It's just rather strange when a group of people demands of another group of people that they prove themselves, but then turn around and deny them the opportunity when they attempt it.
If Cothran and his crew want ID taken seriously, they should stop attacking scientists who point out that ID isn’t science. Instead, they should encourage their own people to get out and do science.
Instead, Cothran is arguing that ID might be science and might not be, but it’s bad that “Darwinists” attack it for not being science because they can’t say that, except when one of them wants to teach ID, in which case that’s fine, even though ID hasn’t been demonstrated to be science.
So when Darwinists use bad logic, no one should point it out? So let's see if I've got all this straight: ID advocates should prove themselves, but should be denied the opportunity to do so, and ID opponents should be allowed to spike all the ID advocates attempts to do this and, just to make things even less fair, should be allowed to make logically flawed arguments without anyone challenging them?

Got it.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

But what I think is an even poorer idea than the Dover policy is to use such a policy to justify a broad declaration that teaching ID is somehow illegal. The Dover ruling was the legal equivalent of using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. A stupid school board policy (of which there are many) are not half as harmful as stupid court decisio
If good science is somehow furthered by court mandates and anathemas, I think I missed that in reading about the history of science. In fact, seems to me I've heard the exact opposite (from the same kind of people who have supported the Dover decision): that science progresses best in an environment of free inquiry.


What does the legality of teaching ID in a high school science class have to do with the practice of science?

Anonymous said...

Now I find it rather strange that he would ask why I don't "defer to the experts". Actually, on the issue of what should be taught in science classrooms, I think that's exactly what I did. The experts on teaching science in classrooms are people who teach science in classrooms, and I deferred to them, saying I think they should make the determination.

The experts in science are the practicing scientists.

And again, I have to wonder, doesn't the public at large (not to mention the people actually engaged in science) have a compelling interest in ensuring that good science is taught in high school?
Why are you leaving it all in the hands of the teacher? Are you advocating here that no standards should be implemented in order to reach a goal of quality education in science?

Evil Bender said...

In fact the people who seem to be "so concerned" about it are people like Evil Bender and some of the other posters on this blog, who blow a fuse every time I post my opinion.

Your "opinion" in this case is that you don't know if ID is science, but science teachers should be allowed to teach it as science. You've also advocated that philosophers of science should be the experts, yet when scientists and a philosopher of science explain why ID isn't science, they lead to a bad court decision--somehow.

But what I think is an even poorer idea than the Dover policy is to use such a policy to justify a broad declaration that teaching ID is somehow illegal.

It's illegal because teaching creationism as science is illegal. Are you suggesting that Edwards v. Aguillard was wrongly decided?

Okay, so if Baylor didn't act to impede the process of allowing ID to prove itself in at least some respect, then what did it do?

It shut down a webpage. I wish Baylor had handled that differently, but there was no scientist involved with the "informatics lab" or whatever it was, and that "lab" was only a webpage that didn't do any research. You still haven't responded to my point that ID advocates are not doing any actual science. Apparently it's "not fruitful."

Art said...

Hi Martin,

Happy New Year! What with a full crew on the hardwood and two straight bowl wins, 2007 sure ended up nicely, no?

About your first entry for 2008, I have a couple of comments and a question.

The comments: I think you are reading way too much into l'affaire Dembski at Baylor. (You aren't alone - people on both sides of the issue have gone way off the deep end on this.) This isn't a matter of ID, or academic freedom, or any high-minded ideals. A few years ago, Dembski really ticked off some people at Baylor, and they still don't like him. The latest episode is a continuation of this spat - basically, to turn a phrase, it's personal, not business.

(Same thing with Sternberg. But that's another discussion, I'm afraid.)

My question for you, Martin - do you think competence is or should be a factor when weighing teachers, classes, schools, etc.?

Anonymous said...

Please correct me if I have misunderstood:

1) Scientists who spend their lives doing research are not capable of deciding what is science, as that is a philosophical question outside of their expertise.

2) Science teachers imparting the basic concepts of science (who typically don't do research, have taken few science classes, are unfamiliar with current research papers, etc) are experts fully capable of deciding what topics should be taught in introductory science classes.

j a higginbotham
(still desperately trying to misconstrue Mr Cothran's statements so he will have some minor issue to quibble about while avoiding anything of substance)

Anonymous said...

Martin, is the Kentucky Family Foundation (the organization you are a "policy Analyst" for)in agreement with you that ID shouldn't be taught in science classes? What about Rev. Billy Henderson (your associate at Mars Hill Academy in Lexington)?
A few years ago the KY Family Foundation was for teaching young earth creationism in science classrooms and linked to the Institute for Creation Research site on its webpage. Has the policy changed?

One Brow said...

In fact, Discovery also took the position that mandating the teaching of ID was a bad idea.
With fortuitous timing, as they took this position after the suit against the Dover school board had been initiated. Meanwhile, there was evidence that behind the scenes, before the suit was brought, they encouraged the school board.

Then there is the Sternburg episode, which ID opponents are still in denial about.
I'm not aware there is anything to deny. Sternberg circumenvented normal magazine procedures to publish a highly questionable article, lots of people at the Smithsonian were unhappy with the situation as well as Sternberg's history of not retuning materials to collections, and as a result when his sponsor died he had trouble finding a new sponsor. What's to deny?

It's just rather strange when a group of people demands of another group of people that they prove themselves, but then turn around and deny them the opportunity when they attempt it.
Except there is no case of lost oppotunity to which you can point. ID advocates have all the oppotunity, and they can't even prove themselves to religiously-oriented organizations like the Templeton Foundation that they have research worth investigating.

If ID advocates want to prove they have something, they need to do it the way plate tectonics did: publishing in the scientific literature.