Evolving creationism

No scientists argued for the teaching and testing of evolution before the Kansas school board, which is considering making Darwin optional. Evolutionists boycotted the hearings, not wanting to dignify “intelligent design” with scientific opposition. Instead, a lawyer berated “intelligent design” advocates as knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.

Bad strategy, writes William Saletan in Slate. Creationism has evolved into “intelligent design.” Scientists should challenge ID, not dismiss it as unworthy of argument.

Essentially, ID proponents are gambling that they can concede evolutionist earth science without conceding evolutionist life science. But they can’t. They already acknowledge microevolution — mutation and natural selection within a species. Once you accept conventional fossil dating and four billion years of life, the sequential kinship of species loses its implausibility. You can’t fall back on the Bible; you’ve already admitted it can’t always be taken literally. All you’re left with is an assortment of gaps in evolutionary theory — how did DNA emerge, what happened between this and that fossil — and the vague default assumption that an “intelligence” might fill in those gaps.

. . . (Evolutionists) prefer to dismiss ID proponents as dead-end Neanderthals. They complain, legitimately, that Calvert and Harris are trying to expand the definition of science beyond “natural explanations.” But have you read the definition (John) Calvert and (William) Harris propose? It would define science as a continuous process of “observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena.”

Don’t just sneer, writes Saletan. Use science to prove them wrong.

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  1. Steve LaBonne says:

    Saletan is way, way off base. The boycott was exactly the right response. The ID witnesses had ample rope with which to hang themselves; they were made to look like the complete fools they are under cross-examination, repeatedly having to admit not only to lack of expertise but to not even having read the proposed standards which the taxpayers of Kansas were paying them to come and comment on! Several also slipped up badly in admitting the religious basis of their ideas; those admissions are now on the public record and will play a vital role in future court cases. The whole exercise boomeranged rather badly on the geniuses who thought it up. That would not have happened to the same extent had the scientific community made the mistake of dignifying this empty nonsense by showing up to “debate” it.

    This so-called ID is not a scientific theory at all; its proponents are completely unable to articulate any positive findings or predictions of their “theory” and contribute nothing to the scientific literature. The whole thing is merely the latest in a series of scams (the last one was “Creation Science”) designed as attempts to smuggle publicly funded religious indoctrination under the First Amendment radar. In that it will fail just as the previous attempts did.

  2. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    I have not been following the case but it would seem hard to me for the judge to rule in favor of evolution theory when that was never presented. Taking what you say at face value, which I have no reason to doubt, you still have idiots who present a case that is very weak vs. no case at all. The judge should have ruled for ID just on the basis of the lack of expert testimony by the other side. And I am oppossed to ID.

  3. Engineer-Poet says:

    Ross, this was not a court proceeding, there was no judge and there will be no ruling.  There were 3 hand-picked creationists from the 6-member majority of the Kansas Board of Education sitting in judgement over the report of a small minority of their own science education standards committee, IIRC; the standards committee majority report rejected so-called “Intelligent Design” and of course the creationist BOE majority had to change that.  The reason that scientists didn’t show up is because the conclusion of the handpicked 3 was foreordained.

    As has been noted over at The Panda’s Thumb, there have been previous proceedings which were in actual courts in front of judges.  Creationists lost their attempts to teach their religion as science every time; it is unlawful to do so in public schools or with tax money because of the First Amendment.  This attempt to circumvent the Constitution will fail, because most judges are not stupid.  Now that the ID’ers are on record that their “theory” is just religion in drag, they have no hope.  Close to twenty years of subterfuge have just gone down the drain.

    Of course, it serves them right.  Bearing false witness about their purpose is as opposed to Christian principles as you can get.

    As for Saletan’s admonishment to debunk ID with science… it’s been done.  There is no properly peer-reviewed ID literature in the body of science, and the recent subversion of the review process (by an editor acting alone) in one journal attracted reactions of outrage.  If ID actually put forth a theory, formulated tests, perfomed them and submitted the results, I suspect that they would be published.  The problems are twofold:

    1.)  There is no scientific ID theory, and the underlying theology does not admit the possibility of tests.
    2.)  Because of this, the ID’ers have skipped the scientific process and are trying to go direct to classrooms.  This is political, not scientific, and scientific reactions are not going to stop it.

  4. Engineer-Poet says:

    I’m told by a newly transplanted Kansan that the science teachers in Wichita think this is disgraceful, and they will be fired rather than teach this “Intelligent Design” nonsense.

  5. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When you show contempt for the paymaster, are you ashamed to cash the checks?

  6. Intelligent Design, my foot! I could just as well come up with equally good “scientific” evidence to prove a different theory, Unintelligent Design. This means the creator was an idiot who made the universe full of design flaws. Or the creator was a smart SOB who loved suffering, and fed on the sufferings of mortals. (Actually, these ideas are old ones, and go by the name of Gnosticism, for those interested.)

  7. Engineer-Poet says:

    Beeman, someone beat you to it; take a look.  Don’t drink anything while reading.

  8. Engineer-Poet wrote:

    they will be fired rather than teach this “Intelligent Design” nonsense.

    Oh yeah, I can see that happening.

    Maybe two’ll quit but you’ll see them on national television. Probably the Today show, Nightline and the national news.

    The really bizarre – given our all-too-human penchant for demanding more of others then we do of ourselves – and proper outcome is that the science teachers of Kansas not revolt.

    After all, they’re employees and that’s a situation they chosen to enter into. Expecting teachers to set policy by their willingness to disobey their superiors is like expecting cops to put right bad law by refusing to enforce it.

    The dreary fact of revolts is that they almost always fail. How could it be otherwise? If there was a high likelihood of rebellions succeeding it would be impossible to constitute a government that lasted beyond the next heated discussion about almost anything.

    If the IDers get their way and the science teachers of Kansas really do stage the equivalent of a revolt, the education hierarchy will respond by lining ’em up against a wall and firing the hot-heads and the teachers who’s principles trump more mundane considerations.

    And that’ll be that for the Great Kansas Teacher’s Revolt.

  9. Ross the Heartless Conservative says:

    Thanks, sorry for my ill-informed post. I hate it when that happens. 🙁

  10. I met a guy in college who didn’t believe in evolution. But then again, he didn’t believe in China either.

    I showed him an atlas. I pointed out Chinese students on campus. I mentioned chop sticks. But he had an explanation for everything. The atlas was propaganda, the students were impostors, and the the chop sticks were made in Mexico.

    I don’t know what ever became of him. Chances are he’s gotton along just find with his belief in Creationism or Intelligent Design. I bet he even eats at Chinese restaurants from time to time. He just probably mutters the words “so-called Chinese” before he places his order. And he probably smiles the same way he used to smile when he said, “It’s just a theory.”