Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Does stopping discussion of ID in Brit schools violate the Equality Act 2010?


A British Christian media outfit asks

Are the BHA and BCSE Campaigns in Breach of The Equality Act 2010?

The British Humanist Association is boasting that they have stopped Intelligent Design and Creationism from being discussed in free schools. They claim that the ‘Government has changed ‘Free School model funding agreement to ban creationist schools.’ If so, is the Government even in breach of its obligations under the Equality Act 2010? Of course the truth is probably more subtle than the BHA claims. But you can read about their campaign here.

The Equality Act 2010 makes some interesting demands. “The act covers nine protected characteristics, which cannot be used as a reason to treat people unfairly. Every person has one or more of the protected characteristics, so the act protects everyone against unfair treatment.” The protected characteristics include religion or belief.
“The Equality Act sets out the different ways in which it is unlawful to treat someone, such as direct and indirect discrimination, harassment, victimisation and failing to make a reasonable adjustment or a disabled person.

More. Could be. We’re no experts at UD News. But it may not matter. Discrimination against Christians is accepted worldwide and is rarely countered effectively by Christians.

For example one of us remembers giving a plenary address to Canada’s Christian writers a couple of years ago, and bringing up the explicit persecutions of Christians by “human rights” tribunals in that country. Only to discover that most Christian writers knew nothing about infamous Section13 that was used to ensnare journalists who talked openly about Islamization – and they cared less. Those unfortunates *who fell down the ‘crat hole fell down the memory hole also, among their fellow Christians.

British Christians must be made of much sterner stuff to preserve civil liberties for themselves or anyone else (assuming any still exist in a nannycrat state).

*They fought back and won (they were and are dedicated monotheists). But it was a terrible and lonely battle, and a stark lesson in the dangers of depending on the consumers of useless piety even for comprehension, let alone support.

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Ah, I've just got it: "nannycrats". Denyse, you really need to break that abbreviation habit! Elizabeth Liddle
To defend science education, by making sure that high school students never hear that there are brilliant evolutionary biologists who think that the neo-Darwinian explanation of radical changes in biological form given in their textbook is completely inadequate?
Why would they want to do that? What incentive would they have to prevent students from hearing that a scientific theory has serious challenges? lastyearon
To defend science education, by making sure that high school students never hear that there are brilliant evolutionary biologists who think that the neo-Darwinian explanation of radical changes in biological form given in their textbook is completely inadequate? Right. The best interpretation of "NCSE" is "National Center for Selling (Neo-Darwinian) Evolution." Or it might be "National Center for Scientists Emeritus" (since its star performers appear to no longer do productive research in their scientific fields, but stump the country doing educational politics instead). But it doesn't matter in the long run, because the ongoing permeation of all branches of modern biology by physics, engineering, computer science, and information theory approaches will soon render the mid-20th-century evolutionary theory championed by Scott and Miller a quaint survival from a bygone era. As they say in the movies, I'm outta here. T. Timaeus
Why would the NCSE have any interest in limiting science education? Its sole purpose is to defend it. lastyearon
Here's an article on the NCSE's website about an example of a bill introducing "critical analysis of evolution" into science class in Florida: http://ncse.com/news/2009/02/antievolution-legislation-florida-004627 And here's a nice article on of these efforts being defeated in Ohio: http://ncse.com/rncse/26/3/critical-analysis-defeated-ohio The pattern that is repeated in all instances of anti-evolution legislation or public policy: 1- It is religiously motivated (or politically motivated to appeal to a religious base of support) 2- it is worded carefully in response to previous case law barring religiously motivated anti-evolutionism from being taught in public school science class. 3 - It is opposed by the vast majority of science teachers in the state or school board lastyearon
I'm probably repeating myself, but I see "teaching the controversy" as part of a history of science class, rather than a science class. I took four years of science in high school. Ninth grade was an overview, with a lot of historical context. Tenth grade was Biology, eleventh chemistry, twelfth, physics. I didn't take the optional Advanced Biology. If I were in charge, I would advocate using my ninth grade class as the model for kids not planning to go on in science. Teaching science in a historical context leaves room for discussing controversies in their historical context. Petrushka
Plutocrats? Bureaucrats? Autocrats? Alleycrats? Jon Garvey
It is a worldwide conspiracy against The Christians velikovskys
Yeah, but this is the UK. The nearest thing to your Democrats is the Labour Party and they aren't in power right now. It just seemed a weird comment, and I wondered if I'd misunderstood the abbreviation. Elizabeth Liddle
Democrats velikovskys
Timaeus Thanks for your interest in my PhD. It is not in philosophy. It will be in the department of web science at Southampton University. It is a four year programme. During the first year we do a partly taught MSc and do not have to settle on our thesis subject until the end of the year. I have whittled it down to four choices none of which are remotely connected to ID. markf
Can anyone help? Elizabeth Liddle
markf ( I understand your point. Obviously if by "natural" explanation of origins you mean one in which God is not *in any way* involved, then of course, Denton's explanation is not entirely "natural." But remember how this discussion began. I was correcting a statement quoted from a Wikipedia article which said that Behe's work implied that "natural" mechanisms could not drive evolution. But of course Behe never said or implied that. He said that Darwinian mechanisms alone could not drive it, but that did not imply that he thought that no purely natural system could. I've now explained what I meant by that, with the example of Denton. Behe is fully aware of the logical possibility that every single evolutionary change might take place without any divine intervention, entirely in terms of the natural causes explicated by science. But to ask what put nature into the shape where it had the power, unaided by divine intervention, to produce life and man, then of course you have to explain who put the intelligent planning in there, and so a Mind of some kind is necessary to get nature going. But anyone reading the Wikipedia article would infer that Behe was implying, not the need for a Creator of nature alone, but *also* the need for periodic interventions or miracles. (Remember, this is the same Wikipedia which calls Behe and all ID proponents creationists, a term implying that God creates species through a series of special interventions.) Interventions or miracles are not something that Behe has ever explicitly called for or implied. A final point: in Denton the existence of God is not assumed, but inferred from the facts of nature, as he carefully sets them forth in his book. There is no religious commitment required to follow Denton's argument. Of course, for those who have made up their minds in advance that there is not, cannot be, or must not be, any kind of God [read: 95% of the specialists in evolutionary biology, and probably 90%, certainly at least 75%, of biologists overall], Denton's argument will be unacceptable. But to start with that kind of a priori is the most unphilosophical attitude imaginable. I assume that at age 60, any Ph.D. program you start will be for delight, and not for the sake of a job. So if I may ask, what will the Ph.D. be in? You say it's in an unrelated field, and you mentioned having done an undergrad degree in philosophy. May I infer that the Ph.D. will also be philosophy? But then, philosophy is not really an unrelated field to questions of intelligent design, since philosophy of biology deals with that question all the time. So have you suddenly taken up an interest in the history of the Incas or the sociology of deviance? T. Timaeus
Timeaus No I have not read Denton. There are a lot of books about ID and it is not practical to read them all - especially as I am just starting a PhD (at the age of 60) in an unrelated subject. I find it strange to claim that the design is done by a God who is the cosmic intellect who assigned the universal constants, arranged the fundamental particles so that there would be the right chemical elements, etc. And then say this is a natural explanation. But I guess it all turns on what you mean by "natural" and I don't plan to get into that semantic debate again. markf
markf: Thanks for your question. From the sounds of it, unless you are being coy, you have not read Denton's book, *Nature's Destiny*. I know that you have said you are "up" on intelligent design, but I don't consider anyone to be up on the subject until they have read ND from cover to cover. It represents a major strand of thought within intelligent design. (If you insist on using "ID" with capitals only for the Discovery people, then use lowercase "id" for Denton, but he is still a design theorist.) So I urge you to read this book. Who does Denton think is doing the designing? Well, he uses the word "God," with the understanding that he is not specifying the God of any particular religious tradition, but a sort of generic Creator -- so his view is compatible with many different religions, including a rather colorless Deism. But Denton has no interest in promoting religion as such. God is the cosmic intellect who assigned the universal constants, arranged the fundamental particles so that there would be the right chemical elements, etc. How does God design? Design is a mental act, not a physical act, so it would take place internally, within God. There wouldn't be a physical or scientific explanation for how God can think. I believe that you mean, probably, not how does God design, but how does God actualize his design? Well, he actualizes it by creating the compressed matter which will undergo the Big Bang, and all the associated laws and constants. That's God's only physical act. After that, all happens naturalistically, with no interventions or miracles of any kind. But when things get to the stage of organic evolution, the driving mechanism is no longer Darwinian, but frankly teleological. The first genomes are geared to, in the fulness of time, produce man. If you want to know how he argues all this, you will have to read the book. From what I have said, you will perceive that Denton, like Behe, accepts macroevolution. He also agrees with Behe in severely limiting the creative role of Darwinian mechanisms. (If anything, he limits them more than Behe.) The main difference between them is that Behe does not rule out the possibility of evolution's being supplemented by interventions, whereas Denton does. Denton prefers a wholly naturalistic model. But even Behe allows for the possibility of a wholly naturalistic model, so the two are not at loggerheads. Denton is hated by most evolutionary biologists for his earlier book, which bashed Darwinism and appeared (but only appeared) to endorse direct creationism. They hate his second book less, because it is evolutionary and naturalistic, but they still don't trust him, and of course, they can't abide teleology, design, and most of all, God, even a colorless Deist God who makes no moral demands on them. But that's their private hangup. Denton makes a very strong case for design, not limited to specific cases like the flagellum, but pervasive throughout nature at all levels, from the physical through the chemical and the geological and then the biological and finally the psychological -- the brain and intelligence of man. And the book is utterly free of all culture war material, containing no complaints about the moral depravity of Darwinism or blaming Darwin for Hitler or calling for the moral renewal of society against materialism or anything of the sort. It's a book about science, engineering, design, and a version of the anthropic principle, written by a man with both a Ph.D. in biochemistry and an M.D., and years of experience in research in the genetics of cancer. It's wonderfully broad and rich and one would have to have lost all sense of the wonder of nature not to find its cosmic scope and its detailed discussions fascinating and intriguing. In some ways I think it is the best id book ever written. Have a look at it. T. Timaeus
I am intrigued by this natural/designed hypothesis. Who does Denton think is doing the designing? And how? markf
Elizabeth: I followed these stories as they came out. Generally the story would first come to my attention on the Discovery site, after which I would click to the original news stories, opinion columns, or school board web sites. I cannot now remember all the states that were involved, or all the dates. It would take me just as long as it would take you to look them up. I would suggest starting on the Discovery web site and looking up states such as Kansas, Texas, and Louisiana for starters. That would probably link you up to articles on other states, eventually. And if you don't trust Discovery's account of the conflicts, you can always check the same references on the NCSE web site. Whether I have phrased the NCSE's position in exactly the words that the NCSE would like, I cannot say, but I have not knowingly misrepresented their position. I think you will find that when any local school board or state contemplated or proposed or enacted any policy change regarding evolution education or science education in general, the NCSE was there, and opposed not only to creationism (which was eventually banned by court action) but also to ID (not merely the promoting of it, but even simply explaining to students what it was), and also to language suggesting that evolutionary theory (often grouped with other controversial theories such as AGW, HIV-AIDS claims, etc.) should be taught critically. Of course, always the NCSE used the excuse that teaching evolution critically was a front for creationism (and for ID which Eugenie Scott regularly and knowingly misnames as creationism), but in some cases the proposed policy deliberately ruled out both creationism and ID as classroom subjects, meaning that "critical evaluation" of evolution theory would be limited to the sorts of criticism levelled by non-ID scientists, and even then the NCSE opposed the policy. And this was all the more absurd as the NCSE repeatedly claimed that there were no valid scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory; what then, was the worry? The teacher would just say: "Now we come to scientific criticisms of evolutionary theory. There are none. So let's move on to the next chapter." What would Eugenie be afraid of? She must have been afraid that some teacher would mention Margulis's critique of random mutations, or Gould's criticism of gradualism, or the mathematical critics of the Wistar Conference, or the like. But why would she want the students not to know about those criticisms? Was she afraid they would "misunderstand" them? That's pretty condescending toward both students and teachers involved, I'd say, and hardly the attitude of a real educator. As to your question about Darwinism vs. evolutionary theory generally, I cannot answer that in a general way. You would have to consult each state's or school board's proposals to see what language they used. Yes, the debate does often get bogged down in language, but no one has tried harder to set forth clear definitions and focus the argument on those clear definitions than the ID people. It is people like the NCSE leaders who confuse the language, by using phrases like "ID creationism" which make it impossible for people to correctly understand ID, or by saying "there is no debate over evolution among scientists" without clarifying whether they are talking about common descent or mechanisms. ID people have done a great public service by forcing the clarification of much of the language of the debate, but still the Darwinians diehards continue to misuse it. You will see above, for example, that a champion of the educational status quo (the same person who misused the term "vitalism") calls me a "theocrat" without knowing me or any of my personal views or even if I am a Christian, and without even defining "theocrat." Of course I am not a "theocrat" but a classic liberal on questions of religion and the state, but if the word keeps getting repeated in connection with me, people will start believing it, just as they start to believe "intelligent design creationism" when the NCSE and Wikipedia keep repeating over and over that intelligent design is creationism. All demagogues know that with repetition, lies and distortions can slowly become regarded as truths. Blurring language pays political dividends, and that is why culture warriors do it. I'll now exit this thread. T. Timaeus
lastyearon: I'm sorry that you did not accept my apology above, which was offered sincerely. Your accusation is unjust. I would not defend Christianity or any other philosophy or religion with a sword. I'm in favor of complete freedom of speech (barring obvious reasonable exceptions like not shouting fire in a crowded theater). And most emphatically I'm in favor of freedom of speech at the university, which is why I'm opposed to campus speech codes, of whatever contents and however well motivated. In the ID/Darwinist debates, it is the Darwinists who want to shut down on free speech, not the ID people. Careers have been destroyed because people have defied the Darwinian consensus; articles accepted for journals after passing peer-review have been pulled out before publication; the NCSE wants it to be illegal to mention the existence of ID in a science classroom; etc. Many of these cases are well-publicized; others, which constitute the largest part of the iceberg, are known to the ID community. Indeed, the closest thing I have seen in modern academia to "late 15th century Spain" is the attack on Behe's *Edge of Evolution*, which in tone and contents was more like a heresy trial than a scientific dispute. The vindictiveness against Behe, a vindictiveness which drove even Christian professors at Christian colleges to make vile accusations against Behe's character, has no historical parallel outside of Communist or Christian trials of doctrinal orthodoxy. And for those grad students and young untenured scholars who have agreed with Behe, the academic penalty has often been, as in the case of the Inquisition and the Communist trials, death -- that is, career death. So I would ask you not to lecture me on the dangers of repressing dissident speech. You have not paid the enormous economic and personal cost of employing free speech, as ID proponents have. You don't have the slightest idea what it really means to stand before authorities who can take away your livelihood and destroy your reputation merely because they don't like what you think. When you have had such experiences, then come back and talk to me about Inquisitorial Spain. T. Timaeus
Can you cite, specifically, where (or an example of where) the NCSE has "opposed the introduction of scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution into the classroom"? And do you mean "criticism of neo-Darwinism", which is a term sometimes used to describe a specific version of evolutionary theory, or do you mean "criticism of any aspect of current evolutionary theory", or something else? Because I think this whole debate regularly becomes totally bogged down by lack of clarity as to what is meant by "Darwinian evolution" or "evolutionary theory" or "Darwinism". Elizabeth Liddle
It's theocrats like yourself that make it all the more important to defend science education. lastyearon
markf: By Darwinian processes Behe generally means random mutation plus natural selection (the classic neo-Darwinian formulation). There is generally no ambiguity about that in his writings. Yes, he infers design, but he never says that the design has to be delivered via non-natural causes. For example, Michael Denton offers a model in which the design is delivered entirely through natural causes, and Behe gave Denton's second book a strong endorsement. The language of the Wikipedia article might well lead the reader to assume that Behe demands supernatural interventions, which he definitely does not. There is no requirement in ID of a violation of the causal nexus. What there is, is an insistence that, in addition to all normal physical causes, there are informational causes that can only be introduced by intelligence. Many other ID proponents, when expressing their personal views, seem to incline to the opinion that at least some intervention would be necessary in order for intelligence to guide evolution; hence, non-natural causes would have to intrude from time to time. But that is not a requirement of ID *per se*, and it is not a requirement set forth by Behe. T. Timaeus
Ugh...The ugly side of Christianity. Timeaus, your words are intended to cause harm. You'd gleefully defend Christ from heresy with the sword if you could. I know a time and a place you'd love: Late 15th Century Spain. lastyearon
Just for the record, Behe never says anywhere that things could not have evolved naturally. He says that it is highly unlikely that they could have evolved via Darwinian processes alone.
He goes a bit further than that. He says that it is highly unlikely that they could have evolved via a combination of Darwinian processes (whatever that is) plus Margulis plus complexity theory therefore they were designed. (Darwin's Black Box ch 9). I don't want to get into a debate about what is natural but I would have thought that designed pretty much entails non-natural on most accounts of non-natural. markf
lastyearon: Without being aware of champignon's comment below, I had already decided that I had been too violent in my language to you. I apologize for dismissing you so sweepingly in my last paragraph. I was not trying to demolish you as a person, but simply to express my strong objections to your approach, and I went overboard. If I may now put my objections to you in a more civil form, I would say that I don't think you are being responsible to comment on ID without having carefully read what ID authors have to say, and I don't think you have done that, and I therefore don't feel any obligation to reply further to you until you have shown by the insightfulness of your analysis of ID literature that you have done the necessary reading required to debate these issues. T. Timaeus
“Critical analysis” is, or should be, fundamental to science teaching. It underlies the entire methodology of science, that of hypothesis testing.
Of course there's no reason to enact a policy singling out evolution as a science that teachers need to critically analyze. Unless the real motive is to introduce religion masquerading as science into science class. Critical Analysis® of Evolution is a Discovery Institute campaign to promote religious anti-evolutionism as science. It's a relabeling of the same stuff that Creationism is made of, worded carefully to appear to be scientifically motivated. And that violates the U.S. Constitution. lastyearon
Timaeus, Impulse control problems? champignon
Elizabeth ( You are right that it should not be controversial. Yet the NCSE has steadily opposed the introduction of scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution into the school curriculum. In fact, it has usually maintained that there are no scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution, only religiously-motivated criticisms. But this is simply false. There have been legitimate scientific criticisms of Darwinian ideas since 1859, and the scientific criticism of classic neo-Darwinism (which is the position of Miller and Scott, the two leading lights in the NCSE) has been mounting to a crescendo since the 1966 Wistar Conference. Of course, not all of these objections are suitable for inclusion in ninth-grade biology, but to leave ninth-grade biology students with the impression that no qualified scientist has ever questioned the capacity of Darwinian mechanisms, and that only religious nuts have ever doubted it, is to engage in propaganda, not education. T. Timaeus
lasyyearon quoting wikipedia:
From Wikipedia: Behe’s Irreducible Complexity, as he defines it, is a system “composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning”. These examples are said to demonstrate that modern biological forms could not have evolved naturally.
That is wrong. The last sentence should read: These examples are said to demonstrate that modern biological forms could not have evolved via accumulations of random mutations. An neither Nick Matzke nor Ken Miller has demonstrated that accumulations of random mutations can a construct new, useful multi-protein machine. Joe
The problem is the theory of evolution cannot withstand critical analysis as it does not produce any hypotheses to test. For example how can we test the premise that the bacterial flagellum evolved via accumulations of random mutations? It cannot be done. Joe
lastyearon ( Yep, I'm right about your not having read Behe. Instead of citing Behe to explain his views, you cite the Wikipedia article on him. If you had read him, you wouldn't need to. And, aside from the fact that every single article on Wikipedia concerning Intelligent Design is a pile of fermented horse manure, filled with lies and distortions because written by violent anti-ID partisans (who reverse every single correction to their lies and distortions), if you had even the slightest scholarly training you would know that it is completely impermissible in academic debate to rely on secondary sources for an author whose primary sources are available. I thus infer what I had already inferred, i.e., that you have no serious academic training of any kind, or, if you do, it is in something technical like computer programming or economics, not something involving the interpretation of books and ideas. Just for the record, Behe never says anywhere that things could not have evolved naturally. He says that it is highly unlikely that they could have evolved via Darwinian processes alone. If you can't grasp the difference between those two statements, you don't have enough background in either science or philosophy to be qualified to even enter these debates, and you should remain silent until you have more understanding. The rest of your comments are a wild rant about Dover and ID. The fact that you cite the very partisan Nick Matzke as if his opinions are authoritative shows that you are't interested in taking a wide view, but only in toeing the anti-ID party line. You might as well ask Hitler for an objective opinion about Communism. And Behe has responded to Ken Miller's argument scores of times, as you would know if you had taken the slightest effort to do any research before mouthing off. His refutations have been clear and have destroyed Miller's criticism, which was always based on a misunderstanding of what Behe was arguing. If you are really interested in the truth, and not simply in maintaining what you already believe, you will hunt down Behe's rebuttals, one of which you can find in the Ruse/Dembski collection, though I suspect that you are of the Internet generation that does not read books but only web sites. You obviously made up your mind long ago about ID (probably within five minutes of first hearing about it), and, since you refuse to read any books written by ID proponents (which I can safely infer, since your idea of what ID teaches is completely wrong), you have rendered yourself immune to correction. But willful ignorance is still ignorance. Regarding Louisiana or any other state: critical analysis of all scientific theories is good science policy; it makes no difference at all who proposes a policy, if the policy is a good one. You are motive-mongering. As I indicated to markf, if one were to reverse all policies that originated in Christian motivations, we would have to go back to legalizing slavery. The question is what is the best way for science to be taught. The NCSE wants it to be taught within a very narrow understanding of science, an understanding that cannot withstand searching historical criticism, as Steve Fuller has shown. And the NCSE leaders are all people who have a personal academic stake in neo-Darwinism, having tied their reputations to its truth. They are indignant at the thought that the doctrine they imbibed as undergrads and have defended all their adult lives should be questioned. But science moves on. The new path of evolutionary theory lies with the Shapiros and the Newmans, and the Scotts and Millers will not even be footnotes in future histories of evolutionary theory. As for your note 5.1.1, I'm intimately familiar with the Dover Trial and the documents and arguments advanced there. Your trying to teach me about the Lemon test is like a freshman calculus student trying to teach Einstein math. Save your schoolmasterish lectures for someone who doesn't have a Ph.D. and hasn't studied the Dover material far more deeply than you have. Goodbye, lastyearon. I can honestly say that you are one of the most intellectually insignificant people I've had the pleasure (?) of knowing on the internet. You make Petrushka and Nakashima look like careful scholars, and that takes some doing. T. Timaeus
"Critical analysis" is, or should be, fundamental to science teaching. It underlies the entire methodology of science, that of hypothesis testing. This is not controversial. Elizabeth Liddle
it is wrong now for American courts to tell states that they cannot include genuine scientific criticisms in the teaching of evolution
There are no instances of courts doing this. Although the issue of what is and what isn't a "legitimate scientific criticism" of evolution has been debated for decades. The courts have found that where it's religiously motivated, it isn't legitimate. At least it's not legitimate to teach in science class. See the Lemon Test:
"First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."
the Lemon Test lastyearon
the Dover school board was wrong because it was religiously motivated, and the the judge was right to call its policy unconstitutional for that reason.
All policies that attempt to insert ID/Creationism/Critical-Analysis into science classrooms are religiously motivated and therefore unconstitutional. The Dover trial was just the latest high profile attempt. The fact that media attention and the skill of the plaintiffs lawyers uncovered the blatantly obvious doesn't make it any less true in every single other instance around the country.
if the Dover school board had not been religiously motivated, i.e., if they had started out with a genuine scientific motivation, I would have found nothing formally wrong with the Dover policy.
If they had been scientifically motivated, they would not have been interested in promoting ID/Creationism/Critical-Analysis, and there would not have been a lawsuit in the first place.
Dover is of course a straw man, since the members of the Dover School Board were creationists who knew nothing and cared nothing about ID until they thought it could serve their creationist agenda.
But that is what ID is designed to do. Its language is carefully crafted to allow school boards to pretend to be scientifically motivated. It has no real scientific content. It can only be explained as a set of talking points and public relations that are designed to be superficially scientific sounding, which works to an extent. But when it's examined closely, as in the Dover trial, or here, it disintegrates into a bunch of meaningless jargon and circular logic.
Bill Buckingham couldn’t even give a coherent definition of either ID or Darwinian evolution when asked.
No one can give a coherent definition of ID without betraying its true purpose. Behe couldn't on the stand. Dembski can't here. The only coherent definition of ID is contained in the Wedge document: a tool to "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."
ID, creationism, and critical analysis are three different things, and the fact that they have been confused for political ends by school boards or anyone else is irrelevant.
They are only relabelings of the same thing in response to legal setbacks. The term Intelligent Design (in this usage) was born as a response to Edwards v. Aguillard. Critical-Analysis is a response to Dover. The Discovery Institute (of whom the leading ID theorists are all Senior Fellows of) spends a lot of money producing literature designed to "confuse" school boards who are already religiously motivated.
in at least one southern state (it may be Louisiana, but I’ve forgotten now), a critical analysis policy (one explicitly excluding ID) has been passed, about two years ago now I think, and I’ve heard of no evil consequences.
The Louisiana Science Education Act was written by the Louisiana Family Forum (LFF), a Focus on the Family affiliate that promotes creationism as part of its mission “to present biblical principles in the centers of influence.” - Louisiana Coalition for Science I challenge you to identify one instance of an ID/Critical-Analysis policy or bill that is not religiously motivated.
It is evident that you have never read Michael Behe’s books, where there are about six hundred pages of argument which *accept* evolution (and therefore cannot be “anti-evolutionism”) while arguing against Darwinian mechanisms, and do not rely upon any religious premise at all.
From Wikipedia: Behe's Irreducible Complexity, as he defines it, is a system "composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning". These examples are said to demonstrate that modern biological forms could not have evolved naturally. Nick Matzke is generously taking his time to explain why the argument from Irreducible Complexity is wrong here. Keneth Miller destroys the argument here. Behe has known of these criticisms and yet does not address them in a meaningful way, instead continuing to make the same erroneous arguments again and again. Good evidence of his religious motivation. lastyearon
Yes, indeed, markf, there is no doubt that the NCSE people are concerned about the thin edge of the wedge. But while being suspicious about the motives of some of the people advocating evolution policies is legitimate, it doesn't justify opposing policies that are on the face of things quite reasonable. A non-polarizing approach would be to support "critical analysis" policies provided that they include certain security measures (e.g., "Creationism will not be treated as a scientific alternative"), and then watch, after the policy is passed, to make sure it is not abused by fundamentalists. (And, if it is, *then* to resort to the courts.) In my view, it was wrong for American states ever to ban the teaching of evolution, and it is wrong now for American courts to tell states that they cannot include genuine scientific criticisms in the teaching of evolution, merely because some of those genuine scientific criticisms happen to be endorsed by fundamentalists. That would be as stupid as arguing that it was wrong to abolish slavery on the grounds the arguments for abolishing slavery were first put forward for religious motivations (they came from Quakers and Unitarians and Anglicans and the like), and that we should not have a policy (anti-slavery) that seems to endorse Christian religion. The point is that if there are bona fide scientific criticisms of Darwinian mechanisms -- and there are -- Newman, Shapiro, Margulis, etc. -- it shouldn't matter at all if those criticisms happen to agree with criticisms levelled by non-scientists for purely religious reasons. There is no reason to lie to high school students by concealing the serious doubts that some scientists -- including atheists who have no use for ID or creationism -- have expressed about the capacity of the evolutionary mechanisms described in traditional textbooks. Why does the NCSE not want ninth-grade students to know about these intra-scientific debates? What possible good motive can they have? How can painting evolutionary theory as one happy unity, when it isn't, contribute to the scientific education of high school students? If you doubt my account of the NCSE position, you are welcome to locate a state or board policy requiring critical analysis or the teaching of scientific alternatives to Darwinism (while banning creationism and ID), that the NCSE has supported. I know of none, but am glad to be corrected. T. Timaeus
lastyearon: I've said many times, in various places here and elsewhere, that the Dover school board was wrong because it was religiously motivated, and the the judge was right to call its policy unconstitutional for that reason. (The rest of the judge's ruling, about the nature of ID, the nature of science, etc., was complete rubbish, mostly written by the ideological expert witnesses for the plaintiffs, but on the narrower legal ruling I was in complete agreement.) However, if the Dover school board had not been religiously motivated, i.e., if they had started out with a genuine scientific motivation, I would have found nothing formally wrong with the Dover policy. But of course, having an administrator reading a statement against the wishes of the science teachers would not have been the way to do it; the proper way to do it would have been to work with, not against, the science teachers, and to ask the science teachers to work up a short unit on "scientific critiques of current evolutionary theory," which might include, among other things, reference to some ID writings (but not to the abominable *Of Pandas and People*). Dover is of course a straw man, since the members of the Dover School Board were creationists who knew nothing and cared nothing about ID until they thought it could serve their creationist agenda. Bill Buckingham couldn't even give a coherent definition of either ID or Darwinian evolution when asked. Discovery tried to talk Dover out of its unwise course of action. So yes, the Dover school board got what it deserved. But your final statement is incorrect. ID, creationism, and critical analysis are three different things, and the fact that they have been confused for political ends by school boards or anyone else is irrelevant. Indeed, already, in at least one southern state (it may be Louisiana, but I've forgotten now), a critical analysis policy (one explicitly excluding ID) has been passed, about two years ago now I think, and I've heard of no evil consequences. Eugenie and the NCSE opposed the policy, of course. But the ACLU (which partnered with the NCSE in the Dover case) did not agree, and endorsed the policy in the case of the southern state. So constructive distinctions can be made, where people are not motivated (by atheism quite as often as by creationism) to adopt polarized, obstructionist stances. It is evident that you have never read Michael Behe's books, where there are about six hundred pages of argument which *accept* evolution (and therefore cannot be "anti-evolutionism") while arguing against Darwinian mechanisms, and do not rely upon any religious premise at all. T. Timaeus
But they tried that in Dover, Timaeus. If you remember, all the school board wanted was for science teachers to inform students that there was another minority viewpoint within the scientific community regarding evolution. ID wouldn't have even been taught in the classroom. What's wrong with that? But every single one of the science teachers affected by the policy refused to comply. Why? Why refuse to inform students of certain scientific critiques of evolution? I'll tell you why. Because they knew that it was just religiously motivated anti-evolutionism. And that even a short statement mentioning "alternative theories" was nothing but a form of religious preaching. And that using the public school science classroom to preach religion violates the student's first amendment rights. It's really that simple. ID/Creationism/Critical-Analysis whatever you want to call it. They are all religiously motivated anti-evolutionism. lastyearon
Timaeus Are you sure you describe the position of the NCSE correctly? In any case the position in the USA is very different. It seems like the issue has been subject to legislation for a century and most of that time the laws were all about forbidding the teaching of evolution; often including forbidding the teaching of common descent for explicitly religious reasons. Perhaps the NCSE are concerned about the thin end of the wedge? markf
Thanks for this background, Elizabeth. I have no objection to the British education system as you describe it. My point is that if one can spend the overwhelming majority of the time spent in evolution on science class explaining why the majority of biologists think that random mutations plus natural selection can turn a land mammal into a whale in six million years, one can also invest a very small chunk of time discussing (not promoting, discussing) in summary form some of the criticisms of these mechanisms which have been made by scientists (not theologians or church leaders). And this should not be done in regard to evolution only; it should be done in regard to all scientific theories. There is far too much science-worship in popular culture; scientists are far too often put on a pedestal as great and noble minds devoted only to the truth, who are completely scrupulous at all times and would never think of exaggerating the evidence in favor of the hypothesis they favor or minimizing the evidence in favor of the hypothesis they dislike; and most of those who devour popular science writings are completely unaware of the subtle or not-so-subtle prejudices involved in the hiring, tenure, and procedures in the natural sciences (and in all academic subjects, for that matter). They think that "science" is objectivity itself, and that when "science" speaks, the matter is settled. Students need to see that science, like all academic pursuits -- history, philosophy, literary criticism, etc. -- is conducted by human beings who are subject to personal bias and capable of making mistakes and capable of digging in their heels to defend the orthodoxy which made their reputation, and who therefore need to be checked by constant questioning and criticism. My main practical point, of course, is that Scott and the NCSE are not as generous as you and Mark Frank are; they do not want ID even *discussed* in science class, not even in passing, even if it is mentioned in a way that makes absolutely clear that it is the view of a small minority; and she and her gang are willing to go to court to make sure that it isn't. Further, they don't even want any discussion of *non-ID* criticisms of neo-Darwinism discussed in science class; they have opposed every measure proposed by every state that has considered doing so. They are not championing "science"; they are championing the indoctrination of ninth-grade biology students in neo-Darwinism. And the joke is, other than Jerry Coyne, who has gone rogue lately, the NCSE's most prominent members are not even practising evolutionary biologists! Eugenie Scott is an ex-anthropologist who has done nothing but politics for years now, and Ken Miller was never an evolutionary biologist, but a cell biologist (and he hasn't published much in even that field lately). Why should inactive scientists like this be preventing the views of Shapiro and Margulis and Newman, who *are* evolutionary biologists, from being heard by high school students? The only word for this is chutzpah. But that is what makes you politically successful in America -- not talent, not knowledge, but chutzpah. The loudest and most aggressive voices, not the most reasonable and best-informed, carry the day. The Founding Fathers wanted America to be better than that. T. Timaeus
Elizabeth wrote: 'But it isn’t a “generally accepted alternative”.' I never said it was. Elizabeth didn't read my post carefully and contextually, in light of the discussion with markf. My point was that no student would infer that ID was a generally accepted alternative *if it were mentioned in only a cursory way among a cluster of minority views*. They would understand that it was definitely a minority view. So the "danger" that markf sees is not really a danger at all. Elizabeth also wrote: 'Shapiro and Margulis have posed interesting challenges to what Margulis calls “neo-Darwinism”, some of which are accepted, but their proposals are not “ID”.' I never said that either of their proposals counted as ID. Margulis's proposals are definitely anti-ID (as they are definitely anti-neo-Darwinian), and Shapiro's proposals (also anti-neo-Darwinian) are not by intention ID either. Bill Dembski is trying to make the case that eventually Shapiro's position will push him logically toward ID, even if Shapiro wishes to resist the push, but I wasn't commenting on that argument here. What I said was (and again Elizabeth needs to read more slowly in order to catch the context) that if a very small part (say, one classroom period, or more probably, given a teacher's time constraints, a half or a third of one classroom period) of a (say, three-week) unit on evolution in a ninth-grade biology course were devoted to "critics of the neo-Darwinian theory," and ID proponents such as Behe and Dembski were mentioned as two such critics, along with non-ID critics such as Shapiro, Newman, Margulis, etc., no student would come out with the impression that "ID and neo-Darwinism are the two main scientific theories of origins held by scientists." It would be no different from some book on cosmology from about 1966 promoting the Big Bang theory in detail but mentioning the names and summary arguments of the main scientists who had previously or still subscribed to the Steady State Theory. Such mentions can be inserted without misleading students as to what is the ruling theory. (If Eugenie believes otherwise, maybe she should launch a court challenge against some high school physics teacher from Podunk who still mentions, in passing, the Steady State Theory.) Students are not as stupid and gullible as Eugenie Scott and the NCSE think they are. By ninth grade, I had already read a good deal of popular science, and I already knew that scientists disagreed about things and I knew the difference between a majority view, a minority view, a fringe view, and a crackpot view. I didn't need to be "protected" from hearing things in science class which I might "misinterpret." The NCSE acts like a Puritanical censorship board. They want to keep students uncritical and unquestioning, passive recipients of the received theories. This will produce great drones to work eight hours a day, doing routine testing in the pharmaceutical industry; it won't produce imaginative scientists. Science students should be taught from early on that science is an ongoing activity that requires constant criticism, not a body of fixed truths nailed down once and for all by Newton, Darwin, or (worst of all) by current biology professors at American universities. T. Timaeus
I should add that the front-loading hypothesis is one ID hypothesis. There aren't that many other ID hypotheses, but the front-loading hypothesis is one of them. Genomicus
Right now, ID remains a philosophy, not a scientific theory. Of course it should be taught, but it is not ready for the science class.
Actually, the front-loading idea isn't really a philosophy: it's a biological hypothesis. Genomicus
I know and have demonstrated so. And if your position had something then ID would be a non-starter. Yet here we are. Zippiddy-do-da, zippiddy-a, my oh my ID is here to stay... Joe
The design inference is based on our knowledge of cause and effect relationships, can be tested and either confirmed or falsified.
I don't think so. Elizabeth Liddle
Right now, ID remains a philosophy, not a scientific theory.
The design inference is based on our knowledge of cause and effect relationships, can be tested and either confirmed or falsified. OTOH ypour position is not based on cause and effect relationships and cannot be tested. Yet you consider your position to be scientific. And if you want to model something you have to understand it first... Joe
My only quibble would be that it is unlikely that any ninth-grade student would think that ID was a generally accepted alternative if the textbook mentioned it in only one sentence or one footnote
But it isn't a "generally accepted alternative". Shapiro and Margulis have posed interesting challenges to what Margulis calls "neo-Darwinism", some of which are accepted, but their proposals are not "ID". Evolutionary theory is constantly changing, and at the cutting edge, there are many lively controversies, raising new hypotheses that are constantly being tested in empirical research studies. Advanced students should certainly be aware of these (indeed Margulis' symbiotic theory of the original of eukaryotes is widely accepted), but they do not include ID. Right now, ID remains a philosophy, not a scientific theory. Of course it should be taught, but it is not ready for the science class. What is of course ready, and will always be ready, is information about what we do not yet know. Children should not be taught that science is about the way the world is, but about our best models of how the world might be. That's a harder challenge, and in my experience, is actually better conveyed at primary school level in our current national curriculum, than later on, where the syllabus is still dominated by a "body of facts" approach rather than a "hypothesis-testing methodology" approach. I hope this will change. It's certainly a problem when those students reach higher levels. But I am hopeful. Elizabeth Liddle
There is important history to this story. Under Tony Blair, some schools were set up under a public-private partnership scheme (one of Blairs tricks for increasing education spending without increasing public spending, at least in theory). They were called "City Technical Colleges" and were partly funded by business donors. One, Emmanuel College, in Gateshead, was the centre of controversy, as those donors appeared to include YEC sympathisers, and there was concern that the science curriculum taught in that school was being influenced. IIRC, Ofsted (the government school inspectorate) concluded there was no cause for concern. This move, as I understand it, is to ensure that this governments "Free Schools" should also be protected from such influence on their science curricula. The teaching of Christianity, far from being excluded from British schools, is in fact mandated by law. Not only that, but there are many "faith schools", the running costs of which are provided totally by the government, are free to pupils (indeed are completely integrated into the state school system) and although capital costs are partly provided by religious institutions, they also receive government subsidies. My son went to such schools in the UK. (In Canada he also attended an RC school, but it was fee paying, although the fees were low). Creationism and Intelligent Design were freely discussed. He received an excellent science education, which, of course, included the teaching of evolutionary theory. The British education system does not exclude the teaching of religion in schools, indeed it is a mandatory part of the curriculum, and large parts of the system are run by religious institutions. Science is also a mandatory part of the curriculum, and that curriculum obviously includes evolutionary theory, which is foundational to the science of biology. That does not mean that ID and creationism cannot be discussed, and both are. So was atheism, and my son and his lovely RE teacher had many lively discussions in class, in which my son regularly challenged his teacher's beliefs and was challenged himself in turn. Elizabeth Liddle
markf: We are mostly in agreement. Obviously, given time constraints, science teachers in a high school setting cannot spend a great deal of time discussing all the disputes that scientists get into, and many views with only a minority of followers will inevitably escape mention. My only quibble would be that it is unlikely that any ninth-grade student would think that ID was a generally accepted alternative if the textbook mentioned it in only one sentence or one footnote (as one of a number of positions which differed from classic neo-Darwinism), and if the teacher only spent three minutes out of three weeks talking about it. (Of course, if the teacher spent half of the evolution unit talking about ID as an alternative, then students would indeed get that impression. But I know of no school board or state in the U.S. that has contemplated mandating ID at all, let alone giving it equal or even nearly equal class time with neo-Darwinism.) I agree with you about what a good science teacher should be able to do if ID were raised by a student. But of course, the teacher could do a better job of answering such questions if he or she had actually read some ID writing, instead of merely being fed talking points against ID by the NCSE or some association of biology teachers. I'm not suggesting that every science teacher should have to have read all the works of Meyer, Behe, etc., but any biology teacher with even a modicum of intellectual curiosity about the material he was teaching would be reading articles about evolution in magazines like Scientific American now and then, or would glance periodically at web sites devoted to popular science questions, or would catch the NOVA television special (biased though it was) on the Dover Trial, and from such sources would pick up some news about ID, and then would read maybe the first 100 pages or so of Darwin's Black Box, or some of the essays in the Ruse/Dembski collection, and if he saw, say, Bill Dembski being interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, would have enough pedagogical sense to sit through the interview, knowing that at least a few students in the class were probably being influenced by arguments like Dembski's. I agree with you that it is very peculiar that any of this should be the subject of legislation. One would think that normal educational practice, student interest, and teacherly common sense would be able to handle questions about design if they came up, without involving lawmakers. But the U.S. right now is a very polarized society (at least, its cultural leadership is very polarized), and a very litigious society. Many people and groups are willing and even eager to use the legislature to get their way, or the courts to block the legislature. In some cases such actions might be necessary, e.g., as in Dover, where the school board members were known from statements at board meetings to be motivated by religious belief. But it gets ridiculous when a legislature rewrites its science education policy to say that scientific theories should be taught critically rather than delivered as unalterable givens (like the date of the voyage of Columbus), and an evolution lobby group responds by threatening legal action against the legislature. America seems to be the only country in the world where the subject of evolution produces widespread dysfunctional social behavior. (Though from the sounds of some British reports about quarrels over evolution and design and creationism in the schools, it seems as if there may be an echo effect of the American debate in Britain. It would be a pity if the British departed from their traditional common-sense and moderate ways of handling such matters and adopted the "I'll take you to court if my values are offended" approach of the Americans. Beyond a few basic broad guidelines, the British educational system should give its science teachers the freedom to use their heads.) T. Timaeus
The "'crats"? Who are they? Elizabeth Liddle
Timeaus I am the same Mark Frank. I do consider myself quite well up on the theory of ID. I am also British and not at all familiar with (or particularly interested in) the politics o the US educational system. I personally think science teachers should concentrate on generally accepted scientific orthodoxy and scientific method. So it would be OK to talk about evidence for and against particular aspects of evolution - depending on how much detail you are discussing it. I would not expect a science teacher to introduce ID into the classroom as it might confuse students into thinking it was a generally accepted alternative. A good teacher should be prepared to discuss why it is not considered good science (in a sympathetic manner) if a student raised it. ID might well come up as a subject in a humanities class e.g. philosophy. I wouldn't generally expect any of this to be the subject of legislation. But that is where the US specifics come in. markf
markf: I'm sorry; I assumed that you were the Mark Frank who has been commenting here for years, and seems very "up" on ID. Maybe I have the wrong guy. Anyhow, I assumed that you would be very much aware of the many legal challenges that the NCSE and other groups have launched against both school boards and state legislatures throughout the USA, when those boards or states have tried to pass policies or legislation allowing for or demanding a critical approach to Darwinian evolution. But perhaps you have not followed the political side of the American ID/Darwinism battles, and are interested only in the theoretical aspects. If that's the case, then maybe I shouldn't have asked. Still, since you seem to understand the politics of the British ID/Darwinism battles (are you British?), you shouldn't need to learn much that is new about the politics to grasp the basic American situation: 1. In most American public schools, students are forced to take science in ninth grade, and usually the science is biology, and always the biology course has within it a unit on evolution, a unit which teaches that evolution is fact and that the main mechanisms are random mutation and natural selection. 2. Some school boards and state legislatures have introduced policies requiring evolution (usually not evolution alone, but a whole set of controversial theories) to be taught critically, with notice given to students of scientific (not religious) criticisms of the current theory. 3. Almost always these proposals have been accompanied by restrictions such as "creationism is not to be taught"; "intelligent design is not to be taught"; "criticisms must be those found in the scientific literature"; etc. 4. Even in cases where the restrictions in 3. obtain, the NCSE ("National Center for Science Education," a misnomer since the only scientific concern it has is maintaining the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the schools) has opposed every single policy of this sort, anywhere in the USA, since its inception. In other words, even where the state or school board has guaranteed in advance that it will not allow the teaching of either creationism or ID, and that it will not remove the teaching of Darwinian evolution from the curriculum, but is requiring only that alternatives to Darwinian evolution be presented (e.g., scientific criticism of the adequacy of RM + NS, such as one finds in Shapiro, Margulis, the Altenberg group, etc.), the NCSE has opposed the policy, charging that the policy is simply a mask for a creationist agenda. (In essence, this stance accuses the state legislative committees and school boards of lying about their intentions.) 5. You had originally said that there was a distinction between discussing ID and teaching it. Though you were speaking about someone other than yourself, I boldly inferred that you were not personally opposed to having teachers discuss ID in science class, as long as they did not promulgate it. That is, I took it that you would not object if a science teacher said: "Though Darwinian evolution is the majority opinion among biologists, there is this biochemist Michael Behe who thinks that Darwinian mechanisms cannot build complex new organs by themselves," and summarized Behe's argument, using up about three minutes out of a three-week long unit promoting Darwinian evolution. And if you wouldn't object to ID's being mentioned in that cursory manner, I presume you wouldn't object to an even more minimal approach, which would be to mention criticisms of Darwinian mechanisms without mentioning ID at all. If this is your view, I find you quite reasonable. What I'm asking you is whether you find the NCSE policy (knee-jerk opposition to all policies requiring critical examination of evolution and other controversial scientific theories) reasonable. If you still don't want to comment, then I'll give this up. But I was hoping that for once an ID proponent and an ID critic might find some common ground in opposing extremist and polarizing atttitudes such as those of the NCSE. Discussing ID and evolution in the schools would not be at all a big deal if we could just get rid of those with polarizing attitudes, i.e., those who want Biblical creationism taught as a scientific theory, and those who want all criticism of Darwinian theory suppressed on the suspicion of creationist motives. Most Americans are in the moderate middle on questions like this, but American culture is such that it is the extremists who get all the media attention and whose views are most likely to win a hearing in the courts. It will not be easy to restore sanity to American society, but one thing that would help is a coalition of reasonable people, both pro-ID and anti-ID, who believe in a reasonable latitude of classroom discussion concerning issues that all the students and most of the teachers are privately thinking about anyway and would like to investigate, without lobby groups, lawyers and judges tying their hands and gagging their mouths. T. Timaeus
Timaeus I don't think I am qualified to comment on this. Maybe you could give an example? markf
markf: You wrote: "The usual confusion between teaching creationism/ID and discussing it." This is an important distinction, and you and I may agree on this. Therefore, let me ask a question of clarification, one limited to the American situation (since I don't understand the jargon of the British school system and don't what "free schools" means or whether the "free schools" are also "taxpayer funded schools"). In the USA, Eugenie Scott and her NCSE have for years now attempted to legally block every attempt, not just to "teach" (i.e., promote) ID in the public (taxpayer funded) schools, but even to *discuss* it. Further, they have attempted to legally block every attempt, not just to "teach" (i.e., assert) that there are defects in neo-Darwinian theory, but even to *discuss* defects in neo-Darwinian theory that have been alleged by respected secular biologists. Even when the language of proposed legislation *explicitly forbids the teaching of ID*, and mentions only the critical analysis of Darwinian evolution (and one would think that critical analysis would be part of *all* science education, so that should not be a problem), Scott and her gang have been camping out there every time, trying to prevent the passage of the legislation. If I understand your remark correctly, you would say that the NCSE is grossly overreacting, and that they should be opposing only the promotion of ID, not the mere brief summary of ID notions or the mere passing mention of ID authors and books in the context of a more general discussion of various criticisms (from scientific literature) of Darwinian theory. Am I correct? T. Timaeus
Let's see how it all works out when the 'crats are done or disabled. News
The usual confusion between teaching creationism/ID and discussing it. All the BHA are claiming is to have stopped the government funding schools which teach a version of evolution which (whether you believe it or not) is contrary to scientific orthodoxy. This does not prevent * creationism/ID being discussed in taxpayer funded schools * schools which are not taxpayer funded teaching creationism Finally if a school is prevented from teaching ID how could this be discrimination on religious grounds unless ID is a religous position? markf

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