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Open Inquiry: the New Science Standard

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In Kitzmiller et al vs Dover, the issue over whether or not Darwinian Evolution could be allowed critical evaluation by students, rather than be presented as established fact, was settled once and for all. Furthermore, any consideration of an alternate theory was off the table. All across the land, scientists cheered, since at least for now, science had been saved from an ‘assault by religion’.

Just after the decision was handed down, Ohio’s State Board of Education in a 9 to 8 vote kept with their lesson plan, saying in effect, “go ahead and sue us” [Toledo Blade Op Ed 1/14/06]. Although many school districts had been considering broadening their standards to allow a more open discourse, many shelved their plans out of a fear of legal action. But molecular biologist and student book publisher Rebecca Keller was not deterred, appearing weeks later before the South Carolina State Board of Education [2/2006] proposing a change in the standards that would present evolution more critically than it had been previously. That standard was subsequently adopted by the board.

In a recent podcast on ‘Intelligent Design The Future’, Casey Luskin interviews Keller. At one time, as an undergrad student, she accepted evolutionary theory as presented. In the interview, she relates how in her work with neuroscience and cell biology, and doing mRNA transcription research with RNA polymerases utilizing electron microscopy, she began to have doubts about evolution. Given the complexity of these molecular machines, it was at that point she began to question natural selection of random mutations as the sole source of that complexity.

Her agenda today is open inquiry, not just regarding origins, but in all areas of scientific inquiry, a movement that is gathering steam. As is often the case, she was recently misquoted in the press, but allowed a correction. [see Science Classes Should Educate, Not Indoctrinate]

Does she postulate a transcendent being as the cause of our existence? Not from within science, only that science needs to continue to critically assess naturalistic evolution, and to remain open to alternate theories of molecular and phylogenetic progressions, if and where the evidence points in that direction. To do otherwise is what truly harms science. [podcast]

In another arena, a ‘Florida Citizens for Science’ blog reports progress in revising the teaching standards, although opposition is expected. Their standards site is actually soliciting input from any who would like to comment on the proposed standards [go here]

My remarks in the first paragraph were a parody of not only what you and I believe, but the truth regarding NDE. It is, and will continue to be an uphill battle, but truth and academic freedom will prevail. As I stated, I support and respect Rebecca Keller’s work, and I’ll add to that, yours too. Judge Jones plainly overstepped his authority in ruling on what constitutes science. Although he claimed that the defense allowed him to rule on the ID / science issue, we all need to work work toward getting that ruling contravened in another venue. Since an appeal is off the table, then there could be a subsequent decision to clarify his ruling, such as a more accurate definition of what constitutes religion, or perhaps a decision based on new evidence to in effect, invalidate his ruling. That would involve providing evidence to validate the ID hypothesis as science, and that can be done. It is a shame that we have allowed jurisprudence to rule on what constitutes science. Regarding other tripe that’s been spewed, has anyone publicly debated Barbara Forrest on this one yet? http://tinyurl.com/2dyn73 LeeBowman
Dear Lee, You wrote: "In Kitzmiller et al vs Dover, the issue over whether or not Darwinian Evolution could be allowed critical evaluation by students, rather than be presented as established fact, was settled once and for all". I take it that was humor, since it has no basis in fact! Let me elaborate ... First, the issue in Kitzmiller v. Dover was whether intelligent design could be taught as an alternative to Darwinism. The Dover school district explicitly required the teaching of intelligent design by requiring the reading of an oral disclaimer that favorably mentioned ID. The "issue" was not whether Darwinism could be subjected to critical evaluation, rather the issue was whether ID could be taught in Dover classrooms. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has suggested precisely the opposite of what you claim Judge Jones settled "once and for all": In Edwards v. Aguillard it stated that it is permissible to teach “scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories," and that includes evolution. (Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 593 (1987).) This explains why Darwinists don't sue over standard policies requiring critical analysis of evolution, as I discuss here: "It took Darwinists less than two months to file a lawsuit in Dover, Pa, after an explicitly pro-ID policy was passed. If they really believed that policies calling for critical analysis of evolution during science instruction are the same as teaching ID, lawsuits would have already have arisen over the many critical analysis of evolution policies around the United States. But such lawsuits haven’t materialized, because they know that critical analysis of evolution is different from teaching about ID." Second, Kitzmiller did not settle questions regarding the teaching of ID "once and for all." The Kitzmiller ruling was issued by a lower federal trial court and was not appealed to a higher court; it therefore is not binding precedent on any parties outside of the parties in the case. Even Judge Jones acknowledged, his opinion has “no precedential value outside the Middle District [of Pennsylvania]” (Lisa L. Granite, One for the History Books, Pa. Law. 17, 22 (July/Aug. 2006).) However, it does appear that Judge Jones mistakenly sought to settle the issue for all other courts. David DeWolf, John West, and I discuss this in our article in Montana Law Review (available here:
Judge Jones issued his decision on December 20, 2005. The ruling resolved the question of whether the challenged policy violated the Establishment Clause by finding unmistakable religious motives on the part of the Dover Area School Board.42 However, Judge Jones also found it “incumbent upon the Court to further address an additional issue raised by Plaintiffs, which is whether ID is science.”43 This, Judge Jones felt, was necessitated not only because the issue was “essential to our holding that an Establishment Clause violation has occurred in this case, but also in the hope that it may prevent the obvious waste of judicial and other resources which would be occasioned by a subsequent trial involving the precise question which is before us.”44 Judge Jones was wrong on both counts. As the following analysis demonstrates, not only was it not “essential” to his holding that “an Establishment Clause violation has occurred” to make findings about the whether ID is science, but one federal district court judge cannot, and should not presume to settle a contested scientific issue for all other courts. Under the disjunctive Lemon test,45 all that was necessary to determine that an Establishment Clause violation had occurred was to find that the Dover school board members had predominantly religious motivations for enacting their ID policy.46 Longstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent suggests that in resolving constitutional issues, a narrow holding (such as a finding that the school board had religious motives in adopting the policy) is preferable to a broad holding (concerning the definition of science, the motives of the “IDM,” or whether ID is science); in Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.,47 the Supreme Court pointed out that it is the “traditional policy of this Court” to decide only the legal question most directly at issue, not all possible legal questions raised by a particular controversy: "In the realm of constitutional law, especially, this Court has perceived the embarrassment which is likely to result from an attempt to formulate rules or decide questions beyond the necessities of the immediate issue. It has preferred to follow the method of a gradual approach to the general by a systematically guarded application and extension of constitutional principles to particular cases as they arise, rather than by out of hand attempts to establish general rules to which future cases must be fitted."48 The Supreme Court employed precisely this approach when dealing with the teaching of biological origins. The Court did not analyze the effect prong of the Lemon test when it struck down Louisiana’s Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science and Evolution-Science Act.49 “[B]ecause the primary purpose of the Creationism Act [was] to endorse a particular religious doctrine,”50 the Court chose to devote no analysis under Lemon’s effect prong. The Court found that the district court “properly concluded that a Monday morning ‘battle of the experts’ over possible technical meanings of terms in the statute would not illuminate the contemporaneous purpose of the Louisiana Legislature when it made the law.”51 In other words, judicial findings and inquiries on the scientific status of the theory in question and the effect of teaching it are neither necessary nor appropriate if a court finds that the acting government agents had predominantly religious motivations, for “[i]f the law was enacted for the purpose of endorsing religion, ‘no consideration of the second or third criteria [of Lemon] is necessary.’ ”52 Judge Jones had no trouble finding extensive and unambiguous evidence for the religious motives of the Dover Area School Board,53 which would have disposed of the case under the Ambler Realty principle. Instead, he tried to settle an array of the broadest questions possible, including the proper definition of science, 54 the motives of the “IDM,”55 the compatibility of Darwinian theory with religion,56 and even obscure scientific minutiae such as whether the Type-III Secretory System could be an evolutionary precursor to the bacterial flagellum,57 and whether inductive reasoning provides a quantitative argument for design.58 Judge Jones suspected that his broad holdings would lead to accusations that he is “an activist judge.”59 He therefore inserted a pre-emptive defense to this charge by noting that “[t]hose who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge” but “they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court.”60 In a post-decision interview, Judge Jones reiterated this point, accusing his critics of calling him an activist simply because “an activist judge is a judge whose decision you disagree with.”61 Proclaiming that one is not an activist judge does not make it so. And claiming that those who charge “judicial activism” simply disagree with the ruling and have nothing better to say does not mean that reasonable arguments cannot be raised that Judge Jones’s ruling intruded into inappropriate territory or had factually incorrect findings. Judicial activism is not just a meaningless epithet; it is a term applied to judges who succumb to the temptation to “increase their impact as policymakers.”62 Judicial activism has the tendency to displace other branches of government, or other institutions in society, that are arguably better equipped to resolve a dispute.63 When Judge Jones described the breadth of his opinion as being the result of a “fervent hope” that his opinion “could serve as a primer for school boards and other people who were considering this [issue],”64 he admitted (apparently without realizing it) that he was a judicial activist. Nonetheless, because we have described Judge Jones’s “activism” in detail elsewhere,65 there is no need to do so here: readers can decide for themselves whether Judge Jones’s ruling tried to settle a controversial social issue by deciding matters far beyond the necessary legal questions he had to address. Despite Judge Jones’s apparent desire to have the final word on ID for the judiciary, future jurists encountering efforts to address the topic of ID will have not only the right, but the obligation to think for themselves and determine whether the reasoning used by Judge Jones is accurate, necessary, or even relevant. Indeed, future courts may do well to read the balance of this article, which outlines the key errors of fact and law made by Judge Jones in his opinion. See the original article, David K. DeWolf, John G. West, Casey Luskin, “Intelligent Design will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover," 68 Montana Law Review 7, 14-17 (Winter, 2007), for more information, including all the citations
Casey Luskin
I don't know if anyone has read the article that Matthew Tan referenced. It is long but one of the best summations of ID I have seen. It was written by John Calvert and William Harris who I believe were the main leaders for ID in the last Kansas science standards debate. It is over 4 years old and I never saw it referenced before. These people certainly understand CSI and they understand specificity. There is a good discussion of it in this paper. It is now certainly easy to talk about specificity with a definition of less than 200 words. Matthew Tan also unleashed this article over at ASA and it caused a number of inane knee jerked comments by the so called scientists that comment there. All they want to discuss is theology. I think these scientists are afraid of the science. jerry
DaveScot: "I can understand rejecting supernatural explanations out of hand when “supernatural” is defined as agency which transcends the physical laws which govern the universe or somehow exists outside it." I can too, but to understand this is to see it as the closed minded materialist attitude which also categorically rejects all psi and other paranormal evidence, which amounts to a mountain at this point. This evidence directly points to phenomena which conflict with things like the standard model in physics, and the materialist reductionist models in biology, etc. This data clearly shows direct human mind/matter interactions and the validity of a dualist theory of mind, implying the possibility of nonhuman mind/matter interactions. So to be absolutely objective one needs to keep a spectrum of potential hypotheses on the table, since we can't observe the actual past events in evolution and can't rule any of these out based on anything but ideology. Of course this list is limited to presently conceivable human concepts and may leave out the true one: - Advanced nonhuman (alien) biological entities using technological means to direct evolution (either interventionist or frontloaded or a combination). - Advanced alien biological entities using "paranormal"/psi means to direct evolution. - Discarnate entities (including speculative spiritual beings such as angels, etc.) using paranormal/psi or other means to direct evolution. - God, in some more direct fashion. None of these can be absolutely ruled out except ideologically, so which is most in accorance with evidence? I would contend that the spiritual dimension of man somewhat favors the last two hypotheses. magnan
Dave: Very good and very well said! gpuccio
Mentioning SETI in support of the scientific basis of a design inference makes a strong point. SETI is based on the premise that we can distinguish the products of intelligent agency from products of law and chance alone. Moreover there is absolutely no requirement that a design inference must also identify and characterize a designer before it can be acceptable as a scientific conclusion. SETI is exclusively based on the premise that patterns of electromagnetic radiation which defy explanation by any natural, non-intelligent source can be reasonably construed as artificial in origin. This is exactly the premise on which biological ID is based. The only natural explanation for organic life on earth that has gained any traction at all is random mutation plus natural selection. If that explanation can be shown to be inadequate the only other reasonable scientific explanation left on the table is an artificial origin. That is exactly the principle behind SETI. Once all the known possible natural explanations have been shown to be deficient only the artificial remains. SETI is searching for electromagnetic artifacts that have no reasonable natural explanation. If that's science why then is biological ID, which is a search for earthly artifacts that have no reasonable natural explanation, brushed off as pseudo-science while SETI is granted the status of valid scientific inquiry? The reason is because random mutation + natural selection is an axiom. As an axiom it is taken granted that it is true so any explanation to the contrary must be false. No other science except organic evolution has an axiom with such thin evidentiary support behind it. DaveScot
What gets me is there's nothing about biological ID that demands any supernatural explanations. Intelligent agency capable of modifying the genomes of organic life is extant today - it's us. However we came to be, what physical law(s) prevent intelligent agency (perhaps not even carbon based intelligence), from existing in the past? I can understand rejecting supernatural explanations out of hand when "supernatural" is defined as agency which transcends the physical laws which govern the universe or somehow exists outside it. But what in fact the time and chance pundits actually reject out of hand is not "supernatural" bur rather "artificial". Products of chance alone can be reasonably defined as "natural" but the products of intelligence cannot be reasonably defined as "supernatural" as that excludes products of human intelligence unless the time and chance pundits classify human intelligence as supernatural (which would be in direct contradiction of the axiomatic belief that humans are a natural product of time and chance). The flip side of the "natural" coin is not "supernatural" but rather "artificial" as that includes products of human intelligence. The fact of the matter is that time and chance pundits have an axiomatic belief that organic life on the planet earth is the result of time and chance. The axiom isn't deserving of axoimatic status. It's a hypothesis with nothing but imagined events in the distant past supporting it. When it is shown that these events, individually or collectively, are so improbable as to be completely unreasonable, their response is nothing more than faith based application of the axiom - "evolution via time and chance is a fact (an axiom of science) therefore the probability of it, no matter how remote, cannot be taken as contrary evidence". The painful fact of the matter is that statistical probability is the bedrock of understanding how matter and energy behave, of predicting future possibilities based on present observations, and of reconstructing the past. This is how we know with reasonable certainty that we aren't going to observe complex configurations of matter and energy that comprise machines forming via time and chance. The chance of something as simple as a bicycle forming via time and chance alone is non-zero but is so close to zero in a finite universe like ours (as predicted by statistical mechanics) that we can be certain of never observing one that came about without intelligent agency. Intelligent agency is the only demonstrable mechanism capable of routinely bringing almost impossible arrangements of matter and energy into existence. Intelligent agency can, as long as no physical law strictly prohibits it, instantiate anything within its powers of manipulation and abstraction. Time and chance is restricted by not just by physical law but also by statistical probability. To discount statistical probability is an abandonment of science. DaveScot
From that link (the .pdf), I’m in 100% agreement with this in particular: "On the other hand, without design as a competing hypothesis, a naturalistic explanation is effectively a “chance of the gaps” or “environment of the gaps” explanation. Anything we cannot explain by law and chance today will be explained by law and chance tomorrow, when we find such a law or some way to inflate our probabilistic resources (like positing infinite parallel universes). There must be such a law and chance explanation because that is the only one allowed. " This is one of the frustrating parts about debating with naturalists. Any time someone backs them into a corner with contrary evidence, they will almost ultimately fall back on the "well we just haven't found the answer yet" mattress. It's an infinite faith in naturalistic theory that pretty much places itself outside of scientific ultimatum of being falsifiable. And when THAT is brought up, we get, "well that's the way science works." Berceuse
MatthewTan wrote:
”[off topic] … I chanced upon this very excellent article on intelligent design which I want to recommend to everyone here. Among other things, it explains why intelligent design is science, and it makes predictions, and is falsifiable, and that the Darwinist theory of NO DESIGN needs to be tested against the competing intelligent design theory of REAL DESIGN … “
Actually, regarding ‘topic’ it is spot on. In the interview, Rebecca Keller goes over these very points, emphasizing not only their importance in the ongoing ID controversy, but their relevance to scientific inquiry and academic freedom in general. LeeBowman
Does everybody know that Ron Paul wants to abolish the dept. of Education. This will have a profound affect on the enforcement of teaching evolution and the banning of the teaching if any form of ID within US schools. Take a look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FG2PUZoukfA Gods iPod
[off topic] [My title] STUPID SCIENCE AND INTELLIGENT SCIENCE [Alternative title] DUMB SCIENCE AND INTELLIGENCE SCIENCE From the THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC BIOETHICS QUARTERLY \ AUTUMN 2003 I chanced upon this very excellent article on intelligent design which I want to recommend to everyone here. Among other things, it explains why intelligent design is science, and it makes predictions, and is falsifiable, and that the Darwinist theory of NO DESIGN needs to be tested against the competing intelligent design theory of REAL DESIGN, and that was what Darwin himself was doing. [But present-day Darwinists are obviously afraid to deal with intelligent design theory.] Let me quote just the following response to intelligent design being a "science stopper". I think this reply is most excellent and should put a stop to all "science stopper" allegations. Same for God-of-the-Gap allegation. http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/NCBQ3_3HarrisCalvert.pdf [pages 556-7] Is ID a “Science Stopper” or a “God of the Gaps” Theory? Its critics have so complained.61 Did the discovery that the earth was round “stop science?” How about the germ theory of disease, or the fact that gold cannot be created from lead? Did these discoveries halt scientific progress? These were discoveries of the truth, and therefore they did, in a sense, “stop” scientific inquiry. They stopped it for the same reason that you stop looking for your car keys when you find them. There is no need for further investigation. Why are we not still funding research on how to prevent polio or how to make a horseless carriage? Because we know the answers. If ID theory is true and life and its diversity did arise by the action of an unknown intelligent agent, then the only [b]“intelligent”[/b] response is to take it as a given (like gravity), stop trying to prove the counter argument, and intensify research efforts into the discovery of how life works, not where it came from. In the area of genetics, for example, let us try to determine just how “plastic” the genome is. What are the natural limits of variability, and how far can those limits be extended by intelligent manipulation of genes? Can we turn a squirrel into a chipmunk by gene insertion/deletion? Can we cure genetic diseases? It is questions like these that will lead to fruitful discoveries and thus deserve our full attention. It is a shame, in our view, to continue to lavish precious resources (money and careers) on the quest to determine how “evolution created us” when the underlying assumption (i.e., that it did) may be false. Limiting science to a predetermined set of acceptable explanations naturally begs the question, “What if there is no natural explanation?” What if, in fact, an intelligent agent was responsible for DNA, etc.? Science would forever miss it and would continue to squander intellectual and financial capital on finding naturalistic answers that do not exist. Scientific progress depends heavily upon discovering blind alleys and rejecting failed theories. This is simply the way that science works, and thus, ID theory should be seen as invigorating, not stifling, scientific investigation. For example, the recent publication of a computer simulation purportedly explaining how life could have evolved without intelligent input was stimulated by the scientific challenge of an opposing theory, ID.62 Is ID a “god of the gaps” theory? The charge has been made that ID proposes design for whatever cannot be explained by law and chance. Hence all gaps in our knowledge are filled by design—by God. That is simply not the case. A design inference can be falsified simply by showing a lack of any apparent design or meaning in the pattern, or by demonstrating (not imagining) that unguided natural processes can produce the pattern or object in question. Every day the SETI researchers evaluate radio waves for hidden messages (designs) and have yet to find a single case. On the other hand, without design as a competing hypothesis, a naturalistic explanation is effectively a “chance of the gaps” or “environment of the gaps” explanation. Anything we cannot explain by law and chance today will be explained by law and chance tomorrow, when we find such a law or some way to inflate our probabilistic resources (like positing infinite parallel universes). There must be such a law and chance explanation because that is the only one allowed. Is ID a science stopper? No. The real science stopper is methodological naturalism which rules out design as a matter of philosophy.63 MatthewTan

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