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Peter Ward on Teaching a Flat Earth

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Peter Ward imagines he is offering a devastating argument against teaching ID by asking us to consider the pedagogical value of teaching a flat earth (“Advocates of Intelligent Design Would Dumb Down Students”). Question: Is it possible to teach Darwin’s Origin of Species without considering ID as Darwin’s proper foil and counterpart? Answer: NO. Question: Is it possible to teach Newtonian mechanics without considering the flat earth as Newton’s proper foil and counterpart? Answer: YES.

Indeed, Newton never took seriously a flat earth. Nor for that matter did the ancients, who knew that the earth was spherical. As evidence, the ancients took the moon’s varying crescent shape to indicate that the earth was throwing a round shadow onto the moon from the sun. Additionally, they recognized that the earth being round would explain why the mast of a ship would appear on the horizon before the ship’s hull. The flat earth myth is just that, a 19th century myth in fact concocted by despisers of Christianity to discredit it (for the details, read Jeffrey Burton Russell’s INVENTING THE FLAT EARTH).

Ward and his fellow ID-phobes are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Is Petie boy open minded or what? Benjii
It's common knowledge that Thomas Friedman has pretty much conclusively proven that the world is flat. Professor Ward needs to catch up. If the UW wants to be a "modern" university, they'd better well be teaching their students that the world is flat. paulp
Arnhart: "By contrast, Darwin in the ORIGIN acknowledges that most naturalists prior to 1859 accepted the “theory of special creation,” and he presents his “theory of natural selection” as his alternative." I don't think Darwin's "theory of special creation", as presented in the ORIGINS, was how Louis Agassiz thought of "special creation", nor of many of the other famous taxonomists of his day. It seems, from what I've read at least, like almost a caricature of what most serious biologists thought at the time. In other words, it was a strawman that he easily pushed to the one side. Another observation: if we teach Darwinian theory in schools, should we also teach about the "difficulties upon the theory"? And should we point out that most of those difficulties remain difficulties? And, since it was Darwin's opinion that the fossil record, once more fully accessed, would one day cough up the supposed missing links, what should we tell our children? In fact, if you read the ORIGINS, it's a howler. Darwin is wrong about most points that he makes. E.g., he doesn't believe that there is such a thing as intra-species sterility. He doesn't believe that domesticted forms will really show "regress" in the wild. He believes that variation becomes inheritable by changes made to the organs of sexual reproduction (a very plant kingdom kind of idea). He doesn't believe in continental drift--which is okay for his time--but, he was wrong. He really didn't believe in such a thing as a "variety"--this was a phantom according to him; a variety was an "incipient species", i.e., not a bounded variation of a main species, but a kind of progenitor to the main species. In his famous "diagram", e.g., there are no "varieties" shown. This view, simply, does not comport with reality. So, what do we, or do we not, teach our children? PaV
In an utterly amazing demonstration of "I don't get it" Tara Smith, Panda's Thumb contributor, is bragging about evolutionary theory's contribution to the failure in finding the perp in the anthrax mailings of 2001. http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/09/anthrax_stuff.html#more
Yet the method of investigating the anthrax attacks shows once again just how relevant evolutionary theory is to all areas of biology, and how Dobzhansky’s famous “Nothing makes sense…” comment once again ring true.
Hey Tara, what doesn't make sense is talking about the importance of evolutionary theory in a completely unsuccessful line of inquiry. Is lack of success a hallmark of applying evolutionary theory or did you maybe just not put too much thought into that article? DaveScot
A good recent opinion piece by a Xerox engineer: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050914/OPINION02/509140342/1039/OPINION DaveScot
"only “experts” could judge the evidence for evolution" To this I answer that only experts can judge the evidence for design. Biologists are not expert in design. Engineers are the experts in design. In particular, when it comes to DNA and the ribosome, which is in essence a computer controlled protein synthesizer, experts in the design of computers and factory automation are the most qualified experts. Interestingly ID finds wide support amongst the real design experts. DaveScot
As Dembski indicates, comparing ID to "flat earth theory" is bogus because the latter was never a serious scientific theory in the history of science. By contrast, Darwin in the ORIGIN acknowledges that most naturalists prior to 1859 accepted the "theory of special creation," and he presents his "theory of natural selection" as his alternative. So any high school teacher who would have the students read Darwin would have to consider "special creation" as the scientific alternative. Recently,I was on a panel on ID with Chris Mooney (author of THE REPUBLICAN WAR ON SCIENCE). When I argued for "teaching the controversy by teaching Darwin," Mooney protested that only "experts" could judge the evidence for evolution, and therefore it was not proper for high school students to weigh the evidence and arguments for themselves. Arnhart
A couple of weeks ago I personally corresponded with Peter Ward about his diatribe. It is very telling that the "substance" of his arguments consists of name-calling and ridiculous comparisons to circumstances in Iran and China. Unfortunately, based on my correspondence, I can confirm that he is (at least for the time being -- after all, people can change) incapable of addressing the issues in a logical and objective manner, even when given the opportunity. I have offered to arrange for him to participate in a debate if he ever obtains a sufficient grasp of the issues that he is capable of debating the merits of design, rather than relying on grade-school-level attacks. Eric Anderson
I don't think it's possible to make you look sane and reasonable. Ward makes it clear enough- you guys aren't practicing real science, just faith and bogus interpretations on proof that cannot be tested in a lab, and what reason would he have to lie? You're obviously working for Shell petroleum and trying to deny global warming! Ward, on the other hand, has tested macroevolution and he has an entire farm full of intermediate forms- he just won't show us the tests or the changed lifeforms. Good try, slick Willy...you can't fool us with your bogus faith-based psuedoscience that is dumbing down our poor innocent, abused children! :) jboze3131
Okay, I may as well come clean. Ward, as you know, lives in Seattle, home of the Discovery Institute. He actually works for us. We have him write these op-ed pieces now and then because they are so extreme as to make us look sane and reasonable. William Dembski
Ugh! How dishonest can people be? Ward tells some big whoppers in this piece. First he says, "Evolution is a theory in the same way that gravity is a theory." That is NONSENSE. Evolution in the sense that all life has a common ancestor is nothing at all like gravity! You can see the immediate effects of gravity on objects in a lab or in the world TODAY. You can repeat the tests over and over and over and see the same results. You cannot test a supposed transformation from one animal into a totally different animal that supposedly took place 100 million years ago! You cannot test that out in a lab, and you sure as heck cannot repeat such an impossible test! He then says, "Meyer, Witt and friends would have you believe the evidence is all around. But, unlike evidence for scientific theories like evolution, the evidence for intelligent design is open to a wide variety of interpretations, none of them provable by repeated testing in the way of science. And so it comes down to what you believe. And that is faith, not science." Excuse me? So, he demands that the evidence be provable thru repeated testing? Can Ward please enlighten us and tell us where these macroevolutionary tests were performed, and what the results were? The only tests of the sort that I'm aware of are tests on fruit flies and e coli, and when all was said and done, the scientists (via intelligent actions) could not get the flies or e coli to change into ANYTHING different- all they could do, via the latest technology, was change fruit flies into sick fruit flies and e coli into e coli. He is totally dishonest when he claims that the concept of common ancestry has been proven at all, and that the supposed proof has been tested and the tests have been repeated. The fact is the idea of common ancestry is based on what he complains about- interpretation of the evidence involved. One can look at the fossil record and interpret it to mean that life all shares a common ancestor (the 1 celled organism that could not have been based on DNA because DNA is too complicated to arise from non-organic matter, not to mention this original life form is totally hypothetical and scientists over decades have yet to succeed in using INTELLIGENCE to create life themselves!) or one can see the admitted gaps on the record and NOT buy into the concept of common ancestry. I don't buy into it myself. Like the honest evolutionists tell you- the fossil record hasn't given evidence for macroevolution at all, body forms appears suddenly and without a trace to any past, same goes for the apes, same goes for humans, and on and on. An idea like this, based on no real evidence, is faith as Ward, himself, admits. So, we have those 2 lies and a few others that I won't waste my time pointing out. In his article, he also claims that ID theorists are marginal and a tiny group- then he implies that most of them are paid by the energy industry, thus they're lying to push an agenda that wants to show that global warming isn't happening. Can Mr. Ward tell us what his agenda is, and why he told these two very big lies in his article? Can he also tell us why it's okay for him to sit there and be a hypocrite while attacking others with disinformation? jboze3131

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