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Derek Davis at Baylor

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Derek Davis, the head of church-state studies at Baylor, is cited in today’s NYTimes story as a critic of ID (I blogged this NYTimes story here). Since Baylor was my previous employer, I have some interest in Davis’s comments about ID, especially since in the past he has published articles supporting the teaching of creationism in public schools. If the NYTimes reporter had done a minimal google of him, she would have found the piece. Here is what Davis says in the Journal of Church and State in 1999:

In short, creationism can be presented in public school settings, provided it is presented objectively and not as truth, thus eliminating religious purpose. What is required is pedagogical neutrality. Many public schools offer outstanding courses in anthropology, comparative religion, history, literature, and philosophy in which religious ideas, including creationist accounts of the origin of life, are presented legally. Traditionally, most schools avoid presenting creationism in science classes because the courts have said that religion is not science. But there is no reason that a science class, like a history, anthropology, comparative religion, or literature class, cannot address subjects interrelated to its discipline, creationism among them. Such is the nature of interdisciplinary education. If science teachers, acting either with or without a mandate from legislatures or school boards, objectively, neutrally, and fairly present creationism without seeking to achieve a religious purpose but as an alternative explanation to life’s origin and development, the presentation should not only satisfy constitutional restraints but might also help to diffuse the creationism-evolution controversy that has raged since the Scopes trial of 1925. [emphasis added]

The article is available here: http://www3.baylor.edu/Church_State/journ99autumn.html#Editorial.

It’s also worth noting that Davis is legal counsel for the Baptist Joint Committee, a group that lobbies heavily against the teaching of ID.

Dembski on Davis William Dembski has a post about Derek Davis, director of the Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies at Baylor, and the comment he made in the NY Times the other day. I highlighted the same comment in a post on Sunday... Dispatches from the Culture Wars
Keith "Until then, it doesn’t belong in science class." By all means keep that in mind when you cast your ballot for government representatives. Just don't expect your vote to count more than the next person in line and if you are outvoted try to accept the result with a bit of grace. DaveScot
"Sort of like trying to get ID into the classroom before it’s part of the scientific consensus?" Who died and gave dominion of public school classrooms to the consensus of the science community? How does that work, exactly. Which scientists are given a vote and how many votes are required for a consensus? There must be some sort of procedural basis for this, right? Absent that I'm going to have to burst your bubble and let you know that public school classrooms aren't controlled by elite groups but are governed in good old democratic fashion by electing members to a school board who then decide. DaveScot
Keiths, I admire your apparent open-mindedness and willingness to thouroughly investigate Dr. Wells' arguments before issuing your verdict on the matter. I'm certainly no expert in biology, so I cannot put forth any authoritative arguments either for or against his claims, myself. However, I'm not so sure I agree with parts of your teaching protocol. "I would avoid the evolution/ID debate, both because it is not a ‘mainstream’ controversy, and because critical thinking skills are best taught with issues that are not highly charged emotionally." I agree that the teaching of ID should not be mandated, unless, possibly, it is taught in a proper context. I think it is as much a philosophical concept as a scientific one (maybe more so). I am a strong advocate of teaching an introduction to philosophy, logic, and critical thinking as part of the general education core curriculum, and the philosophy of science should be included as a part of this/these course(s). Students should know what the differences are among a theory, a law, and empirical evidence and how they are related to each other, as well. Maybe ID could be included as part of such a course. I don't think the teaching of ID should be avoided simply because it is "highly charged emotionally". Whenever you deal with biological origins (or any other subject that touches on matters of faith), you push emotional buttons; this holds true for the teaching of evolution, as well. "If a student raised the issue, I’d have no problem with a teacher briefly discussing ID and/or creationism, but only to point out why they are not considered good science by the overwhelming majority of biologists. The same would go for things like geocentric astronomical theories, astrology, parapsychology, and HIV skepticism." If ID is to be addressed, it should be given a fair shake. If arguments against it are offered, so should arguments for it and vice versa. A teacher should not dismiss a position as pseudoscience just because it is held by a small minority of scientists. "The class should not focus on ID, nor attempt to “proselytize” for the theory." Proselytization should not occur at all. See above. crandaddy
crandaddy, I haven't read the Wells article, because I'm planning to read his book (it's in my Amazon shopping cart). I did read Alan Gishlick's response to the book on the NCSE website at http://www.ncseweb.org/icons/ and found it persuasive, but I don't want to draw any conclusions until I've read the book, plus Wells' response to Gishlick's criticisms. On the handling of biological origins in public school science classes, I'd certainly consult with professional biologists and science teachers to see what they thought were the most important concepts to cover. Absent their input, I'd go for something along the following lines: 1. Relatively little on the origin of life itself, except for mentioning Miller-Urey and a couple of other significant experiments. 2. A lot about the majority views of biologists on common descent, natural selection, and genetics. 3. Some coverage of embryology and evo devo. 4. Coverage of a few key controversies, to hone critical thinking skills. But the controversies should be 'mainstream' controversies, with both sides represented by significant numbers of biologists. A good example would be the natural selection vs. genetic drift controversy. I would avoid the evolution/ID debate, both because it is not a 'mainstream' controversy, and because critical thinking skills are best taught with issues that are not highly charged emotionally. If a student raised the issue, I'd have no problem with a teacher briefly discussing ID and/or creationism, but only to point out why they are not considered good science by the overwhelming majority of biologists. The same would go for things like geocentric astronomical theories, astrology, parapsychology, and HIV skepticism. Outside of science class, I wouldn't mind seeing ID taught as part of a survey class on religious beliefs, creation myths, etc., but the key word here is "survey". The class should not focus on ID, nor attempt to "proselytize" for the theory. But I'm neither a biologist nor an educator, so if I were truly in a position of setting the curriculum, I'd get a lot of advice from the pros first (Kids, don't try this at home!). keiths
Keiths, How do you think the issue of biological origins should be presented in the public school science classroom, and what are your thoughts on this http://www.arn.org/docs/wells/jw_tbookreport900.htm ? David crandaddy
Sorry...here is the link... http://lawnrangers.blogspot.com/2005/12/intelligent-design-roman-catholicism.html Dignan
William: Thought you might be interested in our take on the NYT article. Dignan
William Dembski writes: "It [the guidebook] talks about permitting teachers to teach about ID, but doesn't advocate mandating its teaching." The actual wording is that school boards can "permit, and even encourage teaching about design theory." I never claimed that the guidebook recommended the mandatory teaching of ID, and neither does Richard Thompson. I complained of folks "trying to get ID into the classroom before it’s part of the scientific consensus" and said "it’s not ready for the public school science classroom." Richard Thompson's complaint is that "you had Discovery Institute people actually encouraging the teaching of intelligent design in public school systems," when Mark Ryland asserts that the DI has "never encouraged people to do it, we’ve never promoted it," and that "we always tell people don’t teach intelligent design." In the face of all of this, how does Ryland explain his assertions? And more interestingly, what was behind the DI's policy shift? Bill, as a DI insider, can you shed any light on this? keiths
Here's the URL for the guidebook Richard Thompson cited (see comment #11): http://arn.org/docs/dewolf/guidebook.htm. It talks about permitting teachers to teach about ID, but doesn't advocate mandating its teaching. William Dembski
Josh, You're exaggerating my position. I'm not saying that the mere mention of ID should be "blocked, banned, and forbidden" in every context, as you imply -- just that it's not ready for the public school science classroom. As for Einstein, Newton, and the H. pylori ulcer guys (and Pasteur and Wegener and Margulis), their ideas were all accepted and eventually introduced into the classroom, despite initial skepticism from the scientific community. If ID is good science, there's no reason to expect that it won't achieve the same recognition. Until then, it doesn't belong in science class. If you think that ID is being especially targeted because of its potential religious implications, don't forget the example of Big Bang cosmology. The Big Bang model initially raised suspicions because Georges Lemaitre, its early proponent, was a priest as well as a cosmologist, and also because it implied a beginning to the universe, which gave entree to a Creator in the minds of many. Its spectacular scientific successes overcame the resistance to its religious implications, and it is now comfortably ensconced in the classroom. Why can't ID do the same? It's certainly true that skepticism on the part of the scientific community causes an undesirable delay in the acceptance of worthy new ideas. But this cost is more than offset by the benefit of not prematurely expending time and energy on the far more numerous ideas which turn out to be unworthy. As for whether or not the Discovery Institute encourages the teaching of ID in public schools, check out the following exchange from the American Enterprise Institute's all-day ID panel discussion. Mark Ryland, Discovery Institute Vice President: "Let me back up first and say that the Discovery Institute never set out to have schools get into this issue. We've never encouraged people to do it, we've never promoted it. We have unfortunately gotten sucked into it because we have a lot of expertise in the issue that people are interested in. "When asked for our opinion we always tell people don't teach intelligent design, there is no curriculum developed for it, your teachers are likely to hostile towards it, there are just all these good reasons why you should not go down that path. If you want to do anything, you should teach the evidence for and against Darwin's theory." Shortly thereafter, Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center responded. Thompson is part of the legal team representing the (former) Dover school board. MR. THOMPSON: I think I want to respond to that. MR. ENTINE: You can respond. MR. THOMPSON: First of all, Stephen Meyer, who is he? Is he the president? MR. RYLAND: He's the Director of the Center for Science and Culture. MR. THOMPSON: And David DeWolf is a Fellow of the Discovery Institute? MR. RYLAND: Right. MR. THOMPSON: They wrote a book entitled Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum. The conclusion of that book was that, Moreover, as previous discussion demonstrates, school boards have the authority to permit and even encourage teaching about design theory as an alternative to Darwinian evolution, and this includes the use of textbooks such as Pandas and People that present evidence for the theory of intelligent design, and I could go further. "But you had Discovery Institute people actually encouraging the teaching of intelligent design in public school systems. Whether they wanted the school boards to teach intelligent design or to mention it, certainly when you start putting it in writing that writing does have consequences. In fact, several of the members including Steve Meyer agreed to be expert witnesses, also prepared expert witness reports. Then all at once decided that they weren't going to become expert witnesses at a time after the closure of the time we could add new expert witnesses. So it did have a strategic impact on the way we could present the cases because they backed out when the court no longer allowed us to add new expert witnesses which we could have done." Later, Ken Miller comments: MR. MILLER: I would also point out that the witnesses for the Plaintiffs, all of whom were serving without compensation looked in great envy at the expert witnesses for the other side who were making a hundred bucks an hour or something like that. I found it absolutely astonishing that people would file expert statements formally, big ones, supporting one side, and they would file rebuttal reports and they would participate actively in the case and at a point when one side could no longer replace them, they would suddenly withdraw. My feeling is a promise and I promise, and therefore I was there. "The sort of disinformation regarding the reasons behind the withdrawal of the Dover case that you just heard from the representative of the Discovery Institute saying we have never advocated, I think it's exactly what he said, never advocated the teaching of intelligent design in the school, and I noticed Mr. Thompson then held up the booklet in which they explain how to teach intelligent design in the school, is very indicative of the rhetoric that comes out of this institution." The full transcript is at http://www.aei.org/events/filter.all,eventID.1169/transcript.asp keiths
I wonder if anyone told that to Einstein? Look, buddy...you're theory doesn't fit the consensus, take a hike. What about Newton? What about the 2 scientists who recently proved that stomach ulcers are caused by bacteria, yet were shunned by colleagues? As far as I know, there's no ID organization demanding ID in the classroom. DI doesn't even hold the view that it should be required. Not to mention, an idea would never get into the classroom in this manner- it wouldn't have a chance to become consensus or anywhere near it if the mere mention of it was blocked, banned, and forbidden. Josh Bozeman
DaveScot writes: "I’m not a football fan but I believe their tactic is called an 'end run'." Sort of like trying to get ID into the classroom before it's part of the scientific consensus? keiths
The take home lesson is that modern liberals, frustrated at being unable to get 75% majorities of states to modify the constitution to reflect their desires, instead used 55% majorities of supreme court justices to "git 'er done". I'm not a football fan but I believe their tactic is called an "end run". DaveScot
Usually when simple phrases demand institutional study it's because someone has torturred the clear meaning of the phrase beyond all recognition and it takes teams of institutional obfuscators to pretend to defend the tortured meaning. Nowhere is this more evident than in the phrases "respecting an establishment of religion" and "keep and bear arms". If there's any question at all of the interpretation the authors meant to convey one merely needs to look at the actions of the legislative, judicial, and executive bodies while the authors were still alive and thus able to ensure that ambiguity, if any, was resolved correctly. So did "respecting an establishment of religion" mean that the federal gov't couldn't mention a generic "God" or offer public prayers to same? Not a chance. It took over 200 years for that bit of torture to mature enough to make into law legislated from the bench. Same goes for gun grabbers. No federal law ever attempted to restrict private gun ownership until the 20th century then all of a sudden gun ownership was no longer an individual right but a tortured right of militias and such. DaveScot
Thanks to both of you in regards to the information on church-state studies. I thought this was one of those new PC classes...sort of like one-legged, lesbian, nymphomaniac, african-american studies. :) I guess the only time I've ever really heard the phrase "church-state" is when discussing the issue of the separation of church and state, which immediately (in my head) brings to mind that concept and only that concept really. Josh Bozeman
Josh. "Church-State studies" is simply the study of the relationship between government and religion. Although the "separation of church and state" is not mentioned verbatim in the Constitution, one can reasonably argue that the Constituiton does require some form of separationism (at first for the federal government, and then later applied to the states.). You can read my take on this in the recent issue of Chapman Law Review, "Gimme That Ol' Time Separation," which you can find here: http://homepage.mac.com/francis.beckwith/downloads.htm It is the second link from the top. Derek Davis a colleague of mine, one for whom I have great respect. He has been eminently fair and just in leading our department. Take care, Frank http://www.francisbeckwith.com fbeckwith
Josh, while church-state relations are not explicitly defined in official documents such as the U.S. Constitution, the mere mention of "establishment of religion" demands interpretation. And when there is a need for interpretation, there is a need for academic inquiry - thus, a church-state studies institute. Baylor Bear
Oops. Dunn was the executive director of the group from 1981-1999...I didn't paste that sentence. Josh Bozeman
I've noticed that groups that love to attack ID seem to be liberal for the most part. The more traditional groups seem to have little problem with the theory, even if they disagree with it. Same with this Baptist group mentioned in the post. A quick google search shows some very troubling things about this group (links to Americans United- which I would say is on the fringe of American thought), and this:
Dunn railed frequently against the "radical religious right," which he described as "a bunch of crazies-people like Gary Bauer, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority types." In one of his more memorable rhetorical flourishes, he compared Christian conservatives to the Crusaders (circa 1000 A.D.): "Full of hate, killing people in order to save them, dehumanizing and bloody."
The religious right is like the crusaders (Dunn shows a lack of knowledge here as well, considering he's attacking Crusaders, when most of the Crusades were defensive battles)...no wonder they have a problem with attacking ideas they disagree with. Such vitriol is definitely a bad sign for the group in general. Josh Bozeman
Umm okay? So he says it's perfectly fine and legel to teach creationism, even in science classes...yet he works to demand that ID not be mentioned in schools? Is he terminally confused or just hell bent on pushing an agenda? What on earth is a church-state professor? They now have actual studies on a bogus idea found nowhere in any official US document? Josh Bozeman

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