Intelligent Design

Massimo Pigliucci a worrisome character from the POV of science education.

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Massimo with an as yet undetermined appendage writes

Education is not about having “kids debate both sides,” since most kids would probably conclude that the earth is flat and at the center of the universe (after all, the sensorial evidence is overwhelming in favor of the flat-earth, Ptolemaic system).

If Massimo doubts that the science establishment can present the evidence for a round earth, like live satellite images, well enough to let children use critical thinking skills to decide if the scientists have made a compelling case, then quite frankly Pigliucci is a worrisome character whose own critical thinking skills leave a lot to be desired.

40 Replies to “Massimo Pigliucci a worrisome character from the POV of science education.

  1. 1
    ellijacket says:

    I used a ball and a flashlight to explain day/night to my 5 year old. She grasped it just fine.

    Huge amounts of intelligence coupled with a lack of wisdom brings about many stupid ideas.

  2. 2
    russ says:

    most kids would probably conclude that the earth is flat and at the center of the universe (after all, the sensorial evidence is overwhelming in favor of the flat-earth, Ptolemaic system).

    My son is almost four and he started asking questions about planet earth when he turned three. I used Google Earth to zoom out into space and back in order to demonstrate the roundness of the earth. I’m not sure he gets it completely just yet, but I would think that by five he should have a good grasp.

    Now, when I told him last week that “You can’t go to the sun in a spaceship because its too hot”, he replied “That’s okay, we’ll bring drinks!”. So maybe I’ll wait to present (the opposing) flat earth theory till he’s in junior high or high school. Oh, and he won’t be going to SUNY Stony Brook, since it seems the professors there have a very low opinion of young people.

  3. 3
    Borne says:

    most kids would probably conclude that the earth is flat and at the center of the universe (after all, the sensorial evidence is overwhelming in favor of the flat-earth, Ptolemaic system)

    What a ridiculous thing to say. Why is it that so many scientists think themselves so smart and everyone else a complete idiot?

  4. 4
    GCUGreyArea says:

    “…debate both sides”

    Why do people always assume that there are only two sides to arguments.

    He may have been making a reasonable point rather badly. Part of the purpose of education is to learn established ‘facts’. We teach kids in history lessons that Germany lost world war two, what is the point in getting them to debate ‘Both sides of the argument’?

    Sometimes there just isn’t time to debate everything in class, otherwise you would spend your whole life in school. Do kids really need to learn about alternatives to electromagnetic, or newtons laws of motion. That’s not to say that these things shouldn’t be questioned but you need to learn about them first.

  5. 5
    Jason1083 says:

    Massimo’s analogy isn’t quite right. You have to imagine trying to teach children that the Earth is round if they lived in a society where many of the authoritative figures they know say, “We think the earth is flat, but you should judge the evidence for yourself!” That would be somewhat more difficult I imagine (“I’ve seen photoshops more convincing than this series of images you keep showing me of your supposedly round Earth”, “The aliens from Star Wars looked real on film too, but that doesn’t mean they exist!”).

  6. 6
    MaxAug says:

    Needless to offer further commments on the first statement about the flat earth. Then he follows:

    “Education is, at its core, about two things: a) We want our students to have access to the best of what humanity has produced, be that in science, philosophy, literature, economics or what have you.”

    Translation: We want kids to learn everything according to physicalism, because we are physicalists and we think this is the best thing yea!

    “b) We want to provide students with the necessary tools to engage in critical thinking and serious analysis of whatever claim comes under their scrutiny.”

    So so, how can kids engage in critical thinking if they are denied access to both sides of a dispute?

    The guy has a PhD in philosophy right? was that under Dick to the Dawk?

  7. 7
    DaveScot says:


    Is prehistoric evolution by chance & necessity an established fact?

    Do we ever hear an earth scientist saying that a round earth is a fact as well established as chance & necessity turning bacteria into bureaucrats?

    The problem that Massimo Pigliucci and others of his ilk can’t bring themselves to admit is that their evolutionary narrative is just that – a narrative. It isn’t an established fact like a round earth or the force of gravity or continental drift or the laws of physics or chemistry. There’s a really good reason why prehistoric evolution by chance & necessity has a never ending stream of critics. The reason is that it’s eminently debatable and the so-called overwhelming evidence is nothing of the sort.

  8. 8
    GCUGreyArea says:


    I thought we were talking about a flat earth. I didn’t see any mention of evolution in the story you posted and so I wasn’t commenting on evolution. As I have no idea who this guy is I don’t know anything about his views on evolution, I was just commenting on his comments as posted by you.

  9. 9
    toc says:

    It is rather like the Chinese government with regards to Tiennemen Square. It never happened.
    Only those who fear the truth will allow discussions regarding what may or may not be true.

  10. 10
    GilDodgen says:


    Learning critical thinking is not a matter of being exposed to a “fair and balanced” view of everything and be told “you decide.” Rather, it proceeds through learning about logic, about assessing evidence, and about the many ways in which human senses and reasoning abilities can fail us if we are not on guard.

    Well, I’ve learned about logic and have assessed the evidence, have a world-class science education and do science for a living, and have concluded that step-by-tiny-step prehistoric evolution by chance and necessity is logically and evidentially bankrupt. It doesn’t even pass the “beverage out the nose” test, as we say in our engineering department. Mud-to-mind and amoeba-to-Mozart evolution by random changes and chemical reactions doesn’t pass this test.

    And yes, I am aware of how human senses and reasoning abilities can fail us if we are not on guard, but I’m also aware of how they do a pretty good job in general of alerting us to junk claims and scams, even when presented in the name of “science.” Human senses and reasoning abilities suggested that the universe could not have always been here (because if it had, all the stars would have burned out an infinity ago and today would never have arrived), even when the “scientific” consensus was that the universe was eternal. The scientists were wrong and common sense was right.

    I am also aware of how a philosophical commitment, indoctrination, and peer pressure can fail even scientists who think they are being objective in the pursuit of truth, if they are not on guard.

  11. 11
    DaveScot says:


    Excuse me for thinking you clicked on the link above the quote. If you had you’d know who Pigliucci is and the context of the quote.

  12. 12
    toc says:

    correction on my post #9:

    “Only those who fear the truth will allow discussions regarding what may or may not be true.”

    I meant to say “disallow.”


  13. 13
    andrew says:

    GCUGreyarea wrote:

    Part of the purpose of education is to learn established ‘facts’. We teach kids in history lessons that Germany lost world war two, what is the point in getting them to debate ‘Both sides of the argument’?

    When I did history in high school, one of the big things we studied was the question of who was responsible for the two world wars. I even remember being involved in a debate over whether Hitler was responsible for WW2. It might surprise most people, but there is a serious debate over this subject among historians.

    I don’t suppose that this disproves the existence of historical ‘facts’. Rather, my point is that history is really not about learning facts – that is memorisation, and holds no real interest, except perhaps among people given to performing memorisation feats.

    History is about facts + interpretation. It involves *thinking* about the past – and thinking is impossible without human beings, and their subjective selection of which facts to study (and which to ignore) and their interpretation of those ‘facts’ always brings with it the problem of biased ways of looking at evidence.

    Same for biology.

  14. 14
    bFast says:

    When Dr. Pigliucci says, “the sensorial evidence is overwhelming in favor of the flat-earth, Ptolemaic system”, I would agree with him.

    Now, flat earthers are few and far between. If the sensoral evidence is overwhelming in favor of a flat-earth, why is that? Why have the majority of people abandoned their senses and bought into the round-earth model?

    The evidence!

    I bet that us IDers would be quick to abandon our position if we were only shown the evidence establishing that RM+NS explains it all.

    Why is the scientific community withholding this evidence from us? That is the question!

  15. 15
    scordova says:

    most kids would probably conclude that the earth is flat

    On what scientific basis does massimo make that assertion. Most kids I’ve known when presented with the evidence concluded the world was round.

  16. 16
    jerry says:

    The evidence for Darwinian evolution is just as persuasive as the flat earth till one thinks more about it. Survival of the fittest is one of the easiest concepts to understand. It is all around us.

    It is only when you look at it more closesly that Darwinian macro evolution like the flat earth does not make sense.

  17. 17
    Upright BiPed says:

    The earth only appears spherical, molecular machines only appear designed. Who is who, now?

    Travel and observation falsified the flat earth.

    Observing Metazoan protein codes conserved within Protazoan genome falsified gradulistic Darwinism.

    Pigliucci = Draper/White.

  18. 18
    StephenB says:

    Like most cynics, Pigliucci’s attempt at irony backfires because his analogy contradicts his argument. Flat earth and Darwinist ideologies came first, and have become obsolete; round earth and ID sciences came later and are what’s happening now. If you are going to lampoon your opponent with historical references, the first order of business is to get hold of your chronology.

  19. 19
    DaveScot says:


    How do you figure “Darwinist ideologies” came before creationism?

  20. 20
    DaveScot says:

    Pigliucci said “creationism”. It was the focus, indeed the subject line, of his article “Is Sarah Palin a Creationist?”. Palin, like many conservatives, falls on the side of teaching the controversy over chance and design in the origin and diversity of life and letting people decide for themselves what to believe from there. Atheists are of course frightened spitless by this as even with exclusivity in the classroom to teach only their theory of chance they fail to convince many students. Pigliucci tries to use the tired old argument that presenting evidence of creation in contrast to evolution by chance is like presenting evidence of a flat earth in contrast to a round earth. Pigliucci, like many blind chance worshippers, doesn’t understand the difference. The evidence for a round earth really is overwhelming and easily taught. Nobody insists on presenting the evidence for a flat earth because virtually everyone, even knuckle dragging bible thumping creationists, acknowledges the overwhelming evidence for a round earth. Pigliucci and scientists like him are frustrated at their own failure to make a convincing-enough case for evolution by chance & necessity that it can’t put down creationism as easily as the evidence for a round earth puts down evidence of a flat earth. In other words, the “illusion” of a flat earth goes away upon slightly closer inspection while the “illusion” of design only gets stronger upon closer inspection. That’s the difference between illusion and reality – illusions go away, reality doesn’t.

  21. 21
    StephenB says:


    My only point is that just as flat earth is obsolete with respect to round earth, Darwinism is obsolete with respect to modern ID.

    Here, I am gambling that, like McCain, Palin and Huckabee are ID and are being called “creationists.” If I am wrong about that, then, obviously, my comment loses its relevance.

    Quite often in these disucssions, Darwinists approach subjects like “specified complexity” and “irreducible complexity” as if they were the scientific equivalent to “flat earth” science, as if they didn’t represent what they really are—-the solution to Darwinist obsolescence.

  22. 22
    PannenbergOmega says:

    Palani is speaking at the RNC tonight. In regards to the article.

  23. 23
    jlid says:

    What happened to the post above this one? Am I the only one who can’t see it anymore?

  24. 24
    jerry says:


    I believe the current form of creationism that everybody refers to started in 1961 with the publication of

    The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications is a 1961 book by young earth creationists John C. Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris.

    The authors propose that there is a scientific basis for young-Earth creationism as told in the Biblical book of Genesis. The book is seen as one of the most important in the history of creationism as it popularized the ideas of flood geology. (from Wikipedia)

    See a comment by Ted Davis at ASA on this topic recently. There were creationist before that time but it didn’t really take off till the above book was published.

  25. 25
    DaveScot says:


    Pigliucci didn’t mention scientific creationism and neither did Palin. I don’t think there are many churches in the real world that are on the scientific creationism bandwagon and thus have no reason to believe that Pigliucci is accusing Palin of being that particular kind of creationist.

  26. 26
    DaveScot says:

    In fact, the question put to Palin in a televised debate between Alaska gubernatorial candidates was:

    Should intelligent design be taught alongside evolution in Alaska public schools?

    Source: Anchorage Daily News

    Her answer was:

    “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

    Naturally, “intelligent design” was immediately replaced by “creationism” and/or “creation science” by the evolution lobby.

    Because televised debates don’t allow the time or space for more thoughtful answers, Palin was asked the next day to clarify her answer. Here is how that went:

    In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms:

    “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”

    She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state’s required curriculum.

    Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

    “I won’t have religion as a litmus test, or anybody’s personal opinion on evolution or creationism,” Palin said.

    One thing is clear, if the Darwinian evolution lobby continues to insist that intelligent design is the same as scientific creationism then we in fact do need to teach something in public schools – the difference between ID and creation science, so that the Darwinists are deprived of their lie that “creation science” and ID are the same thing.

  27. 27
    Barb says:

    From the article: “Learning critical thinking is not a matter of being exposed to a “fair and balanced” view of everything and be told “you decide.”

    Yet, the eminent naturalist Charles Darwin wrote: “A fair result could be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question…”

    We as a society understand the importance of hearing both sides of an issue; what would happen to our justice system if only the plaintiff’s side were heard in court? Any rational person knows this.
    Education is being told how to think; propaganda is being told what to think.

    From the article: “To raise a nation of ignorant bigots whose understanding of the world is no better than that of a tribe of ancient middle eastern people wandering around the desert thousands of years ago?”

    Oh, please, not this again. I know biblical quotes aren’t exactly welcome here, but suffice it to say this: when it touches on science, the Bible is scientific. Clearly, the author of this blog hasn’t bothered to read it, which brings me to another question: how can a person negatively review a book he hasn’t read? That’s illogical.

    From the article: “That way if you are from Alaska, Alabama, Mississippi or a variety of other places along the Ignorance Belt you can keep falling behind in quality of life and ability to compete in a world where science plays an increasingly central role in our lives.”

    How, exactly, does the Ignorance Belt stretch from Alaska to Alabama? Pathetically worded ad hominem attacks only decrease one’s credibility, and the author should know this, since he has a PhD in philosophy. Surely he knows what a logical fallacy is.

    The author mentions being able to compete in a world beset with newer technologies and I’ve been wondering, personally, what benefit knowing and understanding Darwinian evolution has to, say, a computer software engineer. If my job is to design software, then why would I even care if my lineage is traceable back to Homo erectus? How does that fact come into play in my daily life while on the job?

  28. 28
    GilDodgen says:

    …if the Darwinian evolution lobby continues to insist that intelligent design is the same as scientific creationism then we in fact do need to teach something in public schools – the difference between ID and creation science…

    Of course, this would be the Darwinists’ worst nightmare, because then students might actually check out some of the ID literature and discover that they really are being scammed and indoctrinated with unsupported speculation presented as fact and “science.” The fact that Darwinists continually equate ID with biblical creationism is a dead giveaway that they know they are attempting to defend what students will quickly realize is indefensible if strong logical and scientific arguments for design are presented. Most students already don’t accept blind-watchmaker mythology. Imagine what would happen if they were exposed to Dembski, Behe, Meyer, Denton, et al.

  29. 29
    ellijacket says:


    As far as there being “many churches in the real world that are on the scientific creationism bandwagon” I would say there are way more than you might think. At least in my area of the US.

    What cracks me up about teaching creationism in schools is that the main YEC organization out there (AIG) doesn’t promote it. They view this as a worldview issue and believe they must start at the grassroots level of changing people’s worldview one at a time. Then the truth will filter up.

    They do believe the controversies of evolution should be taught. No doubt. But the other side sidesteps that issue by attacking the strawman of “creationism being taught in schools.”

    Quotes here. Full article link below.
    The Post described AiG as an organization that “champions” the effort to teach alternatives to evolution in science classes. We must once again point out to the Post that AiG has never lobbied legislatures, gone to court, distributed petitions, pressured school leaders, or backed political candidates to force creation or intelligent design to be taught in schools. Although AiG does agree with efforts by others to remind teachers that they can legally talk to their students about the grave problems with evolution (academic freedom certainly allows this), we are not an activist organization (or “advocacy group,” as the Post called us).

    Moreover, and as we have repeatedly told Post reporters over the years, we think it is actually counterproductive to mandate that instructors teach creation or intelligent design in schools. Forcing them to teach something they may not believe in (much less be equipped to teach) will not work, for such instructors will probably teach creation/ID poorly.

    Full article: http://www.answersingenesis.or.....sented.asp

  30. 30
    FallenOffenbar says:

    There isn’t any such thing as a “flat earth, Ptolemaic
    system.” Ptolemy’s astronomy insist and depends upon a round
    earth. Trying to combine Ptolemaic geocentrism with a flat
    earth would not result in a system of any sort. Ptolemy
    proves the roundness of the earth solely from astronomical
    appearances (observable by anyone able to travel far enough)
    and mathematical principles. I studied Ptolemy in a program
    which systematically disdains use of secondary sources. We
    indeed debated the roundness of the earth (without recourse
    to space photos, Magellan, or infallible magisteria) and no
    one was able to refute Ptolemy’s reasoning on the shape of the

    Besides showing the author’s ignorance of Ptolemaic
    astronomy and scientific history, the comment seems to
    insist that rational thought on any matter (besides the most
    pedestrian of sense-impressions) is and should remain
    beyond the reach of Joe Sophomore. Funny education, that.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    GCUGreyArea says:

    DaveScot @ 11

    No I didn’t click on the link, I didn’t see it at first but it was reasonable for you to assume that I would have so no worries.

  33. 33
    jjcassidy says:

    That the earth turns out to a ball is just an example that local trends should not be necessarily be projected past the area where they apply -> Macro Evolution can be opposed along similar lines.

    Sailors have long known something was up, because they could see the sail of a ship before they could see the whole ship. To some extent, the Cyrenaens simply quantized what Greek sailors had long seen with their eyes.

    A lifetime land-lubber, for whom a flat world has worked time and time again–say a builder/engineer–would be out of bounds to explain away the persistent witness of a sailor in such matters. But he lives in a world where it matters not a whole lot.

    We live in a world where a round earth matters. But it matters because it’s a frequent enough impression. It’s hard to see how you would not see it when taking a high-elevation flight–and it is also persistent enough to the navigators’ whose course depends on the curvature of the earth. But also it’s used daily in the increasingly-common GPS.

    See as our capabilities have grown they have broken down the barrier between the seemingly flat earth and the curvature of the earth into a more or less common thing.

    Of course, it’s the power of the negative here which says that projecting a default assumption that works locally to a global scope is problematic. This should be in the arsenal of any student where we represent that we are trying to teach them “critical reasoning”.

    That makes Pigliucci’s argument a straw man. “Debating both sides” does not directly imply “concluding” anything. Pigliucci contrasts the idea of a debate with information on each side to one a content-less one where students can “conclude what they think”.

    I am not a proponent of ID, but I see waves of the straw man army when I look at the anti-ID side.

  34. 34
  35. 35
    bFast says:

    abtahizadeh, thanks for the video links.

    Kauffman presents some interesting stuff here that is rather close to ID.

    Somebody with the power, please start a new thread with these links.

  36. 36
    Joseph says:

    From the article I infer that Massimo is an ignorant tool.

    Why the harsh words?

    1- The Executive office does NOT state the education policy. GWB is a Creationist and creation is NOT being taught.

    2- Education is NOT about indoctrination of a belief- and the theory of evolution- that is universal common descent via an accumulation/ culling of genetic accidents- is just that, a belief.

    3- Massimo should shut up and start putting up- that is actually doing some research to confirm his beliefs. because-

    4- That is why ID and Creation exist- because Massimo and his minions cannot support their belief.

  37. 37
    ellijacket says:

    What worries me is the push to remove parental rights in what they allow their children to be taught.

    Myers made a comment discussing Palin about this. She believes parents should be able to opt their children out subject areas (evolution for example) they don’t want them taught. Myers thought this should not be allowed. That parents should not get a say.

    I believe Massimo’s ideas are there to purposely lay a foundation for the future removal of these type parental rights. It’s really a 1984-like idea.

  38. 38
    abtahizadeh says:

    I think it’s high time I said that people were unhappy after they watched this Kauffman’s keynote, that makes it interesting to be put in one topic here, (I was there in the main lecture room of the conference.)

  39. 39
    DaveScot says:

    Myers and Pigliucci only support compulsory public education so long as what is compelled meets with their approval.

    Imagine their reaction if we were to add, say, military training to compulsory public education. Get their kids up to speed in how to survive in nuclear/biological/chemical warfare situations, how to fire and maintain an M-16 automatic rifle, cover and concealment, overlapping fields of fire, and things of that nature. I bet they’d all of a sudden discover in themselves a fervent belief in being able to “just say no” to compulsory public education.

    You know, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to add some compulsory basic military training to public education. Check me on this but I think it’s likely that more children choose to become soldiers than biologists. Shouldn’t we then prepare them for the former choice equally as well as the latter?

  40. 40
    ellijacket says:


    Knowing them they’d turn your idea around on you. Replace ‘Hitler Youth’ with ‘Darwin Youth’ and Myers would wet his pants with glee.

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