Intelligent Design

One year on, Larry Moran attacks UK ban on teaching of non-naturalistic theories of origins in State-funded science classes

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I was intrigued to read Professor Larry Moran’s latest post, UK bans teaching of creationism – which, it turns out, is a rehash of old news, which I covered over a year ago. However, I was deeply heartened to read that Professor Moran regards the British government’s decision to ban the teaching of “any doctrine or theory which holds that natural biological processes cannot account for the history, diversity, and complexity of life on earth and therefore rejects the scientific theory of evolution” as a scientifically valid theory at schools receiving public funding (including academies and free schools) as morally indefensible. In his own words:

This is ridiculous. I’m opposed to American politicians who meddle in science teaching and I’m opposed to British politicians who do the same even though I think creationism is bunk. Politicians should not be deciding what kind of science should, and should not, be taught in schools…

In addition, there are other reasons why this is a bad idea.

1. Where do you stop? Do there also need to be laws banning the teaching of astrology, climate change denial, homeopathy, and Thatcherism? Do they need laws defining the correct history of how the traitors in the Thirteen Colonies formed an alliance with the French in order to overthrow well-meaning British governments?

2. Why give creationists the ammunition to claim that they are being persecuted—especially when it’s true?

3. What’s wrong with showing that creationism is bad science and refuting it in the classroom? Is that forbidden? Evolution is true, it doesn’t need legal protection.

4. Are the Brits so afraid of creationism that such a law is necessary in order to prevent creationist teachers from sneaking it into the classroom? If so, fix that problem by educating teachers.

5. Was this a serious enough problem to warrant giving creationism a huge publicity boost?

6. The government funding agreement notes that creationism “… should not be presented to pupils at the Academy as a scientific theory …” Why not? I think that some parts of Intelligent Design Creationism really do count as valid scientific hypotheses, albeit bad ones. Why is the government taking a stand on the demarcation problem—especially an incorrect one?

Professor Moran makes some very telling points here.

However, one commenter on Professor Moran’s thread attacked him for inconsistency, writing:

You’re infamous to the creationists for your dictum that teachers can flunk all students who believe in creationism and/or Intelligent Design, or as you put it, “Flunk the IDiots.” (As a result of the “Flunk the IDiots” dictum, the Discovery Institute will never regard Larry as a defender of academic freedom, no matter what.)

So you seem to believe in absolute, authoritarian power for teachers with zero accountability, versus no academic freedom for students. Teachers can teach factual falsehoods, slander scientists as fraudsters in on the international conspiracy– hell, teachers can make up whatever shit they want, and never be held accountable; but then you say students can be flunked for believing in creationism, even if they put the right answers on the exam. It seems that is a vast disparity in power, freedom and accountability between teachers and students.

Good point.

Another commenter defended the British government’s decision, arguing that high school biology teachers who teach creationism “are directly comparable, not in damage caused but in failure to do what they are paid for, to a doctor prescribing arsenic to treat a headache, to a builder constructing a bridge support from paper mache, to a waiter serving you petrol when you asked for apple juice.”

Funny! Personally, I would draw the opposite comparison. I would describe any car dealer who told you that you that your car could run on orange juice as a snake oil salesman, and I would say the same of any scientist who confidently asserted that simple organic chemicals (such as amino acids) were capable of assembling themselves (over a one-billion-year period) into even a basic replication-translation system with a genetic code. There’s just as much evidence for the second assertion as for the first: none. In fact, the first assertion is more plausible than the second – see here and see this peer-reviewed article here.

Funnily enough, none of Professor Moran’s commenters seem to have noticed that what Moran calls the “recent decision” by the government of the United Kingdom to ban the teaching of creationism in “all Academies and Free Schools, both those that already exist and those that will open in the future” actually took place over a year ago. Now that’s funny.

14 Replies to “One year on, Larry Moran attacks UK ban on teaching of non-naturalistic theories of origins in State-funded science classes

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    State control of truth/conclusions in society , and so public institutions, used to be the great repulsion for free people in the Anglo-American civilization. the hopeless Europeans and the rest controlled the peoples conclusions.opinions.
    Not England is as dumb and bad. In other things too.

    First this is a attack on christian doctrines as options for truth in certain subjects.
    Second its state enforced conclusions of what is not true. Creationism is illegal because its untrue otherwise they would be saying a option for truth is illegal in subjects teaching/investigating what is true.
    Third its an attack on the peoples freedom of thought and speech etc.

    It shows how they fear the modern revolution of ID/YEC.
    they are afraid and they right and they will fail in this reaction.
    They are bad, dumb, and losers.
    Any other subject being banned would be attacked by more people I think.

    They provoke creationists at every level.
    They act like any oppressive regime one ever read about in history.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    VJT,

    thanks for highlighting.

    From where I sit, this is all that is needed:

    to protect academic freedom (especially the right of educators, researchers and students to study, state, discuss and teach the well-grounded facts and significant issues or views on matters relevant to reasonable educational or academic objectives without retaliation).

    That is, we should defend genuine academic freedom to study, research, teach and learn without fear of retaliation. And certainly, not censorship, control and manipulative indoctrination in lab coat clad agendas or other politically correct or convenient ideologies.

    Anything beyond genuine freedom cometh of evil.

    KF

    PS: Writing indoctrination and ideological agendas into syllabuses for key national or regional exams tied to general High School certification or university access or advanced placement should also be seen for what it is. A is A.

  3. 3
    Kaz says:

    vjtorley: “Politicians should not be deciding what kind of science should, and should not, be taught in schools…”

    Neither should judges, for that matter.

    Robert Byres: “It shows how they fear the modern revolution of ID/YEC.”

    That’s clearly true. If the Darwin lobby thought that Darwinism was so well confirmed vis a vis its larger claims so as to be beyond question, then they wouldn’t feel the need to bully people from considering alternatives. They’d welcome the chance to show how Darwinism is the best explanation among competing hypotheses.

    They’re bullies because they’re cowards.

    ~Sean

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Note this, from Coyne, in Nat Geog:

    If you teach evolution, you’re teaching the one form of science that hits Abrahamic religions in the solar plexus. You can teach chemistry and physics and physiology and other forms of science-based inquiry, like archaeology and history, and religious people don’t have any problem with that. But, for evolution, they do.

    About 42 to 43 percent of Americans are creationists. Another 30 percent are theistic evolutionists, who think that God impelled the evolutionary process. This is an uptick of about 50 percent over the last 20 years.

    But there are a number of things about evolution and science that undermine religion. First of all, the fact that the Genesis story is wrong. There’s no evidence that there’s any qualitatively different feature about humans from other species, except maybe for language. But that’s something that could have evolved via culture. We’re not special products of God’s creation.

    I suggest, as fair comment, that this is lab coat clad indoctrination and ideological polarisation controlled by a priori materialism and by failure to address serious worldview issues and alternatives in a fair fashion, rather than a responsibly articulated view.

    In a nutshell, it abuses the prestige of science.

    For instance, it fails to cogently address major concerns, e.g. as highlighted by Nancy Pearcey in her recent Finding Truth:

    A major way to test a philosophy or worldview is to ask: Is it logically consistent? Internal contradictions are fatal to any worldview because contradictory statements are necessarily false. “This circle is square” is contradictory, so it has to be false. An especially damaging form of contradiction is self-referential absurdity — which means a theory sets up a definition of truth that it itself fails to meet. Therefore it refutes itself . . . .

    An example of self-referential absurdity is a theory called evolutionary epistemology, a naturalistic approach that applies evolution to the process of knowing. The theory proposes that the human mind is a product of natural selection. The implication is that the ideas in our minds were selected for their survival value, not for their truth-value.

    But what if we apply that theory to itself? Then it, too, was selected for survival, not truth — which discredits its own claim to truth. Evolutionary epistemology commits suicide.

    Astonishingly, many prominent thinkers have embraced the theory without detecting the logical contradiction. Philosopher John Gray writes, “If Darwin’s theory of natural selection is true,… the human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.” What is the contradiction in that statement?

    Gray has essentially said, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it “serves evolutionary success, not truth.” In other words, if Darwin’s theory is true, then it is not true.

    Self-referential absurdity is akin to the well-known liar’s paradox: “This statement is a lie.” If the statement is true, then (as it says) it is not true, but a lie.

    Another example comes from Francis Crick. In The Astonishing Hypothesis, he writes, “Our highly developed brains, after all, were not evolved under the pressure of discovering scientific truths but only to enable us to be clever enough to survive.” But that means Crick’s own theory is not a “scientific truth.” Applied to itself, the theory commits suicide.

    Of course, the sheer pressure to survive is likely to produce some correct ideas. A zebra that thinks lions are friendly will not live long. But false ideas may be useful for survival. Evolutionists admit as much: Eric Baum says, “Sometimes you are more likely to survive and propagate if you believe a falsehood than if you believe the truth.” Steven Pinker writes, “Our brains were shaped for fitness, not for truth. Sometimes the truth is adaptive, but sometimes it is not.” The upshot is that survival is no guarantee of truth. If survival is the only standard, we can never know which ideas are true and which are adaptive but false.

    To make the dilemma even more puzzling, evolutionists tell us that natural selection has produced all sorts of false concepts in the human mind. Many evolutionary materialists maintain that free will is an illusion, consciousness is an illusion, even our sense of self is an illusion — and that all these false ideas were selected for their survival value.
    So how can we know whether the theory of evolution itself is one of those false ideas? The theory undercuts itself.

    A few thinkers, to their credit, recognize the problem. Literary critic Leon Wieseltier writes, “If reason is a product of natural selection, then how much confidence can we have in a rational argument for natural selection? … Evolutionary biology cannot invoke the power of reason even as it destroys it.”

    On a similar note, philosopher Thomas Nagel asks, “Is the [evolutionary] hypothesis really compatible with the continued confidence in reason as a source of knowledge?” His answer is no: “I have to be able to believe … that I follow the rules of logic because they are correct — not merely because I am biologically programmed to do so.” Hence, “insofar as the evolutionary hypothesis itself depends on reason, it would be self-undermining.”

    It is time for serious re-thinking.

    KF

  5. 5
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Jerry Coyne

    There’s no evidence that there’s any qualitatively different feature about humans from other species, except maybe for language.

    Biologists have taken over the role of defining what human life is. Normally, this was done through philosophy and religion.

    When humanity is defined by science, it’s just nihilism. It’s destructive of human life. Atheistic-humanists figured that out centuries ago, as incoherent as their ideas are. They realized that atheistic materialism is anti-human so they just claimed, with no logical support, that humans had special value.

    It’s more honest to say, as Coyne does, that humans are not qualitatively different than other species. With that, there would be no way to distinguish human from non-human in evolutionary development.

  6. 6
    KevNick says:

    vjtorley,

    ” I would describe any car dealer who told you that you that your car could run on orange juice as a snake oil salesman, and I would say the same of any scientist who confidently asserted that simple organic chemicals (such as amino acids) were capable of assembling themselves (over a one-billion-year period) into even a basic replication-translation system with a genetic code. There’s just as much evidence for the second assertion as for the first: none.”

    I have challenged Moran on this and his blog to provide 1 piece of evidence that convinced him that life originated without an Intelligent Designer. So far, he hasn’t responded even once. One of my arguments was that if intelligent scientists can’t replicate the process of how nonliving matter became alive, what is the evidence (even one will do) that dumb luck did it over millions of years what human intelligence has been unable to replicate.
    Without even one piece of evidence that life originated on its own, and the science not being able to replicate it, there is only one logical conclusion; higher than our intelligence had to have been involved in the origins of life.

    Unless Moran and Darwin followers propose and third option or at least one evidence for the abiogenesis, they can be called the blind believers of dumb-biogenesis or just simply delusional….

  7. 7
    Silver Asiatic says:

    KevNick

    Without even one piece of evidence that life originated on its own, and the science not being able to replicate it, there is only one logical conclusion; higher than our intelligence had to have been involved in the origins of life.

    It’s interesting also that nobody draws a conclusion on why they can’t replicate it.
    Life is obviously very common on earth. The material elements of life are common also. We can create all kinds of synthetic compounds and invent new products via chemical experiments but for some reason a living cell cannot be produced through abiotic components.

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    KevNick, if this post by LM is any indication you might have to wait at least a year to hear back. 🙂

  9. 9

    SA:

    It’s interesting also that nobody draws a conclusion on why they can’t replicate it.
    Life is obviously very common on earth. The material elements of life are common also. We can create all kinds of synthetic compounds and invent new products via chemical experiments but for some reason a living cell cannot be produced through abiotic components.

    They simply cite one of the icons of evolution, the Miller- Urey experiment, and go on their way.

  10. 10
    vjtorley says:

    Hi kairosfocus,

    Thank you for your comments, and thanks also for your highly pertinent quotes on evolutionary epistemology.

    At the end of the day, the take-home message is: the conclusions of a mind that supposedly evolved in order to address practical questions cannot be relied on, when they relate to abstract or theoretical matters.

    Evolutionists might counter that even theoretical hypotheses can still be tested (and falsified) empirically, but that doesn’t address the deeper problem: how do you know you’ve selected the right hypothesis to test in the first place? There are, for all we know, infinitely many hypotheses which might explain whatever it is that you’re trying to explain. How do you select the right one in the first place?

    The reply scientists typically make is that we should select the simplest hypothesis we know of. But while the simplest hypothesis may be the most convenient for us, that doesn’t make it true.

    Your quotes from Coyne are also telling: there certainly is an issue of “lab coat clad indoctrination” which needs to be confronted head-on.

  11. 11
    Mung says:

    VJT, why do you believe that all of Nature is cursed?

    Do you think that one verse from Genesis where God curses the ground should be extrapolated to all of Nature?

  12. 12
    ycrad says:

    Well, here’s a more recent statement from Prof. Larry Moran. Any thougts?

    “A good science journalist can express an opinion on a scientific controversy but good science journalists are obliged to point out to their readers that this is just an opinion and there are many expert scientists who disagree.”

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com.b.....ntury.html

  13. 13
    Mung says:

    I’m more interested in pursuing how VJT can accuse the Pope of sloppy exegesis and then engage in sloppy exegeses to refute the Pope!

  14. 14
    Seversky says:

    vjtorley @ 10

    At the end of the day, the take-home message is: the conclusions of a mind that supposedly evolved in order to address practical questions cannot be relied on, when they relate to abstract or theoretical matters.

    Who ever suggested that the conclusions of our minds are absolutely reliable? Why do you think science stresses testing of proposed hypotheses?

    If our minds have evolved to address practical questions by abstracting salient features of the observed environment and encoding them in a form that can be manipulated as components of a mental model, in what way does that hinder us from considering abstract or theoretical matters?

    Evolutionists might counter that even theoretical hypotheses can still be tested (and falsified) empirically, but that doesn’t address the deeper problem: how do you know you’ve selected the right hypothesis to test in the first place? There are, for all we know, infinitely many hypotheses which might explain whatever it is that you’re trying to explain. How do you select the right one in the first place?

    To state the glaringly obvious, if we knew which was the correct hypothesis in the first place we wouldn’t need to test it, would we?

    And if we don’t know which is the right one, what does it matter which one we start with? Occam’s Razor recommends starting with the simplest one, although it’s only a guideline. But it makes sense, if you have to start somewhere why not there?

    The reply scientists typically make is that we should select the simplest hypothesis we know of. But while the simplest hypothesis may be the most convenient for us, that doesn’t make it true.

    Whoever said the simplest explanation is always true?

    Your quotes from Coyne are also telling: there certainly is an issue of “lab coat clad indoctrination” which needs to be confronted head-on.

    Only if you agree there is an issue of pulpit indoctrination as well.

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