I’ve been watching over the past few weeks the raft of commentary and opinions from people in the whole Intelligent Design (ID) “debate.” I hesitate to call it a debate - it tends to lend credence to the ID proponent’s arguments in allowing people to think that there is a real scientific principal being discussed. This is a real danger, because despite the complete lack of evidence and a real theory of operation, ID is being pushed as an alternative to the theory of evolution (TTOE), and in some cases as something that complements TTOE. Unfortunately, the public picks up on this crap and thinks that this is something more than it is. An example:
From the The Wichita Daily Eagle, a letter to the editor from Jay Anderson reads in part:
But we tend to forget that almost any new scientific discovery is rejected by the majority of scientists of that day. Look at poor Galileo, who was forced to recant his ideas about astronomy because they were new.
I’d like to point out that it wasn’t other scientists that rejected Galileo’s new ideas - it was the church in Rome. Perhaps not the ideal example to illustrate the failure of scientists to recognize new ideas … but let’s continue.
Evolutionary science more than 20 years old is out of date with the advent of the discovery of the DNA molecule and its complexity, and the vast amount of information it contains — which can only be explained by an intelligent designer. The scientists who point this out have Ph.D.s in chemistry and genetics.
Mr. Anderson here fails to recognize that far from disproving TTOE, modern genetics is essential to evolutionary theory. Furthermore, while scientists (even ones with a Ph.D.!) may point to the “vast amount” of information in a DNA molecule, you’ll be hard pressed to find many reputable scientists pushing the idea that an “intelligent designer” was the one that put it there. (See this FAQ for more information on how many scientists really support ID.)
But it means nothing that the majority of scientists believe the old theories of evolution. They are too afraid to even look at the new evidence, which is what a true scientist is supposed to do.
I’m certain that should someone come along with some unambiguous evidence of ID, you would convert the vast majority of people overnight. The problem is that there just isn’t any evidence. It’s completely based on two ideas: 1. That life is too complex to to have happened by “chance” - it needs some sort of helping hand from an intelligent being; and 2. TTOE is wrong. That’s it, and there isn’t any more to it. No evidence, no theories, no probability studies - nothing.
Not to pick on Mr. Anderson here - this letter is from the public and I used it to illustrate a point: That there are far too many people out there that don’t understand TTOE. And what’s more, most of them don’t even fully comprehend ID (though there are several different versions out there, so they can’t be fully blamed for this.) Unfortunately, people see these letters and think that there is a real debate here. That there is something more to ID than a group of people trying to force their beliefs on a mostly unsuspecting public.
And it’s not just ID proponents who are being given this unwarranted time to rant. It’s loonies from the creationism camp, too. The ones who don’t even try to disguise the Bible-based nature of their desire to remove all mentions of evolution: From an article on the website of WTOL about a 13 year old student that is “outraged” at being taught evolution:
It seems to be a question of our times. Should creationism be taught alongside evolution in public schools? Tuesday night, one teen questioned Toledo Public Schools’ curriculum at the board of education meeting in north Toledo.
A question of our times? What? That this is even a question points out how far down we’ve sunk in our critical thinking capabilities. This individual is being given time to espouse his beliefs in front of the school board and they are taking it seriously.
13-year-old Spencer Genson is outraged that evolution can be taught in schools, but not creationism. He thinks both should be addressed. “I believe my rights as a United States citizen are being violated by these teachings,” Genson said to the Toledo School Board. Genson is outraged that evolution is being taught in Toledo Public Schools, without at least the acknowledgement of creationism. “I have a bible and when I read my bible it tells me that I’m a descendant from Adam and Eve, but when I read my curriculum in school it tells me that I come from a monkey.”
Here is someone that want’s creationism taught in science class. Granted this kid is 13, but I cannot believe that this is being taken as seriously as it is. Especially with the statement “…I read my bible it tells me that I’m a descendant from Adam and Eve, but when I read my curriculum in school it tells me that I come from a monkey.” Creationism belongs in an comparative religion class or social studies, not in science class. And perhaps he better listen a little more closely - he may learn the difference between apes (from which we are indirectly descended) and monkeys (which we are not.)
Genson says both evolution and creationism should be taught. And if that’s not possible, then students should be able to opt out of the evolution portion of the science class.
Arrrrrggggg.. So if I don’t like something someone is teaching, I should just be able to leave?
…The TPS board said Spencer makes them proud. President Larry Sykes said “He’s showing how resourceful he is and how articulate and intellectual.” And they are taking his concerns very seriously. “I was very impressed that he was a 13-year-old 7th grader that is very concerned about the way a subject matter is being taught in school,” said Sykes.
What a freaking bunch of crap. Taking his concerns seriously. These people have absolutely no business being on the curriculum board whatsoever. Sure, listen to the guy, but he’s about as credible as the muttering loonies that visit town council meetings and have concerns about the werewolves stalking their pets. Listen and then move on. I love this bit at the end though:
Genson did participate in the evolution portion of his science class over the last few weeks, because his teacher said if he didn’t, he’d get a zero. He wants to keep good grades, so he can go to college at either Oxford or Harvard.
I see his beliefs are so strong he deigned to allow the evils of evolution to be taught to him. And good luck at Oxford and Harvard. God help you if you are trying to become a biologist or something. Genson is also quoted as saying that if the teaching of evolution continues without teaching creationism, he’ll “…pursue the matter in court.” Great. Someone else needs to sue to teach Hinduism in science class too.
These two articles illustrate what is wrong here. For the vast majority of the public at large, these issues are too far out of their reach for cogent discussion. They don’t have the background (though a couple of evenings of light reading before watching American Idol would help) to properly evaluate the ridiculousness of the ID (and creationism) positions. What seems clearly completely insane to me and lots of others, appears sensible and reasonable to many, many others. Including those who sit on school boards, if you can believe that.
The fact that a television station is giving time to covering someone proposing creationism be taught in science class boggles my mind. The only place on TV news this belongs is in the “Offbeat News” segment. You know, where they show funny stories about animals and whacky neighbors doing strange art projects.
The proper response to this ID and creationism stuff is to give it short shrift. Don’t give it any more attention than necessary. It’s only way of generating new converts is through propaganda and the positioning of itself as a viable alternative or adjunct to TTOE. The more non-skeptical press it receives, the more it appears legitimate. It belongs at the bottom of the heap of pseudoscience alongside flat earthers and those who still believe that the Sun orbits the Earth.