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Christian fundamentalists and radical Islam: Two great tastes that go together over creationism!
May 10, 2005 2:48 PM   Subscribe

"Set your irony meters on maximum." All this week, a three-member subcommittee of the Kansas State Board of Education is holding hearings on how to teach science. [background] Creationists, er, advocates of "intelligent design," are using it to bootstrap their claim that evolution through natural selection and creationism are two sides of a story. While many scientists are boycotting what one newspaper is calling "Barnum on steroids," IDers have brought out the big guns -- including one Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish, Muslim, newspaper columnist with a Masters in history and a close associaton with a group that presents evolution "as a conspiracy of the Jewish and American imperialists to promote new world order and fascist motives." Get your official scorecard to the Scopes Trial II here!
posted by docgonzo (125 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Kansas is slowly lowered into the Metafilter cage. . .
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 2:55 PM on May 10, 2005


MANPILE!
posted by billysumday at 3:09 PM on May 10, 2005


MULEPILE!
posted by Specklet at 3:12 PM on May 10, 2005


MONKEYPILE!
posted by jperkins at 3:15 PM on May 10, 2005


BUKKAKE!
posted by matteo at 3:19 PM on May 10, 2005 [1 favorite]


Panda's Thumb (your first link) has a sticky to two bloggers who covered the event: Red State Rabble and Thoughts from Kansas.
posted by Gyan at 3:26 PM on May 10, 2005


It sounded pretty boring when it was just Christians being dumb, but the addition of a Muslim might help spice it up. I can see the ads now: 'Watch 2 famous religions duke it out for the right to further lower our science education standards! Which invisible man in the sky will capture our judges' hearts? The winner's theory will be taught alongside evolution in our nation's schools; the losers will be relegated back to their churches & mosques. All this and more on American Idolatry!'
posted by boaz at 3:26 PM on May 10, 2005


If I didn't feel bad for the kids who had the bad luck to be born into that backwater, I'd be fine with letting them turn Kansas into the display copy of religious conservatives at work.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 3:27 PM on May 10, 2005


What's the matter with Kansas?
posted by sexymofo at 3:33 PM on May 10, 2005


I'm unclear on if they don't believe in evolution why it is wrong to castrate them?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:35 PM on May 10, 2005


Creationists need an "m" in their name and they'd be all set, cremationists - burn them all.
posted by fenriq at 3:37 PM on May 10, 2005


I understand the logic of the scientists' boycott. ("It's not an issue. We don't debate people who say the moon is made of green cheese, because it's a settled issue. We won't debate those who promote intelligent design") But I don't think it's the right approach. It's a settled matter within the scientific community, but (sadly) it's not a settled matter in society at large.

Policy makers incorrectly perceive that the matter is still disputed because at hearings like these, you'll hear from, say, three people who support ID and three who support evolution. In order to demonstrate that only a handful of crackpots support ID, they ought to get a thousand Ph.D. biologists for every one IDer. If there's three IDers at the hearings, they should bring three thousand biologists. If the group holding the hearings won't let all three thousand testify, then those they do let testify need to refer to the thousands of biologists who are waiting just outside and who aren't being heard by the committee. That will put the lie to the IDers' claims that a legitimate dispute exists within the scientific community.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:37 PM on May 10, 2005


Actually, cremationists would have a nice full circle appeall. Since they probably believe that God drew up some dust (ashes) and made Adam and Eve and they're all about that ashes to ashes and dust to dust stuff.
posted by fenriq at 3:39 PM on May 10, 2005


Kansas's struggle is America's struggle.
posted by fleacircus at 3:40 PM on May 10, 2005


This is proof that there is no such thing as Intelligent Design. At least not in Kansas.
posted by Postroad at 3:50 PM on May 10, 2005


Kansas is the new Florida.
posted by clevershark at 3:50 PM on May 10, 2005


DevilsAdvocate writes "it's not a settled matter in society at large."


Kansas is not the society at large. If they want to go back to the middle ages, let them. Serious colleges can always devise compulsory remedial programs for the Kansas High School system victims they want to accept. For a serious scientist to accept this "hearing" gives it validation without any visible gain for science - it is useless to argue with people who already know the answer.
posted by nkyad at 3:53 PM on May 10, 2005


I imagine this has been mentioned in previous discussions - but I wonder what effect this will have on college admissions (won't someone think of the children?!) ? If this measure is brought into effect, will states till basically accept other states' educational outcomes - like might New York no longer consider Kansas high school graduates as having the proper certification to begin undergraduate education?
posted by Slothrop at 3:57 PM on May 10, 2005


If they want to go back to the middle ages, let them ... it is useless to argue with people who already know the answer.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:59 PM on May 10, 2005


ADDENDUM TO KANSAS STATE EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS.

Any and all students within Kansas' public school system are hereby allowed to exercise a declaration of faith in a divine being (a), in response to any and all questions seeking an explanation of "scientific phenomena (b)."

(a) said divine being, who resembles Jerry Garcia, and has a name starting with G-, which rhymes with "rod," shall remain nameless pending legal review.

(b) this phrase referring to any and all observable events, and also potential future events, for example, all the born-again Chrisitians in the world disappearing in an unexplained fashion (c) immediately preceding the Apocalypse.

(c) also, let's have the children perform "rapture drills," where the Christian kids jump on top of their desks with arms outstretched in response to a whistle or something, and the other kids run around pretending their flesh is being eaten by zombies.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 4:00 PM on May 10, 2005


If they want to go back to the middle ages, let them.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's ignorance diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know to whom Kansas teaches superstition; it is taught to thee. Apologies to John Donne, of course

How complacent will you be when Congress is debating how to handle the public health issue of increasingly antibiotic-resistant bacteria--and the Senator from Kansas refuses to believe that widespread use of antibiotics has anything to do with increasing levels of antibiotic resistance?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:05 PM on May 10, 2005


agendafilter.
posted by kjh at 4:05 PM on May 10, 2005


"If the group holding the hearings won't let all three thousand testify, then those they do let testify need to refer to the thousands of biologists who are waiting just outside and who aren't being heard by the committee."
---- I don't know that it will. That mindset thrives on being the oppressed minority. Besides, you don't ask the President if he sticks mice up his ass because you think he does, you ask him that to hear him deny that he sticks mice up his ass. They'd attack the "establishment" biologists the same way.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:07 PM on May 10, 2005


That mindset thrives on being the oppressed minority.

That's why I said a thousand biologists for every one IDer. And I wasn't exaggerating. One out of ten--maybe even one out of one hundred--is an oppressed minority. One out of one thousand is a crackpot.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:11 PM on May 10, 2005


I'm not convinced that the need for eternal vigilance can survive the eventual fatigue of arguing with fundie nutjobs forever and ever. I agree with thedevildancedlightly, if they want to go back to the middle ages, let them.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 4:14 PM on May 10, 2005


I heard Richard Gere and the President used to have parties in the seventies where they'd get all coked up and take turns sticking mice in each other's asses while Laura took pictures.

But you'll never hear about it, because Karl Rove had the photos destroyed.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 4:17 PM on May 10, 2005


Humans: Proof that Intelligent Design can't be real.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 4:18 PM on May 10, 2005


Evolution as a Zionist conspiracy? I always thought Darwin was Jewish!
posted by sugaree at 4:19 PM on May 10, 2005


agendafilter.
posted by kjh at 4:05 PM PST on May 10 [!]

Yes, behind the metafilter screen, all of us here are secretly emailing each other in an huge conspiracy to further the wicked agenda of our Democrat lords. I would have to agree, it is highly unlikely any of this may represent the opinions or thoughts of real people.
posted by blackankh at 4:21 PM on May 10, 2005


I sure know that I'm not believing any of it.. Especially when I spread it.

(the mouse sure tickles, tho..)
posted by Balisong at 4:23 PM on May 10, 2005


blackankh: shhhhh! You dummy, you'll give us away.
posted by billysumday at 4:24 PM on May 10, 2005


"One out of one thousand is a crackpot."
Fair enough. Your argument is sound. What troubles me is they may not relent no matter the imbalance.

*shot in the back of the head for revealing the mefi mice agenda*
posted by Smedleyman at 4:28 PM on May 10, 2005


Yes, behind the metafilter screen, all of us here are secretly emailing each other in an huge conspiracy to further the wicked agenda of our Democrat lords. I would have to agree, it is highly unlikely any of this may represent the opinions or thoughts of real people.

I didn't mean to rock your ideological boat, friend. I just occasionally suffer from the misapprehension that this space is intended for "the best of the web," or something crazy like that, rather than whatever political feeding frenzy is the flavor of the week.

Maybe tomorrow someone will post something good.
posted by kjh at 4:29 PM on May 10, 2005


kjh has posted no links to MetaFilter
posted by docgonzo at 4:33 PM on May 10, 2005


I understand the logic of the scientists' boycott.

There's another piece of logic beyond what you say that I think is also behind the boycott. To participate in the hearings is to play a rigged game - the scientists seem very likely to lose for reasons entirely independent of their argumentation, rightness, etc. However, just being there and losing lends much more credence to the debate than most scientists feel it deserves. The ID people want scientists there not so they can debate the scientists, but so they (the ID people) can later say "look, we beat those scientists in a fair debate". Of course, they would mean something entirely different by "fair", but most people won't notice.
posted by advil at 4:33 PM on May 10, 2005


IIRC there are already places for the best of the web
posted by MrLint at 4:34 PM on May 10, 2005


I think kjh needs a...MANPILE!!
posted by billysumday at 4:35 PM on May 10, 2005



BUKKAKE!
posted by matteo at 6:19 PM EST on May 10 [!]

posted by C17H19NO3 at 4:37 PM on May 10, 2005


" Intelligent design is not science. Whatever its rhetoric, the public questioning of evolution is fundamentally religious, not scientific, in nature. " - The Washington Post.

This is both right and wrong. While considerations about the origin of the universe may be unscientific in the sense that they are literally considerations of things beyond the scope of science, they are not necessarily religious. There are many informed and careful philosophical debates about the origin/nature of the universe that are neither scientific nor religious. In other words, nice false dichotomy. Granted the motivation for the people leading ID may be religious but we have no way of knowing since there is no link to their views.

Let's see both sides.
posted by oddman at 4:37 PM on May 10, 2005


It's too bad this topic has already been done to death in the blue, because I'm really interested in seeing everyone's reactions to new events in the whole ID debacle. But now everyone's so sick of the topic that the majority of comments (not all) go straight to snark and defensiveness.

I'm not claiming any moral high ground, myself -- I've nearly hit Post on a couple of snarks, too. I was thinking we could pick an old ID thread and comment seriously on new issues there, leaving any new ID threads could become as playgrounds for ass-mice. But it looks like all the old threads are already closed. Anyone got other ideas?
posted by gurple at 4:40 PM on May 10, 2005


Granted the motivation for the people leading ID may be religious but we have no way of knowing since there is no link to their views.

Damn! If only the internet had some tool where I could look that up! Like, an "engine" that would "search" for the information I need.

Blast!
posted by iron chef morimoto at 4:40 PM on May 10, 2005


, leaving any new ID threads could become as playgrounds for ass-mice

wow, that's what I get for going back and editing my sentence structure: gibberish.
posted by gurple at 4:42 PM on May 10, 2005


In a sane world, the case would go something like this:

Intelligent Designists: Intelligent Design should be taught in public schools!

Judge: But we don't teach religion in public schools, because they're state run institutions and you have catholic schools and church to teach religion in.

ID: But we're not providing a balanced viewpoint to our children if we don't!

J: Fine, in the interest of balance I'll grant it, but you also have to teach Evolution and Science in Church.

ID: That's ridiculous.

J: Yes it is. Case dismissed.
posted by shmegegge at 4:44 PM on May 10, 2005


Every day I continue to be amazed at how backward and irrelevant this country is becoming as it derides education and knowledge and steps further and further into the darkness.

Meanwhile across the seas other countries are experiencing a renaissance as they take away jobs we cast off, wages we let go and enrich the braintrust that we disavow.

I have this image one to two hundred years from now of passengers on a cruise liner stopping off at a larger version of Pitcairn Island to meet contemporary Fletcher Christians. The tour director barks through the microphone as he points out the backward natives wearing skins for clothing as he says "These were Americans, a once proud people. Now look at them."
posted by mk1gti at 4:46 PM on May 10, 2005


agendafilter

Gosh your right.

It seems that a few people here have teaching children science in the classroom on their agenda. Goodness, this is probably right up there with affordable health care, arsenic free milk and regular bridge inspections.

Next thing you know they'll start insisting on proper spelling in English papers and all those complexicated theorem thingamabobs in math. A slippery slope, this is; critical thought could even rear it's head in the classroom.
posted by cedar at 4:48 PM on May 10, 2005


One out of ten--maybe even one out of one hundred--is an oppressed minority. One out of one thousand is a crackpot.

I think this underestimates the mentality of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. They know that they're an oppressed minority because most people are slaves to sin (and therefore Satan, and therefore anti-Christ), and no matter how many people disagree with them, it doesn't mean anything. Those other people are deceived, see? Nothing against them, they just don't know the truth. And they disagree with Genesis 1, so they're clearly wrong. There is no room for compromise in that mindset. Disagreement just solidifies your status of someone who works against God, no matter how many of you there are. Overwhelming scientific evidence doesn't come close to the weight of Bible authority for this group. They're not looking for a deeper understanding of how the world works, they're just looking for converts and a chance to reassert their faith.

In my experience, IDers will only look at science when it seems to support them. Otherwise... nah.
posted by heatherann at 4:49 PM on May 10, 2005


When the fundies get their way, maybe Canada can liberate us.
posted by C17H19NO3 at 4:53 PM on May 10, 2005


I feel truly sorry for all of the non-wingnut Kansans out there -- and I'm sure the vast majority of Kansans are not wingnuts -- but to look at this another way, maybe it's not so bad for the rest of us. Every year, thousands and thousands of graduating high schoolers seek entry into the nation's top universities. There are only so many openings available, hence all the intense standarized testing and rigorous application processes.

If an entire chunk of the population willfully refuses to learn about something as essential as the theory considered to be the foundation of modern biology, then there's no way those students will be able to compete with their better-educated peers. Those who accept a 21st century education will be more likely to get into a good school, while those who prefer to live in the dark ages will still have places like Bob Jones University where they can wallow in their superstitions. Everybody wins -- except, of course, the poor nonfundie Kansans who want and deserve a better science education than the Good Book has to offer them. When there's too much God in the classroom, there's really only one thing concerned parents can do: Home school. Oh, the irony!
posted by TBoneMcCool at 4:54 PM on May 10, 2005


I say, let'em have "intelligent design", if they'll let us have gay marriage. It's only fair.
posted by fungible at 4:54 PM on May 10, 2005


kjh said:

I didn't mean to rock your ideological boat, friend. I just occasionally suffer from the misapprehension that this space is intended for "the best of the web," or something crazy like that, rather than whatever political feeding frenzy is the flavor of the week.

Maybe tomorrow someone will post something good.


Really? I thought this space was intended for self-righteous conservatives to derail every interesting thread that doesn't conform to their narrow worldview.
posted by shmegegge at 5:12 PM on May 10, 2005


My irony meter doesn't go to "maximum." Wait, what's an "irony meter?"
posted by underer at 5:16 PM on May 10, 2005


This irony meter goes to "11".
posted by billysumday at 5:19 PM on May 10, 2005



Yes, behind the metafilter screen, all of us here are secretly emailing each other in an huge conspiracy to further the wicked agenda of our Democrat lords. I would have to agree, it is highly unlikely any of this may represent the opinions or thoughts of real people.


Keep it in the e-mails, dude. We can't let this spread openly.
posted by graventy at 5:20 PM on May 10, 2005


Well, as a Brit, I'd just like to do that thing we always do when faced with American creationist nonsense. You know - Roger Moore arched eyebrow, supercilious glance at fellow Brits/Europeans/sensible people, wry but viciously cutting bon mot, withering sneer, move on as if nothing happened.
posted by Decani at 5:21 PM on May 10, 2005


While considerations about the origin of the universe may be unscientific in the sense that they are literally considerations of things beyond the scope of science

Actually, their initial, guiding premise is that there are things beyond the scope of science. There may well be things that humans will never understand in all their time of existence, but to rope off something like the origin of the universe as being "beyond the scope of science" from the very start is not entering the debate honestly or openly.
posted by LionIndex at 5:23 PM on May 10, 2005


TBoneMcCool, that is exactly it. These 'scientists' will do anything they can to make sure that the 'facts' fit into a nice little package where the Earth is 6000 years old and the Grand Canyon was carved in a matter of days two thousand years ago.

Dr. Kurt Wise, the Director of the Center for Origins Research at the appropriately named Bryan University makes no bones about this:
My understanding from Scripture is that the universe is in the order of 6,000 years old. Once that has been determined by Scripture, it is a starting point that we build theories upon. It is within those boundaries that we can construct new theories.
Oddly, Wise holds a legitimate doctorate that he earned under Stephen Jay Gould, no fan of quackery and an ardent defender of all things Darwinian. The mind boggles at the concept of a well trained scientist deciding that all scientific theory is bounded by a particular book.
posted by cedar at 5:24 PM on May 10, 2005


Really? I thought this space was intended for self-righteous conservatives to derail every interesting thread that doesn't conform to their narrow worldview.

I am annoyed equally by liberals, conservatives, and the ham-fisted, ugly, arrogant attempts of both sides to co-opt both the national discourse and this web site.
posted by kjh at 5:29 PM on May 10, 2005


Says Kathy Martin in the Barnum link:

"All children believe in God. Even little children whose parents don't take them to church believe in God."

I think in the ham-fisted, ugly and arrogant sweepstakes we have a clear winner.
posted by maryh at 5:37 PM on May 10, 2005


kjh, it's interesting that for someone so concerned about the health of this site you have done remarkably little to improve it. In nearly five years the sum of your contribution to the blue is 14 comments and not a single thread.

If you are unhappy with the tone of conversation here, may I suggest participating a little more. This might give you a chance elevate discourse to a level you find satisfactory. Myself, I look forward to being enlightened by the compelling content I'm sure you are capable of producing.

Alternatively, you could quietly shift back into lurk mode -- probably without anyone even noticing. Yeah, I like that idea better. Please?
posted by cedar at 5:40 PM on May 10, 2005


the appropriately named Bryan University

It took me awhile, but then I got it, and I thought: This is good. Very good.
posted by docgonzo at 5:41 PM on May 10, 2005


"All children believe in God"?

Ummmmmm.... no. Not until they're told to.
posted by Decani at 5:44 PM on May 10, 2005


Also, is the fact that children believe something a good argument for the truth of it? Oh my goodness, has it come to that?
posted by Decani at 5:45 PM on May 10, 2005


"Damn! If only the internet had some tool where I could look that up! Like, an "engine" that would "search" for the information I need."
-iron chef morimoto commenting on my post.

Listen Morimoto, if you are going to make a sarcastic comment don't make an idiot of yourself when doing so. I did include a link to the information that I claimed was missing from the FPP. Nice of you to ignore everything else I said though. If you can't argue just ignore what is inconvenient, is that it?
posted by oddman at 5:48 PM on May 10, 2005


kjh, it's interesting that for someone so concerned about the health of this site you have done remarkably little to improve it. In nearly five years the sum of your contribution to the blue is 14 comments and not a single thread.

I am in fact proud that in "nearly five years" I have completely resisted the urge to use this site as a billboard for my personal views and biases.

I try to reward posters of truly excellent links (like this one from Friday) with positive comments, but strangely, such threads seem to attract the least attention. I guess it's just easier to spew vitriol about people who disagree with you.
posted by kjh at 5:49 PM on May 10, 2005


Decani: The Anglican Church is still open for business, right? God, Angels and all.
posted by mlis at 5:50 PM on May 10, 2005


"All children believe in God. Even little children whose parents don't take them to church believe in God."

"When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things."
posted by boaz at 5:51 PM on May 10, 2005


Yeah, oddman, let's look at the views of the ID people in their own words:
We admit it. We think the materialistic world-view that has dominated Western intellectual life since the late 19th century is false and we want to refute it. We further want to reverse the influence of such materialistic thinking on our culture.
I find this statment to be consistent with my personal view that ID is a religious cultural indoctrination program trying to leverage whatever shreds of scientific credibility it can fabricate.
posted by fleacircus at 5:51 PM on May 10, 2005


The Anglican Church is still open for business, right? God, Angels and all.


MLIS: Sure it is. And I can guarantee you'll have no trouble finding pew space, should you be so inclined. No trouble at all.

However, I fail to see what the dear old C of E has to do with creationist loonies. No doubt you can enlighten me on that score.
posted by Decani at 6:05 PM on May 10, 2005


Ummmmmm.... no. Not until they're told to [believe in God].

Decani: Sorry about that, I missed the above follow-up before posting.
posted by mlis at 6:13 PM on May 10, 2005


Ohio added ID (in the guise of "alternatives to evolution") to the HS curriculum a couple of years ago. Then they passed the most reactionary anti-gay laws in the US. Next up is "covenant marriage," designed to make divorce much more difficult (ironic, since the fundamental-cases have higher divorce rates than us Earthlings).

I wonder what kind of mandatory headgear we'll end up wearing. Something to do with Jesus and NASCAR, probably.
posted by words1 at 6:25 PM on May 10, 2005


"Yes, well, that's the sort of blinkered, philistine pig-ignorance I've come to expect from you 'Intelligent Design' ass-mice."

I know, it adds nothing to the discussion, but it's all I got.
posted by papercake at 6:34 PM on May 10, 2005


Here's my $.02 on the thing: evolution is the reason for the variety of species on the planet. Changing forms, adaptations, etc. That's accepted scientific theory.

What no one really knows is the origin of life itself. How did life arise on Earth? I hold out the possibility (as any scientific mind should), that the "set of instructions" that made those carbon molecues start twitching with life were possibly created by a higher intelligence. Was Earth a petri dish? Germinated from outer space? This is Intelligent Design Theory. There's evidence of this, namely the astounding complexity of organic molecules, but it's not overwhelming.

Fast forward 200 years from now: if we find life elsewhere in the universe, comparisons on a molecular level can be done. Who knows? For now, the science for this theory isn't there, so we must stick with the current one. Which goes something like lightning strikes in the primordial atmosphere created proteins, from which complex molecules and life arose.

On the other hand, you have Creationists, who simply believe what the Bible says. Creationists seem to be in cahoots with ID folks, but their theories couldn't possibly be more disparate. Creationists have no science in their beliefs, therefore it should not be taught in schools. Period.
posted by zardoz at 6:36 PM on May 10, 2005


I hold out the possibility (as any scientific mind should), that the "set of instructions" that made those carbon molecues start twitching with life were possibly created by a higher intelligence. Was Earth a petri dish? Germinated from outer space? This is Intelligent Design Theory.

No, it's not. ID holds that speciation by natural selection is impossible, as indicated by the complexity of biological structure and function. They go a lot further than making an argument about the origin of life; they reject completely our current understanding of evolution by natural selection.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:45 PM on May 10, 2005


fleacircus, that statement (and the wedge document) are certainly consistent with a religious world viewss. In fact, the wedge document you've linked to explicitly invokes a god (or possibly more than one) in its opening paragraph. So, granted they have religious motivations. (In my original post I did not call there motivations into question, I was criticizing the FPP for not presenting both sides fairly.)

Interestingly the quote you provide is also consistent with a view of the nature of reality that has nothing to do with religion and even less with indoctrination. Consider the views of Plato, Spinoza, Husserl, and Frege (to name a few), all of whom believed in the existence of non-material realms, though I doubt anyone would of accuse them of being standard bearers for indoctrination. (Ok, Plato did believe in indoctrination but it had nothing to do with religion.)

Now, since you qualified your conclusion, you are free to continue to believe that they are religious brainwashers. But that is not the only reasonable position. Further even if they are exactly as you characterize them (and frankly you are probably closer to the truth than not), there is room for ID proponents who aren't religious fanatics. Saying that there isn't is disingenuous.
posted by oddman at 6:45 PM on May 10, 2005


I try to reward posters of truly excellent links (like this one from Friday) with positive comments, but strangely, such threads seem to attract the least attention. I guess it's just easier to spew vitriol about people who disagree with you.

One man's (or woman's) tripe is another woman's (or man's) good eatin', kjh. And this, to me, while not, before now, contributing, is not some mere circle-jerk of mockery, but, being a recovered creationist, a somber pattering of strangers' keyboard keys to the tune of "My (inser deity or lack thereof), what's wrong with people?"
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 6:46 PM on May 10, 2005


With so many students unable to read, write, or do basic math at functional levels of literacy; it is always interesting to see how our tax dollars get spent on distractions such as this.
War? What war? High gas prices? Potholes in the streets? AIDS? Good gosh, skip that stuff! We have to debate the origins of man for God's sake!
I respect the post and discussion, I am merely stating my own opinions about high dollar pseudo-political items like this that consume resources better spent on other items. Books. School buildings as compared to "portables". Smaller class sizes. .
posted by buzzman at 6:54 PM on May 10, 2005


words1, that's the first I've heard of "covenant marriage." This site notes that some states are considering making all marriages conform to the rather restrictive "covenant" rules (although they fail to name which states.) If this is serious, I think it's a far more harmful slippery slope than anything posed by gay marriage. Crikey almighty....
posted by maryh at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2005


"There may well be things that humans will never understand in all their time of existence, but to rope off something like the origin of the universe as being "beyond the scope of science" from the very start is not entering the debate honestly or openly." -LionIndex

I disagree. "Science" as it is usually used really means natural science. If we agree on that, then the origin (by which we might mean cause, nature, underlying support or unobserved/unobservable nature; another source of possible misunderstanding) could be, and I think is, beyond the realm of science. How are we to measure what came before time? How can we test whether there is a first cause or an infinite regress of causation?

Granted starting a debate from a dogmatic (hah! I almost wrote "godmatic" by mistake :) position is no good. I don't think I'm being dogmatic. Perhaps you could show me how I am if you still think I'm arguing dishonestly.
posted by oddman at 6:56 PM on May 10, 2005


kjh:

This post is not only interesting but important to a fair number of people here. Snarking at it because it doesn't fit your criteria for good belongs in MeTa. Don't forget to post precisely what guidelines you believe it violates. Or hey, just flag it and move on. If you really want to evangelize for objectivity in fpp's, then may I suggest reading this, so that you properly understand just how impossible the idea is to implement and maintain, especially with a user base this large and diverse.
posted by shmegegge at 7:13 PM on May 10, 2005


oddman: I agree with what you've written above; anything that came before the singularity of the big bang is (at least according to my understanding of modern physics) inaccessible to observation.

The origin of the universe has little, if anything, to do with our understanding of evolution, however. You initially brought it up in partial refutation of a statement in the Washington Post article: "Intelligent design is not science. Whatever its rhetoric, the public questioning of evolution is fundamentally religious, not scientific, in nature." I don't understand how your argument that the origin of the universe can be considered in a manner that invokes neither science nor religion has any bearing on this.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:16 PM on May 10, 2005


And this, to me, while not, before now, contributing, is not some mere circle-jerk of mockery

  • it was just Christians being dumb, but the addition of a Muslim might help spice it up
  • [Kansas is a] backwater
  • What's the matter with Kansas?
  • burn them all
  • Kansas is the new Florida.
  • If they want to go back to the middle ages, let them
  • fundie nutjobs
  • wingnut Kansans
  • they can wallow in their superstitions
  • American creationist nonsense
  • creationist loonies
  • [my personal favorite] I wonder what kind of mandatory headgear we'll end up wearing. Something to do with Jesus and NASCAR, probably

posted by kjh at 7:19 PM on May 10, 2005


Thanks for that bullet point summary, kjh; now, if someone would just create a Powerpoint presentation of that, maybe they'd let us testify. I'd add:
  • Let Kansans teach what they want; it'll be nice to be able to outsource labor somewhere closer than Bangladesh.
  • Just because you're not interested in Natural Selection doesn't mean Natural Selection isn't interested in you.
posted by boaz at 7:36 PM on May 10, 2005


mr_roboto filled in for me there, better than I could probably do myself. Obviously science would have no real place in a discussion of art criticism or something like that, so I was too general. But, placing the origin of the universe out of bounds for science is probably what irked me--whole fields of study are devoted to just that.
posted by LionIndex at 7:42 PM on May 10, 2005


I think kjh's Kansas-hating round-up would be more convincing if about half of them weren't objectively true.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 7:47 PM on May 10, 2005


cedar

Dr. Kurt Wise, the Director of the Center for Origins Research at the appropriately named Bryan University makes no bones about this:

My understanding from Scripture is that the universe is in the order of 6,000 years old. Once that has been determined by Scripture, it is a starting point that we build theories upon. It is within those boundaries that we can construct new theories.

Oddly, Wise holds a legitimate doctorate that he earned under Stephen Jay Gould, no fan of quackery and an ardent defender of all things Darwinian. The mind boggles at the concept of a well trained scientist deciding that all scientific theory is bounded by a particular book.


Scientists sometimes deceive themselves into thinking that philosophical ideas are only, at best, decorations or parasitic commentaries on the hard, objective triumphs of science, and that they themselves are immune to the confusions that philosophers devote their lives to dissolving. But there is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination. ~ Daniel Dennett

We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. ~ Richard Lewontin

Creationists are disqualified from making a positive case, because science by definition is based upon naturalism. The rules of science also disqualify any purely negative argumentation designed to dilute the persuasiveness of the theory of evolution. Creationism is thus out of court and out of the classroom-before any consideration of evidence. Put yourself in the place of a creationist who has been silenced by that logic, and you may feel like a criminal defendant who has just been told that the law does not recognize so absurd a concept as "innocence." ~ Phillip Johnson

Evolution is the best possible theory of origins if God is excluded. This is much like deciding the best possible answer for '2+2' if '4' is excluded.
posted by bevets at 8:19 PM on May 10, 2005


bevets writes " My understanding from Scripture is that the universe is in the order of 6,000 years old."

Once, just once bevets, it'd be interesting to see you quote stuff that isn't refuted by the most elementary carbon-14 analysis.

Until you can manage to do that you will remain a joke here (and at Fark).
posted by clevershark at 8:30 PM on May 10, 2005


Why is the Bible an authority in ID? Why not say the Norse, Japanese, or Native American origin "theories"?
posted by juiceCake at 8:31 PM on May 10, 2005


zardoz: What no one really knows is the origin of life itself. How did life arise on Earth? I hold out the possibility (as any scientific mind should), that the "set of instructions" that made those carbon molecues start twitching with life were possibly created by a higher intelligence. Was Earth a petri dish? Germinated from outer space? This is Intelligent Design Theory. There's evidence of this, namely the astounding complexity of organic molecules, but it's not overwhelming.

There are a few arguments with this:

First, it's basically another argument from ignorance. "We don't know the mechanism, therefore, God."

Second, it's a dead-end hypothesis offering not much in the way of inquiry. All we can say is said intelligence works in "mysterious ways." If we believe that life developed out of some combination of chemicals that existed in the early environment of Earth, then we can look for ways that macro-molecular structures might form.

Interestingly enough, these are the same kinds of issues that led Flew to largely withdraw his support for ID.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:49 PM on May 10, 2005


Mr. Roboto, you are quite right I'm not being as clear as I could be.

I think that the cause of the universe is non-material. I've reached this conclusion because I cannot accept an infinite regress of causation (whether some infinite regresses are harmless and/or acceptable is another debate). Given, then, that there must have been a first cause and given that the physical world could not have caused itself (if it could our understanding of scientific laws would go out the window), there must have been a non-material agent involved in creation. Fine and dandy and how is this related to evolution?

Well, simply put, the First Cause is also the architect of the world. It designed everything, down to the last detail. Notice I do not say it controls everything. It made it so that the material of the universe would under certain conditions form bodies just like ours. (I find it implausible that a creator would create without designing, it may even be impossible.) For me, a good analogy for evolution is a simple rolled die. Evolution like a rolled die is random; the die may or may not land with a particular side up, life may or may not be created on a planet. But in both cases the parameters are set by an intelligent designer, the same designer who created the world (to extend the analogy the guy who rolls the die).

So, I think that both the origin of the universe and the cause of complex life involve the existence of a non-material agent.

Now I grant that this is merely what I find most plausible. The counter argument (against ID) that our form is the result of completely random fluctuations is metaphysically on-par with my belief. I accept that evolution can provide an explanation for why we have our form that is as good as my own, but my view has the added bonus of being consistent with a plausible view of the cause of the world. The latter claim we have already agreed is beyond science (sorry LionIndex). However moral agency does require non-material beings. So, in the end, if you want a world with true moral culpability (and I think most of us do) we need non-material minds. Believing that one might also be the cause of the universe isn't such a big leap in my opinion.
posted by oddman at 8:50 PM on May 10, 2005


LionIndex we may be talking past each other. If by arguing that science can legitimately study the origin of the universe you mean to say that science can study what the universe was like at the time of the Big Bang and how the universe has changed since then, then you are certainly correct. I would not suggest otherwise. I might even argue that only science (or, at least, a rational endeavor like the sciences) could give us such information. But that is not what I meant when I claimed that the origin of the universe is beyond science. I was talking about the cause of the universe, the thing or conditions that existed before the universe that led to its existence. On this, I think you agree with me. And so we agree with each other.

As I admitted to Mr. Roboto, I may not always be as clear as I think I am.
posted by oddman at 9:00 PM on May 10, 2005


Shorter oddman: It's ridiculous to believe that the universe is infinitely old; it's perfectly plausible to believe that an infinitely old invisible man named God created the universe.

OTOH, this kind of 'logic' got Thomas Aquinas sainted so maybe it'll work out for you too.
posted by boaz at 9:05 PM on May 10, 2005


I've just realized that this isn't even a matter of keeping religion out of the classroom as much as it's about keeping "not-science" out of a science classroom.
See, the scientific method makes no assumptions. The scientific method works to offer explanations based only on observable phenomena. Science and the scientific method don't take anything for granted. A scientist would never make a hypothesis based on the statement "well, I have faith that..." That's not going to get you anything definite and provable.

ID or creationism (whatever you want to call it) makes an assumption outside of observable phenomena. It's unprovable and un-testable assumption is that God exists and created the world. By it's own admission, ID is, at its core, ENTIRELY UNSCIENTIFIC. To assume that something is outside the realm of science is a notion that is entirely contrary to any kind of scientific thinking.

(Some of you may say "oh, but art and emotion are unscientific things." We might have a subjective and unscientific relationship with them but there are scientists who explore the biological origins of art and emotion.)

Teach it in a comparative religion course. Teach it in a contemporary philosophy course. Go ahead and teach it in a public school curriculum. Just don't making the mistake that it's science and teach it in a science class.
posted by Jon-o at 9:20 PM on May 10, 2005


think that the cause of the universe is non-material. I've reached this conclusion because I cannot accept an infinite regress of causation (whether some infinite regresses are harmless and/or acceptable is another debate).

Why are immaterial causes not subject to infinite regress? It seems to me that if we are to address metaphysics at all, the same logical principles that apply to the material must apply to the immaterial.

It designed everything, down to the last detail....Evolution like a rolled die is random; the die may or may not land with a particular side up, life may or may not be created on a planet. But in both cases the parameters are set by an intelligent designer, the same designer who created the world (to extend the analogy the guy who rolls the die).

This doesn't make any sense to me. Are the dice random, or are they fixed? If they're random, why do you need an intelligent agent to roll them? If they're fixed, what's the mechanism by which the immaterial intelligence interacts with the material world? The theory of natural selection at least provides a mechanism, which makes it significantly more satisfying (to me, at least) than any of these design ideas, which seem like so much handwaving.

However moral agency does require non-material beings.

Oh, and this is something that you're just going to assert? Three hundred years of moral philosophy says that it ain't that simple....
posted by mr_roboto at 9:21 PM on May 10, 2005


if you want a world with true moral culpability (and I think most of us do) we need non-material minds.

I was gonna let this slide by, but, c'mon, oddman, even you should be able to see the obvious, glaring flaws in that argument right there.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 9:25 PM on May 10, 2005


bevets: Are you a YEC? Tell the truth. . .

Do you accept theistic evolution? Bet ya don't. . .

Isn't it true that "intelligent design" is just a codeword for "special creation?" Does not belief in "special creation' require belief in a "retail service " God rather than a deistic creator, as oddman posits?

Does not your position reduce to a belief in Yahweh and the literal truth of the KJV?
posted by rdone at 9:33 PM on May 10, 2005


Boaz, that is not what I said. If I had given a description of the so-called First Cause it certainly wouldn't be anthropomorphic. Further, strictly speaking I would say that time is a property of the universe. The First Cause is thus outside of time; it is nonsense to say it is old.

You all may find this interesting.

I second Jon-o.

Mr. Roboto, if immaterial substance is fundamentally different from material substance there is absolutely no need to assign the former the same limitations as the latter. No token of physical substance can be perfect, but mental substances may be. There are no perfect balls in the universe but (if we grant the existence of immaterial substance) there may be perfect spheres. I think that much the same holds for causation. While no physical thing can cause itself it is an open possibility that a non-physical thing could. But here we are arguing about things that we do not even have direct evidence for.

In the material world all events are determined by the sum of the events that are temporally prior, so, yes, I assert that moral culpability requires non-material beings because only non-material beings could be free from the determinism of the material world. The over two thousand years of moral philosophy have largely centered on why we think a particular action is right or wrong. But anyone from Kantians to virtue ethicists will agree that you don't blame a bomb, you blame the people who used it. The point is that in a materialistic universe everything, including humans, is just like a bomb, or a supernova, a series of predetermined physical events none bearing anything like moral culpability.

Moromoto, enlighten me. If I'm so dense that I cannot see obvious flaws in my own thinking, I certainly cannot see them after your rhetorical jab. (Unless you are referring the Princess Elizabeth problem, but that would take us pretty far afield from the ID/evolution debate.)
posted by oddman at 9:46 PM on May 10, 2005


No token of physical substance can be perfect, but mental substances may be.

Does that even mean anything? These are ill-defined words. "Mental substances"? You mean those immaterial substances? Can a substance be immaterial, even?

...if immaterial substance is fundamentally different from material substance there is absolutely no need to assign the former the same limitations as the latter.

Has it no limitations, then? Can something immaterial both be itself and not be itself, for instance? I hold that causality is a fundamental axiom for logical discourse. If the immaterial is not subject to causality, there is nothing meaningful that we, as humans subject to causality, can say about it.

Plus, you're claiming that the immaterial has causal power. So it can cause, but it requires no cause? This strikes me as absurd.

The point is that in a materialistic universe everything, including humans, is just like a bomb, or a supernova, a series of predetermined physical events none bearing anything like moral culpability.

Are you claiming that the physical universe must necessarily be deterministic? You're about 100 years behind the curve there, man.

Anyway, "moral culpability" isn't some independent Platonic entity: it's a social construct. It exists because of human intelligence and social interaction, not because it fundamentally must exist. And you know what? I can acknowledge that fact and still live morally. And so can you.

Also, I'm still waiting for a mechanism by which the immaterial can interact with the material, thereby causing anything in the physical universe. Just a putative mechanism would be fine. Electrostatics? The strong force?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:04 PM on May 10, 2005


Boaz, that is not what I said. If I had given a description of the so-called First Cause it certainly wouldn't be anthropomorphic. Further, strictly speaking I would say that time is a property of the universe. The First Cause is thus outside of time; it is nonsense to say it is old.

Well, if time is a property of the universe, then it's nonsensical to say that the universe had a first cause. After all, since causes precede effects, if there was no time before the universe existed (as you claim), there was no before the universe at all and thus no pre-existing cause of it either.

And really, rehashing Aquinas hasn't been seen as a valid enterprise since when the sun revolved around the Earth; it may be time to let go.
posted by boaz at 10:06 PM on May 10, 2005


In the slate article linked to by oddman, a serious logical flaw in William Paley's "watchmaker" analogy is immediately apparent and nearly excruciating as a scientific argument.
Paraphrased, the logic is that if we can deduce that a watch was made by someone who makes and designs watches then we must be able to deduce that the universe was made by someone who designs universes.

Are you kidding?

The reason that we can deduce that mechanical devices were created by designers is because we're familiar with observable phenomenon of people designing things. That is to say, assuming that a complex fabrication is the product of design is NOT the result of it's outward complexity, rather the obvious appearance of fabrication.
It's a huge leap from that to assuming that the universe must have been fabricated. We don't have any observable proof that anyone creates universes. You can't even look at a single cell and assume that it was designed. We simply don't have a pattern of fabrication on which to base that assumption.

Simply, I can look at a teapot and know it was designed because I know that people design teapots.
I can't look at the universe and know it was designed because I've never known anything to design universes.

ID, indeed is comforting and easy to wrap your mind around. I mean, everyone's had the thought "God must be crazy if s/he made the platypus." The universe is a big complicated place with intricate details manifested in every corner of existence. To point to its complexity as the inevitable product of design is based purely in faith and weak logic. It's simply not SCIENCE no matter how incomplete you think science may be. There's no reason whatsoever that ID should be part of any science curriculum.


Also, as a slight derail, has anyone else picked up on the similarity between Intelligent Designer and Freemasonry?
posted by Jon-o at 11:19 PM on May 10, 2005


I shoudn't even go into the confused moral philosophy you're espousing in the rest, oddman, but let me just ask, using your examples, if a man (as a non-material actor) is morally culpable for a bomb he creates, then which non-material actor is morally culpable for a supernova (or, to be more prosaic, a volcano or an earthquake or a certain Boxing Day tsunami)? Would it perhaps be the non-material actor that created the heavens and the earth?
posted by boaz at 11:34 PM on May 10, 2005


The reason that we can deduce that mechanical devices were created by designers is because we're familiar with observable phenomenon of people designing things.

Nice. This made me think of an interesting Judo-reversal of the watchmaker argument. It's deeply flawed, but I think it shares all its flaws with intelligent Design, such that any attack on this argument will be an equally valid attack on ID. Here it goes:

The only way we can deduce design is by referencing our direct experience of design. This direct experience is limited to humans designing artifacts.

Humans have, for the past 30 years or so, been trying to design systems that mimic the behavior of biological systems. Though they've made some rough approximations (for example, minimal laboratory analogs of cell signaling cascades), they have failed to even approach the complexity of real-world biology (a complete functioning cell, for example). We cannot, therefore, conclude that biological systems are designed: our only experience of design gives us no indication that they can be.

In fact, given existing knowledge and experience, it's conceivable that it might be impossible for us to design systems with complexity similar to that of biological systems. In this respect, the complexity of biological systems is not an indication that they were designed: it's an indication that they were not designed. They must therefore have come into existence via a mechanism that's capable of generating complexity without forethought and planning, such as evolution by natural selection.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:49 PM on May 10, 2005


Lookout, roboto. The argument that the complexity of the universe is beyond human mimicry is fodder for creationism. By that logic, you'd have to assume that because you can't forge a $100 bill, God must have made it.

Keep in mind that the logical flaw lies in complexity being proof of anything at all.
posted by Jon-o at 12:25 AM on May 11, 2005


Yeah, that's exactly what I meant by "any attack on this argument will be an equally valid attack on ID." That's what I like about it....
posted by mr_roboto at 12:39 AM on May 11, 2005


ahhhh.... That took a second reading. I didn't realize that you were being self-referential.

Man. I can only hope that the judge in this case has half a rational brain...
posted by Jon-o at 12:47 AM on May 11, 2005


Well, as a Brit, I'd just like to do that thing we always do when faced with American creationist nonsense. You know - Roger Moore arched eyebrow, supercilious glance at fellow Brits/Europeans/sensible people, wry but viciously cutting bon mot, withering sneer, move on as if nothing happened.

I used to do that too, but the fact that there are publically-funded schools in the North East of England teaching creationism over evolution right now, with plans to open further schools teaching this brand of 'science,' has added a shudder to the end of your list. (A shudder intensified by the fact that, rather than being shut down immediately for teaching demonstrable untruths as facts, said schools have been praised by Tony Blair and others in government.)
posted by jack_mo at 5:29 AM on May 11, 2005


rdone

Are you a YEC? Tell the truth. . .

Do you accept theistic evolution? Bet ya don't. . .

Isn't it true that "intelligent design" is just a codeword for "special creation?" Does not belief in "special creation' require belief in a "retail service " God rather than a deistic creator, as oddman posits?


I am a YEC. ID is not YEC. ID happens to be compatible with YEC. It is also compatible with a wide range of philosophies. Most IDers reject YEC and many reject Christianity.

Scientists sometimes deceive themselves into thinking that philosophical ideas are only, at best, decorations or parasitic commentaries on the hard, objective triumphs of science, and that they themselves are immune to the confusions that philosophers devote their lives to dissolving. But there is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination. ~ Daniel Dennett

Evolution is the best possible theory of origins if God is excluded. This is much like deciding the best possible answer for '2+2' if '4' is excluded.


Jon-o

Simply, I can look at a teapot and know it was designed because I know that people design teapots.
I can't look at the universe and know it was designed because I've never known anything to design universes.


Have you ever known universes that have not been designed? How would you tell the difference between a universe that has been designed and a universe that has not been designed?
posted by bevets at 5:30 AM on May 11, 2005


It's threads like this that make me better appreciate Felix Betachat's fine exegesis of the origins of the bible as it stands today. If someone knows where his exceptional comments are would they please link them via cable modem to the bevetsbrainstem.
posted by peacay at 5:46 AM on May 11, 2005


The Gods Hate Kansas
posted by Drexen at 6:47 AM on May 11, 2005


I used to do that too, but the fact that there are publically-funded schools in the North East of England teaching creationism over evolution right now, with plans to open further schools teaching this brand of 'science,' has added a shudder to the end of your list. (A shudder intensified by the fact that, rather than being shut down immediately for teaching demonstrable untruths as facts, said schools have been praised by Tony Blair and others in government.)


Fear not. From the Independent. There are few times I feel truly proud of my country but now is one of them.


SECTION: Final Edition; NEWS; Pg. 15

LENGTH: 647 words

HEADLINE: CREATIONIST' SCHOOL BLOCKED OVER FEARS OF INDOCTRINATION

BYLINE: IAN HERBERT NORTH OF ENGLAND CORRESPONDENT Sir Peter Vardy meets pupils, from top, Rachel Miller, Geannie Kielty and David Kennedy during a visit to Emmanuel College, Gateshead Paul Mulley

BODY:
A MILLIONAIRE businessman accused of setting up a network of "creationist" schools has been barred from establishing a city academy because of concerns about his philosophy.

Local anxieties about Sir Peter Vardy, who wanted to build a pounds 22m academy in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, prompted a wave of demonstrations and marches.

Parents were worried by claims that another school run by Sir Peter was indoctrinating its pupils in creationism, which rejects the Darwinist theory of evolution. The town's elected mayor has subsequently decided the establishment will not be built.

The city academy, a business-driven model championed by the Prime Minister, seemed a near certainty earlier this year when Mayor Martin Winter welcomed plans by Sir Peter's Emmanuel Schools Foundation to open its fourth college in northern England on the site of Northcliffe School at Conisbrough, near Doncaster. The school is currently operating in Ofsted "special measures", meaning it is classified as a failing school.

But the strength of local resistance was unexpectedly strong. An initial protest march coincided with a declaration by the Oxford geneticist Richard Dawkins that the teaching of creationism, which rejects Darwin's theory of evolution, was "educational debauchery".

Opponents of the school were gathering to formulate the next stage of their campaign when they were told the academy was to be dropped.

Tracy Morton, a youth worker who organised a local parents' action group said yesterday: "It has been a long, hard fight. It seemed as if anybody who comes along and fits the criteria can take over a school with this government. If parents want to send their children to a faith school then that's fine but this is the only comprehensive in the area so we will have no choice but to send them to a place with a strong Christian ethos whether we want it or not."

The National Union of Teachers welcomed the decision.

Eleven years ago, Sir Peter, whose Sunderland-based company has 80 car dealerships, gave pounds 2m to set up Emmanuel city technology college in Gateshead.The college achieves some of the country's best GCSE results, and similar establishments have been hailed by the Government as the future for secondary education. City academies are structured to allow sponsors to bring in finance and leadership. They also give principals and staff greater opportunities to develop their own educational strategies.

But some are suspicious about the Emmanuel environment, despite the Vardy foundation's insistence that its academies' Christian ethos is only a backdrop to the way they operate. "Our pupils are taught the national curriculum, we have Ofsted inspections like any other school and our academies are not indoctrination centres," it said yesterday.

Mr Winter said: "As Mayor, I sometimes have to make difficult decisions and this is one of them. I know that currently we are not doing our best by the learners of Northcliffe. We all want attainment levels to be much higher. We produced what seemed to be a solution with the Emmanuel Schools' Foundation sponsoring an academy. But a significant number of the local community, the teachers and pupils have spoken loud and clear. They do not want it."

The Vardy Foundation would have contributed pounds 2m towards what was to have been the Northcliffe academy for 11-18 year-olds, with the Government picking up the rest of the cost.

Sir Peter said: "It is a missed opportunity not a victory for the campaigners. Far from celebrating they should be reflecting on the opportunity they have denied their children for an education of the very highest standard in the state-of-the-art facilities."

The Foundation, which also runs colleges at Gateshead and Middlesbrough, said it would still be opening its pounds 24m academy at Thorne, near Doncaster next year.

LOAD-DATE: October 15, 2004

posted by Summer at 6:53 AM on May 11, 2005


I've always thought ID was self-refuting. It contains two possibilities

This world is too complex to have evolved, therefore some pre-existing more complex must have created it. That would make the creator too complex to have evolved by definition, so he'd have to be created, so on and so forth. Since we have noreason to believe the "creator" is a special case, we cannot treat him as different from the world.

The other option is that the creator is less complex than us, in which case it is possible for the level of complexity in the world to have evolved from something simpler over time.
posted by defending chump at 6:56 AM on May 11, 2005


This whole debate disproves evolution.

Why would survival of the fittest favor intelligent beings spending lots of time and resources discussing stupid alternatives to reasonable theories?
posted by nervousfritz at 7:16 AM on May 11, 2005


Ok, let's see.

Roboto: (In order with your last post)
Yes, I take mental to be synonymous with immaterial. Substance can certainly be immaterial. Granted if you define substance as physical stuff it can't be, but I use the older definition for term (the second on that link).

I did not say that immaterial substance has no limitations, I merely said that there is no need for it to have the same limitations as physical substance. Is it subject to causality, sure. I never said it wasn't subject to causality, I said that it may be thought to be self-caused. Whether you think self-causation is coherent or not is a different proposition. If you think it isn't, we may be at a fundamental impasse in our discussion, you find self-causation impossible I find infinite regresses impossible. What more could be said?

Yes I was claiming that the physical universe is deterministic. By 100 years late do you mean the view that the universe is indeterminate? If so, isn't the view that the world is random at a fundamental level just as destructive for morality as determinism? I never said morality was itself Platonic, I said that it required immaterial substances (they don't even have to be Platonic). Of course we can have a system of morality without Platonic entities, what we can't have is morality without agency. My claim is that agency cannot be attributed in a purely physical realm. Well, better put you can insist on attributing agency but if you do you must radically redefine what you mean. There is a big difference between the meaning of the statement "he meant to kill in cold blood" in a deterministic/indeterministic
universe and in a universe with agents.

Ah. Here is what I think Morimoto was hinting at earlier and I admit it is a weakness of dualistic philosophies. I have no such mechanism to offer you, nor will I insult your intelligence by trying some ad hoc argument. I will say this though, there is, in general, precious little understanding of how causation really works. Causation is a problem for everyone not just dualists. Granted it is a bigger problem for dualists than for materialists. But then morality is a bigger problem for materialists than for dualists. So, given two fundamental problems I choose the solution to the moral problem over the solution to the interactive problem. This is my choice and I freely admit that it is based on what appeals to my intuitions about the world. It is consistent with what I observe, it is consistent with the way we speak and it is consistence with science. The materialistic position (which I take to be yours, correct me if you aren't) is also consistent with all of these (it is even consistent with religion if we shift our concepts around slightly). As I have been saying for a few posts, metaphysically (and I am arguing metaphysics, I hope you are too) the two views are evenly matched.

We cannot, therefore, conclude that biological systems are designed: our only experience of design gives us no indication that they can be.

Actually, Roboto (and Jon-o who seems to make a similar point) from our inability to replicate biological diversity all that we can safely deduce is that we cannot yet replicate biological diversity. It is not even safe to infer that we can't since we have no way of knowing what kind of scientific breakthroughs are coming in the future. Our inability is just that an inability in us drawing conclusions from it is dangerous either way. Yes it is also dangerous for ID, as I've been saying the positions are on-par.

Boaz:
Causes can be simultaneous with their effects, e.g. the existence of massy stuff and gravity. As to how to speak about things that existed putatively before the universe. You are quite correct to point out that, strictly speaking, there is no before if there is no time. I did say that the First cause was outside of time didn't I? Unfortunately we have a failure of language, we simply have a hard time speaking of things that our outside of time without using temporal terms. Please read any such unfortunate locutions as metaphorical.

As to the problem of evil which you reference I simply deny that there is a problem. Yes, it does seem that an agent who causes hurricanes and allows for violent death should be held morally accountable for doing so. And I do think that the agent in question (what I've been calling the First Cause) is morally responsible. But that is not the end. First of all, there are plenty of instances of suffering serving a greater good, ask your dentist. Second, it is unclear to me that the bad outweighs the good in our universe. Perhaps if the good is so much greater than the bad its moral culpability will be negligible compared to the moral praise it deserves. Finally, there is the old chestnut that we simply don't understand the design of the universe and so are incapable of understanding the moral value of the FC's actions. We are like a baby who is being put to sleep before it is ready, we lay blame without knowing what the hell we're doing.

But you know what? Who cares? Even if we grant that the creator is so morally culpable for all of the atrocities of the world that, were we able to, we would convict him on the spot, this conclusion does nothing to show that he wasn't the creator. The problem of evil is a problem for theists who want to claim that along with being a creator the FC is also omnibenevolent, I make no such claims.

On preview, Metafilter's spell check suggests "committeewomen" as the appropriate replacement for "omnibenevolent." Is it trying to say something? :)

P.S.
Mr. Roboto, Boaz, Jon-O and Morimoto, this is going well thanks for keeping the discussion civil I appreciate it very much. I also want to apologize for any bad grammar or odd phrasing that has crept into my posts. These posts keep getting longer and longer and a certain amount of poor expression is starting to creep in. I'm doing my best to stay on-topic and answer your questions with good/intelligent responses. You are all being excellent correspondents and I am trying to do justice to your concerns. Unfortunately, there is only so much I can self-edit in a timely manner.
posted by oddman at 7:45 AM on May 11, 2005


oddman-
I want to commend you for being the first ID proponent in any of these discussions to attempt to argue your position, rather than just stating it. Of course I completely disagree with you.

First, I think that it's you who are being disingenuous when you argue that equating ID with creationist Christianity is inappropriate. There may well be people who do not fit with the second label who are ID proponents, but that does not change the fact that any intelligent reader of ID positions understands where the impetus to pursue ID is located. You may be able to try and rescue ID as a philosophical position, you will not change the fact that it's a fundamentalist attempt to fit religion into schools.

Second, you state a couple of times that your views are arrived at by intuition and choice, which is very honest of you. It does not follow that scientific explanations are rooted in the same thing, which you seem to suggest. The two are not the same. Science is rooted in observation, hypothesis and refinement of ideas. You know this. You also admit that it adequately explains something which you need to build a arbitrary system of beliefs in order to explain. To say your system is arbitrary is not an attempt to denigrate it, you admit as much in your latest post. Science is not arbitrary. Scientific explanations can be verfied or debated on repeatable observation.

Third, your contention is that since science cannot currently explain the origin of the universe (without an infinite regress of causation), that opens the door to some sort of "First Cause" (Creator). This simply makes no sense because it relies (again) on an arbitrary determination of when science fails. In other words, why assume that this one thing invalidates science, instead of assuming that all of the things that science can explain indicate that science holds the answers.

Fourth, and most glaring, your explanation of ID is flawed. ID is not primarily concerned with the origin of the universe, but with the origin of life on earth. Rhetoric aside. Of course it is easier to attempt to cast doubt on things less well understood and demonstrated than evolution, but the debate is about evolution. You've presented no arguments as to why we should not accept the very reasonable and ubiquitous evidence for evolution. Saying that science cannot explain the origin of the universe is not providing such a reason, it's attempting to change the question. And, just to be clear, ID picked this question.

[I think the criticism of kjh is misplaced. His opinion is bolstered rather than diluted by not having posted anything to the front page, and his comments should be considered more special, rather than less, for their rarity.]
posted by OmieWise at 10:08 AM on May 11, 2005


oddman: Umm, you do know that theories about the creation of the universe have about as much to do with the price of tea in China as the theory of biological evolution? This analogy is not as farfetched as you might think. The price of tea in China is described by a theory of how scarce goods are exchanged by somewhat rational agents. Biological diversity is described by a theory of how biological organisms compete for scarse resources. We call the former Economics, and the later Evolution. But we never hear the argument that Economics is a flawed theory because it fails to explain something out of it's domain.

Lets say that you, like Einstein propose some sort of Scientific Panentheism in which something set the wheels of the clockwork universe in motion in universe. (1) That's not a bad hypothesis. However, then science becomes the exercise of describing how the weels spin and mesh together. And once you hit that point, you end up with theories like Macroeconomics, Plate Tectonics, The Bestiary of Sub-Atomic Particles, and Biological Evolution.

For me, I'm quite comfortable as an skeptic with a profound distaste for metaphysics standing in front of the mystery of where the universe came from and saying, "I don't know, but it would be a hoot to find out." There are a heck of a lot of theories for that big question, why should "god did it" be privleged over any other?

The counter argument (against ID) that our form is the result of completely random fluctuations is metaphysically on-par with my belief.

I don't know of any theory that proposes the universe we observe is the result of completely random behavior. In fact, I think that science is based on the strong belief that things are not completely random, but have structure. My coffee cup (*mmmm* coffee) is not going to become a cat toy, telephone, or CD player in the next instant.

The universe is random in the same way that bridge and backgammon are random. The rules of the game make bridge and backgammon games extremely predictable.

Yes I was claiming that the physical universe is deterministic. By 100 years late do you mean the view that the universe is indeterminate? If so, isn't the view that the world is random at a fundamental level just as destructive for morality as determinism?

Well, I think that the last 100 years has really delivered up some juicy bits that made classic determinism problematic and unworkable.

1: From Godel, you can't build a logical system without contradictions. Classical determinism depends on the Universe working as a logical system. So you run into another infinite regress problem. (You can build a meta-system to fix the problems, but that meta-system will have problems, yadda yadda yadda.)

2: From Poincare, even simple systems can interact in ways that make it impossible to predict the future behavior of the system, without messy infinities. Determinism requires that every property of every particle be set from the start with infinite precision. This issue is even worse than the "Fine Tuning" problem of materialist physics. In the past, some "Fine Tuning" issues have been resolved by future developments that revealed that apparently arbitrary phenomena are made necessary by other phenomena.

3: The problems of Quantum Mechanics are not just issues of measurement. It is not the case that particles are really there with an absolutely precise position and momentum that we can't measure. Instead, it seems that quite a bit of what happens at the sub-atomic level is fundamentally fuzzy. Combined with 1 and 2 above, this poses serious problems for classical determinism because the best you can do is statistical approximation.

The end result is that trying to retrofit 20th century math and physics into classical determinism is probably an exercise in futility, and raises much more serious problems than materialist alternatives.

----
(1) It is probably a mistake to link your claims to Einstein's claims. One of the things Einstein was quite clear about was that his divine structure to the universe had little or no moral relevance.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2005


OmieWise: Third, your contention is that since science cannot currently explain the origin of the universe (without an infinite regress of causation), that opens the door to some sort of "First Cause" (Creator).

Well, I would argue that it does open the door to a "First Cause." Without some method of probing back in time beyond the big bang, (or before that) it is almost impossible to say that this theory is better than that theory. The question is, why should the "First Cause" be considered superior in the field of pre-Big Bang mental masturbation than the alternatives?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:03 AM on May 11, 2005


To be honest, I don't have any problem whatsoever with ID as a system of belief or with it's theories as perusable endeavors. At the heart of it, my only gripe is that it's being masqueraded as science. In science classes.
Science doesn't have a predetermined agenda. It's a collection of evidence, a presentation of patterns. It's continually asking "how?"
ID has a predetermined agenda. It's taking the presentation of evidence and only some science and molds. It constantly operates on it's scientifically shaky assumptions.
I've said it before, but go ahead and teach it. Just NOT in science class.
Maybe I can be clearer with this example:

Which of the following activities is "investigation?"

Arriving at a crime scene, you collect the evidence and examine it. You piece it together and come to the unfortunate conclusion that some sweet little old lady is the perpetrator. You might not like it, but that's what the evidence says, irrefutably.

OR

You arrive at the same crime scene and collect the same evidence but you can't bring yourself to accept that some little old lady might be a criminal so you decide that the guy next door did it. You take the evidence and look only for what backs up your position.

Well, clearly the first example is the genuine investigation. The second example, while it's a similar activity, is impure investigation.
Any assumption, any arbitrary exclusion, and any motive to come to a single conclusion makes a scientific case less legitimate. There's a subtle difference between a hypothesis and an agenda. A hypothesis is merely a test. It asks, "does this evidence show x?" On the other hand, an agenda asks, "how can this evidence show x?"

Truthfully, I like the idea of ID. It fits into my loose religious beliefs nicely in addition to the fact that it's an inspiring lens with which to look at the world. As an artist, it's an interesting thing to think that all of existence has been designed by some ultimate artist.
As nice an idea as ID is and as interesting basis for a contemporary branch of monotheism it may be, I just cannot agree with it being taught in a classroom as objective, naturalist science. There's another context for ID. I'd say, teach it in a philosophy course but I'm sure many philosophers would disagree with me.
posted by Jon-o at 11:19 AM on May 11, 2005


Actually, in an intro to philosophy course, you could teach the "First Cause" theory parallel to the notions of Quality presented in Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance...
posted by Jon-o at 11:24 AM on May 11, 2005


Why is there even a discussion about this? It is as obvious that ID is not scientific and can have no place in a science curriculum, as it is the obvious that the earth is not flat.

You don't argue with crazy people who believe the earth is flat. You don't try to persuade them with logic and fact. You either ignore them, or you tell them they are wrong, and move on.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:35 AM on May 11, 2005


Jon-O: Well, the messy thing is that while we might think of science as objective and neutral, it is only objective on the whole because of people with competing interests. Most of the great scientists in history have had at least one example where they let their own personal beliefs get in the way of the truth.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:41 AM on May 11, 2005


oddman
Now, since you qualified your conclusion, you are free to continue to believe that they are religious brainwashers. But that is not the only reasonable position.
Any other reasonable position would have to rest on the idea that intelligent design has some scientific merit. That's not the case. Perhaps it has some philosophical merit to those people who like their spiritualism to have a flavor of faux-science, but that's not what ID and this issue is about. ID says "this thing X cannot have arisen naturally because I cannot explain why using selected arguments of people who claim to explain it naturally, therefore the likely explanation is (wink-wink) everything has arisen super-naturally by a single intelligent designer." This is essentially non-science; science sees X and thinks "that's an odd thing, how'd it get there, given what we can know?" Tell me which attitude do you think is important to teach in science class? Most importantly, beyond this general philosophizing about the nature of knowledge and science, ID has been debunked in its specifics. And, circumstantially, history has never been kind to the people who stand at the edge of current knowledge screaming "God starts exactly here!"

You may believe with your intuition and heart that this universe is too grand to be explained completely by a 100% materialistic model of total causation, and you can do so gainfully and I respect you. I can't explain the weather -- and science and mathematics aren't so hot at it either -- and maybe we can agree that ultimately a lightning strike comes from the will of a God, but that doesn't mean we get to teach our beliefs in meteorology school as some competing theory of pressure systems.

So given that ID as science has no merit and extremely little acceptance, please tell me any other reasonable way to see this drive to inject ID into the heads of kids, in science class, as an equal or counterargument to evolution -- all engineered by people who proudly state that their goal is to overturn the last century of dominant intellectual thought, now that they've figured out how to game the science people -- in the face of scientific condemnation of their theories?

Say my neighbor says openly that he wants to break into my house to burn my books. He is seen consorting with various catburglars and arsonists, and I catch him looking into my windows. He breaks into someone else's house down the street and burns their books. Then one day I find him alone in my library with a book in one hand and a match in the other. Your voice, oddman, is the one saying: "you can't prove he was about to burn one of your books.. maybe he was merely calling attention to his disagreements with the text, let's consider them carefully" as he slowly moves the match towards the paper...

Yours is not really the voice of reason.

bevets
Evolution is the best possible theory of origins if God is excluded. This is much like deciding the best possible answer for '2+2' if '4' is excluded.
Exactly backwards. Science has recognized that when you actually look at the problem it reads more and more like '2+22'. Creationists of your ilk are the ones insisting the answer must still be '4'. Darwin's answer of '24-ish' still looks pretty good.

4 is the best possible answer if 24 and all other answers are excluded. Which describes the blindness of your belief perfectly.
posted by fleacircus at 2:43 PM on May 11, 2005


Kirk, OK, let's go with your suggestion that the universe is probabilistic and neither fully random nor fully determined. Not being a physicist I'll defer on the issue. Nevertheless, the question of randomness was raised vis-a-vis moral obligation. Now say that according to the laws of nature there is a 10% chance that a rock will fall on Bob and kill him tonight. Do we hold the rock accountable? Likely not, unless of course we think that some agent caused the rock to fall. But in a purely physical realm all events are the result of probability so how is a series of neurons firing in my head different from a rock breaking off of a cliff? Why does one physical event carry moral weight while another does not? Can we defy laws of probability?

OmieWise, the ID movement is a fundamentalist Christian movement (I don't think I've denied that) but ID itself is not necessarily Christian. I disagree as much with fundamentalist Christians attempting to use ID for illicit purposes as I do with the non-fundamentalist attempt to equate ID with Christianity.
To your second point, I've already granted that I'm debating metaphysics not scientific theory. But I remind you that science is based on quite a few metaphysical assumptions of its own. To your third point see my reply to LionIndex. To your fourth point, others have already asked me to link those two.

Finally, lest you all think me batty, I'll restate that I agree with what Jon-O (and possibly others to whom I apologize for not crediting) ID is not something that I think needs to be discussed in classrooms. It concerns things that are not observable and that are not falsifiable and is therefore not science. What is it? It is philosophy (as I see it) or biblical exegesis (as, no doubt, many Christians see it). It is, I think, an elegant solution to several thorny issues (the creation of the universe, morality, the existence of complex systems), but not without its own faults (causal interaction being the biggest one).

BTW, I really appreciate the many rejoinders, you all are really forcing me to refine my position quite nicely. I hope that you've found this as informative as I have.
posted by oddman at 3:20 PM on May 11, 2005


oddman: Do we hold the rock accountable? Likely not, unless of course we think that some agent caused the rock to fall. But in a purely physical realm all events are the result of probability so how is a series of neurons firing in my head different from a rock breaking off of a cliff? Why does one physical event carry moral weight while another does not? Can we defy laws of probability?

Well, being a person profoundly skeptical of such metaphysical woolgathering, I would argue that it does not matter. IMO a moral philosophy or a philosophy of mind that does not start from certain consistantly observed facts regarding animal behavior is fundamentally flawed. So I wouldn't start from some conception of physics, but from the observation that at least on the level where morality matters, we do seem to be making choices.

But this is where I side with the Humanists, of which, many of the early ones were religious. Our understanding of humanity is much better than our understanding of these metaphysical questions, so that is where we should consider grounding our moral, political and aesthetic philosophy. These metaphysical questions don't really get you very far in terms of deciding what is and what is not moral.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:41 PM on May 11, 2005


Oh, and I should add that I find the rationale that an entity is necessary for a certain view of morality as suggestive of that entity's existence to be rather flawed. Other proposals for a divine universe or a first cause have come to the opposite conclusions, the existence of such an entity has squat to do with morality.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:45 PM on May 11, 2005


It is, I think, an elegant solution to several thorny issues (the creation of the universe, morality, the existence of complex systems), but not without its own faults (causal interaction being the biggest one).

I should think the biggest fault by far is that ID relies on the argument that things are too complex to have arisen on their own, and thus must have a creator...

...without bothering to address how that creator came to be.

If one can resort to "Oh, well, He has just always been!" then one can cut out the middleman and make the same claim for the universe.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:00 PM on May 11, 2005


It is, I think, an elegant solution to several thorny issues (the creation of the universe, morality, the existence of complex systems)

Except that it doesn't really answer any of those thorny issues:
  • If the FC is entirely outside of time, how did our universe get created at a particular time?
  • If the FC is not moral in a way we can understand, then how does its existence create a moral framework for us?
  • Since, by our best empirical understanding, the complex systems we know of didn't exist at the universe's beginning, but appeared later, how does a cause of the beginning of the universe explain these complex systems?
It seems to me that you've created a system that doesn't solve any of these problems yet unnecessarily creates a new one.
posted by boaz at 6:46 PM on May 11, 2005


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