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Kitzmiller v. DASD
October 6, 2005 5:46 AM   Subscribe

Intelligent Design on trial! The ACLU of PA is blogging the current trial in Dover, PA between the parents of students and the local school board which wants to teach students Intelligent Design. Over at The Panda's Thumb, they're also keeping track of the goings on. The main ACLU website has statements from most of the plaintiff's experts in the case, including this long, well-supported pdf from philsopher Barbara Forrest, whose testimony is being used to dismantle the canard that ID is not Creationism. Over at the Legal Affairs Debate Club Beckwith and Laylock argued, last week, about whether teaching ID is legal. For background: this 2002 special report from Natural History Magazine on Intelligent Design Creationism.
posted by OmieWise (81 comments total)

 
hey man.
thanks for this thread and the excellent links in it... this intelligent design BS is insane - we really are trying to roll back the clocks in the country aren't we?
posted by specialk420 at 5:57 AM on October 6, 2005


No. We're trying to roll them forward, to the 1890s, when this keen idea about natural selection was published. For some reason we are saddled with a bunch of fools who still haven't mentally crossed into the 1900s due to their preference for religious fairy tales over science.

Never mind that evolutionary biology drives medical advances such as in vitro fertilization that allows overly religious folks to have more kids at one time than nature intended. Never mind that quality of life and lifespan have both improved through biology research. None of that matters when weighed against a centuries-old mistranslated and highly modified text based on Middle Eastern tribal myths.

To paraphrase Alfred E. Newman: What... me bitter?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:05 AM on October 6, 2005


Remember: The same people pushing Intelligent Design are the same people who say there isn't any real scientific evidence of Global Warming.
posted by eriko at 6:09 AM on October 6, 2005


I'm reading Jaques Barzun's "Dawn to Decadence", and I just recently wrote this about the very same topic.

Barzun talks about the reoccurrence of ideas and their fights with one another. The “defeated” survive and keep fighting, there is a perpetual counterpoint.

Right now there is a countrywide debate on the origins of man, and what specifically should be taught to our children in public school science classes. Some say that we teach evolution flat out. “If you want to teach creation myths”, they say “keep it in comparative religion or philosophy class”. Others think that we should “teach the controversy” and let students decide for themselves. Some people have gone so far as to pull their children out of schools and teach their children Creationism outright.

Of all the things that I have written about and all the things that I will write about, I probably should state that I have stronger beliefs on this than I do any other subject. I believe in God, and I believe in Science. Man can not progress materially without Science, and Man can not progress spiritually without God. The two are not at odds with one another, but rather are tandem threads running in the mind and the soul - to deny the self of either aspect means denying yourself of both.

When I say I believe in science, I believe in the Scientific Method. That through observation one can make a hypothesis, which can be tested and refined into a theory and possibly accepted as a law. I should define a hypothesis as “a tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation”, a theory as “A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” And a law as “A generalization based on consistent experience or results”. Those three solid definitions give us the foundation for what science sets out to do: give us enough data to figure out what’s going on and from that, a little bit of insight on how better to live our lives materially.

I’ll give you a specific example from my own life. I was in Orlando, Florida during the hurricanes last year (not the ones involving New Orleans, the ones before that). For each hurricane we were given adequate warning and constant updates. We were given likelihood of our own region being hit, and what to do when the storm was over. All of this information came from years of observation and record keeping. We can now predict fairly accurately when a hurricane is going to hit, where it’s going to hit and how bad the damage is likely going to be. Hundreds, possibly thousands of lives were thus spared by way of the scientific method. There’s still a lot of guesswork involved with hurricane prediction, but its informed guesswork, which is all really science is.

Going back to Barzun, one of the themes that he brings up from the past 500 years is “primitivism” – the longing to shuffle off the trappings of an advanced culture. The desire to teach Intelligent Design in the classroom is just this – the most visible struggle of primitivism in action.

Science is hard. I know this because I don’t understand most of it. I know my car works, for example. I know it has a transmission and I don’t know exactly what that is but I know it’s important to help the car change gears. I know it has a catalytic converter, which makes it so my car doesn’t cause as environmentally harmful emissions – but I’ll be damned if I know how that thing works. I do know it’ll run you $200 or more. But this thing that I rely on every day to get me to work and back – I don’t know how the majority of it works. It does, however, and 99.9% of the time. And that’s because people way smarter than me figured it out by testing and hypothesizing and testing again until they got it right. That’s what science is all about.

But it is hard and even the simplest stuff is confusing. And there’s no debate or morals or ethics as far as the Scientific Method is concerned. You just have to try, and keep trying until either you figure it out or get it right. The Method is the Ethic.

This is why I personally have a problem with Intelligent Design being taught in our classrooms. There’s nothing to test. There’s nothing falsifiable (definition: capable of being tested (verified or falsified) by experiment or observation) about any of the arguments put forth by the concept. It is simply put, not science. Nor is it the word of God.

The alternative that the Intelligent Design advocates are offering in place of traditional textbooks is called “of Pandas and People”, which paints the Theory of Evolution in a pretty unfavorable light. This is a book, written by men, in an attempt to deflect an attack that they are not under. Yet the trappings of modern culture have made it impossible for them to not feel as though their beliefs are under scrutiny from science. Numerous members of the scientific community have written popular polemics on the subject, designed to raise the ire of the “conservative left”.

Of Pandas and People is a symbol. It’s a symbol of primitivism, and it’s a symbol of politics and the media (and most of the public) engaging in a debate that they don’t really understand. The debate is meant to exploit the people’s primitivistic desires and raise their fears.

Right now, on the 80th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey trial in Dover, evolution is once again being tried as being false in a court of law with the assertion that students should be given the alternate option of “Of Pandas and People”. What gets me about that is that Science is always on trial. Theories and even Laws are constantly being fought for and against, argued upon as new evidence and observations come to light.

“Intelligent Design” does not belong in schools, or anywhere else for that matter. Nor does “Creationism”, for that matter - both things take a core belief of an ancient and venerable faith and convert it into a political issue. Christians of this country should be outraged that their faith is being used by these opportunists. The story of the creation of the world by God is a small (but great) part of a much greater story about the nature of the human race. Dividing off bits and pieces of the Bible and using them as political tools undermines the greater story of God’s glory.

When the Pope condemned 41 of Martin Luther’s Thesis, Luther took the Pope’s response and, along with a bunch of other works that he found contradictory, burned them. Of Pandas and People - it makes me angry and sad at the same time. I think that given enough time and money, I’d like to go to Dover and buy every copy of “Of Pandas and People”. I’d throw them into a big pile, pour on some gas and light the whole thing on fire — After all, it was Martin Luther himself who said: “It is an old custom to burn bad books”.
posted by the theory of revolution at 6:20 AM on October 6, 2005


I think The Theory of Revolution just broke some kind of record.
posted by chasing at 6:24 AM on October 6, 2005


chasing writes "broke some kind of record"

I take it you are not conversant with the work of MiguelCardoso, or more recently EtherealBligh?
posted by asok at 6:33 AM on October 6, 2005


Ahem. In the interest of helping you avoid wasting time by fighting strawmen:

Intelligent Design does not necessarily entail Christianity; nor is it necessarily incompatible with biological research/theory and evolutionary theory. Creationism (if by that you mean something akin to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim beliefs espoused in books like Genesis), as it is practiced in the U. S. of A., does entail Christianity and is incompatible with biological research/theory and evolutionary theory. Thus, Intelligent Design is not the same as Creationism.

I don't have time to go through Forest's paper right now, but I take issue with several assertions that she makes in the first section. Her claim that supernaturalism is logically incompatible with scientific naturalism is just false. The former is a metaphysical view the latter a physical one. The claim that there is a logical gap between them is a dubious one, they are theories aimed at explaining different things in areas that simply do not overlap. She might as well argue that there is a logical contradiction between a political theory and chemistry. Finally, it is simply false that the rejection of naturalism makes supernaturalism a religious belief. There are many, many supernatural theories that are not even remotely religious (take contemporary Platonism for example, further, they are especially popular in ethics.)
posted by oddman at 6:39 AM on October 6, 2005


The two are not at odds with one another, but rather are tandem threads running in the mind and the soul - to deny the self of either aspect means denying yourself of both.

Is that a testable hypothesis now?

I've been denying myself religion for the past 22 years and I haven't really had any problems comprehending science. Religion is a mental handicap, and if it was once necessary to the human condition and human existence then it no longer is now. Especially for those willing to comprehend existence for what it is, not based on fairy tales from halfway across the world.
posted by baphomet at 6:43 AM on October 6, 2005


I'd like to take this moment to thank. . .the magical wizard.

posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:46 AM on October 6, 2005


The Pope has hardly anything to do with the Intelligent Design fiasco; this is the work of a group of Fundamentalist Evangelical Protestants intent on bringing their conflation of faith and science into the public sphere. Indeed, Roman Catholicism's views on evolution and creation are far more progressive than most of what I see coming out of Baptistdom, my own home.

That said, it's outrageous that ID has gotten this far. It has no place in a science curriculum other than to be discussed as a fringe theory. I grew up under Jesuits, learning evolution in science class, learning theology in theology class, and learning philosophy in philosophy class. That didn't wreck my belief or my inquisitiveness at all.
posted by brownpau at 6:54 AM on October 6, 2005


I have to say I prefer the non-US press for my coverage of this little farce. The are deliciously snarky.
posted by spazzm at 6:58 AM on October 6, 2005


Man can not progress spiritually without God.

A meaningless, empty soundbite much loved by the religious. It basically amounts to saying "This mad, irrational thing I need to believe in makes me a better person than those of you who don't need to believe in this mad, irrational thing". One might as well say that man cannot progress spiritually without Buddha/Ganesh/Thor/Yoga/TM/Bob Jones/Heaven's Gate/Man Utd.

Why don't the people who wish to “teach the controversy and let students decide for themselves" also teach about alchemy during chemistry class or astrology along with astronomy? There's just as much "science" in those topics and just as much good "evidence" in support of them as there is for "intelligent design": that is, none whatsoever.
posted by Decani at 6:59 AM on October 6, 2005


the theory of revolution

Your name reminds me of my favorite intelligent design story. I was at Independence Hall in Philadelphia listening to the U.S. Park Service guide go through his presentation. He asks the tourists "Does anyone know what revolution is?"

A boy in the back blurted out "It's the false belief that man descended from beast." His parents looked so proud. My wife and I made great effort not to let our laughter spit out.

The USPS dude said, without missing a beat, "That's evolution, not revolution... and it's not a false belief: it's a scientific theory."
posted by three blind mice at 7:01 AM on October 6, 2005


"it is simply false that the rejection of naturalism makes supernaturalism a religious belief."

But it's not.

What other alternatives exist then? Clearly someone or something is responsible for humans existence. No one arguing for ID is specifically calling that "thing" God but what else does one call it? What other inference is to be drawn?

And baphomet, I'm not a religious guy at all but I think it's a bit disengenuous to call those who, 'have the faith', mentally handicap. Faith is often impossible to prove via science, and therein lies the power of it - at least to those who have it (some of those even being scientists).

The point is, Creationism, Darwin, ID...all of these theories - in the eyes of the faithful - still do not definitively answer the question of what started it all. Obviously, we know their answer.

Intelligent Design is not a well-thought out theory in my book. It falls apart rather quickly upon closer inspection. Darwin still is king of the mountain.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:09 AM on October 6, 2005


For the record, Roman Catholicism has no problem with Evolution and does not view evolution to be in conflict with its belief.

If you want to bash someone, at least get your target right Jesse H.
posted by Dagobert at 7:19 AM on October 6, 2005


Intelligent Design is not a well-thought out theory in my book.

j.p. Hung you be missing the point. ID is not a "not a well-thought out theory" it isn't a theory at all. It is a belief. There's nothing scientific about ID and it has no place in a science class.

Anyway, everyone knows that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe.
posted by three blind mice at 7:22 AM on October 6, 2005


ID doesn't say that man was designed by a god. Just by someone with the necessary skill-set to design life and create life. IT'S TOTALLY DIFFERENT

nor is it necessarily incompatible with biological research

röfl
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:28 AM on October 6, 2005


Thanks for the excellent post. I've been wanting to know how to follow the trial but had not gotten around to finding these links.
posted by about_time at 7:31 AM on October 6, 2005


Not sure how one might find one... but it would be great to see some dissenting (pro-ID) blogs... crazy is best when it is fresh out of the oven.
posted by cusack at 7:35 AM on October 6, 2005


"ID doesn't say that man was designed by a god. Just by someone with the necessary skill-set to design life and create life"

...and you call this someone...??

And tbm, I don't think it's science at all but clearly they are making the argument that they are using some amount of scientific and mathmatical theory to come up with their pointless concept.
posted by j.p. Hung at 7:39 AM on October 6, 2005


...and you call this someone...??

Maxis?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:49 AM on October 6, 2005


Cool! That's very neat to have a blog of an ongoing federal trial. You usually don't get that kind of access to what happens on that level.
posted by footnote at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2005


Quick, perform the special ritual to appease the invisible sky-elf!
posted by spazzm at 8:00 AM on October 6, 2005


For some reason we are saddled with a bunch of fools who still haven't mentally crossed into the 1900s due to their preference for religious fairy tales over science.

Religion is a mental handicap

It is this kind of secular hubris, which wrongly believes that it can shame people into giving up their most central beliefs, that leads to creationism and ID. Spirituality is never going to end, and the sooner that science writers accept that fact, the sooner there can be a truce between science and religion.
posted by goethean at 8:03 AM on October 6, 2005


A boy in the back blurted out "It's the false belief that man descended from beast." His parents looked so proud. My wife and I made great effort not to let our laughter spit out.

Why? These people need to know how stupid they sound, and that the world does not agree with them. Enough PC bullshit. Silence only lets them think they're right.
posted by ToasT at 8:06 AM on October 6, 2005


goethean writes "the sooner there can be a truce between science and religion"

I don't think there is ever going to be a truce between these two camps. It would be like librarians having a truce with book burners.
posted by Mitheral at 8:07 AM on October 6, 2005


Teach the truth!

RAmen!
posted by redbeard at 8:20 AM on October 6, 2005


"These people need to know how stupid they sound, and that the world does not agree with them."

But you see, a lot of people ACTUALLY think this. I know some very well educated folks that really adhere to this line of insanity. So, NO, it wouldn't be good to "out" them. Some Mefite in the crowd would more than likely smite you - unless said PC's were Republicans, that is.
posted by j.p. Hung at 8:20 AM on October 6, 2005


A great posty and discussion.

I have one point to add:

ID and Creationism may lose in the courts - and they deserve to.

But unless the left learns the lessons inherent in the ascent of the religious right - how that movement built its power base - and organizes for political power as the religious right did and is still doing....ID and Creatonism will one day soon supplant Evolutionary theory in school textbooks.

This battle is NOT about facts. It concerns PR and marketing, populist organizing techniques, and raw political power.

Such pitched court battles are the outcome of a three decade long "patient revolution" : massive cultural change and eventual theocracy is goal.
posted by troutfishing at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2005


There's no fight between science and religion. There's a fight between two sides in the US-culture wars. Trying to make this out as the grand-finale knockdown between to opposing world views just plays into the morons' hands.
It's a petty little parochial issue being played for all it's political capital, that's it. Assuming that the ID buffoons somehow represent "religion" is giving them like 10^100 times more credibility than they deserve.
posted by signal at 8:24 AM on October 6, 2005


Mitheral, there are several men from 15th though 17th century European countries that would vehemently diasgree with you: Newton, Locke, Descartes, St. Thomas, Leibniz and Hobbes, just to name a few.
posted by oddman at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2005


I believe in God, and I believe in Science. Man can not progress materially without Science, and Man can not progress spiritually without God. The two are not at odds with one another, but rather are tandem threads running in the mind and the soul - to deny the self of either aspect means denying yourself of both.

So what you're saying is that the self cannot progress materially without God. Sorry, but I don't buy it.

Spirituality of any form is completely irrelevant to me. I deny that there is any 'soul' in the 'self'. I deny that any knowledge of God is necessary, warranted, or even desirable in the pursuit of knowledge.

But as long as we both agree that ID should not be taught in the science classes of public schools, we should get along fine. It's no skin off my nose if anyone believes something for which there is no evidence whatsoever, so long as they don't try to turn that belief into public policy.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2005


Newton, Locke, Descartes, St. Thomas, Leibniz and Hobbes

...Heisenberg, Schroedinger, Einstein, De Broglie, Eddington, Pauli, Planck, Jeans...
posted by goethean at 8:32 AM on October 6, 2005


But you see, a lot of people ACTUALLY think this. I know some very well educated folks that really adhere to this line of insanity. So, NO, it wouldn't be good to "out" them. Some Mefite in the crowd would more than likely smite you - unless said PC's were Republicans, that is.

Not an issue of outing, but rather not letting a contentious point go uncontested. Anyone who wants a fight with me can "bring it" - I've got reason on my side. And the only being who can supposedly "smite" me is the one these deluded souls can't seem to prove exists . . . so I'm not worried.

In other words - I'm just as sick of the weak-willed left giving "equal time" to untenable viewpoints as I am with the gasbags who promote said viewpoints. Y'all need a punch in the head.
posted by ToasT at 8:55 AM on October 6, 2005


NCSE is also covering this, including some good podcasts.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:08 AM on October 6, 2005


goethean: ...Einstein...

Einstein is an interesting case however. He approved of the first Humanist Manifesto, which actually was a movement strongly influenced by a radical group of Unitarians and other religious groups. The first version of Humanism didn't explicitly reject god, but did reject a strongly supernatural view of a god that was concerned about and interfered with human affairs. Einstein's beliefs appear to be more along the lines of a weak deism than a strong theism. That is, he regarded the order of the universe as worthy of being called "god" but explcitly denied that it would work miracles, much less pass down 10 laws on a mountain. God not only did not play dice in Einstein's view, it didn't do anything that could not be explained in a naturalistic manner. Likewise, although Hawking drops the "god" word now and then, his writings seem to suggest that he's talking about Einstein's god rather than the god of the gospel writers.

For me personally, I think Epicurus' question still applies. Is it really worthwhile to call something doesn't give a squat about me and mine god? There is some of Einstein's writings that suggests he realized that his use of the g-word was possibly a mistake because it was interpreted to mean something much more personal and human than he intended. Edging this back on topic, it wouldn't surprise me if Einstein is cited on the ID side of the debate, by people who will ignore the probability that Einstein would reject the notion that his god would be messing with the DNA of organisms.

I think it's quite possible to have a "religion" that is grounded in methodological materialism. It's just that most are not. To the degree that most religions depend on claims such as divine revelation that are not compatible with methodological materialism, I don't think these two are going to get along.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:08 AM on October 6, 2005


From Spazzm's link:

64 per cent of people questioned for a recent poll said they were open to the idea of teaching creationism in addition to evolution in schools, while 38 per cent favoured replacing evolution with creationism.

40 per cent of Americans believe God will eventually intervene in human affairs and bring about an end to life on Earth, according to a survey carried out in 2002. Of those believers, almost half thought this would occur in their lifetime with a return of Jesus from heaven.

1 adult American in five believes that the Sun revolves around Earth, according to one study carried out last summer


So here is my little test. If you believe in I.D. and also that the sun revolves around the earth, then the rest of us can mock you and give you a wedgie.

There's no fight between science and religion. There's a fight between two sides in the US-culture wars
posted by signal at 11:24 AM EST

Yeah this is my mantra these days. Even if Science loses in the courtroom in Dover, it doesn't mean the end of evolution. The rest of the world and intelligent people here in the US will continue on with their research and their studies. Only the poor unfortunate students born in the wrong state or county will suffer.

That's the great thing about science: It marches on!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:13 AM on October 6, 2005


I don't think there is ever going to be a truce between these two camps. It would be like librarians having a truce with book burners.

Meaning, one assumes, that all religious people want to destroy science, an obvious falsehood.
posted by goethean at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2005


Spirituality is never going to end, and the sooner that science writers accept that fact, the sooner there can be a truce between science and religion.

Spirituality is going to end.

Second law of thermodynamics.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2005


Intelligent Design does not necessarily entail Christianity; nor is it necessarily incompatible with biological research/theory and evolutionary theory.

Well, there's Intelligent Design as its supporters present it in the courtroom, then there's Intelligent Design as its supporters want it taught in the classroom.

The ID presented in the courtroom is overtly religion-neutral; they make no claims about who or what the Designer is.

But if they were honest about trying to get a truly religion-neutral version of ID presented in the classroom, they'd have to acknowledge that one of the unknown things about the "Designer" is whether it is a singular or plural. Was life designed by a single intelligent entity, or a group of two, three, dozens, hundreds, thousands, or millions of entities? After all, the space shuttle is a very complex machine, so it's reasonable to conclude is the product of a design--but fallacious to conclude it was designed by a single designer. The design of the space shuttle is a product of hundreds, if not thousands, of engineers working together. ID, as presented in the courtroom, is necessarily silent on whether there is one single Designer, or a multitude of designers.

But now go and look at the materials and methods IDers want to use to teach ID in the classroom. Not once will you find any mention of the possibility of "designers" or "master intelligences." Books like Of Pandas and People thus subtly reinforce ideas about the nature of the Designer that ID supporters fundamentalist Christians want to have taught to children in public schools, even though those ideas are entirely unsupported by the version of ID presented in the courtroom.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:52 AM on October 6, 2005


truce between science and religion

That will never happen. Science will continually, if gradually, force religion to adapt and recede.
posted by Bort at 9:52 AM on October 6, 2005


goethean, are you familiar with Hegel?
posted by bardic at 9:56 AM on October 6, 2005


Metafilter: Crazy is best when it is fresh out of the oven.

(Great thread, thanks for the links.)
posted by Remy at 9:59 AM on October 6, 2005


All you need to do is tell the ID guys that they can teach their beliefs, as long as the "Creator" is referred to as "Allah". Most of them would back off I think.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:01 AM on October 6, 2005


The case isn't at about science, or religion, at all. It's about who has the right to control children's education: their parents, or out-of-town lawyers who think they know best.

And people who think creationism is nonsense ought to like intelligent design: there's no better tool for opening people's mind to the evidence of natural selection than to free it from the baggage that evolution is inherently anti-religious.
posted by MattD at 10:14 AM on October 6, 2005


MattD writes "
The case isn't at about science, or religion,
at all. It's about who has the right to control children's education: their parents, or out-of-town lawyers who think they know best."

Matt, this is patently untrue, as the suit has been brought by parents in the school system who object to having religion taught to their children. If one accepts the canard that all such parents are pawns of "out-of-town" interests, then one must also acknowledge that so too are the school board members who pushed so hard for the change. The Foundation for Thought and Ethics who publishes Of Pandas and People is also an "out-of-town" interest, as is The Thomas More Law Center, the lawyers defending the school board.
posted by OmieWise at 10:27 AM on October 6, 2005


The school board reflects the will of the community and the majority of parents, as they should in a democracy. As long as the ACLU and the teacher unions oppose vouchers, then the preference of the majority of the parents should determine curriculum -- whichever solution denies the rights of the fewest number of parents is the better one.

Once school finance is completely voucherized, then everyone can be free to educate their children as they fit and no one's parental rights will be denied.
posted by MattD at 10:42 AM on October 6, 2005


MattD: "The case isn't at about science, or religion, at all. It's about who has the right to control children's education: their parents, or out-of-town lawyers who think they know best."

I would say it's the battle between people who believe they can legislate their beliefs on as many as possible (theocrats) versus those who advocate learning about how things really work instead of relying on unfounded religious beliefs (scientists).

"And people who think creationism is nonsense ought to like intelligent design: there's no better tool for opening people's mind to the evidence of natural selection than to free it from the baggage that evolution is inherently anti-religious."

It depends on how you do it. If you teach it IN a science class, it clouds the water as to what real truth is. This is their intent, because confusion leaves people open to indoctrination. If it's taught as theology instead, it allows rational, educated minds to decide for themselves.
posted by mystyk at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2005


MattD writes "whichever solution denies the rights of the fewest number of parents is the better one. "

I'm sure you meant to add:", as long as it doesn't conflict with the constitution of the US." Which, as you know, teaching ID does.
posted by OmieWise at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2005


MattD: As long as the ACLU and the teacher unions oppose vouchers, then the preference of the majority of the parents should determine curriculum -- whichever solution denies the rights of the fewest number of parents is the better one.

Are you saying that parents have a legal right to mandate religious instruction by a government institution? In what way is teaching science in science classes, and religion in social studies classes a violation of the rights of the majority of parents and students?

And what about this attempt at compromise by the ACLU and the represented parents?
The ACLU representative stated that they had no objection to the teaching of intelligent design in public school, as long as it was taught in the context of a history or social studies class. The ACLU was recognizing and accommodating one of the interests of the opposition, namely their desire to expose public school students to intelligent design. They were taking a step toward a creative solution by opening the door to a possible compromise that, while it may not by fully satisfying to each group, could at least be the beginning of a discussion of other options.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2005


MattD: "...the preference of the majority ofthe parents should determine curriculum -- whichever solution denies the rights of the fewest number of parents is the better one."
I call BullShit. Have you ever even heard of the concept of Tyrrany of the Majority? The voice of most of a population is closer to a true democracy, but it has the power to assert things that are just plain wrong in the process. If 90% of America was shown in a poll to support the complete obliteration of the Iraqi population, would that make it the right course of action? Or the moral one? If a majority of our country wants do deny a crucial tenet of a good education to millions of American children, is it automatically the right thing because it carries the majority support?
posted by mystyk at 10:53 AM on October 6, 2005


I'm sorry for the tone of my post above, I'm in a bad mood, and should not have written in that snarky tone. Tone aside, however, the case at issue is about whether or not that supposed majority of views represented by the school board (who did not run on a pro-ID platform--see the York Daily Record site for history on the school board elections) cannot be considered the proper one to follow if it conflicts with the US constitution. There is A LOT of reason to think that teaching ID violates the constitutionally protected separation of church and state, and that therefore, the majority does not simply rule in this case.
posted by OmieWise at 10:59 AM on October 6, 2005


Spirituality is never going to end, and the sooner that science writers accept that fact, the sooner there can be a truce between science and religion.

Spirituality has never been synonymous with religion, and the sooner that monotonotheists accept that fact, the sooner there can be a truce between science and spirituality.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:07 AM on October 6, 2005


joe lisboa, everything will end, including semantics.

Also, what's a "monotonotheist"? One who believes in a Tone-Deaf God? One who believes in the God of One Audible Frequency?
posted by odinsdream at 11:17 AM on October 6, 2005


I believe monotonotheists are those "Om" people.
posted by brownpau at 11:20 AM on October 6, 2005


And, to my memory once upon a time, it was a minority of religious believers that objected to the pledge to the flag that got it removed as a manditory part of the school day.

Which is essentially what this trial is about. If ID is religion, then it has no place in the science curriculum of a public school.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:20 AM on October 6, 2005


Concise intelligent design: life is so complicated, it must have been made by magic! Or aliens.

How is that science?
posted by Happy Monkey at 11:34 AM on October 6, 2005


Everything will end, including semantics.

I assume you mean "semantics" in the pejorative sense. If so, you've begged the question w/r/t there being any significant difference between the religious and the spiritual, which was precisely my point.

Also, what's a "monotonotheist"?

You'd have to ask the fellow who coined the term, but I use it to refer to the especially tedious type of religious person who both won't shut up about their personal, loving creator deity and assume that (a) everyone else's godhead, first cause, prime mover, etc. obviously refers to their own pet entity, and (b) the religious and the spiritual are identical.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:02 PM on October 6, 2005


The school board reflects the will of the community and the majority of parents, as they should in a democracy. As long as the ACLU and the teacher unions oppose vouchers, then the preference of the majority of the parents should determine curriculum -- whichever solution denies the rights of the fewest number of parents is the better one.

Really? Without any regard to accepted educational standards? What if the school board wanted to teach phrenology in science class? I guess that would be just dandy, since they represent the majority?

If the school board succeeds, it seems obvious that the schools of Dover should lose their accreditation. Since they obviously have no idea what science is, they are obviously unqualified to teach it.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2005


In response to baphomet's "Religion is a mental handicap" comment:

It is this kind of secular hubris, which wrongly believes that it can shame people into giving up their most central beliefs, that leads to creationism and ID. Spirituality is never going to end, and the sooner that science writers accept that fact, the sooner there can be a truce between science and religion.

-goethean


Let's go ahead and gloss over the fact that you just equated a random guy on the internet with a science writer. Let's focus on your main argument: that intellectual elitism is responsible for the perpetuation of willful ignorance. Instead of my usual 'you're a fucktard' retort, allow me to quote St. Augustine:

"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, ... and this knowledge he holds as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?"

In other words, your argument is backwards.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 12:57 PM on October 6, 2005


A topical diversion: Top 10 Intelligent Designs (via LiveScience)

See also:
Intelligent Design: The Death of Science
Intelligent Design: Belief Posing as Theory
Anti-evolution Attacks on the Rise
Book thrown at proponents of Intelligent Design
Things Creationists Hate

Apologies for the link flood, but I've been collecting this ID-related stuff for a while now.

You'll notice that many of the articles come from LiveScience, which I am just totally in love with these days.

Cheers, and keep praying that this ID BS gets tossed!
posted by numlok at 1:04 PM on October 6, 2005


morimoto: You're a genius for posting that. Although I must say that given Augustine's sentiments, were he around today I think he would find the Bible to be entirely indefensible.

geothean: My intention isn't to shame people into giving up their beliefs, but rather to enlighten them out of them. When I say that religion is a mental handicap, I mean that many people in America use their religious beliefs as something to hide behind, to shield them from uncomfortable, harsh truths. In this context you can see my essential point: that it might be easy and comfortable to hide behind religion and scripture, but that will often prevent you from understanding the truth of physical reality. Spirituality is one thing; willful ignorance is another entirely. I seek not to end spirituality but willful ignorance. I suppose I should have been more clear on that in my original post...I admit my initial comment was something of a hot-button phrase. But would MetaFilter be this much fun if nobody went around pushing the hot buttons?
posted by baphomet at 1:16 PM on October 6, 2005


Intelligent Design does not necessarily entail Christianity; nor is it necessarily incompatible with biological research/theory and evolutionary theory.

Thank you for parroting ID propaganda. Let us examine your statement:

ID says that a supernatural entity causes structures that are claimed to be too complex to exist naturally, to come into being. Considering that science is the study of the natural, yes supernaturalism is incompatible with biology. Evolution tells us that features change over time via natural processes. Again the supernatural has no place here.

"Her claim that supernaturalism is logically incompatible with scientific naturalism is just false."

Umm did you read what you just wrote? You just said that supernaturalism is *not* incompatible with naturalism. So something outside of nature works just fine with nature. aka the unreal is compatible with the real. If 'god' is real it is by definition natural. Natural things can be observed and measured. When you observe and measure things you have proof. You base theories and conclusions on proof and evidence.

Therefore if the creator/designer is supernatural by definition there is no evidence. If the c/d is natural, we have to have some evidence to support its existence. No evidence is speculation and assertion.
posted by MrLint at 1:38 PM on October 6, 2005


life is so complicated, it must have been made by magic! Or aliens

Really, really simple aliens.
posted by Sparx at 1:51 PM on October 6, 2005


Intelligent Design does not necessarily entail Christianity

This is correct - it can entail a varied number of superstitions that propose one or more creators

"nor is it necessarily incompatible with biological research/theory and evolutionary theory."

This is incorrect - ID is fundamentally incompatible with the evolutionary theory (which, by the way, is one fundamental pillar of all modern biology, so it is also fundamentally incompatible with anything worth calling "biological theory" in the modern sense. Also, the fundamental arguments for ID were already refuted/falsified, there is no known "irreducible complex" system. So teaching ID is somewhat like teaching that the Sun revolves around the Earth, nice for History of Ideas but useless as science.
posted by nkyad at 1:55 PM on October 6, 2005


Although I must say that given Augustine's sentiments, were he around today I think he would find the Bible to be entirely indefensible.

I kind of doubt that. The book isn't the problem, it's the fundamentalists who believe it must be word-for-word truth.

In my experience, most Christians do not believe that the Bible is literal, inerrant truth. They are familiar with the concepts of allegory and parable.
posted by me & my monkey at 2:12 PM on October 6, 2005


I call BullShit. Have you ever even heard of the concept of Tyrrany of the Majority?

mystyk, of course it's b.s. MattD knows it's b.s. If you want to know why he wrote it, look at his last sentence. He's setting up a false dichotomy in order to promote his agenda: school vouchers.
posted by pitchblende at 2:23 PM on October 6, 2005


ID is fundamentally incompatible with the evolutionary theory (which, by the way, is one fundamental pillar of all modern biology)

Funny, if you only listen to what Intelligent Design is explicitly stating, it's actually the exact opposite -- the most obvious self-evident assumption in all of biology. Life is too complex to have arisen without some kind of intelligence guiding it. DUH DUH DUH MUTHERFUCKERS!

The problem is people dont seem to even know what intelligence and design are. It's all natural selection. Science says, okay, lets observe this beautiful process and learn from it. Dualism says, "ONYL HUMANS HAVE INTELIGENSE AND DESING THINGS!!!1 IT MUST HAVE JUST BEEN A BIG HUMAN!"
posted by Laugh_track at 4:10 PM on October 6, 2005


If you want to call "natural selection" intelligence, go ahead. Ignoring the meaning of words is fun.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:32 PM on October 6, 2005


Evolution is just simple damn mathematics. I completely and utterly fail to comprehend how anyone could be so stupid as to not understand it.

If you can add 1 + 1, you can do the calculations to figure out whether any individual creature is going to procreate or not. Yes, it would take you forever and it would require you to have a godlike knowledge of the probabilities for every quantum moment of the creature's life, but you could figure whether it was going to successfully pass on some genes.

Denying evolution is, in my mind, as daft as denying mathematics.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:07 PM on October 6, 2005


Intelligent Design does not necessarily entail Christianity

Fine, but I have yet to see any examples of non-religious supporters of ID, and here in the States the vast majority of supporters appear to be Christians. Give me one mainstream example of a non-religious supporter of ID. Someone who has said explicitly "I believe in the theory of Intelligent Design as a scientific proposition and I personally do not believe that it was the god or gods of my religion who were responsible for this 'irreducible complexity'." Please furnish me with one example of an explicitly agnostic or atheistic ID supporter. Dodging the question like Michael Behe did in his poisonous little book does not count.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:45 PM on October 6, 2005


Denying evolution is, in my mind, as daft as denying mathematics.

But the IDers believe that the mechanism of natural selection cannot lead to the evolution of various observed "irreducibly complex" systems. I think broadly speaking they accept and understand that the mechanism of evolution must work on some level. They are just unwilling to believe that the mechanism is sufficiently powerful to put together hugely complex interacting systems such as the bacterial flagellum for example. Of course this is really just "the argument from personal incredulity". The real problem with their thinking is that they are far too willing to turn to a superstitious explanation. I also personally suspect ID advocates generally are not intellectually able enough to see in principle how evolution could be the complete explanation.
posted by snoktruix at 8:02 PM on October 6, 2005


PinkStainlessTail: This was in the news a while back

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=315976

It's not specifically irreducible complexity, but rather abiogenesis that caused the conversion - but it's a bona fide case of conversion from atheism to a type of ID.

I suspect he's failed to do the math, myself, falling for the 'improbability' argument. Yes it will take billions of random chemical interactions to luck into the beginnings of life, but when you've got billions of them going on all the time, it becomes much more likely to occur within planetary lifetimes.
posted by Sparx at 8:51 PM on October 6, 2005


If you want to call "natural selection" intelligence, go ahead. Ignoring the meaning of words is fun.

What I mean is the creative adaptation process is fundamentally the same for all complex systems, whether it's neurons flashing around in bone or birds on an island. ID'ers are on the right track with comparing the evolution of a bug to the invention of a watch, but they fail to realize that the watch didn't just zap into existence either -- it followed a succession of steps beginning with the sundial (which was probably an accident), all of which first existed as part of the inventor (an idea).
posted by Laugh_track at 9:32 PM on October 6, 2005


PinkStainlessTail: This was in the news a while back..

Not what I'm looking for: Atheists become believers in god and/or religion all the time. I want an atheist or genuine agnostic who explicitly supports ID as a scientific proposition that doesn't end in God. If the answer ends in "it was God/Gods" it fails the test. I've been told they exist, but I have yet to see a scrap of proof, leading me to conclude that ID is at heart a religious theory, not a scientific one.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:12 AM on October 7, 2005


Although I must say that given Augustine's sentiments, were he around today I think he would find the Bible to be entirely indefensible.

I kind of doubt that. The book isn't the problem, it's the fundamentalists who believe it must be word-for-word truth.


Of course, Augustine was such a "fundamentalist" himself. He believed the bible was historically and spiritually true, that some passages were more important spiritually than historically, that the parable level of interpretation was important, but he certainly considered it a given that Eden was a real place, Adam & Eve the forefathers of everyone alive (he devotes a whole section of City of God to explaining why it was okay for adam & eve's immediate children to mate with each other but not okay for siblings in later generations to do the same), that everyone will be ressurrected and judged, and the damned sent into literal hellfire for eternity (and he spends a lot of time discounting theories of ultimate redemption for everyone, etc).

Maybe the point was that that's okay in 400 CE but not 2000 and that Augustine was a smart enough guy that if he'd been born in the 20th century, he'd have taken a different road. I suppose no one can say, but although he is insightful, his writing is also underlined with a fierceness of belief, and he rather commonly rants about how obvious it is that Jesus is our saviour, and if only the ignorant jews would just read the new testament, they'd get it, because it says so right there, and god doesn't lie etc.

His work is kind of a weird mix, in other words. Who knows who he'd have been in this century.
posted by mdn at 6:29 AM on October 7, 2005


Denying evolution is, in my mind, as daft as denying mathematics.

Finally we agree on something :)

ID'ers are on the right track with comparing the evolution of a bug to the invention of a watch...

Er, not exactly. Have you been paying attention? It's already been established that supernaturalism is not only incompatible with science, but is downright useless to the scope and purpose of scientific reasoning. If you want to have your own pet ideas about the G man or whomever beginning the process of evolution as a synthesis of conflicting ideals that's fine, but the whole point of the ID v. evolution debate that's been raging for years now is that intelligent design is not science, and it will never be. In the 10 or so years since Behe published his first treatises on the subject ID propenents have done no real science, have offered no new, novel insights on biology, and have not offered any testable hypotheses. It's all just speculation, and while much of science is speculation, science is speculation of the natural, not the supernatural.
posted by baphomet at 7:36 AM on October 7, 2005


I know of at least one ethics committee that has managed to quietly divest itself of local religious representation due to the intelligent design fracas. In that respect it could be said to be a positive polarising force.
posted by snarfodox at 8:03 AM on October 7, 2005


But the IDers believe that the mechanism of natural selection cannot lead to the evolution of various observed "irreducibly complex" systems.

Then they are suffering a failure of the imagination.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:41 AM on October 7, 2005


An Open Letter to Fellow Secular Humanists, Progressives and Liberals

Exploring the conflict between fundamentalist christians and secular humanists.

or

Why do they hate us?


Anti-intellectualism

Let's look first at a group of fundamentalist christians that does not have a problem with liberal thought to highlight some of the characteristics of the attackers of progressive thought.
We are fundamentalists, we believe in the literal interpretation of the bible 'judge not lest ye be judged'"-Amish spokesman on why Amish won't preside on juries, NPR radio program 12/21/04.
This sentiment is representative of pure fundamentalism where in the bible is used as a guide-book for spiritual and corporeal life. This works for the Amish people because of their total commitment and their willingness to forgo partaking in the offerings of modern culture. The philosophical isolation of their absolutist views is tolerant to society at large because they also seek cultural and even physical isolation from the general community.

Now let's look at the evangelical fundamentalist. The evangelicals very much want to participate in the modern world and partake of all the luxuries and conveniences, distractions and entertainments. In so doing they must start to actually put some effort into their anti-intellectualism. One of the longest running battles on the anti-intellectualism front is evolution. The latest attack on evolution is being led by the banner of 'Intelligent Design'. It takes a lot of work to come up with superficially plausible rebuttals to scientific fact. Depending on your mood this intelligent design comic book can be amusing or enraging.

It is a classroom scene that the author has probably fantasized about for a long time. It depicts a caricature intellectual of a liberal intellectual professor type being converted to intelligent design by a young christian soldier armed with 'facts' to dispute all of the hackneys proofs ardent young scientists will trot out if they are naive enough to argue evolution with a evangelical christian. It is laughable in the fact that no intellectual would fall for such sophistry but it is lamentable that it could be believed by some one unaware or unwilling to pursue rigorous examination of the pseudo-science involved.

One of the poison fruit of the anti-intellectualism is pollinated by none other than ourselves. The liberal intellectual automatically holds anti-intellectuals in distain. The dismissive attitude and the mockery are visible and pervasive in education and popular culture. Dismissing fundamentalist christians as 'stupid' does not go unnoticed or ignored. The average fundamentalist is not anymore or less stupid than anyone else and is offended by that characterization, they take it personally and feel free to respond in kind.

Fear

Christians sometimes characterize themselves as 'god-fearing people'. Well that's not all they have to be afraid of. Believing the bible represents the sum total of necessary human knowledge makes it quite difficult to interpret or absorb modern events. It works well for things like hurricanes, 'gods will', 'I am in his hands'. It does not work so well for others. Trying to apply the teachings of the bible to explain things like terrorism doesn't work out so well. Where this gap of understanding lies in darkness and people are afraid of the dark.

Fear may be the driving force for fundamentalism in all religions. This world has grown so complex and large. The body of human though is expanding so fast. It takes a tremendous effort to understand even the little bit of the earth we live on, couple that with our ability to get stories and pictures from all over the earth. I can sit here at my computer and in two or three seconds look out through robotic eyes the surface of mars! That's a lot to make sense of and if you can't make sense of it you get the darkness again.

Along comes someone with a book. "It's all in here, don't worry this will explain everything", well, that's better. It's comforting to know that an explanation at least exists. It's all so much more manageable now that I know where to look. If I ever get a break from work and the kids I might even look into it.

The teachings of fundamentalist christians are explicit in that you must take all of the bible not just the parts you agree with. This makes it extremely important to defend each part as if it were the whole. This explains the vigorous nature of the battle over evolution being taught in schools. The christian parents are told, by their father knows best types, to fear that if their children accept this one idea in fact to even consider it their will go to hell. And by go to hell I mean burned and tortured for eternity, nobody wants that right?

Looking forward, looking back

If you look at a conservative versus a progressive it appears as if we live in two worlds. The progressive believes that we come from primordial chaos and have the opportunity through hard work to make a more perfect world. The christian conservative believe that we came from a perfect world and must persevere to it's destruction whence to be returned to perfection. These are deeply held beliefs and are not subject to change. Both sides need to forget about convincing the other side they are wrong, it is too deep, it's not going to happen, give it up, no really I mean it.

So what does this mean, does it mean that religious conservatives and liberal intellectuals can never work together, that the contention is perennial. I don't think so. We all have one thing in common. We are here now. Reasonable fundamentalist don't think the Rapture is going to happen tomorrow and reasonable secular humanists don't think tomorrow dawns utopia. While ultimate achievements can and should be discussed within philosophical groups we should keep debate between groups focused on the here and now.


posted by Mr T at 10:30 AM on October 7, 2005


MattD wrote: "The school board reflects the will of the community and the majority of parents, as they should in a democracy. As long as the ACLU and the teacher unions oppose vouchers, then the preference of the majority of the parents should determine curriculum -- whichever solution denies the rights of the fewest number of parents is the better one.

Once school finance is completely voucherized, then everyone can be free to educate their children as they fit and no one's parental rights will be denied."

First (and it's a tragedy that I should have to point this out), we are NOT a "democracy" and never have been - we are a federalist republic. Our Founders in their wisdom, with the madness of mob rule after the English Civil War fresh in their minds, deliberately eschewed democracy as a form of government.

That said, one has to wonder where a parent's right to raise their child in ignorance ends and the state's responsibility to provide a basic public education begins. The idea that parents should decide curricula is ludicrous - many parents are less well educated than their kids. Curricula should be decided by those in the best position to do so - i.e., the experts. Specifically, experts in modern science should determine the science curriculum, not parents, and most certainly not religious types who want to "wedge" their beliefs into science classes.
posted by JDSunnyvale at 8:52 AM on October 13, 2005


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