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Intelligent Decision
December 20, 2005 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Decision in Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District:
The weight of the evidence clearly demonstrates, as noted, that the systemic change from "creation" to "intelligent design" occurred sometime in 1987, after the Supreme Court's important Edwards decision. This compelling evidence strongly supports Plaintiffs' assertion that ID is creationism re-labeled.
posted by orthogonality (146 comments total)

 
From the Department of the Obvious?
posted by odinsdream at 8:26 AM on December 20, 2005


Now that's a Christmas Holiday gift for the future of the whole country.
posted by orthogonality at 8:27 AM on December 20, 2005


Yay!
posted by bshort at 8:29 AM on December 20, 2005


The conclusion was extremely harsh. Proponents of ID deserved it, IMHO, but it was nonetheless one of the most vicious court decisions I've read.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:33 AM on December 20, 2005


This isn't too much of a surpise since the Dover school district didn't have much of a case. That and their lawyers (from Thomas More Law Center) barely seemed to know how to file motions. The law firm the ACLU did a very good job. But, really, as the quoted bit says, if you just go through and replace "creation" to "intelligent design", most federal judges will be able to notice it's still the same (the book "Of Pandas and People" is the one of the most clear example).

But, it might be nice to link to the blog post hosting the PDF instead of hot linking it (Dispatches from the Culture Wars, which is worth a read almost any day).
posted by skynxnex at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2005


Oh man, is that good or what. Apologies for the length, but here's the conclusion:

The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.
To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.
The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which
has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal
maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
To preserve the separation of church and state mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Art. I, § 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, we will enter an order permanently enjoining Defendants from maintaining the ID Policy in any school within the Dover Area School District, from requiring teachers to denigrate or disparage the scientific theory of evolution, and from requiring teachers to refer to a religious, alternative theory known as ID. We will also issue a declaratory judgment that Plaintiffs’ rights under the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been violated by Defendants’ actions.
Defendants’ actions in violation of Plaintiffs’ civil rights as guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 subject Defendants to liability with respect to injunctive and declaratory relief, but also for nominal damages and the reasonable value of Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ services and costs incurred in vindicating Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

posted by odinsdream at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2005


Though most of the board members who initiated this have already lost their positions on the board, I wish they could be held personally financially responsible. It's unfair that the taxpayers in the district are going to have to pay for their garbage.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:41 AM on December 20, 2005


most of the board members who initiated this have already lost their positions on the board,

I presume this means no appeal.
posted by caddis at 8:42 AM on December 20, 2005


Please, please, please, appeal.
posted by orthogonality at 8:44 AM on December 20, 2005


Excellent news. I had expected it a bit later in the year, but I think that was because I've forgotten how late in the year it is now. Thanks for posting!
posted by OmieWise at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2005


I wish they would appeal this all the way to the SCOTUS so we never have to deal with this B.S. again.
posted by anomie at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2005


The Flying Spaghetti Monster will not be pleased.
posted by jscalzi at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2005


The best thing the IDers can do now (from their perspective) is ask that the district court's decision be vacated as moot. The ID proponents on the board were voted out of office and I believe the ID policy was discontinued before the court's decision. As a result, the argument goes, there was no constitutional case or controversy, and therefore, no jurisdiction under Article III.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:47 AM on December 20, 2005


The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which
has now been fully revealed through this trial.


Heh..
posted by c13 at 8:49 AM on December 20, 2005


monju_bosatsu writes "The best thing the IDers can do now (from their perspective) is ask that the district court's decision be vacated as moot."

But who will do it? The Discovery Institute already ran away from the case as it was getting tried. Maybe the people from Thomas More, although they seemed all the time to think that they were arguing for why religion should be allowed in schools, rather than for why ID is not religion.
posted by OmieWise at 8:50 AM on December 20, 2005


Though most of the board members who initiated this have already lost their positions on the board, I wish they could be held personally financially responsible. It's unfair that the taxpayers in the district are going to have to pay for their garbage.

Actually, some ID think-tank (not the discovery institute) paid for all the legal stuff, so no worries there. Taxpayers paid nothing.

The Daily Show did a great segment with Samantha Bee actually visiting Dover and interviewing people. Apparently it's a town of just 100k
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on December 20, 2005


The best thing the IDers can do now (from their perspective) is ask that the district court's decision be vacated as moot. The ID proponents on the board were voted out of office and I believe the ID policy was discontinued before the court's decision. As a result, the argument goes, there was no constitutional case or controversy, and therefore, no jurisdiction under Article III.

In other words, they want a "do over" so that this case doesn't become precedent and they can present again somewhere else?
posted by delmoi at 8:58 AM on December 20, 2005


just 100K? That not small.
posted by caddis at 9:00 AM on December 20, 2005


Actually, some ID think-tank (not the discovery institute) paid for all the legal stuff, so no worries there. Taxpayers paid nothing.

According to the ruling, they are on the hook for the plaintiff's legal fees. I think the taxpayers are going to get that bill.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 9:01 AM on December 20, 2005


See you all in two years when we have the same thing over again, only called "sudden appearance".
posted by darukaru at 9:01 AM on December 20, 2005


delmoi: exactly.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 9:01 AM on December 20, 2005


This is so fucking perfect I could weep.
posted by docpops at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2005


Like Jesus?
posted by Mijo Bijo at 9:04 AM on December 20, 2005


Mijo Bijo writes "According to the ruling, they are on the hook for the plaintiff's legal fees. I think the taxpayers are going to get that bill."

Good. Teach 'em not to elect axe-grinding idiots. Or, more likely, to just vote for someone without bothering to learn what that candidate plans to do once in office.

It's a lesson that's damned cheap if all it costs is money, rather than lives or freedom.
posted by orthogonality at 9:06 AM on December 20, 2005


delmoi: "The Daily Show did a great segment with Samantha Bee actually visiting Dover and interviewing people. Apparently it's a town of just 100k"

Town? Just? A hundred-thou's not a megalopolis, but it's a fair-sized city.
posted by Plutor at 9:06 AM on December 20, 2005


After all these wiretap shenanigans, I needed some good news.
posted by NationalKato at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2005


delmoi means 1,815.
posted by cillit bang at 9:10 AM on December 20, 2005


Wikipedia says that Dover PA has 1,815 residents. I think that Pittsburgh and Philly are the only places in PA with 100K population.
posted by octothorpe at 9:11 AM on December 20, 2005


"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has not been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."
posted by warbaby at 9:13 AM on December 20, 2005


Did you say "Sudden Appearance" darukaru? Why wait two years ? "Sudden Appearance" is already here ! The biblical creation model indicates that modern humans appeared suddenly.....

(Warning, extremely ugly website.)
posted by R. Mutt at 9:13 AM on December 20, 2005


Ah, the gift that keeps on giving:

The jackass from the Discovery Institute has responded to the ruling:

"The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work," said Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, the nation's leading think tank researching the scientific theory known as intelligent design. “He has conflated Discovery Institute’s position with that of the Dover school board, and he totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it.”

“A legal ruling can't change the fact that there is digital code in DNA, it can’t remove the molecular machines from the cell, nor change the fine tuning of the laws of physics,” added West. “The empirical evidence for design, the facts of biology and nature, can't be changed by legal decree."
posted by docgonzo at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2005


Good. Teach 'em not to elect axe-grinding idiots. Or, more likely, to just vote for someone without bothering to learn what that candidate plans to do once in office.

All six of the board members who voted for the ID were ousted during the last election in November, This wasn't something that a majority of the citizens of Dover wanted. The group behind this essentially shopped around for a school board dumb enough to do it. I would've figured that they would have done it in a Bible Belt state, not a blue state, which would might have more sympathetic judges or at least the citizens of the town would have been behind it.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 9:23 AM on December 20, 2005


Two absolute bombshells of evidence were in the trial:

a. A "wedge document" where the creators of ID wrote that their goal was to eliminate science and replace it with christian ideals.
b. A pre-1987 draft of the book that included the word creationism everywhere where intelligent design is now. The change to intelligent design was made shortly after the 1987 Supreme Court decision forbidding discussion of creationism in the class room.

And before you keep complaining about activist judges, this was a Republican judge appointed by Dubya.
posted by Nyrath at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2005


Town? Just? A hundred-thou's not a megalopolis, but it's a fair-sized city.

Huh? According to this page the population is 1,914.
posted by delmoi at 9:28 AM on December 20, 2005


Hmm... How did I manage to write "100k" I meant 1k. Sorry :P
posted by delmoi at 9:28 AM on December 20, 2005


I'm glad that in the DI's response, they mention "the fine tuning of the laws of physics", because what BUT a God (or gods) could possibly change the laws of physics? The fact that the DI keeps pushing the fact that the whole universe is designed--not just life on Earth makes it pretty clear they think it's God. And not just some secular Space Man.

In terms of mooting the case, I think now that the judge has issued the ruling it'd be harder to get it mooted. And even before that, it was unclear if it would be possible. But I'm just basing that on what I remember reading back in November.
posted by skynxnex at 9:30 AM on December 20, 2005


I also love the term "Activist Judge". What does that mean? Actively defending the constitution? Actively righting wrongs? The court new it was going to get this response from the christian right.

Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2005


But that hasn't stopped ID folks from already responding with the phrase "activist judge."
posted by rxrfrx at 9:34 AM on December 20, 2005


ID = Inferior Design?

Just look at how some things are made, had to be some idiot designed all us creatures. Sucker needs some engineering classes!
(sorry fsm, please don't use that noodly appendage on me!)
posted by nofundy at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2005


I wish they'd sell the DVD of the court proceedings. It sounds like it was the biology class that everyone should take, but that no one does.
posted by stevis at 9:38 AM on December 20, 2005


As far as the Discovery Institute is concerned, I'm sure their attitude towards their "allies" with Dover is that "with friends like these....." The Dover folks have more or less succeded in sabotaging their own movement by pressing forward such a ludicrous case and defense. Not that there's any good case that can be made for Intelligent Design as science, but there are good ways of putting on a bad case and bad ways of putting on a bad case, and this was definitely the latter.
posted by spira at 9:42 AM on December 20, 2005


skynxnex: I love the idea of the "secular Space Man".

Paging Slartibartfast...
posted by o2b at 9:56 AM on December 20, 2005


Nyrath writes "Two absolute bombshells of evidence were in the trial:"

Those two things were indeed in the trial, but neither were bombshells to anyone who has been paying attention to ID. They're fairly well-known pieces of shit.
posted by OmieWise at 9:56 AM on December 20, 2005


docgonzo writes (quoting source) "the scientific theory known as intelligent design"

Whever wrote that needs to go back to science class, learn what does and does not constitute a scientific theory, and then apologize for inadvertantly spreading the myth that ID is science. I mean, didn't the author read the court decision before writing a follow-up story about it?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:19 AM on December 20, 2005


caution live frogs - that thing docgonzo quoted was basically a press release for the creation folks. it's not intended to be an accurate follow-up of anything.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:24 AM on December 20, 2005


“He has conflated Discovery Institute’s position with that of the Dover school board, and he totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it.”

...which only proves that West didn't actually read the decision. One of the points made in the trial--and even admitted by the defendants--is that there are no scientists researching ID. Oh, there's a very very small number (apparently "one" if you limit it to biologists at accredited institutions) who support ID, but even those aren't actually doing research on it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:28 AM on December 20, 2005


through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate,

Wasn't the trial sort of an open debate?
posted by dial-tone at 10:31 AM on December 20, 2005


Science, being a process, has considered inferior design as a theory and found it lacking. No rigor, no repeatable evidence, and based on something alien to scienctific inquiry called "faith." Science is from Missouri, you gotta show me. And science doesn't accept the Dear Leader's "trust me" either.
posted by nofundy at 10:31 AM on December 20, 2005


And before you keep complaining about activist judges, this was a Republican judge appointed by Dubya.

What's the source? I tried to find his background, but couldn't find this tidbit. First thing I tried to locate since I knew the Activist Judge argument was coming shortly thereafter.

If it is true, he is a Dubya appointment - this is icing.
posted by fluffycreature at 10:44 AM on December 20, 2005


I wish they'd sell the DVD of the court proceedings. It sounds like it was the biology class that everyone should take, but that no one does.

Can't find it online, but there was a great piece in the New Yorker a few weeks back that walked through some of the key developments and choice moments in the trial, and essentially explained why this judge was going to deliver the smackdown he just did. Heck of entertaining, and made me understand exactly why these people were going to lose.
posted by soyjoy at 10:48 AM on December 20, 2005


but even those aren't actually doing research on it.

Good for a chuckle (or a groan)
posted by rxrfrx at 10:48 AM on December 20, 2005


And before you keep complaining about activist judges, this was a Republican judge appointed by Dubya.

What's the source?


Bio page at District Court website
posted by rxrfrx at 10:50 AM on December 20, 2005


No one here is going to disagree with this decision. Religious idiots are religious idiots.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:52 AM on December 20, 2005


I was floored by the extremely strong language the judge used when it was read on the radio.
booyeah. woot woot.
*hides face in shame for such inane reaction*
posted by edgeways at 10:52 AM on December 20, 2005


About bloody time. As the NYT feature on this said:

"The judge found that intelligent design is not science, and that the only way its proponents can claim it is, is by changing the very definition of science to include supernatural explanations."

Duh. And how long have the intelligent people been saying exactly that?
posted by Decani at 11:07 AM on December 20, 2005


Because you all seem on the exact same page (a page, I might add, where I generally reside), I will copy over my devil's advocate position from the doubled thread):

This seems like a good place to argue that teaching creationism in science class is a *great* idea, for the very reason that it's bad science if it's science at all. You get the idea in school that science is just this sort of epistemological ladder of facts, starting from the base, stinking ground of the everyday and ascending to lofty heights where only befuddled titans of Science dwell.

99.9% of the people who take science in school will not become scientists. Frankly, it seems unlikely their lives will be more or less rich depending on whether they understand calculus (well, OK, I'd say it's richer but I'm biased). What can possibly be the advantage of teaching science to people who won't use it?

Critical thinking; an understanding of the tremendous struggle over the millenia fought by countless thousands of nameless lab workers and dreamers; an appreciation of the legacy that is manifest in their every waking moment, in every tool they take to hand.

These are not served by hiding the battles; this legacy is dishonoured by hiding challengers and dissenters. Evolution has come as far as it has not by careful shepharding and quarantine - it is a powerful, beautiful, and above all effective idea. It will meet these pathetic mewlings head on and leave them Intelligently Designed corpses, bleeding and abused on the very field where they rode out with banners flapping to challenge this "theory", their horns and bicycle wheels wrapped around their broken forms.

Intelligent Design will succumb to selection pressure, like all things, and pass from this world as surely as the dodo and the irish elk. Legislating this process is the socio-historical equivalent of Intelligent Design.
posted by freebird at 11:08 AM on December 20, 2005


I wish they would appeal this all the way to the SCOTUS so we never have to deal with this B.S. again.

Your optimism that it would shake out correctly is touching, if amusing. After Kelo I'll never again presume the supes have actually seen the constitution.
posted by phearlez at 11:15 AM on December 20, 2005


No one here is going to disagree with this decision.

Bevets quit?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:19 AM on December 20, 2005


freebird-No, you misunderstand what it means to teach science. Sure, teach ID in a history of science class if you want, or in a religion class. You, however, seem to have bought the "teach the controversy" line (with hook attached). There is no scientific controversy. By your reasoning we should also be teaching about UFOs, the Loch Ness monster, Tarot, and that contrails are a secret government conspiracy. The kind of thing you seem to think you're talking about, the superceding of a bad theory with a better one, is already part of the teaching of science. See Galileo, Lysenkoism, phlogiston.
posted by OmieWise at 11:20 AM on December 20, 2005


This is awesome. I'd like to shake Judge Jones' hand.
posted by Aster at 11:22 AM on December 20, 2005


> Bevets quit?

These things take time. Bevets is waiting for someone to post something pithy to a creationist board that he can copy and paste to here.
posted by pracowity at 11:23 AM on December 20, 2005


OmieWise writes "You, however, seem to have bought the 'teach the controversy' line (with hook attached)."

I know you're just being a devil's advocate, but the position was just too close to the ID position in the first place, and confuses scientific controversy with controversy that claims to be scientific. The first belongs in science class, the second in sociology class.
posted by OmieWise at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2005


I've been told it's apocryphal, but we've certainly all heard the attribution to Einstein: "God does not play dice."

What irritates me most about Intelligent Design is that it takes a fairly benign and time-honored worldview -- the "divine watchmaker" concept -- which is eminently consistent with scientific endeavor, and twists and warps it into late-Christian cosmology. The people touting "intelligent design" right now don't really even understand the concepts behind it.

The great scientists of the past were, probably, almost all of them believers in something that could be described as "intelligent design." It's probably only in the last hundred years or so that you found a significant number who wouldn't fit that bill. I'd wager that even Darwin would have copped to a Creator. (But not very much. Let's say $.01. But postage-due, please...)
posted by lodurr at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2005


This is good, but I worry that it's a case of one step forward, two steps back...
posted by Elpoca at 11:32 AM on December 20, 2005


Heh. "Activist judge."

Who needs evidence (or even reasoning) when you can completely discredit your opponent by slapping on a succinct derogatory label?

That's what this "Activist Judge" stuff is about. In politics, Floccinaucinihilipilification is a powerful and effective tool. In politics, truth and even reality is completely relative and is easily molded, since the goal is to persuade an audience rather than to expose truth. So, if you can attach a negative label to somebody, and can make it stick, you've swayed the audience won the debate. The Bush party clearly understands this and uses the technique constantly.

I just love that word. "Flocci" "nauci" "nihili" "pili" fi-CATION!!! Next time someone pretends that reality can be changed by bad-mouthing, or tries to use persuasion in place of reasoned argument, you can turn their tactic back on them: label them as a big flaming FLOCCINAUCINIHILIPIFICATOR!!!
posted by billb at 11:33 AM on December 20, 2005


The kind of thing you seem to think you're talking about, the superceding of a bad theory with a better one, is already part of the teaching of science.

No - what's taught is: "here's what people used think, but they were wrong and we're better now." You espouse teaching them the result of the process, not the process itself. This is teaching science as a Faith, not a Process or Perspective. A faith that what the teacher and books say is correct. This, I think, is a misunderstanding of teaching science.

Hell yes - expose them to the Loch Ness monster and the Tarot. Is critical thinking really worth that much less than knowing the chemical formula for Benzene? What's going to be more useful and enriching?

And, no, I'm not buying the "teach the controversy" line - that implies teaching that ID is as valid a theory as Evolution. This is not the case, but let the students see why, rather than simply accepting your word as Arbiter of Truth.
posted by freebird at 11:33 AM on December 20, 2005


This makes me very happy. I know c13 already quoted this bit, but I want to do so as well:

The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.

"Breathtaking inanity": ah, sweet music!

I'd like to second soyjoy's recommendation of the New Yorker article by Margaret Talbot; it's not online, but this online interview with her is also very good.
posted by languagehat at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2005


This decision is a major setback in the War on Science.
posted by caddis at 11:43 AM on December 20, 2005


No - what's taught is: "here's what people used think, but they were wrong and we're better now." You espouse teaching them the result of the process, not the process itself. This is teaching science as a Faith, not a Process or Perspective. A faith that what the teacher and books say is correct. This, I think, is a misunderstanding of teaching science.

I'm not getting how "expos[ing] them to the Loch Ness monster and the Tarot" helps them understand science as a "process or perspective", unless what you're doing is a debunking. And since things like Nessy and Tarot and astrology are matters of faith, I can't see how they make good opportunities for learning via a debunking effort. Debunking as teaching is hardly ever effective for the people who need most to learn.

What's better is to resolve any problems with science education by teaching students about science as a process or perspective, and not a faith. Have them do experiments; guide their hypothesis formation in such a way as to lead them to failure; then make them reformulate their hypotheses in response. ("We were wrong, so we adjust.")

Unfortunately, the "debate" between this sham masquerading as 'intelligent design' and the scientific approach has been framed in terms that devalue the "process" of science by essentially glossing over it. Science is given as faith by the critics, and the scientists and science educators let the 'intelligent design' forces frame the debate.
posted by lodurr at 11:45 AM on December 20, 2005


No - what's taught is: "here's what people used think, but they were wrong and we're better now." You espouse teaching them the result of the process, not the process itself.

I don't know where you went to high school, but at the Catholic high school I attended, there was quite a bit of emphasis on the scientific method and empiricism, which of course is the process. Most high school science classes have labs as well as seminars, I think. Your focus on "critical thinking" is a bit too vague to describe an appropriate curriculum for introductory science classes.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:47 AM on December 20, 2005


freebird writes "You espouse teaching them the result of the process, not the process itself."

I'm not sure what you mean. Saying that something used to be believed, and here is why it no longer is, is, in fact, teaching them the process. Getting kids to do experiments is teaching them the process. Telling them that someone else says that ID is science but we know it's not is not more teaching them the process than anything else in science class is. It isn't a unique teaching moment, and treating it as such grants it a legitimacy that it does not deserve and has not earned.

In addition, it ignores the facts of the case, which is that ID proponents want to destroy science. This may ultimately be where you're confused, and why ID is different from phlogiston or the earth-centric universe. The later two were attempts to explain physical phenomenon. ID is a cynical attempt to replace science with religion. The fact that there are some people who sincerely believe in it does not obviate that fact, just as the fact that some people are sincere in their Scientology does not obviate the fact that Scientology is a cynical cult designed to separate people from their money.
posted by OmieWise at 11:53 AM on December 20, 2005


Well, Einstein probably did say "god does not play dice." But on the other hand, from Einstein's view god does not play much of anything, and the notion that his Spinoza-like abstract pantheist deity would meddle in primordial DNA because god likes humanity would probably be even more appalling than the Copenhagen interpretation.

On the other hand, too much is made of Einstein's brilliance. Einstein was frequently wrong, and in the case of the Big Bang theory, he was badly wrong using his celebrity to quash the theory without careful examination.

And well, I think freebird is right, not in terms of explaining why Darwinian evolution is a better theory than Intelligent Design, but I do think we need to address that Evolution was the best theory that fit the facts, being more comprehensive than Lamarkian Evolution or Lysenkoism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:56 AM on December 20, 2005


It's a long way from Amphioxus
It's a long way to us
It's a long way from Amphioxus
To the meanest human cuss
It's goodbye fins and gill slits
Welcome skin and hair
It's a long way from Amphioxus
But we came from there
link
posted by hank at 11:57 AM on December 20, 2005


stevis : "I wish they'd sell the DVD of the court proceedings. It sounds like it was the biology class that everyone should take, but that no one does."

Actually, that would be a way to please the Creationists by teaching their fable along with Evolution, though not one of their liking: just make the students read and understand the Court decision, and discuss why Creationism/ID isn't science.

And just for the record, this is great news. We foreigners were starting to think we'd have to stop laughing and start taking active measures to block this mental infection from spreading. Given the US cultural and scientific influence, and the present US government background and methods in similar situations (as in blocking the use of Health aid to help sex workers), it wasn't too far-fetched to imagine that in a few years any American Educational grant/aid to the Third World would come attached to a compromise to teach religion in the science class. It is extremely nice to see reason win a round for a change.
posted by nkyad at 11:58 AM on December 20, 2005


for the ID were ousted during the last election in November, This wasn't something that a majority of the citizens of Dover wanted."

Ah, you missed my point. My fault.

The people voted these idiots in the first time around, and I'll bet that outside of the candidates' churches, few voters really knew or much cared who they were voting for, for schoolboard. In other words, the first time around, most voters likely didn't do due diligence. That's bad for a democracy, and so it's good when there's an object lesson like this, an object lesson that doesn't, say, cost 251 billion dollars or the lives of 2157 U.S. servicemen.
posted by orthogonality at 12:08 PM on December 20, 2005


Lest we go too far off track, I'm against teaching ID as science, and recognize it as the attack it is. But you don't build up an immune system against attack by keeping the infectious agent away, you do it by exposure and inoculation.

I realize the point I'm making is very close to that made by the ID proponents, but please try to see the differences. The point I'm making is that saying to students "this theory is wrong so we're not going to expose you to it" may give more time for learning formulas, but robs them of the process and struggle that science is all about. It's just as wrong to "teach the controversy" like the ID folks want - because there is no real controversy. My ideal curriculum would say: "here are two theories. Here is a bunch of facts. Which theory explains the facts better?" I know which one will, but the process of making the comparison and understanding it seems much more valuable than being told what the answer is.

Saying that something used to be believed, and here is why it no longer is, is, in fact, teaching them the process.

No it's not! It's giving them answers with the questions. It's telling them that science is a set of known facts. It's not. Known facts are what's left when the science is done. Science is confusing and self-contradictory and if you do it right, you don't know what the answer is when you ask the question.

One of the most profound memories I have is of a teacher asking how we saw things. I was a smart kid, and I knew that light reflected off objects and into my eye. I was shocked when the teacher gave much more attention to other kids' bizzare answers involving shooting beams our of their eyes like radar and so forth. I was right! But the teacher didn't want us to be right, he wanted us to really try and think about the process, and knew that I was just reciting facts I learned elsewhere.

You would argue that he was wasting our time and poisoning our minds with a false controversy. I would argue that he was giving us something much more valuable than a fact about optics.
posted by freebird at 12:15 PM on December 20, 2005


You would argue that he was wasting our time and poisoning our minds with a false controversy. I would argue that he was giving us something much more valuable than a fact about optics.

No one would argue that. But I think a lot of people would argue (I know I would) that it does little good to approach 'science as process' via a controversial path. A mundane path -- such as the one employed by your science teacher -- is almost always better.
posted by lodurr at 12:21 PM on December 20, 2005


By the way, I'm pro-evolution and I vote. I only take these kind of positions in a place like this, where a) we're pretty much all on the same page and b) there's an interest in reasonable discussion.

In the outside world, I'm as knee-jerk anti-ID as any of you, especially having worked both in biotech and education. But this knee-jerk orthodoxy that I fall into bothers me a little, so indulge me in some discussion between rational people. Out there, we're just trying to keep them from storming the castle - in here, we can discuss castle architecture and the aesthetics of battlements and barbicans.
posted by freebird at 12:23 PM on December 20, 2005


freebird, you're really stretching things with the vision analogy. In terms of evolution, the analogy would be to ask the students how they believed life on earth happened, have one discussion about the more wild-eyed notions, then move on to teaching the science. The analogy does not include incorporating into the science curriculum any formal discussion of competing versions of reality based on their political or sociological clout. A "sociology of science" class would be very interesting, and a good place for that, but a science class would not.
posted by soyjoy at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2005


freebird, I agree that ID is a perfect example of not just bad, but dishonest science, and might be a worthy exemplar in a science class discussion of bad science. Ironically, however, the conclusion that ID is primarily a religious concept likely requires not only that public schools abstain from teaching ID in science classes in a way that portrays it in a positive light, it probably also requires that schools abstain from doing so in a way that portrays ID in a negative light. Public schools can't support religion, and they can't malign it either. Even if that's what ID deserves.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2005


That's a great point lodurr. As I understand you, you're saying that the process is just as well served by something like optics, where there's much less sociological baggage. No-one has a big religious agenda about visual cognition.

I'd argue that the important arguments in science have always had this sociological baggage, and that focusing only on issues where there is none is still leaving out a lot of the blood and struggle that makes up science. But it may well be that the tradeoffs aren't worth it, when you're talking about standardized schooling. I recognize that a lot of what I'm arguing for only works if you have a great science teacher who understand the subtleties of the issue and has the time and energy to invest, and that teachers are so undervalued, underpaid, and undersupported that this is almost never the case in public schools.

There's value, however, in discussing the ideal, and setting asymptotic goals you may never actually reach.
posted by freebird at 12:31 PM on December 20, 2005


octothorp: Erie also exceed 100k.
posted by sohcahtoa at 12:32 PM on December 20, 2005


I was going to say what monju just said, that at this point one cannot invite a discussion about ID in any class for the purposes of having kids decide for themselves that it's wrong. Not only is such a result far from guaranteed, no matter the weight of science, but in order to finally put the argument to rest the teacher would have to effectively disparage religion.
posted by OmieWise at 12:35 PM on December 20, 2005


freebird, you're really stretching things with the vision analogy

Absolutely. Over-extending metaphors is a hobby of mine. The point was that the teacher never did say "actually, Freebird is right and you are all wrong. Here's how it works." as you suggest. The bizzare explanations were as good as mine, with the information we had, and he let those kids enjoy the feeling that they had come up with something good. I don't think knowing the real mechanism would have had much effect on their life at that point, but getting approval for a good idea rather than regurgitated facts probably did.

Hmm. I guess I'm really questioning the role of science education in general. It seems like it churns out a bunch of facts which the vast majority of students forget as fast as they can, and I'm not sure how much value that has. Some of us go on to actually do science, but what does it add to most people's lives? I think I addressed that (with some hyperbole) in my first comment - it gives us tools for thinking about the world and history. If there is value in science class for the majority of people, it's not that they know what H2O stands for, it's that they've been exposed to rational thought. Spoon-feeding them the answers is not encouraging rational thought, it's merely preparing them to rule the Trivial Pursuit board.

Monju_bosatu, that's an excellent point. ID needs to be trated as science or as religion, they shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. If they claim it's science, it seems like it's fair game for science class debunking.
posted by freebird at 12:48 PM on December 20, 2005


What does Pat Robertson have to say now?
posted by SisterHavana at 1:34 PM on December 20, 2005


I emailed my father with a link. He is a lawyer, and an evangelical. The first part can be frustrating, while the second is often maddening. Here's his response:
I heard on the news this morning that the Federal District Court decided against the school board (perhaps in a decision that could have been written by millions of monkeys, given enough time). However, it is naive to assume that the suit is over. There is appeal to the Third Circuit and, ultimately, the possibility of Certiarari by the U.S. Supreme Court. To paraphrase an old saying, "It ain't over till the fat lady evolves."
posted by mystyk at 1:35 PM on December 20, 2005


The point I'm making is that saying to students "this theory is wrong so we're not going to expose you to it" may give more time for learning formulas, but robs them of the process and struggle that science is all about.

Freebird, the purpose of a science class it to teach you science. Period. If you want to learn about history of science, the philosophy of science, etc, there are specific classes for that. Take them.
The purpose of a biology class is to teach you about biology, about (for example) what a mitochondrion is, about what it does, what its made of... There is a shitload of material to learn, and not enough time as it is, without teaching all of the mistakes and outright insane things people used to believe a 1000 years ago.
posted by c13 at 1:42 PM on December 20, 2005


SisterHavana : "What does Pat Robertson have to say now?"

"I’d like to say to the good judge Jones. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your Court. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just ruled God out of your Court. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there."
posted by nkyad at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2005


If there is value in science class for the majority of people, it's not that they know what H2O stands for, it's that they've been exposed to rational thought.

Again, I submit to you that the purpose of a SCIENCE class is to teach you what H2O stands for. And the purpose of a PHILOSOPHY class is to teach you about rational thought.
posted by c13 at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2005


My ideal curriculum would say: "here are two theories. Here is a bunch of facts. Which theory explains the facts better?"

I think what you mean to say is: "Here are two hypotheses. Here is a bunch of facts. What can we do to test the hypotheses and draw a conclusion that may, through repeated testing, eventually become a theory?"

People have lost sight of what "Theory" actually means in its official scientific capacity, and have used in place of the word Hypothesis, much to the delight of the ID crowd, to be sure. It's important to make this distinction, though.

In any case, I do tend to agree with you in principle, but unfortunately I think, in practice, you'd be wasting your time. Here's an example:

In college, our astronomy class split into pairs, each of which was to give a presentation to a bunch of 4th graders from a local school. We would discuss basic astronomy concepts, layout of the solar system, phases of the moon, star colors, that kind of thing. Then, we'd go upstairs and look through telescopes with the kids. Fun time for all, right?

You'd think so - it all went swimmingly until the Q&A period. You see, unfortunately for my partner and I, our presentation was on a night that was shortly after Fox's "Was the Moon Landing a Hoax?!!" special. This caused one kid in particular to question everything we said about the moon. I felt, like you, that it would be best to address these points head-on, in as reasonable a fashion as possible, so that's what I did. He would ask about the flag, I'd answer starch. He'd ask about the blast crater, I'd talk about fluid dynamics. He'd ask about the lighting, I'd talk about specular highlights in thin atmospheres, the limitations of photographic equipment, and so on.

This went on for a very, very long time, and likely ruined any chance of reasonable discourse from other kids who were more interested in the actual science we were supposed to be able to discuss. The result? One kid leaves, still believing in the hoax, and 30 others leave bored out of their minds, with less time to spend at the telescopes.

The point is - it isn't even worth the effort to waste time on these snake-oil-salesman things in a classroom setting. What I should have done was politely ask that he follow up with me afterwards, and we could have a hearty discussion about any of his favorite conspiracies. Similarly, if students are interested in hearing about why ID isn't scientific, they certainly ought to discuss it with their science teachers (who I'm sure would be more than happy to discuss it), but they should do it outside of the classroom.
posted by odinsdream at 1:47 PM on December 20, 2005


This is great news.
posted by bardic at 1:53 PM on December 20, 2005


Freebird, the purpose of a science class it to teach you science. Period. If you want to learn about history of science, the philosophy of science, etc, there are specific classes for that.

At the college level, sure. I don't think many high schools or lower levels of education have separate philosophy of science or history of science classes.

The purpose of a biology class is to teach you about biology, about (for example) what a mitochondrion is, about what it does, what its made of...

And how many high school students, taking a required (not elective) biology class will ever need to know what a mitochondrion is, what it does, or what it's made out of?

I'm not saying that science classes shouldn't teach scientific facts. I think that should be a large part of what they teach. But I don't think they should entirely exclude anything about the scientific method--why people believe the scientific facts that are taught in the class.

If students are taught only that water is H2O, with no explanation of how we know that water is H2O, then for all they know scientific facts are handed down from a mountaintop on stone tablets. They become exactly the sort of people who are swayed by the creationist canard that "science is just another kind of faith." And frankly, if they're not taught about the scientific method, there's no reason they shouldn't believe that science is a set of from-on-high pronouncements, just like religion.

What does Pat Robertson have to say now?

Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a suggestion.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:43 PM on December 20, 2005


odinsdream, that perfectly sums up the current problem. ID proponents know that if you can even get ID discussed during the science classes, that it will muddy the waters of their knowledge. That's where they can attack from.

This reason is why for the longest time they were crying that 'mainstream science' won't give them a fair shot at open discussion. The science community's biggest flub was even debating at all. Prior, scientists said that it didn't get a chance at open discussion because the open discussion was reserved for things of even remotely scientific merit, of which ID was not. And the scientists would have been wise to stick to that the whole time.
posted by mystyk at 2:45 PM on December 20, 2005


I also find it interesting and funny when religious folk describe colleges as a "bastion of liberalism." There's a reason why higher education levels have a generally inverse relationship with the degree of religious faith a person has. These institutions are teaching people to think for themselves. But I guess you'd need at least a high-school understanding of reason, statistics, and evidence to grasp that link.

I have a theory hypothesis that nobody can make their way to a full baccalaureate degree or beyond and still hold religion strongly without a psychologist being able to accurately label them as delusional.
posted by mystyk at 2:53 PM on December 20, 2005


No. I think its exactly backwards. One has to learn basic facts first. Only then its possible to talk about nuances. If for no other reason than that one has to have at least a slight idea as to what he is talking about. And if there aren't many philosophy classes in high school, the solution is to start having them, not package the material into a science class.
And what is all this talk about "how many of them will NEED to know something"? Are we trying to raise janitors and assembly line workers here?
posted by c13 at 2:56 PM on December 20, 2005


Are we trying to raise janitors and assembly line workers here?

Are you saying lawyers and managers and white collar workers cannot do their jobs well if they don't know what mitochondria is or how to do line integrals?

I don't think you are. I think you're saying that understanding science enriches your life and way of thinking, and I'd agree. But if that's why you're teaching science, that goal should be the priority, not a litany of facts that will simply fade from consciousness after the final exam. In that case, stop saying that all questions about history and philosophy of science don't belong in a science classroom. You're teaching science as a way to teach how to think well, or you're teaching trivia and memorization.
posted by freebird at 3:43 PM on December 20, 2005


DevilsAdvocate, it's certainly important that we teach experimental methods at a young age (as it rests now, even the best high school science classes teach kids that facts Just Exist), but you can do this without mentioning fake science. Why not just teach how we know that water is H2O and leave it at that?
posted by rxrfrx at 4:01 PM on December 20, 2005


Your are correct, sir. I would go further, which is really the point I'm trying to make, and say that education in general enriches your life and way of thinking, not just science. ALL aspects of education do so TOGETHER. But you can't put everything into a single class -- there is just not enough time. Therefore, in some classes you just memorize things, and in others you learn how to put all of the things you memorized in a proper context. And yet in other classes you learn about how and why these things that you've learned were discovered/invented and what they imply about the world you're living in.
To use ID as an example, I obviously think it does not belong in a biology class. However, there is a perfect place for it in history of science class, along with geocentric model of the universe and such, and I would applaud it being included. Being taught IN THAT CLASS.
The education system that we have now is far from perfect, and one does not get to take all the classes that should be taken, but that does not mean that time should be taken out of the classes that are available.
posted by c13 at 4:55 PM on December 20, 2005


It's not as simple as "facts first, scientific method later" or vice versa. You have to weave back and forth between them all the time.

If you send kids too far down the road of "facts only," their critical thinking skills start to atrophy and they start to be unable to see connections you want them to see. Everything becomes discrete, and kids lose the ability to see, for example, that the tilt of the Earth and the angle of sunlight are connected concepts that explain the seasons. In class I've seen kids who can completely spit back the angle of Earth's tilt, and that summer is warmer because there's more direct sunlight, but miss the idea that those two ideas are related to one another. It isn't just that they couldn't set up and perform an experiment on their own - it's that they lose the ability to evaluate one set of facts in light of another set.

On the other hand, if you go too far down the "process, but no facts" road, you get kids who are strong critical thinkers but spin their wheels because they have nothing on which to hang those critical thinking skills. They're the kids who can come up with a thousand different explanations for why two substances have a chemical reaction, but can't settle on any one hypothesis to test because they've never heard of acids and bases. Other kids with less skill in critical thinking actually look stronger because the facts they've learned help them quickly identify promising hypotheses and eliminate implausible ones.

Anyway, this is far off the topic of ID, but I do agree with some earlier posters that ID is not the ideal topic with which to explore the idea of matching theories to observations. Aside from OmieWise's point that it virtually guarantees you'll have to bash religion (or at the very least, any and all religious explanations for phenomena), the matching of theories to observations is best done with observations the kids themselves have made, in real hands on experimental work.
posted by Chanther at 4:56 PM on December 20, 2005


But again, you should know some things first, before you can begin to put them into some sort of framework.
posted by c13 at 4:56 PM on December 20, 2005


Ahem, my last post was not meant as a reply to Chanther, but as addition to mine..
posted by c13 at 5:02 PM on December 20, 2005


Good points!

but you can do this without mentioning fake science.

When you do real science, you don't know what's "fake". You just have different hypotheses. I remember most of my science lab classes just seeming like an epic waste of everyone's time - we knew what the results should be, we knew why, and we knew exactly what to do. I went on to do a lot of science, so I think I know whereof I speak. Tell me how those labs were useful to me in the rest of my life - and even better, how it how it was useful to someone that didn't go on to do science.

Same with memorizing the periodic table, and the trig identities everyone does in calculus. I went on to grad school in applied math, and everyone I knew LOOKED THAT SHIT UP. It's useless knowledge, and since it's handed to you as something to memorize rather than something to explore, I fail to see what benefit it had.

Everyone keeps talking about how you should just teach science in science classes, which is true by definition. But what the hell are we trying to accomplish in those classes? What is the point of making everyone take science classes if it's not to help them think? The only value I see in making everyone take "science" classes is to help them enjoy and understand the world. If they don't have to really engage with the process of coming up with explanations and comparing alternatives, it seems like a giant waste of time, doesn't it? So if you shuffle all this off into "critical thinking" and "philosophy" classes, what's left that's of value to every schoolchild in America?
posted by freebird at 5:58 PM on December 20, 2005


Well, you can teach the facts (and condition people that knowledge is appeal to authority) and produce talkers or you can teach the scientific process (and condition people to find the answers for themselves) and produce scientists.

Most will settle for talkers, so you end up with rhetoric instead of knowledge. Just because you can convince someone, doesn't mean that the underlying proposition is true.

Ah, never mind. The argumentarians will just keep bleating away -- and never grapple with the begged epistomological question: how do we know that?

Nullus in verbum, mofo.
posted by warbaby at 6:27 PM on December 20, 2005


freebird: Either your high school science teachers sucked, or mine were fantastic.

Literally none of your complaints apply to my experience.
posted by I Love Tacos at 6:32 PM on December 20, 2005


Same with memorizing the periodic table, and the trig identities everyone does in calculus. I went on to grad school in applied math, and everyone I knew LOOKED THAT SHIT UP. It's useless knowledge, and since it's handed to you as something to memorize rather than something to explore, I fail to see what benefit it had.

Yes, but you knew that there is such a thing as trig identity, right? And apparently it was not that useless if you had to look it up. Just because you didn't bother to memorize it, or forgot it later does not change the fact that you NEEDED that knowledge later. And you LOOKED IT UP, not "discovered it for yourself". Why is that? Isn't it because it would take too much time? Why do you want or expect these kids to reinvent the wheel? In calculus, do you really want to derive every damn formula and prove every theorem for yourself?
I'm a biochemistry graduate student, so I, just as you, have taken a lot of labs. And like you, I knew what the outcome would (or, rather, should) be. But the point of the lab was to learn the techniques, and learn to do everything in a way that GETS you the expected result. I KNEW that if I mix acid and base, they going to neutralize each-other, but the point was to titrate the damn things carefully enough so that I could get a titration curve. And if it looked like the one in the book, the lab was a success and I learned something. Even though I could just look it up. On the other hand, I followed a specific protocol, because these things have been done before me, and this protocol shows the best way. I relied on others' experience. Because if I had to "discover" how to do it myself, I would not get past the first experiment before semester was over.
And I think you've missed out on a lot if you still don't understand what labs are for.
posted by c13 at 6:39 PM on December 20, 2005


Either your high school science teachers sucked, or mine were fantastic.

Or I'm taking a somewhat overstated position for the sake of discussion about what science education is for, as mentioned above.

I actually had some decent science teachers. The majority, though, reduced Science to a litany of facts to be memorized, just as the majority of history teachers reduced History to dates and names. Without critical thinking, I find these to be pointless and even counterproductive exercises for anything other than Trivial Pursuit and its professional and social equivalents.

C13: Public school is not for creating scientists, it's for creating capable people - some of whom will go on to become scientists. Most people don't need to know how to titrate, but all should know how to think the best they can. Tell me how learning titration technique has helped the 99% of people who aren't grad students in biology? I'm not saying it doesn't, I'm saying the value is not in the technique itself (for that 99%) but in learning to think carefully, follow directions well, and observe closely.

It's a great strawman, but I'm not saying "people should discover everything themselves". As someone stated above, a balance is required, and I think saying "any Critical Thinking belongs in Philosophy class" violates that balance just as much as saying "every child needs to discover Newton's Laws on their own".

And no - memorizing trig identities did me no good at all. Until you need to use them, they're stupid memorization. The fact that they eventually have utility and make sense by no means justifies memorizing them years earlier. I know lots of people who could still spout out the half-angle identity, but don't understand what Sin and Cosine have to do with motion on a unit circle. The time spent memorizing stuff they didn't need would have been better spent thinking about the fundamentals and trying to apply them to concepts they weren't handed on a platter.
posted by freebird at 7:01 PM on December 20, 2005


Why, then, would two lifelong educators and passionate advocates of the "both sides" style of teaching join with essentially all biologists in making an exception of the alleged controversy between creation and evolution? What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of "it is only fair to teach both sides"? The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all. And it is a time-wasting distraction because evolutionary science, perhaps more than any other major science, is bountifully endowed with genuine controversy.

Among the controversies that students of evolution commonly face, these are genuinely challenging and of great educational value: neutralism versus selectionism in molecular evolution; adaptationism; group selection; punctuated equilibrium; cladism; "evo-devo"; the "Cambrian Explosion"; mass extinctions; interspecies competition; sympatric speciation; sexual selection; the evolution of sex itself; evolutionary psychology; Darwinian medicine and so on. The point is that all these controversies, and many more, provide fodder for fascinating and lively argument, not just in essays but for student discussions late at night.

Intelligent design is not an argument of the same character as these controversies. It is not a scientific argument at all, but a religious one. It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class. In those cases, the demand for equal time for "both theories" would be ludicrous. Similarly, in a class on 20th-century European history, who would demand equal time for the theory that the Holocaust never happened?
posted by darukaru at 7:09 PM on December 20, 2005


Speaking of straw men, I never said that school must only involve memorization of facts. Maybe I'm not getting through, my point is that before you can think critically, you need to know what it is you're thinking about.
Let's see if this works: forget about critical thinking for a minute. Say you're studying math. In order to do so, you need to be able to read (and in the same language that the book is written in). You don't REALLY have to, but it makes things a whole lot easier. But they don't teach you English in a math class! They do it in the English class. I'm saying that it should be the same with critical thinking. You learn it in one class and you apply it in all other classes, where you learn OTHER things.
And I second I Love Tacos, I don't know where you went to school, but in mine they did talk about the unit circle.
posted by c13 at 7:19 PM on December 20, 2005


Oh, and what darukaru said.
posted by c13 at 7:21 PM on December 20, 2005


Actually, kids usually start doing "math" before they can read, with blocks and patterns and so forth. Of course you need to be able to read in most classes, but the analogy is false: without having to sometimes choose between competing hypothesis, or construct explanations with insufficient information, you're not applying your critical thinking skills - you're just following directions. So in your analogy, it would be like saying "English class is where we teach reading, so there's to be no reading in Math class", which is clearly ridiculous.

Let's not get too worked up - I don't think you really want science class to be nothing but a list of facts to memorize, and hopefully you don't think I want science class to be some kind of postmodern dialectic with no experiments or lectures. But we're both taking somewhat exaggerated stances to discuss what I think is a pretty interesting question: What is science class for, in a general education context?

I honestly think most people's lives would be very much the same if they didn't know whatever science they've learned by the end of high school. So the value is not in the specific facts and techniques learned, but in the process of learning and exploring. If this is true, that's a different type of science class than the ones you take when you're learning to be a scientist, and the emphasis should be on those cognitive processes more than I think it often is. Most of this has to do with the sad way our schools are run, with heroic teachers trying to do what they can with insufficient resources and parents who think education only happens at school.

It sounds like you had a pretty good school experience, which is great. But you're a grad student, so I don't think you're a fair representation of the average high school graduate. I think statistically, very few high school graduates in America end up with more than a superficial and soon-forgotten bag of facts - if that.
posted by freebird at 7:39 PM on December 20, 2005


Kitzmiller trial transcripts here. Courtesy of the ACLU of PA.

The expert testimony adduced by the Plaintiffs absolutely demolished the pretense that ID was science and persuaded the estimable Judge Jones of the "breathtaking inanity" of the School Board's actions. This testimony is a treasure trove of information with which to refute ID adherents' BS arguments.

During defense testimony by one of the School Board members, the Judge took over the questioning of the witness himself when it became obvious that the man was lying. I was astounded that Judge Jones named the Board members liars in his brilliant decision, but the record shows that they had the temerity to lie in front of a federal district judge: bad move for a defendant.
posted by rdone at 8:06 PM on December 20, 2005


Well, we're definitely getting off topic here, but, like you said, it is a pretty interesting question. I think the purpose of a science class is to teach science, much like the purpose of a geography class is to teach where countries and continents are. Yes, most of that is going to be forgotten by the majority of the students five minutes after a test. Unfortunately. But I think the problem here is not with the "having to memorize stuff", but with the students themselves. If they don't care to learn, they will not. I also think that criticall thinking is a skill just like others, and if they don't care to learn how to do it, they will not as well. Frankly, I don't know how it could be taught in the first place. You either care to think about stuff, or you don't. If all little Bobby cares about is to go home and play with his Xbox, you can go on about ID vs Evolution (or any other topic) till you're blue in the face, he won't give a damn. He'll leave when the bell rings just as ignorant about what these words mean as incapable of evaluating the arguments for each. Given that that's what happens to the majority of the students, I'd rather them know how to spell, add and know simple things like not to drink something that is labeled HCl than to know the difference and the connection between chemistry and alchemy.
posted by c13 at 8:20 PM on December 20, 2005


Suppose someone presented you with two creatures: One had DNA that been specifically designed the other was the result of dumb luck and 'survival of the survivors'. Would it be possible to determine which creature had been intelligently designed and which one had not been?

Evolutionism and Intelligent Design are two sides of the same origins coin. Evolutionism asserts that a designer is not required for complex functional systems. Intelligent Design asserts that a designer is required for complex systems. If one is science, both are. If one is not science, neither is the other one.

posted by bevets at 9:08 PM on December 20, 2005


Ha-ha. Dude, you're late.
posted by c13 at 9:09 PM on December 20, 2005


bevets-design
posted by caddis at 9:24 PM on December 20, 2005


Excepting of course that nobody knows WTF you're on about with this "evolutionism".
posted by wilful at 9:26 PM on December 20, 2005


DevilsAdvocate, it's certainly important that we teach experimental methods at a young age (as it rests now, even the best high school science classes teach kids that facts Just Exist), but you can do this without mentioning fake science.

Yes, I agree. If my previous comment suggested otherwise, I apologize for not being clear. It was not my intent to suggest that "fake science" needs to be brought up in science classes; only that it is desirable to include some history and philosophy of science in science classes. In addition to the more general benefit of promoting critical thinking, in some cases this is a better way to teach scientific facts than rote memorization. Describing the elegant Meselson-Stahl experiment does a far better job of teaching that DNA replication is semiconservative than a mere rote memorization of that fact would, IMO.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:28 PM on December 20, 2005


Round earth and flat earth are just flip sides of the same coin. If one is not science, neither is the other.
posted by maxsparber at 9:36 PM on December 20, 2005


Suppose someone presented you with two creatures: One had DNA that been specifically designed the other was the result of dumb luck and 'survival of the survivors'. Would it be possible to determine which creature had been intelligently designed and which one had not been?

Certainly: the intelligently designed creature would not have extraneous, non-functional bits such as an appendix. The evolved creature would.

Evolutionism asserts that a designer is not required for complex functional systems. Intelligent Design asserts that a designer is required for complex systems. If one is science, both are. If one is not science, neither is the other one.

If that were all evolution (not "evolutionism") said, you might have a point. Evolution goes far beyond that, and gives a detailed description, making testable predictions, about how complex systems come about. Intelligent design says nothing more than the fact that there is a designer. That's it. That is why evolution is science, and ID is not.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:44 PM on December 20, 2005


Teach intelligent design all you want. Just don't teach it in a science class.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:50 PM on December 20, 2005


Thanks for yet another self-link, bevets.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:00 PM on December 20, 2005


Can someone make up a Summon Judge Jones III card to counter Summon Bevets?
posted by odinsdream at 10:16 PM on December 20, 2005


MeTa
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:32 PM on December 20, 2005


Or I'm taking a somewhat overstated position for the sake of discussion

When certain other people do this, they're called trolls. Just saying.

Look, freebird, nobody appreciates contrarianism and questioning of received wisdom more than I, but you're barking up the wrong tree here. As many have said, there's not enough time even to teach the basic facts, let alone bullshit "controversies"; the fact that most kids don't care or don't remember is irrelevant (it needs to be addressed, but in the context of education as a whole, not science class). And as far as the idea of teaching controversies, please read and absorb darukaru's excellent quote. You really are coming across as if you're trying to sneak ID into the schools. I know that's not what you mean, but that's how your insistence is sounding.
posted by languagehat at 5:21 AM on December 21, 2005


Bevets is wrong: Intelligent design and "evolutionism" are not two sides of the same coin. They are, in fact, orthogonal to one another.

I will say this again for bevets's benefit: Evolutionary theory has nothing to say about the existence or not of a creator. Intelligent design has nothing necessary to say about the truth or not of evolutionary theory. At a basic level, they are logically irrelevant to one another.

What ID advocates preach is not mere "intelligent design." It's christian cosmology, dressed up in the clothes of weak deism.

As for bevets's version of "evolutionism", s/he should take the time to understand what a contentious and controversy-shot field evolutionary biology is right now. As one of the links points out, "evolutionists" disagree about a lot of things. The one thing they all agree on is that evolution happens.

(Just for the record, I'm an atheist. Teh most I'll concede as worth considering amounts to strong deism -- i.e., a completely disinterested and alienated deity. I don't regard the demiurge as worth considering, because I'd prefer to believe I live in a godless universe than in one controlled by a christianiesque demiurge.)
posted by lodurr at 6:28 AM on December 21, 2005


If "evolutionism" bevets, why not "Intelligent Designism"?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:48 AM on December 21, 2005


lodurr

Just for the record, I'm an atheist.

I have never met an atheist who has rejected atheist mythology. Have you?
posted by bevets at 6:55 AM on December 21, 2005


bevets, if your link is supposed to explain what "atheist mythology" is, then I'm afraid I must conclude that you're very confused. I doubt that you understand what most people who actually are atheists mean by the term "atheism". (The answer is 'hardly ever the same thing'...) I also wonder if you understand what "mythology" is, and why it doesn't really matter if science has a mythology. After all, Christianity, Conservatism, Liberalism, Islam, Football -- they all, each, clearly have at least one associated mythology (and usually several).

Tell me what you mean by "atheist mythology", and I'll tell you if I reject it. But if you can't provide a better explanation than a bunch of other people's decontextualized and selectively emphasized quotes, along with a couple of vague and double-edged parables, then I'm afraid I can't tell you whether I "reject" this mythology you speak of, or not.
posted by lodurr at 7:05 AM on December 21, 2005


bevets, on the subject of double-edge parables, consider the followng paraphrase:
A Parable:
Suppose a man walks up to you and says "I'm know there's a god."
You say "Prove it."
He says "ok", and he points to his chest. "God is in here."
You say "What does that prove?"
He says "Everyone knows God is within you."
You say "I know you say that God is within you, but why should i believe that?"
"Because I'm HERE," he says.
You say, "What else can you show me?"
He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a Bible. "See -- this is God's Word."
You're still skeptical. 'What does that prove?', you ask.
"GOD IS REAL" he states loudly (obviously annoyed that you would question him). He reaches in another pocket and pulls out another Bible, "Do you believe me now?"
I think you might do well to consider the words of John Crossan (paraphrased from memory): "If a biblical literalist could prove to me that Jesus literally walked on the water, I would tell him, 'How nice for Jesus.'" IOW, you are trying to prove something that you ought not try to prove. If your God is real, and if Evolution is (somehow "therefore") false, then what's the problem if we don't believe you?
posted by lodurr at 7:11 AM on December 21, 2005


mythology:
  1. an allegorical narrative
  2. a body of myths : as a : the myths dealing with the gods, demigods, and legendary heroes of a particular people b : MYTHOS 2 <cold war mythology>
  3. a branch of knowledge that deals with myth
  4. a popular belief or assumption that has grown up around someone or something <defective mythologies that ignore masculine depth of feeling -- Robert Bly>
I see no mythology on the page you linked. Could you clarify what you are referring to?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:13 AM on December 21, 2005


Interesting comment from The Panda's Thumb.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2005


Evolution and ID ARE two sides of the same coin. If the coin you are talking about is the science/faith coin, or the correct/incorrect coin.
posted by anomie at 8:40 AM on December 21, 2005


Funny how the mefi "atheists are sophomoric bigots" crowd thins out when bevets shows up.
posted by bardic at 8:52 AM on December 21, 2005


Funny how people continue to try to argue with bevets.
posted by languagehat at 9:51 AM on December 21, 2005


Funny how people assume that the only possible motivation for arguing with bevets is that of trying to convince bevets.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:59 AM on December 21, 2005


Meh, it passes the time. If you could recommend a good book on the evolution of language over time I'll certainly give it a try*. It would certainly be more educational.



*genuinely - please - I am very bored at work.
posted by longbaugh at 10:22 AM on December 21, 2005


anomie: Evolution and ID ARE two sides of the same coin. If the coin you are talking about is the science/faith coin, or the correct/incorrect coin.
I remain unconvinced. How would this work? ID as an over-arching concept clearly allows for the possibility of evolution as a mechanism, and evolution as a theory says nothing at all about the prime mover. They're not mutually exclusive at all. It was foolish of the scientific side to tacitly concede that they were.
posted by lodurr at 11:08 AM on December 21, 2005


lodurr : "It was foolish of the scientific side to tacitly concede that they were."

The scientific side conceded nothing. Concerned scientists and educators just reacted when religion motivated groups tried to present ID as a substitute to evolution and started using the media and their present political power to force schools to teach their particular myths instead of science.

And lodurr, I am sure you got the memo, read it again. After dozens of fruitless discussions in as many threads, it is quite clear that bevets sole goal here is to derail any discussion related to evolution and parrot the same old creationist fantasies.
posted by nkyad at 11:40 AM on December 21, 2005


Or I'm taking a somewhat overstated position for the sake of discussion

When certain other people do this, they're called trolls. Just saying.


Come on languagehat, do you really want to equate being able to argue both sides of an issue with Trolling?

I refuse to abandon good intellectual practice because of rhetorical terrorism. I was taught to always look for both sides of any issue, and when one side isn't being represented, to take it - even if only to sharpen your own opposition to it. I think I stay fairly well away from trollism, in that I try to stay respectful and pay attention to what people are saying. I think I was pretty clear that people arguing "against" my position were making excellent points - and to me, that means it was a succesful discussion. Like I said, I'm very much anti-ID, and got a lot of good ideas from the thread.

Look, almost no-one here is going to disagree with the decision, so there's not much to be said other than "me too!" and "silly fundies, schools are for kids!" So let's talk about something interesting. I think it's interesting to think about the role of public education as part of what makes a culture and a civilization - after all, that's what underlies both sides concerns over ID.

Everyone keeps talking about the different types of classes in school, and the partitioning of knowledge they represent, as though that's fixed. But it wasn't that long ago that people grouped knowledge and thought very differently than we do today, and I don't think it should be taken for granted that we now do it the best possible way.

In all the above, no one really has given a good reason why it's intrinsically useful for every child to learn calculus and evolution as purely scientific knowledge, seperate from cultural or epistemological questions or critical thinking. It may be true, and in fact I tend to think it is, but until we have a good answer to that, we're open to attack by the next wacky group who wants to slip their psuedo-science into the classroom.
posted by freebird at 11:58 AM on December 21, 2005


nkyad, do you undestand the meaning of the word "tacit"?

Yes, they did tacitly concede: That the discussion was valid. It wasn't a valid discussion, and they should have explained that. If it didn't take the first time, explain it again. And if necessary, again.

Instead, they let the discourse be framed in oppositional terms. When you put reason up against religion on oppositional terms, good things don't usually happen.

There was never any reason why ID should have been permitted to style itself as an "alternative theory", when it's neither alternative (it's orthogonal) nor a theory (because it can't be falsified).

As for bevets, no, I did not get the memo. But once he's actually derailed the thread, which he has not yet done, I'll be sure to ask you for a copy. Until then, I will assume that he's interested in civil discourse and treat him accordingly.
posted by lodurr at 12:03 PM on December 21, 2005


lhat, freebird may be annoyingly tenacious, but he's been nothing other than civil. Stubborn as hell, yes; but civil about it, nonetheless.
posted by lodurr at 12:06 PM on December 21, 2005


Come on languagehat, do you really want to equate being able to argue both sides of an issue with Trolling?

freebird may be annoyingly tenacious, but he's been nothing other than civil

Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. I don't think freebird was trolling; I just thought I'd point out for the benefit of certain people who are extremely quick to accuse certain other people around here of trolling (and no, I'm not going to mention names, they know who they are) that their cries of "X didn't believe what he said, the evil TROLL!" could equally well be applied here, and if they don't want to do that (as I suspect they don't), then maybe they should rethink their eagerness to do so with someone whose politics they disapprove of, unless they're happy being hypocrites.
posted by languagehat at 12:22 PM on December 21, 2005


did you just mention dios?
posted by wilful at 3:37 PM on December 21, 2005


New board isn't planning appeal
posted by hank at 5:40 PM on December 21, 2005


lodurr, I understand perfectly what "tacit" means and you are quite wrong. No one conceded nothing. Read the whole ruling and you will notice that the whole (successful) effort was geared towards showing ID was just another name for creationism. You will see how Behe, the ID poster child, was completely discredited in front of the judge by his own ignorance.

No respectable scientist ever admitted Creationism was worth a discussion - the whole point here was and is saving the children from these crackpots.
posted by nkyad at 9:03 PM on December 21, 2005


First: I have read the ruling. The ruling is largely irrelevant, because the only people who care about it are rational people.

What I'm talking about is the discourse as a whole. It has been framed almost entirely by the creationist side.

Second: You're missing my point. The fact that "ID" as a movement is simply creationism transformed is important; but it would have been possible to deny them the rhetorical territory by simply conceding that evolution has nothing to say about the Prime Mover, and that that fact poses no problem for it. Loudly. Over and over. "You don't believe in evolution? That's OK, it believes in you."

Instead, people wasted cycles and public goodwill doing things like arguing about whether ID was "scientific". They should have said, "of course ID isn't scientific, and what's more, it shouldn't be, on its own terms."

I believe this happened because the vanguard was carried by assholes like Dawkins.
posted by lodurr at 3:08 AM on December 22, 2005


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