June 25, 2001
1:51 PM   Subscribe

Are U.S Senator Rick Santorum and his 'intelligent design creationism' friends trying to sneak one by us in the Education bill?
posted by quirked (34 comments total)
Doesn't sound like it to me. Sounds more like a rational (though somewhat unnecessary) statement that has been twisted about by the creationists to support their views. Teaching evolution as dogma is really no better than teaching [insert your favorite regionally acceptable creation myth] as dogma; this statement would seem to be a recognition of that fact.
posted by Vetinari at 2:25 PM on June 25, 2001

"intelligent design creationism" = "light heavyweight"
"intelligent design creationism" = "black light"
"intelligent design creationism" = "jumbo shrimp"
posted by jpoulos at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2001

Teaching evolution as dogma is really no better than teaching [insert your favorite regionally acceptable creation myth] as dogma

Sure it is. One has lots and lots of evidence, the rest are sorely lacking.
posted by quirked at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2001

when i heard of "intelligent design creationism," i first thought of something from k10k. how vague.

i will not get into any sort of evolution vs. creationism shitfight here. evolution is not a simple law such as the the conservation of energy, but it is observable and has been documented (and itself evolved) over time.

and, to be completely honest, whether or not you believe in evolution, it is still there to be observed. sadly, some politicians try to legislate their opinions: so be it. yet on a grander scale, it is still there.
posted by moz at 2:58 PM on June 25, 2001

Text of the resolution:
"It is the sense of the Senate that-- "(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and "(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject."

In my opinion, in and of itself, this statement doesn't really say much. It is the political mileage certain groups are trying to gain from it that concerns me.

But what really concerns me is that the 'creationists' have successfully confused scientific theory and fact. Any good science teacher will tell you that Darwinian evolution is a scientific theory, not a fact. If good contrary evidence arises tomorrow, it'll be amended, or overturned. In that regard, I'd welcome a science teacher who compared Darwinian evolution to Biblical creation as scientific theories.

Any good science teacher should also tell the students that comparing Darwinian evolution to creationism is an apples-to-oranges comparison. Evolution is judged according to the principles of scientific method; creationism is judged by other means. You can't prove evolution with the Bible, nor creationism with scientific evidence.

There, I feel better now.
posted by tippiedog at 3:02 PM on June 25, 2001

evolution is not a simple law

Right-o. Actually, it's a group of laws, assumptions, theory, and predictions that can be applied at various levels. Unfortunately, most people (both believers and non-believers) see it as some single simple unitary thing. Egads!

Evolution is judged according to the principles of scientific method; creationism is judged by other means.

Right-o! Creationism assumes the existance of divine intervention at some level (although some creationist allow for evolution on a micro level). Evolutionary theory (on a macro scale) assumes the lack of divine intervention on any level. It's really hard to compare two things that have different initial assumptions. Oh, but we'll try. Hey, howdy.
posted by iceberg273 at 3:10 PM on June 25, 2001

Evolutionary theory (on a macro scale) assumes the lack of divine intervention on any level.

Evolution doesn't assume anything concerning the divine, because it doesn't need to. Wether of not God is in control, we know from experience that the universe operates in a consistent manner.
posted by skyline at 3:18 PM on June 25, 2001

moz (and any others who'd care to join in): You mention that "evolution is observable and has been document (and itself evolved) over time". Would you mind explaining what you mean? Specifically, what is your definition of "evolution" (since you mention that the theory itself has evolved)? What is the documentation you mention? How can you observe it? And, most importantly, I'd like to hear what you consider to be the single best argument in favor of evolution.

Please, though, folks... let's keep this civil, rational, and respectful. Like many of you, I strongly disagree with the theory of evolution. There is, however, much to be gained from dissenting opinions, so long as both sides stay objective.

posted by gd779 at 3:20 PM on June 25, 2001

we know from experience that the universe operates in a consistent manner.

The intervetion of God fundamentally violates this statement. By monkeying with things, God would change the way things would have happened, ceteris parabus. Evolution must assume that the only processes that can operate are those that we can observe and describe. There is no place for divine miracles. Evolution is a blind watchmaker. God ain't blind. If He intervened at any point, even to give the first spark of life, he did so with purpose and thus the process cannot be observed or describe through the process of science.
posted by iceberg273 at 3:22 PM on June 25, 2001

Respectful? Okay.

"Like many of you, I strongly disagree with the theory of evolution. "

Care to document the "many of you" statement?

Objective? Never anything but...
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:28 PM on June 25, 2001

Mostly, I believe in evolution from the logical angle: we know that the genome mutates, that these mutations can be helpful or harmful, and that dead creatures typically don't procreate. Simmer for 15 minutes, and evolution seems inevitable. There's also the fossil record and modern observations of evolution (resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, mosquitos to pesticides, etc) to contend with.

Regarding origin, "primordial soup" experiments have had encouraging results. This experiment found that amino acids could be formed by passing electrical current through methane.
posted by skyline at 3:34 PM on June 25, 2001

Do we have to teach kids every fringe theory? Sure a lot of people disagree with evolution, but a lot of people disagree that the holocaust occured, a lot of people think the moon landings were faked, there are even people who maintain that the earth is flat, just like it says in the bible. We don't teach all that. Maybe stuff like that should be saved for discussion in University.
posted by swipe66 at 3:37 PM on June 25, 2001

Like many of you, I strongly disagree with the theory of evolution.

Care to document the "many of you" statement?

I strongly disagree with portions of the theory of evolution. But then again, Stephen Jay Gould has, at times, disagreed with portions of the [mainstream] theory of evolution (see puctuated equilibrium). That's good science: we need to keep testing out theories. I don't disagree with the mechanisms of evolution. I think Origin of the Species is a brilliant work. (Unrelated: I think that the Bible is also brilliant and I wish that I applied it to my life better). I disagree with the way that some of those mechanisms are theoretically applied.

It's really hard to disagree with the entire theory of evolution all at once (see my comment on the non-unitary nature of the theory of evolution above): the existance of broccoli is the result of human control of the mechanisms of evolutionary theory. Believe in broccoli? I do.
posted by iceberg273 at 3:37 PM on June 25, 2001

I think it's worth distinguishing between evolution the scientific theory, which is a body of claims, evidence and argument, and the philosophical ideas which have been advanced in its wake; similarly, there's creationism the philosophy (god created the universe) and the creationism the science. There's no fundamental conflict between evolution science and religious belief, but there is a fundamental conflict between evolution and "creation science" which is, in my opinion, largely a scam.
posted by rodii at 3:42 PM on June 25, 2001

There's also the fossil record and modern observations of evolution (resistance of bacteria to antibiotics, mosquitos to pesticides, etc) to contend with.

I've found this to be a tricky thing to get my mind around. On one hand we have the [relatively] stable fossil record (i.e. speciation seems to take place rapidly in the fossil record (the best example is that enigmatic Cambrian explosion), followed by periods (on the order of millions of years by all accounts) of relatively little speciation) versus the amazing adaptability that is currently visible (i.e. massive speciation; Darwin's finiches for example). It is not clear to me what mechanism can account for this. I think I read a theory a while ago, but the explanation currently escapes me. Hmmmm. . . I need to read my Gould again.

"creation science" which is, in my opinion, largely a scam.

In the sense that scientists could come up with testable (remember that word: testable) hypotheses from the Biblical creation account, then test them using accepted scientific procedures and publish the results in peer reviewed journals, I'm cool with creation science (for lack of a better term). I mean, the discoverer of the structure of benzene used a dream as a hypothesis generator (possible history of science myth; somebody check me on this). However for the most part, you are right, rodii: a lot of "creation science" is storytelling and conjecture and (sometimes) outright lies. Which is why creationists who are actually involved in science rarely, if ever, refer to creation in their publications and never refer to their science as creation science. They may get their theories from their faith, but their science is strictly by the book. (I know the idea of creationists in real science is proposterous, but they do exist (I've met more than I can count on my hands), are renowned in their fields for doing good science, and are deeply religious and thoughtful individuals. They also confused their thesis advisors to no end.)

and the philosophical ideas which have been advanced in its [evolutionary theory's] wake

A number of these irritate me about as much as the storytelling in creation science. I don't want to find storytelling on the shelf marked "Science" in my local bookstore. I want to find science. Evidence, baby, empircal evidence.
posted by iceberg273 at 3:58 PM on June 25, 2001

Oh, crikey. Maybe a link to the talk.origins evolution FAQ archive will head this off... If you're honestly curious about the evidence, read them all; but at least read the examples of new species being formed if you want to post better-informed trolls.
posted by nicwolff at 4:00 PM on June 25, 2001

if you want to post better-informed trolls.

Huh. I though everyone here was being reasonably honest about their biases and points of view. Having a bias doesn't necessarily make you a troll. Neither does stating your opinion.

Never assume malice when ignorance will suffice.
posted by iceberg273 at 4:08 PM on June 25, 2001

if you want to post better-informed trolls.

This is the closest anyone has come to a troll yet in this thread.
posted by rodii at 4:11 PM on June 25, 2001

Me: and the philosophical ideas which have been advanced in its [evolutionary theory's] wake

Ice, Ice baby: A number of these irritate me about as much as the storytelling in creation science. I don't want to find storytelling on the shelf marked "Science" in my local bookstore. I want to find science.

Oh, yes. I forgot to come back to the fourth member of my set, didn't I. I completely agree--that's why I made the distinction in the first place. There's been a lot of speculation that used evolutionary concepts like fitness, mutation, and so on basically as metaphor. Teilhard de Chardin, for example, or General Systems Theory, or memetics. Some of it may be good, most of it not, but whatever it is, it shouldn't be confused with real empirical evolutionary biology.
posted by rodii at 4:15 PM on June 25, 2001

but whatever it is, it shouldn't be confused with real empirical evolutionary biology.

Such was my rant yesterday in the South Bend Barnes and Nobles. If any of you were in said Barnes and Nobles around 5:30 local (read: weird Indiana) time and saw some skinny Indian guy yelling at the bookshelves, that would have been me. I shouldn't go to bookstores. I am easily irritated by what I find on the shelves.
posted by iceberg273 at 4:20 PM on June 25, 2001

Better, I suppose, to stipulate an open argument that emphasises the compelling weight behind the various aspects of evolutionary theory, than to suppress discussion. Talk about the steps from fact to theory.

Let's just hope that it's left to science teachers to run that class. And that David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, in which the "argument from design" is given the kind of philosophical pummelling that would lead any boxing trainer to throw in the towel.
posted by holgate at 4:50 PM on June 25, 2001

Oh, please — asking for evidence of evolution in a political thread is the oldest troll there is. And saying "keep it civil" just makes it a better troll; note that there hasn't been one on-topic post since gd779's...
posted by nicwolff at 4:52 PM on June 25, 2001

Whoops — till holgate's!
posted by nicwolff at 4:54 PM on June 25, 2001

nicwolff - how polite and civil of you to include a direct response to gd779 as "on topic" . Please don't try to define for us what is proper discussion. It simply obscures the foolishness in certain comments ... (I'm still waiting for some evidence that many of us "disagree with the theory of evolution". This is absolutely significant if we are to discuss the topic of the post, don't you think? If there's much to be gained from disagreement, of course.
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:49 PM on June 25, 2001

Whoops. Turned off the sarcasm tag a little too soon.
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2001

ok, i guess i will volunteer a bit more info on the subject for gd and some others. here goes. (i'm going to try to be as thorough as possible, so bear with me.)

first, my definition of evolution is any change within a species that alters existing patterns, whether those be physical or behavioral, or introduces new patterns. evolution occurs within a specific population of a species; the change brought on by evolution may cause speciation, which is the alteration of a population of organisms such that the population and a population of the former--and indeed any other--species would likely NOT be able to breed together with any success. the change may also be behavioral, in that a population of sparrows may evolve such that they always attack any birds with red tufts of feathers on the likelihood that those birds will (often) intend to eat their young.

as for documentation, there are copious amounts. a quick search on google for "journal of evolution" yields a fairly on-target result: The Journal of Human Evolution. If you're looking to pour over documentation, get used to pouring over journals such as these. There is a Journal of Evolution, a Journal of Mammalian Evolution, and loads more. (For the record, I am not nor was I ever a biology or anthropology major, though my interest in evolution did lead me to take several anthropology and natural science courses including human origins, sociobiology, archaeology, and evolution and genetics.)

There is a more accessible title on the subject of evolution which is quite good, and it's called The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen. I read this book for my evolution and genetics course. It goes into detail about some parallel study into genetics besides the work of Charles Darwin (and goes into some detail on the fact that Charles Darwin may not have been all that nice of a man) that occurred at the same time as each other, and overall does a superb job explaining many of the nuances of evolution.

How has evolution "evolved" over time? Well, for one thing, Charles Darwin was a proponent of a type of evolution (the technical term escapes me) in which animals gradually changed over time. Much of the evidence (and in fact the Song of the Dodo goes into this as well) we have seems to support a theory of Catastrophism: evolution seems to happen very QUICKLY over SHORT bursts of time, and always in reaction to some population-endangering dilemma. I also wanted to mention that evolution had "evolved" because some old ideas such as Social Darwinism (which I don't believe was even around while Darwin was alive) were inspired by Darwin's theories on evolution, but of course were merely convenient tools of racists and those looking to maintain class divisions as they stand. (Social Darwinism basically was the idea that, if the fittest must survive, we may interpret the rich and empowered as the fittest and favor them. At the time, that tended to be bourgeois Europeans/Americans and nobles.)

how can evolution be observed? my answer is: quite simply. consider the pesticide warfarin. it was created several decades ago to combat the "nuisance" of rats. rats are considered "neophiles": they are suspicious of "new" things, which as you might infer helps out quite a bit in their quest to survive. if one rat eats some cheese that is tainted, it will nibble first; then it'll come back when it seems safe. if other rats see that one croak over dead, no one's going to touch that cheese again.

warfarin became one of the most successful pesticides out there, because it was an anticoagulate. that is, it prevented blood from clotting. rats died very slowly, but very effectively, and for a long time, warfarin was considered the pesticide to use. but that changed, and warfarin began to lose its effectiveness.

why? because people are idiots, and think pesticides are panaceas: in short, people overused warfarin, and so many rats died that the numbers of rats in regions dwindled quite a bit. the Song of the Dodo does a good job of going over this topic, and i'll briefly touch upon it: when the number of organisms in a population dwindles, the likelihood of a mutation--a change in the genetics of an organism--will stick, because there won't so many other competitors that drown out the mutation (an effect which i believe is called evolutionary dilution, but there might be another term which escapes me). bacteria does this all the time, because they are such simple organisms, and this principle is the #1 reason you need a new flu shot almost every year. things went a bit more slowly for rats, but--predictably--they did develop resistances. (there is much more info on warfarin and its other peripheral awfulness--don't think other pesticides don't have similar asterisks involved.)

at any rate, the development of resistance to warfarin constitutes an example of evolution. no, rats did not sprout wings and fly, nor did they double in size and begin to speak in perfect english. evolution almost always never works that way, because it only works insofar as it HAS to in order to keep a population--not necessarily an entire species--from becoming extinct.

the single best argument for evolution, in my opinion, is that so much of it happens all around us. it happens on so many small levels, often to bacteria or insects. evolution simply is change. i said that the change may be behavioral, and in fact that may be in essence genetic as well (though that's a huge argument i'm not willing to get much into): a good book i have on sociobiology, which has since been updated since i bought the book for my class on sociobiology, is The Biological Basis for Human Behavior: A Critical Review edited by Robert W. Sussman. if you're really interested, i DEFINITELY recommend the Song of the Dodo: it's a flat out excellent book, long but well written and quite accessible.

ever wonder why there are such exotic species on islands and particularly archipelagos? that's explained in the book. and plenty plenty more.
posted by moz at 6:23 PM on June 25, 2001

as I understand intelligent design, it doesn't deny that evolution happens, it believes that at a molecular level the theory of evolution breaks down: for example in the creation of DNA. that at that level what happens is too complex, that evolution does not account for it.

it relies on the idea of irreducible complexity: a system in which each component is necessary and completes only one function: a mousetrap is the example they use. without every piece, the system breaks down; pieces can be used only for their function. in any case, these folks believe that when you get to a molecular level, you start to see things that could *not* have evolved.

I just read an article on this (skewed heavily in favor of the standard scientific view) in the sf bay guardian. it claimed that the movement does *not* seek to be brought into schools, indeed, that its principle is to keep this sort of thing *out* of schools.

this article doesn't seem to be online, which is too bad, because it did a good job of explaining the thinking here, and I actually think that most of you would be very interested in thinking through the ideas it explained. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 6:34 PM on June 25, 2001

rcb: I'm not sure if it's the same thing you read, but creationists often argue that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics; which states that a system's disorder or entropy invariably increases. This misconception of thermodynamics seems to be dying down, fortunately.
posted by skyline at 8:18 PM on June 25, 2001

I'm So Lame!

it wasn't the guardian, but the sfweekly, and here it is: Looking for God at Berkeley.

there's lots this story leaves out, and it's definitely designed to leave the reader on the side of conventional darwinism, but I think it explains the theory pretty well. - rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 8:24 PM on June 25, 2001

Slate had a decent article debunking (or attempting to debunk, depending on your point of view) Intelligent Design theory. He also thinks Jay Gould is bad for evolution.
posted by icathing at 8:28 PM on June 25, 2001

Whoa! Great thread all! Gee, I'm gonna have to keep a closer watch on the MeFi threads while otherwise occupied.
There's tons of good links and comments about a subject near and dear to my heart. Thanks!

The entire subject of evolution/creationism, science/religion etc. seems to be a device derived for the sole purpose of creating :) division. In that light perhaps it is the quintessential troll?

As a person of faith I see no conflict between these supposed arenas. I only see those who would attempt to create :) a God that fits their neat little world. God, to me, is much too big to wrap my puny intellect around. How God chooses to act is completely beyond my power to understand, define, or predict (as in Allegory of the Cave) and I get mere glimpses of the Truth.

I appreciate the thorough discourse here covering the science side of this debate but the "spiritual" side has relevance also. May I recommend to those so disposed an apologetic covering these aspects, Quantum Spirituality by Leonard Sweet. He does a good job of dispelling the barriers created between science and religion by those favorite hatemongers of mine, the fundys.
posted by nofundy at 9:40 AM on June 26, 2001

Nice thread. As to the original post, is Santorum et al trying to "sneak one" past us? From the article:

Whether or not one views the specific language of the amendment as innocuous or unobjectionable, this vote has become a public relations bonanza for the intelligent design creationists.

I think that's a "No."
posted by Skot at 9:56 AM on June 26, 2001

Well, Jesus H. Fucking Christ on a big wheel. You can always count on God v. Science to generate some hot air.
posted by BoatMeme at 3:09 PM on June 26, 2001

That's cool, Boat, a self-illustrating post.
posted by rodii at 7:18 PM on June 26, 2001

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