Sunday, August 14, 2005

Teachers reject creation theory

Here are two articles, the first unwebbed from Western Australia's main Monday to Saturday newspaper, The West Australian, and the other webbed from our only Sunday newspaper, The Sunday Times, where the State School Teachers' Union gives the `thumbs down' to Intelligent Design being taught by its members in schools, and the State Minister for Education, Ljiljanna Ravlich, does a `backflip' compared to what she reportedly said on Friday that she was "open to the idea of intelligent design being taught alongside the theory of evolution" and she now rules out ID being taught in schools.

This is obviously a setback for ID in Western Australia (and Australia), but I doubt that this is the final word on the issue. The Federal Minister of Education could still tie Federal funding to something analogous to the Santorum amendment in the USA:
"The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society." ("Santorum Amendment," (SA 799). Senate Conference Report on H.R. 1, No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 - (House of Representatives - December 12, 2001). Uniited States Senate, Congressional Record)
as a Christian Party, Family First, has the balance of power in the Senate, although I would be surprised if he did that.

And presumably the DVD "Unlocking the Mystery of Life" and still be shown to students? Finally, if the State schools completely reject ID, the private schools could steal a march on them and allow at least the controversy to be taught, that is the problems of evolution (including its materialistic, naturalistic philosophical assumptions), and the evidence for intelligent design in nature.

Actually, on reading it again, the State School Teachers Union seems not so much opposed to ID being taught in schools, but to the Federal Government interfering in State education (which is a current issue) and it's spokesperson left the door open for "teachers ... to discuss the theory with classes if it came up but it should not be mandatory":
SSTU spokeswoman Anne Gisborne said the union was sick of Dr Nelson using education as a political football. Ms Gisborne said the Minister had been grandstanding in the portfolio for some time and she predicted WA teachers would be outraged if Dr Nelson made any move to intervene in setting the curriculum, traditionally a State-based responsibility. "If there is any attempt to step in and interfere with the curriculum and Dr Nelson said teach this theory or else, given the way the State executive is feeling about interference, teachers would vote to refuse," Ms Gisborne said. She said teachers should be free to discuss the theory with classes if it came up but it should not be mandatory and should not be taught in the context of science. "I have no doubt that within the school system there are some students who do come from a background where their families believe this theory, so we have to respect that but teachers should be free to decide how they address it," she said.
which is in fact the ID movement's position!

The comment by Linc Schmitt, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of WA, who said of Dr Nelson, "All his medical training is rooted in the evidence of evolutionary biology," begs the question. If in fact Intelligent Design is true, then evolution (to the extent that it denies design) would be false and then all Dr Nelson's medical training would have been rooted in the evidence of Intelligent Design!

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
Problems of Evolution"



THE WEST AUSTRALIAN SATURDAY, AUGUST 13, 2005 9

News

Teachers reject creation theory

SUZANNAH JAMES

If Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson imposes intelligent design on the WA education curriculum, members of the State School Teachers Union will refuse to teach it.

Earlier this week, Dr Nelson said theory of intelligent design espoused by Christian groups that life is too complex to have come about by chance, had enough merit to be taught in schools, as long as it did not replace scientific lessons about the origins of life.

SSTU spokeswoman Anne Gisborne said the union was sick of Dr Nelson using education as a political football.

Ms Gisborne said the Minister had been grandstanding in the portfolio for some time and she predicted WA teachers would be outraged if Dr Nelson made any move to intervene in setting the curriculum, traditionally a State-based responsibility.

"If there is any attempt to step in and interfere with the curriculum and Dr Nelson said teach this theory or else, given the way the State executive is feeling about interference, teachers would vote to refuse," Ms Gisborne said.

She said teachers should be free to discuss the theory with classes if it came up but it should not be mandatory and should not be taught in the context of science.

"I have no doubt that within the school system there are some students who do come from a background where their families believe this theory, so we have to respect that but teachers should be free to decide how they address it," she said.

One of WA's top evolutionary scientists has also rubbished any moves to teach the theory in schools, saying intelligent design is a front for creationism.

Linc Schmitt, associate professor of evolutionary biology at the University of WA, said he was "extraordinarily disappointed" with Dr Nelson's comments.

"All his medical training is rooted in the evidence of evolutionary biology," Professor Schmitt said.

"There is no place for this in the classroom. It should not be taught in schools - it is a front for the creationists.

"When we teach science, it is based on scientific method where hypotheses have been tested and proved over time.

"Intelligent design is based on religious principles and as such is a form of received wisdom.

"It is as if you have one group of people playing football and another group playing tennis and you are trying to decide who wins."

UWA evolution expert and biological anthropologist Jan Meyer said students could examine the intelligent design idea from a philosophical standpoint but it should not be taught as science.

© 2005 West Australian Newspapers Limited All Rights Reserved.



THE SUNDAY TIMES, AUGUST 14, 2005 15

WA no to creation theory

By PAUL LAMPATHAKIS
14 August, 2005

EDUCATION Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich has ruled out introducing a controversial new religious theory in schools.

"I'm not considering bringing it in," she told The Sunday Times – defying Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson's view that the intelligent design theory should be included in school curriculums.

"I'm quite happy with the curriculum we've got," Ms Ravlich said.

"If Mr Nelson is going to make it mandatory through the next funding agreement, then we'd obviously have to look at it seriously, but it's certainly not my intention to introduce it into the curriculum."

She said Australia had an "evolved intelligent society" and Australians were entitled to their views on evolution versus creationist theory.

"And it's not my job to change people's views," she said.

This week Dr Nelson said parents should have the opportunity, if they wished, for their children to be exposed to the intelligent design theory, which suggests that life is too complex to not have had the involvement of an intelligent agent and has gained support in the US.

Ms Ravlich also hit back at Dr Nelson's claims in a daily newspaper that schools had to return to teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, or risk producing a generation of illiterate underachievers.

In the same article, Dr Nelson attacked the controversial Outcomes-Based-Education system, calling it "a form of cancer" in the education establishment.

Ms Ravlich said WA had a first-class education and training system and parents could have full confidence about the quality of education that their children received.

She said WA students were ranked fourth and fifth in literacy and numeracy compared with other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

Ms Ravlich said students were still learning to read and write and do arithmetic, and Dr Nelson was misrepresenting Australia's education system to raise his profile to further his own political ambitions.

She defended OBE, saying it meant that students learnt the "fundamentals" as well as describing "what a student should know, what a student should understand, what a student should also be able to apply and what a student should value".

Special religious education is taught in only about 33 per cent of WA primary schools.

© Sunday Times

3 comments:

Missing said...

Maybe why ID isn't being welcomed down under is because they have been so infected with the pseudoscientific young-earthism. It's a problem in the U.S.

Why Young-Earthism Is Not Biblical or Scientific.

Stephen E. Jones said...

Darrick

Thanks for your comment.

DD>Darrick Dean said...
Maybe why ID isn't being welcomed down under is because they have been so infected with the pseudoscientific young-earthism. It's a problem in the U.S.

Agreed. I have made the point within the ID movement that ID's twin goals of: 1) following the scientific evidence *wherever* it leads:

"At the heart of the problem of scientific authority is the fact that there are two distinct definitions of science in our culture. On the one hand, science is devoted to unbiased empirical investigation. According to this definition, scientists should follow the empirical evidence wherever it leads--even if it leads to recognition of the presence of intelligent causes in biology. According to the other definition, science is devoted to providing explanations for all phenomena that employ only natural or material causes. According to the second definition, scientists must ignore evidence pointing to the presence of intelligent causes in biology, and must affirm the sufficiency of natural (unintelligent) causes regardless of the evidence." (Johnson P.E.(?), "What is `The Wedge of Truth'?" Review of "The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism by Phillip E. Johnson." http://makeashorterlink.com/?X38465F9B)

and 2) to have a `big tent' comprising all those who believe in design:

"In a similar way, Johnson cut through the conflicting claims of a vast variety of positions on origins by showing the crucial role played by initial philosophical commitments: Either nature is all that exists, and science is permitted to consider only naturalistic theories-in which case science is little more than applied naturalism - or there is something that transcends nature, and we must define science in terms that allow it to follow the evidence wherever it leads....One of the beauties of Johnson’s approach is that it has the potential to unite Christians across a broad spectrum. They might disagree over such details as the age of the universe, but all orthodox Christians can concur in rejecting a blind, mindless, materialistic mechanism for the origin and development of life. Johnson’s approach is sometimes described as a middle ground or compromise position, but that’s a misunderstanding. In fact, what he has proposed is not one more competing position at all; he has offered a logical analysis of the foundational ideas that unite all Christians, regardless of the details of their positions. Having united on these defining principles, Christians may well discover a new spirit of unity and charity for taking up the old contentious issues once again. They can now treat the questions that once divided them as the subjects of friendly in-house debates. They can engage in amicable discussions over the interpretation of Genesis, the age of the universe, the range and limits of microevolution and common descent, and so on. Such lively debate is what science is all about. Indeed, it’s not too much to say that the Intelligent Design Movement has largely achieved this unity. It has become a "big tent" drawing together Christians across a wide range of disciplines and positions, from strict young-earth creationists to theistic evolutionists (at least those among the latter who acknowledge a role for divine direction)." (Pearcey N.R., "Foreword," in "The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2002, pp.10-11)

are incompatible.

That is because YECs in particular (including those within the ID movement) believe in design but have stated that they have *no* intention of following the scientific evidence *wherever* it leads, if it leads away from YEC Biblical doctrines such as: 1) the days of Genesis 1 being literal 24-hours; 2) an Earth ~10,000 years old; 3) no animal death before humans; and 4) a global Flood, etc:

"The final authority, the Bible, shows that the earth cannot be billions of years old. Such a belief conflicts with the biblical data of creation in six ordinary days, recent creation of man on the sixth day, and death of humans and animals arising from Adam's sin. Science is limited in dealing with the past, so cannot be used to prove or disprove the Bible. … Biblical creationists* believe that the only way to conclusively establish the earth's age is the testimony of the eyewitness account in Genesis. In a court of law, a reliable eyewitness that a suspect was absent from a crime scene overrules any circumstantial evidence, and there is no eyewitness more reliable than the all-knowing Creator.* Creationists have also pointed out that `scientific' methods are limited in dealing with the past, because of many assumptions.* Therefore, it would be folly to use any of this circumstantial evidence to overrule the plain meaning of the Bible." (Sarfati J.D., "Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of `Progressive Creationism'
(Billions of Years) as Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross," Master Books: Green Forest AR, 2004, p.331)

* Spot the fallacy!

So the ID movement can either have goal 1) or 2) but not both. I do not say that ID must *exlude* YECs, since my view is that ID should be open to anyone who accepts (or is at least open to) the reality of design (including agnostics like Denton and Berlinski), and in that sense ID is a big tent.

But ID should also make it clear that the *primary* goal of ID is 1), to follow the scientific evidence *wherever* it leads, and that those who make it plain up front that they do not accept that goal, should *personally* reconsider the inconsistency (if not the hypocrisy) of their membership of the ID movement.

DD>Why Young-Earthism Is Not Biblical or Scientific.

Disagree. I used to have that view, claiming that "Creation-Science is neither creation nor science". But then I read some philosophy of science, that attempts to find universally applicable, principled, criteria to demarcate what is science from non-science have all failed:

"J.P. Moreland's "Conceptual Problems and the Scientific Status of Creation Science" argues against the notion that creationist theories are inherently unscientific. He suggests: (1) there are no good reasons to exclude postulations of intelligent design or special creative acts of God from science a priori and (2) there is at least one good reason to allow consideration of such postulations in science - namely, that creationist theories attempt to solve conceptual problems which, following Laudan, he regards as a primary function of many scientific theories. Moreland's analysis does not address any of the specific empirical claims that the various creationist theories (old-earth, young earth, theistic macromutationalist, etc.) make, but instead seeks to counter the claim that such theories can not (i.e., in principle) be considered scientific because they invoke special divine action as part of their explanatory framework. Thus, unlike Ruse [Ruse M., "Darwinism Defended: A Guide to the Evolution Controversies," 1982, pp.322-24], Stent [Stent G.S., "Scientific Creationism: Nemesis of Sociobiology," in Montagu A., ed., "Science and Creationism," 1984, p.137], Gould S.J., "Evolution as Fact and Theory." in Montagu, 1984, p.118], Grizzle [Grizzle R., "Some Comments on the `Godless' Nature of Darwinian Evolution, and a Plea to the Philosophers Among Us." PSCF, 44:2, 1993, pp.175-177], Murphy [Murphy N., "Phillip Johnson on Trial: A Critique of His Critique of Darwin." PSCF, 45:1, 1993, p.33 and others, Moreland does not regard the possibility of a scientific theory of creation as "self-contradictory nonsense." [Ebert J., et. al., "Science and Creationism: A View From the National Academy of Science," 1987, pp.8-10; Lewontin R., "Introduction." Scientists Confront Creationism," in Godfrey L.R., ed., "Scientists Confront Creationism," 1983, p.xxi] While Moreland's conclusions no doubt seem quite radical to many practicing scientists and longtime ASA members, his arguments are, in my opinion, quite sound. Philosophers of science have generally lost patience with attempts to discredit theories as `unscientific' by using philosophical or methodological litmus tests. Such so-called `demarcation criteria' `criteria that purport to distinguish true science from pseudo-science, metaphysics and religion' have inevitably fallen prey to death by a thousand counter examples. Well-established scientific theories often lack some of the allegedly necessary features of true science (e.g. falsifiability, observability, repeatability, use of law-like explanation, etc.), while many disreputable or "crank" ideas have often manifested some of these same features. [Laudan L., "The Demise of the Demarcation Problem," in Ruse M., ed., "But Is It Science?," 1988, pp.337-350]" (Meyer S.C., "The Use and Abuse of Philosophy of Science: A Response to Moreland," Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith, Vol. 46, March 1994, pp.19-21. http://makeashorterlink.com/?S16453F9B)

and these days most (if not all) philosophers of science just ask `is the claim true or false?' in the sense of `does it have a good fit to the evidence?'. So I changed my view from attempting to exclude YEC from even *being* "Biblical" or "Scientific" to YEC is both "Biblical" and "Scientific", but it is *false* in that it has a poor fit to the evidence, both (i.e. it in both "Biblical" and "Scientific".

Steve

PS: Thanks for the quote. Here (see tagline) it is with its reference. I have added it to near the top of my page "Problems with Young-Earth Creationism (YEC)"
[http://makeashorterlink.com/?V3C441F9B], which is however is not a high priority for me to complete.

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"In the next few chapters I shall be obliged to oppose the notion that the earth is young. But I shall not attack it; one does not attack one's own friends. If we must use a military metaphor, I hope my allies will view me as exhorting them rather than attacking them. I am appealing to them to stop using the strategy and weapons of a bygone age in our common fight against unbelief. For recent-creationists are my friends and allies. Let there be no mistake about that. The things we have in common are much more important than those on which we differ. We share a belief in an inspired Bible. We agree that Darwin was mistaken, and that God is the Creator of every living thing. Compared with this, the question of the age of the earth pales into insignificance." (Hayward A., "Creation and Evolution: Rethinking the Evidence from Science and the Bible," [1985], Bethany House: Minneapolis MN, 1995, reprint, p.79. Emphasis in original)
http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/index.html
http://creationevolutiondesign.blogspot.com/
http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones/PoE/PoE00ToC.html
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John A. Davison said...

How many Gods were there I wonder? And how many times did those Gods wield their supernatural powers and when?

These are questions for which no answers are yet available. Until they are, monotheism is no more justified than is monophyleticism at least for this investigator.

In any event there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of any kind of God at present nor is there any need for one either for me or any of my primary sources, not one of whom found it necessary to invoke an intervening entity.

"The main source of the presnt-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and science lies in the concept of a personal God."
Albert Einstein