Monday, August 07, 2006

Nothing Wrong With Kansas #1

Nothing Wrong With Kansas: State voters move science education out of the Victorian era, Washington Post, August 6, 2006; Page B06

[Graphic: The bacterial flagellum rotary motor (eppur si muove - "it still moves"!), Access Research Network]

... FOR THE SECOND time in less than a year, voters have turned out of office policymakers who insisted on teaching kids bad science. [The history of science reveals that questioning the current dominant scientific paradigm has always been regarded by its defenders as "bad science." But as Loren Eiseley pointed out, "when science progresses, it frequently discovers that it must abandon or modify what it once believed" and "Sometimes ends by accepting what it has previously scorned":
"Certainly science has moved forward. But when science progresses, it often opens vaster mysteries to our gaze. Moreover, science frequently discovers that it must abandon or modify what it once believed. Sometimes it ends by accepting what it has previously scorned." (Eiseley, L.C., "The Firmament of Time," The Scientific Book Club: London, 1960, p.5)]

Last year, the people of Dover, Pa., got rid of a group of school board members who injected the theory of "intelligent design" into high school biology. Last week, Republican primary voters in Kansas ousted the conservative majority on the state Board of Education, which had adopted science standards embracing intelligent design and casting doubt on Darwinian evolution. Moderate Republicans replaced two conservatives -- giving those supporting science at least a 6-to-4 majority, even if the other conservatives hold on in the general election. [As Darwin himself observed, "Vox populi, [is not] vox Dei, "the voice of the people [is not] the voice of God":

"When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei [the voice of the people is the voice of God], as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science." (Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection," 1872, Sixth Edition, Senate: London, 1994, p.143)

That is, scientific truth is not determined by popular vote. As Galileo reputedly said (but apparently didn't) "eppur si muove," i.e. "it still moves":

"The personality of Galileo, as it emerges from works of popular science, has even less relation to historic fact than Canon Koppernigk's. In his particular case, however, this is not caused by a benevolent indifference towards the individual as distinct from his achievement, but by more partisan motives. In works with a theological bias, he appears as the nigger in the woodpile; in rationalist mythography, as the Maid of Orleans of Science, the St George who slew the dragon of the Inquisition. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the fame of this outstanding genius rests mostly on discoveries he never made, and on feats he never performed. Contrary to statements in even recent outlines of science, Galileo did not invent the telescope; nor the microscope; nor the thermometer; nor the pendulum clock. He did not discover the law of inertia; nor the parallelogram of forces or motions; nor the sun spots. He made no contribution to theoretical astronomy; he did not throw down weights from the leaning tower of Pisa, and did not prove the truth of the Copernican system. He was not tortured by the Inquisition, did not languish in its dungeons, did not say 'eppur si muove'; and he was not a martyr of science. What he did was to found the modern science of dynamics, which makes him rank among the men who shaped human destiny. It provided the indispensable complement to Kepler's laws for Newton's universe: 'If I have been able to see farther,' Newton said, 'it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants.' The giants were, chiefly, Kepler, Galileo, and Descartes." (Koestler, A., "The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe", [1959], Penguin: Harmondsworth UK, 1972, reprint, p.358. Parentheses mine)

of the Earth moving around the Sun (and not vice-versa).

In the same spirit of true science, ID theorist Professor Michael Behe pointed out, "the realities of biology are not amenable to adjudication. On the day after the judge's opinion as before, the cell is run by amazingly complex, functional machinery that in any other context would immediately be recognized as designed" and "as before, there are no non-design explanations for the molecular machinery of life, only wishful speculations and Just-So stories":

"The Court's reasoning in section E-4 is premised on: a cramped view of science; the conflation of intelligent design with creationism; an incapacity to distinguish the implications of a theory from the theory itself; a failure to differentiate evolution from Darwinism; and strawman arguments against ID. The Court has accepted the most tendentious and shopworn excuses for Darwinism with great charity and impatiently dismissed evidence-based arguments for design. All of that is regrettable, but in the end does not impact the realities of biology, which are not amenable to adjudication. On the day after the judge's opinion, December 21, 2005, as before, the cell is run by amazingly complex, functional machinery that in any other context would immediately be recognized as designed. On December 21, 2005, as before, there are no non-design explanations for the molecular machinery of life, only wishful speculations and Just-So stories." (Behe, M.J., "Whether Intelligent Design is Science: A Response to the Opinion of the Court in Kitzmiller vs Dover Area School District," Center for Science & Culture, Discovery Institute, Seattle WA, 2006)]

The vote, which should lead to changes to those embarrassing standards, is an encouraging sign that even in conservative jurisdictions, most people want kids to be taught biology, not religion. [This is yet another example of a fallacy in support of evolution, i.e. the Fallacy of Special Pleading (double standard), i.e. the "yes" answer to the question, "is there empirical scientific evidence of design in nature?" is deemed by the Darwinists to be "religion" but the "no" answer to the same question is deemed by them to be "science"!:

"PJ: Clearly if you have a question, the answer yes and the answer no to the question are still in the same subject area. So if the affirmation `Yes, natural selection can create as much as is needed,' is science, then the no answer -- `No, the evidence does not support that' -- is science, too. I vigorously assert that this is not two subjects but one subject: what does the evidence show and not show about natural processes? ... They should either teach evolution in religion class and not in science, or teach it in science and present both sides. It can't be that the yes answer is science and the no answer is religion.'" (Johnson, P.E., "Evolution and the Curriculum: A Conversation with Phillip Johnson and Gregg Easterbrook," Center Conversations No. 4, September 1999, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington DC)

The Kansas board has been fighting over evolution since 1999, when it moved to eliminate references to Darwinian theory from statewide standards. [And this is a falsehood in support of evolution! As another ID theorist, Jonathan Wells documented, the "Kansas board" in 1999 actually increased by fivefold "references to Darwinian theory" in its "statewide standards":

"Wizard of Oz jokes are in vogue as the news media scramble to ridicule Kansas for downplaying, eliminating, or even banning evolution in its public schools. But the people who are writing such stuff apparently haven’t read the Kansas Science Education Standards. The truth is that the August 11 School Board decision actually increased public school emphasis on evolution. The old science standards, in effect since 1995, devoted about 70 words to biological evolution. Standards proposed to the Board earlier this year by a 27-member Science Education Standards Writing Committee would have increased this to about 640 words. The standards actually adopted by the Board on August 11 include about 390 words on the subject. So the Kansas State School Board, asked to approve a ninefold increase in the standards for evolution, approved a fivefold increase instead." (Wells J., "Ridiculing Kansas school board easy, but it’s not good journalism," The Daily Republic, Mitchell SD, October 14, 1999)

I will have sections on "Fallacies in Support of Evolution" and "Falsehoods in Support of Evolution" in both my `Evolution Quotes Book' and my "Problems of Evolution" books.]

After anti-evolutionists lost their majority, the board restored evolution's place. But the conservatives regained the majority in 2004 and moved to promote intelligent design -- a challenge to Darwinian theory based not on biblical inerrancy or overt creationism but on purportedly scientific flaws in the theory. [This is true, but it contradicts the previous false dichotomy between "biology, not religion." ID is indeed a secular, scientific theory that intelligent causation is necessary to explain certain features of the natural world; and that intelligent causation is empirically detectable:

"What then is Intelligent Design? Intelligent Design begins with the observation that intelligent causes can do things which undirected natural causes cannot. Undirected natural causes can place scrabble pieces on a board, but cannot arrange the pieces as meaningful words or sentences. To obtain a meaningful arrangement requires an intelligent cause. This intuition, that there is a fundamental distinction between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intelligent causes on the other, has underlain the design arguments of past centuries. ... What has emerged is a new program for scientific research known as Intelligent Design. Within biology, Intelligent Design is a theory of biological origins and development. Its fundamental claim is that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology, and that these causes are empirically detectable. To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, on the basis of observational features of the world, are capable of reliably distinguishing intelligent causes from undirected natural causes. Many special sciences have already developed such methods for drawing this distinction-notably forensic science, cryptography, archeology, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (as in the movie Contact)." (Dembski, W.A., "The Intelligent Design Movement," Reprinted from Cosmic Pursuit, Spring 1998. Access Research Network, November 15, 1998. Emphasis original)

and therefore is "a challenge to Darwinian theory based ... on purportedly scientific flaws in the theory." But ID is more than a negative critique of "Darwinian theory" and its denial of design. ID is also a positive scientific theory that there is evidence of design in nature.

As molecular biologist Michael Denton, pointed out, "the inference to design is a purely a posteriori induction based on the logic of analogy" which "may have religious implications, but it does not depend on religious presuppositions" (my emphasis):

"Paley was not only right in asserting the existence of an analogy between life and machines, but was also remarkably prophetic in guessing that the technological ingenuity realized in living systems is vastly in excess of anything yet accomplished by man. ... The almost irresistible force of the analogy has completely undermined the complacent assumption, prevalent in biological circles over most of the past century, that the design hypothesis can be excluded on the grounds that the notion is fundamentally a metaphysical a priori concept and therefore scientifically unsound. On the contrary, the inference to design is a purely a posteriori induction based on a ruthlessly consistent application of the logic of analogy. The conclusion may have religious implications, but it does not depend on religious presuppositions." (Denton, M.J., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis," Burnett Books: London, 1985, p.341)]

Its proponents claim that they merely intend to make sure that schoolchildren get a full sense of the scientific controversy over evolution. The trouble with this liberal-seeming pose is that there is no scientific controversy over whether evolution happens or over its essential mechanisms. [The first is just double-talk, i.e. another fallacy in support of evolution, namely the Fallacy of Equivocation on the word "evolution." If "evolution" is defined as fluctuating sizes of beaks of finches on the Galapagos, then everyone would accept that "evolution happens."

But if "evolution" is defined as "the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process'":

"In one of the most existentially penetrating statements ever made by a scientist, Richard Dawkins concluded that `the universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.' Facing such a reality, perhaps we should not be surprised at the results of a 2001 Gallup poll confirming that 45 percent of Americans believe `God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so'; 37 percent prefer a blended belief that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process'; and a paltry 12 percent accept the standard scientific theory that `human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.'" (Shermer, M.B., "The Gradual Illumination of the Mind," Scientific American, February 2002. My emphasis)

then only "a paltry 12 percent" of the public accept that "evolution" happened. And because it is "the standard scientific theory that God had no part in this process" which is being taught to school students, the "45 percent" plus "37 percent" = 87 percent of the public who reject that view have a perfect right to have the evidence for it presented and contested.

Since a major part of that evidence would be Darwinian `blind watchmaker' evidence against design (as per the subtitle of Dawkins's book, "The Blind Watchmaker": "Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," the counter-evidence of a Universe with design should be presented.

It is a fundamental principle of good science that, "Multiple hypotheses should be proposed whenever possible" (my emphasis):

"Multiple hypotheses should be proposed whenever possible. Proposing alternative explanations that can answer a question is good science. If we operate with a single hypothesis, especially one we favor, we may direct our investigation toward a hunt for evidence in support of this hypothesis." (Campbell, N.A., Reece, J.B. & Mitchell, L.G., "Biology," [1987], Benjamin/Cummings: Menlo Park CA, Fifth Edition, 1999, p.14)

because "the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among 'multiple working hypotheses', has a much better chance of being the right answer" (my emphasis):

"What sceptical thinking boils down to is the means to construct, and to understand, a reasoned argument and, especially important, to recognize a fallacious or fraudulent argument. The question is not whether we like the conclusion that emerges out of a train of reasoning, but whether the conclusion follows from the premises or starting point and whether that premise is true. Among the tools: Spin more than one hypothesis. If there's something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among 'multiple working hypotheses', has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy." (Sagan, C.E., "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," [1996], Headline: London, 1997, reprint, p.197. Emphasis original)

not theory like Darwinian evolution that has to be protected from criticism by court rulings, fallacies and falsehoods!

And as for there being "no scientific controversy over its [evolution's] essential mechanisms" that is simply false. There is enormous scientific controversy over evolution's essential mechanisms, e.g. the relative frequency and importance of mutation, genetic drift, natural selection, etc, etc. Indeed, as Cambridge paleontologist Simon Conway Morris observed, that "evolution happened" seems to be "the only point of agreement" (my emphasis) that there is among evolutionary scientists:

"When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: `It happened.' Thereafter, there is little consensus, which at first sight must seem rather odd." (Conway Morris, S., "Evolution: Bringing Molecules into the Fold," Cell, Vol. 100, pp.1-11, January 7, 2000, p.11)

Continued in part #2.]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'

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