| | | | |

Where Teaching the Controversy is Prohibited

I have suggested many times before that before one believes what IDC (intelligent design creationism) advocates say about their goals, one should look at the way they handle the matter where they are in control. I’m sure that I will be accused of unfairly lumping ID and creationism together, but if they don’t want that to happen they should make efforts not to look so similar.

While names have changed, and a slogan like “teach the controversy” has become popular only more recently, I can recall the same theme from my own childhood to the present. Evolutionists need to allow the teaching of creationism along side evolution. It’s only fair. At the same time, evolution was never given a fair presentation on the church side. I never heard in Sabbath School (I was raised Seventh-day Adventist) that there were such people as theistic evolutionists, nor did I learn anything about how they would view God as creator. It was always a war between light (creationism) and darkness (evolutionism), the first God’s own truth, and the second the devil’s deception designed to lead one to hell.

Today I found this column from the forthcoming Newsweek, that tells about Richard Colling, who has written a book Random Designer. Now I haven’t read his book, though I will certainly set out to get a copy now. By the description it sounds very much like he and I would be on the same page philosophically and theologically. He’s a professor of biology at Olivet Nazarene University, where his book is now effectively banned. He doesn’t get to teach a basic biology course he has taught for years, and his book can’t be assigned reading.

This action shows some of the destructive potential of ignorance, but it also removes any fig-leaf of respectability from the “teach the controversy” argument. The advocates of creationism generally do not want the controversy taught. They want to win. If they were to win a court case allowing their materials into the public school classrooms, their next move would be to prevent critical examination of those ideas, and then to prevent the teaching of evolutionary theory itself. I simply don’t believe the public propaganda. I never have, but the evidence that it is pure propaganda just keeps building up.

And here I would note that while I oppose inclusion of intelligent design or any other variety of creationism in high school science classes until such time as it becomes mainstream science (don’t hold your breath), I’m perfectly happy to have any theory discussed in higher education. It should be critically discussed, which, in the case of IDC, would mean that it should be thoroughly shredded.

But at Olivet, apparently, they don’t even want students to have to read about the views of a theistic evolutionist. I believe that the Olivet example is what theistic evolutionists such as myself can expect from the ID movement. They want to shut us out. They certainly don’t want to “teach the controversy” about ID, a controversy that is very much alive amongst Christians.

You see, “teaching the controversy” is good when you want to wedge your way into the public schools, or force your way into universities. It’s not so good when someone wants to fairly examine the controversy inside a Christian school. They want a “heads we win, tails you lose” situation.

Hat tips go to Metacatholic and Higgaion, both of whom have excellent comments on this story themselves.

Similar Posts

18 Comments

  1. I’m sure that I will be accused of unfairly lumping ID and creationism together, but if they don’t want that to happen they should make efforts not to look so similar.

    Isn’t that the truth?

    I’m looking forward to reading Collings’ book myself.

  2. Amongst the things that bother me in this debate are 1: Creationist do the very things that evolutionists do where they have control.i.e. shut out the other side from the debate.
    2: The lack of the ” objectivity” and the ” freedom to follow the evidence where it leads” by both sides in this debate. The creationist behaviour in this regard is well known, but evolutionists often get a free pass when it comes to Intelligent Design.
    I refer of course to the repeated statements made that ID advocates can not be taken seriously because their works are not published in the Peer reviewed scientific literature. They neglect to mention of course that the last attempt to publish a “Peer Reviewed” paper on ID in a major journal resulted in the editor being fired, and the scientist who had written the paper being told that he was effectively blacklisted.

    I will grant you that a sizable chunk of what is passed off as ID is really( or at least it seems that way to me)warmed over creationism, but most of the evolutionary scientists that I know do not rule out ID because of that ( although some of there jokes sbout it are quite funny) but rather because of an “apriori” naturalism. Meaning that ID is ruled out as a scientific theory because it admits the possibility of a designer,
    regardless of of whether or not said ID scientist has rigorisly applied the sientific standards and practices that are followed when preparing a paper for publication in a peer reviewed journal.
    If the defenders of evolution were merely inisting that ID advocates meet the same rigorous standards that they have to, I would be inclined to take their complaints about ID advocates more seriously, but so long as they behave like the very religious zealots they rightly condemn I can only view them, as I view the advocates of creationism : with suspicion.
    I’m not advocating ID, I’m simply against limiting scientific inquirey on apparently philosophic, rather than rational scientific grounds.
    As for teaching ID in schools I think that the ACLU statements at the original Scope’s trial make interesting reading( and in light of the controversey, somewhat ironic reading too).
    Personally I think that they are being premature.

  3. Ray Chandler objects limiting science to “an ‘apriori’ naturalism. Meaning that ID is ruled out as a scientific theory because it admits the possibility of a designer.”

    Yet this is the way that science has been defined for the past 400 years; see R.S. Westfall, “The Construction of Modern Science” (Cambridge University 1971). And it was this limitation that turned astrology into astronomy, alchemy into chemistry, and in general led to the burgeoning expansion of scientific results that continues today.

    Scientists do not wish to return to a teleological or supernatural philosophy that had hampered medieval and Greek science. The designer of ID is necessarily supernatural, to avoid the tower-of-turtles problem. By definition, such a designer need not obey predictable natural laws. Scientists justifiably see this as a research stopper. Particle physicists having a saying that a theory that explains everything explains nothing. “They were designed that way” provides no clue as to why viruses always have

  4. less than 12 genes, or bacteria less than 5000, or whether humans are approaching a complexity limit for eukaryotes. But evolution does.

    Scientists reject intelligent design because it is not rigorous, but more importantly because it has not and cannot—even if it were true—provide answers to the questions that they ask, answers that confer the benefits of science to humanity.

  5. If the defenders of evolution were merely inisting that ID advocates meet the same rigorous standards that they have to, I would be inclined to take their complaints about ID advocates more seriously, . . .

    But that is precisely what scientists are asking for–the same rigorous standards that any other science is subjected to. In layman’s terms, ID needs to explain things, and it doesn’t. It just proposes that an explanation is possible. That’s a celebration of ignorance, not of learning.

  6. For the record : I am just as much against an ” apriori” supernaturalism as I am an “apriori” naturalism.
    I am for following the evidence wherever it leads.
    “Apriori” committments to a particular worldview, when conducting scientific investigations, may well cause the scientist to improperly interpret the evidence to fit the conclusions that they have already reached.
    I am for Science as the search for, and discovery of, truth. I am familiar with the position which defines science in purely naturalistic terms and reads those conclusions back into earlier centuries. Too bad that Newton wouldn’t have recognised that characterisation as valid in his time.

    Mr. Nuefeld: If your point is that most ID work, objectively considered, doesn’t meet that standard, then I would agree with you( which is why I concluded that their attempts to present public school course material as premature). My point on that score, was that even where attempts are made to meet those standards, the work has not been accepted
    because the conclusions arrived at( no matter how tenatively phrased) are ruled out on an “apriori” basis.
    I am all for following the evidence where it leads and it is( in my view) a scientific tragedy that both sides appear to have defined science in terms that hinder that.
    I love Darwin. I love the Bible, but I love the truth more.

  7. Ray Chandler also believes that an ID paper would be rejected “regardless of of whether or not said ID scientist has rigorisly applied the sientific standards and practices that are followed when preparing a paper for publication in a peer reviewed journal.”

    This implies that such papers have been submitted and rejected. But this has apparently never happened. So we have acceoptances=0, but we also have submissions=0. [1] In the Dover, PA trial, ID witness Michael Behe admitted that there is no publishable evidence for ID, that conducting rersearch to develop evidence for irreducibale complexity would “not be fruitful,” and that ID as a scientific theory is implausible if one does not belioeve in God.

    ID proponents claim a lot of things, including vague, unspecified evidence of design. However, witnesses in a trial can be cross-examined, and they commit perjury if they do not tell the whole truth. This is another aspect of ID that enrages working scientists. ID misleads and even lies with impunity. When a scientist does that—or is even innocently wrong—his scientific peers catch him.

    ==================
    [1] In the one situation Ray mentions, the jouranl is peer-reviewed, but that particualr paper was not. The editor got in trouble more for bypassing the review process than for the subject matter of the paper. The paper, incidentially, was only a literature review, and did not include any experiments, calulations, or other original evidence.

  8. Mr.Olorin:
    Thank you for making at least one of my points. “Apriori “worldviews have no place in scientific investigation. Science, without a willingness to follow the evidence where it leads is worthless.
    Your comments about the one article I was refering to differ from my remembrance of the media coverage of the incident.
    Putting that to oneside however, a number of scientists have made statements that the very notion of ID is unscientific, and, pointing to the article I was talking about, have stated that no paper could be considered scientific if it accepted the possibility of a Designer at any point.
    As for ID advocates lying,( as though that disproves it as an hypthesis), surely you don’t want to open up that can of worms.
    As for Michael Behe comments, well, if he said that then he is an intellectual coward.
    I stated in my previous post that ID currently lacks maturity.
    They’re certainly not ready, at this point to teach it as scientific theory on a par with evolution. Frankly, as I’ve told ID friends of mine, they’ve got a lot of leg work left to do before they’ll be ready. Those of them not willing to perform that leg work really need to shut up and go away.
    Half hearted, immature efforts will only increase the very biases that they claim to be facing.

  9. Ray Chandler repeats thet “Science, without a willingness to follow the evidence where it leads is worthless.”

    Leave aside for the moment the philosophical issue as to whether science should surrender its methodological naturalism.

    We must still ask, where is all the scientific evidence for intelligent design? What experiments have been performed to show where, when, and how any design event has taken place? What kind of evidence can you imagine that would demonstrate the nature of a design and a process that generates it? Others had suspected that evolution had occurred; Darwin made it a theory by proposing a mechanism or model: heritable variation plus natural selection is what drives evolution. What model does ID propose to describe past design events and to guide future research efforts? In fact, ID refuses even to speculate upon the attributes, characteristics, or mechanisms of either the designer or of the designs themselves. Yet these are the very things that a scientific theory requires. At best, ID speaks only of gaps in our present knowledge of evolution, and urges the logical fallacy that these lacunae somehow demonstrate the truth of ID.

    I do zealously take the side of science in this area. My profession involves poking my nose into scientists’ new research and communicating it. The longer I look at science and ID, the less science I see in ID. As Discovery Institute co-founder Phillip Johnson said, “This isn’t really, and never has been a debate about science. It’s about religion and philosophy.” DI’s chief theoretician, William Dembski, restates this concept as: “The conceptual soundness of the [ID] theory can in the end only be located in Christ.” The aim of intelligent design is not to advance science, but rather to justify religious faith. That it spawns no scientific evidence is therefore not surprising.

  10. A religion or naturalism arrived at as a result of following the evidence where it leads, is quite acceptable, and even to be expected in most cases for it is a conclusion arrive at after an objective analysis of the evidence. It is therefore a reasonable conclusion.
    Naturalism or a belief in ID, arrived at as a conclusion read into the evaluation of the evidence by, amongst other things, the exclusion of other potential conclusions on an ” apriori ” basis is quite another.

    To either assume or exclude a Designer on an “apriori” basis, seems to me, to be fatal to an objective analysis of the question.
    Nevertheless, I see that I will only be repeating myself and irritating the rest of you( not my intention). I’ve said my piece and I wish to thank all of you for your time.
    God bless.

  11. To either assume or exclude a Designer on an “apriori” basis, seems to me, to be fatal to an objective analysis of the question.
    Nevertheless, I see that I will only be repeating myself and irritating the rest of you( not my intention). I’ve said my piece and I wish to thank all of you for your time.

    1) You’re not irritating me. I’m interested in the discussion.
    2) I don’t think I’m a priori excluding anything.
    3) I will try to post on this specific point either this afternoon (I’m off to church right now) or tomorrow.

    Blessings!

  12. Ray repeats himself: “Naturalism or a belief in ID, arrived at as a conclusion read into the evaluation of the evidence by, amongst other things, the exclusion of other potential conclusions on an ” apriori ” basis is quite another.”

    Olorin repeats himself: “Leave aside for the moment the philosophical issue as to whether science should surrender its methodological naturalism. We must still ask, where is all the scientific evidence for intelligent design?”

    Michael Behe said it under oath at the Dover trial. There is no direct, positive evidence _for_ intelligent design, based upon experiment or calculations from data. Scientists can follow evidence only whern there is evidence to follow.

    Now both sides have irritated the rest of you.

Comments are closed.