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John Simkin

Creationism and the Teaching of Science

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When George Bush was governor of Texas he called for creationism to be taught alongside evolution. In 2000 he went further and said the “jury is still out” on the subject of evolution. Is this another example of Christian Fundamentalism?

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=4654

Last week Bush said he thought all students should be taught about “intelligent design” theory. This is a quasi-religious theory that the Christian Fundamentalists are proposing should be taught in schools. Intelligent design holds that life can only be explained only by the product of deliberate creation. Scientists say it is re=packaged version of creationism and has no scientific standing.

Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, said last week that “intelligent design was pseudo-science” and that Bush’s comments offered the “religious Right a foothold in science classes”. As Howard Zinn pointed out in his posting yesterday, America seems to be a country under occupation.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=4674

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The decoding of the human and other genomes has opened a new avenue for understanding the mechanisms of evolution. ACQUIRING GENOMES (2002) by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan presents the theory of symbiogenesis as the basis for a line of research to shed fresh light on the formation of species. The authors definitely reject the neo-Darwinist view that random mutations alone can account for the formation of new species.

A. S. Byatt's MORPHO EUGENIA and its movie version entitled ANGELS AND INSECTS brilliantly illustrate the "Intellectual Fault-line" created in Western Society by the Theory of Evolution and the rejection of the animist covenant as formulated by Laureate Jacques Monod in CHANCE & NECESSITY (1970).

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Today I posted in my eighth-grade classroom a beautiful evolution poster for biology and will add a geology timeline on Monday. This is in Texas. I am wondering who is going to teach what Bush wants because I know of no teacher who accepts his beliefs. It is a frightening situation, however.

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It is a mistake to contend that "Neo-Darwinism" attributes species formation to random mutation alone. Evolution, in its modern formulation, recognizes four main forces of change: mutation (a rather ineffective force, but the source of all genetic variation, including that possessed by symbionts such as mitochondria), natural selection, genetic drift and gene flow.

As to our friend George, it really doesn't matter what teachers think. What will have the greatest impact on our science classrooms is what the average joe thinks - and right now the majority think like Bush. This is why we have school boards demanding that stickers be placed in text books noting that "Evolution is only a theory" or trying to force "Intelligent Design" into science classrooms. Science is losing the public relations battle, in part because of our refusal to engage the enemy.

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Joan Linsley wrote:

Today I posted in my eighth-grade classroom a beautiful evolution poster for biology and will add a geology timeline on Monday. This is in Texas. I am wondering who is going to teach what Bush wants because I know of no teacher who accepts his beliefs. It is a frightening situation, however.

:D:P:P:P:P

It is not clear whether Joan accepts evolution over intelligent design because some evolutionist has prepared a "beautiful" poster or because none of her fellow grade school teachers accept the concept of intelligent design.

Arthur Schawlow (1921-1999) was a Physics Nobel Prize winner (1981), honored for his work in laser spectroscopy. Schawlow was a professor at Stanford until his recent death and did not hesitate to identify himself as a protestant Christian. He stated, "We are fortunate to have the Bible and especially the New Testament, which tells us so much about God in widely accessible human terms." I view this statement as uniquely scientific, knowing that Professor Schawlow was convinced that his discoveries in laser spectroscopy were telling him something about God's handiwork. However, unlike the New Testament, Schawlow's research was difficult to express in "widely accessible human terms."

What is frightening, I contend, is that an eighth grade teacher is so ignorant of intelligent design that she rejects it because she knows of no other grade school teacher that accepts it; she is apparently unaware of the number of scientists from fields such as physics and biology who support the concept of intelligent design.

I have "one question" for all who have posted here ridiculing intelligent design. Are your scientific qualifications even close to that of Dr Schawlow who won the Nobel Prize in Physics and was a physics professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the world? Do you contend your knowledge of physics even comes close to his? Have any one of you even been nominated for a Nobel Prize in any area of science?

The opinion of an eighth grade teacher (and her fellow grade school teachers) just do not stack up, I suggest.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Tim -

The last time Creationism reared its ugly head, 82 (EIGHTY-TWO) Nobel Laureates wrote against it. If you're interested in "authority" I did my Ph.D. on evolution - your physicist friend did his in physics.

I have read much of the creationist and intelligent design stuff. It is not science and doesn't belong in a science classroom. It's this simple: If one posits a supernatural explanation for observable events, one is outside the realm of science.

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All is not lost in America. When George Bush came out a couple of weeks ago in favour of teaching "intelligent design" - the new manifestation of creationism - the press gave him a tremendous kicking. The Christian Taliban have not yet won.

But they are gaining on us. So far there have been legislative attempts in 13 states to have intelligent design added to the school curriculum. In Kansas, Texas and Philadelphia, it already has a foot in the door. In April a new "museum of earth history" opened in Arkansas, which instructs visitors that "dinosaurs and humans did coexist", and that juvenile dinosaurs, though God forgot to mention it, hitched a ride on Noah's Ark. Similar museums are being built in Texas and Kentucky. Some 45% of Americans, according to a Gallup poll last year, believe that "human beings did not evolve, but instead were created by God ... essentially in their current form about 10,000 years ago".

And not just in America. Last month Vienna's Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, asserted that "any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science". He appears to have the support of the Pope. Last week the Australian education minister, Brendan Nelson, announced that "if schools also want to present students with intelligent design, I don't have any difficulty with that". In the UK, the headmaster of one of Tony Blair's new business-sponsored academies claims that evolution is merely a "faith position".

The controversy fascinates me, partly because of its similarity to the dispute about climate change. Like the climate-change deniers, advocates of intelligent design cherry-pick the data that appears to support their case. They ask for evidence, then ignore it when it's presented to them. They invoke a conspiracy to explain the scientific consensus, and are unembarrassed by their own scientific illiteracy. In an article published in the American Chronicle on Friday, the journalist Thomas Dawson asserted that "all of the vertebrate groups, from fish to mammals, appear [in the fossil record] at one time", and that if evolution "were true, there would be animal-life fossils of particular animals without vision and others with varying degrees of eye development ... Such fossils do not exist". (The first fish and the first mammals are in fact separated by some 300m years, and the fossil record has more eyes, in all stages of development, than the CIA).

But it also fascinates me because natural selection is such a barren field for the fundamentalists to till. For 146 years Darwinian evolution has seen off all comers. There is a massive accumulation of evidence - from the fossil record, to genetics, to direct observation - that appears to support it. Were they to concentrate instead on the questions now assailing big bang theory, or on the failure so far to reconcile gravity with quantum physics, or on the stubborn non-appearance of the Higgs boson and the abiding mystery of the phenomenon of mass, the Christian conservatives would be much harder to confront. Why pick on Darwin?

It is surely because, as soon as you consider the implications, you must cease to believe that either Life or life are affected by purpose. As G Thomas Sharp, chairman of the Creation Truth Foundation, admitted to the Chicago Tribune, "if we lose Genesis as a legitimate scientific and historical explanation for man, then we lose the validity of Christianity. Period".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Colum...1549878,00.html

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Sorry - I made a mistake. It was "only" 72 Nobel Laureates who opposed the teaching of creationism (more specifically, the so-called "balanced treatment" act).

Here is the link to the amicus brief they signed:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/edwards-v-...rd/amicus1.html

In case you're interested, Tim, this is the greatest number of Nobel Laureates to speak out on a public issue, ever.

And since you wonder if any of us have every read the intelligent design literature, forgive me if I ask if you've ever read The Origin of Species? Or a basic college biology text?

Edited by Mike Toliver

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Joan Linsley wrote:

Today I posted in my eighth-grade classroom a beautiful evolution poster for biology and will add a geology timeline on Monday. This is in Texas. I am wondering who is going to teach what Bush wants because I know of no teacher who accepts his beliefs. It is a frightening situation, however.

:D  :P  :P  :P  :P

It is not clear whether Joan accepts evolution over intelligent design because some evolutionist has prepared a "beautiful" poster or because none of her fellow grade school teachers accept the concept of intelligent design.

Arthur Schawlow (1921-1999) was a Physics Nobel Prize winner (1981), honored for his work in laser spectroscopy. Schawlow was a professor at Stanford until his recent death and did not hesitate to identify himself as a protestant Christian. He stated, "We are fortunate to have the Bible and especially the New Testament, which tells us so much about God in widely accessible human terms." I view this statement as uniquely scientific, knowing that Professor Schawlow was convinced that his discoveries in laser spectroscopy were telling him something about God's handiwork. However, unlike the New Testament, Schawlow's research was difficult to express in "widely accessible human terms."

What is frightening, I contend, is that an eighth grade teacher is so ignorant of intelligent design that she rejects it because she knows of no other grade school teacher that accepts it; she is apparently unaware of the number of scientists from fields such as physics and biology who support the concept of intelligent design.

I have "one question" for all who have posted here ridiculing intelligent design.  Are your scientific qualifications even close to that of Dr Schawlow who won the Nobel Prize in Physics and was a physics professor at one of the most prestigious universities in the world?  Do you contend your knowledge of physics even comes close to his?  Have any one of you even been nominated for a Nobel Prize in any area of science?

The opinion of an eighth grade teacher (and her fellow grade school teachers) just do not stack up, I suggest.

Dear Tim: Your MCP side is showing. Instead of patronizing Joan L. why didn't you ask her to elaborate on her views? Science thrives on ambiguity, not certainty. Your appeal to "AUTHORITY" has a delightful Medieval ring to it.

It's hardly a secret that "Nothing overshadows truth so completely as authority." I have no objection to your devotion to a dead speculative philosophy as long as I am not required to share your enthusiasm. I, too, harbor an irrational belief which is derived from Mach and modified by Margulis and can be summarized as:Life is combustion and water in complex circumstances. Regards, 664-562-121 of Clan Jasmine and Clade Oisin, now, go hang a salami i"m a lasagna hog.

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Mike, can you explain to me how matter first started, absent a cause>

Einstein's "big bang" theory seems to indicate a beginning.

I would ask you, Mike, to go on-line and read some of the writings of William Lane Craig.

And I would submit that truth is not determined by simply adding numbers. I am sure you would admit that at some point most of the theories that have been proven to be true were dismissed by a majority of scientists.

Had Columbus accepted the majority view, American Indians would be in far better shape than they are now!

My point about posting the Noble prize winner creationist was simply to demonstrate the silliness of the argument that intelligent design must be wrong because a grade school teacher knows none of her peers who accept it. Surely you would agree that is a silly argument. As silly as me trying to "prove" intelligent design by saying I know none of my church members who accept evolutionary theory.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Tim -

I must have mis-interpreted your intent, as you seemed to be saying "my authority is bigger than your authority". As others have noted above, science is anti-authoritarian.

Physics is the realm of the "big bang". I have read some about quantum mechanics and the big bang - enough to know that what physicists postulate as the beginning is a "singularity", which is a mathematical concept - and the closest thing to "supernatural" as science gets. In any case, organic evolution really doesn't care about the big bang. Organic evolution is all about how life evolved, not the Universe.

Here's the deal: science never proves anything. When you talk about "proof", you must be referring to math, because science is not engaged in a search for proof.

Science can never prove anything because scientists must make 3 assumptions about the Universe in order to do science. They are:

1). We can deduce natural law from observable effects of that law. Thus, science searches for NATURAL law - not supernatural beings. We MUST do so, because otherwise how would we make predictions? "Well, God wants things to fall towards the center of the Earth today, but tomorrow - who knows?"

2). Natural law works the same way through time and space. Again, our ability to predict is based on this assumption. Intelligent design advocates presume that at "sometime" natural law was superceded by supernatural law - the Designer.

3). Our senses give us accurate information about reality. This is why science is empirical and again points out why intelligent design is outside the realm of science. We are incapable of sensing the nature of the Designer.

I'll read the readings you recommend as soon as you read the Origin of Species. It's not hard - I've read it at least 15 times.

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There is one issue surrounding these Christian fundamentalists which I find quite confusing. It's their ability to cherry pick the bits of the bible they find convenient. The logic of their position must be - if Genesis is right then they have to accept everything else in the bible from Genesis right through to Revelations.

This means that Galileo and Newton were wrong and they have to insist that physics teaching returns to the Ptolemaic system whichputs the earth at the centre of the Universe just as God intended.

Similarly all the instructions in Leviticus, all the dietary laws, all the commandments about what should be done to adulterers etc. The business with Jonah and the whale also raises important issues - whales were fishes according to the bible therefore I guess that the Christain fundamentalists have to accept biblical authority and reclassify whales as fishes rather than mammals.

In the UK one of the sponsors of a number of Christina fundamentalist academies is Reg Vardy, well known car salesman. Now if he were a true Christian he would condemn the sin of usury - lending money for interest. I know that since the reformation the church and Parliament have changed their position on usury but being people of principle they would recognise that these changes were instigated by man and not sanctioned by biblical authority. Mr Vardy - why no 0% finance on all your car deals?

If you sign up for Creationism - in whatever form - intelligent design you have to accept bibllical authority on everything else or else lay your self open to accusations of hypocrisy

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In the UK one of the sponsors of a number of  Christina fundamentalist academies is Reg Vardy, well known car salesman. Now if he were a true Christian he would condemn the sin of usury - lending money for interest. I know that since the reformation the church and Parliament  have changed their position on usury but being people of principle they would recognise that these changes were instigated by man and not sanctioned  by biblical authority. Mr Vardy - why no 0% finance on all your car deals?

If you sign up for Creationism - in whatever form - intelligent design you have to accept bibllical authority on everything else or else lay your self open to accusations of hypocrisy

The old testament has no absolute prohibition on charging interest. Thoughts on the subject vary from time to time, Christians have borrowed from Jews, lent to Arabs, built hospitals & fought wars with borrowed money.

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Intelligent Design does not neccessarily, of course, posit a Christian or even a Jewish God.

As I understand it, all Intelligent Design posits is a "Designer" who, for instance, established the laws of physics, DNA, etc.

Proponents of Intelligent Design argue that from the complexity of such things as the human eye one can reasonably deduce the intelligence of a designer at work. But one cannot deduce that the Designer was the God described in the Bible.

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And it was precisely in answer to the "Argument from Design" - most recently (for Darwin) advanced by William Paley in his book "Natural Theology" - that Darwin wrote The Origin of Species. It is also why Intelligent Design is not science. Science is concerned solely with natural causation.

Darwin answered the argument from design quite well, in the Origin. He even used the eye as an example, in a direct reference to Paley, who used the eye as Tim does - "it's too complicated". But Darwin showed that even incredible complex structures such as the eye can evolve in a step-by-step fashion.

Teaching Intelligent Design in a science class makes as much sense as teaching Moby Dick in a math class.

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