Thursday, December 06, 2007

And the chorus of disapproval continues, plus a creo reply

I know I seem like a broken record about this, but the wide-ranging ridicule the TEA is getting over the Comer ouster is deserving of all the exposure it can get. The Houston Chronicle editorializes as follows:

Since Texas policy supports the inclusion of evolution in science curriculum, it's hard to see how Comer was violating state policy by circulating an event notice sent out by a group that also endorses teaching evolution. Although TEA officials later cited Comer's attendance at a meeting of the same group, that seems a bogus rationale for dismissal and a violation of academic freedom.

"Maybe [the TEA] must remain neutral to whether or not to lie to students about evolution — but if so, that's just sad," Forrest said.

It will be more than sad if the Texas Education Agency is leaning toward taking an anti-evolutionary stance and allowing religious doctrine to be taught side by side with valid science in the state's classrooms. If intelligent design is a Trojan horse for creationism, the Comer episode indicates Texans need to be wary of TEA bureaucrats bearing undesirable gifts.

Even the Waco Tribune Herald has chimed in, and we all know Waco's history of religious zanies. Perhaps the town is just feeling burned, and burned out, by having to put with the recent shenanigans old William Dembski has tried to pull on Baylor. The paper opines:

Because the State Board of Education will review the state science curriculum next year and set standards for classroom instruction and textbook selection, Comer’s abrupt removal could signal an opening for the insertion of creationism or intelligent design into science classrooms in Texas.

Texas parents, teachers and lawmakers should be on guard that the state avoids the mistakes that led to the 2005 Dover, Pa., lawsuit.

Meanwhile, some pencil-dicked creationist calling himself John King has sent a whiny email my way in reply to the letter I just had printed by the Statesman, and it's replete with exactly the kind of dishonesty, fallacies, and scientific illiteracy you'd expect from one of his lot. I was hoping this would happen, since I've been in the mood to bloody my knuckles. But interestingly, there's only been one response so far. Here it is below, with my rebuttal included in bold.

One thing is clear, that you fully embrace censorship in public schools. If Chris Comer was censored, so are those who want intelligent design acknowledged in the classroom.

Except for one detail: Intelligent design is not valid science, and thus has no business being taught in science class, except perhaps as an example of pseudoscience. It isn't "censorship" to refuse to teach things in schools that are not facts. It wouldn't be "censorship" to refuse to teach Holocaust Denial in history classes, it wouldn't be "censorship" to refuse to teach astrology in astronomy classes, and it's not "censorship" to refuse to teach "intelligent design" or any other form of creationism without a single example of science to back it up in science classes.

The notion that a trial in Dover, Delaware established any scientific truth is nonsense on its face, equivalent to saying that a trial established O.J. Simpson's innocence.

Except for another detail: Both sides asked Judge Jones to decide whether or not Intelligent Design was science. But if you don't want to go by his ruling, you can just take the testimony of Michael Behe, who admitted on the stand that in order for Intelligent Design to be considered scientific, you would have to expand the definition of science to include the aforementioned astrology. That's pretty bad, and coming from the mouth of one of ID's biggest proponents, how could you blame Judge Jones from deciding any other way?

As for other leading ID supporters, like William Dembski, the Dover trial was the opportunity they all said they had been waiting for to prove in a court of law that ID was soundly scientific and deserved to be taught in classrooms without committing some sort of religious constitutional violation. And not only didn't they make their best case, most of them didn't even show up! That should tell you something.

Similarly, the comparison of the solar system to the dogmatic claim that accidents of nature account for life as it exists today is just as arbitrary.

Just as you revealed your ignorance about the Dover trial, you now reveal your scientific illiteracy. There is nothing about evolutionary science that is dogmatic; like every other field of science, new discoveries are made every year that open up entirely new branches of study. And there is nothing in evolutionary science that attributes the process to "accidents of nature." Evolution is a remarkably complex and wide-ranging field of scientific study, about which you are quite clearly entirely ignorant. And the ignorance you reveal makes a much better case than I could that quality standards for science education need to be upheld in Texas. Because you obviously didn't get a quality science education.

Your insistence that Darwin was infallible is like Al Gore's remark that "the debate is over," the sole meaning of which is that Al Gore is afraid to debate.

Find anywhere in my letter where I insisted Darwin was "infallible." I didn't, and you know it, which means this is a typical straw man. That's the problem with dealing with creationists: you guys can't make your points without lying. So the whole inherent dishonesty of your character does make it exasperating to deal with you.

But if you'd rather hide behind the self-flattering fantasy that scientists are afraid of you, go ahead. We are all well aware how important martyr/persecution complexes are to you folks. Indeed, the entire PR thrust of the ID movement feeds on those complexes. Just remember, the ID side had its chance to make its case in Dover, and they were the ones who ran away.

Maybe if any of you folks would produce some peer-reviewed research, your claims might finally be worth taking seriously. But this isn't what you want. ID supporters basically want to cheat, to be allowed to cut to the front of the line without doing any real science to support your position, then whine about "censorship" when people point out just how scientifically vacuous ID is.

So, sorry John, nice try, but we've all heard the tired claims you're trying to make many many times, and they're just as bogus coming from you as anyone else. Try again if you feel up to it. If you think I have any fear of debating you, you're in for a humiliating surprise.

Not surprising ol' Barney Fife here is also a global warming denier, is it? Well, we'll see if he bites, so that I may taunt him a second time!


  1. Oh yeah?!

    (credit to Jay Novella)

  2. I kind of agree with you in a way. I think Young Earth Creationism should be taught in history class.

    But I do deny evolution should be taught (except as an amusing side-note and "FYI, don't make these mistakes" kind of thing) in science class, so that still puts me on your bad side. ;-)

  3. Well, mainly, it just adds you to the already-too-long list of scientifically illiterate Americans. Unless, with your awesome biological expertise (eye roll), you can point out to the people who actually do science for a living the "mistakes" you think it makes.

  4. After reading the second comment on this thread, I cannot fail to see what scientific illiteracy means, and that it must be deal with. Maybe these persons find science just too damn difficult and try to stablish a ID and YEC curricula in the schools so that they can have some decent results in tests at the end of the period.

    You, Martin, could have said a lot about ID and YEC, but the very thing that convinced me about the terrible mistake that would be teaching religion in disguize on north american schools came as a bang after reading what this rhology had to say about it.

  5. Well, mytho, a lot has been said about ID and YEC, and I guess I made the mistake of assuming that most regular readers here were aware of what beliefs these folks were trying to shoehorn into science curricula. But yes, in case you weren't aware of the full magnitude of the ignorance, it is in fact the case that a lot of people in the year 2007 actually believe the earth is only 6000 years old — which would mean, in Dawkins' hilarious observation, that it was created after dogs were domesticated. (Heck, even the ruins of the Biblical city of Jericho are at least 8000 years old!)

    As for ID, well, it's just a passel of negative arguments. They make no actual case for "intelligent design." They simply hone in on perceived weaknesses in evolutionary theory and hope that if they can show evolution is sufficiently weak, then ID will win by default. Judge Jones saw right through this lame tactic and called them out on it in Dover. The irony of the IDer's approach is this: their main argument against evolution is that it has a lot of "gaps," and the more gaps a theory has, the worse a theory is. The thing is, the alternative they offer — a designer whose existence is only inferred — is nothing more than one big gap that is larger than the universe and everything in it. So in essence, by the premise of its own arguments, ID refutes itself.

  6. Hi Martin

    I've seen the NOVA program about ID on trial, and I can only say that it was terrific! I wish they could have put more on the trial, I think a lot was said that could have done a lot more good in the long run.

    Other than that, I think you have a helluva blog here! I just finished reading the rest of the posts, and then some. I'm not new on the skeptic side of the spectrum and I've dealt a lot before with trolls like some I've read here. I intent to be a regular reader, since this ID movement really cracks me up! I've never had that much laughs since I was in junior High school, and here's a good place to learn more about this.

    I wonder if people like those trolls realize that some people reading them end up realizing that they don't want to share that ridiculous notion of a loving god, or life for that matter, and some may end up investing more on the skeptical thinking... and even changing minds and going agnostics or atheist, like in my case

    Keep up the good work!

  7. Thanks and welcome! Yes you're right, some of the more obnoxious trolls out there are so socially clueless they don't realize that excessive obnoxiousness is a really ineffective way to sell your message.


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