Creationist Wisdom #260: Hook, Line, & Sinker

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in The Advocate of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the title is Let students judge for themselves. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. As we usually do we’ll omit the writer’s name and city; but we’ll tell you this much — after his name it says: “management consultant,” so if you need some help in Louisiana, now you know where you can find it Okay, here we go:

Your Aug. 12 editorial rightly warns that vouchers might lead to teaching creationism in private schools. But the debate about teaching evolution is much broader.

We tried, but we can’t find that editorial. No matter, really. There’s been a lot written about Louisiana’s state-financed voucher program for private creationist schools. For some background, see Louisiana Creationism Is National News. Returning to today’s letter:

Most science curricula present Darwin’s theory as the only credible idea. Yet many scientists feel that living organisms are too complex to have arisen by random mutations and natural selection.

Oooooooh! — “many scientists” feel that way! Yes, some do, and virtually all of them are on the payroll of a certain theocratic think-tank in Seattle. Let’s read on:

Dozens of scientific articles in the fields of paleontology, microbiology, biochemistry, probability theory, information theory and scientific inference discuss the flaws and weaknesses in the basic Darwinian ideas.

“Dozens of scientific articles” — dozens! That’s a few silly articles out of … how many scientific papers have been published in peer-reviewed journals? Surely it’s several million — and not one of them presents evidence that supports the letter-writer’s claim. We continue:

Over 800 scientists have expressed skepticism about Darwinian evolution in http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org.

The letter gives a link to the Discoveroids’ sad little list of confused people who signed their Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.. We’ve discussed it here: NCSE’s “Project Steve” Now Has 1,200 Steves. The letter goes on:

A better approach is to present both Darwin’s theory and opposing evidence, and let students evaluate both arguments and reach their own conclusions.

Great idea! And while they’re doing that for evolution, they should also present both sides for the flat-earth controversy, the astrology controversy, and moon-landing denial too. Dump it all on the kiddies and let them sort it out. Here’s more:

An excellent textbook that takes this approach is Exploe [sic] Evolution — The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism.

That’s how the paper printed the book’s title. The letter-writer obviously refers to Explore Evolution (Amazon listing), one of several creationist books we discussed here: Discovery Institute: Their Recommended Reading List.

Here’s how the letter ends:

Teaching students that good science is based on questioning existing theories helps them understand how science has progressed successfully over the centuries through the challenges of Galileo, Descartes, Newton and other founders of modern science.

So there you are, dear reader. And what have we learned from this? Only that the Discoveroids have a loyal fan in Louisiana — one who reads only the Discoveroids’ blog for his information. Years ago we met someone who thought AOL was the entire internet; but we eventually convinced him otherwise. This guy in Louisiana has it worse — he thinks the Discovery Institute is the whole universe of science, and it’s doubtful that anyone can change his mind.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #260: Hook, Line, & Sinker

  1. The title alone screams “scam,” and one that most of you who know better fall for as often as the those who don’t. There is one answer to that letter, and one that can be made before even reading it. Which is that students already do judge for themselves, and that the scam artists will do anything in their power to thwart that.

    A quick calculation is that students spend ~0.1% of their waking hours learning evolution, and a much greater % bombarded with misconceptions. The scam artists want to replace what has earned the right to be taught as science with more misconceptions, and those specifically “designed” to promote unreasonable doubt.

  2. Show me one scam artist who trots out the bogus “dissent” statement who volunteers these facts: (1) most signatories are not biologists, (2) many are card-carrying members of anti-science activist groups like the DI, (3) the great majority of biololgist signatories accept common descent, (4) the wording is so vague that several scientists had their names removed after realizing that they had been scammed.

  3. Sorry for monopolizing the thread, but you wrote “…he thinks the Discovery Institute is the whole universe of science…” You don’t know that. What you do know is that: “…he wants his readers to think the Discovery Institute is the whole universe of science…”

  4. Our diligent Curmudgeon noted, “We tried, but we can’t find that editorial. No matter, really.”

    You’re right, it doesn’t really matter, but I suspect the editorial in question was this one, “Vouchers Get Dose of Religion” of 3 August, with the date mistranscribed on this silly follow-up letter. That editorial is at http://theadvocate.com/home/3489257-125/vouchers-get-dose-of-religion

    /petty pedant mode

  5. Sounds more like a writer from the dishonesty institute posing as a Louisianian. The wording smacks of any one of them. And

    “Teaching students that good science is based on questioning existing theories helps them understand how science has progressed successfully over the centuries through the challenges of Galileo, Descartes, Newton and other founders of modern science.”

    So students in LA are asked to question and judge the credibility of the theories of Galileo, Descartes(?), Newton, and other founders of modern science? I don’t think so.

  6. 800 scientists, eh? Well, there was a 2006 estimate that there are about three million working scientists in the world (that does *not* include doctors or engineers, which the Discoveroid’s list does). So, that’s less than 0.001% of scientists who Dissent From Darwin.

    Gotcha.

  7. @Garnetstar:

    It’s even worse than that. The bogust “dissent” is used mainly to reassure Biblical literalists who don’t need it anyway, and to fool some fence-sitters into becoming one. That despite the fact that the great majority of that infinitesimal fraction of biologists who signed it are not Biblical literalists.

  8. “DarwinISM” wasn’t misleading enough, now it’s “NEO-DarwinISM?” (Gee, I wonder what connotation the creationist lobby is hoping to piggyback onto Darwin with that? It wouldn’t be anything negative, by any chance?)

    To the unwary novice whose guard is down, I’m sure “neo-Darwinism” is simply a more colorful term than fusty old “evolution.” Similarly, “Intelligent Design” sounds more appealing and user-friendly than nasty old (and inconveniently unconstitutional) “creationism.”

    The first order of business is always to find a innocuous-sounding (but obfuscating and meaning-distorting) euphemism. That’s when a clear definition and understanding of terms needs to be brought to the discussion, pronto. When terrorists suddenly become “freedom fighters,” it’s already too late.

  9. NeonNoodle says:

    “DarwinISM” wasn’t misleading enough, now it’s “NEO-DarwinISM?”

    That’s why I call them “neo-theocrats.”

  10. Uh, can we dwell on the extraordinary irony of this bit below?

    the challenges of Galileo, Descartes, Newton and other founders of modern science.

    It is common for creationists to equate THEMSELVES with Galileo, and to equate scientists with the Church that persecuted Galileo. That is a frame-flipping that boggles the mind. Let’s recall the real history here: no scientists persecuted Galileo, and none had the power to do so. He was persecuted by the Church and only the Church, and only by the Church, which did so for reasons of Biblical literalism, which put Galileo’s books of the Index of prohibited books and did not take them off until the 1830’s.

    When Galileo detected the phases of Venus with his telescope, most scientists immediately tossed out Aristotle’s model in favor of the Tychonian theory. (This is important because some creationists like Jonathan Sarfati blame the Galileo affair on Christians believing the “pagan” Aristotle’s beliefs– but the real scientists immediately tossed Aristotle out the window.) In contrast, the Church insisted, based on Biblical literalism, citing Biblical passages, that Galileo had committed heresy and must be imprisoned.

    Now they try to frame-flip that, equating the scientists with their Church, and equating themselves with Galileo.

    And as for Descartes– now that’s a weird one. Descartes was associated with atheism (in the minds of conservatives.) Descartes had a “vortex” model for explaining planetary motion and the formation of the solar system (an early version of the nebular hypothesis.)

    Indeed, Descartes was a sort of “pre-Darwin”, by which I mean, not that he was a biologist, but that he was trotted out by religious conservatives as an example of the evil of atheism– the closet-atheistic heresy that results from scientific investigation not constrained by the Bible.

    One opponent of Descartes was Cotton Mather, who back in Puritan times was a sort of “witch detective” who accused his neighbors of being witches (after they’d been executed.) Cotton Mather was also the first American to promote the theory of Intelligent Design, in his book, The Christian Philosopher which is full of arguments of the type, “Scientists can’t explain it so that proves Jesus did it.”

    In those days, conservative Christians needed someone to beat up and attack but Darwin hadn’t been born yet. So Cotton Mather and others trotted out Descartes and his “vortex” solar system as an example of awful atheism. Cotton Mather hated Descartes so much that he cited anti-heliocentric intellectuals in his attacks on Descartes. For Cotton Mather, geocentrism was preferable to the idea that the solar system formed by natural processes.

  11. The “let the students decide for themselves” argument always gets me. Is there any other class in high school, other than a debate club, where students get to “decide for themselves” what the truth is? Do students get to “decide for themselves” what the truth is in history class, or in math class? No. The argument comes up only when the argument is about what should be taught in science class.

  12. @SC and megalonyx: I think the editorial-in-question is this one: http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/3590598-123/our-views-louisianas-loch-ness. A search for “evolution” for the 12th of August shows that one. The issue is that it appears to change date depending on the latest comment. Kinda weird.

  13. Doctor Stochastic

    Perhaps the creationists ought to rethink their arguments here. I would bet (based on some years as a college prof) that after “deciding for themselves,” the “darwinistas” would show a net gain in population.

  14. Let students judge for themselves.
    While we’re at it why don’t we let students
    decide whether the Civil War started in 1861 or 1863. I’m sure there’s some crazy out there who says it started in 1863.

  15. Ceteris Paribus

    @neon and @curm re neo-darwinism:

    The term neo-Darwinism originally arose in the late 19th century, and has been used in various contexts ever since. My understanding is that at the present time the term neo-Darwinism is preferentially used by biologists when making a disctinction between Darwin’s original idea which emphasized natural selection as the driving factor of evolution, and the “modern synthesis” of evolution developed in the early-mid 20th century. The modern synthesis puts emphasis on the role of genetic inheritance, which of course Darwin knew nothing about, and also includes the role of random copying errors in the DNA code, which is akin to putting their thumb in the eye of an intelligent design creationist.

    It is my personal surmise that biologists such as Dawkins like to use the term neo-Darwinian as a repost to the creationists who impose the term “Darwinian” in the literature, to cast aspersions on the whole idea of “evolution”. It is pretty much the same lame trick the Republicans use when they use the term “Democrat party” instead of the actual and also grammatically correct form “Democratic party”

    On the other hand, the creationists are still attaching an -ism to Darwin’s name. Unlike the Stalinists, who in their feud with Leon Trotsky, always referred to Trotsky’s followers as Trotsky-ites rather than Trotsky-ists. On the view of the Stalinists, Trotsky’s ideas simply did not rise to the stature necessary for the foundation of an -ism.

  16. Diogenes: “It is common for creationists to equate THEMSELVES with Galileo, and to equate scientists with the Church that persecuted Galileo. That is a frame-flipping that boggles the mind.”

    To us. But unfortunately not to most nonscientists. And that’s exactly why the scam artists repeat those grandiose claims that “they know ain’t so.” They only have to fool a few fence-sitters to make our job much more difficult. Remember that many (most?) non-Biblical-literalists are already convinced that peddlers of alternative “wellness” products are “expelled” by “big bad science,” so it doesn’t take much to get some – liberals and atheists included – to uncritically believe that “Darwinists” are “expelling” the “underdogs.”

    @Will:
    How about: “How do you know the Civil War even happened…Were you there?”

  17. Frank J,
    Governor Rick Perry actually made the Galileo and evangelical Christian equivalency argument during a national debate, and for the most part the press picked up on it with varying degrees of understanding of what he was trying to say.. It was just one more head scratcher comment from the Texas creationism chief proponent and spokesperson.
    No I wasn’t there during the Civil War. However, the 20th Maine and Joshua Chamberlain were and did some good work.

  18. All creationists lie about the trial of Galileo, frequently asserting that it was the scientists who persecuted Galileo, or that, if the Catholic Church did the persecution, it was only because they were devoted to “pagan” Aristotle’s ideas– and evolution is also “pagan.”

    At the debate, Perry was dismissing global warming when he said,

    “Galileo got outvoted for a spell,”

    Notice how he switches to passive tense– “got outvoted”– so he can imply rather than state who did the outvoting. He wants his listeners to conclude that scientists outvoted Galileo.

    Duane Gish said it was the scientists who persecuted Galileo. As if they had the power or desire to do so!

    Way back in 1903, the early but influential creationist book “The Other Side of Evolution” said:

    “Dr. Andrew White has written two great volumes on the warfare between science and theology. He might write many and larger volumes on the wars between the theories of science. Every one of these discarded theories, and they are numbered by thousands, has been the center of terrific conflicts.

    Galileo’s discovery of the satellites of Jupiter was opposed by his fellow astronomers, who even refused to look at them through his telescope. [Rev. Alexander Patterson, "The Other Side of Evolution" (1903) p. 12-13]

  19. @ Will and Diogenes:

    Unlike most “creationists” on the street, Perry is 100% in on the scam. When caught off guard (and on video) with a simple question about the age of the earth, he did not claim that scientists who insist that the evidence supports alternate ages were “persecuted,” but rather evaded the question by playing dumb. Like his partner-in-crime Don McLeroy, who even used the phrase “big tent,” Perry knows that “when” questions are politically incorrect because many self-described creationists insist that YEC is flat-out nonsense. They know that if there was a shread of evidence for YEC or OEC, there would be no need for a big tent strategy, or a double standard as to who is and isn’t “persecuted.”