Creationist Wisdom #279: The Student

Today’s letter-to-the-editor (actually it’s a column) appears in the Rocky Mountain Collegian, the student newspaper of Colorado State University. It’s titled We don’t have all the answers, evolution is a theory. 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; however, she is described as “a sophomore psychology major.” Okay, here we go:

According to my man Webster, theory is defined as “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation.” Basically, a theory may be regarded as correct, but it is not given as fact. It has not yet been proven true. So why is it, then, that in collegiate programs, where we are supposed to be receiving the best education possible, theory is presented as fact?

This student has made it all the way to her second year of college and has absolutely no idea what a scientific theory is. She apparently consulted this online dictionary, and discovered that their definition of “theory” has five sections. She skipped number one — which is the only definition applicable to a scientific theory:

a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena

Instead, the psychology major chose the second definition, which more appropriately a definition of “hypothesis,” and therefore she gives the impression that the enterprise of science is a wild shot in the dark. From that start, which isn’t very promising, the column continues:

Like many of you, as a freshman I had to take LIFE 102 as an Introduction to Biology course. When we began discussing evolution, what struck me was that this information was never presented as the theory it is. Instead, I was told that this was fact: evolution is the only response we have to the question of where the human species came from.

Oh, how horrible! Let’s read on:

The problem I had with the system was that I was told that evolution was fact, and yet I didn’t believe in evolution. I came from a private high school, where we were obviously on the whole Intelligent Design bandwagon. All of my science courses at my Lutheran high school were from an evolutionary standpoint, but it was always presented as theory.

The problem here is that although this young woman was well-prepared to study college-level science, that preparation was for science in the Tenth Century. She continues:

Evolution is a theory, just as Intelligent Design is a theory. I cannot prove to you that God exists, but you cannot prove to me that He doesn’t. Hence why these two theories have existed fairly peacefully for years.

Aaaargh!! She can’t prove the positive, you can’t prove the negative. So both propositions are logically equal. Here’s more:

I am not asking for Intelligent Design to be offered as a course. I am fully aware of the separation of church and state. Being that this is a public university, I expect evolution to be taught.

The change that I would like to see is for professors to admit that they don’t have all the answers. The theory that they are presenting does not house all of the answers to our questions, it is simply the theory that isn’t supposed to step on people’s toes.

Oh dear, her professors stepped on her little toesies. Moving along:

So at least make mention of the fact that the theory of evolution is not proven true and is open to experimentation. At least make mention of the fact that there are at least two different tracks one can take in answering the question “where do we come from?”

I don’t have all the answers to that question. But Charles Darwin didn’t either. Since neither of us can prove that God does or does not exist, why don’t we just count our losses and admit that we don’t know?

[...]

Let’s treat these theories equally. Let’s admit that there are things that we don’t know. Let’s make the little private school kid feel included in the conversation.

The column goes on a bit, but we can’t take it any more. This young lady wants her Oogity Boogity and she wants it now! Oh … wait! You’ve got to see this from her final paragraph:

I would like my faith, my practiced theology, my belief system to be acknowledged and regarded as a valid theory. Just as I promise to regard evolution as a valid theory.

What can we say? It would be polite and gentlemanly to wish the young lady good luck with her education, but we’re not in the mood for that. If we think any more about this, we’re going to get all depressed about the future of our civilization. Well, let’s wrap it up by looking on the bright side — she’s a psychology major, so what difference does it make?

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

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

38 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #279: The Student

  1. The Sophomoric Psych Major wants to cut a deal:

    I would like my faith, my practiced theology, my belief system to be acknowledged and regarded as a valid theory. Just as I promise to regard evolution as a valid theory

    OK, I can go along with that — if she is willing to admit that my one true god, who is of course the Almighty Astral Artichoke, can whoop her god’s butt, even with one thorny leaf tied behind His ineffeable back…

  2. I would like my faith, my practiced theology, my belief system to be acknowledged and regarded as a valid theory.

    And I want a pony with wings … Or maybe a Bugatti Veyron.

  3. Looks like CSU needs to jack up their admission standards just a teeny bit.

  4. And another theory which doesn’t get the respect it so clearly deserves: Psychic pair fail scientific test

    From that article, a quote from Psychic Putt:

    Ms Putt said the experiment was designed to confirm the researchers’ pre-conceptions – rather than examine the nature of her psychic ability.

    “Scientists are very closed-minded,” she said.

  5. The comments are quite active, and the author is trying to defend her position.

  6. And I left a comment of my own (wearing a disguise).

  7. I’m hoping that her teacher can provider her a proper definition and highlight that any such cherry picking of data in her Class reports get her an F.

    I frankly don’t care if people believe the earth is 6,000 years old. However, I can’t stand it when they lie about others in order to do so. Hence why I can’t stand ID one bit. It’s one big lie.

  8. Charley Horse

    This female obviously doesn’t know her god given place in
    society. How dare she speak out!

  9. Ah, takes me back to my college days. Give me a six pack and a psych major and I’m good to go!

  10. We got binders o’ psych majors…

  11. Charles Deetz ;)

    I learned something … Lutherans are pro-ID. Oh, and that teaching ID apparently just muddies the waters worse than creationism.

  12. keithnoback says: “Looks like CSU needs to jack up their admission standards just a teeny bit.”

    Not at all. The job of a college is to matriculate the ignorant and graduate the knowledgeable.

    A significant portion of that process takes place outside the classroom. Where I taught, a student editor wrote an anti-hunting editorial. After getting bombarded with letters to the editor and arguments from his friends and classmates, he came to realize that for consistency he would have to either give up his position or become a vegetarian. Doesn’t matter which way he chose; the point is, he could now see the problem in broader perspective.

    Perhaps something similar will happen to this ID proponent.

  13. Ceteris Paribus

    My impression is that as a sophomore she’s doing pretty well for a psych major, by actually openly questioning what her professors are offering. There was a day when psych majors had to actually fall in love with their professors, or at least swear an unswerving allegiance to mentors such as Freud. (or maybe it was Jung for juniors). If she continues her questioning attitude and manages to get a grip on reality in the next couple of years, she may even avoid years of angst, not to mention Sturm und Drang.

    And scientists should be happy to see universities offer Psych or Pre-Theology majors, since they isolate those students steeped in the culture of willful ignorance, and minimizes the chance for them to infect science students by close contact.

    What science education needs to worry about is that their incoming freshman classes are now full blown products of the “no little darling left behind” school system. Some students who have taken AP science and math classes and have a high school GPA just below 4.0 may not even be able to handle simple algebra when they arrive for their into University Physics course.

  14. It’s not so much that she disagrees. It’s more about why. Her reasons are contradictory, hypocritical and rather elietist.

    That being said I think she should propose the the psych department the theory of “intelligent demonic possestion”. All students should recieve proper exercism training.

  15. Hmmm…

    The author’s article here contrasts oddly with her article here: Can I ask you a couple questions? No, you can’t

  16. It seems there are so many people who think they must give up their religious beliefs in order to accept evolution. I wonder — who’s telling them that?

    Perhaps it comes from their being told that evolution has to do with the origin of life, rather than the origin of species.

  17. Pete Moulton

    Good disguise, TA. Will you be wearing it for this evening’s festivities? I thought you gave Ms Jordan some excellent advice, which I expect she’ll ignore.

    Nice find, Megalonyx. I thought the contrast was a little strange at first, but on second thought, not so much. Ms Jordan obviously thinks her religion is the only true one, thereby rendering all others false, and their adherents automatically ‘kooks’ or fanatics.

  18. @retired prof.
    Your optimism disgusts me:)

  19. Retired Prof

    Well, keithnoback, now that you call attention to it, I’m not disgusted, maybe, but more like embarrassed by my optimism. At this stage of my life I should never forget that an optimistic attitude is nothing but a setup for disappointment.

  20. Jim Thomerson

    I think people who put forward such arguments do so out of a combination of ignorance, stupidity, dishonesty, and expectation of ignorance in the target audience. It is kind of fun to look at a particular pronouncement and speculate on the mix of factors involved. In the student’s case, I would say, since she ignored the applicable definition of Theory, which nullifies her whole argument, that there is a large portion of dishonesty. Because she expects that no one will notice, there is some expectation of ignorance thrown in.

  21. @Pete: I thought I might get more traction by pointing out what she ought to be asking, rather than but pointing out how wrong she was. Alas, she seems to have ignored me in favor of people she can argue with.

  22. The citation issue bothers me almost more than her creationism. The fact that she went to the second definition means that (1) she cherry picked, practicing an intentional deception, (2) she has extremely poor reading comprehension skills, or (3) she never really looked it up at all – someone told her that’s what Webster said, and she reported a secondary source as if it were primary.
    ANY of those three should be disturbing mistakes for a collegiate sophomore to make.

  23. I went a little (ok alot) attack dog on this particular creationist after I read a few of her responses to scientists who were trying to lead her towards sanity and logic. As Charley Sheen says “It was just a strafing run in my underwear before my morning coffee”. Links to creationists are like painting a target with a laser for me, I want to drop a few 500 lb snakeyes and be done with the problem. I’ll have to control myself .My bad. And proof of the Curmudgeon’s axiom which I’ll paraphrase as ………..Never argue with a creationist……..because it was a total waste of time. Creationists have had plenty of opportunity to choose logic and science during their lives and have chosen to go with Brand X.
    Its cheaper and you only have to read one book. Over and over……………and over. Chill out, me.

  24. @TA: Yes, good reply to her. Probably best comment on there. At least, I think it was you. Hard to tell in your disguise and all…
    I also see that Lee Bowman has made an appearance. And, as usual, he’s managed to completely and totally muddy the waters. Reading almost all of his comments makes you go, “Huh?” Yes, the ID is strong in him.

  25. Isn’t Lee Bowman the same guys who was here a while back, talking about “Spirit based entities”? That was fun! —> Whaddayaknow, same schmuck.

    As for my disguise skills, it all comes from years of practice.

  26. Tomato Addict asks: “Isn’t Lee Bowman the same guys who was here a while back”

    Yup. Good catch. I had forgotten all about him. They’re all interchangeable.

  27. TA said:

    Isn’t Lee Bowman the same guys who was here a while back, talking about “Spirit based entities”?

    Oh, yes. I recognized him immediately. And if I didn’t, there’s his use of lots of “sciency-sounding” words, which is his long-winded way of saying absolutely nothing at all.

  28. My girlfriend and I often argue as to who has the hardest time dealing with nutbags. She is working on her masters in biology, and often times ends up finding the one or two ID freaks in the local bar when we hang out. I, as a military vet and a freshly minted mechanical engineer, end up attracting the 9-11 conspiracy nuts. Its quite disturbing how common both people are.

    Its absolutely fascinating to me how both groups pretty much use the same techniques, to isolate themselves so that they are only exposed to re-enforcing nonsense, while at the same time, feeding into a persecution complex. And they both seem to have this crazy need to create a false impression of expertise or authority.

    Its really disturbing how often we run into these two groups at a university.

  29. TA: “And I want a pony with wings …”

    Perfect!

    Meant to comment earlier but got involved in other priorities. TA, your comments are almost always short, to the point, and very witty — in other words, fun to read. My comments are usually short as well, but that’s because I’m a slow typist, and at my age, I often forget what it was that I started out to say before I … now, where was I?

  30. Folks, the madness doesn’t stop here downunder. Check this reply to ‘grandma-mildred’ at creation.com…

    grandma-mildred

    What a rant and just a sample…

    “If the Christian schools attended by Mildred’s grandchildren had prescribed The Creation Answers Book as a textbook, their students would have been exposed to virtually all of the answers that we’ve provided here.”

    No, it’s a book of text.

    “[Grandma Mildred’s end-of-monologue] It is sad that young people are taught nonsense, have wrong ideas and worse, reject new findings. I told them I am alarmed they will pass on misinformation to other people’s children. I‘ll keep trying with Michael and the others. Perhaps in 10, 20, 50 years they will say their grandmother was on the right track after all. Let’s hope.”

    At least we don’t have the level of litigation here that you folk have to endure stateside, just the nonsense.

  31. @RSG: I generally prefer short and sweet. Usually.

    To me the whole Creation v. Evolution debate is as simple as looking up the definitions of Faith and Reason in the dictionary. EVERY argument the Creationists make pretty much boils down to the same thing, and OF COURSE religion and science disagree, because that is what they are supposed to do by definition.

    Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the details of an argument, and lose track of the fact that the whole premise of the argument is field-Frisbees in the first place. I see this often (and occasionally commit it myself) in refuting the Irreducible Complexity or Complex Specified Information arguments. You can demonstrate at great length how IC/CSI leads to silly results me a number of different way, but to do so requires a tacit assumption that the premise can have validity in the first place. In other words, it is very possible to make very very good (and very very long) arguments in favor of science that completely miss the point that it was never about science in the first place.

    I think we all know this already, but still we tend to fall into the trap of arguing details with the Creationist (which they want us to do) instead of pointing out why the argument is fundamentally flawed. It’s just the old Faith v. Reason argument again and again. I don’t take the Creationist seriously, except that they are trying to do serious damage to education. Likewise I do not take myself too seriously, and look for any opportunity to insert some humor into the mix.

    … I often forget what it was that I started out to say before I … now, where was I?

    You were just about to tell the story about you, the three hula-dancers, and the bottle of Tequila. Please do continue … ;-)

  32. Jim Thomerson

    I will give her some credit. She is exposing her thinking to the world, and criticizing what she sees as wrong in the education she is being exposed to (started to say, receiving.) So many students today simply keep their heads down, go along to get along, and try to be invisible. In putting her thinking out for criticism, perhaps she will learn something. I hope she does, as she is a rare person.

  33. Jim Thomerson says: “In putting her thinking out for criticism, perhaps she will learn something.”

    I’ve just gone through all the comments. Lots of familiar names are jumping in there. But I doubt that she’s going to learn anything. She already knows everything she wants to know.

  34. Lee Bowman replied to me, making the same bad arguments there that he made here. I publicly de-pantsed him, statistically speaking.

  35. TA said:

    You were just about to tell the story about you, the three hula-dancers, and the bottle of Tequila. Please do continue …

    Wait, what? There were three hula-dancers?!?! When I went to the restroom, there was only one and he told me it was ginger ale…

  36. More spanking. Mr. Bowman is making the same old arguments and failing worse that when he came here. DocBill and some other familiar names are there too.

  37. @TA: Hula dancers….

    I ‘ve conveniently forgotten the whole incedent …

  38. Pack your bags Gary, because we’re taking RSG back to Vegas to jog his memory!