Creationist Wisdom #244: What If?

This is a tragically silly letter, or column, or something in the Holland Sentinel located in Holland, Michigan. It’s titled Science shouldn’t be treated as dogma. 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. Here we go:

Objectivity is supposed to be the hallmark of scientific research and education. The freedom to doubt, ask questions and form alternative solutions are supposed to be the guardians of objectivity.

That sounds very noble, but so far it’s evidence-free. Idealism unbounded by reality is a potent elixir. Let’s see where this is going:

In April, Tennessee became the 10th state to protect that process within its public education system. … The new amendment to Tennessee’s Title 49 provides [blah, blah, blah]. … Section 1, paragraph (c), stipulates that teachers are “permitted,” not commanded, to help students address “scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

We’re quite familiar with the wording of the new law in Tennessee. It’s one of those anti-science, anti-evolution, pro-creationism “Academic Freedom” laws modeled after the Academic Freedom Act promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists). Let’s read on:

So, in Tennessee, teachers are now free to do science with their students. Together they may use the scientific method — observing, hypothesizing, testing, interpreting and theorizing. All is good, right? Wrong. The loud and distorted responses from critics demonstrate another reality.

The writer then mentions some criticism of the Tennessee law, and he’s shocked — shocked! — that anyone could find fault with it. After that he says:

Because the law recognizes the obvious — that teaching “biological evolution … global warming, and human cloning, can cause controversy” — critics are panic-stricken. How dare the children of 40 percent of Americans who recognize creation or another 38 percent who hold to theistic evolution examine questions and theories which challenge the 16 percent who are dyed-in-the-wool secularists (figures according to the latest Gallop Poll on the subject)?

How dare the creationists challenge science? But who’s stopping them? They do it every day in their churches and on their websites. No problem. The legal question, however, is whether such behavior is appropriate in a public school’s science classes. Here’s more:

As David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute has aptly pointed out, whenever anyone doubts the claims of scientists (not genuine science), they are assumed to have parted ways with reality.

Klinghoffer? This guy cites Klinghoffer? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Moving along, we come to the part that inspired our title:

Here is a thought. What if the 16 percent are wrong and leading the youth of the 78 percent down the primrose path? To put it another way, what if there are actually good, scientifically sound reasons to challenge the unverifiable claims of the establishment? What if there are answers to the questions of origins which acknowledge the obvious — design and order. What if good science includes beginning with what is certifiably in front of everyone’s eyes? What if the scientific establishment is wrong — again?

Wow — what a mind-blowing question! What if the scientists are wrong and the creationists have been right all along? We have a simple answer to that silly question: If the creationists actually do have anything to offer, then they should produce the evidence. That’s simple, isn’t it? But somehow that never happens. Were they ever to provide some verifiable evidence that challenged current scientific thinking, it would be in the textbooks and taught in the schools — because it would be genuine science. No legislation would be required.

Here’s the genius’ concluding paragraph:

If it is left up to the naysayers, no student would leave the public education system with the competency to truly do scientific thinking critically. They would be products of the herd. That result does not reflect freedom of speech, critical analysis or good science.

The “naysayers”? Yes — we say “nay” to creationism, and to astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, reincarnation, haunted houses, and to all other pseudo-science. Perhaps we should form a new public interest group: Naysayers for Science. That has a nice ring to it.

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

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #244: What If?

  1. aturingtest

    “…what if there are actually good, scientifically sound reasons to challenge the unverifiable claims of the establishment?”
    There aren’t any. Science itself nitpicks the empirically demonstrable details of evolution, but not the basic fact of it. That’s like challenging gravity.
    “What if there are answers to the questions of origins which acknowledge the obvious — design and order.”
    What if what to you is “obvious” is really only an inference based on your prior assumption- which, coincidentally, is the same thing as the conclusion you need to prove? What does that say about your “answers”?
    “What if good science includes beginning with what is certifiably in front of everyone’s eyes?”
    It does. That’s exactly why “goddidit” is not an explanation.

  2. If the creationists actually do have anything to offer, then they should produce the evidence.

    If the creationists actually do have anything to offer, then let them offer it.

    Rather than making a virtue of having nothing to say.

    And after they have something to offer, then we can get to questions of evidence.

  3. Retired Prof

    SC says “we say ‘nay’ to creationism, and to astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, reincarnation, haunted houses . . . .”

    Hold on there. I have seen reincarnation taking place. It was a purely material, not a spiritual process, in which the substance of one (former) being was in fact being transformed into the substance of another.

    I worked on a crew moving cemeteries out of an area to be flooded by a dam. A grave I worked on had a cedar tree growing next to it. The roots of the tree were matted into the compost at the bottom of that grave like a layer of coarse, tough felt. Atoms from molecules that had once constituted the deceased had been rearranged by microbes into molecules the cedar could in turn rearrange for its own use, and it was avidly sucking them up. Later the tree rotted at the bottom of the lake, and its substance flowed first into phytoplankton, then into zooplankton, then into fathead minnows and gizzard shad, then into crappies and bass, until finally some of those atoms once again linked into human molecules that now constitute parts of people who have digested the fish.

    If any evidence exists for creationism, astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, or haunted houses, somebody else will have to offer it.

  4. Jack Hogan

    Creationists argue that 9th and 10th grade HS students are qualified to, and should have the “academic freedom” to, objectively “critically analyze” and challenge hundreds of years of scientific research and discovery, the work of millions scientists who dedicated their entire lives to the pursuit, with the aid of propoganda materials generated by anti-evolution and anti-science religous zealots.

    Does anyone other than creationists take this transparent lie and idiocy seriously?

    Somewhere sometime one of these “critical analysis” and “academic freedom” laws will be challenged in court. Then the creationists can try to convince a judge or jury that HS students are qualified to do these things, and that there is absolutley no religious motivation behing the law.

    I’m looking forward to that trial. The sooner it starts the better.

  5. Correlation is not causation, but on this topic here is an interesting link. Apparently, according to this study .. http://247wallst.com/2012/04/26/americas-most-and-least-peaceful-states/5/ … Tennessee and Louisiana are the two “least peaceful” states in the country, based on crime and other statistics. Is it a coincidence that they are also the two states with academic freedom laws.

    The DI should be proud – their model legislation enacted by model states.

  6. No one loves it more than I than when smart folks troubleshoot these academic freedom laws with witty examples of academic freedom gone wild, but I still await the SCOTUS test case. I don’t believe a science teacher has opted to “teach the controversy” in a way that rallies the ACLU. At least, not yet, as concerns these laws. A flaming creationist would make an easy target, so I’m guessing they’ve been advised to keep the bible rhetoric to a minimum. That will change.

  7. Ceteris Paribus

    There is talk in the science teaching community that the current HS science sequence is just plain inverted. Rather than starting with biology, then chemistry, then physics; it should be physics, then chemistry which depends on physics, and finally biology which depends on both earlier subjects.

    The pedagogical value seems reasonable, and simple experience suggests that a 17 year old HS senior is a lot more likely to actually use their individuality and rational thought processes than does a 15 year old freshman whose main influences are peer and parent pressures.

  8. You know, if I had confidence that all the science teachers in Tennessee were good, rational thinkers, I would support this law.
    Sure, Creationism is pseudo-science and completely untrue. But since seemingly most of Tennesse won’t shut up about it, a science lesson on *why* it’s unscientific could be used to teach students more about critical thinking, weighing evidence, and the scientific method. It would also silence people who say there’s a conspiracy to silence Creationism.

    In practice, of course, it’s a Creationist trojan horse. Quite a see-through one.

  9. garystar1

    SC said:

    Yes — we say “nay” to creationism, and to astrology, alchemy, witchcraft, reincarnation, haunted houses

    Now hold it right there! Don’t even think of denying me my “Haunted Mansion” at Disney! Them’s fightin’ words!

  10. How can you challenge scientific theory when you are learning science from a secondary source like a textbook? If the students aren’t even reading primary sources, then they have no way to even question the science.

    And, as someone pointed out earlier, I don’t see how a 9th grader can question an evolutionary biologist with a PhD and a publication record, anyhow.

  11. I’m not sure what “critical thinking” even is. A Google search and a stop at Wikipedia convinced me it’s most generally a fancy label for something most people are quite capable of doing on their own and pretty much already do because life experience teaches them to look out for their own interests. More perniciously, it can be code for indoctrination, as proponents work on the assumption that someone who thinks critically will naturally agree with them. (Such as Creationists believing a kid who thinks critically will inevitably reject revolution as the sham and fraud it is.) I mean, are there examples of “Before” and “After” somewhere? Where are the dopey kids who didn’t get taught to think critically… do they grow up to be adults who fall for ads like “Dentists Hate Her! Single Mom in (your city) discovers weird tooth-whitening trick!” (Somebody must. The variations on those ads with buzzwords like “shocking” and “Cambridge scientists” who are always discovering new joint pain relievers or whatever are all over the Net.) Can we see the smart kids who did learn to think critically? Do they now have super-powers? So is there anything to this “critical thinking” stuff beyond vacuous edu-speak or the same old human vanity reasoning that “I’m smart so other smart people will think like I do”?

  12. @deklane I disagree. I think critical thinking is very important, and can be taught. Not as a specific subject, but an attitude to life that should run through the curriculum.

    You say it’s something most people are quite capable of doing on their own, but I attended a fundamentalist school and they tried to teach it out of me by requiring obedience to authority. They claimed to teach critical thinking – “within a Biblical framework.” In other words, you can criticise anything except our interpretation of the Bible. That’s brainwashing.

    Here’s where I think we do agree: In this instance, Creationist crazies are using the term “critical thinking” where they in fact mean “stupidity.”

  13. jonnyscaramanga says:

    Creationist crazies are using the term “critical thinking” where they in fact mean “stupidity.”

    If “critical thinking” means anything, other than a code-word for slipping creationism into science class, then I suppose it’s the opposite of “gullible thinking.” That is, it means not accepting an idea unless there is good reason for doing so. There are very good reasons for accepting the conclusions of science (although such conclusions are always tentative, pending new discoveries). There are also good reasons for rejecting the idea of a recent global flood. But creationists claim to have their own set of good reasons for accepting their ideas. Whether those are actually good reasons is a whole different issue.