Creationist Wisdom #457: Citizen-Scientist

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in a Gannett newspaper that doesn’t give its name, but it’s probably the Greenville News in Greenville, South Carolina, where state Senator Mike Fair lives. The letter is titled Education, indoctrination at odds in debate.

There’s rarely any reason to provide internet visibility for creationists, and we don’t like to embarrass people (unless they’re politicians, preachers, or other public figures), so we usually omit the writer’s full name and city. We can’t figure out who today’s letter-writer is so we’ll use only his first name, which is Clyde. We’ll give you a few excerpts from his letter, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Clyde begins by mentioning an earlier letter with which he strenuously disagrees:

Wade Worthen’s guest column on July 12, “Natural selection can be observed,” was somewhat misleading and implied that State Sen. Mike Fair does not believe in ice.

Here’s Worthen’s letter: Natural selection can be observed, and it contains no such implication. Worthen, a biology professor at Furman University, was indeed writing about Mike Fair, the hard-core creationist who tries to legislate against teaching evolution. His letter said, regarding Fair’s rejection of natural selection:

It is as if someone doesn’t believe in ice. He has seen pictures of it and he knows many other people accept the existence of ice. He even knows that many other people are using the process of freezing for useful things — like cooling food so it doesn’t spoil. Yet he is still unwilling to accept ice as a fact of nature because his faith in the absence of ice is so strong. So, to protect students from the knowledge that ice exists, he must protect them from understanding its cause.

Let’s return to Clyde’s letter:

There are only two scientific theories for the origin of life; Darwin’s 155-year-old theory of evolution (accepted by a large majority of scientists) and the new theory of intelligent design (ID, proposed by a small group of scientists).

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That “small group of scientists” undoubtedly refers to those brilliant visionaries in Seattle, like Casey and Klinghoffer. It’s clear that Clyde has no idea what a scientific theory is, which is why our title refers to him as a “citizen-scientist.”

Then he dances what we call the “micro-macro mambo.” It’s debunked in our post Common Creationist Claims Confuted. He ends that argument by saying:

Macroevolution proposes that new species of life evolved from existing species of life (e.g., birds evolved from fish or animals). This is Darwin’s theory and it has problems. ID proposes that life is too complex to have started and evolved on its own without an intelligent designer (e.g., life from other worlds, “gods,” etc.). They do not propose the source of the intelligence.

Oh — Darwin’s theory “has problems.” Okay. Clyde continues:

Dr. Worthen apparently believes that exposing students to alternative origin of life theories would “sow confusion” and “be a disservice to our children.” But good science requires that theories be subject to periodic peer review to maintain their validity.

Clyde is suggesting that evolution isn’t “good science” because it hasn’t been subject to peer review, so it’s nothing but Darwinist dogma. Presumably, that’s in contrast to the superbly conceived and well-tested “theory” of intelligent design. Here’s how Clyde wraps it all up:

Students can either be educated by being exposed to the pros and cons of all scientific theories and their alternatives or be indoctrinated to the teacher’s or the government’s viewpoint. It appears Mike Fair prefers education and Worthen prefers indoctrination.

So there you are. According to Clyde, the citizen-scientist, Mike Fair wants to educate the children of South Carolina and save them from indoctrination. What a great guy!

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38 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #457: Citizen-Scientist

  1. …I do believe in ice! I do, I do! I do believe in ice–

    –especially when handed a glass of Glenmorangie…

  2. Shouldn’t these “problems” with science curriculum be dealt with at a university level?

    Fundies want the “kids to decide” on only one issue, and it just happens to be a strawman issue. The trust Fundies claim to have in these children’s decision making process doesn’t seem to be reflected anywhere else in their propaganda. There is no expectation that children be given voting rights, no demands to lower the age of majority, no arguments for allowing children to operate motor vehicles. Yet it is held that children somehow have the capacity to reconcile a non-issue that is purely political in nature and origin. In the end the choices they have are emotional, accept the beliefs of thieir community or face the wrath of it’s self righteous members.

    The duality that allows people to claim they feel so strongly for their children and then have no hesitation when it comes to victimizing them is one of the strangest of human behaviors.

  3. The public schools are far easier to control, i.e., politics, money, support, teachers, etc., than are the colleges/universities, which have far greater freedom to deal with this creationist crap, though sometimes they get stuck in the minefield of lawsuits. But parents as well as political hacks bring to bear pressure on the school kids to decide in favor of what the parents and political hacks think, not what the kids actually think. And too, the public schools might touch on the subject, but not in great depth as would the higer ed levels.

  4. He made no mention that creationists don’t submit work for peer review by actual scientists.

  5. Christine Janis

    “especially when handed a glass of Glenmorangie…”

    Ice in good scotch? Heathen!

  6. Pete Moulton

    I don’t drink anymore, but the memories are still strong, and I’m with Dr Janis on this. A wee drop of water, perhaps, but ice? That sounds like heresy to me!

  7. What’s this? Beer review?

    Yes, I know, whiskey isn’t beer–I just couldn’t resist the pun.

  8. No comment department:

    birds evolved from fish or animals

  9. Pardon me while I mine a quote.

    “Birds evolved from… animals.” – Clyde

    True enough, Clyde, but a little vague.

  10. Bruidladdich from Islay.
    The Laddie Ten with some Ben Nevis overwintered ice.
    Afterwards, there’s ice Delta O18 / O 16 to derive and glacial sea level
    curves to confound creationists with. Or, you can just have more Laddie.

  11. Holding the Line in Florida

    Science Daily had an interesting article on the subject of LUCA, last universal common ancestor a couple of days ago. It appears that those godless scientists are closing in the origins of life. Has something to do with deep sea vents, leaky membranes and protons. Hmmmm. Could this be the handy work of Great Intelligent Designer? That’s the way all true designers work. Start with the simplest of organisms and stand back and watch! I am sure the Discotuters have the answer already.

  12. It’s annoying that newspapers continue to publish letters from these intentional ignorant people. How science illiterate are these editorial boards?

  13. Everyone knows that just animals evolve from animals.

  14. Charles Deetz ;)

    They do not propose the source of the intelligence.

    Yet evolutionists have to have an answer to the creation of life.

  15. @anevilmeme: “Editorial board”? These podunk town newspapers aren’t exactly the New York Times. Chances are that the “editorial board” of the Greenville News consists of one person, and that one person probably reached an educational level similar to Clyde’s.

  16. The NY Times is printing some junk these days.

  17. Citizen-scientist Clod stipulates—

    “Students can either be educated by being exposed to the pros and cons of all scientific theories and their alternatives…”

    It’s odd how cretinists and IDeologues always insistently demand this of science education, most especially origins science education, but will vociferously reject any suggestion that the same be done by their houses of worship in respect of “spiritual education” concerning assorted and divergent religious precepts. There’s a word beginning with “h” and ending in “ypocrisy” that springs to mind.

    (Curmy, opening sentence: “… newspaper that doesn’t give it’s its name, but…”)

  18. Supporters of ID erect barriers to the discussion of the “pros and cons” of ID. Questions about “what happened, where and when, how or why, by whom” are “pathetic details”.

  19. Off topic, but very cute–and it poses an interesting challenge to the IDiots who think “where does new information come from?” is a meaningful question: Thousand-strong robot swarm throws shapes, slowly

  20. I can’t resist pointing out two analogies between evolution and atomic theory: atomic theory says nothing about the origin of atoms, just as evolution says nothing about the origin of life; and present day atomic theory is greatly different from Dalton’s, just as present-day evolutionary theory is greatly different from Darwin’s.

    Yet no one, as far as I know, advocates teaching schoolchildren alternatives to atomic theory.

  21. @PB: this blog is all about giving in to your temptations. Here is mine: I want the Controversy to be taught at Sunday schools. And with Controversy I mean Flat Earth Theory vs. heliocentrism. What do you think – will I have creaChris at my side?

  22. Btw, PB, you should provide a link to that “keep creacrap out of Scottish school” petition. I only stumbled upon it. I’m sure Aaaargghh! will agree and then SC can’t object.

  23. Con-Tester says:

    Curmy, opening sentence: “… newspaper that doesn’t give it’s its name, but…”

    Thanks. The apostrophe demon possessed me.

  24. @mnbo Flat Earth Theory vs. heliocentrism

    Did you mean that contrast, rather than “geocentrism vs. heliocentrism”?

  25. SC: “BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That ‘small group of scientists’ undoubtedly refers to those brilliant visionaries in Seattle, like Casey and Klinghoffer. It’s clear that Clyde has no idea what a scientific theory is…”

    Or he does know what a scientific theory is, and has a burning incentive to pretend otherwise. As I like to nag, these letter-writers are “in transition” from scammed to scammer. A good way to find out where on that continuum they lie (did I say “lie”? ;-)) is to ask about the most credentialed of that “‘small group of scientists,” Michael Behe. Specifically to ask whether they agree with Behe on the “~4 billion years of common descent,” or if not, to state exactly what their alternative is, and they ever contacted Behe about their disagreements. Also to ask why, after 18+ years, and plenty of funding available from many sources (starting with the very rich Howard Ahmanson – so don’t even think of pretending that the tenured professor is “expelled”), Behe has never bothered to test his “theory.”

    If they just mumble some variant of “were you there” then shy away from writing any more letters, they’re probably just scammed. But if they get evasive to the point of self-censorship, and hell-bent to keep the “debate” about long-refuted “weaknesses” of “Darwninism,” or worse, “implications of acceptance” (the Hitler nonsense), then you got yourself a scammer.

  26. Clyde: “There are only two scientific theories for the origin of life; Darwin’s 155-year-old theory of evolution (accepted by a large majority of scientists) and the new theory of intelligent design (ID, proposed by a small group of scientists).”

    (sigh) Here’s another perfect question that no one will ask: “Wait, I thought there were at least 4 theories, Evolution, ID, OEC and YEC. Are you saying that the last 2 are falsified?”

    Note how he has done enough reading to know that “Darwin’s Theory” is 155 years old (actually it developed over many years and is still developing, but he’s referring to the book), so he must know the same for ID, yet curiously avoids mentioning its age. Well I’ll help: Rick Santorum claimed it started with the ancient Greeks 2000+ years ago. Other advocates claimed that it started with Paley 212 years ago. And the more conservative ones modestly claim that it only started 20-30 years ago. My guess is that he shrewdly avoids that issue so not to call attention to the embarrassing fact that even ID advocates can’t agree on when it became a “theory” let alone what it claims other than long-refuted “weaknesses” of “Darwinism” and unfalsifiable claims of “design.”

  27. Frank J says: “[Clyde] must know the same for ID, yet curiously avoids mentioning its age.”

    He may know nothing except that he agrees with Mike Fair and he’s willing to serve the cause. The Discoveroids have been actively lobbying the South Carolina situation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of their lobbyists wrote the letter for Clyde. I’ve seen what I suspected were earlier Discoveroid letter-writing campaigns in states where they had some legislation cooking. Clyde may be nothing more than a willing tool.

  28. SC: “The Discoveroids have been actively lobbying the South Carolina situation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of their lobbyists wrote the letter for Clyde.”

    Good point. Clyde’s letter sure sounds like that to me as well.

  29. SC: “I wouldn’t be surprised if one of their lobbyists wrote the letter for Clyde.”

    Me neither. In fact, for many of those letters, especially the ones that peddle ID and pretend that Biblical creationism doesn’t exist, “ghost writing” by a skilled activist is much more believable than a semi-clueless writer just happening to know exactly what to parrot and what to leave out.

  30. @TomS: “Did you mean that contrast, rather than “geocentrism vs. heliocentrism”?”
    Does it matter? Since when is the Controversy supposed to be about logic?
    OK, I’ll answer: both FET vs. spheric Earth and geocentrism vs. heliocentrism. Specifically at Sunday school.

  31. @SC:

    I held my nose and read the latter. This shouted at me:

    “…e.g., birds evolved from fish or animals..”

    The DI would never write “fish or animals,” under their own name because they know how breathtakingly inane that is – that “birds” and “fish” are animals. But I would not put it past them to write that for a “tool” just to throw off their critics.

  32. and more background, including details of two Nobel Laureates who’ve signed, at Join two Nobel Prize winners in petition to keep creationist teaching out of Scottish state schools

    If signing please include any titles and degrees etc in NAME field to add gravitas

  33. It is not true that Behe has never bothered to test his theory, He tested it in a literature survey in Quart. Rev. Biol. December 2010, found clear evidence that his theory was wrong, and carried on regardless.

  34. @Paul:

    I located the paper, and did not even have to finish the abstract to see where he essentially admits that the central claim of ID is wrong. He says “the most common adaptive changes seen in those examples are due to the loss or modification of a pre-existing molecular function.” Well, “most common” is not “all,” so he admits that new or increased functions are possible. His IC and Dembski’s SC were all a waste of time. But he knew that, and also knows that he can still fool people who don’t catch that.

    2 other things shout at me: First it’s a review of others’ research (Lenski is there of course), not his own. Anyone can cherry pick to promote unreasonable doubt, and that’s exactly what Discoveroids do. Second, Behe has conducted original research, and published elsewhere, but that too neither supports ID nor weakens evolution. And I read that his paper with Snoke from ~10 years ago actually adds support to evolution. But more importantly, by his “theory” I mean not his ID word games, but his half-hearted afterthought in “Darwin’s Black Box,” apparently added to avoid criticism from potential fans (remember this was 1996, before they knew how well the big tent scam would work) that he offered nothing but vacuous incredulity arguments. His “theory” was that an ancestral cell appeared ~4 billion years ago with all the genetic “info” needed for all subsequent life. An early critic suggested that a human pseudogene for chlorophyll would vindicate him. That he didn’t immediately run to his lab and look for it speaks more volumes than anything he has said since.

  35. Exactly. And even with his own tailor-made criteria of the molecular basis for the operation of an allele to be fully understood, and to entail enhancement, rather than inhibition, at every stage, if I recall correctly he still found at least one case that he could not dismiss.That’s what I meant by “testing his theory in a literature survey.”Tested, and found wanting.

    And then went on to say, as if it were a great discovery, that when an allele is neutral or harmful, it will tend to be eliminated. At least, that’s the gist as I remember. Hardly news – ask any blind cave fish – but he dignified thing with the name of a Principle.

    At least, that’s how I recall it, though I am not masochistic enough to wade through the paper again.

  36. “…e.g., birds evolved from fish or animals..”

    Actually, this seems to be a common mistake. Many of my 7th grade students would use “animal” as a synonym for “mammal”, and I suspect many people really don’t pay much attention to the difference.

  37. The second definition of “animal” in the Oxford English Dictionary adds a note:
    “Freq. applied specifically to a mammal, as opposed to a bird, reptile, fish, etc.”

  38. @TomS: Looks like Ol’ Clyde’s not so far off base after all.