Category Archives: Creationism

Pope considering creationism

Via Dynamics of Cats, the Guardian reports that Pope Benedict is apparently preparing to give official support to creationism in the form of Intelligent Design. Of course this is not exactly the first time the Catholic church has taken an adversarial stance towards science, but it’s a big step backward since John Paul II had effectively accepted evolution. As I’ve noted before, the current pope approves of the way the church treated Galileo, so this development probably shouldn’t be too surprising.
This will make it that much harder to teach evolution in countries where the Catholic church is influential. (In case you missed it, there was disturbing survey data a few weeks ago showing the support for creationism across developed countries, with the U.S. being particularly bad.)

Is there hope for Arkansas?

Doesn’t look like it:

“Bob” is a geologist and a teacher at a science education institution that serves several Arkansas public school districts.
[…]
Teachers at his facility are forbidden to use the “e-word” (evolution) with the kids. They are permitted to use the word “adaptation” but only to refer to a current characteristic of an organism, not as a product of evolutionary change via natural selection. They cannot even use the term “natural selection.”
[…]
In his words, “I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD … but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old.”

It’s just insane that in the 21st century, young earth creationists are de facto deciding the curriculum in some parts of this country. In this case we should just refer to the Kung Fu Monkey motto: “Everybody who wants to live in the 21st Century over here. Everybody who wants to live in the 1800’s over there. Good. Thanks. Good luck with that.”

ID Whack-a-mole: Nevada

Shellock sends along this story about a guy trying to get anti-evolution provisions into the Nevada constitution. Fortunately, he seems to be one of the less organized species of crackpot:

Las Vegas masonry contractor Steve Brown filed his initiative petition with the secretary of state’s office, and must collect 83,184 signatures by June 20 to get the plan on the November ballot. To amend the Nevada Constitution, he’d have to win voter approval this year and again in the 2008 elections.
Brown said Tuesday that he hopes that volunteers will help him collect the signatures, but at this point has no name-gathering organization set up. A Democrat and member of a nondenominational church, he said he hoped for broad support from people who share his views.

(Emphasis mine.) Presumably some creationist lobbying group could step in and help gather the signatures, but I don’t think even the Discovery Institute is that dumb. I know it’s a bad idea to bet against the stupidity of the American people, but I expect this particular proposal to fizzle out. Actually, given that the movement here consists of one dude, I wonder why it’s getting any press coverage at all. There are plenty of crazy guys on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley whose theories and legal proposals are equally newsworthy.
(I see Pharyngula also has this story.)

ID infects CA

I tend to speak very highly of California, while mocking other, less civilized states, especially if they are below the Mason-Dixon line. However, my beloved state has been known to indulge in abject stupidity on occasion. We made Arnold governor, we continue to allow Rob Schneider to make movies, and now… “intelligent design” has come to California. The new strategy is to claim that it’s “philosophy” rather than science. (They’re half-right, insofar as it is indeed not science.)

In this case, the parents say in their suit that school officials in Lebec — a town of about 1,300 just west of Interstate 5 in Kern County and about 63 miles north of Los Angeles — designed their course as a way of getting around that decision.
At a special meeting of the El Tejon Unified School District on Jan. 1, at which the board approved the new course, “Philosophy of Design,” school Supt. John W. Wight said that he had consulted the school district’s attorneys and that they “had told him that as long as the course was called ‘philosophy,’ ” it could pass legal muster, according to the lawsuit.

I can only hope the courts will correct this rapidly… our public schools are bad enough as it is.

Reuters on US Anti-Science Attitudes

Via Shellock, there’s a Reuters piece today outlining concerns about increasing anti-science sentiment in the US. I was glad to see this in a mainstream source; it’s what scientists have been saying for a few years now. The piece is a bit disjointed but manages to hit several related topics: Bush administration abuses of science, the intelligent design battle, general scientific illiteracy and weaknesses in science education. They could have been tougher on the ID crowd but it’s nice to see them correctly place ID in the larger anti-science trend.

ID and Kuhn

The other day I saw a commenter at Brad DeLong’s blog assert that Intelligent Design was a scientific revolution of the kind described by Thomas Kuhn. Once I stopped laughing, I began to wonder whether this was a common belief among ID proponents.
I guess it is, since Matt Yglesias devotes a long post to rebutting this notion. I usually enjoy Yglesias’ more philosophy-oriented posts, and this one is particularly good. Key paragraph:

Similarly, the brute fact that ID has a lot of problems doesn’t refute it. The problem with ID is that, unlike real revolutionary science, it doesn’t lead to any normal science. There are no ID-based research programs. Nothing has never been accomplished by applying the ID paradigm to a question in biology. All ID’s scholarly (and “scholarly”) proponents do is try to offer half-assed refutations of Darwin. You can quote Kuhn all you like, but you’re not doing revolutionary science unless your purported revolution leads to some normal science. Intelligent design does not.

That popping sound was my lingering respect for McCain finally evaporating.

Hey, remember in 2000 when John McCain said this:

We are the party of Ronald Reagan not Pat Robertson. We are the party of Theodore Roosevelt not the party of special interests. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln not Bob Jones.

He’s changed his mind.

On Tuesday, though, he sided with the president on two issues that have made headlines recently: teaching intelligent design in schools and Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother who has come to personify the anti-war movement.
McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes “all points of view” should be available to students studying the origins of mankind.

I had thought that McCain was one of the better Republicans on science issues, but I guess he, too, has decided he wants to live in the 1800’s. To welcome you to Team Ignorance, your complimentary Leeches ‘N Bloodletting Home Medical Kit will be arriving shortly! (Via Pharyngula.)

Bush, ID, and Republican scientists

There’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Bush’s statement that Intelligent Design should be taught in schools. Now, naturally I agree with the many commenters who have remarked that ID is not a scientific theory, and teaching it will only degrade the state of US science education.
On the other hand, my reaction is less outrage than a sigh of resignation. What, Bush rejected science in favor of an ideological and religious position? The same Bush who opposes stem-cell research, promotes abstinence-only sex education, ignores climate change, and suppresses inconvenient scientific findings by government agencies? We knew we were getting this back in November when Bush won the election. Certainly anyone who voted for Bush should have been prepared to accept this kind of dumbassery as a consequence. And didn’t Bush say that “the jury is still out” on evolution back in, like, 2000?
Of course, we should vigorously oppose attempts to insert ID into actual curricula, but the mere fact that Bush supports it doesn’t exactly seem new.
Matt Yglesias points out that Bush’s view is very widespread among the American public. Some of you may recall a poll result that I blogged last November showing 45% support for young Earth creationism.
Meanwhile, Brad DeLong remarks,

I believe I can now safely say without fear of contradiction that any scientist or academic (outside of fundamentalist seminaries, of course) who is a Republican is in serious need of help: professional help.

I think this is overstating things. I know a number of Republican scientists (in Berkeley, even!) and they are sane and intelligent people—they just vote based on factors other than science and education policy. Specifically, many of them are quite vocally anti-tax, anti-union, etc. and seem to vote predominantly on economic issues. I certainly don’t agree with their economic views, but I can’t blame them for prioritizing those issues over scientific ones.
I’m appalled by Republican science policy, but if the Republicans were a lot better on other issues and the Democrats a lot worse, I could concievably be convinced to vote Republican anyway. But science policy isn’t the only problem—in fact it’s a nice synecdoche for the way the GOP sticks to ideology in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence on nearly every issue. This frightening disconnection from reality is a deal-breaker for me. The Republican scientists that I know, whatever they may think about science policy, disagree about whether there’s a larger pattern of ignoring evidence. I think they’re wrong, but I don’t think they need professional help.