One Long Argument:
One small primate helping to defend science education against the advance of neocreationism.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The Know-Nothing Theory, or, No There There . . .

Courtesy of two posts by Red State Rabble.

This week a pro-creationist subcommittee of the Kansas Board of Ed. voted to water down the presentation of evolution in the state science standards. Among their changes is the following (Benchmark 3, Indicator 7 for grades 8-12 (p. 80):
"The student explains proposed scientific explanations of the origin of life as well as scientific criticism of those explanations."
"Some of the criticisms include:
"Empirical evidence for a "primordial soup" or a chemically hospitable pre-biotic atmosphere is unknown.
"Natural explanations for the genetic code, the sequences of genetic information necessary to specify life, the biochemical machinery needed to translate genetic information into functional biosystems, and the formation of proto-cells is unknown.
"The apparent sudden rather than gradual emergence of organisms that the Earth first become habitable."

Red State Rabble argues that the inclusion of this origins "controversy" is a cynical ploy, but forget for a moment about issues of appropriateness, accuracy, or relevance. Just note that two of the three listed criticisms involve unknowns.

We still good? Ok, let's travel, via the magic of the internet, back in time. No, we're not traveling back to the Mesozoic on a sport-hunting trip that will end in the accidental squashing of a bug that changes history (maybe next post, ok?) - we're popping in on the May 7 cross-examination of Angus Menuge, presented by the IDers as an expert witness during the Kansas Science Hearings, promoted as Snopes II: Return of the Monkey Trial.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: Sir, I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you for the record, please. What is your personal opinion as to what the age of the earth is?
ANGUS MENUGE: I don't know. And that's my final answer.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: Do you have an opinion as to what the age of the earth is?
ANGUS MENUGE: I'm not giving an opinion.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: I didn't hear you.
ANGUS MENUGE: I am not giving an opinion.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: You don't have any personal opinion as to what the age of the earth is?
ANGUS MENUGE: I have no opinion.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: Do you find that to be rather an oddity since you consider yourself an expert on all of these areas?
ANGUS MENUGE: Absolutely not, because my understanding of historical sciences has led me to -- studying them from the perspective of philosophy of science has led me to believe that inference to the best explanation is much less certain than other areas of science. And so the conclusions are much more tentative and there are other competing explanations that can be provided.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: Do you accept the general principle of common descent that all life is biologically related back to the beginning of life?
ANGUS MENUGE: Not as defined by neo-Darwinism, no.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: Do you accept that human beings are related by common descent to pre-hominid ancestors?
ANGUS MENUGE: I doubt it.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: What is the alternative explanation?
ANGUS MENUGE: Well, there are a number of alternative explanations. Right now, as this book shows, there are views looking at self-organization, which don't necessarily agree with that viewpoint. They may or they may not. But there is also the idea of design.
PEDRO IRIGONEGARY: And your opinion as to when that design occurred?
ANGUS MENUGE: I don't know.

And there you have it, folks. Who says ID is just one big mutual admiration circle with no capacity for self-criticism?
Of course, for science, "I don't know" is the first step of "Let's try to find out!" For Intelligent Design and other forms of creationism, it's an excuse. After all,irreducible complexity is really just a fancy way of saying "I don't know how this could have evolved, so it must have been Go - I mean, The Designer." "I don't know" is also a clever political technique to keep a range of creationist groups - from young-earth literalists to evolution accomodationists - under the big ID tent. Scientifically, there's just no there there.

. . . Danae, of course, makes it seem so obvious . . . .

posted by Dan S. on 8:34 PM |

"As this whole volume is one long argument, it may be convenient to the reader to have the leading facts and inferences briefly recapitulated . . ."
Charles Darwin, "On The Origin of Species"

The debate: FAQs and facts
Science and creationism (NAS)

National Center for Science Education
Defending the teaching of evolution in public schools: with evolution/creationism news updates and many resources.
Understanding Evolution
Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science
Evolution - Education and Teaching

Grandeur in this view of life . . .
Tree of Life web project
Evolutionn Entrance (UCMP)
Evolution (PBS)
BBC Education: Evolution
Macroevolution (UTexas)

TalkOrigin's Index of Creationist Claims.
Find them all here!

The law
Edwards v. Aguillard (1987)
McLean v. Arkansas Board of Education (1981)
More to come

Pending legislation
Ongoing attempts to mandate the teaching of neocreationism in science classes
New York State Bill 8036 (died in committee)
Pennsylvania House Bill 1007

In the schools
Dover, PA
Dover biology: Ongoing reporting from the York Daily Record
Dover C.A.R.E.S. Intelligent Design FAQ

Science/evolution-ish blogs
Transitions: The Evolution of Life
The Panda's Thumb
The Loom
Evolution Blog
Evolving Thoughts
Philosophy of Biology
Thoughts From Kansas
Red State Rabble
The Questionable Authority
Unscrewing the Inscrutable
The Biology Refugia
Deinonychus antirrhopus
Law, Evolution Science, and Junk Science

The Evolution Project: Documenting evolutionary biology being used!

Intelligent Design

The infamous Wedge Document. Read it!
Uncommon Descent
More to come!

The library (shelving in progress)
On The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
Chance in the House of Fate: A Natural History of Heredity, by Jennifer Ackerman
Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism, by Robert T. Pennock
Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives, by Robert T. Pennock (Ed.)
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, by Kenneth R. Miller
Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, by Barbara Carroll Forrest and Paul R. Gross
At the Water's Edge : Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea, by Carl Zimmer

Master Planned: Why intelligent Design Isn't, by H. Allen Orr, The New Yorker
Wedging Creationism into the Academy, by Barbara Forrest and Glenn Branch, Academe
The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name, by Jerry Coyne, The New Republic


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