I'm from Missouri

This site is named for the famous statement of US Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver from Missouri : "I`m from Missouri -- you'll have to show me." This site is dedicated to skepticism of official dogma in all subjects. Just-so stories are not accepted here. This is a site where controversial subjects such as evolution theory and the Holocaust may be freely debated.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

My biggest motivation for creating my own blogs was to avoid the arbitrary censorship practiced by other blogs and various other Internet forums. Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged. My non-response to a particular comment should not be interpreted as agreement, approval, or inability to answer.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dover trial revealed "intellectually unhealthy situation," says paper

Here is another journal article to add to my already-long list of journal articles that are critical of the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision. The article, titled "Public Education and Intelligent Design," by Thomas Nagel, Philosophy and Public Affairs 36, no. 2 by Wiley Periodicals Inc. (2008), begins,

The 2005 decision by Judge John E. Jones in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was celebrated by all red-blooded American liberals as a victory over the forces of darkness. The result was probably inevitable, in view of the reckless expression by some members of the Dover School Board of their desire to put religion into the classroom, and the clumsiness of their prescribed statement in trying to dissumulate that claim. But the conflicts aired in this trial -- over the status of evolutionary theory, the arguments for intelligent design, and the nature of science -- reveal an intellectually unhealthy situation. The political urge to defend science education against the threats of religious orthodoxy, understandable though it is, has resulted in a counterorthodoxy, supported by bad arguments, and a tendency to overstate the legitimate scientific claims of evolution theory. Skeptics about the theory are seen as so dangerous, and so disreputably motivated, that they must be denied any shred of legitimate interest.(pages 1-2 of pdf file)

I mostly agree. However, as for the "reckless expression by some members of the Dover School Board of their desire to put religion into the classroom, and the clumsiness of their prescribed statement in trying to dissumulate that claim," Albert Alschuler, a law professor emeritus at Northwestern University Law School, wrote,
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The court offers convincing evidence that some members the Dover school board would have been delighted to promote their old time religion in the classroom. These board members apparently accepted intelligent design as a compromise, the nearest they could come to their objective within the law . . . . The court seems to declare, "Because we find that you would like something you can't have, we hold that you can't have anything."

That's not to say that the Dover school board did not make some big mistakes. The book "Of Pandas and People" was a very poor choice -- it was badly out of date and the words "intelligent design" and "intelligent design proponent" were substituted for "creationism" and "creationist" throughout the book in the publication of a new edition (of course, the Dover school board was unaware of this substitution of terms). Also, the "prescribed statement" that was read to the Dover science classes could have been worded better, and it was a bad idea to use the term "intelligent design" because the term implies the existence of a supernatural designer.

Thomas Nagel continues,

ID (as I shall call it, in conformity to current usage) is best interpreted not as an argument for the existence of God, but as a claim about what is reasonable to believe about biological evolution if one independently holds a belief in God that is consistent both with the empirical facts about nature that have been established by observation, and with the acceptance of general standards of scientific evidence. For legal reasons it is not presented that way by its defenders, but I think that is a mistake.(page 2 of pdf file)

I completely disagree with that interpretation -- it says that in the evolution controversy, ID is the only scientifically "reasonable" belief for those who believe in god. Also, though it is OK to consider the religious implications of ID, it should also be OK to ignore the religious implications of ID. I am a little interested in the religious implications of evolution and ID, but I am more interested in whether evolution and ID make sense from purely scientific standpoints. On the other hand, it seems that the Darwinists are only interested in the religious implications of ID -- they just keep asking questions like "who is the intelligent designer," "what does the intelligent designer look like," "who designed the intelligent designer," etc..

The contention seems to be that, although science can demonstrate the falsehood of the design hypothesis, no evidence against that demonstration can be regarded as scientific support for the hypothesis. Only the falsehood, and not the truth, of ID can count as a scientific claim. Something about the nature of the conclusion, that it involves the purposes of a supernatural being, rules it out as science. (page 3 of pdf file)

I suspect that the assumption that science can never provide evidence for the occurrence of something that cannot be scientifically explained is the principal reason for the belief that ID cannot be science; but so far as I can see, that assumption is without merit. (page 4 of pdf file).

One of the disturbing things about the public debate is that scientists engaged in it sometimes write as if the idea of fundamental problems with the theory [i.e., evolution theory] (as opposed to problems of detail in its application) were unthinkable, and that to entertain such doubts is like wondering whether the earth is flat. This seems to me, as an outsider, a vast underestimation of how much we do not know, and how much about the evolutionary process remains speculative and sketchy. (pages 4-5 of pdf file)

. . . both the inclusion of some mention of ID in a biology class and its exclusion would seem to depend on religious assumptions. Either divine intervention is ruled out in advance or it is not. If it is, ID can be disregarded. If it is not, evidence for ID can be considered. Yet both are clearly assumptions of a religious nature. Public schools in the United States may not teach atheism or deism any more than they may teach Christianity, so how can it be all right to teach scientific theories whose empirical confirmation depends on the assumption of one range of these views while it is impermissible to discuss the implications of alternative views on the same question?(page 14 of pdf file)

IMO, ideally the scientific teaching of evolution and its weaknesses should be done without regard to their religious implications, but it is practically inevitable that religious questions will be raised in science classes. At least the textbooks can avoid religious issues.

Even if evolution theory were an adequate explanation for the diversity of life, Intelligent Design would still be a possibility. Saying that ID is impossible says that the existence of a designer is impossible. Saying that the existence of a designer is impossible says that god is impossible. Saying that god is impossible violates the separation of church and state. Kitzmiller v. Dover says that ID is impossible, hence that god is impossible. Kitzmiller v. Dover therefore violates the separation of church and state. QED.

In order to teach about the history of the universe, the solar system, and life on earth it is indispensable to presuppose the falsity of fundamentalist epistemology. But the development of the theory of evolution did not depend on the assumption that design was impossible. On the contrary, it developed as an alternative to design, offering a surprising but illuminating account of how the appearance of design might have arisen without a designer. The conceivability of the design alternative is part of the background for understanding evolutionary theory. To make the assumption of its falsehood a condition of scientific rationality seems almost incoherent.(pages 14-15 of pdf file)

Good point. Intelligent Design makes a positive contribution to science by identifying biological systems that have the appearance of being designed, forcing scientists to try to explain how these systems that appear to be the products of design are actually the products of random mutations and natural selection. Another example: a lot of people have scoffed at my ideas about co-evolution (I have mostly called these ideas a "non-ID" criticism of evolution, though some of these ideas include ID), but my studies of co-evolution have definitely improved my knowledge and understanding of interspecies relationships (I have several articles about co-evolution in the two "Non-ID criticisms of evolution" post-label groups listed in the sidebar of this blog). Suppressing scientific and -- yes -- even pseudoscientific criticisms of evolution is anti-science and anti-intellectual.

Judge Jones cited as a decisive reason for denying ID the status of science that Michael Behe, the chief scientific witness for the defense, acknowledged that the theory would be more plausible to someone who believed in God than to someone who did not. This is just common sense, however, and the opposite is just as true: evolutionary theory as a complete explanation for the development of life is more plausible to someone who does not believe in God than to someone who does.(page 15 of pdf file)

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12 Comments:

Blogger MrMarkAZ said...

[sarcasm:on] Of course, it's completely healthy (intellectually and socially) to grant full and serious consideration to an idea that has been presented dishonestly, and with no supporting evidence. [sarcasm:off]

Nonsense.

Until Intelligent Design advocates can design and conduct scientifically-valid experiments and publish the results for review, analysis, and verification by other scientists, ID will never be anything more than an overwrought argument from incredulity and ignorance.

At best, ID's proper place in any academic setting is in the context of a philosophy or a history class discussion. It has not yet earned admission to the science classroom.

Monday, December 08, 2008 8:38:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>> At best, ID's proper place in any academic setting is in the context of a philosophy or a history class discussion. <<<<<<

As I have said many times, many criticisms of evolution are too technically sophisticated to be taught by anyone other than a qualified science teacher. I'm not talking about "poof"-type creationism here. I am talking about things like the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (which I don't consider to be a valid criticism of evolution, but discussing this criticism in science classes is very educational), irreducible complexity, co-evolution, the genetics of the propagation of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction, etc.. A teacher must be able to do more than just regurgitate what is in the textbook -- a teacher must be able to answer questions from the students. And BTW, ID is not the only scientific (or pseudoscientific) criticism of evolution.

Also, as I have pointed out many times, most law journals are not peer-reviewed or even faculty-reviewed but are only student-reviewed, so it was very hypocritical of Judge Jones to point a finger at ID for alleged lack of peer review. Furthermore, these law journals have been cited thousands of times by the courts -- the Harvard Law Review alone was cited 4410 times by the federal courts alone in the decade 1970-79 alone! See this post.

Also, a lot of stuff published in scientific journals is not about experimentation.

Monday, December 08, 2008 9:33:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Olorin said,

>>>>> . . . . . . So you not only do not understand scientific research, you also do not understand legal research . . . . .

. . . . .As a former law-review editor, I find your comment highly ignorant. When you don't know anything about a subject, you shoiuld consult someone who does. <<<<<<<

Olorin, comments containing gratuitous insults will no longer be published here. If you want to state an opinion here, state it politely or forget about it.

Monday, December 08, 2008 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Olorin said...

"Olorin, comments containing gratuitous insults will no longer be published here.:

Except by the author, of course. (That's an opinion, not a gratuitous insult.)

Monday, December 08, 2008 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Olorin, do you want to state your opinion about my comment about peer review, or not?

Monday, December 08, 2008 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Apparently not.

Monday, December 08, 2008 4:25:00 PM  
Blogger Olorin said...

I already did state my opinion, giving my reason why you were wrong and my qualifications to judge legal review. But you edited out that part of my comment, to make it appear to be a gratuitous insult.

Monday, December 08, 2008 6:56:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

I didn't make it appear to be a gratuitous insult -- it was a gratuitous insult.

Monday, December 08, 2008 7:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Anything that doesn't fit into your small little world with you as the big fish is a "gratuitous insult." You make assertions that you are absolutely convinced are true and disregard anything that says otherwise.

You should also probably remove this from the top of your blog since it's false and you evidently remove false comments:

"Censorship will be avoided in my blogs -- there will be no deletion of comments, no closing of comment threads, no holding up of comments for moderation, and no commenter registration hassles. Comments containing nothing but insults and/or ad hominem attacks are discouraged."

As for my opinion, yet again you are posting the position of a person who is not trained in the field of biology, let alone evolution. I agree that suppressing SCIENTIFIC criticisms is anti-intellectual, but not pseudo-scientific criticisms, particularly in pre-university level instruction. One has to have a firm grasp on where current theory stands before you can even BEGIN to spot the problems SCIENTIFICALLY and at a high school level, that understanding does not exist. Adding pseudo-scientific "criticisms" only muddies the water unnecessarily and is in no way helpful to obtaining a thorough understanding of current scientific knowledge.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

>>>>>>> You should also probably remove this from the top of your blog since it's false and you evidently remove false comments: <<<<<<<

Why -- just because some lousy trolls have been messing up this blog?

>>>>>> One has to have a firm grasp on where current theory stands before you can even BEGIN to spot the problems SCIENTIFICALLY and at a high school level, that understanding does not exist. Adding pseudo-scientific "criticisms" only muddies the water unnecessarily and is in no way helpful to obtaining a thorough understanding of current scientific knowledge. <<<<<<<

No one is asking students to "spot" the problems scientifically -- I am just saying that the students should learn the problems that others have spotted. And many of these problems -- including pseudoscientific ones -- are so technically sophisticated that they should be taught only by qualified science teachers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008 4:09:00 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

">>>>>>> You should also probably remove this from the top of your blog since it's false and you evidently remove false comments: <<<<<<<

Why -- just because some lousy trolls have been messing up this blog?"

Yep, exactly because of that, and because you feel it's your job to censor those "lousy trolls". (Here, I'll pull out the old standby word for this situation: Hypocrite. I can define it too, in case you're not clear on what it means: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Fafarman said...

Erin, you lousy dunghill, I thought that you stopped trying to post your garbage here a long time ago.

The issue here is not censorship of legitimate comments -- the issue here is censorship of comments that would just clutter up this blog with crap because they have no redeeming social value.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 4:43:00 PM  

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