Saturday, 14 January 2012

Teach the controversy - but teach it from the pulpit!

Those of us who follow the argument about the teaching of evolution in schools realise that there is an ongoing battle around the world.  In USA the Intelligent Design (ID) movement uses rhetorical skills to push forward the idea of 'Teaching the Controversy'.

Teach all the controversies (source)

It seems that, in a recent poll, 80% of American adults agreed that schools should 'teach the controversy' about evolution.  That seems like a large figure, but of course it has not been revealed to us what the actual questions were, or how they were led to that choice.  Were they asked whether they knew that there really is NO controversy about it?  On the one side you have the overwhelming weight of evidence from every major science, all fitting together like a giant perfectly interlocking jigsaw puzzle - albeit with quite a lot of pieces still missing and a few that do not yet fit.  On the other hand you have the 'revelation' and imaginings of deluded individuals - some of whom have chosen to make a career out of being controversial.**

You might consider the following admission to be tantamount to confessing to self-harm, but I actually listen to the podcast ID the Future, which is published by The Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture in Seattle.  The Discovery Institute is named after the ship HMS Discovery in which George Vancouver  first explored the Puget Sound in 1792.  But on the basis of their work we find that their 'discoveries' do not come from real science.  There is no danger that true hypotheses are generated and tested by their researchers.  In a sense the establishment ought to be called 'The Revelation Institute'.  To give an idea of their true aims, in 2005, a federal court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursues "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions"

Back to ID the Future!  Yes - I find the listening experience rather irritating (and you can try it out here if you feel strong enough) but at least I have become familiar with the arguments that the ID movement promotes.  Listening to 'whining, whingeing, wet and wittering' regular presenter Casey Luskin is almost a physically painful experience.  (Just listen to an episode to hear what I mean.)  Not long ago he was talking about the shameful entry on Wikipedia for an organisation described as being "associated with the Discovery Institute".  Rather than correct the error the speakers spent an eternity complaining about it.  (Maybe someone should explain to them what a wiki is!)

To give you a flavour of ID The Future, one of their recent podcasts was actively encouraging biological scientists to withhold their critical views of evolution (or Darwinism as they pejoratively refer to it).  But they were only to keep quiet until they have got tenure in a university.  Then they can 'safely' nail their true colours to the mast of the Discovery Institute and claim that the whole of biological science is tainted . . . and that God did it all!  (Oh yes - we should add that it was their god - not any other random deity from the pantheon.)

This is a perfect example of the technique of 'lying for Jesus'.  It also tells a lot about the integrity of the people giving this advice - presumably 'good christians' - that they would publicly speak out about this disingenuous campaign.  This is Christian taqiyya!  It would tell even more if a scientist actually followed their advice, and once in a while you hear sob stories about people being rejected from academic institutions for doing exactly that.

On this week's episode, 4w's Luskin claimed that "We are perfectly comfortable with students learning about views that we disagree with". 

Let's test that theory then.  Would he be happy to teach the controversy from the pulpit in the same 'fair and open' way that they would like to use to promote ID mumbo-jumbo in schools?  For example, let's look at some:
  • the actual evidence for evolution (as mentioned above)
  • the counter evidence to claims about the biblical flood
  • the evidence of the actual life of Jesus (for which there is pitifully little - all of it being from a single collection of biased writings)
  • the evidence that there was no such place as Nazareth in the first century
  • and that 'Darwinism' is not the same as 'the theory of evolution' and it has nothing to say about the origin of life - but only about how it developed.
The list is more or less endless.

I think I'm all for the idea of teaching the controversy as long as we are talking about real controversies.  I suspect we might not agree about where it should be taught.

**Small note:  Might I be accused of making a successful blog out of being controversial?  Maybe.  I'll let you know my conclusion when it really is successful!


beowulf2k8 said...

The Bible also teaches the earth is round.

Isaiah 40:22 "He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth..."

Some might suggest that this only means the flat earth has a dome above it...but somehow I doubt that. These are the same people who buy into the myth that ancient people thought the earth was flat...despite the ancient depictions of Atlas holding a globe or the Indian depictions of a globe on an elephant's back. Fact is, ancient people knew the earth was a sphere. It was only in the middle ages that anyone thought any different.

beowulf2k8 said...

As for what should be taught in a science class, neither creationism nor evolution, but practical science rather than purely theoretical/philosophical 'science'. The US is behind the rest of the world in science teaching because while they're teaching something useful we're stuck pushing philosophy down people's throats and calling it 'science.' In the science classroom I don't care if I was made from dirt by God, sneezes out of Brahma's nose, or pooped out of Satan's butt, or evolved from a freaking monkey--what I want to know is how to make a transistor, how to build a TV, how to *DO* something. I don't want to hear anyone's asinine theories about origins.

Kenny Wyland said...

@beowulf2k8, I agree we need better science education, but teaching only "how to make a transistor, how to build a TV, how to *DO* something" gives us good tradespeople but leaves us without actual scientists to discover new things about the world.

beowulf2k8 said...

I don't mean step by step. I mean the basics of everything practical. Most people don't even know what an Ohm is thanks to all our 'science' focus being on origins.

Kenny Wyland said...

If it makes you feel any better I have a degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. ;)

beowulf2k8 said...

Well obviously I didn't mean in college. You get to choose your classes there.