"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Evolution, Textbook Stickers, and Public Reason

Joseph Knippenberg of Oglethorpe University has been increasing his profile lately, first through the Ashbrook Center's blog "No Left Turns" and more recently as a columnist for The American Enterprise. Dr. Knippenberg's recent piece for TAE on the Cobb County textbook controversy shows why his work is becoming better known. He has the unusual knack of actually informing through opinion pieces.

I'd give you a snippet, but it just wouldn't do justice to the overall argument. As Instapundit likes to say, "Read the whole thing." You'll come out understanding religion in the public square a bit better than you did before.

24 comments:

connie deady said...

I read the whole thing, but I don't have a better understanding.

O'Connor's "endorsement" test says that the establishment clause doesn't allow the public sector to endorse one religion over another. That makes some sense to me.

Frankly I fail to understand the desire of some people to impose Christian beliefs into the public sector. It's not like their aren't plenty of opportunities for people to celebrate and live their religions. Why muddy it up when there are citizens with different religious belief systems?

I think the Cobb County sticker is really stupid. Let's put the same thing on a physics text book. All of science is theory. Why draw the line there. However, I agree that it didn't violate the establishment clause. It violated my concepts of intelligence. There's a lot of stupid things that people do that don't reach Constitutional proportions

Hunter Baker said...

Well, Connie, I think you actually do understand this situation and you seem to do so in response to the column.

The sticker is not a violation of the establishment clause.

Tlaloc said...

"If I can’t offer such reasons, so the argument goes, if I rely upon a faith that I share only with my fellow churchgoers, then my position can’t be admitted into the debate. I’m not entitled to win the argument because, in effect, my victory would mean that an essentially and exclusively religious position would gain the force of law."

I think the author misunderstands. It's not that he can't use the argument because if he somehow made it convincing it would give the force of law to religious positions but that by relying on an argument only he can believe in he guarantees he CAN'T win the debate.

This should be pretty straight forward. If Hunter and I debate abortion and Hunter relies upon saying "Jesus hates abortion" then he will fail to convince me because I don't care. Maybe I'm wrong about what Rawls meant but if I were Knippenberg I'd take it as what I can say that will actually have weight, not what I can say period.



" The Supreme Court has at least twice adopted an essentially Rawlsian position—"

Well yeah. They are a court, of course they take a position that only some sorts of arguments are permissible. And since they are a secular court religious reasoning doesn't make the cut. How is any of that unexpected or uncalled for?



"It ought to be possible to develop an immediate practical response to this trend by developing “public reasons” for one’s positions by expressing one’s opinions in terms that do not depend upon religion or faith for their force."

Absolutely. If there is a good reason beyond the religious for your position you are FAR better off exploring and using it.



"Back in January, Federal District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that this sticker amounted to an un-Constitutional endorsement of religion because it was supported by religious opponents of evolution. Let me repeat: despite the fact that the sticker says nothing about religion, creation, or intelligent design—and encourages open-mindedness, careful study, and critical consideration—and despite the fact that its 33 words are affixed to a textbook that devotes 101 pages to evolutionary theory, it is an affront to the First Amendment Establishment Clause, according to Judge Cooper."

Well it was a meaningless distinction (thi ONE is a theory that we'll point out despite the fact that all science is theory) that was made ONLY to appease the religious forces behind ID/creationism. In other words there was no secular reason for the sticker. Science already incorporates testing of theories. This theory was called out for special focus not out of scientific necessity but out of the offense it gives some religious interpretations.

In other words the judge was absolutely right to deny it. The day we let religions dictate what we can and can't say is the day we are a theocracy. Period.



"First, a great deal has to be read into the Cobb County sticker in order to turn it into a “third generation” anti-evolution measure."

No it doesn't. They singled out Evolution and only evolution to attack it's credibility. They didn't do the same to any other theory (gravity, cellular biology, viral biology, organic chemistry...). That clearly shows this to be an anti-evolution witchhunt.



"Second, it’s possible to regard the “evolution” of public opposition to evolution (if I may use the term) as precisely an instance of the kind of argumentive adaptation called for by the Rawlsians. Evolution opponents are trying to use “public reason,” offering arguments drawn, not from Genesis, but from the annals of science and from the neutral language of rationalism."

The problem is that they aren't doing that. The scientific criticism of evolution has been dealt with at length. The exceptions taken are ALL based on misunderstanding or intentionally perverse readings of the theory. Not one of them has merit scientifically. COnsequently the anti-evolutionists are forceed to do the kind of dirty underhanded things you find in this case, i.e. labeling the textbook with nothing less than innuendo attacking the credibility of evolution. It is exactly the same a whisper campaign to slime a person's reputation.

Well I could go on but it's obvious by this point that the author severely misunderstands the situation bsaed on his own prejudices.

James Elliott said...

I found Knippenberg's whole piece to be incredibly disengenuous. He starts off by deliberately misinterpreting Rawls (if I can get Rawls, someone of Knippenberg's stature has to). Then he goes on to offer nonsensical pejoratives (What exactly, may I ask, was the point of mentioning the "just-filibustered Pryor?").

Francis J. Beckwith said...

"He starts off by deliberately misinterpreting Rawls."

Sounds like a design inference. :-)

All kidding aside, the article is pretty straightforward. He says, Rawlsians say you should have public reason, not religious ones. Fair enough. But when those public reasons are offered, the grounds shift to, yeah, but you have a "religious motive." What the author is saying is that that shift results in the permanent sequestering of religious citizens from the public square regardless of the quality of their arguments. A motive, after all, is a type of belief. It is a belief that is causally effective in bringing about an action. But the courts have said that the law does not touch beliefs, just actions. So, when a court overturns a law based on the proponents' religious motives, it is in fact doing the very thing it says the law should not do.

This "test" is religious discrimination, pure and simple. It doesn't get any clearer than this.

Tlaloc said...

"But when those public reasons are offered, the grounds shift to, yeah, but you have a "religious motive.""

What precisely is the offered public reason for singling out evolution as the only scientific theory to emphasize that it is a theory? I must have missed them.


"This "test" is religious discrimination, pure and simple. It doesn't get any clearer than this."

That might be true if the ID people had a real non-religious argument but they don't. Behe is the best they have, and frankly the man is a joke who can't even publish a real paper on ID. All he can do is write "Dick and Jane" books because there is no science there.

JC said...

It's not relevant who wrote the sticker or why they wrote it. Arguing otherwise would fall in the category of genetic fallacy.

The stickers don't endorse Christianity just because evil, scheming Christians wrote them.

Actually, the stickers said nothing particular to Christianity. With a slight leap you could say they supported theism, though even that's a stretch since they merely said that some people question the theory of macroevolution and offer an alternative; the stickers didn't denounce evolution.

Let's put the same thing on a physics text book. All of science is theory.
They singled out Evolution and only evolution to attack it's credibility.
This is the primary objection, the "double standard," other than the genetic one mentioned above. But it's only a double standard if macroevolution and gravity are equally accepted theories. No one (or almost no one?) seriouly questions the theory of gravity, while a large fraction of Americans (or a majority, depending on how the question is phrased) question macroevolution. Physicists also question string theory and, in some cases, quantum mechanics; no one has a problem with textbooks that question those.

So when arguing against the stickers, let's remember:
1) It's illogical to attack them as products of religious entities. We have to address only the content of the stickers.
2) Many people (rightly or wrongly) question evolution. At least mentioning dissent, especially when it has a significant following, is important in any scientific discussion. If the dissenters are just stupid preachers trying to impose their religous beliefs on us, the evidence will speak for itself. What are we so worried about?

Tlaloc said...

"But it's only a double standard if macroevolution and gravity are equally accepted theories."

They are. See below.


"No one (or almost no one?) seriouly questions the theory of gravity,"

Actually you are worng, all physicists know that our current theory of gravity has a flaw in it. It is irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. In other words the exact same argument that "evolution can't explain everything" is equally true of gravity. The theory is not complete, it needs some tweaks. However that having been said we know by virtue of the enormous amount of data that fits that our theory of gravity must be very close to right. Evolution is exactly the same way.



"while a large fraction of Americans (or a majority, depending on how the question is phrased) question macroevolution."

Instead of "Americans" ask biologists and you'll find the theory is universally accepted by those who know what they are talking about.



"Physicists also question string theory and, in some cases, quantum mechanics; no one has a problem with textbooks that question those."

Please point out a physics text book with a sticker on the front that says "string theory is only a theory not a fact." I must have missed it while getting my degree in the field.



"Many people (rightly or wrongly) question evolution. At least mentioning dissent, especially when it has a significant following, is important in any scientific discussion."

No. What is important is teaching them the material that is accepted. We are talking about high school here not college. In college you can start learning the more complicated aspects of a field. High school is absolutely a time to ground people in the accepted basics of a field. Anything more is asking way too much of the teachers and students.



"If the dissenters are just stupid preachers trying to impose their religous beliefs on us, the evidence will speak for itself. What are we so worried about?"

I'm worried about impressionable children being scientifically illiterate because a blatantly religious agenda has interfered with the proper teaching of science. You are free to teach whatever you want in church, in sunday school, in private schools, but keep you hands off the public school curriculum. It is not your plaything.

JC said...

Now you're playing games with the physics comparison. I know that gravity has a minor flaw---but everyone accepts the current theory gravity within its own limitations, whereas many people have major objections to macroevolution. There are books that question string theory, though perhaps not with stickers.

I'll skip straight to the point:
"Many people (rightly or wrongly) question evolution. At least mentioning dissent, especially when it has a significant following, is important in any scientific discussion."

No. What is important is teaching them the material that is accepted.


I think this is the fundamental disagreement between the two sides. It has nothing to do with religion.

Except that the anti-mentioning-ID-in-public-schools side is making a mistake that the church made centuries ago---trying to squash dissent at all costs.

It is interesting that you suggest we should delay mentioning objections to macroevolution until college, reasoning that mentioning dissent would cause "impressionable children" to become "scientifically illiterate." If high school students are intelligent enought to study a concept as complicated as macroevolution, surely they can hear that objections exist without incurring permanent psychological damage? Part of "scientific literacy" is tolerating and discussing dissenting views, is it not? I hardly think that reading a paragraph dissenting with macroevolution followed by 100 pages supporting macroevolution is going to brainwash high school students against macroevolution.

The stickers say that some people disagree with the theory of macroevolution, and that some people turn to ID as an alternative, which are both objectively true statements. Many many people do dissent, including perhaps a smaller fraction of biologists, and many people support ID. The stickers do not endorse any religion over another, and thus do not violate the First Amendment---end of story.

James Elliott said...

Actually, dude, they don't mention macroevolution at all and your average layperson couldn't tell you that there were such things as "macro" and "micro" evolution. You're failing your own common sense test under the religion category.

Tlaloc said...

"Now you're playing games with the physics comparison. I know that gravity has a minor flaw---but everyone accepts the current theory gravity within its own limitations, whereas many people have major objections to macroevolution."

The part that you leave out is that the people with objections are universally not people who understand the science. They are in fact objections based on ignorance. There is absolutely no debate that evolution functions among credible biologists. None whatsoever. There is a small amount of debate on some of the specific mechanisms. That is directly analagous to the theory of gravity. Every physicist knows it exists and knows the current theory is essentially correct but there are some small areas that need to be patched.

Evolution is 100% as accepted and as real as gravity. I do not say that lightly. But it is the truth.

JC said...

100%? Are you sure?

"Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" by Dr. Meyer, published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer-reviewed journal. Seems to me not every scientist agrees with you.

The part that you leave out is that the people with objections are universally not people who understand the science.
If you continue the pattern of argument that I've seen before, then next you're going to tell me that anyone who does object (see above) isn't really a scientist or isn't practicing "good" science. Of course that would be circular reasoning. The fact remains that a large portion of the population disagrees with you (and not all scientists agree with you), so your premise is false. Evolution is not "universally" accepted except by a group defined to exclude all dissenters.


Mr. Elliot, if that's the strongest reply you have, then I'm done here.

JC said...

Perhaps this would also be of interest:

"Moreover, a growing list of some 450 Ph.D. scientists are openly skeptical of Darwin's theory, and a recent poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute found that only 40 percent of medical doctors accept Darwinism's idea that humans evolved strictly through unguided, material processes."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002636490_witt21.html

JC said...

Or this:

"... there is clearly controversy over the 'facts' of evolution."

http://www.aim.org/briefing/4247_0_5_0_C/

The Liberal Anonymous said...

"Moreover, a growing list of some 450 Ph.D. scientists are openly skeptical of Darwin's theory, and a recent poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute found that only 40 percent of medical doctors accept Darwinism's idea that humans evolved strictly through unguided, material processes."

Yes, but how many of them are named Steve?

Tlaloc said...

"100%? Are you sure?

"Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" by Dr. Meyer, published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer-reviewed journal. Seems to me not every scientist agrees with you."

You have to read more:
"The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. For the same reason, the journal will not publish a rebuttal to the thesis of the paper, the superiority of intelligent design (ID) over evolution as an explanation of the emergence of Cambrian body-plan diversity. The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml), which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings.

We have reviewed and revised editorial policies to ensure that the goals of the Society, as reflected in its journal, are clearly understood by all. Through a web presence (http://www.biolsocwash.org) and improvements in the journal, the Society hopes not only to continue but to increase its service to the world community of systematic biologists."
http://www.biolsocwash.org/id_statement.html

So yes while a peer reviewed journal did publish a paper on ID they did so only because a creationist editor basically slipped it in withou the normal review and the journal has since repudiated the paper.



"If you continue the pattern of argument that I've seen before, then next you're going to tell me that anyone who does object (see above) isn't really a scientist or isn't practicing "good" science."

Since you now know that the afforementioned paper was in fact not good science would you like to agree with me at this time?

Tlaloc said...

""Moreover, a growing list of some 450 Ph.D. scientists are openly skeptical of Darwin's theory, and a recent poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute found that only 40 percent of medical doctors accept Darwinism's idea that humans evolved strictly through unguided, material processes.""

Well the link you gave is broken but look here:
http://www.jtsa.edu/research/finkelstein/surveys/evolution.shtml

"Results of a national survey of 1,472 physicians revealed that more than half of physicians (63%) agree that the theory of evolution is more correct than intelligent design."

"When asked whether intelligent design has legitimacy as science, an overwhelming majority of Jewish doctors (83%) and half of Catholic doctors (51%) believe that intelligent design is simply "a religiously inspired pseudo- science rather than a legitimate scientific speculation," while more than half of Protestant doctors (63%) believe that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific speculation.""

hrrrm, still looks like you are gettin a very distorted idea.

As for the "450 Ph.Ds" here is the actual statement they were asked to agree or disagree with: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

Since Darwinism has nothing to do with "random mutation" I would agree to that statement. Notice that all it says is that something we know isn't true isn't true and somethig we already do should be done. It does NOT say anything about the validity of Darwinism nor of ID.

Tlaloc said...

"Or this:
"... there is clearly controversy over the 'facts' of evolution."
http://www.aim.org/briefing/4247_0_5_0_C/"

AIM is Accuracy in Media a project started by Reed Irvine to basically broadcast hisextremely right wing views. Mr. Irvine (dead now) was notoriously playful with things like accuracy and truth and demanded the same of AIM. It is nothing but a shill piece for the hard right.

And even if you don't believe me it is a media focused prohject. Rather than taking their word for it why not ask the two most prestegious science institutions in the US: the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association of the Advancement of Science.

Here are their statements on the topic:

Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;

Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;

Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;

Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;

Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS urges citizens across the nation to oppose the establishment of policies that would permit the teaching of "intelligent design theory" as a part of the science curricula of the public schools;

Therefore Be It Further Resolved, that AAAS calls upon its members to assist those engaged in overseeing science education policy to understand the nature of science, the content of contemporary evolutionary theory and the inappropriateness of "intelligent design theory" as subject matter for science education;

Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS encourages its affiliated societies to endorse this resolution and to communicate their support to appropriate parties at the federal, state and local levels of the government.

Approved by the AAAS Board of Directors on 10/18/02

Creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science. These claims subordinate observed data to statements based on authority, revelation, or religious belief. Documentation offered in support of these claims is typically limited to the special publications of their advocates. These publications do not offer hypotheses subject to change in light of new data, new interpretations, or demonstration of error. This contrasts with science, where any hypothesis or theory always remains subject to the possibility of rejection or modification in the light of new knowledge.

No body of beliefs that has its origin in doctrinal material rather than scientific observation, interpretation, and experimentation should be admissible as science in any science course. Incorporating the teaching of such doctrines into a science curriculum compromises the objectives of public education. Science has been greatly successful at explaining natural processes, and this has led not only to increased understanding of the universe but also to major improvements in technology and public health and welfare. The growing role that science plays in modem life requires that science, and not religion, be taught in science classes.

from the NAS:
http://www.nap.edu/books/0309064066/html/25.html

Tlaloc said...

So just to be clear you have given me tfour claims to support ID. The first turned out to be based on a deception (the editors not yours). The second appears to have been based on only highlighting one part of a poll that actually indicates exactly the opposite of your claim. The third is based on a misrepresenting what a polling question actually says. And the fourth is based on an incompetent source notorious for lying.

Do you see now why iut is the ID movement is not take seriously. Everything I've said has stood up: no credibly biologists support ID. No papers on ID have been (properly) published in peer reviewed science journals. The bodies that represent science and scientists universally affirm that ID is not science.

That smell? That's coffee. Good morning, sunshine.

Hunter Baker said...

The problem with your critique, Tlaloc, is that at least two of the points don't work.

We have arrived at the point where a credible biologist is defined as "a Darwinist." The minute a previously credible biologist steps off the reservation, he/she ceases to be credible. That's why we usually get it from someone retiring.

For the reason we don't see peer-reviewed journals criticizing the theory in a plain and bold way, see the previous paragraph.

Tlaloc said...

"We have arrived at the point where a credible biologist is defined as "a Darwinist." The minute a previously credible biologist steps off the reservation, he/she ceases to be credible. That's why we usually get it from someone retiring."

That is simply untrue, Hunter. Or at least untrue in the way you mean it. The way that it is true is that yes the minute a scientist starts tryingto inject religion into science they have indeed lost credibility.



" For the reason we don't see peer-reviewed journals criticizing the theory in a plain and bold way, see the previous paragraph."

Again, I call BS. At least one major journal specifically asked for ID supporters to submit serious scientific work. They didn't get one submission. Note I am not saying they rejected every submission I mean the ID people couldn't even find one.

Hunter your point of view relies on a massive conspiracy world wide of scientists from an enormous number of different cultures, philosophies, and backgrounds. How likely is that really? Compare to the possibility that a few con men have leant their marginal credentials to a shill game of hiding creationism under an assumed name?

The likely answer is pretty darn obvious as soon as you remove your ideological blinders.

tbmbuzz said...

Simple question to all ID proponents: Describe the interface between the physical universe and the supernatural. If ID is true, then there has to be some mechanism at the quantum mechanical level to make it true.

Another question: at what point does ID begin? At the unicellular level on Earth a billion years ago? At the vertebrate level? At the mammalian level? Where?

Simple, fundamental questions that should be no trouble answering if ID is true.

But let's face it, ID proponents. You are no different from primitive peoples invoking magic and gods to explain everyday phenomena such as lightning and comets. (roll eyes)

JC said...

The paper was reviewed by three different people before it was published (more than normal, as I understand it). Of course the powers that be were outraged that an ID paper would make it through the review process, so they cooked up all kinds of excuses to explain it away.

But more importantly, you yourself have admitted that a large fraction of scientists do not agree that the theory of evolution is superior to intelligent design!

"Results of a national survey of 1,472 physicians revealed that more than half of physicians (63%) agree that the theory of evolution is more correct than intelligent design."

Earlier you used the "100% of scientists agree with me" argument. Where I come from, 63% is a long way from 100%. So my original point is valid; a significant minority of scientists question evolution and support intelligent design. Your own statistics support this. None of them are anywhere near showing 100% support for evolution.

Dissent that significant deserves to be discussed. And mentioning that dissent (not even discussing it---mentioning it!) does not violate the First Amendment.

Tlaloc said...

"The paper was reviewed by three different people before it was published (more than normal, as I understand it). Of course the powers that be were outraged that an ID paper would make it through the review process, so they cooked up all kinds of excuses to explain it away."

Hi, this is the department of conspiracies calling, we'd like our paranoia back.

So you believe the owners of the journal fired the editor and made up the whole thing despite the embarrassment it would cause them? hrrrrm. I find that kind of unlikely, personally.



"Earlier you used the "100% of scientists agree with me" argument. Where I come from, 63% is a long way from 100%."

Dude, reread the quote. It says 63% of PHYSICIANS...not scientists. Doctors are not scientists. You brought doctors into the debate despite the irrelevence by claiming they majority agreed that ID was legitimate. I just showed you were wrong.



"So my original point is valid; a significant minority of scientists question evolution and support intelligent design."

No you are still wrong because you obviously don't understand science well enough to distinguish a biologist from a doctor.

You might want to quit while you are behind, seriosly. That hole of yours is just getting deeper.